A Decatur “Hallmark” Christmas Story

If you have watched a few Hallmark Christmas movies, you’ll know the familiar formula. An attractive Millennial female comes to town to save a family business, and inherit her Boomer parent’s wealth.

She’s disgruntled, overwhelmed, and single. She moves into the old Victorian house she grew up in that needs some work but has good bones, and drug dealers as neighbors. Now that her parents are dead, she can finally pay off her student loans and think about volunteering at a chimpanzee sanctuary.

She walks downtown on Merchant Street, looks through a window at popcorn wrapped in cellophane with reindeer print. She turns around and sees him. Their eyes meet and there’s an instant knowing of deep animosity. She doesn’t know why, but she can’t stand him.

She unlocks the door to the shoe store she just inherited. The floors creak, the smell of old leather fills her senses, and she has a flashback memory of the joy her parents felt when they retired and opened the store with their pensions at age 50. This was just before they, as corporate upper management, eliminated pensions for all future generations, switched to underfunded 401k’s, and lobbied to increase the Social Security retirement age to 85 and a half.

She sighs when she thinks about her future. Just her and shoes, made in China, out of arsenic tainted leather. Then he walks in. That guy. The one she couldn’t stand. She knows him from somewhere. “What are you doing here?” “Who are you?”

“I’m the guy in this story that you’re supposed to fall in love with. Look at me. I’m wearing plaid. I have stubble on my chin. Fall in love already. Yeesh! Don’t you know how this goes? I can change your whole world. I work for a union and don’t have student loans. I can fix that house you just inherited. Look, I have a hammer in my pocket. I carry it everywhere. I’m also the boy you ignored in high school when you were a cheerleader, and I was in the band.”

She suddenly remembers. She remembers him as a dorky kid with a trombone. He was always so annoying. She was in love with Cody, the quarterback who went to college for free on a sports scholarship, but dumped her in his senior year for Britney, who majored in Pygmy art history.

She tells him that she has something she needs to do and shoos him out of the door.

Later, she decides to give the shoe store everything she’s got and is hopeful that one day she’ll be able to give up her side hustle at Pizza Hut. She hears the bell on the front door ring, thinking it’s a customer, but it’s a man with a stern face and official papers in hand.

“I’m here to serve you these papers from the mayor.” He says. She looks confused and asks, “What papers?” He goes on to explain to her that she’s being served the “Decatur Clause” which outlines that her business must become a parking lot, a Mexican restaurant, or a mattress store within 90 days. “This is insane! There’s got to be some way out of this.”

“Can’t I do something to save my store?” She asks. He explains that many others have tried in vain to save their buildings and businesses, but there’s no hope. He tells her that even the Carnegie Library was torn down for a parking lot. “What? Decatur had a Carnegie Library? What kind of city tears down a Carnegie Library?” She asks in disbelief. “Decatur, mam.” As he hands her the paperwork and walks out the door.

Later that evening, she closes the door to her store, walks to Central Park and plans to take a photo of the Transfer House to post on Instagram for her New York City friends. Afterwards, she plans to jump off the Staley Viaduct into a pool of corn syrup. Her life is totally off the rails. It’s either work till she’s 85 selling mattresses, or marry that dork for his union benefits.

As she’s about to take a photo of the Transfer House, a homeless guy named Clarence comes up to her, seemingly out of nowhere. He convinces her that she shouldn’t throw herself off a bridge because the world wouldn’t be the same without her. Her parents wouldn’t have had such a good life, if she made a living wage, too. Her ex-boyfriend wouldn’t be happily married and a millionaire, if he had married her instead. “Because of your misery, others are happy.”

She’s almost convinced to soldier on when the police arrive and haul them both to jail for walking in the park after dark. She sits in her cell with Roger, who identifies as female… most of the time. She feels uneasy, as Roger gives her a wink, and thinks about her life and what went wrong.

She’s suddenly released and there he is, again. “Are you ready to give in to the inevitable?” “I guess so.” She says. He takes her to his house and plays his trombone. She gets a headache and does a Google search for the nearest chimpanzee sanctuary.

The end.

Merry Christmas, everyone!

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