A Gift for the Sheppards (3)

This is the third part of a Christmas story I wrote some time ago.


The Second Monday Before Christmas

The Sheppard sisters corralled another week’s worth of clean laundry into baskets and plunked down in front of the window to their universe, to sort and fold the clothes. It was the second Monday before Christmas and the view outside the window now included growing piles of dirty snow heaped alongside the narrow street.

“Hey, Doris, did you see all the cars parked in front of the house yesterday? A person could hardly get through,” Nell complained, even though, their trusty old Dodge Aries was parked in the driveway off the alley behind their house. “It must’ve been quite a party!” Nell shook out an inside-out wool sock. “Can’t you put your socks right-side out?” She barked at her sister. “I mean, it’d save me a lot o’ time if they weren’t tossed in the wash every which way!” she nagged.

“Yes…, Nell…,” Doris sighed sheepishly, “I’ll try to be more careful next time.” Having appeased her sister, she bowed her head over her work and allowed Nell to continue her harangue about the unusual neighbors. “… and there’s another one of those ragged old cloth candles ‘lit’ in their window. I watched ‘em do that yesterday at their party.” Now that she wasn’t the one being criticized, Doris looked up, interested in her sister’s observation. “That makes three of them, now. Seems mighty odd to me.” In spite of Nell’s assessment, Doris was developing some curiosity about the holiday ritual that seemed to be unfolding over there. More than that, though, if Doris was honest with herself she would have to admit that she was lonely and felt the need to have contact with people … other than Nell.

It wasn’t always that way, though, sitting by the front window and living vicariously through people she knew only through her remote observations. Back in the old days when the neighborhood was a close knit group of family and friends, things were different. But, a lot had changed since the sisters were young, living in the house on Hillside Avenue.  

Down through the years the Sheppard sisters’ dubious claim to fame among neighbors and friends had been their extensive knowledge of everything and everybody. Like the tabloids sold at the grocery checkouts, they were more than willing to share with anyone who wanted, a juicy slice of neighborhood gossip. However, one by one, their pool of family and friends evaporated. Many of the old timers had moved away or just died. As time went on, the only ones left who cared about such things were — Nell and Doris. As she gazed across the street and recalled last night’s party, an unsettled feeling came over Doris. There was something compelling about what was going on over there – the Davidson’s friends, the fun they seemed to be having and even that outlandish contraption hanging in their front window.

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