Stealing a few Christmas cookies seemed like such an easy task for 2 “Secret Agents” until it wasn’t…

There were these cookies…”

Chapter 5 “The Fire…”

Durwood had gotten a junior chemistry set for his birthday a few months ago and “young and carefree “Uncle Jack”, who lived downstairs from us in the duplex that our grandma owned, gave Durwood some gun powder to use in his experiments.

(Of course, young and carefree Uncle Jack had fought in the Battle of the Bulge during  World War II, so he probably figured a little gun powder was just…a little gun powder…and not a big deal.)

The day of the fire, mom and I were peacefully sitting at the kitchen table having so much fun coloring in my new Little Lulu coloring book.

We were drinking cherry Kool Aid and planning our bus trip to downtown Minneapolis that afternoon to buy me new school clothes…when suddenly we heard dopey Durwood frantically screaming from his bedroom…“FIRE!!  FIRE!!”

Mom jumped up and raced into his bedroom.  I was right behind her…holding my glass of Kool Aid.

Durwood was standing on his bed, jumping up and down and screaming hysterically as he wildly pointed to the window curtains above his desk.

The bottom half were completely engulfed in flames and they were spreading!

Mom reached over and quickly yanked them down…curtain rods and all and then turned and snatched the blanket from Durwood’s bed, sending him sailing to the floor and in one swift move she smothered the fire.

It happened so fast!  I couldn’t believe it!  I also couldn’t breathe!

When I had seen the flames, I had started to scream and I couldn’t seem to stop…even when I saw that there was no more fire…

Mom gently took me by the shoulders, looked me in the eyes and gave me a little shake…

“Lottie!  Everything is okay…the fire is out!”

I stopped screaming right away because that’s what you do when your mother tells you “everything is okay”.

But I was still shaking…and the glass of cherry Kool Aid I had grabbed to help put out the fire was spilling onto my hand.

I turned, looked at Durwood and threw the Kool Aid in his face.

Later that night, mom said she thought I had been in shock and that I probably didn’t really mean to throw the Kool Aid at Durwood.

Hmmmmmmm……that could be one reason…

The next day, Uncle Jack “very foolishly” tried to defend himself to my mom…who was his older and much wiser sister…by saying...

“It’s not like I gave him a gun, Gee.  Just relax…”

It should be noted here…that after making that idiotic statement to my mother…Uncle Jack was ordered (by his mother) to turn over half of his paychecks to my mother for 6 weeks…so that she was able to buy new curtains and window hardware, new bedding, new rugs, a new desk and a new lamp for Durwood’s room.

She was also able to pay professionals to come in and repaint Durwood’s bedroom walls and ceiling and re-sand the hardwood floor.

Durwood…showing absolutely no brains whatsoever…had voiced a request for his own television set…which was met with a very dark look from our mom…and so…

Not only would there be no personal television set in his  bedroom…

Durwood would not be watching any television for two months…which was too bad since a television series based on the movie “Tarzan” was just starting…and Durwood would miss the beginning…

There were these cookies…”

Chapter Six…Back to the Mission

After all the Rosettes had been made…we were given the “All Clear” and allowed back into the kitchen.

It was time for our morning snack and today it was 2 Rosettes each…but only after we had sugared the others.

Durwood and I sat down at the kitchen table…and began the delicate task of “Rosette sugaring:  Gently placing the Rosette upside down on a plate filled with sugar and then twisting…twisting…twisting…”.

Mom sat down with us.  “I’m beat.” She said as she lit another Lucky Strike.

She pulled my “Christmas Ash Tray” nearer to her and then gave me a big smile.  (I was so proud…it was so pretty…)

“When I’m done cleaning up, I’m going to take a nap.  After you guys are done with the Rosettes you can go outside and play if you want…it’s starting to snow.  When I get up, we’ll have lunch.”

Durwood kicked me under the table and gave me a sly grin and a head nod…did he think I had forgotten that “mom taking a nap” was the key to a successful mission?  Did he think I was an idiot?

“I still have a few Christmas cards to do…” Durwood said casually.  “Lottie said she would help me.”

“Right, Lottie?” he said…glancing over at me and wiggling his sugar coated finger tips…the only things that actually worked on his cast-enclosed arms.

“Nope!  I’m going outside.”  I said ignoring him.

“I can’t wait to make a snowman!!”  I really had no plans to go outside…I just wanted to see Durwood squirm a little…he shouldn’t have kicked me!

“But, Lottie…” Durwood wheedled.  “Remember you promised you’d help me…?”

I finally looked over at him and he was moving his eyebrows up and down…apparently this was his way of sending me a “secret” message.  Also apparently…he thought our mother was completely blind…since she was looking right at the both of us.

I gave Durwood a blank look as if I had no idea what he was talking about…but then after a few seconds I relented and said…

“Oh, yeah…that’s right.  I forgot.  Maybe the snowman can wait.”

Mom shook her head at our little drama and got up and walked over to the sink.

“Christmas secrets are so much fun, aren’t they?”

I didn’t look at Durwood.  I just kept dipping Rosettes in the sugar and twisting.

I knew he was wondering if I could really pull this off.  Well, don’t worry, Durwood…I could.

There were these cookies…”

Chapter 7…The Final One…

We both dawdled at the kitchen table…slowly eating our Rosettes…and “fake making Christmas cards” until mom had washed up all the dishes.

“Thank you, little elves. What would I do without you?”  She kissed us both on the top of our heads and headed to the master bedroom which was just off the kitchen by the back porch.

We waited about a half hour.  Durwood tip-toed over to the closed bedroom door…and put his ear next to it.

He turned, grinned and gave me a barely visible thumbs-up.  “She’s snoring!” he mouthed silently.

Just like the plan we had discussed, Durwood quietly went to the closet and got the step-stool and placed it by the kitchen cupboard that contained the two cookie tins filled with “Gee’s Nut Balls”.

I walked over to him…ready for my part…the crucial part…the important part…

“I’m going to go over and stand by mom’s door,” Durwood whispered.  If I hear anything I will say “red crayon, red crayon”.  Got it?” 

“Got it!!  Red crayon…gee, I love being a secret agent.” I excitedly whispered back.

“Shhhhhhhhh,”  Durwood said and put his grimy little finger tips over my mouth.

I disgustedly brushed them away…yuck!!  But I said nothing…I was a good agent..

I waited until Durwood got over to the bedroom door and then I climbed up the step stool.

I grabbed the cupboard door and made the final step up to the countertop.  It was kind of slippery.

I had put on my brand-new, patent leather Mary Jane shoes because they made me a little taller.

But the bottoms weren’t as grippy as my old sneakers.

“Wow…this is pretty high,” I whispered to myself…not really scared but also…kind of…

I opened the other cupboard door and hung on to it as I reached up to the top shelf where the cookie tins were tucked away.

I couldn’t quite get at them.  I stood on my tip toes and stretched as far as I could…and was reaching in…

Finally!!  I felt the cold metal of one cookie cannister.  Yes!

I hooked my finger under the lid of one of the tins and started to slide it towards me…when suddenly…a horrific combination of events occurred at precisely the same time…

For decades to come…these events would be referred to by “close” friends and family…as “A cluster fuck of immense proportion…but really…nothing out of the ordinary for that crazy Johnson Family”.

Others…referred to it in a more graceful and refined way as “a confluence of unfortunate circumstances”…

Call it whatever you like…it began when…

…Durwood suddenly raced by me at warp speed…whispering and somehow quietly yelling at the same time…and bringing his hand across his throat in a slicing motion…

“ABORT!!  ABORT!!  Red Crayon…Red Crayon!!!!!!!!!!!!!”

Horrified that I would be caught stealing these precious cookies yet…knowing also that I was now the solitary player in this drama of deception and thievery and its success depended solely on me…if only I could get a better grip on that cannister…

I knew I only had seconds…

I stretched even more…trying to slide the cookie tin closer toward me…

And then…

At last I had the cookie tin in one hand and was hanging onto the cupboard door for dear life with the other…when,,,

Mom walked out of the bedroom…eyes half closed and groggy from dreams that (later we were told) had involved Santa Claus, her husband Clive and a money-making scheme…”gone wrong”.

Apparently…our dear father had lost all of our Christmas presents and our beloved dog, Duke!

She wiped the sleep from her eyes, yawned and walked over to the kitchen table to grab her cigarettes and then…she looked up…

“LOTTIE!!!!”

It was ALL her fault.  She should not have SCREAMED so loudly.   I mostly had everything under control…mostly.

Had she just calmly asked me what I was doing…I would have simply told her the truth…

“I was just stealing some of your wonderful cookies, mother dear”…and that would have been that…

She would have sent me and Durwood to our rooms and told us that Christmas was cancelled this year and that she was giving ALL of our presents to the kids next door…and that Santa Claus was…

BUT NO…SHE HAD TO SCREAM!!!!

And her SCREAM startled the living daylights  out of me…plus I think the earth shifted or something…

One of my little patent leather Mary Jane shoes slipped off the countertop and I started to fall…

So…I dropped the cookie tin and grabbed the cupboard door with both hands and as the door started to break free of its hinges…it swung wide and propelled me across the kitchen and into the arms of my shocked yet still half-asleep mother…while at the same time…

…3 dozen “Gee’s Nut Balls” flew thru the air like giant snowflakes during a Minnesota December blizard as the cookie connister hit the edge of the counter and the lid flew off…

…and because “Gee’s Nut Balls” are the most tender and delicate cookies you could ever imagine…they crumbled into miniscule little pieces of flour, powdered sugar, butter and finely chopped nuts when they hit the hard linoleum floor.

It was true that I was safe in my mother’s arms…yet I had failed miserably in my breakout role as a Secret Agent.

I had NOT secured even one prized cookie…and I knew the much deserved “wrath of my mother” was soon to come…but…but…

Before she could speak…I uttered the only phrase that I hoped would bring me some mercy and possible forgiveness…

“Merry Christmas, Mommy!!”

The End