“I jus’ don’t get it Sis. Why’s it s’ tall?” five-year old Bobby asked his sister, three years his senior. Bobby slid his gloved hand across the base of the roughly hewn manger, the cradled bottom resting just above eye level. “How’re the people drivin’ by gonna see baby Jesus? Mary and Joseph must’ve been really tall!”
Sara giggled. “No, silly. Grandpa built it this tall with another purpose in mind. He doesn’t put baby Jesus in until late on Christmas Eve. He lowers the manger then. ‘Til that time he uses it as a snow catcher for homemade ice cream. Since it stands so tall, it keeps pets and other varmints from tracking through and turning the snow yellow.”
“You mean they can’t go pee there,” Billy said, grinning ear to ear.
“Billy,” she scolded, “you know mommy prefers th’ word potty, but yes that’s right,” she nodded. “However, Grandpa can’t do anything about this.” Sara held a small vial with yellow liquid. “We’re gonna play a trick on Grandpa.” Standing on her tiptoes, she sprinkled the whole bottle of yellow food coloring into the manger. Hearing the back door swing open, she stashed the bottle in her coat pocket.
“Hey Grandpa,” Billy greeted.
Grandpa Walter clutched a step stool in one hand and toted a large kettle and ladling spoon in the other. “Kiddos, we’s gonna have us some homemade ice cream in just a little while.”
Settling the stool into the snow, Grandpa groaned up the two steps. “Hand me up m’ gatherin’ tools.”
Sara handed her Grandpa the kettle, Bobby the spoon. Walter turned and studied the snow for the first time, a look of disgust formed on his face. He hobbled down, fuming.
“M’ snows been tainted,” he wailed.
“What do y’ mean?” Sara asked innocently.
“It’s yeller! M’ ice cream makin' snow is yeller!”
The kids hid wide smiles behind mittened hands.
“Those dad burn neighbor’s dogs,” he stomped. “Always doin’ their business in m’ yard. When the neighbors let’em out, they beeline to my lawn…usin’ it as a bathroom. I cain’t go barefoot in th’ summer, and in the winter m’ snow appears t’ be one huge chocolate chip cookie. The patches not displayin’ droppin’s are yeller.”
Sara elbowed her brother who was giggling at Walter’s ranting and raving.
“Now the neighbors have either gone out and bought a Bull Mastiff sufferin’ from giantism, or have done learned their chee-waw-waw to walk on stilts. They’ve desecrated m’ manger snow,” he hollered.
Millie, his wife of fifty years burst through the back door. “What’s goin’ on out here Walter?”
“M’ manger snow’s been desecrated,” he shouted.
“What’s that?” she asked cupping her ear. “A stranger desecrated th’ snow? Why that’s indecent.” She stomped back inside, mumbling about the failed neighborhood watch program.
Walter shook his head. “Why that woman wouldn’t hear a freight train rumblin' through th’ livin’ room.”
Walter took a deep breath and started slogging through the wet snow, marching towards his neighbor’s house. “I’m goin’ over there and give them a piece of m’ mind.”
“Wait,” Sara laughed. “Grandpa, I’ve got something to show you.”
Sarah opened her fist, revealing the small empty bottle. “It came out of the kitchen. It had yellow food coloring in it,” she announced, grinning.
Bobby chuckled. Grandpa’s furrowed brow, relaxed; a toothless grin threatened to swallow his face. “Y’ got me good kids.” He teetered back up the steps and scooped enough snow to churn ice cream for four, plus seconds. “Let’s not tell y’r grandma about th’ food colorin'. Maybe she won’t want any ice cream when she spies th’ yeller tint. It’ll leave more f’r us,” he said, winking.
“Grandpa,” the kids protested.
“Oh, all right. We’ll all enjoy the ice cream. Yeller and all.”
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