Chapters 15-20

Thanksgiving has come and gone. Snow has fallen. Most of Laska lies tranquil under its winter blanket of white. And yet, what should be a cheery season is defeated by a great conflict that rages through all of Plasticopia, dividing families, confounding businesses, spurring an avalance of commentaries and letters to the editor: Is it Christmas, or is it the Holidays?

Even the slow economy does not stir the passions of the plastic people as does this controversy. It leaves no corner of the plastic universe untouched.

Mitzi and Sharon have arrived early at the coffee shop to decorate for the season.

Mitzi is feeling the cheer. "It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas."

"Don't say that word! Someone might hear you."

"Well, all right. It's beginning to look a lot like the holidays."

"Don't use that word, either. You'll antagonize the other half of our customer base."

"Well, why are we decorating then?"

"Because that's what we do every December--engage in this meaningless ritual, erecting an elaborate artifice that is time-consuming to put up, time-consuming to take down, and leaves us feeling exhausted and empty."

"I have to believe there is more to it than that."

"Some can still dream."


Everyone who comes into the coffee shop is a bit surly and tips are poor. Customers are drinking their coffee black and eating their humbug pie without cream.

Jobs are hard to come by. The Help Wanted section of the newspaper is consequently well used.

"Anything good?"

"There's a senate seat for sale in Ill-annoy."

"How much?"

"See for yourself."

"Oh, right! Out of my budget."


After work, Mitzi ventures into the flower shop next door, meager savings tucked into her purse, in search of a little seasonal cheer.

A wide-eyed little girl watches Mitzi pass by.

Rita, the flower shop proprietor, is busy at the moment. She is known to Mitzi, for Rita is a frequent visitor to the coffee shop, invariably picking up a skinny latte to go.

Mitzi waits patiently while the woman ahead of her explains her needs. "...It was a really good job. He'll never find another like it. We'll probably have to move out of our fancy home and back in with his parents. I'd like something special to cheer him up."

Rita turns the woman over to her helper, Little Orphan Cammy, who makes the most beautiful flower arrangements.

Mitzi cannot help but notice the woman's smile, despite her dire situation.

Rita interrupts her reverie. "Wonderful to see you, Mitzi. How can I help you?"

"Maybe something of whatever that woman has, so I can take it back to the coffee shop."

"Oh, her? That's called happiness. Quite frankly, she doesn't need the flowers for her husband, she just needs to breath on him and drink from the same cup. Happiness is quite contagious and he's sure to catch it. But happy people like flowers, and vice versa, so who am I to suggest otherwise?"

"Well, I will be happy if you can help me find something cheery for my door."

"We have some wreaths over here. We also can make them custom, tell us what you want, and we can put it together."

"I don't have that much money."

"Tell me about it. Sales are down 423% since last year.

"That's terrible. But you seem to have lots of customers."

"They come, but they do not buy. They're mostly pursephobiacs."

"What's that?"

"They have a terrible fear of opening purse strings. In the retail business, we're more aware of these infirmities. It's a condition that tends to become aggravated in tough economic times, which only adds to the general misery. As my mentor used to say, what a dollar will buy depends upon how often it changes hands."

"So why do they come if they're not buying?"

"They're self-medicating. They crave that rush of nostalgia. See that woman over there. She's getting high on the smell, the color, the touch, remembering how it felt to buy flowers. Flowers are the first to go when money is tight."

"But enough of other people's problems. Will this wreath do?"

"Perfect. Randi will love it."


"My daughter."

"I didn't know you had a daughter. You'll have to bring her by so I can meet her someday."

"I will. Or perhaps you could come by and visit at our home?"

"I'd like that."

Rita rings up the purchase and Mitzi digs into her purse.

to be continued....
Chapter 16: A Dickens of a Christmas

(Episode 5)

'Tis the Season and Mitzi has big plans for the front door of her humble abode. Having been recently divorced and left with nothing that can be legally sold, she is nevertheless determined to create some seasonal cheer for her little daughter. Such a brave soul in the face of adversity, Mitzi has taken her meager savings to the Tiny Blooms Flower Shoppe, where she has picked out the least expensive wreath.

Now she riffles the contents of her purse, looking for her wallet. Her heart sinks. "It's not here! I've been robbed!"

Rita points. "What's that in your hand?"

"This is my daybook. The wallet is exactly the same, only smaller and filled with my earthly savings. They were a matched set, a gift from my dead mother--well, actually, she wasn't dead when she gave them to me, and my earthly savings weren't in it yet. That was years ago, and every time I've taken them out I've thought of her."

Rita is sympathetic.

"Well, at least we know what to look for."

Mitzi empties her purse to be certain she hasn't missed it.

Rita tries to help. After all, a lost wallet can happen to anyone. "Can you remember when you last had it. "

"I had it at the coffee shop. I put my tips in it."

"Maybe you dropped it. Try to think ... did you take it out of your purse after leaving the coffee shop? Did you leave it unattended?"

Mitzi thinks hard. "Maybe this has nothing to do with it, but something strange did happen. As I was waiting for you to take care of the lady with the husband who lost his job, a little girl behind me said something odd."


"What is it, Toots?"

"That's the lady I want for my mommy."


"Wow, this is embarrassing."

"And suddenly I was surrounded while the man was chastising his daughter."

"You can't just pick a beautiful woman out of the crowd and ask her to be your mother, Toots. That's not how it's done."

"He turned to me, apologizing overly profusely, and finally guided his children away. By then you were back, so I forgot about them."

"Oh-ho. We heard about this at the last Florists Convention. They had a little info-meeting right after Bankruptcy for Beginners. "

"You heard this story already? But it just happened."

"No, we heard about pickpockets. They're back."

"Where have they been?"

"I'm not sure. Laying low in their garrets, clinging to the undersides of trucks, running mortgage and investment companies."

"You think this man picked my pock...my purse?"

"Likely the children did it...maybe the little boy. They train their children. First they distract you, cause some kind of diversion that allows them to get in close, and before you know it ... you've been gutted."

"How horrible! And they seemed so nice! So...well...flattering."

"So did President Shrub, and look what that got us. Are they still here? Do you see them anywhere?"

"Oh, no. They're gone. Should I call the police?"

"It can't hurt...oh, wait, what's this? Could it be a clue?"

"A drawing...it must have made by the little girl. Didn't you say her name was Toots? And here she is, and this must be her brother Toby...I wonder if this is the fellow? She calls him Fagan...h'mm, I've heard that name somewhere before! They're probably not even his own children. Probably not even their true names."

"Here, let me see."

Such a cheerful drawing, something Randi might have done.

"And she led me to believe she didn't have a mommy! Oh, I feel awful. And here I was feeling sorry for them all. How despicable, to train little children to be so manipulative...so...so..."

"So vicious and depraved, such cunning pathological and hideous pustules on the face of Plasticanity? Honey, wake up and smell the roses."

"I'm going to call the police right now. Someone needs to save those children from this vile monster."

Mitzi gives her statement to the busy but polite young policeman. By that time Mitzi's memory has been confounded by preconceptions, one of the biggest problems with eye witness accounts.

"Pickpockets, ma'am? Well, no, I can't say we've had many reports of pickpockets since I've been on the force. You say they're about five and seven? Years? Old? Oh, urchins, right. I got the urchins part. What are urchins, anyway? Are those like the little spiney things that grow in tidal pools? We learned about those in fifth grade science. No, not those? Two legs and two arms? About yay high? What's that about a Dodger? I didn't quite catch that. They're baseball fans? Artistic baseball fans? And they're raggy and dirty and this guy Fagan makes them bring all the loot to him, and he sends them out to recruit other urchin things from the poor house? Which poor house, ma'am? There are literally hundreds of households in this neighborhood with total annual incomes below the poverty line, so could you be a little more specific? Maybe paint color. Does it have a garage?" *sigh* "Quite frankly, Ma'am, this is all a little hard to follow. I have to ask you one question. Have you been, you know, dabbling in the sauce?"

The interview is at last over. Rita has a surprise for Mitzi.

"Here, I want you to take this wreath."

"But I have no money."

"Neither do I, so we're even. Just take it for your daughter, Randi. I want her to have a Merry Christmas."

"You said it! You said the word."

"What? Merry? Is that the new gay? I hate it when they do that--take over perfectly good words so you can't use them in the same familiar old way. It seems to me people could just invent totally new ones."

"No, no, you said 'Christmas'. Aren't you afraid of losing all your Yewish and Athelist and Muslin customers?"

"What? They have something against Christmas?"

"It's the PC game. Don't you play?"

"I don't have a computer."

"Okay, never mind. Thank you so much for the wreath. I want you to come and see it on my door. Merry Christmas."

"Happy Holidays."

And so Mitzi goes home, a cheery wreath in hand, but a dreariness in her heart and her step. Sometimes, when plastic people are sore in their souls, they are unable to see the beauty of the world around them. And Mitzi is sick in her heart, not only because she has lost her earthly savings, but a little bit of her faith, as well.

As it happens, her path takes her by the toy store, and she pauses a moment before the window to covet for awhile. She had planned to shop for Randi's Christmas present, but there is no longer any good to come of those plans, for she has no money left. As she stands there, soaking in the joy of other better-heeled Plasticopians, her breath catches. Can it be?

Yes, it can! It's them, the pickpockets! Having a heavenly time in Toyland with her earthly savings!

to be continued....