The Winter Fest (Slice of life from novel in progress)

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Winter Tree

A breeze blew through his long hair forming a wave in the air as he hurried down the street to meet Alex. Fall had just ended, but the gust in the walkway was reminding Curtis that Winter was now upon them. Although he was in a rush, the wall of air before him was slowing his progress.

Nothing seemed to be going right for him that morning. All Curt wanted to do was get a warm mug of hot chocolate while chatting with Alex about the progress of the gaming sessions. Instead, he woke to a puddle under his footing as he planted his toes on the ground. His newly acquired puppy, which Curtis wanted to name Piddles for the apparent reason, had, once again, left her mark on his carpet. Both because it was not fresh, and the recent decline in temperature made the spot practically freezing to his toasted feet as he removed them from the blanket fort he slept in.

Following the morning puddle, he went to detangle his hair, and in doing so, the overnight knotting caught in his brush. As he pulled to uncatch the hair, he both pulled the hair out of his scalp and broke several tines out of the brush just before the handle snapped. That was followed by a flat tire due to the pressure change, which was quickly remedied by a loud pump that woke Thorne. She pounced and growled at the pump thinking it would stop. With no luck in that endeavor, she bounced and yipped, in an attempt to bark, and growled some more in hopes of getting its attention. Being young and clumsy, she merely got tangled in the power cord.

Curtis pulled Thorne out of the wire and placed her in her crate that he was already preparing to clean when he returned. As he left, she started the semblance of a howl that was more like a coo. This only tugged at his heart and made him regret the decision to leave her behind. Because it was cold outside, he knew Alex would want to spend more time inside than out at the Winter Fest. Curt had looked forward to this all year. It was basically an Americanized German Christmas market. He had plans to pick up some sweets that were seasonal like Stollen and Dampfnudel. He also had intended on bringing home some Glühwein, for as much as he wanted it, he would not have it while driving.

On the drive to meet Alex, Curt swerved through traffic with several near misses. Blaming the poor driving on the influx of seasonal visitors, he continued to drive as if they were not on the road. He said he would meet Alex at 9:30, and he was going to be there at 9:30.

Curtis finally got to the door of Jenny’s and pulled against the wind. As the draft caught the frame of the door, it pulled Curt with it. He entered the building and, with all his might, pulled the door closed. After shaking off the leaves he collected in his walk, he looked to the clock at the doorway and saw it had just turned 9:30. He made it, on time, as usual. Looking around in hopes of seeing Alex, Curt went to his regular booth that was empty of everything other than a placemat and rolled utensils.

Ten minutes later, Alex arrived. By then, Curt was halfway through his first mug of hot chocolate for the day. As it was cold outside, he wanted to have as much comfort as possible. Wrapped in a heavy sweatshirt with Karloff on the front, he was at least physically comfortable on the outside.

Alex, on the other hand, came in with two overlapping t-shirts, with the outer one displaying his favorite comic book character. On top of that was his blue and black, buttons opened, over shirt. “Man, it is cold out there!” Alex exclaimed, as he pulled the door closed and stopped the draft from entering the restaurant.

“Maybe if you dressed appropriately for the weather, it wouldn’t feel that way,” Curtis retorted. To which, Alex punched Curt in the arm and jostled his mug. Had it not been half-emptied, it would have spilled all over Curtis and the table. “Hey!”

As he slumped into the booth, Alex asked, “You ready to go?”

“First, you just got here. Second, you haven’t had coffee. Third, you just said it was cold out there. Figured you would want to at least get a mug in you. Who are you, and what have you done with Alex?”

“You would not believe the hotties I saw on the way here. They were heading to the fest, and it is sweater weather. Where is Thorne? She would draw out all of the women. Glad you got that pup. She is a better wingman than you.”

“Glad you are eager to go. Let me finish this chocolate and pay the bill. As for Thorne, she is staying at home. Didn’t want to have to deal with her being a reason we can’t go into places.”

“She would have been fine. Act like you own the place, and you can do anything.”

“Yeah… No. Not my style.”

“OK, well, let’s go. There are there are women with something missing in their lives that need that rectified.”

“Like a sloth? I hear women think they are cute too,” and Alex punched Curt again.

* * * * *

The booths and tents that lined the street were filled with food, drink, and gifts. Curt had a budget, but he never stuck to it. As they went to the first three tents, he picked up three different types of Stollen. The first was an apple-based one with a caramel topping. The second was more traditional with candied-fruits and a sugar topping. The last one was chocolate cake with a ganache topping.

“You might want to slow down with picking all of this stuff up,” Alex commented.

Curt retorted, “But if I don’t get it now, it might be gone later.”

“Well, I’m not carrying all the crap you get when you can’t hold it. Hey, let’s stop there. That’s the coffee I want.” Alex pointed to a stand that was selling coffee with a rum floater.

Curt tried protesting, “Here we go! It is before noon,” but Alex dragged him further into the crowd and rapidly past the other shoppers to get to their destination. As they weaved in between people, Curt bumped into someone that dropped their package. “Sorrrrreeee!” and Alex continued to pull him to their goal. “Look, I get you are going through caffeine withdrawal and want a buzz, but you don’t have to be rude about it.”

“We are almost there. Did you see the server? She has Viking’s blood written all over her.” He was referring to her long blonde hair braided in several different twists and her slender, statuesque figure. She towered over the patrons as she stood on an elevated platform.

Once they arrived, Curt tried to catch his breath. “Are… you… happy… now?”

“Not yet. Hey there… Ingrid? Come here often?” Alex asked the waitress after reading her nametag.

Ingrid looked at Alex and smiled, “Can I get you something?”

“Yeah, can I get a coffee, black, with some rum… And your number? Shaggy?”

Curt was looking back at the person he bumped into. It reminded him of someone he thought he saw before. Alex repeated, “Shaggy!”

“What!?!?” Curtis exclaimed.

“Did you want something to drink? This fetching purveyor of beverages is waiting for you. Hopefully when she is done assisting all of these people,” he pointed to the line that was forming behind them, “we can hang out and show her the market.”

Curt replied, “Heiße Schokolade, please.”

“Ooooh, he speaks the language,” Ingrid gushed.

Alex interrupted, “Er ist nicht der einzige, der Deutsch sprechen kann. Ich weiß es auch zu sprechen. Möchten Sie einmal ausgehen?” Ingrid looked at Alex unimpressed.

“Al, aren’t we supposed to be meeting Shaun?” Curt interrupted, knowing Alex wasn’t getting anywhere.

“Yeah, we can go.” He retrieved the drinks, giving Curt his cocoa and they moved through the rest of the fair.

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