From Red Righter ——
It was the week approaching Christmas, and Cuffs had not been seen at the North Street Hotel for several days. I was beginning to worry, until I walked into the saloon and saw Elkton’s resident Scrooge seated in his usual booth. A large sack was resting on the floor beside his feet.
“What’s in the burlap bag?” I asked.
“Coal,” he snapped, dropping a handful of black stone into a small brown paper bag. As I watched, he slipped in a note, stained by black dust, and stapled the package closed.
Obviously noticing my interest, he snarled the word “presents” and kept at his task.
“Do you know how hard it is today to find coal to give out for Christmas?” Cuffs asked, without raising his eyes.
Admitting I hadn’t given it a thought, as I assumed the practice had died out, along with other good things that are disappearing—like V-8 engines, convertibles, kazoos, chewing tobacco, good cheap hamburgers and anything made in America.
While the aged elf completed two more smudged and crumpled gift bags, he explained he had sought out a source for a few pieces of coal as appropriate Christmas gifts for his grand nephews.
“A trio of young pirates as there ever was,” Cuffs said. “I call them Nitwit, Pinhead and Dim Bulb. They’re nothing but trouble, and I swore I’d never give them anything, ’cause they don’t deserve it. Their mother spends so much time waiting outside the principal’s office to get them released from custody, she should do some filing or answer the school phones and get paid while she’s there.”
While buying his usual half-pints and six packs at the North Street Hotel for his chums, the idea of giving coal to the family misfits popped into his mind. But, when he went to buy a few pieces of the holiday black rock, it was impossible to find.