“Oh, what fun it is to ride in a one-horse open sleigh!” Trixie, Diana, and Honey sang at the top of their lungs, ringing the bells they had in their hands. The three of them were standing outside of Crimper’s department store ringing bells for the Salvation Army annual kettle drive. It had become a tradition for the Bob-Whites to ring bells during the holiday season.

Crimper’s department store loved it when the Bob-Whites rang the bells. They always came decked out in Santa hats and serenaded the shoppers that passed through the department store doors. When Jim took his turn, he would bring along his harmonica and play. The Salvation Army was always happy to have the Bob-Whites ring the bells. At the end of their shift the kettles were always filled to the brim.

The girls had been ringing the bells for almost two hours. They started after their last class at Sleepyside High School before Christmas break. The male members of the Bob-Whites had not been able to participate yet as they were all at college. That would soon change. By the time the girls finished their shift, the guys would be at Crabapple Farm ready to celebrate the start of the break with the girls. The entire group would be ringing bells several more times before Christmas Eve.

The girls took a break in their singing to thank the shoppers for their generous donations and hand out candy canes to kids who passed by. They stomped their feet to keep warm. Dusk was falling and with it the temperatures.

Despite enjoying their time bell ringing, Trixie asked impatiently, “What time is it?”

For the umpteenth time, Honey looked at her watch. “It’s five thirty. Why are you so antsy?” she asked with a twinkle in her eye.

“My… feet are getting cold,” Trixie stammered, stomping them to prove her point.

“Yeah, and you’re anxious for a certain red-head, who shall remain nameless, to warm them and other parts of your body up,” Diana teased.

Beneath the blonde curl that had escaped from her Santa hat, Trixie blushed. For the next few minutes, Diana and Honey teased Trixie about her boyfriend.

Trixie hadn’t seen Jim in almost two months. Jim’s schedule was full. He would be graduating from Columbia University in May with a double major in Education and Counseling. When he wasn’t studying for his classes, he had been preparing for the Graduate Record Exam. He also had begun the research on his senior thesis, which he would be finishing the next semester. Thanksgiving weekend was spent in one of the college libraries. Despite being less than 40 miles apart physically, some days it seemed like a thousand.

The only consolation for Trixie was that the two of them exchanged e-mails, text messages, and instant messages on a daily basis. They also made a point of having a phone date on Friday or Saturday night. It wasn’t an ideal situation but it worked for the both of them. They were both looking forward to spending many hours together over the next few weeks.

Trixie was brought out of her deep thoughts by someone shouting her name from across the street. As she and her friends looked in one direction, they were bowled over by someone coming from the opposite direction. They were taken by such surprise that they couldn’t react. In less than a minute, the offender had run off down an alley and the three girls lay on the ground, their Santa hats askew.

Trixie pushed herself off the ground and tried to dust the snow and dirt off of her red BWG jacket. “Are you guys okay?” she asked as she extended a hand to Honey and helped her to her feet.

“I think so,” Honey replied as she examined her torn gloves, “but I think Santa’s going to have to bring me a new pair of gloves.”

By now Diana had gotten to her feet with the help of a passerby. “I think the thing that was damaged the most was my ego,” she said.

Several shoppers had stopped to make sure the girls were okay. The girls straightened their Santa hats and were about to resume their bell ringing when they realized that their hit and run guy had taken off with their almost full kettle of money. With all of the commotion, no one had realized what had happened.

Spider Webster, the BWG’s favorite police officer, happened to drive by. Trixie quickly flagged him down. “Spider,” she called out. “We’ve just been robbed!”

They ran up to the cruiser and all started talking at once.

“Someone called out my name.”

“He came out of nowhere.”

“It happened so fast.”

Spider climbed out of the car and walked around to the girls. “Hold on,” he said. “Let’s start over, but one at a time.” He reached inside his pocket for a notebook and pen and took notes as, one by one, the girls told the story. He asked thoughtful questions as they went along, trying to draw out any information that might have been overlooked.

By the time he had finished with the girls, the next set of bell ringers had arrived. After warning them to be careful, the girls headed back to Crabapple Farm for a late dinner.

As the girls walked over to Diana’s navy blue Cadillac Escalade, they continued to discuss the afternoon’s events. They were still reviewing things among themselves as they arrived at Crabapple Farm.

The girls removed their coats and boots on the service porch, walked through the kitchen, and didn’t stop until they reached Trixie’s bedroom where the three of them collapsed on the bed.

Downstairs, three young men stood with their mouths agape, while a fourth one burst out laughing. Dan Mangan had just spent the last two hours sitting in the Wheeler limo listening to Mart wax poetic about his love Diana and how excited she was to see him. Jim and Brian had not been as vocal, but Dan could tell they were both excited about seeing their girlfriends as well. Then, as soon as the girls got home, they walked past them without even giving them a look.

“You guys are so whipped,” Dan said, as he stared at the three dejected faces. “And here you thought that your girlfriends were sitting at home pining away for you. What did you collectively forget to do? Did you forget some Hallmark inspired holiday like International Chocolate Day or National Chicken Dance Day?”

Mart looked with shock at Brian and Jim to see if they’d missed these important holidays as well. He hadn’t thought that Diana would be so wrapped up in these special occasions that seemed to be created to sell greeting cards, but maybe he’d been wrong.

For a second, Jim looked as concerned as Mart did. Then his logical mind took over and he realized that Dan was teasing. “No,” he replied. “Trixie and I have decided that in addition to the truly traditional holidays. We are only going to celebrate Mother Goose Day and Gummi Worm Day.”

Brian chimed in and said, “Honey and I go for Caps Lock Day and Bad Poetry Day.”

The four guys chuckled for a while. Then they sobered up. Something was seriously wrong with the girls. They still hadn’t come downstairs.

“Someone should go up and check on them,” suggested Mart. Four pairs of eyes all looked at the floor, no one wanting to make the journey into the unknown.

Jim, trying to appear to be the honorable one, said, “I’d go up there, but I don’t think Mr. Belden would appreciate finding me in my girlfriend’s bedroom.”

Mart wasn’t going to hear any of that. “That’s just a convenient excuse. You just don’t want to face Trixie’s wrath if you did something wrong.”

“That couldn’t happen because Jim is the ‘most wonderful boy in the world’.” Brian chimed in making quote marks with his fingers. “He can do no wrong.”

Dan continued to stir the pot, knowing he couldn’t be the cause of the girls’ worries. “Times a wastin’ Someone better go upstairs to see what’s happening. The longer you wait the more trouble you could be in.”

Finally, it was decided that Brian would go up and check on the girls. He stood a better chance of not being attacked should the girls really be mad at the guys.

Slowly, Brian trudged his way up the stairs. Out of habit, he avoided the squeaky step. When he got to the top of the stairs he squared his shoulders, picked up the pace and walked over to Trixie’s bedroom door, where he quietly knocked on it.

From inside the room he heard Trixie say, “I’ll be down to help with dinner in a minute, Moms. We’re just going to change. These heavy clothes will be too warm with everyone in the house.”

Brian softly said through the door, “It’s not Moms, it’s Brian. Is something wrong?”

As the door opened, Brian was bombarded by Honey throwing herself into his arms.

“It was just awful,” Honey sobbed onto Brian’s shoulder. All he could do was wrap his arms around his girlfriend. Within seconds, Brian found himself surrounded by three girls that were on the verge of hysteria.

When he still hadn’t figured out what had happened to send three of the bravest girls he knew into such a tizzy, he tried to call down to the rest of the guys. Realizing he couldn’t be heard over the din of the girls, Brian pursed his lips together and whistled, “Bob, bob-white”.

Before he knew it, footsteps were thundering on the stairs as the remaining Bob-Whites made their way to Trixie’s room. When they arrived, Trixie flung herself into Jim’s arms and Diana into Mart’s. Dan sat back and observed it all.

After an initial embrace, Jim placed his hands on Trixie’s shoulders and pushed her back a little so he could see into her eyes while she was still within the comfort of his embrace. While Diana and Honey had shed a few tears on their boyfriends’ shoulders, Trixie hadn’t shed one. Her eyes sparked with anger.

“Okay, Shamus,” Jim said. “What happened today that brought this on?”

Mart and Brian had guided their girlfriends over to the bed and they all sat down while Trixie told her story. Trixie’s nervous energy caused her to pace as she recalled the events of the afternoon.

“I don’t know what makes me madder,” Trixie concluded. “Someone duping us or having all of that money stolen. I guess it’s the loss of the money, really. We were at the end of our shift and the kettle was just about overflowing.”

“Don’t worry about the money,” comforted Jim. “We’re all just glad that you’re safe and I’m sure that Dad will make a sizeable donation to the Salvation Army to make up for the loss.”

Just then Moms called upstairs to let everyone know dinner was ready but there was no table set. The bevy of Bob-Whites raced down the stairs, sounding more like a herd of elephants than a group of young adults.

As the group helped set the table, the girls once again retold their story. Trixie’s parents were a little worried about the kids ringing bells later in the week.

“Moms, we can’t not ring the bells,” Trixie wailed. “The Salvation Army is counting on us. Besides, if we don’t, other people might not ring bells either. The money raised goes to help so many good causes.”

Over dinner the group discussed ways to fulfill their commitment to ring bells but not put themselves in any danger. It didn’t help that the previous week Paul Trent had reluctantly written a story in the Sleepyside Sun about the bell ringers that featured the BWGs. In it, he listed the times they would be ringing bells.

After dinner and a plate of Christmas cookies for dessert, the young people settled down for a Christmas movie marathon. They started out watching White Christmas and followed it up with A Christmas Story. Dan entertained them all by mimicking Rosemary Clooney singing “Sisters”, grabbing the poker from the fireplace to use instead of a fan. Then he regaled them with a story about the time he got his tongue stuck on a light pole because Patrick O’Malley had dared him to do it. By the end of the night, the girls had recovered their sense of humor and put their bell ringing worries behind them.

The next morning the BWGs were scheduled to ring bells from ten o’clock to noon. Over breakfast at the Manor House, they devised a plan. Mart, Diana, Honey and Brian would ring bells by the kettle while Dan, Trixie and Jim would station themselves along the street, blending in with the shoppers and trying to stop anyone who might try to steal the kettle.

Fortunately, the weather was perfect. The sun shone and there was no wind. People were rushing around trying to get their last minute shopping done. Trixie and Jim started out watching from across the street and Dan stood just inside Crimper’s. No one took their eyes off of the street in front of them. Brian, Mart, Diana and Honey tried their best to look casual and serenade the shoppers. Nothing happened for about an hour.

“This is frustrating,” Trixie said. “I’m getting bored. Do you think Brian or Mart might want to switch places with me?” In the background, she could hear the rich timbre of Brian’s voice and the sweet soprano of Honey’s as they sang “We Three Kings”.

“That might not be a bad idea,” replied Jim. “We could make a production out of Diana and Honey wanting to do some last minute shopping. I’ll bet their feet are getting cold.”

“Actually, they did say they wanted to stop inside Crimper’s before we head home. There are some gold filigree ornaments that Honey wants to get for your mom and Diana mentioned she wanted to pick up Neil Diamond’s new Christmas cd ‘A Cherry, Cherry Christmas’.”

Jim and Trixie approached the kettle. Dan noticed they were heading that way and joined the group as well. The group was busy making plans to meet at Wimpy’s for lunch after they had deposited the money at the bank. Jim had just started to pull his harmonica out of his pocket when someone from across the street called Trixie’s name.

Just like the night before, all three girls looked in the direction of where the voice came from. Dan and Jim resisted the urge to look that way as well and scanned the street to see if anyone looked suspicious. Sure enough, running full speed from the opposite direction was someone with a ski mask covering his face.

They watched from the corner of their eyes as the runner quickly grabbed for the kettle. With lightning speed, Dan and Jim gave chase. The would-be robber hadn’t gone far when he was tackled. As he fell to the ground, the kettle spilled money all over the sidewalk.

While Jim and Dan had taken off after the robber, Mart and Brian spotted the guy who had called out Trixie’s name and took off after him. They caught up with him halfway down the block when he ran smack into Rudy Goldstein, one of Sleepyside High School’s math teachers and former college heavyweight wrestler.

Jim and Dan held the offender down while Trixie grabbed her cell phone and called 9-1-1. Within minutes, officers Spider Webster and Joe Lande were on the scene. Spider took statements from Dan and Jim, while Joe met with Brian and Mart. Honey, Trixie and Diana picked up the spilled coins.

When Spider pulled the ski mask off the offender Trixie gasped. “Bull Thompson!” she exclaimed. “I thought you were still in prison.” Spider slapped handcuffs on Bull and then called the police station to get some information on him.

“It seems Bull was paroled last week. I guess some people just can’t be rehabilitated. He’ll be headed back to the slammer for parole violations,” Spider report. Bull glared from one Bob-White to the next, but remained silent. The one thing he had learned while locked up was when to keep his mouth shut.

While Spider was none too gently guiding Bull to the squad car, Joe was coercing his captor down the street.

“Meet Dwayne Thompson, Bull’s brother,” Joe said. “Apparently he was released from prison about six weeks ago.”

While Spider and Joe were dealing with the two suspects, Honey and Diana had been picking up all of the spilled money. Several shoppers had helped as well. Unfortunately, even with Spider’s questioning, the Thompson brothers would not divulge what had happened to the rest of the money.

As the police cruiser pulled away from the curb with the suspects firmly secured in the backseat, the next set of eager bell ringers had arrived. They were members of a local church youth group. The Bob-Whites gave the group a few pointers and then left.

Jim and Trixie took their kettle of money to the bank to be deposited before it closed for the day. Honey and Diana went into Crimper’s to check out the ornaments while Mart, Brian and Dan headed toward Wimpy’s to try and reserve their favorite booth.

“Order me a hot chocolate,” Trixie yelled to Mart. “I need something to warm me up and hopefully it will be cooled down enough so that I can drink it right away.”

“It’ll probably be ice cold by the time you get there,” Mart teased.

Trixie resisted the urge to start a snowball fight with her brother. The streets were too busy and she didn’t want to cause an accident. That would have to wait until they got home, but she wasn’t going to forget about it.

By the time Trixie and Jim had arrived at Wimpy’s, there were seven cups of hot chocolate placed at their favorite booth. They stomped the snow off of their feet as they entered the diner. Jim helped Trixie with her coat and then scooted into the booth. Dan, Brian, and Mart were conspiring about something but there was no sign yet of Honey and Diana.

“I didn’t realize how cold I was until I got inside,” Trixie said, warming her hands around the cup of cocoa. “I hope it doesn’t get too cold before Christmas Eve. It would be nice to go on a ride through the woods if the weather holds.”

The five Bob-Whites talked for a few more minutes before Honey and Diana joined them. To the surprise of the guys, they each had only one small package.

“Sorry we’re late,” said Diana. “We were accosted by Paul Trent when we left Crimper’s. He wanted the scoop on what happened.”

Trixie groaned at the mention of her “favorite” reporter. “I can just see the headline now, ‘Nosy Bob-Whites Ring the Necks of Would-be Robbers’.”

“I don’t know about that but he had done some investigating,” said Honey. “He told us that Bull and Dwayne confessed not only to stealing from Salvation Army kettles in White Plains but also to breaking into the local food bank and stealing gifts that had been donated for their clients. Apparently it amounted to about ten thousand dollars worth of money and gifts.”

Trixie forcefully sat down her mug and said, “Well, I hope they throw the book at them. They should get double the punishment for stealing from the less fortunate.”

Everyone nodded in agreement. Mike came with their food orders and the group discussed their plans for the next few days. There were cookies to bake, presents to wrap and more bells to ring. But the most important thing of the season would be spending time together.


Author Notes

Merry Christmas, Vivian!! I hope that I have done justice to this story. I’m not April but volunteered to “pinch hit” when she was stricken with her back.

I know Vivian would have preferred a non-Christmas story but I couldn’t get inspired. While the story occurs in the Christmas season it doesn’t occur on Christmas. And it’s a mystery, just like you asked for. I hope I was able to incorporate some of your holiday memories, the filigree ornaments, We Three Kings, hot chocolate, and sledding. I even included a Neil Diamond cameo, sort of.

An extra thank you to my editors Diana B., Bonnie H and Beverly for doing an extra quick edit.

Thanks to Mal for her rockin’ graphics. She, too, came through at the last minute minute.

Those holidays the guys talked about are actual holidays. National Chicken Dance Day is May 14 which is my birthday, International Chocolate Day is September 13, Vivian’s Birthday. Mother Goose Day is May 1, Trixie’s Birthday and Gummi Worm Day is July 15, and the date I chose for Jim’s Birthday. Caps Lock Day is Oct. 22 which by consensus is Brian’s birthday and Bad Poetry Day is August 18 which I decided is Honey’s birthday. I chose that day because I wanted to use that day.

White Christmas is my most favoritest Christmas movie. And “Sisters” is second only to the title song in the movie. A Christmas Story is another cool Christmas movie. Who could forget the scene where he stuck his tongue on the light pole?

Word Count, 3,317

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