GRAPES OF JOY Laura Goodman was feeling good walking on her way to school with her best friend Jan Parsons. It was the last school day before their Christmas holidays. She and Jan lived across the street from each other. They lived only four blocks from school and enjoyed their walk to school everyday. Jan wasn't feeling very good and was in a bad mood. "Jan what's wrong?" Laura asked. "Ah, Dad got mad at us last night." Laura was thinking to herself that everytime she had seen Mr. Parsons he had always been in a good mood and very friendly. She passed her friends dour mood off to some minor family quarrel. At school Jan got into a better mood for they both liked their teacher, Miss Johnson. She was so friendly and nice. They were studying foreign countries and France was their country of study that day. Miss Johnson was telling them all about the French wine country and was about to explain how wine was made when she asked the class, "Does anyone know how wine is made?" No one raised their hand, just when she was about to explain to the class, Jan raised her hand and said. "Miss Johnson, first you have to squash up the grapes to get the juice out, next you screen out the seeds and the skin leaving the juice." Miss Johnson seemed surprised asking Jan, "How did our little resident wine maker learn about wine making?" Everyone laughed but Miss Johnson never made fun of anyone personally just the funny situations that happened, that's the reason everyone liked Miss Johnson. Jan replied. "My father makes his own wine at home." The morning flashed like seconds, and at lunch both Laura and Jan had more than enough money so they pigged out and literally stuffed themselves. Jan had busied herself helping one of their classmates keep a older girl from picking on her. After helping the girl Jan started looking for Laura and found her arguing with Nancy a girl that wasn't a member of their group. Laura was yelling at Nancy, for apparently no reason. Laura raved on. "You're not going to get away with this you ugly little bitch, you don't even wear make-up." Nancy started crying and walked away. Jan asked Laura what the problem was. Laura told her that Nancy didn't care about anyone in their school and she would get her. After school that afternoon walking home with Laura, Jan didn't bring up the matter about Laura's spat with Nancy. When they reached the place to part, Laura said, "Remember, I've invited you to spend Christmas Eve with us, and I'll walk over to your house about 7 and get you, my dad doesn't want you to walk over by yourself." "O.K. I'll be ready on time," Jan promised. Christmas Eve was always the most important holiday of the year for Laura. Walking over to Jan's house, thoughts of family, food, and gifts seem to all come together merging into happy and wonderful thoughts of the coming good times. Walking up to Jan's house she could hear someone yelling. The voice was coming from inside Jan's house. The drapes were parted in the front window and Laura could bearly see through the front window into the living room. There she saw Jan's father staggering around yelling obscenities at the family. Laura waited a couple of moments then rang the door bell. Jan's mother grabbed her husband by the arm and said, "Damn it honey get into the bedroom, that's probably Laura." Jan, fuming said to her mother. "He's going to run all my friends off!" Jan then answered the door and said, " Hi Laura I'm ready." They started walking across the street to Laura's house and Jan turned to Laura said. "You heard that fight didn't you?" "Yes I did, does he drink like that all the time?" "Yeah and during the holidays he's especially bad." Jan started crying, Laura put her arm around her and said, "Jan, everything going to be all right." They kept walking to Laura's house and by the time they reached Laura's house, Jan felt much better. Laura did have a good side and her kindness comforted her. During their walk across the street Jan's whole attitude had changed. Now, she was looking forward to spending Christmas Eve with Laura and her family. Laura's parents were such beautiful people. Laura's father was always coming up and hugging Laura and she could tell that they all loved each other very much. Mr. Goodman said, "Laura it's almost ten o'clock, could you turn the T.V. on, the news will be on in a second." Mrs. Goodman responded, "Oh Honey could you leave it off just this once, it is Christmas Eve. "Come on Honey Bun," He teasingly begged, "just the news, O.K." she was always giving in to him, but he did a lot for her. Laura turned the set on and sat down next to Jan on the floor. The last news item was a live report from Lummons Memorial Hospital an interview with someone who did charity work. The reporter was so handsome and said, "We're talking to Nancy Porter who attends Martin Middle School. Nancy we understand that every Christmas Eve you come down and sing Christmas carols with the hospital staff at Lummons Memorial Hospital, tell the viewing audience about your work and how many Christmas Eves you've spent here." Nancy was a little nervous, no makeup, and in all her glory, stammered a little at first but got into it the spirit of the interview quickly. "I've been coming to Lummons Memorial for the last five Christmas Eves." "Nancy, do you get a lot of reward from this work?" "Yes and especially in the children's ward, Usually there's one or two terminally ill children and we spend more time with them." "Thank you for your comments and thank you for watching KVEE-54 news, the news leader, goodnight." Mrs. Goodman said, "Laura wasn't that the new girl at school?" "Dropping her eyes, Laura replied, "Yeah that's her." Jan turned and looked at Laura. Laura was about to cry for the girl on the news program at Lummons Memorial Hospital. She was the girl that just the day before at school Laura had bitched out for no apparent reason and had made her cry. Jan put her hand on Laura's shoulder and whispered, "It's alright. Your still my best friend." Laura squeezed Jan's hand. She was so ashamed of herself for the way she had treated Nancy. Mrs. Goodman oblivious to Jan and Laura's scene, walked into the kitchen and called out to Jan. "Surprise, surprise Jan, you have to eat my special dessert. Laura come into the kitchen and get some for your dad first." Laura went into the kitchen and got some dessert for her dad. The dessert was in a wine glass and it appeared to be mainly whipped cream. Laura brought Jan hers. For a brief moment the image of her own dad drunk on wine staggering around flashed through her head but it was quickly forgotten because of the warmth of the Goodman family. Jan scooped down into the wine glass with her spoon and started eating her dessert. She was trying to figure out what was in it. To Jan's pleasant surprise the special dessert had fruit mixed-in with whipped cream, but the most common fruit was Jan's favorite, the bestest, goodest fruit in the whole world that she could never get enough of, Green Grapes.
Ó 1989 George Butler