Christmastime 1997

Dear Friends Whose Body Heat Contributes to Global Warming,

The Craton family bids all subscribers to their annual newsletter a happy holiday season, in spite of last year’s elections on both sides of the Atlantic.

Probably the biggest news from around these parts came about in early summer when a couple of local high school boys, out for a dip in a nearby quarry hole, discovered an unknown tar pit complete with bones of an unidentified species of dinosaur. The city council, convinced they’d found the Midwest version of the famous La Brea Tar Pits, immediately set out to promote the area as a tourist attraction and already had nearly 50,000 brochures ready to mail out when two paleontologists from Indiana University burst their bubble. Turns out the “tar pit” was only a small sinkhole where old Harold Simms always changes the oil in his '53 Studebaker and has every 3,000 miles since early 1954. As for the bones, they were discovered to be the remains of Jake Williams’ German shepherd that disappeared in 1978 — a little too late to be identified with the Pleistocene epoch. Jake said he’d wondered what had happened to the old girl ever since she vanished one summer’s night. “I always figured she’d got into some antifreeze someplace,” he said. “She always did have a weakness for the stuff. And she had a mite strange bone structure too,” he added, which may have led to the misidentification. “Weird face for a shep,” said Jake. “Never couldn get a good bite on anybody.” But at least the mystery is solved, though those hoping for international tourism will have to settle for Harold Simms’ wife’s setting up her lemonade stand while the locals watch the perennial oil change and jaw about what could have been. Sadly, the episode has divided the community, one group refusing to believe the paleontogists’ findings, insisting that “they’re a bunch of godless atheists anyway.”

The Cratons remained out of all the Jurassic Park debate, however, having had enough to cope with on their own without identifying with either the oil or tar factions. The year offered several traumatic episodes for our dauntless heroes, beginning as it did with the demise of the family-run bookstore. After three fairly successful years, the store succombed to the opening of a Borders megastore, where nearly all the local clientele decided to park their cars last Christmas. It closed at the end of January, though it has remained alive on the internet after opening its cyber doors to the world.

In June they had to bid farewell to their last borrowed daughter, Anna, who returned to Russia amidst tears and cheers. (At least one sibling pretended to be glad to see her go, though most felt a tremendous loss at her parting.) That same day they had to say adieu to Dixie Cat who, after surviving nearly 19 years with the dysfunctional humans, finally freed herself to purr around that great Scratching Post in the Sky. (And no, she didn’t wander near the Bedford Tar Pits.) Hardly content to remain animal-less (the presence of animals helps the parents remember that the Craton boys do exhibit some human characteristics after all), they now have added two new felines to the menagerie.

The boys are enjoying the new cats, as Dixie had become more or less immune to their taunts and experiments. No doubt at least one of the boys has ideas about using the kitties in their next science-fair project. Ben, who is now officially a teenager, has even begun to act like one. He continues to enjoy honking the saxophone in the junior high band and playing corporate boss to the football and basketball teams. He says he may go out for kicker on the high school team next year, though it wasn’t clear whether he might have said “kick her” while talking about Anna. Ben says he wants to become a doctor like his mom when he grows up, but she’s trying to talk him out of it.

Jonathan maintains his interest in dinosaurs and turtles and currently is trying to convince his mom to let him get a pet lizard. His pleas thus far have been unsuccessful, though it remains to be seen what might transpire if one just happens to find its way into his terrarium. A fifth-grader, Jon still enjoys school and has almost started a girlfriend-of-the-month club.

Stephen, now in second grade, insists he still wants to be a chef and plans to study at Le Cordon Bleu in Toronto or Paris. (His dad could go for the Paris bit.) His folks are hoping he sticks with it and will feel kindly toward his aging parents since there’s no decent place to get Chateaubriand in this neck of the woods.

Dr. Debbie has continued her work with the halt and maim, but is looking at present for ways of improving her cash flow at the office. What with the new city ordinance against keeping livestock in the house within city limits, she can no longer accept such gratuities as payment for services. She did, along with another fool friend, climb Mr. LaConte in Tennessee for the second year in a row this fall. She insists that she’ll drag John along to the top next year, but if so that’s probably how it will be done. He quite enjoyed the scene from the bottom of the hill and looks forward to renewing his acquaintance with the local tobacconist while his wife’s on top of the world.

As for poor old John, he not only lost his last daughter, his aged cat, and his downtown bookstore this year, but also had to close his audiology practice due to lack of interest. (People in Bedford figure they’ve heard it all anyway.) He’s reduced to hawking books over the web, which keeps him busy and out of trouble but doesn’t quite utilize all that expensive university training he’s received over the years, including the diploma he got in the mail from the Jersey City Institute of Audiological Science and Gun Repair. He figures if his application for mercenary in the Armée de Moarchie de l’Anse St.-Jean doesn’t get accepted soon he’ll have to resort to becoming a telephone psychic.

With that we leave it again to our friends and readers to decide what’s true and what isn’t in the annual holiday farrago, and wish one and all a joyous Christmas and prosperous 1998.

Humans (?): John Douglas, Deborah, Ben, Jonathan and Stephen
Others: Harlequin, Kiwi, Shelby, Shelley, Shirley, Shredder and Beowulf
Posthumously: Dixie and Ugly (aka caninosaurus bedfordus)

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