Table of Contents
ALSO BY ROBERT DALBY
A Piggly Wiggly Wedding
Kissing Babies at the Piggly Wiggly
Waltzing at the Piggly Wiggly
G. P. PUTNAM’S SONS
PUBLISHERS SINCE 1838
Published by the Penguin Group
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Copyright © 2010 by Robert Dalby
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Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
A piggly wiggly Christmas / Robert Dalby. p. cm.
eISBN : 978-1-101-44536-5
1. City and town life—Mississippi—Fiction. 2. Christmas stories. I. Title.
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, businesses, companies, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
While the author has made every effort to provide accurate telephone numbers and Internet addresses at the time of publication, neither the publisher nor the author assumes any responsibility for errors, or for changes that occur after publication. Further, the publisher does not have any control over and does not assume any responsibility for author or third-party websites or their content.
In loving memory of my father, who made possible my ongoing journey as a writer
That Santa Fe Feeling
aylie Girl Dunbar wanted her Santa Fe honeymoon to go on forever. But, alas, it flew by within the short space of a week. It wasn’t just the romance that made it an especially memorable day and night in the cozy vacation home she had inherited from her first husband, Peter Lyons. It was the reaction of her new husband that put her in mind of a schoolboy on his first field trip. The affectionately nicknamed Mr. Choppy Dunbar was overflowing with earnest questions, wherever they went, whatever they saw, and it endeared him to her more than ever.
“Is that buildin’ over there real adobe or that fauxdobe stuff you told me about?” he asked her that first sun-splashed, clear blue afternoon when they had strolled the busy Plaza hand in hand.
“I can’t say for certain,” she had answered. “It all started after the Palace of the Governors was restored, but you’d have to live here year-round to tell the difference.”
Mr. and Mrs. Hale Dunbar Jr. of Second Creek, Mississippi, had left no rose-colored stone unturned in their exploration of “The City Different,” taking in everything from the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum to all the quirky galleries along Canyon Road; from the Cathedral Basilica of Saint Francis of Assisi to the breathtaking sight of the yellow-tinged aspens ranged above the city in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains.
“It really is a totally different world out here,” Mr. Choppy said on their last evening walk together. “Back home, we’re so darn flat. A part of me never wants to leave all this rugged scenery. Maybe we could somehow take it with us.”
Gaylie Girl agreed with the sentiment but struggled against expressing it out loud. After all, they had another life waiting for them in Second Creek. He had his mayoral duties, and now she was his First Lady. Her prevailing thought as their honeymoon wound down, however, was that she wanted above all to preserve that “Santa Fe feeling” upon returning to the Mississippi Delta. It was a feeling borne of control and confidence, knowing Santa Fe the way she did and having embraced it so enthusiastically in her first marriage. She needed to be in that kind of comfort zone now that she was going to be living permanently in the Deep South.
“The first thing I’m going to do when we get home is to make a list of civic projects I’d like to support,” she said to Mr. Choppy, as he was driving their rental to the Santa Fe airport. “I want to make my mark.”
He turned and gave her a knowing smile. “And you’ll no doubt get the Nitwitts behind whatever strikes your fancy.”
She raised her eyebrows slyly. “Naturally. Nothing gets done in Second Creek without the Nitwitts. Especially now that I’m a full-fledged member.”
Indeed, many people gave that enterprising group of wealthy women of a certain age their fair share of credit for helping elect Mr. Choppy over the thoroughly corrupt incumbent, Mr. Floyce Hammontree, back in February. Gaylie Girl felt sure that she could win them all over to any pet project she proposed.
“Do you have any specific ideas yet?” Mr. Choppy asked.
“I was thinking mainly about Christmas. This is September, so we have a few months to dream up something built around that.”
Mr. Choppy looked intrigued. “Such as?”
“Well, Christmas caroling first came to mind. The Square is so picturesque, I was thinking that maybe some sort of choir activity involving lots of the local churches might be something to explore.”
Mr. Choppy tilted his head first one way and then the other as he considered her vision. “I don’t think Second Creek has ever done anything like that. But you’re right—The Square kinda lends itself to the idea, now that I think about it. Hey, we already use it every June for the Miss Delta Floozie Contest, and everyone flocks to that to see the ladies in their feather boas and costume jewelry. Why not this?”
“So you approve?”
“It sounds real doable to me.”
“Then I’m calling a meeting of the Nitwitts, and we’ll put on our thinking caps.”
Gaylie Girl bore down and continued working out the details in her head as they flew home high above the mountainous grandeur of New Mexico sprawling beneath.
Second Creek in mid- to late September was always a time of transition for the town’s celebrated weather patterns. Rarely violent, as was the case in the winter and spring, they were usually an appealing combination of summer and autumn. Days remained long and might be spiked with heat, but the nights no longer breathed fire. Here and there, ceiling fans were turned to a lower speed and light blankets were thrown on beds in anticipation of the chill certain to come. That much the town had in common with most other areas of the country.
For many Second Creekers, however, there was something more. It was a matter of fine-tuning their dispositions, maintaining a healthy respect for the meteorological mysteries they could never take for granted. Not considering all the destruction and consequent rebuilding they had endured over the years. Or peculiar manifestations like the mass disappearance and sudden return of so many fireflies that had occurred over the recent summer months.
It had been nearly three weeks since the Nitwitts had assembled for an honest-to-goodness meeting, and Gaylie Girl thought she was never going to be able to get to the business at hand. All the girls wanted to hear about was her honeymoon with Mr. Choppy. She didn’t much blame them, though. What widowed woman in her sixties and beyond wouldn’t want to hear about such romantic details? Especially from an attractive and trendsetting newly married woman in her seventies.