"Fill In The Blank" (A Defetus Christmas Tale)


William Clark dumped the can of pork and beans into a bowl. Tonight he was heating them in the microwave rather than eating them cold from the can. It was Christmas Eve after all. He rubbed his hands in anticipation as the seconds counted down. But instead of hearing the microwave go "ding" he heard the doorbell go "Ding-Dong." "Damn!" he shouted. The beans would be cool again before he could chase away whoever was at the door. They weren't as good re-heated and eating them cold after nuking them would mean a dish he got dirty for no reason at all. Maybe he should ignore the doorbell. "Ding" went the microwave. "Bam Bam" was the knock at the door. "Ding-Dong-Ding-Dong-Ding-Dong" went the door bell. "Damn it all!" shouted William.

William went to the peep hole, squinted and looked out the door. There was a young woman standing there wearing a Santa hat and a red dress with furry white trim. He blinked a couple times because it looked kind of like his daughter Martha. Then he saw her waving at him. How could she know he was watching? And who let her into the building? Where was security? There would be no tip for the security staff this Christmas. No way!

He put the security chain in place, opened the door just a crack and shouted, "I gave at the office. Go away and leave me in peace!"

A girlish voice answered, "You did not! You're retired. I've been a good girl all year, so open up Grandpa. I want my present!"

William said, "Don't be calling me "grandpa" just because I'm a few years older than you!"

Ryanna said, "I called you Grandpa because you're my Mom's Dad! Let me in!"

William said, "You got the wrong address. I don't have a grand daughter. Now go away."

Ryanna answered, "I know Mom wrote you all about me. She'd call but you won't pick up the phone. Don't you even read her letters anymore?"

William said again, "I told you, you have the wrong address. GO AWAY!"

Ryanna said, "You just look at me and tell me that I'm not your Grand-daughter!"

William stared through the crack at the woman who stood there. Ryanna smiled and frowned and made all kinds of faces so that William might catch some look that would make him recognize her. Finally he said, "Well, what if you are? What business have you coming here?"

Ryanna stated mater of factly, "FAMILY business!"

William said, "What? The crops didn't come in this year? Need a hand out again?"

Ryanna said, "No it was a great year. There's just one thing missing. Let me in. I won't talk through the door crack anymore. I'll start shouting stuff until the neighbors come out to see what the fuss is."

William said, "Fine. Shout your lungs out."


William picked up a cane to defend himself in case this was some swindle -- and in case the woman had accomplices waiting somewhere out of sight ready to pounce on him. He unchained the door, flung it open and shouted, "GET IN HERE! Your Mother didn't teach you to behave like that! Martha's a lady"

Ryanna said, "No, she didn't teach me that. I watch "The Young and the Restless" sometimes."

William backed away from Ryanna. He didn't want to look at her. He had a nice little well-defined life that he didn't want complicated. He went to his desk and got out a check book. He asked her, "How much do you want?"

Ryanna said, "You don't have that kind of money!"

William said, "Hurry up and tell me what you want. My dinner is getting cold."

Ryanna said, "Smells like Del Monte pork and beans to me. Those are good but I like the Bush beans -- the one that the dog knows the recipe to. I like beans but they're nothing compared to what Mom's cooking up right now!"

William said, "Then go home and eat!"

Ryanna said, "I was kind of hoping you would drive me there."

William said, "OH! So you got yourself stranded in the big city, huh? You figure you could hit me up for a ride home. "Slam, Bam. Thanks, Gramps. Bye forever." Well, you aren't Miss Daisy and William Clark's Taxi Service is closed for the night."

Ryanna said, "I want my present ... and my present is your ... presence ... at dinner tonight. You can sleep in my room and stay as long as you like. I just want you to come home!"

William said, "I am home."

Ryanna said, "Home is where your family is. I'm the only family you've got here and I'm not staying because I want to be with Mom and Dad for dinner."

William said, "Well I'm not your family. Martha and I haven't been family since she defied me by marrying Jonathan Kent."

Ryanna said, "She included him in her life. She didn't exclude you. You excluded yourself!"

William said, "A girl needs to be obedient to her Father!"

Ryanna answered, "But a WOMAN has to be obedient to her HEART!

William said, "Martha could have had anyone or anything. She could have had a great career. She traded that in for a broken down farm and a dirt poor farmer who ....

Ryanna interrupted, "... who loves her more than his own life. Grampa, play a game with me."

William said, "No."

Ryanna pleaded, "Answer a question for me and I'll leave you alone with your pork and beans."

William said, "OK."

Ryanna said, "In a survey, one hundred Fathers were asked what they wanted most for there daughter. There was only one answer. Fill in the blank: More than anything else, I want my daughter to be ... BLANK!"

William answered, "Married to a man worthy of her."

Ryanna said, "EEERRK! Wrong answer. Although, in my biased opinion, she did find someone worthy -- and I hold my Mother in the highest possible regard. Try again."

William said, "No."

Ryanna asked, "Did you want her to marry a rich man who would treat her like she was his possession?"

William said, "No."

Ryanna asked, "Did you want her to marry a man who would let her have a great job so that she could support him?"

William said, "No."

Ryanna said, "This is a simple game. If you need a hint, the word starts with an "h" and ends with a "p p y" and it doesn’t have to do with bunnies or peace loving people in the 1960s. More than anything else, I want my daughter to be ...."

William said, "Happy."

Ryanna shouted, "YEAH! You got it. That's the number one answer. And if you, like those hundred other fathers want your daughter to be happy, then you got your wish too. Because Mom is very happy to be married to a man who is just as strong willed and proud as you are ... and who now has a daughter just like you have. But Mom isn't as happy as I am because my Daddy is still around for me to hug. Sometimes, I don't call out "Daddy" because I'm scared Mom will hear me and think of you and the hole in her life. Well, we had a deal and you played the game like a good sport, so I'll go now if you want me to. But I hoped that we might all spend one Christmas together as a family. That's all. It could be our last chance."

William said, "Hey! I'm not dead yet. I still have plenty of Christmases in me!"

A tear fell from Ryanna's eye and she said, "There you go thinking of yourself again. Maybe it will be someone else that doesn't see another Christmas. Life doesn't hold any guarantees, you know. And maybe ... *sniff* ... maybe, you'll be sitting here alone next Christmas because you HAVE to be alone not because you CHOOSE to be a stubborn fool! Bye-bye Grandpa. Here's my Christmas gift to you even if you don't want it." Ryanna rushed up to William Clark and threw her arms around him. He resisted her embrace but she held him in a tight hug. She gave him a long kiss on the cheek and then whispered in his ear, "Merry Christmas, Grandpa. Thank you for giving me my Mommy. That was the best gift you could ever give me. And I'm sorry for calling you a fool. Good-bye." Ryanna let go and in an instance was across the room and out the door.

Ryanna sat on the stoop of her Grandfather's apartment building in the falling snow and cried quietly. She wanted her Mom to have Grandpa Clark home for what might be her Mom's last Christmas. She couldn't imagine not having her Dad around and she didn't want her Mom to be denied a father's love. Ryanna had even been willing to give up some of her precious remaining time with her Mom so that her Mom could have time to heal the rift with Grandpa Clark. How could someone like her Grandfather be so smart and so stupid at the same time? It almost made her scared to grow up.

The honk of a horn and took her away from her thoughts. William Clark rolled down the window of his car and yelled, "What kind of fool sits out on a cold cement porch in the middle of winter when there's a Martha Clark ... Kent dinner waiting at home for her? Get in here! I made you some pork and beans to eat on the way home to tide you over until dinner. They're twice heated but that's your fault. Now hurry up, the beans are fogging the windows!"

Ryanna got up, wiped away her tears with the furry cuff of her dress, smiled at her Grandfather, skipped over to the passenger door of the car and got in. Then the car pulled back onto the road and headed towards Smallville.