The days leading up to the return to school were filled with anxiety for Hercules the Lesser and for Hercules the Greater for the same reason. They were on opposite sides of the reason – but they couldn’t have known that.
Hercules the Greater had to figure out how to face his friends with the knowledge he had lost the King of the Parade crown and more importantly to a kid that no one ever really seemed to notice before that day.
Miss Kravitz played with the New Age Jazz Combo to ring in the New Year. This year they featured a tribute to John Coltrane. She allowed herself her a kiddie cocktail and she played like they were coming to take her piano away.
After the kiss Roger would put some popcorn in the microwave and Louise would pour two fresh Brandy Alexanders. They would turn their attention back to the television set and eat popcorn and drink Brandy Alexander’s until Louise fell asleep with her head on Roger’s shoulder. Eventually he would turn the movie off and allow himself to drift off to sleep there on the couch with the only woman he’d ever loved. They were ready to face another year together.
Louise and Roger have a very special New Year’s Eve tradition. They began it when they were quite young – when love first dropped its magical dew on them.
On New Year’s Eve, Roger makes a pizza with pepperoni and Louise – taking the day off from cooking – makes Brandy Alexanders in the old Osterizer.
They drink the Brandy Alexanders while the pizza bakes. When the pizza is ready – they eat while watching American Movie Classics.
They hold hands and sit quietly on the couch watching duo-chromatic figures flit across the screen.
At 11:59 p.m. they embrace and begin a long loving kiss that will carry them right into New Year’s Day.
Hercules the Lesser didn’t have any friends so the youth center was always a bit of a bore.
He didn’t like the mall because the music made him drowsy. The last time he went to the mall with his parents he ended up falling asleep in a Lazy-Boy recliner at the big department store.
His family was pulling into the driveway at home when they realized they left Hercules the Lesser at the mall. They hurried back to get him so he wouldn’t panic. He didn’t even notice they were gone.
The week between Christmas and New Years trickled by like so much syrup in the old maple tree out behind General John G. Pershing Elementary School.
Hercules the Lesser rarely left his room. He had his comic books from Aunt Cookie and a new chemistry set from Mom and Dad.
There was no reason to go out. Besides where would he go? It was cold and snowy and everyone was either at the mall out on old route 31 or they were at the youth center playing ping-pong with their friends.
The parade was a blur.
The Glee Club from General John G. Pershing Elementary School sang “Monotone Angel.” Betty Showalter was the featured soloist.
The Alter and Rosary Society handed out hot apple cider in their Mrs. Claus aprons and at the end of the parade Louise’s husband Roger sat on a big red velvet chair in a slightly worn red velvet suit and white beard held on by elastic straps. He talked to the kids a little and he listened to the kids a little, but when he saw who was on the King Of the Parade float he dropped a whole tin of candy canes.