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An Abrupt End to Carols

It Happened Decades Ago in Sacramento …

I first met Martine when she was living in Sacramento and working as a civilian at the old Sacramento Army Depot. My mother was alive at the time and lived near McClellan Air Force Base. One day, while I was visiting her, I saw this young woman approach the front door carrying a bag of oranges. It was my first meeting with Martine, whom I invited out on a date set for New Years Eve.

It was a strange date. We saw a Swedish film called My Life as a Dog, then we went out to a Chinese restaurant. We had difficulty finding one, as there were rolling power outages occurring all around the city. But we finally found one where the lights were on.

When I would drive up to visit Martine around Christmas time, she typically listened to a radio station that played nothing but Christmas carols. That didn’t bother me much, except they always snuck in “The Little Drummer Boy” (pa-rum pum pum pum).

Once, as it was nearing midnight on Christmas Day in 1988 or 1989, they started to play that damned song. Somebody at the radio station must have been of my mind, because just as they were to ring out with the nth pa-rum pum pum pum, at the stroke of midnight there was a sound as if a chicken were having its neck wrung. And that was it for the Christmas carols on that station that year. I laughed so hard I started coughing.

I always hated that song pa-rum pum pum pum.