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The magic of Brother Timothy

technofile  by al fasoldt

Columns and commentaries in a life-long dance with technology

Simple gray rule

The magic of Brother Timothy

By Al Fasoldt

Copyright © 1990, The Syracuse Newspapers

Brother Timothy was mad. He crawled behind the old oak chest to fish out the wires he had dropped while rigging up his speakerphone.

"Darn it,'' he muttered.

"Watch your language!'' Brother Jeremy called out from the kitchen.

Jeremy, who had always fancied himself as the keeper of the seminary's morals, peeked his head around the doorway and began to chide his companion.

"Tonight, of all nights, is not a time to act like a heathen, swearin' and all,'' he said. "Tonight the children come, and you don't want to teach them a bad habit, Timothy.''

Brother Timothy sighed. Jeremy was going to drive him crazy—the last thing he needed on Christmas Eve.

"Come, Jerry, help me out,'' he said, sounding as pleasant as he could. "I need you to pry the baseboard out, so I can hide the wires before the children get here.''

"So you're really going to do it?'' Brother Jeremy asked.

"Hold the wires,'' Timothy said, hoping his companion would stop trying to discourage him. "I know the way you feel about the subject. I told you before that I agree . . . in principle. We shouldn't try to fool children or lie to them.''

"Then why are you doing this?'' Brother Jeremy asked.

"Come now,'' Brother Timothy said. "They know he's not real, Jerry. Kids are a lot smarter than you think. They play along with it. That's what makes it fun.''

"Fun or not, you're not going to be getting me to wear a red suit,'' Jeremy said. "And no white beard. I won't be a part of it.''

"You won't have to,'' Brother Timothy told him. "I'll take care of everything. Just promise that you won't give me away.''

"All right. Have your fun. Your secret's safe with me.''

The two of them finished tucking the wires out of sight. Then Brother Timothy took a screwdriver and a pair of pliers and disappeared into the hall closet. A few more mutterings later—accompanied, of course, by a few more disapproving comments from Brother Jeremy—he opened the closet door and showed off his handiwork.

"Look, jerry,'' he said. "I tapped into the closet light socket to get the power for this end of the line. Now all I have to do is hide out of the way in the closet and talk into this end of the phone—and my voice comes out of the speakerphone we hid behind the wreath at the front door.''

"Ho-ho,'' said Jeremy, obviously unimpressed. He was about to make yet another comment about Timothy's elaborate ruse when he heard the pattering of small footsteps on the seminary's huge porch.

"The children!'' Brother Jeremy cried.

"Hide, Tim!''

He winked at his friend in a forgiving nod and closed the closet door. When he opened the front entryway, a dozen boys and girls from the children's home pushed past the two foster parents who had brought them and ran across the parlor to the Christmas tree.

"Not yet,'' Brother Jeremy shouted as the children headed for the piles of brightly wrapped presents under the tree. "First, the carols, then the presents!''

They all started singing. But halfway through "Silent Night''—right when Brother Jeremy was crooning the verse about "heavenly peace''—a loud voice came booming from the door.

"Ho-ho-ho!'' it said. "Ho! MER-RY CHRIST-MAS!''

The singing stopped. The children were so silent you could have heard a mistletoe drop.

"Who is it?'' a small boy whispered.

"Ho-ho-ho!'' the voice called out. "Merry Christmas, boys and girls!''

They heard the boom-boom sound of heavy boots out on the porch, and all the children ran to the window.

Laughing, Jeremy went over and opened the closet door.

"Well done!'' he said. "You sure sounded convincing!''

Well done, my eye,'' Brother Timothy said. "The blasted wire came out just before I pushed the `talk' button. The thing wouldn't work at all.''

"Then it wasn't . . . it wasn't you?''

"Huh? What wasn't me?''

Brother Jeremy suddenly looked very pale. He ran to the front window and peered out into the night. He saw dozens of tiny hoof-shaped footprints in the snow, along with the clear imprints of a man's boots. Two thin trails, like the kind made by sled runners, wound off into the street.

"Ho!'' a distant voice was calling. "Ho!'

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