Truman Capote

       A Christmas Memory

  Of the ingredients that go into our fruitcakes, whiskey is the most expensive, as well as the hardest to obtain:  State laws forbid its sale.  But everybody knows you can buy a bottle from Mr. Haha Jones.  ...
... but in previous years our dealings have been with Haha's wife, ...  Actually, we've never laid eyes on her husband, though we've heard that he's an Indian too.  A giant with razor scars across his cheeks.  They call him Haha because he's so gloomy, a man who never laughs.  As we approach his café ... our steps slow down. Even Queenie stops prancing and sticks close by.  People have been murdered in Haha's café.  Cut to pieces.  Hit on the head.  ...  I knock at the door, Queenie barks, my friend calls:  "Mrs. Haha, ma'am?  Anyone to home?"
      Footsteps.  The door opens.  Our hearts overturn.  It's Mr. Haha Jones himself!  And he is a giant; he does have scars; he doesn't smile.  No, he glowers at us through Satan-tilted eyes and demands to know:  "What you want with Haha?"
      For a moment we are too paralyzed to tell.  Presently my friend half-finds her voice, a whispery voice at best: "If you please, Mr. Haha, we'd like a quart of your finest whiskey."
      His eyes tilt more.  Would you believe it?  Haha is smiling!  Laughing too.  "Which one of you is a drinkin' man?"
      "It's for making fruitcakes, Mr. Haha.  Cooking."
      This sobers him.  He frowns.  "That's no way to waste good whiskey."  Nevertheless, he retreats into the shadowed café and seconds later appears carrying a bottle of daisy yellow unlabeled liquor.  He demonstrates its sparkle in the sunlight and says: "Two dollars."
       We pay him with nickels and dimes and pennies.  Suddenly, jangling the coins in his hand like a fistful of dice, his face softens.  "Tell you what," he proposes, pouring the money back into our bead purse, "just send me one of them fruitcakes instead."
       "Well," my friend remarks on our way home, "there's a lovely man.  We'll put an extra cup of raisins in his cake.


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Updated: November 3, 2009


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