CELEBRATING DIVERSITY

by Londa Pfeffer

††††††††† Kelly Thomas and her co-worker, John Atkins, rounded up the children, doing a head count to make sure all were present and accounted for.† With that accomplished, Kelly turned back to the Rangers and Alex.

††††††††† "I can't thank you guys enough for doing this every year.† It means a lot to the kids."† The plump redhead smiled fondly at her small charges.

††††††††† "Well, it's our pleasure, ma'am,"† C.D. answered for them all.† "We're glad to be able to help."

††††††††† "Yeah, that's right,"† agreed Jimmy Trivette.

††††††††† His partner, Cordell Walker, nodded.† "It's a tough time of year to be without parents."

††††††††† Alex Cahill picked up on his mood, stepping closer and wrapping an arm around his waist.† "They're great kids, Kelly.† Is there a chance any of them will be adopted soon?"

††††††††† The social worker nodded, discreetly pointing to two of the children.†"Tommy and Sam,"† indicating the little African-American boy and his Asian friend,† "have a good possibility of going to the same home."

††††††††† "Together?"† questioned Trivette.† "That's great!"

††††††††† "Tell me about it,"† Kelly responded, grinning.† "When the prospective parents saw how close the boys are they decided not to separate them.† They aren't able to have children of their own so they have plenty of room and the resources to care for both.† They're just waiting for Sam's paperwork to go through."

††††††††† "Do the boys know yet?"† Alex wondered.

††††††††† "No.† The parents felt it wouldn't be fair to get their hopes up and then disappoint them.† We should know in a couple weeks."

††††††††† "Well, I hope things work out,"† Walker said.† "Kids deserve a secure home and love."

††††††††† "That they do, Ranger.† I wish more people could step in and help.† But not everybody is suited for parenthood, either."† Turning back to John, Kelly saw that he had sorted out coats, hats and gloves, and everyone looked ready to go.† "Guess we should get these kids back to the Home.† Thanks again for everything.† C'mon, guys!† Let's thank these folks and get going."

††††††††† A chorus of thank you's raised as the children were guided out to the waiting vans.† John and Kelly waved a final goodbye as they pulled away from the curb.

††††††††† "Well, that was a tale they won't forget,"† Alex smiled.

††††††††† "That's for sure,"† Jimmy agreed.† Privately, he wondered how much of Walker's own life reflected Cooper's story.† He knew his partner celebrated Christmas these days, but felt sure it hadn't always been that way.

††††††††† "I suppose so,"† Walker agreed, smiling.† "But you're never too young to learn about respecting holidays.† They're part of culture for a reason."† His gaze swept his friends.† "Look at us; we all probably celebrated Christmas in different ways as kids, right?"

††††††††† Alex nodded.† "Mom would put the tree up in early December, but we couldn't decorate it."† She smiled, remembering,† "That was left for Santa to do when he came with the presents on Christmas Eve.† We'd go to church that evening, come home and open one present each.† Then it was time for bed.† In the morning, we'd rush to see what Santa had left for us, then around noon we'd have our big meal.† Sometimes relatives would drop by and spend the afternoon.† Those were great times."

††††††††† C.D. spoke next.† "We didn't have a lot back when I was a kid.† But we decorated with what we could make and there was always at least one present under the tree for each person in the house.† Mama tried to make the meal special in some way, like making us sweet potatoes in brown sugar or somethin' like that."† Looking at Trivette, he said,† "What about your family, Jimmy?"

††††††††† The younger man shifted position.† "When my grandmother was alive, she always took us kids to Mass on Christmas Eve, but other than that, we really didn't celebrate the holiday."† Seeing his friends' surprised looks, he hastened to add,† "Mom was very much into black pride.† She felt Christmas wasn't our holiday, so she didn't go out of her way for it.† She didn't mind if we went to church, or exchanged little gifts that we'd made for each other, but we didn't decorate or anything.† Then, in the late 60's, Kwanzaa gained attention.† Since it was an African-American holiday, Mom encouraged us to celebrate it instead."

††††††††† "Do you still celebrate it?"† Walker asked, curious.

††††††††† Jimmy shook his head.† "Kwanzaa is more of a kid's holiday.† My sisters and their families keep it, but I haven't since I left home."† He tried to explain further.†"It's a teaching holiday, a way of telling the kids our history in America so they don't forget.† And a way of urging them to become part of the community they live in."

††††††††† "Sounds like a real good thing, Jimmy,"† C.D. put in.

††††††††† "I agree,"† Alex said.†"I was always curious about Kwanzaa and the meaning behind it.† All most of us know is that it's an African-American holiday celebrated between Christmas and New Year's Eve."

††††††††† Trivette nodded.† "It's definitely still a black holiday, but more and more it's being celebrated in other households.† I think people are beginning to understand that the principles it teaches are universal."

††††††††† Walker gently clapped his partner on the shoulder.† "Well, anything that encourages understanding between cultures should be celebrated."

††††††††† The four friends had been working to clean the bar as they talked, putting their hands to good use.† C.D. now looked around, pleased with the results.† "I think that should do it for tonight, folks.† Don't forget, dinner's at my place.† Four o'clock,"† pointing specifically at Cordell,† "and don't be late!"

††††††††† Walker and Trivette had volunteered to work the holiday, knowing the shift had to be covered.† Since they'd both had off the year before it seemed only fair.

††††††††† "We get off at three, C.D.,"† the red-haired Ranger laughed.† "I promise we'll come straight over."

††††††††† "That's right,"† Trivette agreed, clapping his hands.† "Wouldn't want to miss that turkey dinner with all the fixings."

††††††††† "Who said anything about turkey?"† C.D. asked.† "No, no, Jimmy.† This is going to be a real Texas Christmas meal, with chili, hot peppers, enchiladas, the works!"

††††††††† Alex and Walker laughed at Jimmy's dismayed look.†

††††††††† "He's kidding, right?"† the other man worried.† "C'mon, somebody tell me he's just having me on.† If you're having chili, I'm not comin' near the place, C.D.!† You know how I feel about chili, man.† I might as well just eat at home and have a salad!"

††††††††† The bartender joined Alex and Walker in their laughter, which did nothing to reassure Trivette.† Finally, gasping to catch some air, C.D. said,† "You know me better than that, son.† Just show up at four and I'll feed you a meal you won't forget."

††††††††† "That's what I'm afraid of."

††††††††† Still laughing, Walker checked his watch.† "We'd better get a move on.† It's an early shift tomorrow."

††††††††† The weather forecasters had been predicting snow all day, but until the time of the party, none had fallen.† Now, as the three friends headed out the door, they stopped in surprise at the white coating on the ground.

††††††††† "Isn't it beautiful?"† Alex said, moving closer to Walker's side.† He put his arm around her.† "Makes everything look so... clean."

††††††††† Jimmy hunched his shoulders, blowing on his hands to warm them in lieu of gloves.†"Reminds me of Christmas in Baltimore."

††††††††† "Be careful driving home,"† Walker warned his partner.† "I'll pick you up tomorrow.† It could be slippery."

††††††††† The younger man nodded.† "Sounds good to me."

*****

††††††††† The Dallas/Fort Worth metroplex woke to a strange sight the following morning:† snow-covered ground and rain which turned to ice upon contact.†

††††††††† Trivette shook his head, watching the special early news broadcast.† Most people were using common sense and staying home until the road crews had been through at least once.† But there were always exceptions, people who felt their need to be somewhere made the risk acceptable.

††††††††† At 5:30 a.m. his phone rang, and he snatched it up, knowing who would be on the other end.† "Merry Christmas, partner.† Hey, how's the weather out there?"

††††††††† "Not good,"† Walker admitted.† "But the salt truck just passed, and I'm right behind them.† I'll be at your place in twenty minutes."

††††††††† "Don't push it.† If we're late getting in, the captain'll understand."

††††††††† It took thirty minutes for Walker to reach his partner's place.† The younger man gingerly made his way to the truck, climbing gratefully into the warmth.†

††††††††† "Man, I thought I left this behind when I moved out here!"

††††††††† Walker nodded.† A storm like this didn't happen often.†

*****

††††††††† They didn't run into much traffic, as most people were enjoying the warmth of their homes and spending the holidays with family.† The forecast called for the weather to warm up through the late morning hours and into the afternoon, so traveling later in the day would be easier.

††††††††† Still, there were enough people out to make conditions tricky.† Especially since most of them didn't seem to know or remember how to drive in icy weather.

††††††††† Normally they took back roads to the courthouse, but with the weather, Walker decided the highway would be safer.† They'd driven less than a mile when Trivette spotted something ahead on the right.

††††††††† "Hey, Walker.† Look at that."† Two vehicles had collided ahead, partially blocking the right lane.

††††††††† "Call it in.† We'll stop and see how we can help."† Walker cautiously pulled around the accident site before pulling his truck over on the shoulder.† By the time he'd parked, Trivette had made the necessary call.

††††††††† "Ambulance is on the way."

††††††††† "Good.† I'll see to the passengers; you grab the flares and direct traffic to the other lanes."

††††††††† "Got it."

††††††††† Trivette got the flares from behind Walker's seat, grateful again that weather kept traffic relatively light on the normally busy highway.† Lighting the first flare, he waited for a break in traffic before stepping into the roadway and directing the cars around the accident site.† He placed flares well before the scene, forcing traffic to merge.

††††††††† Once that had been accomplished he returned to the scene, seeing his partner had things well in hand.† Thankfully there were no serious injuries, as neither vehicle had been traveling at high speeds.† Walker had gotten them out of their cars and directed them to the shoulder where they'd be out of danger of passing cars.† The three occupants of the one car stood huddled under two oversized umbrellas and the driver of the other car had pulled his jacket over his head for some protection.

††††††††† Assured that further help wasn't needed, Trivette continued directing traffic past the scene.† As with any accident, people slowed to see what had happened.

††††††††† A car horn's insistent blasting from further back caught Trivette's attention.† Sizing the situation up immediately, he realized a car had lost control, heading straight for Walker, now standing behind one of the damaged vehicles taking the plate number.

††††††††† "Walker!"† Jimmy moved even as he shouted, knowing he didn't have time to waste as the vehicle barreled closer.†

††††††††† The older man looked up, caught by the tone of Trivette's voice.† Before Walker could react, his partner pushed him to the side of the road.† Rolling to his feet, the red-haired Ranger watched in horror as a car slammed into Trivette, throwing him up over the hood and top of the vehicle before it smashed into the earlier accident scene.

††††††††† "OhmyGod, Trivette!"† Running to Jimmy's side, Walker saw with relief that the younger man was conscious and moving.† He had a nasty gash on his temple which Walker promptly covered with his handkerchief.† Then he gently checked for broken bones.† He didn't find any, but that didn't ease his mind much.

††††††††† The wailing sirens of emergency vehicles could now be heard, and Walker decided to leave the other people to their care.† His partner needed him more.

††††††††† The younger Ranger opened his eyes, focusing on Walker's face before squeezing them shut again.† Weakly reaching out, he grabbed his partner's jacket, pulling him a little closer.†

††††††††† "What the hell... happened?"† he whispered.

††††††††† "You jumped in front of a car, you idiot,"† Walker softly replied.† "Where's it hurt?"

††††††††† "Um... my head... right side..."† Jimmy shifted, wincing as the movement hurt.

††††††††† Walker tried to hold him still.† "Easy... take it easy, partner.† Medics are pulling up now."† To distract Trivette, he continued,† "If you think this gets you out of dinner at C.D.'s, you're wrong.† He'll just postpone it, you know."

††††††††† "Oh, God.† He's gonna kill me!"

††††††††† "Yeah, well, he'll have to stand in line behind me."

††††††††† Trivette's eyes snapped open in shock.† "What'd I do--?"

††††††††† "Next time just yell, okay?"† Walker tried to keep the emotion out of his voice.

††††††††† "I did..."† The younger man let his eyes drift shut again, the effort to concentrate requiring too much energy.

††††††††† Seeing the medics were now on the scene, Walker yelled,† "I need help over here!"

††††††††† Two medic teams had responded to the scene, and at Walker's shout, the first pair came running.†

*****

††††††††† The medics put Trivette in a cervical collar as a precaution, bandaged his head and started an I.V. before loading him in the ambulance for transport.

††††††††† "We'll take him to Mercy General, Ranger.† You can follow us if you'd like."† The older of the team, a woman with black hair and green eyes, smiled gently.

††††††††† "I can't leave yet."† Walker desperately wanted to go with his partner, but knew he needed to stay on the scene.† First and foremost, he wanted to find out about the driver of the car that had hit Trivette.

††††††††† Her partner, a young Latino, finished securing the back door of the ambulance.†"C'mon, Sheila, let's get moving."

††††††††† "Okay."† She turned back to Walker.† "I know it may not seem like it, but your partner's lucky.† It could have been a lot worse."

††††††††† "I know.† Thanks."† As an afterthought, the Ranger added,† "Happy holidays."

††††††††† "What a way to start them, right?"† With a wave, she climbed into the cab and started the engine.† A moment later, they pulled out.

††††††††† Walker watched them drive off until he lost sight of the vehicle.†

††††††††† "Ranger Walker?"†

††††††††† He turned to find Ofc. Kenneth Walters approaching.† "Ken.† How are you?"

††††††††† "Can't complain, I guess.† Merry Christmas, right?"† the uniformed officer replied wryly.† "Hell of a way to start the holiday."† Concern shadowed his face.† "Is Trivette gonna be okay?"

††††††††† Taking a deep breath, Walker nodded.† "Some cuts and bruises.† It could have been worse.† Did you talk to the driver?"

††††††††† "Yeah."† Anger replaced the concern.† "Says she couldn't stop the car.† Looks like she stepped on the accelerator instead of the brake, though."

††††††††† "What?"†

††††††††† "When we pulled her out of the car, she smelled like a brewery.† Failed the road test.† Looks like she's drunk, Walker."

††††††††† Walker fought down his anger.† It wouldn't do any good.† Instead he asked,† "What about the other folks?† Are they all okay?"

††††††††† Ken nodded.† "Shook up.† But no serious injuries.† They'll be taken to the hospital to be checked out, but I doubt any of them will have to stay."

††††††††† "Lucky for them,"† came the harsh reply as Walker considered his partner.† Suddenly, the desire to be anywhere but here flooded him.† "Do you need me to

stick around for anything?"

††††††††† "No."† Walters could guess at the other man's thoughts.† "Go see about Trivette.† We'll contact you if necessary."

††††††††† "Thanks, Ken."†

††††††††† "Tell Trivette to take it easy."

††††††††† "Will do."† Walker practically ran to his truck.

*****

††††††††† He called C.D. on the drive to the hospital.† Knowing the older man wouldn't be at the bar yet, Walker dialed his friend's home phone.† To his surprise, C.D. answered on the second ring.

††††††††† "What're you doing up?"† he couldn't help asking.

††††††††† "Don't you start with me, Cordell!† Hank Conlon passed the accident.† Saw your truck there and called me.† Then I hear over the scanner that one of you got hurt.† What the hell happened?"

††††††††† Taking a deep breath, Walker told about stopping to help, and the drunk driver who'd lost control.

††††††††† "He saw it coming and didn't even think twice, C.D.† Just pushed me out of the way.† He saved my life."

††††††††† "How--"† the other man cleared his throat,† "how bad is he hurt, Cordell?† And I want the truth."

††††††††† "He's going to be okay, C.D."† Walker said softly.† "A few bruises and cuts.† Nothing time won't heal."

††††††††† "You, huh... you wouldn't lie to an old man, would you?"

††††††††† "Not about this.† You know me better.† It just wasn't his time."

††††††††† "Thank God.† I'll meet you at the hospital."

*****

††††††††† C.D. arrived in the waiting room just as a familiar doctor approached Walker.† Dr. Barry Leon had treated Trivette for acute tonsillitis three years ago.[1]

††††††††† "Ranger Walker, Ranger Parker,"† the balding doctor shook hands vigorously with both men.† "You really should think about reserving a room here around the holidays.† Seems like one or the other of you is always taking up space and harassing my staff."† His smile took the sting out of his words.

††††††††† "Hi, Doc,"† Walker returned the greeting.

††††††††† "Good to see you, too, Doc,"† C.D. groused.

††††††††† "Well, your friend won't be home for Christmas dinner."† Leon glanced at the metal chart he held.†"But considering he got hit by a car, Trivette's one lucky man.† He suffered nothing more serious than a mild concussion, some abrasions and deep bruises.† We'll keep him overnight to monitor his condition.† If he checks out okay, we'll send him home, probably tomorrow afternoon.† I assume one of you will be around to look in on him from time to time?"

††††††††† Both Rangers nodded.

††††††††† "Good.† Stop back later.† You can see him during visiting hours."† Closing the chart, Dr. Leon said,†"Well, I've got other patients who need my talents.† So if you'll excuse me, I'll see you later.† Merry Christmas, gentlemen."

††††††††† As they watched the doctor stride down the hallway, C.D. turned back to Walker.†"Did you call Alex?"

††††††††† "Yes, but she wasn't home.† I didn't want to alarm her so I just told her to call when she could."

††††††††† "Good thinking, Cordell.† No sense worrying her more than necessary."

††††††††† "Right.† C'mon, let's go.† I've got a shift to finish."

††††††††† "Behind a desk, right?"† C.D.'s eyes gleamed, knowing how his friend hated paperwork.

††††††††† "Yup."

††††††††† "Writing reports?"

††††††††† "Yes, C.D."† Walker glared at his companion.† "And before you say another word, I know it's the safest place to be.† And I'd still rather be out on the streets!"

††††††††† The older man laughed as they walked to the exit.† They found to their surprise that the sun had come out.†

††††††††† "Well, if that don't beat all."

††††††††† "We should've waited to go in, C.D."

††††††††† "Maybe so,"† the older man acknowledged.† "But there's a reason for everything, Cordell.† You know that.† Besides, Jimmy's gonna be okay, and that's all that matters."

††††††††† "Yeah, I suppose you're right."

††††††††† "Y'know, it wouldn't seem right to go ahead with dinner tonight.† With Jimmy in the hospital, I mean."† Walker nodded, and the older man continued,† "We could just postpone it a day.† After all, it's not as if the food is gonna spoil."

††††††††† "That's a great idea, C.D.,"† the younger man agreed, clapping his friend on the shoulder.†"I'll tell Alex when she calls."

††††††††† "You do that.† I'll see you later, son."

*****

††††††††† Walker's cell phone rang as he pulled out of the hospital parking lot.

††††††††† "Walker, it's Alex.† Is everything okay?† Your message sounded... strange."

††††††††† Taking a deep breath, the Ranger said,† "Hi.† I'm fine, but there's been an accident.† Trivette's in the hospital."† Her startled gasp made him rush to continue,† "He's going to be okay.† Just got banged up a bit."

††††††††† "Thank God.† What happened?"

††††††††† Walker told her of the accident, finishing with,† "They're keeping him overnight.† He wasn't too happy about it."

††††††††† "I'll bet."† Amusement warred with relief in her voice.† "He's almost as bad at being a patient as you, Walker."

††††††††† "At least I don't faint at the sight of needles,"† he† laughed.† Privately, the Ranger agreed with her.† He knew he gave hospital staff a hard time, often leaving against medical advice.† Trivette had shown the same tendency more than once since they'd been partnered.† Being laid up in bed gave a person too much time to think.

††††††††† "....about dinner tonight?"

††††††††† "C.D. and I thought it would be a good idea to wait until tomorrow when Trivette's home.† Since C.D. is doing the cooking, I'll pick Trivette up from the hospital and we'll head over."

††††††††† "Good.† That'll give me a little time."

††††††††† "Time?† Time for what?"† Walker asked, suspicious.

††††††††† "Never mind.† You'll find out soon enough."

††††††††† "I hate when you do that."

††††††††† Alex laughed.† "I know.† See you tomorrow, cowboy."

††††††††† The Ranger disconnected, shaking his head.† No sense trying to get information out of her when this mood struck.† He'd just have to wait.

*****

††††††††† Walker braked for the traffic light, taking the opportunity to glance sideways at his partner.† The scrutiny didn't go unnoticed; Trivette met and held his gaze.

††††††††† "I'm fine, partner.† Honest."

††††††††† "Next you'll be telling me you took worse hits when you were playing ball."

††††††††† "Matter of fact..."† The younger man grinned at Walker's answering glare.† "C'mon, lighten up, man!† It's just a few bruises.† Nothing a couple of hot baths and a few good workouts won't cure."

††††††††† Walker knew the truth of that, but replays of Trivette flying over the hood of the car kept haunting him.† The witnesses said the younger Ranger had tried to leap out of the way but had lost his footing on the icy road.† Somehow he'd managed to throw himself over the car; most of his bruises came from his impact with the pavement rather than being struck.

††††††††† Clearing his throat, he said,† "Thanks, Trivette."

††††††††† The other man didn't pretend to misunderstand.† "You'd have done the same thing, Walker.† Cover your partner, right?"

††††††††† His partner nodded, and a comfortable silence descended for awhile.† As they pulled into C.D.'s driveway, Walker said,†"You should consider yourself lucky.† Because you're injured, C.D.'s taking pity on you."

††††††††† "What d'you mean?"† Jimmy didn't trust that tone.

††††††††† "Well, he's leaving chili off the menu for starters."† Walker laughed at his partner's expression.† Hopping out of the truck, he added,† "And if he's really feeling soft, you won't have to suffer his paprika turkey."

††††††††† The younger man had come around the front of the truck to meet his partner.† At Walker's words, he turned, walking back to the vehicle.† "Oh, God.† I knew I should've stayed in the hospital.† The food was bad, but at least they weren't trying to kill me!"

††††††††† "C'mon, it won't be that bad."† Walker lightly grabbed his arm, steering him toward the front door.

††††††††† "That's easy for you to say.† You eat grubs and leaves and call it a meal,"† Trivette grumbled as Walker knocked on the door.

††††††††† "And whose cholesterol level is higher?"† his partner asked innocently.† He decided if looks could kill, he'd be at least six feet under.† Fortunately, the door opened, cutting off whatever reply Trivette had been about to give.

††††††††† "Hi, guys!† Come on in."† She kissed both men as they entered.† "Happy holidays!"

††††††††† The smell of roasting turkey reminded Trivette of just how hungry he was.† Rubbing his stomach, he said,†"Big Dog, I hope that's ready soon, 'cause I'm starving!"

††††††††† "All in good time, son."† The retired Ranged waved a spoon in his friend's direction.†"You can't rush some things, y'know."

††††††††† "Besides, we have something to show you first,"† Alex smiled at Trivette.† Grabbing his hand, she directed him to the living room, watching his expression as he noticed the decorations.† "Happy Kwanzaa, Jimmy!"

††††††††† "What--?"† He grinned widely as he fingered the tri-colored bendera, the African-American flag, that had been laid along the back of C.D.'s sofa.† A small mat had been set on the coffee table along with a candelabra, a cup, some dried corn, and a bowl of fresh fruit.†"This is great!"

††††††††† C.D. came in from the kitchen to stand next to Cordell and Alex.† He smiled, watching Jimmy's reaction.†

††††††††† Walker stepped up to his partner, putting an arm around his shoulder and squeezing.† "We thought you could celebrate Kwanzaa with us, since there aren't any kids around."

††††††††† "If you want to,"† Alex put in.

††††††††† Trivette blinked rapidly, and found he had to clear his throat before saying,†"Thanks.† This means a lot.† But how did you know what to get?† And where--?"

††††††††† "That was Alex's doing, Jimmy,"† C.D. explained.† "Go on, tell him, honey."

††††††††† "I, uh, found a child's book on Kwanzaa in the bookstore,"† the blonde admitted.† "Then I found a few African-American merchants who were open, asked a few questions, and went from there."

††††††††† "Everything's perfect.† You did a great job, Alex."† Jimmy wrapped her in a tight hug, then shook hands with Walker and C.D.† He gestured toward the sofa.† "Get comfortable, guys, and I'll tell you about Kwanzaa."

††††††††† He picked up the flag as his friends got settled.† It had been a long time since he'd seen a bendera.† It brought back memories of home.† And the reason for this celebration.

††††††††† "The bendera is the African-American flag,"† he began.† Pointing to the middle stripe, he continued,† "The black band represents our people.† The red is for our long struggle for freedom.† Green stands for the future.† Most African-Americans hang a bendera on the wall during Kwanzaa."

††††††††† As Jimmy went on to explain how the holiday came to be celebrated, he counted himself lucky, having friends like these.† More than friends, he acknowledged.† Family.

††††††††† "...the seven principles of Kwanzaa, the nguzo saba, are unity, self-determination, collective work and responsibility, cooperative economics, purpose, creativity and faith.† Each one is celebrated on a different night, starting on the day after Christmas and ending on New Year's Eve.

††††††††† "There's a blessing my mom gave every year.† It goes something like this:

†††††††††††††††††† ††††††††† May we live by the nguzo saba.

†††††††††††††††††† ††††††††† May the year's end meet us

†††††††††††††††††† ††††††††† laughing and stronger.

†††††††††††††††††† ††††††††† And at the end of next year,

†††††††††††††††††† ††††††††† may more of us sit together.

†††††††††††††††††† ††††††††† May we achieve a better life.

††††††††† "On the seventh night, small gifts are given to the kids.† Usually something handmade, or a book.† Nothing like what's expected at Christmas.† And that's Kwanzaa, in a nutshell.† Everybody celebrates it differently, but the seven principles and the symbols are the same."

††††††††† "I think Dr. Karenga had the right idea,"† Walker said when Jimmy had finished.† "He wanted people to remember the past, but not dwell on it.† Instead, he was urging them forward, to make the future better."

††††††††† "To the future,"† Alex raised her wine glass in toast.

††††††††† "Amen,"† echoed C.D.

††††††††† "Here, here!"† Trivette said.† He'd learned years ago that the future is what you make of it.† Looking around at his friends, he figured his future could only get better.

††††††††† And though his mother might find this particular observance of Kwanzaa a bit... unusual, Jimmy knew she'd be proud that he'd celebrated it, and with friends.

††††††††† Walker tilted his head, sniffing the air.† "Hey, C.D., when are you supposed to take the turkey out?"

††††††††† "The turkey--† OhmyGod!!"† The retired Ranger dashed to the kitchen, opening the oven door and flooding the room with thick smoke.† He donned oven mitts and pulled the roasting pan out, setting it on the open door.† Gazing at the blackened bird sorrowfully, he said,† "Well, there's chili in the freezer--"

††††††††† "C.D.!!"† Jimmy bellowed.

††††††††† Walker and Alex laughed.† After a moment, Jimmy and C.D. joined in.† There'd always be another turkey dinner.

Authorís Last Words:† This story was originally published in the multi-media zine THE YULE TIDE #2, available from Neon RainBow Press. E-mail them at CindaJody1@aol.com for info on other WTR stories they may have available.† (Nothing like a good plug, huh?)

The usual disclaimer applies:† Walker Texas Ranger and its characters belong to CBS Inc., Top Kick Productions and maybe other copyright holders. This story and the author is in no way connected to those copyright holders and intends no infringement on their copyrights. The story is only meant as an entertaining tribute to a great show and its actors.

All original author and copyright information must remain intact. Any sales or other uses of this document are expressly forbidden, without the specific consent of the author.



[1]†††† In the Spirit of Christmas, by Harmony Miller in THE YULE TIDE #1.