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Blue Christmas 

The Observer and Spouse, like everyone still above ground, are getting older, so we've both been waiting for some dastardly medical shoe to drop. A few weeks back, we feared it had when Spouse's fingers and hands began mysteriously turning a pale and ghostly blue at intervals that seemed to have no rhyme or reason. She never felt sick or short of breath, never felt like she was having a circulation issue or heart kerfuffle. It was just that every once in awhile, she'd glance down to find that her fine, pale fingers had taken a grey-blue cast that made her look like the Corpse Bride.

The only similarity the incidents had was that they seemed to occur more often when it was cold out. Searches on the Internet only served to scare her more. Though she said she'd rather wait and see, her nervous beau became more and more insistent that she get her shapely behind to the doctor's office, an idea shot down by her again and again. She hates going to the doctor's office almost as much as The Observer, and that's saying something.

Just before Christmas, those blue digits worriedly tapping in the back of The Observer's mind, we were going out shopping one morning with Spouse. Yours Truly is old school, and likes to get our lean on when driving, usually with a hand on Spouse's knee. We're cheeky like that.

Lo and behold, when we drew back our paw after a few miles of motorvatin', we found that her affliction was apparently catching: the heel of The Observer's hand was that same pale blue as we'd seen on her. Spouse looked at her hands, and wouldn't you know it? They'd gone a corpsey cerulean as well.

Turns out, spouse had bought some new jeans from Old Navy a few weeks back, and the color ain't quite as stuck to the denim as one might like. Do we have to mention that when it's cold, she has a tendency to shove her hands in her pockets? Oh, the holiday hee-haws we had over that one, friends. That said, The Observer couldn't help but let out a little sigh of relief as we kissed her dim blue fingertips.

And yes, in case you're wondering, she still has the jeans. A nice-fitting pair of britches is evidently too valuable a thing to discard, even if they did scare the bejesus out of a nervous husband. Apparently, as long as they don't kill her, blue fingers are something she can live with.

New Year's Eve at midnight, the clock in the parlor solemnly gonging in the first few seconds of The Year of Our Lord 2014, The Observer kissed Spouse and then we stepped out onto the frigid veranda of The Observatory for another New Year's Eve tradition of recent years, listening to trigger-happy idiots turn part of the city into what sounds like the Battle of Gettysburg.

Though some of the pops and crackles we hear every New Year's Eve at midnight are undoubtedly fireworks bought from stands out in the county, we'd bet our Colt and gun belt that the majority of the noise is gunfire. We lived in the countryside once upon a time, and know our way around firearms, so The Observer knows those sounds well: the measured pop-pop-pop-pop of small-caliber semi-automatic handguns, the quick tac-tac-tac-tac of .380s and nine millimeters, the boom of shotguns, even the bark of semi-auto rifles, so many at once that the first minute of the New Year sounded like popcorn popping in the microwave.

The thought of all that lead in the air at once scares the living hell out of your Old Pal, given that the night sky isn't, in fact, a block of black wax that traps all rising bullets. It's why we stayed safely under our portico until things quieted down, thank you very much.

Standing there considering the idiocy of it all, we heard another sound in the darkness — applause. On the darkened porch of the house catercornered from The Observatory — the residence of an older gent who often tips us a wave while out walking a solemn white Labrador — someone was clapping.

There was a loveliness to that, we thought: In the midst of the ruckus of shootin' irons, one human being was standing alone in the dark, giving a standing ovation to the old year as she hobbled off stage, and applauding 2014 as she sashayed on in her finery. Such gratitude. Such a sound there in the darkness, more human and respectful of the passage of time than a thousand rounds of lead, powder and carelessness.

If The Observer makes it another year, friends — and that's always an "if" for any of us, whether we want to believe it or not — our neighbor's fine example will be a tradition we have to take up: a kiss from our honey, a step into the cold air, and then a grateful front-porch ovation as the curtain rises on another 365 days in this crazy, confounding, infuriating, beautiful world. That, we think, would suit us fine, with no trip to the gun store required. It's the simple things that make it all worth it, you know?

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