From Scrooge to the Grinch. Among the most beloved stories are tales that celebrate the holidays. This year add to Dickens and Dr. Seuss the Pulitzer Prize-winning humorist Dave Barry. His latest book, “The Shepherd, the Angel and Walter, the Christmas Miracle Dog,” is sure to be a popular stocking stuffer. Read an excerpt:My name’s Doug Barnes, and this stuff happened on Christmas Eve in my town, which is Asquont, New York. According to Mr. Purcell, who’s my social studies teacher, Asquont is an Indian name that means some Indian thing like “Hunting Place in the Green Forest,” but sometimes I think it was just a joke by the Indians to get white people to say “Asquont.”
Anyway, there’s no Indians here now, not in 1960. Also, this wouldn’t be a good place to hunt anymore, unless you wanted to shoot somebody’s station wagon. Asquont is only thirty miles from New York City, which is where a lot of the dads work. In the morning they drive to North White Plains and take the train to New York, and at night they come home smelling like cigarettes. In between, they work and smoke.
My dad is one of them. He works for an advertising agency, which according to my mom means that he drinks martinis in the daytime. He does the commercials for Oldsmobile. and watch the commercial, like it was this great movie instead of a commercial with actors pretending to be a family, smiling like maniacs because they’re so excited to be in their Oldsmobile.
My mom laughs at the commercials, especially the actress pretending to be the mother, who’s wearing a dress and pearls and has her hair all fixed up. My mom says, “She looks just like me when I’m driving you kids to school in our lovely Oldsmobile station wagon, doesn’t she, kids?” This cracks us up, because when Mom drives us to school she’s usually wearing a bathrobe and hair curlers because she didn’t have time to get dressed, because she had to get three of us kids ready for school and we’re always late — mostly
because of my little brother, Stuart — who is a total pain.
Like, one time we were getting into Mom’s car, already late, and Stuart says, “Oh no! Today’s the Science Fair!” And of course he forgot to do his Science Fair project, because that’s the kind of total pain thing he does. So Mom said he’d just have to go to school without it, and Stuart started having a fit because he thought he was going to flunk, and finally Mom gave in, and they jumped out of the car and came up with a Science Fair project in, like, two minutes, which was pinecones. They ran around the yard picking up these pinecones and they put them in a shoe box, and that was going to be Stuart’s Science Fair project. Don’t ask me what scientific thing it was supposed to prove.
So by then we were really late, and Mom drove right to the front of the school, and just when we got there my little sister, Becky, who’s not anywhere near as much of a pain as Stuart is but is real little, starts screaming: “THERE’S ANTS IN THE CAR, AND THEY’RE BITING ME.”
Excerpted from “The Shepherd, the Angel and Walter, the Christmas Miracle Dog,” by Dave Barry. Copyright © 2006 by Dave Barry. Excerpted by permission of All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.