St. Nick's Outlaws
By Jim Colombo
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Copyright 2001 Jim Colombo
The following Saturday Jim and Lupe went to the New Mission Market in the
morning and relaxed at Dolores Park in the afternoon. When he came home Mary
said, "Papas called." Jim was still savoring Lupe’s goodbye kiss. He recalled the fragrance
of her hair and the scent of her perfume. He could still feel the sensation of her caress, and
the warmth of her body pressed against his. Jim was intoxicated with Lupe. Mary asked,
"Are you on cloud nine?" Jim didn’t respond. She repeated herself, "I asked you a
question." Mary could tell by the far away look in his eyes that he wasn’t listening. She
tried to wake him up and said louder, "Papas called. He was sorry. He wasn’t able to get
you a Christmas job at UPS like last year."
Jim was still in the garden of angels and said, "That's okay."
"Are you sick?"
"Yeah, I feel fine."
Mary got up close to him to see if he had been drinking. "You look tired. Maybe you
should take a nap before dinner," she said.
"Yeah, sure." He floated to his bedroom and sunk into the bed. An hour later he
woke up to his mom calling him for dinner. After dinner he read a chapter about the Civil
War. There would be a test on Monday. He admired his trophy and he recalled the
gratification and camaraderie of sports. The awards, the block sweater and the dinners
were great memories, but last Sunday was special. They were going steady. Jim
wondered if Lupe had made him smarter. He could cope with almost anything now, as long
as he was with her. She taught him to be generous and thoughtful of others. Lupe was
kind to everyone. She fed stray cats that came to visit at dinner time. Jim suddenly realized
that he needed a Christmas job. He was looking forward to working with Papas again at
UPS. He missed Mrs. Papas' cakes and pies almost as much as he missed working with
Jim spent Sunday afternoon with Lupe, helping her cook and washing the dishes.
Rosa teased him saying, “Some day you will make a good wife.”
He told Rosa, “Your daughter is giving me a lot of kitchen time.”
Rosa trusted them and left them alone while visiting an elderly lady friend. Lupe
wanted affection, and she enjoyed being touched and kissed. Jim enjoyed pleasing her,
and showing her how much he loved her. He thought that if he gave her pleasure, without
intercourse, it was loving, not sinning. When Lupe was satisfied she spent time pleasing
Jim. Lupe trusted Jim, and Rosa trusted both of them. The short-term pleasure of sex
was not worth the damage that it would cause. Lupe never pushed Jim to go further. She
allowed him to love her gently as he wished, and as often as he wanted. Sometimes they
sat together on the couch, holding each other, never saying a word, just enjoying each
other’s company. They wouldn’t do anything to destroy their loving relationship.
Rosa always came home after two hours when visiting her lady friend. Jim and
Lupe watched television in the living room or prepared dinner in the kitchen. They waited a
few minutes for Rosa to change into her cooking and cleaning dress. They said that they
were going for a walk. Sometimes they went to Dolores Park, or to Mission Street. On
Sundays the El Capitan Theater gave away dishes or towels. Now Jim realized where
Rosa got her dishes and towels. The cost was fifty cents per person. There were two films,
a newsreel, and cartoons. The popcorn always tasted better at the El Capitan. One
Saturday night there was an amateur contest between the movies. A lady sang, not so
well, a man played the accordion and sang "Lady of Spain", he was okay. The winner was
a ten-year old Mexican girl who sang very well for her age accompanied by her two older
brothers who played romantic songs with guitars. She sang all of the songs that Jim’s
mother's father sang when he stayed with his parents for three months. Lucy's father sang
the same songs. When Jim heard these songs, it rekindled that old feeling. The songs
aroused the Spaniard in him from his mother. He was Italian in name by his father, but he
felt more comfortable with the Spanish culture. On the way home they stopped at
Woolworth's five and dime store. They shared a double scoop of chocolate ice cream for
twenty-five cents, Lupe’s favorite flavor. Jim teased her and asked, “If you had a choice
between chocolate ice cream and me, which one would you chose?”
“Two scoops of chocolate?” Lupe pondered. "I'm not sure."
They continued walking home. Jim asked if Lupe planned to work during the
Christmas holiday. She said that City of Paris, the White House, and Macy's had posted
gift-wrapping jobs at her school. She and a few of her girl friends were going to apply on
Monday. He asked if he could join. Lupe looked at Jim and said, "You don't have to ask."
He told her that he would meet her at Fourth and Market Streets at four o'clock on
On Monday Jim accompanied Lupe and her two girl friends, Connie and Theresa to
the three stores. He asked if they were hiring stock boys. They filled out applications at
the three stores. It was six o'clock, cold, and dark in downtown San Francisco. There was
a coffee shop near the bus stop. Jim bought coffee for the ladies. Lupe and Jim shared
their coffee. It took the chill out of waiting for the J Street car. Lupe teasingly told Connie
and Theresa to get white boy friends because they are so warm in the winter. Jim stated to
blush and the ladies giggled. Jim had a toggle coat made of thick wool. When he wrapped
Lupe with his coat, she would purr like a kitten. She was always close to him, and it was
very reassuring for him. He sometimes wondered if Bob and Joan were this happy. He
hoped so. Jim thought that the guys at St. Nick's had a different experience with their
ladies. He felt very fortunate to have Lupe. She fell asleep when she sat close to him on
the bus. He woke up her with a kiss on the top of her head when it was time to get off.
Lupe would awake, smile at Jim, and say, "Hi."
"We’re home, Angel."
They got off the bus, and Connie and Theresa continued on the bus to twenty-sixth
The next Thursday while Jim was on the J Church trolley, Papas got on. They sat
together and caught up on lost time. Papas was a senior at Mission High School. He
explained that Tony Pull owed a favor to some guy, and gave Jim’s Christmas job to
someone else. Jim said that was okay, and told Papas about the stock boy jobs he had
applied for. The job wouldn’t pay as much as working with Papas at UPS. Working in
Union Square during Christmas would be fun. Papas talked about next summer going to
Alaska for salmon fishing. It would be ten weeks of hard work and great pay. “Imagine the
nights in the Arctic, the sea, the fresh air, the warm Eskimo women,” said Papas. They
“It sounds great. If you go, I’ll go,” said Jim
“I’m going for sure. I’ll see if I can get you a job on the same boat,” said Papas.
Jim got real excited. Then he thought about Lupe. He couldn’t imagine not seeing her for
ten weeks. He asked if Papas still brought a brown bag for Tony Pull. "Hell yes," said
Papas. Jim told Papas that he missed his mom's cakes and pies more than the job.
Papas said, "I heard that you have a girl friend. Are you going steady?"
"Yes." said Jim.
"Do you really think that she will let you go to Alaska?"
"I’ll ask her…. ah, tell her. I think that she will say yes."
Papas looked at Jim, and asked, "Does she have the fishhook in you?"
Jim did not understand.
Papas asked, "Did you do it with her? Once you jump in, it's hard to crawl out."
He told Papas that he hadn’t, and Papas looked relieved, like Jim was a saved.
When Jim got home his mother said, "City of Paris had called. They want you to
report for work as a stock boy on Monday".
Jim called Lupe and told her the good news. The next day Lupe got a call from City
of Paris and was offered a job as a gift wrapper. They could go home together. "What
good luck," Jim said.
Lupe said, "No. It wasn’t luck. I prayed that we would get Christmas jobs." As loving
and emotional as Lupe was, there were times when she was just as religious, and
sincerely believed in the power of prayer. After they started going steady, she told Jim that
a week before she went to the MD dance, she prayed that she would meet someone who
would love and respect her. He was the answer to her prayers. When Lupe first saw Jim,
she liked him. When he chose her instead of the attractive girl, Lupe saw that as a sign
from God. That’s why she was so affectionate in the beginning. Jim didn't have Lupe’s
absolute faith. He never mentioned to her what his interpretation of that first night was.
Lupe at times was a delicate balance of love, innocence, and emotion. She was naive, and
Jim tried to protect her fragile world.
The following Sunday Jim and Lupe went to 10:30 mass at St. James Church. On
the way home, he explained that the previous summer he had worked at Camp Mather.
Lupe asked if he was going to work during the summer next year. He said, "Most likely."
Lupe said, "I trust you and love you very much."
Jim asked, "Does that mean yes?"
She continued, "I will write to you every day and you will call me once a week."
She thought that Jim was going back to Camp Mather. When Jim told her about
Papas and Alaska, Lupe looked surprised, then hurt. "Why don't you go to the moon?"
she asked sarcastically.
"There is no salmon fishing on the moon."
"You're going on a ship?"
"It's a boat with five guys."
"Oh my God. I have to think about this," said Lupe.
"Fine. We are just talking now and we will talk about it again." Jim felt the fish hook
that Papas spoke of.
A week passed and they were at Dolores Park sitting on the same bench where
they had exchanged rings. Lupe said, "I have talked to my mom, and I prayed all week to
the Virgin Mary for guidance. You can go to Alaska, but you have to be careful, and you
have to pray each day."
Jim interrupted, “Does that mean yes?”
She continued, "I have something for you." She stood up and took a gold chain with
a cross out a pocket. She put the chain around his neck and centered the crucifix. " This is
18 karat gold. My grandmother gave it to my mom. My mom has kept it in the top draw of
her dresser for seventeen years. She gave me this chain and crucifix to give to you. She
was going to give it to my dad when he came back from the war in Germany. (She paused)
He never came back, and they never got married. I am giving it to you. It will protect you
and bring you back to me. My mom always believed that if she had given the chain and
crucifix to my dad, he would have returned. Wear this always and remember that I love you
very much. God will take care of you. You will come back to me and realize how much we
need each other."
Jim had asked if he could go to Alaska for ten weeks. Most girls would say yes
or no. She stipulated the terms and conditions of his summer in Alaska with Papas. She
was very devout in her faith, and her love for him. He was touched by the sentimental
value of the gold chain and crucifix that she and her mother had given him. He told Lupe
that he wasn’t positive that he would go to Alaska. They left the park and walked to Lupe’s
apartment. They entered the kitchen, and Rosa saw that Jim was wearing the gold chain.
Rosa removed the crucifix from inside Jim’s shirt and held the cross in her hand. "I lost my
man because I did not give him the crucifix before he left my life. I told Lupe not to wait. If
she is sure that you are her true love, then she should give it to you. You now have the
love of three women: the Virgin Mary, Lupe and me. Do you understand what I am holding
in my hand?" asked Rosa.
"I understand the significance of this crucifix and all of the love it has. I never
doubted Lupe’s love for me. I doubted if I was ready for the responsibility of her trust,
love, and devotion. I didn’t know if I could give her all the love that she has given me.
Now I realize that I love her very much," said Jim.
Rosa smiled and told Lupe, “You’re lucky to have him.
Lupe looked radiant. She glowed all of the time. What had begun weeks ago as a
casual acquaintance had bloomed into a bouquet of love. Rosa made chicken with rice.
Jim stayed for dinner. Each time when he had to leave, it was harder for him to go back to
the other world that he lived in with his parents, school, and sports. This was going to be a
special Christmas being with Lupe and working at City of Paris. He just couldn’t believe
how quickly things had happened with Lupe.
It was Monday, and Jim and Lupe’s first day of work at City of Paris. Lupe had to
change into a City of Paris blouse before going to the wrapping booth. Jim wore a blue
smock to protect his clothes. The store was elegant, almost one hundred years old with
a stain glass dome that illuminated the center of the building . Only the rich shopped at
City of Paris. The clothes were imported from France and Italy. The head tailor’s name
was Jacques, and spoke with a French accent. But at quitting time he was Rudy from
Brooklyn. Jim noticed that Rudy was comfortable with the ladies, but he went home with
Jerome the beautician. They didn’t walk, they glided gracefully together. Lupe’s boss,
Mrs. Barns, was nervous all the time, and fluttered like a humming bird. Somehow she
could wrap gifts while puffing on a cigarette that seemed to be permanently attached to her
lips. At the end of Lupe’s shift with "Puff the Magic Dragon," Lupe smelled like she had
been hanging out at Pete’s Smoke Shop. Jim’s boss was Mr. Crenshaw. He had recently
graduated from UCLA with a masters degree in Business Management. Mr. Crenshaw was
cool, and he and Jim got along great. Jim brought out the boxes of clothes and shoes, and
helped with displays and arranging lady's accessories.
Santa and all of the toys were on the fourth floor at City of Paris. He had a special
helper called Happy Holly, an elf from the North Pole. Happy Holly escorted the boys and
girls to Santa, who sat on a big chair in his toyshop. The boys and girls told Santa what
they wanted for Christmas. These were rich sophisticated boys and girls who wanted
ponies or motorized cars. After a while Santa’s "Ho-Ho-Ho!" would diminish to a small "ho,"
and the weight of the boys and girls compounded by the heat of the suit made Santa forget
the Christmas spirit sometimes. Once a little boy, who soon would become the president
of his father’s bank, called Santa a grouch. He doubted that Santa would bring the
motorized airplane that he asked for. The young executive told Santa that he was a fake,
and that his dad would buy him the airplane. As the young investment banker started to
walk away, he stopped, turned around, and stuck his tongue out at Santa. Santa waved
goodbye to the little boy and said under his breath, "I hope you crash in flames."
Outside street musicians played Christmas songs, people sung carols, and vendors
sold big oatmeal cookies and mugs of hot apple cider with cinnamon. It was a happy time
in Union Square, filled with the Christmas spirit. Lupe and Jim were paid $1.30 an hour
and worked four hours a day during the week and eight hours on the weekends. They did
not spend as much time together as before, only when they went home together . Jim
wondered what it would be like not holding her for ten weeks if he went to Alaska.
Christmas break was from the fifteenth of December to the third of January. The
two weeks they worked went by fast. Jim noticed each day before they left Lupe admired,
then held, and smelled the scent of an expensive leather purse imported from Italy that
cost $75. Jim had saved $200 from the $500 he earned at Camp Mather. There were
other leather purses in boxes in the stockroom with white ribbons. Mr. Crenshaw told
Jim that employees got a 10% discount, but because he was a manager he got 25%. Mr.
Crenshaw offered to by the purse for Jim, so Jim paid $56.25. He had the purse gift
wrapped at Macy’s, so he could surprise Lupe.
On Christmas Eve Jim escorted Lupe to his parent’s house to introduce her to
Joe and Mary. Lupe was nervous. Jim told her not to worry. He had told his parents
about her and Rosa, and explained how they felt about each other. "They know who you
are. They just want to meet you," said Jim.
After the introduction, Lupe, Jim, and his parents sat and talked about working at
City of Paris, and Lupe’s mother. Mary asked Lupe if she would help her with the Tom and
Jerry’s, and the rum cake. A Tom and Jerry is an eggnog drink with brandy topped with
whipped cream and nutmeg served hot in cups. The whipped cream melted into the drink
reducing some of the brandy bite. The cake was from Plate’s Cakery. It was three layers
filled with butter and rum.
While the ladies were in the kitchen Joe said, "Lupe is a nice girl. She seems to
be very sensible." Joe noticed that she had squeezed all of the blood out of Jim’s hand.
"She must really like you," said Joe. Jim was flexing his hand trying to circulate the blood.
Mary and Lupe returned with dishes of sliced rum cake on one tray and cups of Tom and
Jerry’s on the other tray. They sat and talked for an hour.
Jim thought that Lupe had presented herself well. She was still nervous and it was
time for them to spend some time alone together. Lupe had brought a serving bowl from
City of Paris for Jim’s parents. Mary said, “Thank you for the gift. You and your mom are
invited for Christmas dinner.”
Lupe explained, “My mom and I typically prepare Christmas dinner for our elderly
friends who are too old to cook. My mom thinks that it’s part of the Christmas spirit.”
“You and Rosa are invited for Christmas evening.”
“I’ll ask my mom.”
They said good night, and Jim and Lupe walked home quickly in the damp, cold
night air. He told her that she was part of the family now. She sighed with relief. When
they arrived, Rosa offered them cups hot chocolate. They quickly finished the hot
chocolate. It was time to leave for midnight mass at St. James. Christmas Eve was a High
Mass that took an hour and a half, compared to a typical mass of forty-five minutes. There
was more singing and readings from scripture. It was two o’clock in the morning when
Rosa, Lupe, and Jim got back to the apartment. They drank more hot chocolate. Jim went
to the laundry room and came back with a gift. Lupe looked surprised. Rosa laughed and
said, "I have been moving that gift from room to room for the last week." Lupe began to
remove the wrapping carefully. She wanted to save it. When she saw the Italian writing on
the box, she knew what it was. When she opened the box and saw the brown leather
purse, her mouth and eyes opened wide with joy. She smelled the purse and hugged it.
Rosa was impressed with the gift. Earlier when Jim called for Lupe he had brought a gift
and put it under the Christmas three. Jim now gave the big box to Rosa. Rosa looked very
surprised. She wasn’t expecting a gift from Jim. When she opened the box there was a
second box inside. She and Lupe laughed. Rosa opened the second box and said, "Oh my
God!" Lupe glowed. Jim had bought two brown leather purses imported from Italy. Both of
Jim’s special ladies thanked him. He felt good making them so happy. That’s what
Christmas is all about, giving joy. It was three in the morning when Rosa drove Jim home
with Lupe. He said good night to his two special ladies. He entered an quietly went to bed
and continued to enjoy the happiness that filled him. It was the best Christmas ever.
More next week...