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ChicagoJ was dead, this must be understood. ChicagoJ had been dead these seven long seasons.
It must be understood that ChicagoJ was dead or NOTHING WONDERUL WILL COME FROM THIS.
Little Shade sat in his corner so very close to the fire in an effort to absorb some warmth, it was cold in Indiana and this year it was colder than most. For his employer would not allow him to turn the heat on or to add wood or coal to the fire as that would be a show of togetherness and he did not want to be reminded of the past.
SHADE, shouted his employer, I don’t pay you to set there and read comic books or daydream about horror films, get back to work and I do not want to hear one more word from you until you have printed all of the “it’s a they thing” T-shirts.
Yes sir, replied Shade.
Knowing full well that tomorrow was Christmas day and he did not want to raise the ire of his employer so that he would receive the full day off and maybe just maybe some form of bonus. Young shade kept screen printing every T-shirt by hand.
A knock was heard at the door.
Well, said Shade's grumpy employer, don’t just set there see who it is.
Young Shade quickly jumped from his seat and sprang to the door. Wrapping himself in an old tattered leather Pacers jacket that his employer had thrown in the trash many seasons ago.
Another knock and Shade was quick to open the door, letting in a gust of very cold air.
In the doorway stood a cheery faced Roaming Gnome and his wife, Gnome was wearing a leather coat that was curiously similar to the one that Shade was wearing.
Shade greeted Gnome and his wife with the warmest of seasons greeting, being cold in body the young apprentice was still warm in spirit.
Gnome heartily returned the genuine warmth of the greeting with one of his own.
Is your master in, asked Gnome?
But of course he is, said Shade, however I am afraid he has been of a very sour disposition these past few days and is even more sour today I fear.
It is of no matter, said a cheery Gnome, I am here to invite him to Christmas dinner and to invite him to watch the “best of” Pacers games from seasons past.
BAH HUMBUG!!!! A squeaky voice bellowed from down the stairs.
The room somehow seemed to grow colder although the door was closed as Shades red faced employer looked down the dark narrow stairway.
He was wearing a LeBron jersey with an “I don’t care” button attached as he slinked down the stairs to stand before them.
It was Hicks.
Hicks, said Gnome, come dine with us tomorrow. We have already set aside unseasoned chicken strips and pink lemonade for you. After we feast we will watch classic Pacers from the 90’s and we have an Austin Croshere retrospective that we have found narrated by Anthem.
A Hum bug upon the Pacers and a Hum bug upon Austin , said Hicks
A Hum bug upon the Pacers, asked a dejected Gnome?
Yes a hum bug, said Hicks.
You keep the Pacers in your way and I will keep the Pacers in my own way, said Hicks.
But you hardly keep the Pacers at all anymore, said Gnome.
Then let me leave them alone then, said a grumpy Hicks.
What reason do you have to dislike the Pacers, asked Gnome, they have given you so many perks over the years?
What reason do you have to like the Pacers, said Hicks, didn’t you once boo them during the National Anthem?
Gnome ashamed of booing the team during the anthem decided to keep his Christmas cheer about him.
I came in good Christmas cheer and I will leave under the same. I invite you to our home to feast and be merry while I wish you the warmest of Christmas cheer.
BAH HUM BUG! Said an increasingly grumpy Hicks.
Without further stating a word to Hicks, Gnome shook Shades hand and wished him the warmest of Christmas greetings.
Shade warmly returned the greeting and uttered a hearty “Go Pacers” to which Gnome warmly returned as he and his wife left the building.
Old Hicks temper started to flare.
One more word from you, said Hicks, and you will celebrate the Holidays by losing your situation.
A shrunken Shade began to retreat to his cubby when in through the door burst a jolly looking fellow all clad in blue and gold.
Is this the business of “it’s a they thing” asked the man?
I have spent a good deal of money on a sign to state that very thing, Hicks replied very agitated.
Good then, said the man, do I have the pleasure of speaking to Mr. J or Mr. Hicks?
ChicagoJ has been dead these past seven years, said Hicks softening ever so slightly, in fact he has been dead seven years this very night.
I am sorry Mr. Hicks, said the man, however I am confident that Mr. J’s liberality will be echoed by his surviving partner.
Yes, said a snickering Hicks, Chicago J and myself were kindred spirits.
My name is Naptown Seth and I represent the Pacers foundation. We are collecting for the poor and needy in an effort to provide them with some form of comfort and joy by purchasing Pacers coats and tickets.
Is there no goodwill store are the Pacers no longer giving away discounts to games, asked Hicks?
Yes, said Seth, but Goodwill does not guarantee that the clothing will be Pacers gear and since the Pacers have been doing so poorly these past few years that the team gives away all that they can but it is not enough to go around.
How much can I put you down for, asked Seth?
Nothing, replied Hicks.
Oh you wish to remain anonymous, asked Seth?
I wish to be left alone, Hick replied, I do not make merry at the holiday and I do not have time for idle people who will not help themselves.
With that Naptown Seth closed his book and took his leave.
By now it was time to close the business for the day.
I suppose you will want the entire day off for Christmas, said Hicks to Shade.
Yes, it is troublesome. What reason is it to celebrate the robbing of a man every December 25, if I paid you $1.00 less you would feel yourself ill used, said Hicks. You be back in here all the earlier the next day.
Yes sir, said Shade who then put on his tattered leather Pacers coat & placed on his Pacers gloves and ran out the door.
Humbug, thought Hicks.
Hicks closed up the shop for the night and carefully turned the heat off so as not to waste money. He donned his Golden State Warriors jacket and placed on his Orlando Magic wool hat and walked out the door.
As he passed by the cold and weary he never gave them a second thought. He arrived at BW3’s and he was ushered to his usual table in the corner where he was brought his meal of naked wings and iced tea. He asked the waiter to turn the TV to any channel that was not playing an NBA game.
After he had eaten his meal he swiftly walked past the waiter and out the door, leaving no tip.
As he approached his house the wind was stirring almost to the point of a howl being in the air. As he wrestled with his keys in the dim light his eyes betrayed him for there on his door knocker appeared a face, a face that was in pain and anguish. He could not make out the face but he recognized the painful look on the face. Then it was gone.
Bah Humbug, thought Hicks as he entered his house.
The evening past and Hicks set down to enjoy a hot bowl of soup and watch firefly before going to bed.
As he set taking his soup he became aware of a faint sound and an increasing coldness in the room.
The sound became louder and he could now hear the clanking of chains.
Hicks jumped from his chair to see what was the matter.
Nothing, the sound was now gone.
Humbug, thought Hicks, this soup is giving me gas and making me imagine things.
He sat back down in his chair and bent over to pick up his bowl of soup when standing before him was CHICAGOJ’S GHOSTS!!!!
Who are you, asked a very nervous and scared Hicks?
Ask me who I was, said the Ghost.
Ok who were you, asked Hicks, you are very particular for a ghost.
In life I was your partner, said the ghost.
Chicago J is that you, asked Hicks?
Yes, said the spirit.
Why do you wear these heavy chains and why are you haunting me, asked Hicks?
These chains are the chains I forged in life, said a distraught J, every time I gave up a ticket because I no longer cared, every game I missed on TV because I hated the management because of my hatred of the Celtics, every time I complained about the trade that sent away my favorite player and I placed my hatred on the new player I forged a new chain.
Do you not believe in me, asked J seeing that Hicks had an uncaring look on his face?
The senses are a tricky thing, you might be an undigested chicken wing or some of the soup that has given me gas, said Hicks becoming more confident.
There is more gravy than grave about you, said a once again fully confident Hicks.
With that Chicago J let out an otherworldly ear piercing howl.
A now very visibly shaken Hicks cried, why do you haunt me oh spirit.
I am here to warn you, said J, these links I forged in life bind me to the earth. I can never rest, I can never know comfort. I am forced to walk the days as a spirit never being truly here or there. The chains you have forged in life are seven times longer than my own.
But you were a good man of the non committal business, said Hicks.
Togetherness was my business, Pacers pride was my business but I did not learn this until it was too late for me.
With that a ghastly hand appeared from the fire place and yanked on J’s chain.
Quick I have no more time, said J, you will be visited by three more spirits on this night and I pray that you learn the lessons that they teach you….
With that J was pulled into the fire place and disappeared.
With that Hicks ran to his bed, donned his Batman pajamas and pulled the blanket over his head.
He was still visibly shaking from the event, so much so that he fell fast asleep.
The gentle tolling on the clock bells rang, quarter past the hour, half past the hour, quarter till the hour then the hour itself.
Hicks set up in bed and looked around the room, nothing came.
Whew it was all a bad dream, thought Hicks and with that he laid back down turned to his side. He closed his eyes but felt a lump behind him in the bed. He rolled over to remove the out of place pillow when he came face to face with a spirit wearing a Pacers basketball cap & a Sam Mitchell jersey and nothing more.
Hicks jumped from the bed and shouted, who are you?
I am the ghost of Pacers past, said the spirit.
The far past, asked Hicks?
Your past, replied the spirit.
Take me where you will spirit for I am tired, said Hicks.
Grab my jersey then, said the spirit.
Hicks looking oddly at him as he realizes that the spirit is only covered by an oversized jersey.
Call me Kegboy, said the spirit.
As he takes hold of his jersey, Hicks feels his body lift from the floor & through his roof.
In the air he can hear the voices of Mark Boyle and Slick Leonard.
The snow has grown heavy and the wind has began to howl, Hicks can barely feel himself anymore from the bone cutting wind, then poof he is in a warm room.
Not just any warm room, but his warm room.
There on the floor set a very young Hicks watching as the Indiana Pacers battled the mighty Chicago Bulls.
Why have you brought me here spirit, asked Hicks, what can I gain from this?
These are the memory's of your past, stated kegboy. These are the times that make a young man who he is in life.
But we did not win that series, said Hicks growing slightly more wistful.
Yes, said Kegboy, but a proud franchise battled a team that won more games than any team in history to the bitter end and took them to more games than any team had ever taken them.
But 0they did continue to get better, said Hicks starting to feel a little of the long lost Pacers pride.
Yes they did, said kegboy, for the next two seasons they were one of the truly elite teams in the NBA.
A mist swirled about them and now he sees himself sitting in the fieldhouse. The chairs are empty and the only people that were there were people he knew from an old website that he once had created when he cared.
A tear welled up in Hick’s eye as he looked down on the floor and saw a young Jeff Foster grabbing a rebound and throwing an outlet to a breaking Fred Jones.
Why is there a tear in your eye, asked Kegboy?
Oh nothing really I just thought that they played with a lot of heart in this game, said Hicks. This is the game after the brawl is it not?
I only wish I could say something to Roaming Gnome right now, said Hicks
A heavy smoke enveloped them and now Hicks sees a slightly older slightly more bald version of himself setting at the computer typing away.
Take me away spirit, said a horror struck Hick, I cannot bear to see this.
What troubles you, asked kegboy could it be what you are typing? With that kegboy projects the words that the young Hicks is typing on the Pacers digest forum.
I've finally made, "The switch." It's been wonderful for my mental/emotional health.
Drop the, "We," and switch to, "They," when referring to all things Pacers.
It's a liberating moment of growth. I hope I never go back.
Hicks sobbing like a baby dropped to his knees saying over and over to Kegboy, take me away please take me away.
Kegboy having grown smaller and older in a very short time says, my time is almost up and there are still things to be learned on this night and I pray you learn them.
Poof, Hicks was back in his bed. He falls asleep weeping.
Ding Dong Ding Dong sounded the clanging of louder bells.
Then an all encompassing light appeared before him and once the brightness had dimmed he saw what must have been the second of his aspirations to visit him.
There decked out in a custom Pacers jersey and holding a chase credit card for all to see wearing fig leaves above his ears and a white Pacers hat stood the second ghost.
Are you the second ghost that Kegboy spoke of, asked a nervous Hicks?
Yes I am, said the cheery ghost.
Some call me the travinator others call me the shark however you can call me by my given name of Duke Dynamite.
Take me where you will then, I would profit from what you seek to teach me as I have already learned from kegboy.
Grab my Mike Dunleavy underwear and away we will go, said Duke.
Hicks reaches out nervously and ask, are these clean?
Ha, I’ll have you know that I have not washed these since I stole them from the Pacers locker room, said a gloating Duke.
Dear God, said a disgusted Hicks.
He touched the elastic of his briefs and into the air they flew.
They flew over the wild Westside, flying over club rio and the 8 second saloon. They flew into an upper scale neighborhood the kind of place that only a person who is a member of I.B.E.W. could afford.
They appear inside the warm and loving house in front of the photo’s of the vacation trips to Hawaii and the west coast. Standing before the 80 inch TV screen Hicks and Duke Dynamite observed a large party of people enjoying the good tiding of the season.
Doug was present wearing his old “straight up” t-shirt, apparently coming out of the closet and proclaiming his Paula Abdul fan hood. Scott H was there wearing a “DC comics sucks” t-shirt talking to Gnome about their mutual long term vacations. Indy Geezer was present along with ABA days telling story’s of the good old days and complaining about ticket prices.
At this time Gnome steps forward and offers a toast. To Hicks, although he won't have good Pacers pride about himself anymore I say merry Christmas to him and a long happy life.
Gnome’s wife turns to him and says for all of the good a toast will do him.
Gnomes then says, I will greet him every year and if he finds me in good humor than I say that he will hard pressed to turn me away.
The party fades away.
They are flying threw the air now and have come upon the upper east side of Indianapolis, to the home of Hicks poor clerk Shade.
Into the room is hobbling Pig Nash who is using a crutch to walk.
What is wrong with Pig Nash, asks Hicks?
He has engageitis, proclaims Duke, it goes all the way to the bones on him.
Will he be ok, asks Hicks?
I see an empty chair at the next Digest party if things do not change, said Duke.
They are now back in the cold bedroom of Hick’s house.
I don’t mean to speak out of turn, said a nervous Hicks, but there appears to be a set of claws out of the bottom of your jeans.
They might as well be claws for all the good they will do them, said Duke, then out walk a boy and a girl both drawn and disfigured.
Duke said, the girl is hatred and the boy is apathy but beware the boy most of all as he is the downfall of franchises.
Spirit won’t a Pacers coat cover them and some free tickets help them care, asked Hicks?
Are there no Goodwill’s, are there no free ticket, yelled Duke Dynamite, as he faded away into nothingness.
Hicks was in a ball in the corner by the wall when a light brightly shined on him. The windows opened and a spirit appeared through the curtains.
He pointed a bony cold finger at Hicks
You are the spirit I fear most of all, said Hicks from his fetal position, for you are the ghost of Pacers future.
The ghost shook his head and in doing so revealed that his face looked like BillS
Take me where you will spirit, Hicks proclaimed, I have learned my lesson well this night & I would learn what you have to teach me.
Hicks took the spirits cape & away they flew. East they flew far East landing in the lights of Baltimore.
Why have you taken me here, asked Hicks?
The spirit pointed behind him to a large arena on the edge of town with a Marquee that was just being lit up.
Hicks quickly averted his eyes. No spirit, please tell me what is on the sign for I cannot bare to look said Hicks.
The spirit stood silently.
Why must you torment me so, cried Hicks.
Along the side of the road he saw two young men walking wearing Pacers jerseys.
Well, at the very least the team is closer to watch then in the old days said one to the other.
No spirit please please don't let this be, cried Hicks.
The spirit pointed to the Marquee.
The sign said the Los Angeles Lakers vs. the Baltimore Pacers.
Hicks screamed with all of his might dropping to the ground to plead with the spirit. No, I've learned my lesson. We are all in this together and that there is no they in team. I will live all of my days believing that I am part of the overall Pacers success and that I will strive to have Pacers pride for all of my days
Ding ding ding ding went the clock.
Hicks opened his eyes. I'm back I've made it.
He jumped out of bed, threw open a window & saw a small boy.
You, young fellow, said Hicks, what day is it?
Why it's Christmas day, said the boy.
Then I haven't missed it, the spirits did all of their work in one night yelled a joyous Hicks.
He threw off his p.j.'s & dug in his closet finding his Danny Granger # 33 jersey put on gold and blue warm ups then threw on his Pacers jacket he had under the bed and ran out the door.
He drove as fast as he could to Gnomes house.
He opened the door and a silence came over the room. Roaming Gnome walked towards him.
Gnome, said Hicks, I want to come to the party. I want to watch the pacers.
Merry Christmas Hicks Merry Christmas to us all, said Roaming Gnome.
It was said from that day forward that no man alive kept the spirit of Pacers pride as well as Hicks. He was as good a friend, neighbor and employer as any man alive.
And to young Pig Nash who did not die, he became an older brother to care for him for the rest of his life.
Again, my sincere apologies to both Charles Dickens and the original Peck (I am a cheap clone of the original)