We hadn't seen a sunset in months and were taken with it. Staring at it with mouths like O's. ”So,” I said, ”stick around for a while?” She was wrinkly now, roughskinned décolletage, but beautiful. She looked at me as if I were from elsewhere, her eyes invisible behind sunglasses. I saw them anyway, they told me not to ask stupid questions. ”Cheers,” she said. Waves whispering through layers of seashells.

The day before yesterday we stood at the last door on the block, bags of candy in hands, calling on the last family. The doorbell played a tune instead of ding-dong. We smiled, looked at each other and pressed it again, o tannenbaum, ooh tannenbaum. We heard childrens feet inside and grownup steps. The door opened with christmas smells. ”Merry Christmas,” I said, my wife introducing us and telling the story. We were old now and hadn't had any children of our own, hence no grandchildren, so what could we do except visiting the nuclear familys in the neighbourhood, treating the children to candy. She elaborated of course, but you get the general idea; two old people, a bit lonely, warm hearts pounding for the kids in the area instead of growing cold with bitterness from involuntary childlessness. Something like that. Often, one shed a tear and invited us for eggnog. ”Will you stay home for christmas,” we would ask, ”a lot of running around visiting grandparents and relatives?”

On christmas eve we set to work. Before the plane took off on christmas morning we had emptied twentynine houses. Our fence greeted us at the airport, tickets in hand. Grey skies and brown scraps of snow surrounded the terminal. Conscience talked to us on the way down but we only listened for a while. With old age comes impaired hearing.

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