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Cabbages & Kings

By Laurence D. Savadove

There is no Christmas on Washington Street this year. The sparkle is there but not the spirit. Today's Toyland is a travesty.

The street wears its usual mask of myrrh and mink; crowds still complain about the crowds; but padlocked boxes have replaced Salvation Army tambourines. Inside the big stores, cheese cloth cherubs still butter among the silvered spine boughs, but it now costs a quarter to see Santa Claus.

In R. H. White's where the Yule's hoary harbinger is secreted between the ice-box and negligee department, the small, ominously green sign reads. "You are required to buy pays your money, yen gets no choice a eat in the lap, a flashlight bulb, and "How many prints d'ya want lady?" "I wanna sled," says the kid. "Next," bawls Santa.

In Jordan Marsh, a higher class store, it cost in cents to see the man of the month. Half an acre of tracks, in a frame of fascinated faces, sprawled over the floor. But there was nothing new. After last year's smoking, screaming models that discharged passengers and cattle with the same intriguing efficiency, what else is there left to invent?

Filene's is tired of just plain old Christmas--it was dead; needed jazzing up. So Filene's is having a circus. Clowns handle Santa's overflow. Santa wears a green hat, and a young thing in a peppermint skirt, who could win Mrs. Santa an infidelity suit in any state, toys with it and purrs, "Christmas is sweet, isn't it?"

Outside on the street, it was a warm afternoon. In Jordan Marsh's windows were scenes of local churches, seen through a revolving glass, ersatz snow falling, like through a Bendix window. A Salvation Army band moved up and played carols. The trumpeter looked like Boston's own Major Barbara and the crowd listened. Two young Oliver Twists blew horns and the leader pumped a trombone, trying vainly to look as little like a bank clerk as possible. By the curb, a small aging woman held out her tambourine. An S.A. cap sat on her stringy grey curls; her eyes all pity, piety and purity. Thin shoulders were covered by a ragged shawl and she wore galoshes. Not a pair of eyes passed she didn't peer into, not a pair didn't falter; not a hand didn't change into her tambourine. Christmas spirit went with every "Bless you."

The bank clerk decided to move up the street. He motioned to the little old lady who scurried over. With a quick, deft hand she dumped the change into an enormous, hitherto concealed sack.

"Jeezus," she breathed. "I wish I had a butt."

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