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*****
The Cranky Yankee - reprinted from the South Shore Puzzle Journal, Issue No. 46 - January, 2010
By Stephen Martin

      "Ayup," exhales the satisfied Cranky Yankee, a great cloud of smoke billowing out through an aperture in his snow-white beard. Cozy in bright red long johns, he relaxes deep into his comfy chair, white-stocking feet crossed on a hassock in front of the fire.
      "Mm-hmm," agrees his loving wife of 45 winters, not looking up from the sweater she's knitting. They don't need to talk much. It's enough just to be in the room together.
      Outside, a Nor'easter wails and rumbles through the Great North Woods like a hundred-mile-long freight train, frequently shaking the sturdy log cabin. Icicles, once like stalactites, are now thick Grecian columns connecting the eaves to the drift-covered ground.
      With Turk's head Meerschaum pipe in one hand and pewter-topped tankard of ale in the other, Cranky looks as if he's just finished bedding down the reindeer and paying off the elves and is just settling down for a long New Year's bender.
      Why, we wonder, is it okay for Santa to smoke, even in our own homes (The stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth, and the smoke it encircled his head like a wreath), and yet the thought of him getting drunk shocks us?
      Not that this crusty curmudgeon and Saint Nick are one-and-the-same. Any resemblance is purely physical. Although come to think of it, you never do see them together.
      He puts down his pipe, drains the ceramic stein and rises, heading to the kitchen for a refill.
      "Watch yourself now." says Ma. "You'll be gettin' up brick-in-hat (hung over)."
      He returns empty handed, picks up his new laptop and sits back down. He'd always been dead set against such a new fangled contraption until he started fiddling with one at the Hull library this past summer. He discovered a whole world of crossword puzzles and anagrams and the librarian had to kick him out at closing time. So, Ma gave him one for the holidays.
      His first reaction upon opening the gift was, "Do we have to sell the bull now? (This must have cost an arm and a leg.)"
      "Well," she replied, "as you always say, 'Ain't no pocket in a shroud.' (You can't take it with you.)"
      "Heah's a good anagram for the fust words in John's Gospel," he says.
      "In the beginning was the word?"
      "Ayup. The anagram is 'Then God threw in a big new sin.'" They share a chuckle.
      Every ending is a new beginning.
      Have a happy, healthy New Year.
*****
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