All Trixie Matkowski wants for Christmas is a break—just not the broken leg she got after slipping on some ice. With Sandy Harbor alive in the hustle and bustle of the season, it’s the busiest time of the year at Trixie’s Silver Bullet Diner. There are millions of things to do, including cater the town’s annual Christmas pageant and community dinner with some delicious holiday comfort food.
But the festivities turn into a bit of a turkey after Liz Fellows, the director of the pageant, is found with Trixie’s butcher knife in her back. Now Trixie must help the police arrest the scary gentleman—or lady—guilty of the crime if she hopes to get herself off the naughty list.
About the Author
Read an Excerpt
Also by Christine Wenger
Recipes and Holiday Memories from Trixie’s Family and Friends
Excerpt from DO OR DINER
I just love Christmas.
At times, the holiday season might be stressful. It always seems like there’s never enough time to decorate, bake, shop, write out thoughtful messages on cards, entertain, and enjoy the numerous events. But even though it’s busy and crazy, it’s a wonderful time of year.
I am a big list maker, and intentionally I write, “Stop, sit down, relax, and smell the cocoa.” And I make my cocoa with real chocolate, milk instead of water, whipped cream, a sprinkle of cinnamon on top, and a candy cane for a stirrer. . . .
After a long day of cooking, I was looking forward to making cocoa in my special red Santa Claus mug that Grandma Bugnacki bought me decades before when we visited Santa’s North Pole Village. I was going to sit down with a big plate of my mom’s snowball cookies with a fresh dusting of powdered sugar and wash them down with the cocoa, and maybe heat up more, if needed. . . .
I looked around at all the boxes and bins that I’d just brought up from the basement or lugged down from the attic of my Big House. Now, where was my Santa mug?
But no matter how much I loved Christmas and all that went with it, I would not decorate until the dishes were in the dishwasher after Thanksgiving dinner and all my guests were either gone or in recliners, sleeping off the tryptophan from consuming mass quantities of turkey.
Right then, on Thanksgiving night, all my guests were indeed gone. The only one sleeping in a recliner was my pal Antoinette Chloe Brown (who recently shed her married name of Brownelli).
So I could begin to decorate my diner, the Silver Bullet, which was only a few hundred yards off the main road, Route 3, the road that split Sandy Harbor, New York, in half, sort of diagonally.
I decided to take my sweet golden retriever, Blondie, for a walk in the thirteen-degree temperature and three feet of snow on the ground. Mother Nature and Lake Ontario had gone easy on us so far, with only one blizzard, but this balmy weather wouldn’t last.
“Blondie, come!” I said, and she grudgingly lifted her head from her cozy spot under my thick oak kitchen table. “Let’s go for a walk!”
She didn’t hurry to get up. “Come on. You love the snow.”
Ty Brisco, a Houston transplant who worked as a deputy with the Sandy Harbor Sheriff’s Department, and I had rescued Blondie when she’d appeared half-frozen next to the Dumpster at the back of the Silver Bullet. Poor thing.
We shared her, but I had primary custody. It got lonely at the Big House, my huge white farmhouse with green shutters and a wraparound porch.
I got winterized—puffy parka, hat, boots, and gloves—and picked up a couple of plastic bins and a couple of boxes. I called for Blondie one more time, and she appeared at my side. Juggling everything, I opened the door, let her go out in front of me, and then closed it. Carefully, I felt my way with my boots across my back porch and down the five steps that would lead me to ground level.
Or was it eight steps?
I dropped to the ground like a cut Christmas tree. My packages soared through the air and a box of lights landed on my head. I did a split that any gymnast would envy, but I bet they’d never heard anything crack as loudly as a couple of my bones.
My teeth hit the snowy and icy sidewalk, and I spit out a tooth. Oh, sure. I’d just paid off Dr. Covey after a root canal. Shoot!
Blondie was barking, and I couldn’t calm her down. I couldn’t even calm myself down.
“Blondie, go get Ty. Go get Antoinette Chloe!”
She just stood there, barking. Then more barking.
“Get Ty, Blondie. Go get him!”
She stopped barking for a while, then tilted her head as if to say, Trixie, I’m not Lassie, for heaven’s sake!
“Yeah, I know. Just keep barking. Maybe someone will hear you.”
I tried to get up, but I felt like a manatee swimming through quicksand. Everything hurt, but mostly it was my right leg and ankle.
As I lay there trying to catch my breath, I noticed my big Santa Claus mug that I had been thinking of. It had fallen out of the box and was broken.
It was then that I began to cry.
I don’t like to cry, although I am a pro at it. I cry at sappy movies. When the channels start putting on their holiday movies, I am one big blubbering mountain of tissues.
But I was crying for myself then, because I saw my Christmas season melting away before my watery eyes.
Who was going to decorate?
Who was going to finish my shopping?
Who was going to cater the three dozen holiday parties (and counting) that I’d booked? Or the rehearsal dinners each evening for the holiday pageant at the Sandy Harbor Community Church? Most everyone was coming right from school or work during the four weeks before Christmas Eve, and they needed sustenance, so Pastor Fritz had hired me to provide food and drink.
And on top of all that, I was supposed to cater the community’s annual Christmas buffet after the play in the church’s community room.
I wasn’t going to be able to drive to make deliveries. I wasn’t going to be able to stand to cut, chop, and cook if all my bones were broken that I thought were broken.
I was getting pretty cold there, sprawled out in the snow and ice. My parka was usually jacket length, but right then it was midriff length, and I couldn’t pull it down no matter how hard I tried.
“That’s it. Keep barking, Blondie.”
“Blondie, can you spell SPCA?”
She ran off to jump like a gazelle in the snow.
Finally Antoinette Chloe appeared at the back door.
“Trixie? What are you doing down there?”
“Interesting.” She yawned. “Why was Blondie barking? She woke me up. Want any coffee? I think I’ll have a cup before I drive home.”
She knew something was wrong because no one, and I mean no one, ever left off the Chloe in her name if they valued their life.
And no one called me Beatrix for the same reason!
“What’s wrong?” she asked.
“I need help. I fell. And I heard bones snap, crackle, and pop.”
“Oh! I thought you were putting lights up around the sidewalk or stairs.”
“By lying on the ground?”
“I thought you were being . . . creative.”
“Not that creative.” My leg and ankle were throbbing. “Antoinette Chloe, call an ambulance for me. I’m hurt pretty bad.” I sniffed.
“I will! I will! I have to get my cell phone. I’ll be right back. Don’t go anywhere.”
“Don’t go anywhere?” I mumbled grumpily. “I thought I’d go Christmas caroling with the church choir, but I don’t have my sheet music with me.”
I waited, and waited, and finally ACB returned. “You’re in luck. The ambulance drivers are at the Silver Bullet on a dinner break. Ty is on his way, too.”
Under normal circumstances, I would’ve had to have been half-dead to want to travel in an ambulance, but these weren’t normal circumstances, and I felt half-dead.
I took deep breaths of the cold air and listened to ACB ramble on. She did help pull down my jacket, and I felt a little warmer.
Finally I heard Blondie barking and Ty’s deep voice in the distance. Then I saw red lights flashing. I didn’t know which made me feel better, but it wasn’t ACB’s talking about the upcoming auditions for the Christmas pageant at the Sandy Harbor Community Church.
“Trixie, why on earth do they have auditions? Everyone who wants to be in the pageant gets to be in it, for heaven’s sake. I think that being pageant director has gone to Liz Fellows’s head.”
“It’s her first time heading up a pageant,” I said, panting out each word. Where was my ride to the hospital? “She’s finding her way.”
“Margie Grace’s pageants were certainly entertaining. People are still talking about the shepherds tending a flock of salmon along with their sheep.”
I shivered. “But people didn’t get it when the shepherds did the tango with the sheep. It was a little over-the-top, even for Sandy Harbor.”
“Margie is hopping mad. She wanted to be asked again.”
“Trixie? What happened?” Ty finally arrived with Blondie, and I relaxed a little. “The ambulance guys are here.”
“I—I . . . f-fell . . . down the s-stairs.” My teeth chattered, and I tried to get them to stop. “My right leg and ankle hurt.”
“I c-can’t anyway.”
“Here come Ronnie and Ron. Linda Hermann is with them.”
After much ado, I was wheeled into the back of the ambulance and covered with heaps of blankets.
“We are going to drive you to Syracuse,” said Ronnie. “I checked, and they have the shortest wait time in their emergency room.”
“Okay, Ronnie. Let’s go. I have decorations to put up!”
• • •
After an hour ride to Syracuse, two hours in the ER, and another half hour getting used to being on crutches, I was heading home in Antoinette Chloe’s delivery van from her restaurant, Brown’s Four Corners. Her van couldn’t be missed. On the side, it sported a colorful salami with a fedora dancing with a chubby ham in jogging shoes and a tennis outfit. Nearby was an assortment of cheeses watching the dancing and clapping to music that only deli items could hear.
I climbed into the van, or rather, shoved my ample butt up and into the seat, with ACB helping me. I plopped into the seat and then tried to position my behemoth of a cast into a comfortable spot.
It didn’t help that I had a couple of broken ribs.
“It smells like garlic in here,” I said, taking a deep breath.
“Fingers just made a kielbasa run to Utica. Remember?”
“Oh. I forgot.”
ACB and I loved this one kind of kielbasa that we could find only at a certain grocery store in Utica. I had turned ACB on to it, but I’d been eating it for years. It was a Matkowski tradition at Christmas and Easter and was complete only with fresh horseradish that I made.
Fingers, who was missing a couple of them, was ACB’s cook at Brown’s Four Corners Restaurant in downtown Sandy Harbor. ACB was thinking of selling the place to Fingers and opening a year-round drive-in movie theater on land she owned adjacent to mine, but she hadn’t figured out the logistics of snow and blizzard conditions on the drive-in screen or on the drive-in goers, especially if they came in snowmobiles or Amish wagons.
That was my pal ACB. Her ideas were as wild as her couture.
I glanced down at her sandaled feet. I had given up nagging her about wearing flip-flops in the dead of winter. She had some kind of aversion to winter boots. She told me that she lined her flip-flops with faux fur to shut me up.
“Do you want to stop for anything in Syracuse?” she asked.
“I’d like to go home and get some sleep, to be honest. It’s been a long day.”
“While they were putting your cast on, I called Linda Blessler. She’s going to work for you until further notice.”
“Oh! That’s so nice of her, and it’s thoughtful of you to call her for me. Thanks, Antoinette Chloe. I’ll call her later and tell her that I might be recovering for a while. The doctor said that I did such a number on my ankle that I couldn’t have a soft boot. He had to put a cast on it.”
“Oh, and I know you have a lot of catering coming up. Of course I’ll help you.”
“What about your own restaurant?”
“Fingers will shout if he needs me, but he never does. I should just sell the place to him.”
“Does he want to buy it?”
“I think so, but we never discussed it seriously,” she said. “Maybe we should.”
“Yeah.” I yawned. “The doc gave me something for the pain. I think I’m falling asleep.”
“Go ahead, but first, tell me how to get to the highway.”
“Go straight. Down the hill. You should see signs.”
“I remember there used to be an Italian bread bakery around here, right?” she asked. “I love their bread.”
“Antoinette Chloe, it’s ten o’clock at night. It’s probably closed.” I pointed to the tiny store in an old shingle house by the highway entrance. “See? Closed.”
“Too bad. I’m in the mood for warm bread. We could have shared it on the ride home. I’m starving.”
As if on cue, my stomach growled.
Antoinette Chloe laughed. “I see a restaurant over there. Are you interested?”
My throbbing ankle yelled, Are you nuts? but my stomach screamed, Let’s go!
“It looks mostly like a bar. Do you think they have anything to go?” I asked, hopeful that I could stay in the van.
We both must have looked in the grimy window at the same time as ACB tried to park her big van in a space fit only for my cook Linda Blessler’s red Mini Cooper.
“It’s a cowboy bar,” ACB said.
The mechanical bull in the window with a cowboy type riding it and ladies in Daisy Dukes cheering for him was our first clue.
“You stay here, and I’ll see if they have sandwiches to go,” she said, reading my mind.
“Thanks, Antoinette Chloe.”
“Yee-haw!” was her response.
I was going to point out that her dancing-salami-and-ham van was only half-parked, but she was already opening the door to the Ride ’Em Cowboy Saloon.
That was our other clue that this was a cowboy bar.
She came back to the car and opened the door. “Oops . . . Trixie, do you have any money?”
I went to reach for my purse but came up with a handful of air. “Oh, no. I don’t.” It was the second time I’d reached for my purse that wasn’t there. The first was to hand the ER intake worker my insurance card. Luckily they already had my insurance information from my recent late-in-life tonsillectomy.
“Don’t worry, Trixie. I’ll get us some takeout.” She slammed the door.
Yikes. We were headed for jail as sure as the snow was falling outside.
The heat was on full blast in the big, empty van, but I still shivered. I closed my eyes for just a moment, and when I opened them, I saw my friend Antoinette Chloe Brown riding the mechanical bull in the window.
I could hear her yee-haws and laughter over the heat blasting and over the highway noise. A couple of street people who were camping next to the highway in boxes and crates came to investigate.
“Someone being stabbed?” I heard one ask the other.
“I think it’s that lady in the muumuu riding the bull. She’s certainly enjoying herself.”
My friend’s rhinestone flip-flops caught the glint of the overhead lights surrounding the bull.
I had to get her out of there, or we’d never get home.
I rolled down my window and gave the horn a little tap.
“Excuse me, sir.” One of the men pointed to himself, and I nodded. He came over to my side of the van. “I just came from the hospital. I have a cast, and it’s hard to walk. Would you mind going in there and telling my friend”—I pointed to ACB in the window—“to come to the van, please?”
“My apologies, but I’m banned from going in there.”
“What about your friend?”
He looked at the man standing not four inches from the window, looking at ACB. “He is also not welcome.”
“Would you pound on the window, then, and yell to her that Trixie wants her?”
They pounded on the window, got ACB’s attention, and pointed to me sitting in the car. Reluctantly, she waved to me, and slid down from the bull as her muumuu slid up.
I could hear the crowd hoot and holler and Antoinette Chloe grinned and waved.
Whatever I had been given in the hospital for pain and nausea was beginning to wear off. My body ached, my head was throbbing, and my leg felt as if I were dragging an anvil. I was hungry enough to search the pockets of my jacket for stray, lint-covered Tic Tacs.
I found one. It was delicious.
Again, I was feeling sorry for myself. But at least I wasn’t living in a box by the highway in the middle of winter like my two new friends, who were now staring at a platinum blond woman with a red sequined blouse and shorty shorts now riding the bull.
I looked up at the hospital that I’d just left. It was sprawled on top of a hill overlooking Syracuse and glowing like a lighthouse in the crisp, dark night. I was much luckier than most of the people in that hospital, too.
I ached all over, but a lot of people in the hospital wouldn’t be coming home for Christmas. I vowed not to whine or complain no matter how I felt.
Making a mental note to contribute to the hospital as my Christmas gift, I beeped the horn to my two street guys. My friend came over.
“Um . . . I don’t know your name.”
“I’m Jud and this is Dan.”
“This is all the money I have right now.” Pulling out all the change from the ashtray, I handed Jud around sixty-two cents. “Jud, if you and Dan ever get to Sandy Harbor, stop at the Silver Bullet and get yourself a nice meal on me. Okay?”
“We sure will.” He smiled, and I wished I could get him some dental work.
“Merry Christmas, Jud.”
“Merry Christmas, Trixie.”
Finally ACB shuffled out of the bar carrying several white bags. She hesitated when she saw Jud and Dan.
Rolling down the window, I shouted, “They’re okay.”
She plodded to the car. Dan pulled off the navy fisherman’s cap from his head and clutched it to his breast.
“You are my kind of woman,” Dan said. “May I have the pleasure of knowing your name?”
“Antoinette Chloe,” Dan repeated. “It rolls off the tongue like a song . . . or rather a poem by Lord Byron.” He cleared his throat. “‘She walks in Beauty, like the night / Of cloudless climes and starry skies; And all that’s best of dark and bright / Meet in her aspect and her eyes. . . .’”
“Climes?” ACB’s eyes grew wide. “Don’t you swear at me, mister.”
Jud held up his hands. “It means weather. Climates,” he said. “Dan and I were both professors of literature until the school we taught at was downsized. Now we are writing a book about living with the homeless.”
“That’s got to be sad,” I said.
He looked over his shoulder to the mess of boxes and crates. “It’ll be even sadder as Christmas gets closer.”
My heart sank. “I wish I had my pocketbook, but I’ll be back as soon as I can.”
Antoinette Chloe was busy searching in her cleavage purse. That’s what I called the depository in her cleavage, which held just . . . everything. She pulled out a roll of money.
I looked at her in astonishment.
“I won it. Over two hundred bucks. Apparently no one thought a full-figured woman in a muumuu and flip-flops could ride Cowabunga—that’s what they call the electric bull.”
She handed the money to Dan. “I am counting on you to make sure that they get whatever they need for this clime—blankets, soup, coffee . . .”
“You have my word, my lovely Antoinette Chloe.” Dan kissed the back of her hand, and she giggled like a fifth grader.
Jud nodded like a bobblehead. “Darling ladies, the charitable goodness you promulgate is beyond reproach.”
“Who said that?” ACB asked. “Shakespeare?”
“Is he famous?”
“Not yet. He’s me. I am Judson Volonade.”
We waved good-bye to the professors and headed north to Sandy Harbor.
I felt bad for dragging ACB out of the saloon. She was having fun, but I was cranky from pain.
“So, Antoinette Chloe, do you think that Jud and Dan are legitimate?” I asked, taking a bite of a chicken tender. It was still half-frozen, but I could eat around the frozen part.
She shrugged. “I’d like to think so.”
“I just hope they are really professors doing research and that we didn’t just give them a drinking binge that will last until Christmas,” I said.
“Oh, I’m being negative, and I just vowed to stop whining and not to feel sorry for myself.”
“Trixie, you’ll still have a great Christmas, and we’ll all help you fill your orders and deliver them.”
Tears stung my eyes. I knew they’d help, but I was convinced my Christmas season wasn’t going to be the same that year.
Though maybe, just maybe, it would be even better!
Ty Brisco met us in the parking lot in front of the Big House.
I bought the whole “point” from my aunt Stella when she retired. The point included the Silver Bullet Diner, twelve housekeeping cottages, which now total eleven (but that’s another story), and the Big House, all on the sandy shore of Lake Ontario.
Ty was a real cowboy, and he used to be a Texas Ranger until he decided that he wanted to work in a smaller department. Ty had moved there about six months before I did because of fond memories of fishing there when he was a kid and his father rented one of the cottages.
He’d thought he could pace himself in sleepy Sandy Harbor, but he’d been busier than he ever expected with a variety of crimes—mostly petty stuff such as directing traffic during the plethora of parades that Sandy Harbor loved, and some serious stuff during tourist season.
Ty opened the door of ACB’s van and held out his hand to help me out.
“Ty, you would have loved the Ride ’Em Cowboy Saloon,” Antoinette Chloe said as she leaned over me. A plastic miniature turkey glued onto lime green netting on her fascinator in honor of the holiday fell onto my lap. “I rode an electric bull there named Cowabunga.”
I handed her the plastic turkey, and she dropped it into her cleavage purse.
“Um, I gave up riding bulls—electric or otherwise—a long time ago,” he said.
I made a move to get out of the van, but suddenly became queasy from the crazy way ACB drove and the half-frozen, greasy chicken tenders from the Ride ’Em Cowboy Saloon.
Ty had better duck at a moment’s notice!
“Let me help you, Trixie.”
“I’m not feeling all that great.”
“I know. Antoinette Chloe called me from the ER. So, your leg and ankle are a mess, huh?”
I shifted on my butt and pivoted in the front seat to get out of the van. Some French fries slid from somewhere and dropped onto the snow.
“Yeah. I’m a mess. And I have a couple of broken ribs.” I tried not to complain, but I throbbed in places that I hadn’t known I had. “And I’m missing a cap on my front tooth.”
I put my hand in his and noticed immediately how warm and strong his grip was. Nice.
Moving my casted leg to the running board of the van, I felt the snow seep through the sock that was keeping my toes semiwarm. When the wind gusted, the right side of my jeans, which the medical personnel had cut for the cast, and which were barely hanging on by a thread near my crotch, flapped in the breeze.
Not one of my best moments.
“I’ve got you.”
He had both arms around me and was about to lift me onto the ground. Was he kidding? Now, Ty was a hunk, more than six feet tall, and studly, but he wasn’t immune to hernias.
“Whoa, cowboy! I don’t want to visit you in the hospital. I can do it. Just let me get my bearings.”
Antoinette Chloe laughed. “Get out backward. That’s what I sometimes do. Or maybe we can get you a plastic milk crate as a step.”
I could just see myself balancing on that.
As my jeans billowed out, I slowly turned around, putting my good, booted foot on the ground first.
“Wait! I have a plastic bag to put over your sock,” ACB said, going around to the driver’s side, pulling out our takeout garbage from a plastic bag, and tossing the trash in the back of the van.
She hurried to my side, her flip-flops flopping.
With one foot on the ground and the other still on the running board, she scrunched up the plastic bag, lifted my foot, and pulled the bag on. Then she tied the handles around my cast.
“Perfect,” she said.
The scent of onions from ACB’s onion rings order wafted up from the bag.
“Thanks, Antoinette Chloe,” I replied. “Great idea.” And it was.
“Need help getting that leg down from the van?” Ty asked.
“I can do it.” I just didn’t want to fall.
Slowly I got my foot onto the ground. With Ty’s help, I turned around and hobbled a couple of steps away from the van. It was then I noticed that the plastic bag on my foot was as slippery as a greased banana.
As I floundered, Ty gripped my arm.
He was like that. As a friend, not only did he stop me from falling, but he steadied me.
ACB was on my other side. She wasn’t everyone’s cup of hot chocolate, but she was the whipped cream of my life.
Just ahead was the long sidewalk that led to the Big House. Someone, probably either Max or Clyde, had shoveled and sanded the sidewalk. Just after that, the front stairs loomed ahead.
Remembering my fall, I sighed. Suddenly my ribs hurt even more when I breathed and my ankle throbbed to the tune of “Jingle Bells.”
I just had to keep my mind occupied and not think of my fall.
Which reminded me . . . “You know, guys, I have crutches in the van somewhere. I should be getting used to them.”
“I’ll get ’em!” ACB said, dropping my arm.
“Uh . . . okay.” Off she went, and I debated whether Ty could handle all of me.
I felt his arm go around my waist and my parka, then compress. The couple of times that he’d had his arm around me, I was always wearing a puffy coat.
What a waste.
“How’re you doing, Trixie?”
“Okay. But this sidewalk seems endless, and the plastic bag is really slippery. I don’t want to fall again.”
“Don’t worry. I’ve got you.”
It was time for the stairs, and, holding onto the icy railing, I lifted my good foot. Then the plastic-bagged foot.
Ty was giving my butt a boost, adding extra incentive for me to take my time and relish the experience.
The stairs were easy, but when I opened the door, Blondie came running and dashed between us.
Ty chuckled. “Looks like Blondie needs to use the snow. I should have let her out, but while you were at the hospital I got a call and had to direct traffic in town.”
Two more steps brought me inside, and I slid my coat off, then the bag and my wet sock, and tried to put my jeans together.
I needed duct tape, but that was in my kitchen drawer.
Sinking into a recliner, I put an afghan over my legs and yanked the handle back.
“What happened in town that you had to direct traffic?” I asked.
“Sylvia Thistle got her husband’s Silverado stuck in a snowbank again. She was plowing out their driveway, and a deer jumped across her path. She yanked the wheel and landed across Route 3, and the traffic couldn’t get around her. I detoured the traffic down Center Street until Bob Cameron pulled her out with his heavy-duty tow truck.”
“Sylvia is my ideal. She plows. She runs a day-care center. She volunteers at the Red Cross. She can fix anything and do just about anything.”
“So can you, Trixie. You’ve proven that time after time.”
“Thanks, Ty. That’s nice of you to say.”
That was high praise indeed from Ty. I found myself in a pink glow for a while. Then Antoinette Chloe walked in with my crutches, and then I remembered all the things on my to-do list—the same to-do list on the end table next to me.
Maybe Sylvia could do everything, but I wasn’t sure I was up to the challenge in my condition. How would I get everything done?
Picking up my list, I leafed through it and found the corresponding calendar that ran for the rest of November and through the first two weeks of the New Year.
Catering the pageant rehearsals was an everyday thing. The Sandy Harbor Community Church was paying me for the food, but my time would be my little contribution to the community.
The pageant was going to be on Christmas Eve. After that, I would be catering a sit-down dinner for the performers, their guests, and whoever bought a ticket for the cost of ten dollars per family, or five bucks per person. A festive, spirited crowd always attended, and as the evening progressed, the children’s excitement increased as the impending visit from Santa grew nearer.
I had office Christmas and New Year’s parties scattered across the calendar that I was supposed to cater, and two wedding receptions—one large, in the basement of the Catholic church, St. Luke’s of the Lakes. Then I’d scheduled one small but elegant bridal shower at Larry and Larissa McDowney’s house for their daughter, Louise.
Oh my! Louise’s bridal shower was Saturday! Two days away.
Then there was my shift at my diner. I hoped that Linda Blessler would be able to work the kitchen for me until this cast came off. I still planned on checking on everything and keeping up with the ordering of food and supplies.
Yikes—I needed help. I couldn’t depend on Ty for everything; he had his own job to do. And my pal Antoinette Chloe would do everything she could, but she was only one person, and she had her own restaurant to tend to.
I wasn’t finished shopping. I wanted to decorate. I wanted to sing in the choir at St. Luke’s. I—I . . .
Ty must have heard my groan. “Would you like me to make you a cup of something warm?”
“I’ll do it,” ACB volunteered. “I’ll make us a pot of coffee—fully caffeinated. You go over Trixie’s list with her, and see what she needs us to do.”
“Make a list for me, Trixie. Put on it whatever you’d like me to do to help you out,” ACB said. “My brain turns to mush this time of night.”
Thanksgiving Day was almost over, and I closed my eyes and said a silent prayer for being lucky enough to have such great friends.
“Trixie, you must be exhausted,” Ty said. “It’s been a long day for you. First you cooked and served turkey and fixings for half of Sandy Harbor. Then there was the whole hospital thing and the trip home. I know how Miss Muumuu drives—like the road is a giant pinball machine.”
“You forgot the Ride ’Em Cowboy Saloon and waiting for her to ride Cowabunga.”
“I’ll bet that was an experience.”
I grinned. “You have no idea.”
There was barking at the front door, and Ty got up to let Blondie back in. She waited until Ty sat down, then she settled at his feet.
“So, Trixie, what do you have scheduled in the near future?” he asked, absentmindedly petting our dog.
“Tomorrow, I have to start catering the practices for the Christmas play at the Community Church. Pastor Fritz Robinson hired me to make sure that everyone is fed, since they will be coming from school and work. Auditions are tomorrow, and I planned a buffet with make-your-own sandwiches. I already bought a couple of hams to slice. I planned on slicing the ham during auditions since the big slicer at the Silver Bullet is out for repairs.” I checked my list. “And I bought salami, chicken salad, and bologna. Kids like bologna. I planned on making potato and macaroni salad during my shift tonight at the Silver Bullet in between orders. And I was going to make a chef salad and put out an assortment of cheeses and relishes. That ought to do it.” I flipped over the page. “Juanita is making a white sheet cake and decorating it in red and green. I told her to write ‘Sandy Harbor Christmas Pageant Auditions’ on it. She should have made it today during her shift at the diner, so that’s all set.”
“What needs to be made, Trixie?” Antoinette Chloe said, returning with a tray. There were three mugs of coffee depicting Pilgrims planting corn in a ditch along with my smiling Pilgrim creamer and sugar bowl.
Aunt Stella had left me twenty-four place settings of the smiling and working Pilgrims, complete with extra pieces.
I’d planned on putting it away that night and bringing out my poinsettia-and-holly Christmas set.
She passed out the mugs and we took turns with the smiling Pilgrims. “I need the potato and mac salads made. I can make the chef salad tomorrow. I can sit down while I do that. And I need everything loaded into my catering van.”
With some of the profits from the diner and cottages, I’d purchased a catering van with lots of shelves and a refrigerated area on the left side. On the right side was a heated area to keep things warm. It all ran magically with a special kind of fan.
The advertising on the side was not as flashy as Antoinette Chloe’s dancing salami and whatnot. I just simply had SILVER BULLET DINER CATERING, ROUTE 3, SANDY HARBOR, NEW YORK, with my phone number. And there was a line drawing of my diner.
Well, the diner would be mine after several more balloon payments to Aunt Stella or my hundredth birthday, whichever came first.
My mind was wandering. Must be the painkillers from the hospital.
ACB raised an index finger. “Trixie, I can make the salads. Easy peasy.”
“And I can load and deliver everything to the church and help set up,” Ty added. “All you or Antoinette Chloe have to do is aim me toward the buffet table and direct me where to place things.”
“And with a chair, there are things that I can do,” I said, thinking of renting a motorized scooter to help me get around.
“You need to rest, and you need to keep your feet up. You should make friends with that recliner and watch the snow fall out your windows. Read a book. Make lists. Check them twice.”
“Find out who’s naughty or nice,” Ty added.
They both burst into “Santa Claus Is Coming to Town,” or at least I think it was. I laughed until my broken ribs hurt and I gasped for air. “Stop! You have to stop!”
Uncle Porky’s grandfather clock chimed. One o’clock in the morning.
“Let’s call this a day—or a morning,” Ty said, standing. “Do you need help getting upstairs?”
I couldn’t stand the thought of hoisting myself up a flight of stairs right then. “I’m fine right here for the night. Thanks for everything, Ty.”
Ty petted Blondie, who was looking up at him adoringly. “See you tomorrow, Trixie. What time shall we reconnoiter?”
Nothing like cop talk. It was like Dinerese, the special language between my waitresses and the chef on duty. Why say Two eggs over easy on toast with sausage patties when you can say Two dead eyes on a raft with pig?
“I’d like to be unloading at the kitchen in the community room by three o’clock, and ready with the buffet by five o’clock. Auditions start at four o’clock for the kids, and five o’clock for the adults. Liz Fellows gets wacky when her schedule is disrupted. I’ll keep the buffet up until six.”
ACB grunted. “But not everyone is out of work by five. And then they have to drive to the Community Church’s Community Center. Liz must know that.”
I chuckled as I remembered my discussion with Liz. “She said that a lot of people have the day after Thanksgiving off and that anyone who is serious about the pageant should take the day off anyway and practice for the part they are trying out for.”
Antoinette Chloe rolled her eyes. “At least Margie Grace knew how to be more accommodating to the people. She directed over twelve Christmas pageants until she was unceremoniously dumped. At least Margie was considerate and realistic.”
Ty raised an eyebrow. “Realistic? At the Miss Salmon Contest last fall, she had fishermen doing something weird with their salmon.”
ACB shook her head. “The fishermen were catching the salmon as the salmon were spawning.”
I had to jump into this conversation. “It looked like the fishermen and the salmon were spawning together, Antoinette Chloe. Parents covered their children’s eyes. Many citizens of Sandy Harbor were appalled.”
“Margie is just . . . artistic. She worked on Broadway, you know.”
I laughed. “She passed out playbills and seated people at the Uris Theatre back in 1979.”
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Will there be anymore. I have enjoyed this series.
I sat all by myself reading and for the first time ever, laughed out loud. Love the characters and since I'm from central NY I know the setting is totally authentic. Great read.
I really enjoyed this funny cozy. There were things that were a bit far-fetched but it was fun. I really enjoyed the Christmas lights and decorations and the puns throughout. I did have the mystery solved but that was okay. I have not read other books in the series and I may well do that someday, but I had picked this one up because of the Christmas theme. I love Christmas stories!
IT’S A WONDERFUL KNIFE serves up a heaping helping of mystery with a side of fun! I really adore this series. The characters, the setting, everything about it appeals to me. Protagonist, Trixie Matkowski isn’t perfect, but she’s real. She’s good and kind, but also plucky and feisty. I always have a great time when I visit with her and the townsfolk of Sandy Harbor. Indeed, author Christine Wenger makes me feel a part of the Comfort Food Mysteries when I read them. The author’s creativity leads the reader through an amazing mystery, filled with twists and turns. She had me second guessing myself more than once all the way to the action abundant reveal. IT’S A WONDERFUL KNIFE, and the other four titles in the comfort Food Mysteries are comfort reads that will leave you hungry for more! Thirteen delicious recipes, and an excerpt from DO OR DINER, the first book in this series, can all be found at the back of the book.