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WENN Home for the Holidays...

By Emma Redmer

Rated: G

Disclaimer is on the Introduction page.

December 23rd, 1942

Scott sighed as he hung the last wreath on the door of his office. Gertie was finishing the decorating in the hallway and Jeff and the inseparable Privates Chris Tracer and Josh Manley were doing the green room. Christmas wasn't going to be perfect, not with a war on and so many people dead or missing, but it was going to be pretty darn close. He stood across the hall and admired his work.

Hilary rushed out of Studio A and into the ladies' bathroom. Mackie made a face as he stomped into the hall. "That's the third time Hilary's done that today," he grumbled. "I wish she wouldn't leave me in the middle of 'A Second Chance at Love'! Mr. Foley keeps giving me looks every time I try to do a love scene with Eugenia." The short, balding actor looked around. "Where's Betty? I need to talk to her about this year's 'Tell It to Santa' program. I want to make sure I know who's playing who. Last year we had Mr. Foley play Santa and he talked so much that he never gave the kids a chance to tell him what they wanted!"

"She went to the Isabella Street Orphanage. The co-head is an old friend of hers from the Barbican Hotel for Women and she wants to see what she can do about getting the kids on some of our Christmas Eve programming," Scott explained.

Mackie smiled. He was a bachelor, but he did have a small soft spot for kids, as long as they weren't his own. "This was the best idea you two ever had. Those kids deserve something nice for Christmas."

"Actually, it was Broomes Brothers' idea," Scott admitted. "They wanted to do a half-hour kids' version of their hour-long Christmas Eve variety special. Betty's best friend from the Barbican married the head of the orphanage down the street and she thought that she could get her to loan us some of their orphans for the show." Hilary went back into Studio A, but she looked a little green around the gills. Mackie shrugged and went to ask her what was going on.

Three women entered WENN as Mackie headed for the studio. The first was Betty, who looked extremely upset. The second was a short, pretty brunette whose bulging stomach rather awkwardly revealed her pregnancy. The third was a crabbed, wrinkled, witch-like old woman whose clothing was about three sizes too big. The three women were arguing loud enough for the entire building, not to mention all of Isabella Street, to hear.

The old woman slammed her fist down on Gertie's desk. "I will not allow the children's minds to be subverted by the garbage they play on that ridiculous machine!" she exclaimed.

The small brunette sighed. She was obviously used to this complaint. "Mrs. Kracauer, please listen to reason! Think of the children! They would love to appear on the radio! It would be the chance of a lifetime for them."

"I am thinking about the children! Trust me, this is for those brats' own good. They are filthy little devils with filthy little minds! They have to be told what's good for them! Now, come along, Mary. Let's get out of this house of horror and go and pick up those little monsters from school. I hope they've been teaching them important subjects like how to defeat Hitler instead of concentrating on nonsense and foolish games." The crabby old lady stormed out. Mary looked like she was on the verge of crying. Betty offered the young woman her handkerchief. She accepted it gratefully.

"You see how it is, Betty. The city sent Mrs. Kracauer to help me with the little ones when my Joey enlisted last summer, but she's such a spiteful old biddy! She hates the children and won't let them do anything. They aren't allowed to listen to the radio or go to the movies or play games in Mrs. Kracauer's presence because she believes that they've been spoiled and they need to learn about hard work, not what she deems foolishness. The city won't send anyone else and I'm at my wit's end," sobbed Mary. She leaned into Betty and cried on her shoulder. Scott joined them at that point.

The two women separated and Betty introduced her husband. "Oh, Mary, this is Scott Sherwood, the fellow I married last summer?"

Mary sniffled and shook Scott's hand. "I have so wanted to meet you! Betty used to talk about you quite often during our days as single working girls at the Barbican. I loved your Simmons the Gardener, Mr. Sherwood. I rather miss him."

Scott grinned. "There are days when I miss him too, Mary." He let the two women in the office. "Now, what is all this about the kids and someone named Mrs. Kracauer? I could have sworn I saw the Wicked Witch of the West about five minutes ago."

Mary explained her problem to Scott, finishing with "...and I don't know what to do. Mrs. Kracauer refuses to allow the children to be on the radio. Actually," she lowered her voice, as if the dreaded co-head of the Isabella Street orphanage was listening, "she won't let them have Christmas at all. She regards Christmas as a waste of time. Her idea of celebrating Christmas is adding a half a potato to their brown flour soup."

"At least she's not putting coal in their stockings," Scott pointed out with a smile.

"That's just the trouble!" wailed Mary, who broke into sobs again. "They don't have stockings! They have nothing! No tree, no stockings, no decorations, and no presents! They all say that they understand, but I can see it in their faces. They want sleigh bells and jingle bells and Santa Claus and toys!" She blew her nose. "Joe and I were always able to provide a little something for the children, although the orphanage has always had financial troubles." Mary smiled dreamily. "Joe loves kids. He's so good with them. He used to take some of the older ones to the movies every Saturday afternoon and read to the smaller ones. We gathered around the radio every night at six to listen to the 'Six O'Clock Circus' and 'Amazon Andy'. They were the kids' favorite shows, and Joey's too." She looked up with a wan smile on her pink face. "Last year, Joey took some of the kids out to find the perfect Christmas tree. He went out to the woods outside of Pittsburgh and must have brought home five trees before he found one that he liked that wasn't shedding or full of holes. He bought it from the lot down the street. The kids all made fun of him, but he was proud of that tree."

Betty and Scott looked on sympathetically. Scott had that look on his face that meant that another Sherwood scheme was evolving in his head. He exchanged an equally excited look with Betty.

"Betty, are you thinking what I'm thinking?"

"Yes, I believe for once, I am." She turned to Mary, who was staring at the two with a baffled expression on her face. "Mary, we have this show called 'Tell It to Santa'..."


December 24th, 1942

"No, Betty, and that's final!"

"Scott Sherwood, quit acting like a five-year-old! We have enough of them to handle tonight without having to handle you, too!" Betty shouted through the men's bathroom door. She gave her watch a quick look. "If you don't come out of there in five seconds, I'll...go in after you! 'Tell It to Santa' begins in fifteen minutes!"

"Oh, all right," Scott grumbled. He stepped out of the bathroom. He wore a white tunic with white cardboard wings and a gold-painted wire halo. He also had his arms crossed and the expression of a sullen little boy on his face. "There, now, are you happy? You saw me."

Betty sighed and straightened his costume. "Scott, I know how you feel about being an angel for the show, but with Maple overseas and Eugenia playing Mrs. Claus, we have no one left who can play the organ."

"What about Gertie?"

"'Good-Bye Ladies' doesn't qualify as a Christmas song."

"Betty!" shouted Hilary Booth, who came hurrying down the hall. "You can't seriously want me to wear..." Hilary noticed Scott and burst out laughing.

Scott shot her a Look. "What's so funny?"

"Oh, I just never thought of you as an angel, Scott. If anything, you strike me as the direct opposite of one," chortled Hilary. She composed herself long enough to add, "Betty, do I have to dress like a reject from the Pittsburgh Ballet?"

It was Scott's turn to chuckle. Hilary wore a long, cotton candy pink tutu with matching ballet slippers, white tights, a tiara, a wand, and shimmering wings. Scott tried to hide his smile, but he just laughed harder. "Not a word out of you, Scott Wormwood, or I'll make sure that everyone in Pittsburgh knows that you're dressed like a small child in a school Christmas pageant!" Scott ran into Studio A before Hilary could get her hands on him.

Betty sighed again. "Hilary, we went through this last Christmas Eve. You said that you wanted to play a Christmas character with more glamour than Mrs. Claus, so we decided you have you and Jeff play the Nutcracker and the Sugar Plum Fairy." Hilary nodded and sat down. Betty joined her.

"Hilary, what's wrong? You haven't been yourself lately," Betty asked.

"I'm surprised that's not a cause for celebration," Hilary said wryly. "Betty, I went to the hospital today during my lunch break and I have something to tell Jeff..."

Giselle entered at that moment. She held a beautiful and odd brass candelabra of a type Betty had never before seen. "Bonjour, Betty et Hilary! Happy holidays!" she greeted them. She, too, was draped in her Christmas costume, but it was a little simpler than Hilary's outfit. She wore a frilly nightgown, white ballet slippers and tights, and a wreath of holly. Betty followed her into the Green Room. Giselle plunked the candelabra in the middle of the table and lighted the center candle. She sighed contentedly.

Hilary shrugged. "I have to be on the air. Jeff and I are doing our Christmas Eve edition of 'The Hands of Time' and the commercials don't last forever." She left quickly.

Betty smiled and put her hand on the girl's shoulder. "That's a lovely candelabra, Giselle."

"Ooh la la! It is not just any old candelabra," Giselle explained breathlessly, "it is a menorah. We have three at our apartment and Maman said that I could bring this one here. I thought we should have some Hanukah decorations, too. It reminds me of home." Giselle gazed sadly into the candle's fire. "I miss Marseilles. Mama always made potato latkahs and invited all of her and Papa's friends for dinner and the opening of Hanukah gifts. We would play with the dreidel after dinner. Papa won the most," she added in a confidential tone, "but I happen to know that he cheated most of the time."

"You're Jewish?" asked Betty in surprise.

"Oui," Giselle admitted. "That was one of the reasons that Maman and I had to leave France. Hitler does not like Jews. Papa is still in France, working with one of the underground resistance groups." She sniffled. "I'm so worried about him. He is in terrible danger there."

The patter of little feet and the sound of twenty children interrupted Betty and Giselle's discussion. Three teenagers, two girls and a boy, all of them in their Sunday best, herded a crowd of younger children into the room. Betty frowned.

"Where's Mary?" she asked, although she had the suspicion that she already knew the answer.

The kids all began to talk at once, but one of the girls shushed them. "Mary went into labor early this morning," the girl explained. "Mrs. Kracauer went with her to the hospital. She left the big kids in charge and told us to watch the little guys and do our chores." The girl smiled. "We didn't feel like doing chores."

"Yeah," one of the younger kids chimed in, "Mrs. Mary said that Santa Claus is here and that he had lots of presents for all of us!" All of the kids chattered at once again. Betty was the one who shushed them this time. She grinned and gathered the little children around her.

"Do you know what, kids? Mrs. Mary was right. Santa Claus is here, tonight, in Pittsburgh! He and his wife came down here just to see all of you, because they heard that you weren't going to be having a very nice Christmas and they thought that you all deserved better." She introduced herself. "I'm Mrs. Betty Sherwood. I usually write the shows on WENN, but tonight, I'm being one of Santa's elves." She indicated Giselle. "That's Marie, the girl who owned the Nutcracker."

As if on cue, Jeff stormed into the green room. He looked rather handsome in his toy-soldier-style uniform and bright makeup. He would have looked even more handsome if he was in a happier mood. "Betty, Hilary is being absolutely impossible! She..."

Betty shook her head wildly and said to the children, "And this is the Nutcracker himself. He came all the way from the North Pole with Santa and the Sugar Plum Fairy to perform his story for us tonight." Jeff smiled sheepishly. Mr. Eldridge joined them in the very crowded room.

"They're ready to line up the children now, Betty," he said. Betty groaned. His halo was sliding off of his head and his tunic was on backwards.


Betty was talking with some of the older kids and the WACs and privates that they had rounded up to help them with the Christmas broadcasts. They were just finishing "Tell It to Santa". She and the kids joined Lester in the control booth for a moment. Eugenia handed each child who came from Santa's lap a small, inexpensive present, such as a top or a bag of jacks. Mackie had one little blonde-haired boy in a nice red sweater on his lap.

"Ho, ho, ho! What's your name, young man?"

"I'm Keefe Jackman, Santa."

"And how old are you, Keefe?"

"I just turned six last month. I'll be seven next November!"

"And what do you want for Christmas, Keefe?"

"Oh, boy! I want a nice new truck to dig in the sand with, and a new basketball, and..."

Betty smiled. This was the first time in two years that the "Tell It to Santa" program came off without a hitch. Mackie, Eugenia, Josh Manley, Chris Tracer, Mr. Eldridge, and Red Cross Nurse Michelle Phillips were going to perform in an hour-long Christmas variety show for the W.E.N.N while Hilary, Jeff, and Giselle did 'The Nutcracker' and she, Scott, and the kids did the children's Broomes Brothers show. Betty gave the little children simple carols to sing, such as "Deck the Halls" and "Away in the Manger", and some Christmas jokes. She wrote two short skits about the holiday season for the teenagers to perform.

Josh Manley and Chris Tracer rushed into the control room. They both spoke quickly and at the same time. Betty took them out into the hallway and made them start over again. "I couldn't understand a word either of you said!"

"There's this lady out there," Chris squeaked. "She looked mighty mad. She was a real ugly dame. Mean, too. I'm surprised she didn't have no flock of ol' winged monkeys with her."

"She said that she wanted to meet whomever was in charge," added Josh. "I directed her to the office."

Betty sighed. She knew things were going too well. She walked into the office and greeted Mrs. Kracauer, who jumped up at Betty and waved her knobby cane as if it were a broomstick. She looked very much like a witch. All she needed was the pointed hat.

"How dare you tell Mary to bring those brats to this house of rubbish and subversion! I will not allow children whose minds have already been corrupted by the filth you people spit out day after day appear within a five mile radius of this...this place!" she spat.

"Does that mean we have to go back to the orphanage?" asked a tiny, sad voice. Giselle stood with three of the smaller children in the doorway. The little girl who had just spoken clung to Giselle's nightgown. "I don't wanna go back there. It's not fun there anymore."

"Yeah," added a boy, "everyone is really swell here! They have a menorah and we ate candy and talked about Hanukah and no one yelled at us or told us that we were bad or stupid."

Giselle looked angry. "These children are Jewish," she explained. "They didn't have anything to do while the others were with Santa, so I sat with them and we talked about Hanukah and we lit the first candle on the menorah."

Another, larger, winged silhouette joined Giselle's. "I just called the hospital," Scott said. "I had to do some fancy footwork to get them to release information to a non-family member, but, apparently, Mary Carpenter just had her baby. It was a boy, Joseph Nicholas Carpenter." Mr. Eldridge also appeared at the doorway.

Mrs. Kracauer stood up and reached for the little girl who held Giselle's skirt as if for dear life. "Come along, Erin. We'll go get the others and go back to the orphanage this instant! And there will be no potato in your Brown Flour Soup for any of you tomorrow! You'll clean and work, like any other decent brat! I knew Mary spoiled all of you with her silly talk of Christmas radio shows. What do any of you know anyway? You're just stupid kids! Now, kids in my time had respect." She grabbed Erin's arm, but Scott pushed it away.

"I think you should leave," he said to the elderly woman in his most menacing voice. Mr. Eldridge shook his head fiercely.

"Madame," he said to the astonished Mrs. Kracauer, "I am at least as old as you are, maybe older. I have raised three children without the aid of my wife. And, in those years of watching my three children grow, I have come to this conclusion. There is no such thing as a stupid child. No one is stupid who is still learning. We all learn something every day."

Mrs. Kracauer merely stood. "Someone must be with Mary and her brat," she grumbled. "I suppose it will have to be me. None of these vile little creatures have an ounce of sense in their heads." She filed through the ranks of hostile youths and WENN employees and out the door that Gertie held for her.

The delighted children let out a collective whoop of joy. "You were really brave," Erin exclaimed. "Mrs. Kracauer is so mean!"

"Well, she won't bother you any more tonight," Mr. Eldridge told them proudly.

Scott gazed at his watch. "Oh, would you look at the time? Come on, Betty, we have to get our newest stars on the air!" He, Betty, Mr. Eldridge, and Giselle led the children to Studio A.

Scott stopped Betty under the mistletoe on the way to the studio for a long, lingering kiss. "Merry Christmas, Mrs. Sherwood," he grinned.

"I love you too, Mr. Sherwood."

The mistletoe wasn't vacant for long. Ten minutes later, two shadowy forms stood kissing passionately.

"You know, I'm glad I married you again. Remind me to make sure it's permanent this time."

"Jeffery, I went to the doctor today and there's something I have to tell you."

"Later, Hilary darling, I'm busy."

He caressed her neck just as Hilary said, "Jeffrey, I'm pregnant."

"You're WHAT?!"

She grabbed him by the neck and nearly knocked him to the floor with her kiss. "Merry Christmas, Pumpkin!"

This war won't last forever...

How long will the peace in Pittsburgh last? When will Hilary have her baby, and will she and everyone else at WENN survive her pregnancy?

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