Friday, November 17, 2023

Holiday Capers by Nancy L. Eady

 In the crime fiction world, a “caper” is a story on the light-hearted end of the spectrum where the criminal is the protagonist and pulls off some spectacular hoax or heist. I am, alas, not gifted in writing short fiction, but if I was, a caper short story would be a lot of fun. However, I do enjoy sharing personal anecdotes, and having been the victim of two capers, thought I would share them with you.  I’ll give you the ending first – these capers are two of the best swindles that ever happened to anyone. They both occurred during the holidays.  

(I have attached some photographs to this; please forgive the quality.  Not only are they pre-digital, but three of them come from a roll of film we forgot about and developed years after the pictures were taken, and the fourth is from a Polaroid instant camera.)

We had been married just six months, living in a small town in North Carolina where Mark, my husband, worked as a supervisor at the local textile manufacturing plant, and I taught high school mathematics. To splurge, my husband bought us tickets to a swanky New Year's Eve party with dinner and dancing at a hotel in Charlotte, an hour and a half away. The evening was perfect. Even though it was 1987, the band played big band music from the 1940s, which my husband and I love, and the dinner was excellent. I wore a lace-trimmed black velvet dress that Mark gave me that Christmas. For dinner, we sat across from an older couple who lived in Charlotte and we ended up talking about dogs. Press pause on that thought.

When we got married, I was in favor of getting a dog, and my husband was not. His family never kept a dog in the house, and that was the only way I knew how to have a dog. But then his best friend and his new wife got a cocker spaniel puppy they kept indoors, and the friend sang the puppy’s praises to my husband for months.  By the time New Year’s Eve rolled around, Mark’s attitude had shifted ever so slightly from “absolutely not” to simply “no.” Now press play.

Wonder of wonders, the couple we were talking to owned a black cocker spaniel who had birthed a litter of black cocker spaniel puppies three months earlier.  One puppy had never sold.  And they were willing to sell us the one puppy left if we could 1) pick the puppy up the next day (January 1, 1988) and 2) pay them the bargain basement price of $100. Unfortunately, they explained, they would have to mail the puppy’s papers to us later, since they hadn’t yet received them. The couple got up to dance to allow the two of us to talk it over.

Then occurred one of those little miscommunications that happen to even the best newlywed couples. My husband turned to me with a very serious face and said, “It’s now or never. Do you want a dog or not?” Knowing that it would be terribly inconvenient to get a puppy on January 1, find supplies for it, drive the hour and a half back to our apartment and then begin training it January 2 when we both were working, he expected me to say no, we should wait and get one later. I, however, had but one thought. If this was my one chance to get a puppy, I’d take it. I said yes. And his “now or never” statement had locked him into a position. When the couple came back after their dance, we told them yes, we would pick the puppy up the next day.

So, January 1, 1988 found us driving through Charlotte, North Carolina, in search of an open store where we could buy supplies for our new puppy, a round black butterball we named Shadow. I’ll never forget the long look Dr. Gandy, the vet we took her to the first day we could, gave her and his saying, “Well, some cocker spaniel puppies look like that at first, I guess.” The papers never did arrive in the mail.

Mark and Shadow 1988

Shadow and Me 1988

I am certain that Shadow’s mother was a black cocker spaniel, because she was with our puppy when we picked her up. But as Shadow grew, size was the only trait she possessed that resembled a cocker spaniel. In all other respects, she was a miniature Labrador Retriever. She acted like one, too. She lived to the ripe old age of 16, and not a week passed that I wasn’t grateful to that older couple for our wonderful dog.

My husband committed the second holiday caper. “Peepo’s” as we call them, are the footed one-piece pajamas that little children used to wear, especially in cartoons.

I was born on December 27. Mark’s mother always swore she knew I was the one Mark would marry the minute she learned my birthday, since Mark’s sister’s husband’s birthday is December 21 and his brother’s wife’s birthday is December 22. My 30th birthday, in 1994, was the first one with a zero at the end of it that bothered me. Still childless, we had presented Shadow with a sister in the fall, a Cocker Spaniel/Labrador Retriever mix puppy whose full name was J.P. Wooflesnort. It stood for “just plain Wooflesnort,” but we called her “Woof.”

Shadow (left) and Woof (right).  The yellow boxes were added to make the dogs more visible. 

Becky, my sister-in-law, knew my upcoming 30th birthday was bothering me, so she wanted to be sure she got me an extra-special gift. She used Mark as her consultant and exerted much time and effort to find the item Mark assured her was the one thing I required for a meaningful 30th birthday. When I opened the package, I laughed until I cried. The gift was perfect—an adult pair of blue and green plaid adult-size peepo’s, complete with rubber-bottomed feet. He had been threatening to get me a pair all year to stop me from complaining about getting older. And I truly appreciated the enormous effort Becky expended in finding them—a real accomplishment in the age before Google or Amazon. Becky got her revenge the next year, when she gave Mark red flannel long johns for Christmas, which he, in turn, modeled for us all with good humor.

Me in my peepo's with Shadow and Woof

Those are my two holiday capers. I hope whatever holidays you celebrate during this time are happy ones and filled with memories of light and laughter and family.

See you next year! 


  1. At the "mail the papers" I wondered what kind of dog you bought -- but since it was a holiday caper, I was pretty sure the answer would be "a great one."

    1. We should have known better at "mail the papers" bit it doesn't matter. You're right, she WAS a great dog!

  2. I think these end in the "all's well that ends well" category.

  3. Ever since I saw "The Great Muppet Caper" as a kid, I have always LOVED that word. So many Christmas birthdays in your family. How fun!

  4. What fun stories—and fabulous photos! I enjoyed this tremendously.

  5. Love the pup stories! Yesterday I met a black "woodle,", half soft-coated Wheaten terrier and half copper red standard poodle. What a love bug!