For the sixth year in a row, James R. Tolliver was found wandering the neighborhood celebrating the New Year.
Regularly a pillar of the community, Mr. Tolliver has allowed this night to get away from him the last couple of years and people have started to talk.
It starts innocent enough. James becomes everyone’s friend on New Years, going from house to house, offering best wishes for the new year. History has proven that James will bring a plate of cookies, tightly wrapped in plastic wrap. He holds it tightly while in the first house and then help himself to a glass of wine and what ever appetizers are available. After two more glasses of wine, the uninvited guest, still carrying the plate of cookies, yet unwrapped, makes his way out the door and down the street.
Typically, the next house on the block serves harder beverages and within a half hour James has started becoming even more friendly than usual, asking the host to stop being so formal. “We’ve lived next to each other for nearly five years!” He says as he slaps the guest on the back, “Call me Jim, for God’s sake!”
Somewhere between house number three and seven, James transforms to Jimmy and then becomes Jim Bo and finally to JB. The plate of cookies is long gone and wine glasses from one house end up in another. Over the years, JB has lost much more than stemware. His New Year’s walks have cost him wallets, coats, car keys and last year he lost an entire car.
This year, it happened again. James became Jim and soon was walking up and down the neighborhood without his coat. One hand held a bottle of wine, the other held a cigar. The night was warm so no one was too concerned. But somewhere betwee Jim and Jim Bo, the walk became a stagger and the wishes of Happy New Year were replaced with a tearful rendition of Auld Lang Syne.
The night hit a climatic ending when Trudy Montague was shaken from her sleep at 2:30 a.m. with JB pounding on her front door screaming at the top of his voice, “God Damn it, Sheila! Let me in! You have NO RIGHT to lock me out of my own house!”
After she realized the problem, Trudy went to the door and opened it to the length of the chain lock. Peering through the crack, she tried to talk reason to her neighbor. She explained to Mr. Tolliver that he was at the wrong house and his wife, Sheila had died eight years before. No matter how hard she tried, he just wouldn’t, just couldn’t listen.
“Why don’t you just head home and get some sleep, Mr. Tolliver?” Trudy begged. “You’ll feel better in the morning.”
“Why don’t you let me in, Sheila?” Mr. Tolliver repeated. He wept silently as he put his head in his hands, leaned with his back against the door and slowly slid down onto the Welcome mat of Ms. Montague’s front porch. His weeping became sobs and Trudy slowly closed the door, latched the deadbolt and dialed 911.
When the police finally arrived, James was asleep, curled up on the mat. A bottle of Maker’s Mark at his side and a picture of Sheila in his shirt pocket.