Saturday, December 18, 2004

last X-mas down the way

Here it is, my holiday short story, a labor of love for all my blog readers. Some of you may hate this story. At times while writing it, I wondered if I hated this story. Read on, if you think you can stomach it.

Last X-mas Down the Way by Warren

"It's time for a new Christmas tradition" proclaimed James, to no one at all, as he sat alone in his kitchen eating a TV dinner. "Everyone is going to stop by here Christmas Eve! There will be presents for all, feasting, and maybe someone will even give me something listed on my letter to Santa", James smiled. He would be busy, Christmas was less than a week away, but it would all be worth it.

James lived on the outskirts of town on a road that led to nothing but the places that loggers used to go. He had plenty of trees on his land, and who could be sure where the edges of property were anyway? The Christmas tree James selected was not the first one he came by. No, he spent the better part of the morning sizing up each tree, looking at it from every angle, even smelling it, for the freshest pine smell. The tree he found was special.. A beautiful, bushy, and healthy white pine that stood out from the pack. It almost seemed a shame to chop it down, but Christmas came only once a year and the whole town would see it in all it's glory. James grabbed his ax and chopped away. He yelled "Timber!" and smiled. The tree did not come crashing down, he caught it with ease in his mitten-covered hand. He carried the tree with care back to his house, managing to slip it through the doorway without knocking off more than a few dozen needles.

James did not have many possessions, but he did have a box of holiday ornaments. They had been in his family for generations. There were golden glass balls and crimson balls and green balls too. There were small wool elves, with little hooks in their hats. There was the wooden candy cane his teacher had given him at school, back at the old one-room-school house. The Angel was his favorite, his grandmother had made it out of scraps when they were very poor, but it looked beautiful to him. Then there were the paper snowflakes he had made with his mother as a child using glue and glitter. He remembered that morning, sitting with in that very same room so many years ago. His father threw logs on the toasty fire and his mother stirred up another batch of tasty eggnog. Eggnog! Food! He needed these things for the feast.

James crossed his fingers. He opened his wallet and sighed. Only his lucky two dollar bill lay inside. You can't buy squat with two dollars these days, but there was an answer. Since he'd been a boy, James had kept piggy banks, as an insurance for hard times. Banks in the city were run by thieves, who can you trust but yourself, so said the teachings of his father. He was only on his third piggy bank ever, the other two were broken in emergencies. Once to pay a doctor who visited his dying parents, the other time to buy shingles when the roof caved in. Cracking the piggy bank was serious business, but Christmas was not just any day. James smashed the porcelain pig to smithereens with his hammer. Rivers of change poured out, and not just a few dollar bills. Years of savings, enough to feed the town, for one night.

A trip to town was a rare occasion and a fairly long walk too. The tractor was out of gas. The gas can was empty. The car had been on cinder blocks for quite some time. James whistled 'Joy To The World' as he made the trek on foot. Pops' general store was his destination, they would sell the vegetables and the meat that James would cook for the dinner. About half a mile from town, he saw the first flakes drifting down. He changed his tune to "White Christmas", this would be the perfect holiday.

"Hi Pops!" Pops didn't respond or even look up. Probably worried about his bills thought James, everyone has bad days. First things first, the turkey. In the back freezer were a number of them. James chose the largest, freshest, most expensive bird, though he supposed he could have made done with one that cost half as much. It's for everyone he thought. He filled two baskets with canned goods and one with breads and stuffings.

"Pops, do you have any powdered eggnog, it'd be a pretty long haul for me to carry a bunch of jugs back to my place. I'm buying a lot of..."

"Save your breath, ain't no such thing!". Pops was short with him. Perhaps he will be more polite when he comes to visit on Christmas Eve, James thought.

"Do you have any potato sacks, pops, I'm buying a lot of food."

"Yeah, I got some out back in the trash. Don't you make a mess out there though!"

"Ok Pops, I'll be careful." James said, handing over more money than he'd ever remembered spending in one place. Outside the snow was really coming down. "Thanks Pops, Merry Christmas." Again Pops said nothing.

By the time James got home, he was chilled to the bone. Still, he was undaunted. I feel like Santa with my sack, he thought. Soon he'd fill that sack with toys, his own toys from when he was a boy, they were stored in the attic. He'd look like Santa too. Santa wasn't real, but when his father dressed like Saint Nick, you'd really believe in him.


Up in the attic James found the Santa suit in a trunk with his father's clothes. He could still smell the cigar smoke on them. Wow, smells can really bring back memories. So can old toys. He could retell the stories to the children when they opened their gifts. Tell them about how his father made the choo choo train out of wood from this very forest, or how the race car came from a famous toy shop in the city. He could tell Pops, Officer Jones, and Mayor Sanders the stories of each and every ornament on his tree. Everyone could hear about the Christmases past, that had happened in this old house, so long ago.

James' family had been poor, they saved their old wrapping paper for use the next year. James used this same paper to wrap each gift for children this year. It took some time, he was a bit clumsy, but he figured they'd suffice when he emerged from the bedroom as Santa with presents in his sack. He'd take them out gift by gift and gently place them under the tree. He could already see the children holding their gifts to their chests. "Look what Santa brought me! Look what Santa brought me."

On the morning of December 24th, James began his cooking, based on hand written recipes his mother put on paper and tucked into the family cookbook. Perhaps he could even pass these on to some of the women from town. The traditions would live on. A smell of food drifted throughout James' cabin, he was doing an A+ job with the Christmas preparations. The food would be great, the tree was lit, and the house was spotless and ready for company. The guests would surely arrive soon.

At six o'clock James took the turkey out of the oven. Townspeople could sit at the table and eat, or mingle in the living room where the tree was. Either way, Christmas cheer would be spread throughout the house. By seven o'clock James concluded that people these days liked to be fashionably late, a shame because these magical Christmas hours should be not be wasted with formalities. At eight o'clock James became worried, perhaps their had been an accident on the road. Was everyone ok? Nine o'clock was the time that James had scheduled his appearance as Jolly Old Saint Nick. As long as everyone got here for their presents, Christmas served it's purpose. Ten o'clock came and James put on the Santa suit, though their was no one there to see him in it. He looked at the tree. It glowed. He picked up one of the presents and shook it, inside was a puzzle he'd put together hundreds of times as a boy. He'd never lost a single piece. James dipped a spoon into the cranberry sauce. His mother's recipe, there was not another cranberry sauce like it in the world. A tear dripped from his eye. Oh no, he'd get his Santa beard wet! It was eleven o'clock, and the guests would have been heading home at this time. Children needed to go to bed soon so their toys could be put under the tree unseen. Santa would be dropping in.

At midnight James was half way to town despite the snowfall. He was making good time, for a man in a Santa suit with a sack of toys over one shoulder and an ax over the other.

4 Comments:

Blogger Patrick said...

Someone's ganna steal that shit for a screen play!

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