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It is well with my soul, Hugh Bonneville Christmas Concert Narration

The Tabernacle Choir at Temple Square

Posted in short story, story

A Christmas Carol

Photo credit / Omeralnahi


She was my age. I believe I was ten. I can’t remember her name but that might be more because I don’t want to rather than a memory issue.

She had three or four little brothers and sisters, they are nothing but small shadows of recollection today. She had a knee-walking drunk for a father. She had a mother for him to beat on when he was out of whiskey. I remember that.

We lived in a boomtown in the midwest. Lots of oil. For a couple of decades, everyone had money. Yet, even when the cup runneth over, there is always the kid who has nothing. She was it. She was the poor kid.

At some point in yesteryear, civilization had conspired with Charles Dickens to draft unspoken legislation insuring there would forever be an unfortunate sucking the hind tit of life.

And, right out of the mind of Dark Charlie, the poor girl got canned goods for Christmas. Whoever thought this gift was in the holiday spirit needs to be beaten to death with their own practicality. But, wait! There’s more…

In the sadistic fashion of Miss Havisham, after Christmas break, our teacher initiated the customary — What did Santa bring you? — round-robin. The poor girl’s humiliation filled the room.

The worst kind of shame a kid can endure is that which is given to them by their parents.

I remember her dad passed out in their front yard once or twice a week. No one ever saw him staggering around, he would just suddenly appear, flat on his back, through ninety-proof sorcery. I remember my mom standing at the kitchen window growling; calling him a no-good sonofabitch without an ounce of shame to his name.

I remember the girl’s brother always saying they hadn’t eaten in two days. Always two days. He never came straight out and asked for food, but my mom was quick picking up hints. She never sent a stray away hungry.

I remember my mom standing at the kitchen window watching it all and crying.

On Christmas morning, a small gathering of blue-haired angels from the Rotary Club had descended on the girl’s house, their wings aflutter. They came bearing boxes and bags of their own righteousness and virtue. It was a wonderful day. The poor kids got fed and the blue-haired angels had reaffirmed their seat at the right hand of God. Tiny Tim’s crutch was spared kindling yet another Christmas season.

Her eyes welled with tears when she told the class she got a few cans of beans and some candy. After hearing tale after tale of Santa’s generosity, the fat guy had only floated her a few cans of Van Camp’s. Some of the kids laughed. My heart broke.

I should have seen it coming but I could not be bothered to watch for it. My face started leaking too.

I wanted to crawl in a hole and hide, but the world wouldn’t provide one. The world was teaching me a lesson. It grabbed me at the base of my skull and forced me to see. “Look! Look! This is how we roll.” We watched her cut out her own heart with the lid off a tin can and stuff shame into the void and we thought it was funny.

The only lesson I learned from the Ghost of Christmas Poverty was either fix the problem or stay away from it. Half-measures only fester the wound.

“What good is Christmas dinner if you starve every other day of the year?” — Borne Wilder

Looking back, the only shame I can still see is mine.

© 2019, Jess Starkey, Originally published by him on Medium where he is a top writer of short stories. Shared here with his permission.

Posted in Fiction, General Interest

FOR CHRISTMAS EVE: A Story

CHRISTMAS WITH GRANDMA

by

Anon

I remember my first Christmas adventure with Grandma.

I was just a kid. I remember tearing across town on my bike to visit her. On the way, my big sister dropped the bomb: “There is no Santa Claus,” she jeered.  “Even dummies know that!”

My Grandma was not the gushy kind, never had been. I fled to her that day because I knew she would be straight with me. I knew Grandma always told the truth, and I knew that the truth always went down a whole lot easier when swallowed with one of her “world-famous” cinnamon buns. I knew they were  world-famous, because Grandma said so. It had to be true.

Grandma was home, and the buns were still warm. Between bites, I told her everything. She was ready for me.

“No Santa Claus?” she snorted…”Ridiculous!  Don’t you believe it! That rumor has been going around for years, and it makes me mad, plain mad!!

Now, put on your coat, and let’s go.”

“Go?  Go where Grandma”, I asked. I hadn’t even finished my second world-famous cinnamon bun.

“Where” turned out to be Kirby’s General Store, the one store in town that had a little bit of just about everything.

As we walked through its doors, Grandma handed me ten dollars. That was a bundle in those days.

“Take this money,” she said, “and buy something for someone who needs it.  I’ll wait for you in the car.”  Then she turned and walked out of Kirby’s.

I was only eight years old. I’d often gone shopping with my mother, but never had I shopped for anything all by myself.

The store seemed big and crowded, full of people scrambling to finish their Christmas shopping. For a few moments I just stood there, confused, clutching that ten-dollar bill, wondering what to buy, and who on earth to buy it for.

I thought of everybody I knew: my family, my friends, my neighbors, the kids at school, and the people who went to my church.  I was just about thought out, when I suddenly thought of Bobby Decker.  He was a kid with bad breath and messy hair, and he sat right behind me in Mrs. Pollock’s grade-two class.

Bobby Decker didn’t have a coat. I knew that because he never went out to recess during the winter.  His mother always wrote a note telling the teacher that he had a cough, but all we kids knew that Bobby Decker didn’t have a cough; he didn’t have a good coat.

I fingered the ten-dollar bill with growing excitement. I would buy Bobby Decker a coat!  I settled on red corduroy one that had a hood to it. It looked real warm, and he would like that.

“Is this a Christmas present for someone?”  The lady behind the counter asked kindly, as I laid my ten dollars down.

“Yes ma’am,” I replied shyly. “It’s for Bobby.” The nice lady smiled at me, as I told her about how Bobby really needed a good winter coat.  I didn’t get any change, but she put the coat in a bag, smiled again, and wished me a Merry Christmas.

That evening, Grandma helped me wrap the coat (a little tag fell out of the coat, and Grandma tucked it in her Bible) in Christmas paper and ribbons and wrote, “To Bobby, From Santa Claus” on it.

Grandma said that Santa always insisted on secrecy. Then she drove me over to Bobby Decker’s house, explaining as we went that I was now and forever officially, one of Santa’s helpers.

Grandma parked down the street from Bobby’s house, and she and I crept noiselessly and hid in the bushes by his front walk. Then Grandma gave me a nudge. “All right, Santa Claus,” she whispered, “get going.”

I took a deep breath, dashed for his front door, threw the present down on his step, pounded his door and flew back to the safety of the bushes and Grandma.

Together we waited breathlessly in the darkness for the front door to open. Finally it did, and there stood Bobby.

Fifty years haven’t dimmed the thrill of those moments spent shivering, beside my Grandma, in Bobby Decker’s bushes.

That night, I realized that those awful rumors about Santa Claus were just what Grandma said they were:  ridiculous.  Santa was alive and well, and we were on his team.

I still have the Bible, with the coat tag tucked inside: $19.95.

May you always have LOVE to share, HEALTH to spare and FRIENDS that care…

And may you always believe in the magic of Santa Claus!

Give back – what you can, where you can, whenever you can.

We don’t know the origin of this story or who wrote, but we hope you enjoyed it as much as we did. Our thanks to Linda F. for passing it on to us and to the anonymous author. 

Photo credit ~ morgueFile