The Christmas Gift

Well, ‘tis the season! And I’m going to give you my Christmas gift early. This month on each Sunday I will post one of my Christmas stories. Those of you who do not celebrate Christmas please accept this in the spirit in which I give it as we all celebrate each other at this wonderous time of year.

 

These stories will be familiar to many of you but there are those, I’m sure, that have never read them. I hope you enjoy.

Jeremy was bereft. His feet were cold and he felt the sniffles coming on. And yet here he was on the evening of December 24 standing in a freezing parking lot looking at dying trees.  Why? Because his family insisted. He desperately wanted to tell the world to piss off and just go and get drunk in some dive bar.

He hadn’t always been like this. He used to love Christmas. But 11 months and 13 days ago everything changed. The woman who completed him, who made him laugh and more importantly who laughed at his jokes, died. Mattie loved Christmas.  She loved life. She loved him. Until some two bit gangsta’ wanna-be thought it would be fun to drag race on a snow-covered icy street. They said she died instantly. But he didn’t. Jeremy wanted to die or to kill, but instead he lived. He felt the tiny box in his pocket. He had planned to ask her that night. That’s why she was out. They were going to meet.

It had been a horrible few months but everyone seemed to have moved on. Except for Jeremy. Here he was standing in the cold with instructions to buy a lovely full tree for Christmas.  He shook his head, was about to turn around and leave when he heard an odd sound.

He looked around the parking lot but he didn’t see anyone. The sound was low, almost frantic. It was a scratching noise with a hiccup and a sigh. It intrigued him. He wanted to know what was making that sound. Jeremy took a step forward and the sound changed. It was a whine now and a huffing noise. It didn’t sound human and yet it didn’t sound animal either.

A back-firing car startled him.  He felt silly. It was probably just the wind stirring up some garbage. Jeremy shrugged his shoulders; he knew he needed to get on with his life. He could never forget her but maybe he should put her where she needed to be:  deep in his heart where she could be protected, her memory safe.  He would start by taking an active roll in this evening’s activities.

In that moment something else happened.  Jeremy seemed to swim up from the abyss of grief he had been living in for almost a year.  His eyes truly opened. He almost smiled. He was looking for a tree. Now there were tall ones and fat ones and ones that looked a little sad. But he couldn’t seem to find one that he thought needed a home with his family. And then something fell on his foot. It wasn’t very heavy, it was very small and it coughed.

Jeremy peered down at his feet trying to see what this thing was.  There wasn’t a great deal of light but he was pretty sure that he saw it move. Without thinking he reached down and scooped up the small ball of something.

The next thing that happened was unexpected. But perhaps given the day, appropriate.  With the small black bundle at eye level Jeremy poked it. It poked back! And then it opened its mouth and emitted a rather large meow. It was a kitten. It was a small, black, cold, abandoned kitten. It curled itself into a ball and started to purr. Jeremy smiled for the first time in almost a year. He tucked the sleeping bundle into his pocket and bought the tree it had been hiding under.

He got his tree. He didn’t haggle the price, he just paid it and chuckled. He was taking home more than a tree.  He had found the Spirit of Christmas hiding in the small body of a kitten under a tree.

 

The end

Whispering

I heard a gentle whispering,

Coming from my brain.

I think it says I’m crazy,

Really, I’m not sane?

 

Why would I ever listen,

To the musings in my head?

It just goes a wandering,

And I’m left holding thread!

 

Yes, I know it’s bonkers,

My brain and I are one.

We share the same container,

And usually that is fun.

 

But there are times we disagree,

My brain, my mind and I.

When it becomes a battle,

And none will then comply.

 

We need to find a truce,

Where things are not so hazy.

So, we can always live in peace,

Because you see we’re crazy!

 

 

 

The Open Road

Fresh air, open skies, freedom.  One can lift up their head and howl at the moon and no one will care.  Yes, this was the way to travel.  Breathe deeply the pristine air.  Well pristine if you disregard the diesel fumes, acid rain and manure mist.  At least out here you can’t see the air in front of you.  In the city not only can you see what you are breathing, it leaves a film on your nostril hairs. Breathe deeply in the city and you’re liable to cough up a lung.  Out here in the wide-open spaces there’s a tang in the air.  Of course, that tang is 10,000 years of rotting plants and animal excrement.  Yum!

When you walk down the open sidewalks of a busy city you can hear the sounds of laughter from small children.  You can smell the tantalizing aromas from diverse cultures; fresh bread, sizzling sausages, and a myriad of spices.  It is the smell of success and of life.  People live here and people work here.  It is the smell of comfort and love, of laughter and tears.  It is the city.  But the city has another side.

The laughter of small children often comes from bodies full of nothing but hunger and loss.  The tantalizing smells simply reinforce the feelings of desperation from those that need but do not have the monetary means to fulfill that need.  There are those who have and will not share.  The city was built on the backs of the poor for the comfort of the rich and they do not wish to share today. Perhaps tomorrow will be a day to share, perhaps. There is success here for a privileged few and there is life here for those who work hard enough to support the fragile infrastructure. There is also death here for those who aren’t smart enough, or strong enough, or rich enough to succeed.  Life rewards those who have and disposes of those who have not.

Away from the city the sounds you hear are the birds flitting from tree to tree, cross pollinating and snacking on the nectar of the flower.  The wind rustles the leaves of the trees, gently showering you with bugs and their teeny tiny excrement.  The rustling of the leaves distracts you from the rustling at your feet which may just turn out to be an annoyed rattlesnake out for lunch.  It never pays to get between a snake and his version of a tasty snack.  Yes, there is life here, lots of it and chances are it is not all that impressed by your big feet and your insatiable appetite for nature.  You are in their home and you are most likely unwelcome.

Finding a spot where one can commune with nature, far from the lights and noise of a modern city is a challenge.  Just finding a spot that is not already spoken for by realtors is one thing. One must have a permit to stop, raise a tent or build a fire pit.  Heaven help anyone who builds an open fire without first obtaining a permit filled out in triplicate and filed with God.

The first night spent beneath the stars is magical.  The wildlife that abounds in the forest is vast. From predatory birds to carnivorous canines and the most pervasive of pests: the mosquito and friends.  Sounds are amplified and smells are close.  The babbling of a brook can sound like a rushing river, but soothing.  The stars are bright, almost surreal.  There is life all around you, just out of sight.

The first night spent beneath the stars in the city is also magical, a different kind of magic.  The light from the stars is obscured by the neon lights of the city night life. The life too is abundant and varied, from pest to predator. People are dressed in their version of finery, and often act accordingly. Beautiful swans can be seen walking gracefully outside fashionable restaurants with appropriately obsequious entourages. Then there are the weasels who will try to sell you watches that don’t tell time or bad toothed ferrets hawking the latest in pirated DVDs. And of course, there are always the ever-present motor vehicles. There are the little ones that scoot too close to the sidewalks and splash you with questionable liquids or the mammoth conveyors of multiple personalities that meander ponderously. There are also the pimpmobiles and muscles cars that spew forth noxious fumes just for the fun of it.

Go down a darkened alley and you just might find a seller of a different kind of magic. It is the kind of magic that can be sniffed up your nose or injected into a vein.  It is a magic that is ultimately costly and deadly, figuratively and literally.

Hidden close by is a malnourished, frightened child who has tried to escape from an abusive home and a cynical street walker who just wants to finish this night without getting her throat slit and take a long, hot bath to help to forget. Forgetting is necessary for some to stay alive in this unforgiving world. Also out this dark night is a tired nightshift worker who wants to go home and get some sleep so he can start this endless cycle all over again.

Even more strange are the tourists who flock to see the nightlife that abounds in the city in the hopes of seeing something dangerous and exotic. Pictures would be even better to take home to show the lads at the local ‘Weed and Feed’. Uncle Fester will be plumed amazed!

And the city is alive with sounds.  There is the hum of the traffic and the unexpected screech of a car horn, the loud reverberations of the boom box that is supposed to be the latest in fashionable music.  It is personal thing.  People are shouting and occasionally laughing or screaming.   The life around you is as noisy as it is bright and don’t you dare stop for too long or you might just be relieved of that loaded wallet you carry in your left rear pocket or run down by a slightly inebriated youth.

Ah yes, the city is alive and it is in your face.  Don’t wander down here unless you plan to play by their rules.

The woods are alive too but they are a little more reserved about it. The inhabitants are watching you, trying to decide if you are edible or just annoying.  Communing with nature can be tricky since they would really rather you did your communing elsewhere.  Unless of course you do turn out to taste good with a side of shoe leather.

Choices, choices, choices.  Does one cavort within the perilous precincts of the city or meander through the beautiful byways of nature’s potentially hazardous haunts?  It is a difficult decision to make.  Where to go, what to do?

***************************

Clang! Clang! Clang! “Get up you lazy excuses for human beings! Your mama is not here to bring you breakfast in bed and this is not a vacation resort! I said get out of your cozy bunks and present yourself for inspection! Do you hear me recruits?!”

The open road is temporarily closed due to reality incursion.  It’s expected to reopen shortly after lights out.

Ah yes, life in the army, the open road beckons still.