‘A Christmas Carol’ – Where Are They Now? # 5

book_52-trquis-christmas-talesWith continued apologies to Mr. Dickens, I offer my fifth story in the series of futuristic peeks into the characters of his lovely novel. Although I wrote these stories a couple years ago, I’m enjoying re-posting them for a fresh reading this season.

 

# 5  The Spirit of Christmas Future: Christmas Planet

 

“Good evening, Ladies and Gentlemen. KTZY-TV is here at the 2025 Christmas Market Preview to interview The Spirit of Christmas Future and learn what’s in store this coming holiday season. Future is currently sitting atop one of the newest creations this year – the Infused Light Christmas Tree.  Christmas Future, can you hear me all right?”

“I can hear you fine, Tom. And as you explained, I am atop one of the smartest Christmas decorating ideas to come out in centuries. These gold, silver, and multi-colored trees come in several sizes – as you can see I’m sitting in the top branches of the largest size. Their primary feature is their self-infused lighting that glows gently from within and lights the entire tree evenly.”

“I see. So that cuts down the need to buy all those hard-to-handle strings of lights, then doesn’t it?”

“Exactly right, Tom. No more twisted cords to untangle; no more burned out bulbs that have to be hunted down and replaced; less time spent shopping for decorations – all those positive features will add to the ease of preparing for Christmas this year.”

“I see someone else important to Christmas has joined you down below the tree.”

“Oh, yes indeed. There’s Mr. Santa himself. We wanted him on hand to help introduce the video feed of Christmas Planet. I’ll go down and join him on the ground.”

Christmas Future swept from the tree branch and glided to a stop beside Santa. Before he had time to welcome the big guy, Future immediately pressed his right hand to his ear to better hear the message coming into the headset he was wearing. “Wonderful!” he said and then spoke directly to the newscaster again. “Tom, the video is ready to role. Focus your cameras on that screen behind me, and your audience will get the thrill of their lives.”

“Yes, we’re focused on the screen now.”

“All right, As you can see, the planet itself is green, and even in the video that’s coming from a couple miles above the ground, you can see the red glow from the spectacular light show that is taking place at the main park.”

“That’s amazing!”

“Yes. As you know, Tom, NASA discovered this planet two years ago and began developing it specifically for the celebration of Christmas. Those amazing red light displays are part of the planet’s atmosphere, but it took the scientists all this time to harness those light waves and control them in order to use them in the Christmas productions planned for the visitors to the planet this year.”

“And any family from earth can travel by spaceship to Christmas Planet to celebrate the holidays, is that correct, Future?”

“Yes, Tom. NASA tells us the round trip – with tickets to all the events for two days and one night – is just about twice the cost of two full days at Disney World. And, of course, as we all know, Disney World has now been demoted to Christmas Past.”

“And when is the departure date for the first group of visitors?”

“December 10th will see the first group of families setting off in Noel I – the spacecraft specifically designed to shuttle visitors back and forth to Christmas Planet. And reservations have been coming in non-stop since last year, so anyone who wants to get in on the first year’s visits needs to be sure they go online and make their request today. According to NASA, the scheduled trips are nearly booked to capacity.”

“Well, unfortunately, we’re out of time now, but thank you, Christmas Future, for this thrilling report.”

“Thank you, Tom. And have a Merry Christmas.”

“Thank you, Future. The same to you.”

Turning his eyes back to the main camera in front of him, the announcer wrapped up his newscast. “Well, folks, there you have it. Looks like Christmas has a great future ahead of it. I’m sure many of you out there want to make your own reservations, and you can Contact NASA at the website showing now at the bottom of your screen. Until tomorrow evening, this is Tom Hilton wishing you a good night, good news, and Merry Christmas.”

~~~

“`

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‘A Christmas Carol’ – Where Are They Now? #4

book_52-trquis-christmas-talesWith continued apologies to Mr. Dickens, I offer my fourth story in the series of futuristic peeks into the characters of his lovely novel. Although I wrote these stories a couple years ago, I’m enjoying re-posting them for a fresh reading this season.

# 4 The Spirit of Christmas Present: Living in the Here and Now

Reggie sat slumped in his chair, his right leg carelessly propped over the chair arm, gloom written all over him. He’d been this way for weeks, and hitting the bottle wasn’t helping him any. It just gave him a horrible headache the next morning. So tonight, he’d left off the booze, but he sat in a stupor anyway.

“Well, what a pretty picture you make tonight, Reginald, old boy!” The voice jolted him upright; he looked around.

“Who’s there?”

The voice took shape: on the sofa to his right, a well-tailored man gradually came into focus, lounging with his feet propped on the coffee table. “I’m generally called Spirit of Christmas Present. That’s what your Uncle Ebeneezer called me.”

“Oh, so you’re the one who supposedly helped him straighten out his life, huh?”

The figure shrugged. “Among others.”

“Well, you can go back where you came from,” Reggie said, at the same time making a shooing motion with his hand. “I don’t need anything you have to say!”

“You need a hammer to your head!” his visitor replied. “It’s just a shame I’m not allowed to give it to you.”

“Hey, where do you get off talking like that to me? Threatening to hit me in the head with a hammer! For what?”

“For constantly trying to live in a time dimension that it’s impossible for you to inhabit. You’re living either in the past — sucking on your memories the way a baby does his thumb — or in the future — always focusing on next week or next year. It’s stupid. Your memories make you miserable, and your future makes you anxious and edgy because it holds problems you don’t have answers for yet.”

“Oh, I get it. You’re here because you think you’re going to fix me?”

“No … I’m going to tell you how you can fix yourself.”

“Well, just maybe I don’t want to be fixed. What do you think about that?”

“Your uncle didn’t think he wanted to be fixed either – until he saw where his life was leading him. Do we have to give you the same kind of detailed, guided tour of your life the way we did for him?”

“Who’s we?”

“You know – the Spirits of Christmas Past and Future, and yours truly.”

Reggie shivered in his chair. He would never consider admitting to this strange visitor that he believed what had happened to his old uncle, but he did have to admit to himself that he’d seen the changes in Ebeneezer first hand. And when his uncle had described his experience, it had sent cold chills down Reggie’s spine. He certainly didn’t want any more of that.

“Okay, okay. Just give me your spiel and let me get back to my contemplation.”

“What you were … contemplating … as you call it … was how sorry you are for yourself. And what I’m going to tell you will set you free from all your self-pity and wasted life if you’ll take heed to it.”

“Okay, okay, get on with it.”

“Well, it’s actually very simple, Reggie. You simply have to make yourself be where you are.”

“Huh?” Reggie shook his head briskly and sat forward in his chair, looking more intently at his visitor. “What the heck does that mean?”

His visitor sighed. “It means, Reg, that you need to be in the present hour — every hour of your life. Live now. You can’t re-do yesterdays, Reggie, and the future is nothing but a long series of ‘now’s’ that you’ll eventually experience one at a time. But when you get to them, you’ll have what it takes to deal with all of them. Trying to worry ahead of time about what might or might not be in those ‘now’s’ is ridiculous because you can’t even begin to know what they’ll be like. So why exhaust yourself worrying about them? And why drive yourself to drink by sitting around pitying yourself for the things that have already happened and can’t be changed?”

Reggie hung his head. “Yeah, I guess I have to admit my life’s a bummer coming and going.”

His visitor jumped up from the sofa, and Reggie looked up at him, a little fearful.

“Then for heaven’s sake, man, quit coming and going – hopping from your sad past to your unreadable future! Start living where you are and when you are. Take one day at a time, and one hour at a time. Look at it, feel it, taste it; let it soak into you; enjoy everything you can about it, and if you can’t enjoy it, then learn something from it. But live it. Start really living each one of those moments in your life, Reggie, and you’ll be surprised at the outcome.”

“But I don’t think I know how.”

“It isn’t rocket science, Reggie. As I said at the beginning of our conversation: it’s simple. You just have to decide to do it. And I’m not telling you everything will be the way you want it. Your life – like anyone else’s – will have its ups and downs. It may not always be great – but at least it will be real.”

Reggie hung his head again, trying to get a better handle on the fact that he was listening to some vision that just suddenly appeared in his living room. He had to admit that what his visitor said gave him the first inkling of hope that he could actually have a better life. He looked back up to the visitor to say so – then blinked. The room was empty.

~~~

‘A Christmas Carol’ – Where Are They Now? # 3

book_52-trquis-christmas-talesWith continued apologies to Mr. Dickens, I offer my third story in the series of futuristic peeks into the characters of his lovely novel. Although I wrote these stories a couple years ago, I’m enjoying reposting them for a fresh reading this season.

`
# 3 The Spirit of Christmas Past: Request For Transfer
`

“Mr. Alexander, the Spirit of Christmas Past is here for his 2:00 appointment.”

“Send him in.”

As the door opened, his boss could see that Past was unhappy.

“Good to see you, Past. We haven’t had a talk in – what – three or four years?”

“Four years, Sir,” Past said, taking a seat.

“I get a lot of good reports about your work. But you look unhappy. Is something wrong?”

“Yes, Sir. Something’s very wrong!”

“I’m sorry to hear that. Can I help?”

“Well, Sir, I was wondering if I couldn’t trade places with Christmas Present for a while.”

“But you’re an expert at what you do, Past. Why would you want to have to learn a whole new job?”

“Because I never get a chance to use any of the new stuff, sir – any of the new technology and advanced equipment and devices that men have invented in the last several decades. I never get to play video games, or use cell phones, or those gadgets they call iPods. Why, do you realize I’ve never even had a chance to use a computer?”

“Well, I have to admit that I hadn’t given that point any thought, Past, but you don’t need any of those devices in your work, do you?”

“That’s just the point, sir. I don’t need any of those things in my work, so I get none of the fun involved with using them. And there’s something else that’s just recently come out – a brand new thing-a-ma-jig that they call Google Glass. Wow! It looks like a blast!”

“Google glass, huh?”

“Yes sir.”

Mr. Alexander just shook his head in consternation. He didn’t understand all this new-fangled equipment either, but that fact hadn’t bothered him before now. Maybe he was starting to fall behind himself. He looked back at Past, unsure what to say because he knew there was no way The Boss would go along with moving Past to a totally new time dimension.

Past looked at him hopefully. “It just isn’t fair, Sir! And that’s why I’m asking for a transfer. I was sure you’d understand when I explained.”

Mr. Alexander leaned back in his chair and looked at Past kindly. “Let me think this over for a bit, Past, and, of course, I’ll have to run it by The Boss.

One week later, Past walked back into Mr. Alexander’s office, having been summoned there to discuss the troubling issue again. When he arrived, he saw several gaily wrapped packages of various sizes on Alexander’s desk.

“Have you just finished your Christmas shopping?” Past asked.

“Not exactly, Past, but I have been doing some shopping for some special gifts.”

He motioned to a chair in front of his desk. “Sit down, Past, and I’ll tell you about these packages.”

Past took his seat, his eyes alight with excitement, and Mr. Alexander stood with his hand on top of one of the larger gifts. “The Boss said we just can’t possibly reassign you to a different job. You’ve been trained specifically for what you do, and you bring centuries of experience into every case you handle. So we need you to stay where you are, Past.”

Immediately Past’s mouth drooped and his eyes lost their light, but before he could say anything, Alexander continued.

“But The Boss and I also understand you naturally feel cheated in certain areas because of the need to focus uniquely on people, facts, and events from a dimension of time that has none of the benefits of the present day. You don’t get to spend any time in the present, and certainly have no possible involvement in what’s coming down the road in the future.

“So –” he turned and lifted one of the gifts, smiling at Past – “we felt the least we could do was to give you some of the devices that you’ve longed for the last several years. You may not get to use them on the job, but you can have fun with them personally in your time off.” At that point, he handed Past the gift he’d been holding.

“Receive this with our deep appreciation for the terrific job you do, Past. And all these other packages as well,” he added, sweeping his hand over the entire collection. “There’s one of everything you mentioned to me in our last meeting, and we hope they will, in some small way, make up for all that you’ve missed out on.”

Past was speechless. He was barely able to reach out and take the package from his boss’ hands. “I’m … I’m … Well, I just don’t know what to say,” he stammered. “All of these are for me?”

“Indeed they are, Past. Enjoy them as much as you can. It’s the least we can do for you considering all the people you’ve helped and the lives you worked so hard to change for good during your many years of faithful service in the … well … the past.”

~~~

A Christmas Carol – Where Are They Now # 2

With my sincere apologies to Mr. Charles Dickens, I’m offering a series of futuristic vignettes that take a look at a few of the characters of his heart-warming novel and what their lives may have been like decades  beyond the words “The End” at the close of his masterpiece. These tales are simply the result of my imagination being given free rein, but I offer them in the spirit of the season, hoping you’ll enjoy them. You can also find them in my Christmas anthology Stocking Full of Stories, which is for sale at the Amazon Kindle Store all year long.

book_52-trquis-christmas-tales


# 2 Tiny Tim???

“Excuse me, Mr. Alexander. You wanted to see me?”

“Oh, yes, Christmas Past. I’ve called for Present and Future as well. Oh … here they are now. Come in, gentlemen.”

“Is there a problem, sir?” Present asked.

Mr. Alexander sighed deeply. “Indeed there is! Come over to the Earthglass, gentlemen, and take a look. We’re going to observe a certain businessman’s dealings with a poor couple. Listen …”

“Don’t blabber to me about Christmas!” snapped the rotund man facing the young couple from behind his desk. “I told you months ago that if you didn’t have all the money by today, I would foreclose on this date.” His eyes gleamed and he rubbed his hands together in delight, envisioning the two-story mall he planned to build next year. Then he looked at them again. “And by tomorrow morning, I’ll have the three houses south of you as well.

“Please, Mr. Cratchit —”

“Silence! Enough begging. Go home and pack!”

“ But it’s Christmas Eve!”

“Christmas! Bah! Humbug!”

Christmas Past looked at Mr. Alexander. “Sir … is that ….?”

“Recognize him, Past?”

“Not … surely not Tim Cratchit?”

“Yes.” Mr. Alexander let out another lengthy sigh. I’m afraid so, gentlemen. Tiny Tim. Although he’s about 300 pounds past tiny now. He eats only fats and sugars. Too stingy to buy decent food.”

“Is he why you’ve called us, sir?” Future asked.

“Yes,” Mr. Alexander answered, turning from the Earthglass and sitting back down at his desk. The other spirits sat in chairs across from him. “After Ebeneezer Scrooge changed his ways so dramatically, he grew very close to the Cratchitt family and eventually left the business to Cratchit – who left it to Tim. But human nature being what it is, greed always manages to seep back in, and now Tim’s become another Scrooge.”

“You want us to visit him, Sir?” Present asked.

“Yes. That’s why I’ve called you.  It will take all three of you again.  But greed has become so much worse in the world this century that I have serious doubts about the success of your venture this time.”

Present leaned forward, looking his superior in the eye. “Sir, surely you don’t think Tiny Tim is beyond hope.”

With another sigh, Mr. Alexander leaned back in his chair before answering. “I honestly don’t know, Present. But we’re going to pull out all the stops to try and turn him around. I’m sending Ebeneezer ahead of you three. He’ll prepare the way just as Marley did for Scrooge himself. Tiny Tim grew to really love that old man before Ebeneezer left the earth, so if anyone can get through Tim’s hardened heart, it would be Ebeneezer.

“Beyond that, it’s all in your hands, gentlemen,” Mr. Alexander said, rising to see them out of the office. They rose as well, shook his hand in turn, and promised to give the project their highest effort.

“I have no doubt that you will,” he said, “and I certainly wish you God speed. It’s Christmas after all – the season of hope. I’ll hold onto that hope as tightly as possible while you do your work.”

~~~

A Christmas Carol: Where Are They Now? # 1

book_52-trquis-christmas-talesWith my sincere apologies to Mr. Charles Dickens, I’m offering a series of futuristic vignettes that take a look at a few of the characters of his heart-warming novel and what their lives may have been like decades  beyond the words “The End” at the close of his masterpiece. These tales are simply the result of my imagination being given free rein, but I offer them in the spirit of the season, hoping you’ll enjoy them. You can also find them in my Christmas anthology Stocking Full of Stories, which is for sale at the Amazon Kindle Store all year long.

# 1  EBENEEZER THE SUITOR

Ebenezer had never felt his heart stop beating before. Was that what was happening, or was he just forgetting to breathe? He wasn’t sure, but He did know he was looking at the most beautiful creature he’d ever seen, and he was glad he’d worn the new suit.

“Ebenezer, meet my cousin, Marilee Cratchit,” said Bob.

Marilee extended her hand, and Ebenezer took it, becoming submerged in the magical cloud of her cologne. He’d been nervous about attending this party, but since his regeneration on Christmas day last year, he was welcomed everywhere. Right now he felt ten feet off the ground. It seemed being a kind, generous man really was the most important thing in life.

“Ebeneezer, I’ve been dying to meet you,” Marilee cooed. “Come sit with me and talk.”

His heart danced. He couldn’t believe anyone so beautiful and fragile would be interested in spending time with him. His heart skipped a couple beats as he wondered: was he actually going to get another chance at love?

“What shall we talk about?” he asked her, contemplating ways to express his renewed heart to her. Ever since his transformation, he found that he wanted to tell everyone how good life was when you learned that people are more important than money.

“I’d like to talk about your money, of course!” she said. “They say you’re the richest man in London!”

Disappointed at her words, he answered: “Uh … I don’t know. Is it important?”

“Well it is to me! Without a lot of money one can’t own a fine home, or fashionable clothes, or beautiful jewelry. And there’s no chance to travel and have fun without a lot of money either. Surely you, of all people, know how important it is.”

“Well, I admit that I used to feel that way. In fact it cost me the love a wonderful woman when I was quite young. But last year I had a most unusual experience that taught me a valuable lesson about life.”

“Oh? What lesson was that?”

“That people are much more valuable than money and that unless you care about people money doesn’t really do you any good because no matter how many things you buy with it, it cannot take away loneliness and give you love.”

“Well, I’ll take my chances,” she said. “I do not intend to be poor or to do without all the finer things in life.” She gave him a saucy look, her seductive smile in place. “I may as well warn you, Ebbie, I’m looking for a rich husband, and I have my eye on you.”

He squirmed just a little where he sat and cleared his throat. “Marilee,” he said, “I think perhaps there’s a book you should read. I’ll loan you my copy. It’s a little Christmas story by Charles Dickens.”

~~~

‘Going Home’ — a short, short story for Christmas

My friend Dawn Miller, a photographer and host of the blog “The Day After,” posted this beautiful photograph on her site a few days ago. It so captured my attention that it eventually inspired a short story – a Christmas story, if you will. She has given me permission to use her picture for my story post – and for my upcoming book of short, short stories and poetry, which will also include “Going Home.” Be sure and go over to visit her site and enjoy all of her other terrific photographic work.

DAWN'S PHOTO OF SNOWY RR TRACK

GOING HOME

“I have a family somewhere. I must have. I can feel it. Admittedly, I don’t have a clue where they are, but I’ve made up my mind that I’ll find them.” I spoke the words somberly as Dr. Randall sat looking at me. I’d been thinking those same words over and over for weeks now, but today, I’d decided to say them out loud. They sounded good, but they sent a shiver of fear coursing through me.

“But you’re sure you’ve had no flashes of memories since you regained consciousness?” he asked.

“None,” I responded, shaking my head. It still hurt when I moved it to any extent. I winced, and he walked over to the wall-mounted light, slapping up my latest x-ray for us to look at. He pointed to an area we’d been discussing for the past two months. “Well, this is encouraging, Peter (my choice of temporary names we’d resorted to since I had no identification on me.)

“What’s encouraging?”

“This area right here,” he said, running his index finger around in a circle over one spot on the picture of my brain. “It used to be covered in heavy shadows, if you remember.” I nodded.

“But those shadows are gone now. Yesterday’s CAT scan confirms what I’m seeing here – that the bleeding has stopped completely, and the last of the old blood is cleared away. The tissues look like they are almost normal again.”

“Then why can’t I remember anything?” He sat back down, relaxing in his chair, his hands on the two armrests. “We don’t know, Peter. As I told you earlier, with memory, it’s sometimes as much an emotional recovery as a physical one that’s required for complete restoration. By the way, any idea yet why you chose the name Peter?”

I shook my head. “The frustration is almost unbearable, you know. It’s now my constant companion, and I fight really hard to keep it from driving me crazy.”

He sighed and straightened in his chair, resting his elbows on the desk in front of him. “I can only imagine – albeit that imagination is helped along considerably by all the research I’ve done and the other amnesia patients I’ve worked with.” He sighed gain. “And I always find myself a little frustrated as well. I want to remember for them, if you know what I mean.”

I nodded. “Yes, I can understand that.”

“I struggled terribly the first time or two that I worked with amnesia patients. All the textbooks and clinical studies didn’t prepare me adequately for the emotional trauma in the patient – or the emotional turmoil that the attending physician can find himself in. “But – ” He smiled suddenly. “The really good news is that in every one of the twenty cases I’ve been associated with, the patient regained either all or most of his memory. There were two patients whose memories for certain segments of life remained fleeting. But even those two people were able to recognize close family and friends again and were able to return to their normal occupations – one with a short period of re-training in some complex work that his job required. So the future looks bright, Peter. And, as I’ve said several times already, keeping a positive attitude and positive thoughts can make a world of difference.”

“I’ll keep trying, Doctor,” I said on a sigh as I rose to go.

“And don’t discount prayer, my friend. Pastor Patterson, who’s been visiting you and praying for you, has seen some pretty heavy-duty miracles in his ministry.”

“I’ll try to keep that in mind.”

“Oh, have you changed your mind about the online search?”

“Not as of this morning. I understand that, considering I was found beaten up out in a field, the police naturally had to run my picture through their data base. And I don’t mind telling you that I heaved a huge sigh of relief when that didn’t turn up anything. But I still can’t bear the idea of seeing my picture plastered all over the internet with a plea for someone to tell me who I am. Just the thought of how vulnerable that makes me has been too much to deal with. But … my resolve on the subject is beginning to weaken. It’s almost Christmas, and although the townspeople have been very hospitable to me, I don’t want to feel I’m the object of charity at some family’s Christmas gathering. I want to be home for Christmas!”

I couldn’t hold back a chuckle as I added, “In fact, I got to thinking about the song “I’ll Be Home For Christmas” so much that I went on a search for it at the library yesterday. I found a holiday CD with that song as the first track. I’ve already played it a dozen times.”

Dr. Randall’s eyes lit up. “That’s good; that’s good. Keep playing it. Something within the deepest part of you led you to that song, and who knows what keys it may hold to open doors for you.”

As I put on my coat, I asked one more question: “Now that the bleeding has stopped, can I start working around the farm for the Morgans? They’ve given me free room and board for five weeks now – ever since I got out of the hospital.”

“I’d say you’re fine to do a little work, but keep it to just three or four hours a day for the rest of this week, and we’ll see how it goes. If the headaches get worse, stop and lie down a while.”

As I left the office I felt lighter than I had for weeks. At least I would be able to repay Edgar and Becky Morgan for their kindness in taking me into their home when I had no place to go – no money – no extra clothes – not even a name. But someday ….

The following Tuesday, I rode with Edgar over to Stockbridge for supplies. About a mile before we reached the city limits, we crossed a railroad track. Out of habit, I glanced both ways, and when my eyes swept left, a jolt of recognition forced me to suck in an audible breath. About a hundred feet beyond the crossing, the track made a wide curve to the right, winding around a small hillside. On either side of the tracks, the banks were snow-covered, and a thin blanket of snow lay between the rails like confectioners sugar forming a pattern over the long trail of railroad ties as far as my eyes could see.

“I’ve been here!” The words were out before I could consciously think them.

“What’s that?” Edgar asked. “You remember somethin’?”

I grabbed his shoulder, “I’ve been here Edgar! I’ve been down this railroad track. Would you pull off the road for a minute?”

“Sure,” he said, navigating the truck over to the wide shoulder and coming to a stop. “But, Son, you know as well as I do that train tracks can look pretty much the same all over the country.”

“No, Edgar,” I said, shaking my head. “Not this time. I know these tracks and that curve. It hit me as soon as I saw it. I’ve been around that curve on a train going down this very track! Edgar,” I spoke through a catch in my throat, “this train track goes around that curve and leads to a place that knows me. A place that knows my name; knows who I am, Edgar!”

I got out of the car and walked several feet along the track. It was bitter cold, and I knew I couldn’t keep Edgar out here very long, but I also knew I had to ride down that track. I walked back and got into the car, looking at the old man, whose eyes clearly showed his worry on my behalf.

“You and Becky have been so good to me, Edgar, and I know I can never completely repay you, so I really do hate to ask for more, but I need to ride down this track from this point to all points south until I come to my home. Could you possibly loan me the money for a ticket?”

I could see confusion and turmoil in his eyes. I could almost hear him thinking, what would Becky tell me to do? That thought must have worked because suddenly, he smiled at me. “I don’t mind loanin’ you the money, Son, but I’ll do it on only one condition: you have to make me a promise that if you get where you think you’re goin’, and it ain’t what you expected, then you’ll come back here to us.”

“Edgar, you old coot. That’s exactly the kind of thing Becky would say.”

He grinned. “I know it. And that’s how I know it’s the right answer.”

“I promise I’ll come back and let you and Becky know what I found. That’s the best I can do. If that’s not good enough to get me a loan, then I’ll just have to walk the track.”

Edgar shook his head, knowing he was beaten. “You’ll get your loan. We’ll see if we can get you a ticket from the train office here in town.”

I was scheduled to leave in two days, so I stopped in to let Dr. Randall know what had transpired. He was excited and encouraged me to pursue the plan.

Becky held onto me in a tight hug the morning I left for Stockbridge. And she did, indeed, say exactly what Edgar had said to me. I gave her the same promise. With tears in her eyes, she just nodded that she accepted it as the only promise I could make right then. I was so indebted to them that it seemed I’d never be able to repay them, and that weighed heavily on me. But if I could ever get my life back, surely I could make enough money to do something for them in return.

Edgar was riding the train with me for the first two stops on the destination. That would put him off at Stone’s Quarry. He had a friend there who did business in Stockbridge and would give him a ride back. As we prepared to board, my stomach quivered. My hands shook. I forced myself to take a slow, deep breath and stepped onto the platform. Once we were seated, I leaned out the window to watch the last activities of departure. As the train lurched into motion, a scene flashed across my mind: big people in heavy winter coats – surrounding me. I held tightly to a hand – someone much taller than I — but — who? I strained to see who held my hand so comfortingly, but the image vanished as quickly as it had come. I shook my head in frustration. “Somethin’ wrong?” Edgar asked. “I just had a flash of memory. I was on this train – evidently as a child, because I was holding tightly to the hand of someone much bigger, but I couldn’t see who!”

Edgar patted my arm. “Well, you know what Doc Randall said. Don’t strain. Let it come easy-like.”

Since we had boarded the train on the far north end of Stockbridge, we had to travel almost three miles before we came to the curve. There was a small platform between our car and the engine, and I had arranged with the conductor to have permission to stand on that platform as we rounded the curve so that I could see clearly. For some reason that mattered to me. The train company had frowned on that plan, of course, out of safety considerations, but my personal plea to the conductor, once he understood my problem, resulted in his compassionate agreement to my request.

As Edgar and I walked toward the door to exit the compartment, a brief conversation flashed through my memory. “But where’s Grandmama?” I heard myself asking. “She will not be riding the train, Peter. She’ll be at the station to meet us at the end of our trip.” I tried to see who spoke to me, but there were no images with the conversation at all. Had it been my mother? Surely it had. But what did she look like?

By that time we were standing on the platform, and Edgar was holding onto my arm – whether to comfort me or to keep his balance better I wasn’t sure, but it didn’t matter. His touch did comfort me. He spoke: “Peter, I know you’re excited … and I guess I’m excited for you. But … Son … I just don’t want you to get your hopes up too high. Train tracks can look the same in a lot of places …” His words hung there for a moment, and then I glanced at him and reached to pat his hand. My eyes immediately returned to watching us round the curve, but I answered him, my voice strong with a confidence I had not experienced since waking up in the hospital.

“Don’t you worry, Edgar. Around this curve and down these tracks is a place that knows me. These tracks are taking me home, my friend.” I glanced back at him  with what I know was a giddy grin on my face. “Just like the song says, Edgar: I’ll be home for Christmas!”

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~ THE END ~

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© 2013 Sandra Conner

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‘The Rescue’ — A Christmas Story

(a short story by Sandra Conner)

The following story is fiction – as are all the characters and the setting. However, the story was inspired directly by the real-life story of one of the most effective and compassionate men in ministry today. Bill Wilson, who is founder and administrator of Metro Ministries in New York City, was actually abandoned as a child and left alone on the streets of his home city in Florida. He was eventually rescued and greatly helped by a loving man of God, and that love led Bill Wilson to devote his entire life to rescuing inner-city children and ministering to their most vital needs – as well as those of their families.

The results of his work, both in the U. S. and internationally, would fill volumes. I have listened to him tell his own story more than once. He always concludes that story by sharing why he does what he does. And it is his reason – which constitutes the final statement by the main character in my story as well – that inspired me to sit down and write “The Rescue.”

I trust that the story will touch your heart deeply, and if it does, I encourage you to remember that it was inspired by the real life experiences of a great man of God. Then follow the link to Bill Wilson’s ministry site and find out more about how God uses this faithful man. Pray about supporting Bill and Metro Ministries with finances and with prayer. You will be investing in a work that is rooted in the heart of our Lord Jesus Christ.
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THE RESCUEBOY FOR RESCUE

The old woman knelt shivering before the tombstone as her husband pulled away a pile of decayed leaves that seemed to cling defiantly to its base in spite of the wind that whipped at them repeatedly. It wasn’t bitterly cold … at least not like it had been many other Decembers in this city. But the wind was always stronger up here at the cemetery, and today, with no sun smiling down its warmth, the chill just seemed to beat its way into their elderly bones. Of course, sorrow had its own chill, and sometimes it was hard to tell if the icy feeling came more from the weather or from the pain within.

The old man finished his work and then joined her, slowing sinking to his own knees and removing his warm felt hat. Tears glistened in his eyes, but he wouldn’t let them fall. He had to be strong for her right now. He glanced sideways at her, seeing the tears flowing freely down her cheeks. She kept pressing her handkerchief to her face, to try to stem the bitter stream, but it did no good.

It had been a year and a half now since they had lost their second son. He had followed his brother into military service and then into war … and, finally, into the grave.

The old man shuddered out a deep sigh. He had brought his new bride to this country just one year before their first son had been born, and it had been a time of promise and happy expectation. The Lord had blessed them with two handsome, healthy sons, and they had been the sweetest blessing life had to give. He sighed now as he thought back over the years of raising two strong-willed, but tender-hearted boys. They had all been so happy … until ….

But he shook off the heaviness of those years of war … and the funerals … and the nights of wishing he could have gone in their stead. He knew his boys weren’t really in these graves here. He knew that for certain. They had believed in Jesus Christ, both of them, from the time they had been tiny little curly-haired boys. And they were in Heaven now. He couldn’t grieve for them, but for himself and his beloved wife … he couldn’t not grieve.

He leaned over toward her and put his arm around her shoulders now. “The wreaths look lovely, my dear. You’ve done yourself proud. I think these are the most beautiful you’ve ever made.” And she had made some beautiful flower arrangements, this wife of his. It had been her life’s work and a great joy at one time. Now, it seemed to always remind her of the need for flowers on these graves, and she took no joy in the work of her hands. Still … it kept her from sitting and mourning all the time, so he encouraged her to keep the business going.

And the money helped. There was no doubt about that. His pension and the little bit he made working as the church custodian were just enough to enable them to keep their house, modest as it was, and to cover their basic utilities.

But … with both their incomes … and with a little extra help from the Lord from time to time … they lived well enough. And every year at this Christmas season they pulled out their special bank … the little treasure box where they had put aside a very small offering each morning during their prayer time with the Lord. They paid the tithes on their monthly income faithfully, of course, but this little extra offering represented their desire to do more than just what was expected of them. And each Christmas they asked the Lord what He would have them do with the money to help someone not as fortunate as they.

The old man smiled to himself now. Christmas Eve was just three days away. They needed to get to asking the Lord what His plan was for this year. He leaned over and kissed his wife on the cheek. “Come, Mama. We need to get into the warm. The wind is getting bitter.” She allowed him to help her rise from her knees and pull her coat tighter around her neck.

The wool scarf she wore on her head had almost blown off, and he straightened that too and then placed his hands tenderly on either side of her worn face. “Our wonderful boys are warm and safe in Heaven, Mama … looking down on these wreathes you have made for them and feeling proud. Now … we will go home and fix some hot cocoa and take out our silver bank and have our talk with the Lord about His plans for the money, hmm?”

She nodded her head in agreement, and they turned together to plod arm-in-arm out of the cemetery and down the lain to their car.

As they entered their back door, he stopped a moment and breathed deeply. “Ahhh . . . your kitchen still smells like molasses cookies and shortbread, Mama,” he said, pinching her cheek tenderly and grinning at her. “What do you say we have some with our cocoa?”

His wife was taking off her scarf and coat and hanging them on the pegs beside the door. “You’ll ruin your supper if you eat all that sugar right now, Papa,” she scolded him. It never occurred to either of them to refrain from calling each other by those names, even though they had no children living now. They had rarely called each other anything else since their two little ones had adopted those names for them. It had thrilled them so to be parents that they took pride in the names and wore them like crowns of honor.

Now he hung his coat and hat beside hers and grabbed her around the waist with both hands and began waltzing her around the kitchen. “Well, I have the solution to that!” he announced boldly. “We’ll just have molasses cookies and Scottish shortbread for our supper!”

“Now listen to you go on. What kind of supper is that?”

“Well … we’ll have a chunk of that delicious cheese you bought yesterday along with it, for protein,” he announced, as if that solved the whole question, whirling her around one last time and depositing her in a chair beside the table. At least she was laughing now, and that gave his heart a little ease. “You make the cocoa, and I’ll go get the treasure box.”

So while the milk warmed on the stove, Mama set the food out on the table. She was pouring out the cocoa when he returned carrying a small silver box that looked a little like a treasure chest. “Here it is, Mama,” he said setting it in the middle of the table and taking a seat beside her. “Now, let us thank the Lord for our food and enjoy it while the cocoa is good and hot, and then … then we shall count the money!”

When they had eaten their fill, and their faces were rosy with the warmth of the kitchen and the good food, they moved their utensils out of the way, and Papa pulled the box to him, unlocking it with the key that he always kept tucked away in his top dresser drawer. He dumped out the contents and began to straighten out the paper and sort the coins. “You count the coins, Mama, while I count the bills,” he said, and so they sat quietly, adding up their respective parts of the treasure.

When he was done, Papa picked up the little pad and pencil that he also kept in the box and wrote down his amount. Then he wrote down the amount Mama had in coins and added them together. He looked up at her beaming. “Mama, God has truly blessed us this year. We have put a total of seven hundred, four dollars, and seventy-two cents in our bank!”

“Oh, that’s more than last year or the year before either one!”

“Yes!” he said, nodding his head eagerly.

“Do you think the Lord has multiplied it for us?”

The old man smiled at her with eyes that were lit up with his faith that the Lord had done just that. “Now we must find out what our Lord wants us to do with it. Shall we pray right here, or go into the living room and kneel on the rug?”

“Let’s go and get down on our knees. We need to do everything we can to make sure we focus on the Lord. We wouldn’t want to make a mistake with so much money.”

So they moved into the living room and knelt down in front of their old but cared-for sofa, and, hand in hand, sought the Lord for His plan for the money they had given to Him during their morning devotions. After they had prayed for some time and were now both quiet and listening with their hearts, Papa whispered to Mama, “Do you hear anything yet, Mama?”

“Not yet, Papa. Perhaps, He will reveal something to us while we sleep tonight. He did that once before, remember?”

“Yes, that’s right. All right. We will expect that He will show us something, either as we sleep, or maybe when we first awake in the morning.” He grinned down at her with the eagerness of a small child. “I can hardly wait to see what He has in mind. I know we have to be patient. He may not show us until Christmas morning, you know. One time that’s what He did. But at least we know that He’s never taken longer than that to tell us what we must do, and that’s only four days away.”

Mama smiled at his excitement and rose from her knees, grateful for this generous hearted husband that the Lord had given her. If only … if only he could have kept his sons to pour that heart into, she thought, shaking her head gently at the sad thought.

“No, Mama,” he said to her now, reaching out and lifting her chin and looking into her still bright blue eyes. “We will not be sad tonight. God has something happy for us to do, and we will enjoy it!” He leaned down and kissed her on the mouth. Then he raised his eyes heavenward and said, “Thank you, Good Lord, for giving me such a beautiful wife!”

“Oh, Papa . . .” she said, chuckling and shaking her head.

“Now,” he said turning her toward the kitchen, “I will help with the dishes, and then you shall read to me.”

The next morning the couple rose expectantly, eagerly anticipating the Lord’s leading about what to do with their money. But as the day progressed into evening, both had to admit that they just didn’t sense the Lord’s direction yet. So they retired that night with the prayer on their lips that He would show them tomorrow.

Again the following morning, they were a little disappointed, but since it was a day with much to be done, they quickly went about their business. Papa had more than the usual custodial work to do at the huge stone church in the middle of the city, because there were always extra services and celebrations this time of year. And Mama had finished the Christmas flower arrangements that had been ordered by two merchants whose shops were on the same street as the church. They always ordered the flowers for their holiday parties from her.

So after having a cozy breakfast, the couple loaded the flowers into the car and headed into the main part of the city. As they passed the corner one block from the church, they noticed a small boy sitting on a concrete bench on the sidewalk. “Would you look at that little tyke, Papa,” Mama said with a chuckle. “He’s bundled up all the way to his nose.”

“Well it is awfully cold,” Papa answered. “Wonder what he’s doing sitting there all by himself.”

“Oh, his mama probably told him to stay put while she ran into the bank behind the bench there.”

“Mmmm, probably, but … I don’t know … in these times, I don’t think I’d leave my little boy sitting by himself for even that long in a city this big.”

TO READ THE ENTIRE STORY, CLICK HERE.

 

 

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