A BOY’S CHRISTMAS STORY
By The Boy as a Man
This short story was submitted by a reader. It’s not a happy story and contains a small amount of objectionable language. The author provided the following advisory for those who choose to read it.
“For most of my adult life I have been chasing ghosts from my childhood. These ghosts represented memories, unpleasant memories. Often they would visit me as I dreamed. The dreams would wake me at night. Cold sweat and tremors would sometimes keep me from going back into a restful slumber. The ghosts were always just out reach, but I knew that if I could just catch one, it would fade like a thief in the night. A thief who stole from me my peace of mind at a very young age.”
“I have caught some of those ghosts, with one being represented in this story.”
It is early Christmas morning. The boy lies still in his bed. His covers are pulled to his neck.
He stares at the ceiling as the lights of the night casts their shadows. The cold wind makes the branches of a tree dance across his window shades and across the ceiling and walls. To the boy these shadows are both calming and terrifying.
Looking to the window at the foot of the bed he watches as dark figures dance on the drawn shade. They begin to take form and soon a large creature seems to engulf a smaller creature in cruel embrace. The malevolent shadow turns to him and the boy’s mind begins to race and panic. He pulls the covers over his head and curls his knees into his chest.
Under the covers his panic ebbs but a feeling of dark dread endures. He listens more closely to the sounds of the cold wind. It’s whistles and howls penetrate the window frame. He feels alone with no one to help him fight the coldness of the night or the terrors of the dark.
On the other side of the bedroom door is the kitchen. Across that great divide sits his sisters room. The boy feels a knot of coldness in his belly as he anticipates crossing that cold linoleum covered expanse. Fear continues to take hold and he pulls the covers tighter. He wants to move, but is afraid to leave the warmth and small comfort of the blankets.
His fear is suddenly overruled and the boy leaves the shelter of the bed. The floor is cold beneath his feet. He looks at the crib where his brother sleeps, and feels a moment of love, and then jealousy. The little one, he believes, has yet to feel the angst and fears that come every day in this house. He pads to the end of his bed and passes the tall hutch. For a moment a memory of his father holding his mother by the neck intrudes on his thoughts. He sees her feet leave the floor as his father draws back a partially opened hand. The thought is shaken off as continues his journey to the kitchen.
In a second he is out the door and crossing the kitchen. The boy’s sister emerges from her bedroom. Their younger sister remains asleep and oblivious. Her smile is nervous. She shares the boys fear and angst. They live everyday knowing well the tightrope of their parents volatile emotions. This is a morning to share a few moments of quiet joy, in a desperate hope that the day will be peaceful and loving.
The look at each other, excited and nervous. Padding across the floor, they toe gently past their parents bedroom and into the front hallway. The know that their mother is in there. The father might be, or he may be at his girlfriends. The cold air blows in from underneath the front door whose glass is painted with hoarfrost. They hurry their steps as they pad down the hallway.
The sun is starting to lighten the living room as they see the silver Christmas Tree on a stand in front of the center of the three angled windows. The boy turns on the colored wheel that casts light on the tree as his sister casts a worried look towards the sliding wooden doors and couch that separate the living room from their parents bedroom. The boy watches as warm colors paint the tree. He see no creatures in the display and feels a fleeting moment of warmth and safety.
Presents are piled on the table that holds the tree, and on the floor around the table. The boy and his sister begin to look for wrapped packages with their names on them. They try to be quiet as they quickly replace the presents that are probably underwear or socks. Excitement takes hold when they find one that seems to not be clothing. Their fervor overcomes their caution and they begin to talk and giggle with each other, unaware that they are becoming louder in their search.
The younger sister comes in and looks around carefully. She is only three but knows that peace in the house is never a sure thing. She joins her older siblings under the tree and all three begin to clamor a little more loudly. The boy and his sisters are lost in exuberance. Caution has been forgotten.
Voices emerge from behind the sliding doors. The boy freezes and looks at his sister who also stops with a wide-eyed look. They stare at each other and see fear. The younger girl continues to sort through presents The voices get louder. They hear the father, until now they did not know that he was home. His voice is angry.
The words heard are not pleasant. The boy remembers now that he had woken up to an argument and had lain awake until they stopped. He was afraid that things would escalate and that his mother would again seek shelter in his room. The boy envisions his mother again, up against the hutch, her face crimson, eyes watered and wide open, her mouth screaming and swearing, daring the father to hit her again. His stomach again goes cold and fear and angst take ahold.
The mother appears in the doorway wiping away tears. She wishes everyone a Merry Christmas, but the passion is missing. The boy just looks at her as she goes to the windows to raise the shades. Sunlight come in, but it is a light without warmth. He watches as his mother goes to the far corner where the record player sits. She sorts through her albums frantically.
The father yells from the bedroom that he wants breakfast first and that they’ll open presents later. This causes the mother to yell back that she wants to put some music on first. As the boy watches his mother he can see the tension and anger in her body language. Her movements are tight and short. She slides a record out of it’s sleeve and raises the steel lid of the record player. She puts the record onto the turntable as the father appears in the door and looms over the room.
Bellowing like an angry bull he yells, “Get your stupid fucking ass in the kitchen and cook my fucking breakfast?” His face is a rage of red and his eyes show anger and malice. The boy looks at him in knowing terror. He cannot move.
The loud sudden sound of metal on metal is heard at the same time as a high pitched, primal scream. The boy looks quickly to to the corner. The steel cover of the record player has slammed down onto his mother’s fingers, both hands. She continues to scream as she lifts the cover. The boy’s world right now is only him and his mother. Nothing else exists but his confused fear and her confused rage.
Turning to to face the boy, the mother holds up her hands. Her face is contorted in pain, the fingers on one hand bleeding. She raises her hands to the ceiling for all to see, leans towards the boy and screams as spittle flies,
“MERRY FUCKING CHRISTMAS!” She then screams again as she runs from the room.
The boy does not see his sisters flee.
He does not see his father grab his coat and car keys as he leaves the house.
The boy does not know that the front door is left open allowing the cold wind into the hallway and living room.
The boy, fear replaced by an an emotion free coldness that will grow and be nurtured for years, stares into a cold nothingness. His heart freezes slowly into a cold mass that will take years to begin to thaw.