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TWO CHRISTMAS MIRACLES

Two Christmas Miracles

by Tom Mach

Copyright 2017 Tom Mach

Shakespir Edition

Shakespir Edition, License Notes

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Foreword

 

*
p<>{color:#000;}. What happened to Christmas?

*
p<>{color:#000;}. How did Santa Claus replace Jesus when it’s not Santa’s birthday, but Christ’s?

Good questions. I can recall past Christmases when the radio would play Christmas carols—I mean Christ-centered songs like “Joy to the World” or “It Came Upon a Midnight Clear” almost all day long from the week preceding Christmas to the actual day itself. I can also remember going to the park or a public place and seeing statues of the Virgin Mary, Joseph, the Babe, and adoring shepherds.

 

Now, seldom does the radio play even a single Christ-centered carol and rare indeed is it that television gave any mention about Jesus Christ at Christmas time. (We don’t want to offend anyone who doesn’t want to recognize whose birthday it is, do we?) It’s also now impossible to find a public place that features a Nativity scene because, of course, the ACLU claims that we would be promoting religion. (But, of course, it is all right to put up a statue of a heathen god in a public square because, well, it’s “artistic”.

 

Anyway, I’m not only a believer in the true spirit of Christmas, but I’m also a believer in miracles. And what better time for miracles than during this most sacred of holidays!

 

Hence, I have two stories here which I hope you will enjoy. One is about a homeless man who is having a difficult time getting warm on a particularly cold Christmas Eve. The other is about a widow having a difficult time determining how she can get food on the table, let alone give her five-year-old daughter an impossible gift.

 

I hope both stories warm your heart and leave you with something to think about.

 

~Tom Mach

www.Tom-Mach.com

Keeping Warm on Christmas

by Tom Mach

I swear under my breath when Isaac tells me there are no sleeping accommodations at the shelter. Maybe, Isaac says, I should call the pastor at the local church and see if he can find you a place for the night. What do you say, John?

 

Forget it, I reply. I don’t need no damn charity.

 

Are you going to be okay, John?

 

I try to ignore him as I wrap myself in a torn blanket and start to head out.

 

John?

 

Yeah, I’ll be okay, I murmur as I plod through the snow. If I don’t freeze to death first.

 

I stand in the street and just manage to get out of the way of a Buick sedan crunching its way in the snow toward the intersection. Maybe I can flag down a car.

 

After being ignored by four drivers, I notice a green truck with its tailgate down since it was hauling three long steel rods. It is stopped at a light, so I climb onto the bed of the truck, and while doing so, inadvertently drop my old blanket just when the truck accelerates. There is a rolled-up carpet in the bed of the truck and I manage to wrap myself in it as the truck continues on its way.

 

Christmas Eve! Only five years ago this day I was arrested for drug possession. I had been a drummer for the Angels, a band that played all over the country. While in prison everything I had was repossessed. Penniless. Homeless. No job for a felon like me who had once been a talented drummer.

 

  • * *

 

Marcia Hartman brings her husband Dave another martini. Nice Christmas party, she says, looking at a crowd of about twenty-five people chatting away in the spacious Hartman living room.

 

Yes, Dave says. It was good to see Senator Briggs and his lovely wife.

 

Marcia looks up at the 12-foot fir tree, sparkling with tinsel and miniature colored bulbs. That, she says, has got to be the tallest tree we’ve ever had.

 

The tallest and the grandest, Dave replies.

 

  • * *

 

The truck comes to a screeching halt. Because I wondered why it had braked so suddenly, I peek though an opening in the rolled-up carpet.

 

A husky voice growls at me. Okay, mister, get out of my damn truck!

 

Before I could say anything, the man unrolls the carpet, spinning me toward the steel rods in his truck. What are you doing here, you bum?

 

Just trying to get away from the cold,

 

Get out of here! Get away from my truck. Go where you belong.

 

Where do I belong? I could have argued with him, but instead I emerge and plant my old sneakers on the snow-laden street. At least, I plead with him, let me keep the carpet.

 

Are you crazy? Get out of here, you moron.

 

  • * *

 

Senator Briggs approaches the Hartmans. Have you met my wife Gloria?

 

No, we haven’t, Marcia says. It’s a pleasure to meet you, Mrs. Briggs. This is my husband David.

 

Gloria shakes his hand with a feathery lightness. My husband told me a lot about you, Mr. Hartman, her false eyelashes flicking.

 

After an awkward moment, Gloria adds, I could have sworn I heard a horse neighing as we drove in.

 

Dave widens his smile. That’s Henry, my Arabian horse in the stall. Henry always neighs when he hears someone approach the house. The slightest noise sometimes upsets him.

 

The senator turns toward him. You raise horses too? I’ve got two chestnut Morgan horses myself. I might have one of them enter the race at Churchill Downs next year.

Dave nods politely. Any important business you’ll need to attend to in Washington, Senator?

 

Not really. By the way, I noticed you also had a Hanukah menorah near the entryway as well as a set of Kwanzaa candles on the foyer.

 

Yes, I enjoy the idea of celebrating different holidays at the same time. Marcia insists on calling this a Christmas party, and I tolerate her Christian beliefs. But you know, I feel this is a time to celebrate anything one darn well feels like celebrating.

Briggs laughs politely. The only thing I don’t like celebrating is this cold weather.

  • * *

 

I shiver in the unrelenting snowy downpour, and I am more than ankle deep in the white stuff. I miss my old blanket and wish I could find something with which to cover myself. I look around and notice I am far from the big city. I trudge further up and spot a sign which tells me this is the town of Richfield, population 1,550.

 

Rich is right, I laugh aloud. Only the super wealthy live here. Them and their big houses, their snooty attitudes, the way they think they are better than everyone else.

 

I stare at a sprawling white mansion with dormers, a red tiled roof, a wraparound porch, and a nearby barn. The curved driveway leads to the porch and is well lit because of the blinking lights decorating the pine trees on either side. There are also colored lights on the front of the house that spell out the words HAPPY HOLIDAYS.

 

As I approach I notice the wide door of the barn is partially open. There is only a space of about six or eight inches, but I assume it might be possible to slither underneath to get inside. I gotta get away from this wind. It’s only makin’ me colder.

 

A horse neighs as I near the barn. He keeps neighing as I slide under the door, but once I get inside I pat him gently with my right hand and then with my left—as if I were tapping on my drum. I am surprised that the horse immediately calms down.

 

It’s not as cold in this barn, but I’m still shivering. There is just barely enough light coming through the opening in the door, but I am able to spot a stack of newspapers and a small pile of hay against the side of the barn. The scent of horse manure wafts through the barn, but I am too exhausted to let that bother me.

 

Just as I am about to curl up on the hay and pull the papers over my weary body, a car down the road backfires and the horse rears up in fright. The horse’s hoof strikes me on the side of the head. Then all goes black.

 

  • * *

 

Dave Hartman stands until all the guests are seated at the dinner table. Then he clinks his glass with a teaspoon and proposes a toast. Ladies and gentlemen, he says, I am thrilled to see all of you here. Gloria and I debated about whether to get an unadorned aluminum pole to celebrate Festivus, that holiday made popular by Seinfeld, or whether to get a holiday tree. Guess what?

 

He laughs and points toward the parlor. As you can plainly see, Gloria got her wish. Now we have a monstrous tree which took my two servants all day to decorate.

 

  • * *

 

John. John, a sweet young voice whispers out to me.

 

The voice was so beautiful and urgent, I knew I had to get up, but I am so cold my whole body vibrates like the skin of beating drum. Yet with an effort I force myself to stand. I attempt to keep warm by pressing my arms against my chest. Where am I? This is a barn. But who is this person lying on a mound of hay, blood running down the side of his head? I can’t see his face.

 

John, the voice calls again. It sounds like the gentle voice of a teenage girl. Come see my child, John.

 

I gaze down at the body of a man on the hay. I am afraid to ascertain who that man is. I think I already know.

 

John!

 

I’m coming, I answer. I shiver from the cold as I stumble toward the source of the voice. Then I see her, a girl of about fifteen, dressed in a white garment with a blue mantle, kneeling beside a wooden trough. She pleads with me to come closer. The shepherds, she says, will be here soon.

 

I look at the child in the trough, and the infant reaches out his tiny hand as if wanting to touch me. For some strange reason I feel I need to give him a gift of some kind. But what?

 

Suddenly I remember an old carol I used to sing. It had a nice, steady rhythm to it, and it was one I used to play on a kettle drum when I was only five.. I slap my hand against my knees for the beat as I sing:

 

Shall I play for you, pa-rum pum pum pum, pa-rum pum pum pum, me and my drum?

me and my drum?

 

When the babe smiles at me I feel a glow I can’t describe.

And I am no longer shivering.

  1. # #

A Chronograph Watch for Carolyn

 

by Tom Mach

 

This afternoon I dreamed I saw Carolyn, my six-year-old, lying in an open casket. On her hand was a man’s watch—a Tiffany chronograph her father used to wear. and her lifeless eyes stared back at me. I heard a shriek and when I awoke I realized it came from me.

 

What’s wrong, Mommy? Carolyn said, pressing against me. I forced a smile but as our eyes met, I knew she didn’t believe that everything was all right.

 

Just a silly dream, that’s all, I said. Carolyn, I’ve got to get up so I can get some things done. After all, it’s Christmas Eve and I haven’t had time to buy groceries.

 

I love Christmas, Carolyn said. Think he’ll come?

 

Who?

 

Santa Claus. Do you think he’ll get it for me?

 

I sat on the edge of the bed and stroked her curly blonde hair. We’ll see. I wish she hadn’t seen that luxurious Tiffany watch with gold-plated numerals in a Macy’s catalog. It looked exactly like the expensive watch my husband Steve once wore, and it was the only thing Carolyn wanted for Christmas. I didn’t have it anymore. I had to pawn it for rent money months after he died.

 

Carolyn danced her way to the living room while I got dressed. I stuck my hand in my worn purse and fished for money. Exactly five dollars and twenty-two cents was all I had left after paying my credit card obligations. Well, at least food stamps would help get us through to the end of the week. Then what?

 

I’m ready, Mommy.

 

She had on her torn blue coat, the one I’d been hoping to replace. But after losing my job at the diner, I applied for welfare. It would take a while before I got my first check, the welfare agent told me. A while? What do I do in the meantime?

 

I took Carolyn by the hand and left the apartment. Jacob, the handyman, spotted me in the parking lot.

I nodded my hello to him and headed for the car.

 

Busy day for me, he said. Gotta take care of these empty apartments. No new tenants for the past three months.

 

I nodded again. Carolyn and I are going to the supermarket, I said.

 

It was a ten-minute drive to the store. Dillons was decorated with tinsel, lights, Happy Holidays signs, and caricatures of fat, smiling Santas. But I resented having to see this in a supermarket when I simply wanted to forget about Christmas. Ever since Steve was killed in an automobile accident coming home drunk from a Christmas Eve party, I hated Christmas. It was a meaningless holiday, and now that I lost my job I was even deprived of being able to support Carolyn and myself.

 

As I left the store, holding groceries with one hand and Carolyn’s tiny fingers with the other, I bumped into a woman wearing a white ski jacket. She appeared to be in her forties, with brownish hair and beautiful blue eyes. Her skin was smooth and her smile soft and reassuring. She didn’t seem upset by the collision.

 

I’m terribly sorry, I stammered.

 

Think nothing of it, she said. I’m glad your bag of groceries didn’t take a tumble.

 

Before I could say anything else, she stooped and gave Carolyn a hug. You’re a pretty little girl, Carolyn.

I frowned. How did she know her name? Did I mention it?

 

I just love little children, the stranger said.

 

I took Carolyn’s hand. Well, I must be on my way.

 

She gently touched my arm. I should introduce myself. My name is Hadraniel, but you can call me Hadry. May I ask a favor of you?

 

Sure.

 

I recently moved into an apartment, she said, and I ordered way too much food from a caterer as I was expecting company. I don’t think they’re going to show up so I wondered if you and your daughter could join me for dinner tonight.

 

I paused, not knowing what to say.

 

Hadry blinked with anxiety. Please. I really hate to eat alone.

 

I turned to Carolyn. What do you say, Honey? Would you want to have dinner tonight with this nice lady?

 

Carolyn smiled broadly and nodded.

 

Then it’s set, Hadry said. See you at seven?

 

Sure. Oh wait, where do you live?

 

At the Willows. Apartment 315.

 

I took in a deep breath. That was my apartment complex. And 315 was just upstairs from me. I shrugged and took Carolyn home, glad that at least tonight we wouldn’t have to eat rice and toast again like we did last night.

 

Seven o’clock found me hesitating at the door to Hadry’s apartment. I found it embarrassing not to have anything better to wear than the same denim skirt I wore at the supermarket. As soon as I knocked, the door opened and Hadry welcomed us inside.

 

The windows had red drapes, the floor plush blue carpeting, and the walls decorated with landscape paintings. In the corner of the room was a Christmas tree. I must have stood with my mouth agape for a while because Hadry asked me if anything was wrong.

 

Why no, I answered. I can’t believe what you’ve done to this apartment. And Jacob said we hadn’t had any new tenants.

 

Hadry entered the kitchen and emerged with plates and silverware. If you want, she said, you can help me bring all this food to the table.

 

I’d be more than happy to, I answered. I was amazed at the array of dishes she had—roast turkey with chestnut dressing, cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes, and pumpkin pie. I wanted to ask her whom had she been expecting for company with all this food, but I figured it was probably none of my business.

 

I thought, however, there’d be no harm in asking her what she did for a living.

 

She tilted her head in thought about my question. I’m a consultant for people who are facing serious problems, she said.

 

Like a social worker?

 

Sort of. By the way, you haven’t touched your pie yet.

 

I’ve eaten more than I have for some time, I said. It was very kind of you to invite Carolyn and me. Your tree looks wonderful.

 

Hadry turned to look at it. Yes, it does, doesn’t it? Did you notice there are some presents under it?

I hadn’t noticed. Yes, there were two gifts under the tree.

 

Hadry excused herself from the table and went to pick them up. Both presents were wrapped in white tissue and tied with red ribbons.

 

Here, she said, handing me the larger of the two gifts. This one is for you.

 

Hadry winked at Carolyn. And this one, she added, is for you, my child. Carolyn looked at me as if asking for my permission to accept it. I nodded my approval.

 

The only thing I ask, Hadry said, is that you wait until Christmas day to open them.

 

But I don’t have anything to give you, I protested.

 

Nonsense. You’ve given me your companionship and the pleasure of having your cute little girl at dinner. But if you’d like you can join me on the sofa and we’ll sing a few carols.

 

While I agreed, I wondered if I could get myself to sing. After all, I’d turn the radio off whenever I heard a Christmas carol. But tonight was different. I felt changed, more alive than ever.

 

Soon I was singing “Silent Night” and “Little Town of Bethlehem” and “The First Noel” as if I had been auditioning for a church choir. Through the window I could see drifting snowflakes and it reminded me of the days Steve and I would sit by a fireplace on a cold winter night and just enjoy the moment.

 

The next morning Carolyn, excited, woke me. C’mon, Mommy, it’s Christmas. Get up.

 

I had forgotten the gifts Hadry gave us until Carolyn mentioned them.

 

Okay, we’ll open them, I said.

 

Open yours first, Mommy.

 

I unwrapped it and froze when I saw a pile of hundred dollar bills. There must be some mistake, I thought, my heart pounding. Hadry must have given this away by accident.

 

Look, Mommy.

 

I turned to see Carolyn holding up a man’s watch with an alligator strap and gold-plated numerals, just like the kind Steve wore.

 

Mommy?

 

What?

 

How did she know?

 

That was a good question. Honey, let’s go up to her place right now and find out.

 

I knocked on the door several times. No answer.

 

About to give up, I noticed Jacob nearby. He looked puzzled. What are you doing? he asked.

 

What do you mean?

 

This apartment’s empty. He opened the door. See for yourself.

 

The room was vacant. No sofa. No chairs. No fancy drapes. No carpeting.

 

But I don’t understand.

 

Here, Mommy. You should read this. It was with my present.

 

Carolyn handed me the note. It was a message from Hadry—

 

“Merry Christmas, Carolyn! Your Daddy told me he hopes you like his watch.”

 

  1. # #

There is one more story I wrote that deals with the theme of Christmas. It’s actually a novel called Angels at Sunset, and it is the fictional life of woman named Jessica who, after witnessing Lincoln being shot at Ford’s Theater, goes on to fight for woman’s suffrage, unaware that Michael Alcott, a revengeful man is out to kill her. In the final chapter, Jessica’s son-law, Francesco, is conducting a music rehearsal with his students in a high school auditorium. Michael appears from the darkness in the back of the room to confront Francesco. Initially, Michael, a gifted violinist, had intended to seek revenge on Jessica by kidnapping Jessica’s granddaughter but he has a change of heart as he hears one of the high school students make mistakes in playing the violin. He decides to help as he approaches the stage:

 

“Sir!” Michael said, trotting down the aisle toward the orchestra, “I know what she’s doing wrong.”

 

Francesco’s eyes widened. “You! Michael Alcott! What you doing here?”

 

“Mind if I give your violinist some pointers?”

 

Francesco was both stunned and confused. He wondered if this was a ruse and looked carefully to see if Michael had a weapon. His heart raced. He ought to call the police. “Yeah, give pointers,” he said cautiously, “but I no want trouble. Understand? No trouble.”

 

“Don’t worry.”

 

Francesco grumbled as he headed for a wall telephone. He dialed a number and asked for the police department, but Michael pressed down the receiver. “Please hang up, Mr. Bonelli.”

 

“Why you here?” Francesco asked, his voice shaking as he replaced the phone on its receiver.

 

“As I said, I just want to give your student violinist some help.” He turned his attention to Sandra and asked her to hand him her violin and bow. “You see,” he told her, pressing the chin rest of her violin under his neck, “you need to get softer sounds using lighter pressure on the bow.” He stroked the bow evenly against one of the strings. “You do this by drawing the bow closer to the fingerboard. Now you try it.”

 

Sandra took the violin and bow and began playing.

 

“That’s fine,” Michael said, his voice getting louder and more irritable, “but don’t grip the bow tightly like you have been doing. On your bow returns, you should—” He turned his frustrated face toward Francesco.

 

“Mr. Bonelli, would you mind asking them to stop?”

 

“Who?”

 

“Your choir. Have them stop. I know they sing beautifully. In fact, I have never heard such a wonderful chorus in all my life. But I cannot talk to your student and listen to them caroling at the same time.”

 

Francesco frowned. He looked at the students in the choir. Three of them were leafing through their songbooks. Two were whispering to one another. The rest were staring off into space.

 

Snowflakes drifted across the high windows. Illuminated by the moon, they formed white triangles against the corners of the panes.

 

Except for a few teachers sitting in the front row, the auditorium seats were empty, and those in the rear of the room were shaded in darkness. Francesco blinked at a curious pattern of light by the rear auditorium door. It was bright and had the shape of an angel. No, such foolishness. One of the ceiling lights is on, that’s all.

 

He looked at the musicians who were engaged in silently reading their sheet music. Then he shifted his attention back to the students in the choir. They were just as quiet as everyone else in the room.

 

“Don’t you hear them?” Michael asked, his face brightening. “They sound just like angels.”

 

Francesco’s brow wrinkled as he paused to reflect. Many years ago, his father Enrico had told him about a certain theologian named Francis De Sales. According to Enrico, De Sales instructed us to “make ourselves familiar with the angels and behold them frequently in spirit, for without being seen, they are present with you.”

Francesco still believed that somehow, in some mysterious way, angels had a positive influence on the development and performance of great music. How else could Beethoven have written his best music while he was totally deaf? How else could Mozart have composed symphonies as a mere child? Angels. Yes, angels. They had to be an influence. He was certain of it.

 

Finally nodding in understanding, he gazed at Michael. “It has been a long time since you heard them, Mr. Alcott, hasn’t it?”

 

Michael pressed his hand against his chin as he closed his eyes. He took in a deep breath and exhaled slowly. “Yes. A very long time.”

 

[To read the beginning of this powerful historical novel please search of Angels at Sunset by Tom Mach on the Amazon.com website]

 

 

 


TWO CHRISTMAS MIRACLES

This book of fiction contains two touching Christmas stories. Each story shows a different aspect of God's love with one of His miracles during the Christmas season. One story is entitled "Keeping Warm on Christmas" about a once-famous drummer who is now homeless and searching for shelter on Christmas Eve. The other story is entitled "A Chronograph Watch for Carolyn" and is about a widow who has a five-year-old daughter but who is virtually penniless and can't afford fulfilling her daughter's wish for a special present.

  • ISBN: 9781370600083
  • Author: Tom Mach
  • Published: 2016-11-20 22:05:10
  • Words: 4212
TWO CHRISTMAS MIRACLES TWO CHRISTMAS MIRACLES