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A short story: ‘The Magic of Christmas’

December 26, 2018

EDITOR’S NOTE: This short work of fiction was written by Putnam County resident Derek Coleman, published novelist and columnist for The Putnam Herald. Coleman and The Putnam Herald hope our readers are experiencing their own Christmas magic this season.

“Why is your tree so old?” Amber was at the age when, if she thought something, she said it.

“Because it was my Mam-Maw’s; she gave it to us, we don’t have the money for a new one, and anyway, I like it,” Josh replied.

Amber laughed. “What? Even the great big lights and that raggedy old angel on top?”

“She’s not raggedy,” Josh protested. “My Mom had her when she was little and now she’s mine.”

Amber looked up and down the tree with its fading decorations, lights from the dark ages and the ancient angel. Then her gaze settled on the base where there were just a few wrapped presents.

“Are you poor?” she asked, curiously.

Josh was already regretting asking her to come to play, but he had been taught to be polite.

“No,” he replied, “I’ve got my mom and she’s got me, so we don’t need anything else.”

Standing in the kitchen doorway, Mary heard every word and a tear came to her eye. Things had been tough since Josh’s dad walked out on them, leaving behind a pile of debts. She’d worked hard to keep them together and to pay off what they owed, but there just wasn’t enough for luxuries like new Christmas trees.

She turned back to the table and picked up her pocket book. As always, it wasn’t heavy so there definitely wasn’t enough in it for a new tree, but, she thought, perhaps she could afford some modern lights or maybe some new decorations. One look was enough. There were a few dollars and a raffle ticket. She couldn’t afford to buy that, really, but everyone else in the firm had bought one and she’d been too embarrassed to say no.

She had some gifts for Josh and she’d bought their Christmas dinner. It wasn’t going to

be the Christmas she would have wanted, but she knew things would get better. She’d nearly cleared what they owed and she’d applied for a promotion. She didn’t expect to get it because she lacked experience, but she was determined and she would keep trying.

They could have gone to her parents’ for Christmas, but it was a long way and travel cost so much she preferred to spend what little they had at home. Her mom and dad were disappointed, but she was too proud to let them pay their fares and they knew her well enough not to offer.

She walked into the living room. Josh and Amber had gone into his bedroom and Mary stood looking at the tree. She had to agree, it was shabby. Artificial trees didn’t usually shed their needles but this one was so old it was beginning to. The lights were long past their prime, too. Modern lights were a quarter the size and every year Mary had to spend hours trying to get them to work.

She sighed. When she had money they would be the first things she replaced. Not the angel though. That angel had been on top of every Christmas tree since long before her mother was born; she couldn’t bear to think of throwing it out. Reaching up, she adjusted its position slightly and smiled. “I wish you were real,” she whispered to the solemn-faced little doll, “I could do with a little Christmas magic from a guardian angel about now.”

With a sigh, she turned away and went back to the kitchen to prepare dinner, unaware that at the top of the tree the angel was now smiling because she had just heard the words she’d been waiting years to hear.

It was next morning and Mary was preparing breakfast when her cell phone rang.

“Mary?” a man’s voice replied.

She caught her breath. It was Joe, one of the partners at the office where she worked. He was a nice guy, he was single and she really liked him, but he’d never seemed interested in her and, since he was one of the bosses, she couldn’t very well let him know how she felt.

“Yes?” said Mary

“This is Joe, from the office,” he replied. “If you’re not busy I was wondering if I could stop by your place for a minute.”

Mary frowned. She’d finished work and had a week off, why would he want to see her now?

“What for?” she asked, anxiously. “Is there something wrong?”

“No, nothing,” he laughed, “I just thought you might like your Christmas presents a couple of days early.”

“Christmas presents?” she repeated dumbly. What was he talking about? She’d told everyone she wasn’t doing Christmas presents this year.

“Yes, Christmas presents,” he confirmed. “You have two of them.”

“Two?” She knew she was repeating things but for some reason she couldn’t seem to think straight.

“One of them is from me,” he replied. “It’s a letter confirming you’ve got the promotion as my executive assistant.” Mary was dumbstruck. She’d got the job! Joe paused but she couldn’t speak and he went on. “The second might come in handy too,” he said. “It’s a check for $500; we just held the draw and you got first prize in the office raffle.”

After ending the call she stood staring down at her phone for a long moment, hardly daring to believe what he’d just said to her. Promotion and $500 would change everything.

On top of the tree, the angel risked another small smile. That was two wishes done. Mary didn’t know her dad was coming to take her and Josh home for Christmas, but that wouldn’t count as the third wish. That one would have to be something special and the angel knew just what: Joe was on his way and it only seemed right that Mary and Joseph should get together at this time of year.

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