A Two-Hearted Christmas
Fiction written by -M. Taggart
Snow was falling lightly. It was just after sunset and already dark. Nick watched as his shoes left snowy footprints on the brick walk-way. He looked skyward at the Christmas tree they had fastened into place two days prior. They placed the tree roughly fifteen feet before the large glass door entrance of the building. The tree was dressed nicely. Numerous Christmas colors were wrapped around, and around, the near thirty-foot evergreen. There, on the top of the tree, stood a Christmas star large enough to be seen from any angle. The star was lit white. The snow fell toward the star, disappeared in its light, and again you could see the snow falling a few feet below the star.
People were rushing into the store. It was cold and not many stood to observe decorations on the tree. It was as though they had seen enough just to have been near it. They didn’t know the work it took to stand upright. Or how ropes were tightened so well that the tree couldn’t possibly fall. Even if wind rushed in during a New England blizzard and one of the many tie downs did break, the tree would still stand.
That was alright though, to have them not notice. It was a Christmas tree among hundreds in town. Created to lure the shopper into the lights of the store and welcome them to spend what they could.
Once inside the entrance one was thrust into a large, bright, room. So large that you could hardly see the end of it. Silver trays and cutlery shined vibrantly. Brilliant glass cases held exquisite items from all around the world. Attractive sales women wearing slim dresses greeted him, along with all others, with a smile. ‘There’s a shipment out back. We tried to have them put the boxes inside for you, but they wouldn’t do it. It’s on the loading dock.’
He slid his time card into place and listened to the faint, yet punishing, blow the time keeper slammed into place. He was now working. His wool jacket was hung. He’d put his dinner in the fridge. First he needed to get the boxes out of the snow, down the stairs into the stockroom, and checked in. After all boxes were accounted for properly, he’d open each with his box cutter, and unwrap every item within the box onto his work tables. He’d check for cracks and breaks of any kind. He’d also check to be sure each box contained the amount of items the packing slip claimed they held. He was getting ahead of himself again. He first needed to walk through the showroom. Then he needed to enter the code on the stockroom door and move the boxes from the dock, downstairs, to the stockroom.
In the showroom shoppers were talking with sales people while snow was still on the shoulders of their jackets. Some shoppers brushed the snow off and others left it because they did not notice the snow was there. As he walked quickly through the showroom many of the salespeople nodded hello to him without the customer realizing. He would either nod back, or do nothing. A face kept clean of emotion was the best face for him to wear.
He noticed an older man viewing him as he walked. He looked away. The man now moved toward him thinking he was a salesperson. ‘Can you give me the price of this globe? There’s no sticker.’
It was a Josh Simpson globe. They came in many sizes. The old man held the largest size in his hand. The globe was very expensive and generally were locked in a glass showcase. He knew this globe was expensive because he put the price stickers on each item in the basement stockroom, where he had been headed.
‘I’m sorry. I don’t know the price. If you asked Jamie, over there,’ he pointed to a dark haired girl with blue eyes, ‘She’d be able to help you.’
‘I didn’t ask, Jamie. I asked you.’ the old man replied.
Now both stood looking at one another. The old man wanted to know why this able young man couldn’t answer a simple question. The younger man wanted to know why he was ordered not to.
‘I’m sorry. I can’t help you.’
The old man viewed the many details inside the globe and shook his head while letting go a whistle. The world within contained mountains with cliffs and rivers that emptied into an ocean. The tree tops were green with needles. The waves were white with wind. ‘This globe holds an entire world within. I hold this globe wondering if our world is anything like the giant holding it now. And I wish badly it is not. I cannot understand how this happens.’
‘I’m sorry?’ He didn’t understand the old man.
‘Nothing. I’ll walk to Jamie and giver her the globe. I’ll not buy it.’ And with a step the old man was headed toward Jamie. Jamie wore a wide smile and her eyes curved upward.
The door to the loading dock was open and he could see the many boxes left for him. The boxes that were left outside on the dock were covered with snow. The temperature was much cooler on the dock and he liked it. The snow storm had increased its snowfall and the wind was picking up.
He brushed snow off the tops of the boxes only to watch more snow quickly accumulate. Looking at the dark underbelly of the snow producing cloud simplified his mood. It didn’t matter if he didn’t understand the old man’s meaning. The glass globe with the artist’s creation inside wasn’t him and it wasn’t life so it did not matter.
He lifted and carried each box to the conveyor belt, next to the stairwell, and watched them travel down toward his stockroom. His tie was wet with snow and beaten by the cardboard. He wanted to take it off, but he was told to never take his tie off. He need to look appropriate when walking through the show room.
At the bottom of the stairs was a cement hallway leading to one door. The door was the entrance to the stockroom. The conveyor belt flattened at the bottom of the stairs and there was a ten foot section where boxes came to a stop and lined themselves. He walked to the stockroom door, unlocked it with his key, and came back out with a hand-truck. The boxes were not heavy. He loaded the hand-truck above his head and quickly had them all stacked near his work tables in his stockroom.
The stockroom had a cement floor and cement walls. There were no windows. In the middle of the room were metal shelving units. There was a section for overstock, broken items, cancelled products and general tools that might be needed around the showroom. Generally each shelf was kept orderly. Unless he wasn’t there and a salesperson needed to find an item that was no longer on the showroom floor. If this were the case he’d find products left on the floor and items placed on shelves that didn’t belong.
His work tables were in front of the shelving units and a alley-way of sorts was created. He would work quickly and open each box, empty them and be done with his work as soon as possible. He clicked the switch of the small radio to on. Elvis was singing, ‘I’ll be home for Christmas.’ He turned the radio off and held his breath. Images of her sleeping on his shoulder tore through his mind. His head shook as flashes of his fingers stroking her hair came to him. He always wondered if she knew that he stroked her hair when she slept. He wanted to ask her. He couldn’t now. It was done and too late. He paced the stockroom floor thinking of her face and how it looked when she was sad. That was the face he made her wear. He didn’t want to remember this. Maybe it wasn’t too late, he wondered. Maybe he could undue everything. Maybe the old man with the globe could explain what he’d meant. He didn’t want to think of the old man either, but he was. The old man said something about wishing badly it was not. Did he mean that the world would be nothing like him and what he’d done to it? Is that how he felt now about her?
The stockroom door opened in a rush. ‘Nick, we need you out at the Christmas tree right away,’ said Bill. Bill was wearing a suit and a long wool jacket. The jacket was black. Bill was one of the two owners of the silver smith company. The store with the large showroom upstairs was their creation to sell to the locals.
‘What’s going on?’ he asked.
‘There’s oil all over the walkway outside. It goes from the base of the tree to the entrance. Eric is standing near the oil asking people to not walk in it. Find something to clean it up and get up there.’ Bill looked upset and talked as though he were pushing his words. Bill turned and rushed back out the door.
Nick walked to the back of the stockroom and grabbed a bundle of cloth rags. They weren’t perfect to soak oil, but they’d do for now. He wondered how the tree had anything to do with oil.
Holding his bundle of cloth rags he ran up the stairs and opened the door to the showroom. He made his way through the happy shoppers and then outside. The tree stood so beautifully that the men standing over the oil spill looked badly out of place. Both brother’s straddled the oil spill just feet from one another. They held their hands up and pleaded with customers to stay back and to not slip on the oil. They told anyone who’d listen that the oil would be cleaned up shortly. The long wool jacket’s looked like crow’s wings while they opened and closed their arms to ward people away from the danger.
Nick still didn’t understand how oil would come to be anywhere near the tree. But, certainly he did see a trail leading from the base of the tree all the way to the entrance of the showroom door. Both Bill and Eric seemed relieved to see him with his rags.
Nick knelt down and touched the oil. He lifted his finger and smelled the oil. A few customers had stopped to watch. Nick walked to Bill and softly said, ‘This is not oil. This is water. Someone must have watered the Christmas tree.’
Bill wore a face of pure happiness. ‘That’s great!’ Eric had listened and decided he’d been straddling the mess long enough. He left them without a word and mingled with himself while walking through the showroom, no doubt to find his office.
As Nick wiped away the spilled water he couldn’t help but chuckle. Both men were rich. Both men were educated. But neither were aware enough to bend down and touch or smell the oil. How does this happen, he thought. How can two men who seemingly have everything have so little sense.
Immediately the old man’s face leapt into his mind. He knew what to do. It wasn’t too late. He would fix this. He looked at the star on top of the Christmas tree and let the snow land and melt on his face. He’d never felt snow like this before and he’d never know Christmas until now.
If you enjoyed this please also read my self published short story found via the amazon link below. Thank you, Matt.
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