Have you been staying busy getting ready for Christmas? I have. But I've also found some time to just read. I do so love to read Christmas stories! Perhaps that's why I enjoy writing them.
Tomorrow my best friend and I are heading to the Carthage Library for an "Authors for the Holidays" book signing event. Hopefully there will be a good turn out. I wish you all could come, but I know it's a bit of a distance for many of you. ;) We'll see how many of my books sell. I'll have all 13 of them there. It should be fun anyway as there will be at least 23 authors.
Tonight the kids are coming over and we're going to finish decorating the tree and make cookies. Making cookies with all the kids is bound to be interesting. Ti-Kay is going to want to do it too, but she's a little young being only 10 months old. But Little Me is going to be fun to watch. Ah, the joys of little ones at Christmas time!
I won't keep you from your story now. Here's part 2 of our story. (If you didn't read Part 1, go to the post below this.)
Because of a Christmas Tree
The meal in the shack was quiet. Both the old man and the boy were too hungry to do much talking. But once the simple meal was over, and the dishes had been cleared away, Sonny sat down with the dirty boots and began the long task of cleaning them. It was only then that he began to talk again.
“Uncle Marley, did you know it is almost Christmas? Mr. Soper told me so when he brought the meat over. What did you do for Christmas when you were my age?”
“I don’t recall exactly, Sonny. That were a heap of a time ago.”
Sonny looked up. “Can’t you think of one thing you did that you enjoyed most of all?” he coaxed.
“W-e-ll.” Old Marley leaned back against the wall, propped his feet up on the table before the stove, and thought. “I reckon the thing I most remember is the tree. Yep, them trees were purty nice.”
Sonny gave a slight sigh. “I like the trees best too.” His hands continued cleaning the boots but he had a far away look in his eyes, as though he was seeing a different time and a different place. “Yes, the trees were best,” he said again after some time. “I like to think that a Christmas tree stood outside the stable and that the Baby Jesus looked at it when he was awake. Papa said they didn’t have that kind of tree in Bethlehem, but I think Baby Jesus would have liked it, they smell so nice.” Again there was a long pause and a look in Sonny’s eyes which Old Marley didn’t quite understand.
At last Sonny finished cleaning the last boot and set it down. “Uncle Marley, let’s have a Christmas tree this year.”
Old Marley looked down at the boy and a smile crossed his face. “So we will, Sonny, so we will.” If a tree was what Sonny needed to make Christmas right for his first Christmas in the mining town, they would have a tree. He didn’t care that most of the other men said it was foolish to try and have a Christmas for the boy.
The sun did come out the next day, and together Old Marley and Sonny set off in search of the perfect Christmas tree. It was harder than either of them had figured for there weren’t many pine or spruce trees in the area.
“They’re either too big or such little things we’d have to have four of them to make a real tree,” Sonny remarked, stopping before yet another pine of the wrong size.
“Well, we ain’t goin’ to give up yet,” Old Marley replied between coughs. “It jest may take us a might longer to locate the right one.”
“But we’ll find it,” Sonny agreed, slipping his hand into the rough, work hardened one of his companion.
“Yep, we’ll find it, but I reckon we ought to build ourselves a fire and eat a bite or two before we circle ‘round that ridge an’ head back to the shack.”
To this Sonny was agreeable and helped gather some branches and small sticks, saying as he did so, “Perhaps the tree is over there.”
But it wasn’t. The two searchers reached their cold, dark shack just as the sun was going down and the wind turning cold again. A fire was soon going in the stove and supper was made. Old Marley mixed up some biscuits while Sonny fried bacon. Neither one spoke much that evening. Both were tired and Old Marley’s cough seemed worse.
Before bed, Sonny took his Bible out of Old Marley’s chest, as he had every night since he had come to live there, and read a little of it aloud. Then, kneeling down beside his rough bed, he prayed and ended with, “And please, Dear Lord, bless Mama, Papa, and dear Uncle Marley. And let us find the right Christmas tree. Amen.”
Old Marley remained where he was beside the warm stove until he heard the boy’s steady, even breathing. Then he too retired, coughing.
When morning dawned, it found Old Marley still in bed. The shack was cold for the fire had gone out in the stove some hours before. This state of things startled Sonny who sat up in bed and looked quickly at the old man. “Uncle Marley. Uncle Marley!”
There was no answer save a hoarse cough and a moan.
Sonny shivered and hugged himself, but whether from cold or fright, it was hard to tell. Quickly he pulled on his clothes and slipped his feet into his boots. They were cold. Stumbling over to the stove, the young boy opened it and stirred the ashes. Not a single glow remained. His hands shook as he placed kindling in the stove and struck a light. Right then he was thankful Uncle Marley had taught him how to make a fire. “He probably just didn’t want to get up when it was so cold,” he thought, glancing over at the form in the bed. “I’ll warm it up and then wake him.”
Carefully he added a few larger sticks and soon a good fire was burning. After adding some larger pieces of wood, Sonny held his hands to the blaze and shivered with delight as the delicious warmth crept up his arms and raced down his spine. After a few minutes, he stood up. “Uncle Marley,” he called softly. “Uncle Marley, wake up. I have the stove going and it’s getting warmer. And Uncle Marley, the sun is shining again! Maybe we can find our Christmas tree today.”
The old man didn’t stir.
Growing alarmed, Sonny crept up to the bed and placed a hand on the man’s face. The heat of it startled the boy and he stepped back. After a quick glance at the stove to see that all was in order, the boy snatched up his coat and slipped outside.
Hesitating for only a moment, Sonny ran up the still muddy street past two shacks, before stopping before a third one. Breathless, he rapped on the door.
Seconds later it was opened and a rough looking young man in his shirt sleeves stared in astonishment at the boy before him. “Why, Sonny, what’s goin’ on? What’s wrong? Come in out of the cold, boy!” Almost pulling the lad inside, the man shut the door behind him with a thud, and picking up a warm flannel shirt, put it on. “Now what’s wrong?” His fingers were rapidly moving down his front, fastening the buttons.
“Oh, Mr. Soper!” Sonny had caught his breath with a gulp and his words tumbled over themselves in his hurry. “He’s burning up and I got the fire going, ‘cause it was so cold, but he didn’t wake up and he coughs and . . .” The boy gripped the unfastened ends of his coat until his knuckles turned white.
Stuffing his feet into his boots, Mr. Soper didn’t need to be told who “he” was. He knew it was Old Marley. Quickly he snatched up his own coat and said, “Let’s go, Sonny.”
Down the street the two hurried, Sonny taking three steps to the one stride of Mr. Soper. In the shack they found all just as Sonny had left it, only the room had warmed from the fire in the stove.
Have you ever woken to a cold room because the heat wasn't on?
Have you made Christmas cookies yet?
Come back on Monday for . . .