A Holiday Tale Written By
Once upon a time in a sleepy little town on the Kentish coast of England, lived a man who essentially unto himself, stumbled through a mournful haze of existence. Each day, a glorious red sun would rise and set washing a deep honey colored glow over his modest clapboard house. Each day, he would go into town to shop and have his lunch. Each day, was like an eternity.
‘The holidays are supposed to be a joyful time’, he thought to himself. ‘ That is, if one feels joy.’
As the holiday season swiftly approached, the man gathered enough strength in his soul to get though another year of festivities. He was after all, spending the holidays with very close friends who had come to feel like family. One cold evening at his friend’s home, he watched as their little girl decorated a very small tree with equally tiny glittering items.
“Oh look, Sir!” the little girl cried as she ran over handing the man a small crystal-like decoration. “ It so pretty!” said the child.
Smiling at her I say, “ Yes dear, it’s very pretty. Have you decided where you would like to hang it on the tree?”
“ No Sir, would you please help me?”
Slowly rising from the chair aided by my trusty walking stick, I held tightly to the small, delicate ornament. At least I thought I had a hold of it tightly. Suddenly, the crystal slipped from my hand, bouncing off the chair cushion and finally to the floor.
“ Oh no!” cried the child. “ It was the only one I had this pretty!”
Leave it to me, I feel miserable so inadvertently make everyone else around me miserable. Picking up the ornament, I assessed the damage to be minor, but in need of the delicate tools used when I made jewelry. Since such tools were at my house, I told the little girl I would fix her ornament and have it for her tomorrow.
“ Thank you Sir. Will it be fixed in time so Santa can see it?”
“ Yes dear, I promise it will be fixed and on the tree for Santa to see.”
I had better hurry; I’m going into verse.
Saying my goodbyes until tomorrow, I headed out into the brisk evening homeward bound to accomplish the task of repairing the decoration. Fixing myself a cup of tea to chase away the chill, I searched through my desk draws looking for the delicate instruments I needed. Laughing slightly, I looked at the disarray of the draws in these recent years compared to the once orderly fashion I kept my belongings. The draws were now haphazardly filled with a paintbrush here, a small tool or a tube of paint there. After a few minutes of digging, I locate the very small tools I need to fix the ornament. Sitting down, I examine the crystal and the damage I had accidentally inflicted on it. ‘ It is very pretty’ I though laughing to myself sounding just like my friend’s child. Moving my light down to get a better look, I noticed the only thing a miss was the metal holder used to hang the ornament on the tree had only slipped down inside. Grabbing a long thin tool, I reached in and pulled out the metal hanger. ‘ Got it on one try. Maybe I should enroll in the circus school down the road and hone this talent to a fine point,’ I chuckled to myself.
The hour was late and feeling tired, I carefully laid the ornament on a small double folded square of silk I found in the draw. Taking off my glasses, I rubbed my sore eyes. Regardless of the short amount of time it took me to fix the crystal, my eyes were no longer used to this type of up close work. I walked to the kitchen to rinse out my teacup and felt very tired. Much more tired than I have ever felt. Barely making it upstairs, I slug to my bed feeling as though an invisible being has both it’s arms wrapped around my legs as I struggle to drag them along. I literally fall into bed, my eyes shutting before I hit the pillow. If only it were this easy to fall asleep every night.
Quickly propelled into a dream, I notice there is snow is falling around me. I am standing at the top of a snow-covered mountain but having no knowledge of how I arrived there. Despite being clad only in my pajamas, dressing gown, and slippers, I didn’t feel cold. However, I did feel worried about how I would ever climb down from this mountain. The snow seemed to be letting up a bit, and a few seconds later it had stopped completely. The white sky of snow made way for a cloudless, brilliant blue sky. The sun brightly shone obliquely over the silent, beautiful landscape of mixed evergreen trees, looking every bit the picture perfect greeting card. As I started to walk towards a particularly large evergreen, the sunshine gave the trees a distinctive sparkle, no doubt from the recent snowfall on their branches. On closer inspection, I realized it wasn’t the sun on snow covered branches giving the trees their luster, but thousands upon thousands of crystal ornaments, exactly like the one I fixed for my friend’s little girl. I smiled, wishing my friend’s child were here with me to witness by far the most breathtaking holiday display I had ever seen. A slight breeze blows brushing the delicate ornaments together making a sound comparable to wind chimes. Being a romantic at heart, I would go as far to compare the sound to the sweetly singing voices of angels. I take my time going to each tree to admire and marvel at a Christmas display in which I will probably never see the likes of again. All the trees are smothered with these crystal ornaments and although the trees appeared to look the same, each was different, or perhaps a better word would be individual.
Looking up at a sky no longer blue but rapidly turning white. A heavy snowfall began to fall drifting over the footprints I had made moments before as the snow and wind swirled together erasing any evidence of my being there at all. My instincts told me to quickly seek out shelter but I couldn’t move my legs, as I was now stuck knee deep in the snow. Knowing the worst thing do is panic, I tried to calm my fears and think of a way out of this potentially life threatening situation. I reached into the pocket of my dressing gown and pull out my lighter and a cigarette. ‘ Might as well try to keep warm any way I can,’ I though, as I lit the cigarette, inhaling deeply. The end of the cigarette glowed from the blowing wind piling the snow up to my waist until I was nearly cocooned. Not exactly like being buried in the sand at the beach by no means ‘ Now’, I thought, ‘ I believe it is time to panic.’ Should I cry for help or should I just cry? It is true what they say about your life flashing before you during a traumatic situation. I should know; mine is passing in front of my eyes this minute so fast it has blurred the snow together to form a solid white canvas.
Suddenly, I feel the sensation of something lifting me from the snow. I try, but can’t open my eyes to see who or what is doing the lifting. The next thing I remember, I am sitting on a makeshift bed made from branches, leaves, and hay. On the opposite side, a fire is crackling in what appears to be a cave. Wondering who lit the fire, I grope through the semi darkness searching for any clues to explain where I am and who brought me to this place. I hear a sound from behind and turn to see a very large, very tall hooded figure looming only a few feet away. Frozen in place, this time from fear, I darned not to move a muscle. The thing moved slowly towards me stopping about a foot away, both of us standing still, watching the other. I held my breath as this great mass reached up and pulled back it’s hood. A glimmer of recognition crossed my features as I gazed at it’s face. The face was old, seeing many hard winters but none this harshness showed in its features. Since the creature was standing so close, I raised my head as far back as I could, remembering this pose fondly named the nosebleed. In my youth, I worked at a theatre and patrons in the front row had to adopt this neck twisting pose to see the movie
The beast looked down at me just as curious about me as I was about it. The creature stepped back from me with same look of recognition on it’s face.
“You are called Cushing, are you not?” It spoke with a thick accent I didn’t immediately recognize. I stood there dumbfounded. Did it just address me by my surname?
“ Are you Cushing?”
I gulped and said, “Yes”. Better to keep it simple.
“ I wasn’t sure at first, but then I knew without a doubt it was you. I remembered your eyes,” it said speaking slowly while it hunched down to throw sticks onto the fire.
I didn’t know what to say but with a bit of courage, I managed to squeak out, “ You remember my eyes?” Turning around to face me, it spoke again, “ Yes, I remembered how blue your eyes were from the last time we met. I see age hasn’t changed them much.”
“ From the last time we met?” I echoed. “Surely I would have remembered meeting someone as yourself.”
Rising up from its knees, the creature continued. “It was in a place similar to this, but we were both much younger men.”
Racking what was left of my brain, I asked, “Where and when did we meet? You must forgive me but for a moment, you looked just like a creature in a movie I did many years ago. As you just said, it took place in a setting very much like the one we are in now.”
Walking over to me, it or rather he said, “ Yes, I remember. It was a motion picture called The Abominable Snowman of the Himalayas. We worked together in it.”
“ Worked together? But how…I don’t” He interrupted. “ I had the small, but pivotal role of the Yeti. We worked together for only a short time, but like each life you have touched, I carry fond memories of that time,” A slight smile crossed his face.
Not quite understanding I said, “But you were only an actor in costume you can’t possibly be…” He stood up and looked at me in silence. I became silent as well. “ I was hired as a local actor because of my height. They thought I had applied a rubber mask and fake hair when I attended the audition. Strangely, they never once asked to see my real face, so when I was called to do my scenes with you, they thought I was saving them time by showing up in costume. The weather being very cold, accounted for me wearing the layers of fur.”
Realizing my mouth was hanging open, I composed myself and questioned the creature, “ Are you telling me that in the movie, it was not an actor in costume, but a real Yeti? I thought such creatures were only a myth.”
“ But yet here I am standing before you.” his hands held out, palm side up. “I can’t expect you to believe this incredible story, but I have never lied or broken a promise. I have lived a long time and understand deception is an emotion of defeat. When you lie, it chips away at the soul while at the same time, it succeeds only in letting down others, including yourself.” ‘ That is a very philosophical outlook coming from an eight foot, fur covered cave dweller,’ I thought.
He continued, “ Do you remember admiring the decorated trees outside? The ornaments are of more significance than only their beauty. They are there as a representation of souls that have since past on. You helped many of these souls in life and through your kindness to them, they are now in paradise.”
“ I?” How could I have helped?”
“You should never underestimate what basic kindness can do for people. Do you realize, by showing kindness you prevented starvation by helping people to get work? You also have selfishly given confidence to those who needed it most”, “and” he paused, “ you have prevented the suicide of many by showing nothing is ever hopeless, no matter how painful or difficult life can become. You have changed many lives for the better.”
I stood there, no quite knowing what to say. As I struggled for words, the creature spoke again. “ You are here because you have thought of ending your own life. Am I correct?”
“ Yes, it’s true. I am alone now and life no longer holds joy for me.”
“ Tonight as you left the warm, inviting home of your friends, thoughts of lonely holidays and a cold house became overwhelming.”
“ Yes.” I said. Emotion touches my voice.
“ I want you to know, if you take you own life, not only will you be in a place unworthy of you, your death would break the two promises you made to two important people.”
“But, I don’t remember making any promises”
“You promised your friend’s little girl you would repair the crystal ornament in time for Santa to see did you not?”
“Yes, I remember. I did promise her I’d have it fixed in time. But you said I made promises to two people. Who is the other person?”
“Santa, of course.” he says pointing to his chest.
I couldn’t help but smile. “ Are you telling me the Yeti legend is a symbolic representation of Santa Claus? Tibet doesn’t exactly bring forth thoughts of roasting chestnuts and eggnog.”
He moved gracefully towards me, almost floating. “I appear before you as a Yeti because it is something you could accept. This is but one of my many images. I assure you, we know each other quite well. I have even been in your house and you have visited me in mine.”
“ I’ve been to your house?”
“Yes, you sought out comfort from me at St. Alphege”.
“ But, St. Alphege is a church…” I abruptly fall silent. I now realize to whom I have been speaking.
“ Do you understand why it is so important to keep your promises?” His voice was soft and his eyes showed immense love and compassion. I could only nodded in agreement.
Walking to the cave entrance, he looks up to the heavens. “ It is almost morning and time for you to keep your promises” He took me by the hand leading me out of the cave. The beauty of the breaking dawn easily rivaled that of my beloved Whitstable. Turning to face him, I was overwhelmed. So many things I wanted to ask, to say to him, but not a word came from my lips.
“ You have been a kind man though out your life. When the time comes, you will spend eternity in complete happiness.” “ However, your time on earth is not finished. It may not be clear to you now, but many others need you. Death by your own hand would cause insurmountable grief. The repercussions from this one selfish act would inevitably follow causing much pain. Promise me you will not let this happen.”
“ I promise you, never will I end my life by me own hand, never!” I sobbed.
Reaching out, the creature laid his hand on my shoulder. “ Our time together here has nearly ended. No time for tears, Peter.”
We walk outside into the snow and stand together in a small clearing surrounded by the decorated trees. The sun, not yet completely raised, shines through the crystals making the landscape luminous. He turns towards me smiling, “You have a lot of living left to do. Live those days to the fullest as you are truly loved by every life you have touched. Your life is very important to them.”
I turn to speak to him, but he has moved away from me. “ When you feel loneliness seeping back into your life, never forget you are never truly alone with me by your side.”
As these last words rang in my ears, the sun rises with a magnitude of brightness that is nearly blinding. I quickly cover my eyes from it’s rays, loosing my balance as a result. Falling onto the snow with a soft thud, I am pinned to the ground by another sudden strong wind. We can only hope the weather in paradise will be more predictable than that of England.
I hear a bell ringing, getting louder as each second passes. I open my eyes to find myself in my very own bed. Reaching over turning off the alarm clock, I notice the time to be 7:00 a.m.; a few minutes passed dawn. I lie in bed thinking about the amazing dream of the night before. It felt so real I speculated for a moment whether or not it actually was a dream. Sighing, I throw back the covers surprised to see I am still wearing my dressing gown. Still groggy, I swing myself around to the side of my bed putting my feet to the floor, suddenly getting the distinct, unpleasant shock of cold and wet. Looking down, I see a large puddle of melting snow leading from the bedroom door to my bed. Puzzled, I look up to see if my roof has sprung a leak. The ceiling is dry as a bone, proving that there are never any easy explanations. I pick up both of my carpet slippers completely saturated with cold water.
Making my way downstairs, doing my best to avoid the puddles left on the steps, I look and see the crystal ornament lying on the square of silk exactly where I had placed it last night. Picking up the ornament, I walk to a sunny window and hold the crystal up to the light for inspection. I find nothing about the crystal different except possibly looking even more beautiful this morning. This time, I take no chances. I line a small box with popcorn left over from the last bird feeding and gingerly place the silk scarf and crystal in the center of the box. I cover it with more popcorn and close the lid.
Later that morning, I was off to my friend’s home. I don’t know what I would have done without their kindness and devotion these past few years. Reaching their door, I knock carefully not wishing to disturb the decorative wreath hanging in the middle. The curtain on the door is pushed back slightly to reveal the smiling little girl. We walk together into the living room where the small Christmas tree is twinkling and the tinsel…
“ Oh Sir! What is in the box?” Is it a present for me?”
“ It’s sort of a present. I’ll help you open it.”
Together we open up the box. At first, the little girl seemed more interested in eating the popcorn used to pack the crystal.
“ It’s my crystal!” cried the girl running over giving me a tight hug.
“ Yes, it’s all fixed for Santa to see on Christmas Eve.” I had to suppress a smile. This sentence reminded of the last time I spoke of Santa and ended up going into verse.
“ Your very welcome dear. Have you decided where you would like to hang it on the tree?”
“ I’m not sure, Sir. Will you help me?”
“ Yes, dear, of course.”
“There is a bare spot at the top just perfect for it,” said the girl’s mother placing a large bowl of Christmas punch in the center of a table covered with white poinsettias.
“ Yes mummy! The top of tree is where I want to put it! Could you lift me up, Sir?”
Gently holding on to the little girl, I lift her up to the top of the small tree, helping her secure the ornament to the treetop.
“It looks beautiful! Thank you for fixing it, Sir,” the girl said I lowered to the floor. “ You’re the nicest person in the world. I’m going to call the crystal, “Sir”, after you.”
“ Thank you dear. But that’s a strange name to call a crystal.”
“ It reminds me of you. When I look at the crystal, it makes me happy, just like you do.”
“ Here, here” said the little girl’s father handing me a cup of punch. Her mother walked over giving the little girl a glass of milk.
“ I second that”, said the girl’s mother.
Her father raised his cup, “ I would like to propose a toast. To Peter Cushing: The nicest man, greatest actor, and best friend anyone could be lucky enough to have,” I smiled ready to thank him for these compliments, “ and” he continued, “ One very big MOG, Miserable Old Git.” We all broke into laughter at this last sentiment. A nickname given to me by my good friends after I received the OBE referring to my persistent melancholia. I guess they thought I deserved another title.
“ Thank you and God bless you all so much, my dear, dear friends. I am so fortunate to have such devotion.”
“ We are the fortunate ones, Sir. You have given not only our family so much, but you have given the same kindness to every life you have touched.”
I am surprised by their compliment, remembering the familiar words spoken to me in my dream. For the first time in many years, at this moment, I feel truly content.
“ Look!” said the little girl, “ the ornament is glowing!”
We turn to look at the tree but see nothing out of the ordinary
“ Doesn’t she have an imagination?” Her mother says smiling.
“ Yes, she does.” I say smiling back at my dear friends. Better to keep it simple I always say.
COPYRIGHT © MISS WEASEL 2001