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 SAMPLE CHRISTMAS STORY

 

This is a sample Christmas story that I wrote a number of years ago.   I have placed it here because sometimes students wish to see some of my own writing (beyond what is on this Web site and in my textbook).  If you decide to read it, I hope you enjoy it.  It is a fictional story.  I should note that the fictional narrator of the story (the "I" in the story) is a young married woman.  The story has been published twice in Minnesota magazines.
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REINDEER

            

by R. Jewell

                

        Snowflakes cut against our windshield.   The setting sun long ago
had left a smudge of wine against the black sky.  Gabe, the kids and I
were driving north from the city on Christmas Eve to stay with my
husband's mother.  She lived on her farm alone.

    
        "Marian, are the kids okay back there?" asked Gabe as he drove. 
In the moonlight he looked like a soft golden bear.  He was a teacher of
insurance personnel for a large agency in the city, gone many Saturdays
and evenings.

            
        "They're okay now," I said.  I turned around and checked them
again.  Their faces were pale, and frowns darkened their brows.  Earlier
they had been so ready for Grandma's that they had kept trying to burst
out of their seats.  "Buckle your belts," I had told them, over and over.  
"Buckle them."

               
        I watched Jessie blow her nose.  She was five, feverish, and
impatient with the sharp tickle in her throat that wouldn't go away.  I
had taken her to the doctor several days earlier to check for strep
throat. 

                 
        "Just a persistent flu," he'd said.   "Give her a few more days to
get better, Marian."

                  
        Right during Christmas, I thought.  Jessie loved Christmas--the
angel lights, fudge melting on her warm tongue, even just the smells of
Christmas, the pungent evergreens clearing her nose and making her eyes
water, cinammon candles, wood smoke.  She'd talk about them endlessly,
pulling us here and there to smell and feel, her fingertips almost glowing
as she touched things and held them out to us.  Her sickness wasn't fair. 

                  
        I'd stayed home from my shop with Jessie as much as I could.  I
sold floral arrangements in baskets and wall hangings from my small shop
downtown in our suburb each day, loved creating new patterns of leaf,
blossom and wicker, loved talking with so many people.  But I loved my
children more.

                 
        In the car, I looked at Jamie sitting straight up in his travel
seat.  He was three, just awakening this year like Rip Van Winkle in
reverse to the full wonder and glory of the season.  The most exciting
event to him was Santa Claus--he had put two and two together and, so far,
was only getting three. Gabe and I were not about to disillusion him, not
yet.  Jessie still believed, and she was already five.

                
        Jamie's mouth was almost a constant O as we passed through
increasingly snowy fields and forests.

             
        "Is this Santa's land?" he kept asking.

             
        "Sort of," said Gabe, "only Santa lives where it's even more
snowy."

                 
        "How snowy?"

                           
        "That snowy," said Gabe, holding his palm high over his head like
a fisherman with a fish story,  "and the trees are always green."

                
        Jamie sat back again in his car seat, his mouth working once more
into an O.

                    
        Jessie sniffled and looked hard out the window at the shifting
snow in the moonlight.  I looked, too:  the road was a narrow aisle of
shadowed carpet, with evergreens and pale birches--the elf trees of the
North--pressing close to the ditches on either side.

                  
        Suddenly a large shape ran just beside and ahead of us in the
glare of our headlights.

                   
        "Gabe!" I exclaimed.

                  
        "Sssh.  It's a deer."  He slowed down.

               
        "Where?" asked Jessie.  She and Jamie leaned forward, their necks
arched like the deer's.

                        
        Suddenly Gabe braked hard.   "No!" he exclaimed.

               
        I grabbed the dash.  The deer was in front of us, a tawny ballet
dancer with antlers, leaping across our beams of light,  its breath
steaming from its nostrils.  I was sure it had made it, I was sure.  But a
firm jolt made the car shudder once, and suddenly the arching leap of the
deer turned cock-eyed.  Its rear end kept flying higher through the air,
and it curved up and over into the far ditch, landing on its shoulder in a
great explosion of snow.

                
        "No," said Gabe, pulling over to the side, jamming on the
emergency brake and lights.

                
        "Is it okay?" asked Jessie.

                
        "I don't know, dear.  Gabe?"

                   
        "I'll go look."

                         
        We sat and waited until finally Gabe came back and climbed in.

                     
        The emergency blinkers flashed under his face, giving his skin
sharp, cold shadows.  He shook his head.

                   
        "Is it hurt?" asked Jessie.

          
        "Its neck is broken, Jess.  It's dead."

               
        "You mean it's killed?"

                
        Gabe nodded.  "I'm sorry, dear."

            
        "Did you kill it?" asked Jamie. 

                     
        "I couldn't help it," said Gabe.   "It just ran across the road."
        "Jessie, Jamie, be quiet a moment," I said.  "What should we do,
Gabe?"


        "Leave it," he said.  He flicked on the heater switch for the
front panel, and he held his hands out to the warm flow as if it was a
wood fire.  "When we get to Mom's, I'll call the sheriff.  He'll know what
to do."

              
        "How's the car?"  I craned my neck to see the front of the car or
even the deer, but neither were visible from my seat.

                 
        The front left fender is dented," he said.   "We were very lucky. 
But I shouldn't have slowed down, Marian."  He gave me that quick look of
a light dimmed.  "If I hadn't slowed down, it never would have come up in
front of us."

             
        "Don't feel guilty.  You just didn't know," I said, and I touched
his hand.

               
        We finally arrived at Grandma's at seven p.m., and the farmhouse
seemed an oasis of warmth among rolling hills of whispering snow and
evergreens.  Grandma had rented the farmland to nearby farmers after
Grandpa had died.  But she stayed in her home, loved it, travelled every
day from it to town where she belonged to Women's League, Food Shelf, and
everything else.  "A woman can't stop moving," she once told me.   "Even
gray-haired and mean as an old cow like me, they can't stop moving, less
they want to die."

                       
        We burst through her front door like quail, calling to her and
scattering.  Christmas presents filled our arms as we ran into her
kitchen.

           
        "Well land's sakes!" she cried, throwing up her arms.

               
        We hugged her mightily and smelled her sugar cookies.

              
        "Kick off your boots," she told us.   "Go dig your toes into that
new carpet of mine."

                    
        While Gabe called the sheriff, the rest of us arranged the
presents under her fat Christmas tree.  It was a Spruce, blue-green, with
needles that tickled rather than hurt.  We drank eggnog and hot chocolate
beside the tree, and we laughed.

                 
        The children hung their stockings on the mantel of Grandma's
fireplace--in a real fireplace, you put them on the ends where they won't
roast all night, rather than right in the middle like all the picture
books show. 

                         
        For some reason, Jamie refused to hang his.   When it was his turn
he shook his head.

                     
        "Want me to hang it for you?" Grandma asked.

               
        "I'll do it," said Jessie, leaping toward the stocking.

                  
        Jamie nodded.

                 
        Grandma then held the kids on her lap while Gabe read "The Night
Before Christmas,"  and all of us headed for the kitchen to put out some
milk and cookies for Santa.

                  
        In the kitchen, Jamie suddenly tugged on the sleeve of Grandma's
print dress.

                    
        "We don't need to leave cookies," he said.  "Santa isn't coming."
        "Why of course he is!" said Grandma.

                    
        "No."  Jamie shook his head.   "We ran over his deer.  He won't
come."

            
        All of us paused.  Grandma and I exchanged a glance.

             
        "That's stupid," Jessie suddenly said, blinking quickly.  "He'll
come anyway.  Won't he, Mom?"

            
        "No he won't," said Gabe.   "If you ran over Grandma, she wouldn't
visit you."

           
        "You're the one that should get run over!" Jessie said.

             
        "Kids!" I exclaimed.

            
        Gabe was standing beside Jessie, and he put his hand gently on her
neck.

                 
        "Just a minute," said Grandma.   She looked at both kids.  "If I'm
going to get run over, I want to say something about it first."  The
corners of her eyes crinkled.

                 
        The kids, their jaws hard, turned their eyes up to her.

                      
        "First off," said Grandma, "if you ran over me, I'd forgive you. 
It would be an accident.  Isn't that right?"

                   
        Both of the kids nodded.

                  
        "Second," said Grandma, "I've got a little information for you."

           
        She kneeled to the kids' level.

                
        "That deer you hit," she said, "wasn't even one of Santa's."

                
        "It wasn't?" asked Jamie. 

             
        "Was it flying?" asked Grandma.

               
        Jamie shook his head vigorously.  Jessie thought about it, then
also nodded.

           
        "And besides."  Grandma waved her hand.  "Why, Santa uses a
different kind of deer.  He uses reindeer."

                 
        "Rain deer?" asked Jamie.

                    
        "And you know what?" asked Grandma, looking at us all, almost
winking at Gabe and me.

                 
        We all bent forward.

         
        "Reindeer never die."

            
        "You mean even if they get hit?" asked Jamie.

             
        Grandma nodded.

          
        "Wow," said Jessie, her eyebrows rising.

             
        I let out my breath--another piece of magic, I thought, another
web of fairy dust to weave into the story of Santa.  And why not, for it
was Christmas, a time for myths.  This whole night had the feel of some
fairy tale which might happen to others, not one's own family or oneself.

                 
        "Now you two," said Grandma, taking the kids' hands, "I want you
to come in the living room here.  I've got a book with pictures of
reindeer in it, especially Santa's reindeer.  I'll show you what they look
like, and I just don't know how your mom and dad forgot to mention
reindeer to you."

                     
        She looked back at us, and she did wink.   "I guess anybody can
forget," she told the kids, "just anybody."

                    

        The rest of our Christmas week at Grandma's was fine.  But when we
got ready to drive home on the last day of the year, it was dusk, and a
blizzard was on its way.  We loaded the car with toys, boxes of new
clothes, and left over candies and goose stuffing. 

                    
        "You two drive careful," Grandma told us, giving Gabe and me big
hugs.  Then she bent down to Jamie and Jessie.  "I'm going to miss you
two," she said, a catch in her voice.  "Come give Grandma a big kiss."
        Both kids ran into her arms.

             
        Then we were in the car, and we fell into the tightrope dance of
driving in snow at night.

                 
        The children quickly dropped into a deep sleep while big gobs of
snow continued to fall, floating and swirling around us.  I curled against
Gabe's side as he drank his coffee to stay alert.

         
        I wanted some coffee, too, for my drowsiness.   I imagined pulling
over to the side to sleep; then I looked up at Gabe and noticed his eyes
were watering.  Suddenly, very much, I felt like the snow was closing in
on us.

 
        "Slow down," I said to Gabe, thinking of Grandma.  I grabbed
Gabe's arm and repeated, "Slow down."

 
        Nodding wearily and slowing, he asked, "How's that?"  

 
        "More," I said,   "please?"

 
        He lifted his foot off the gas until we seemed to be moving on
snowshoes, and we kept driving. 

 
        It was then that we heard sirens behind us, whirling and moaning
in the night, making  Gabe pulled over.  An ambulance and a police car
hurried past us, their angry red beacons flashing.  As we started driving
again, the flashing lights paused and hovered somewhere ahead.

 
        We had to stop again when we got to the accident--and accident it
was.  People in white and others in khaki and blue were running between two disabled
cars.

 
        Our headlights shone brightly on a white station wagon which
straddled our side of the road, a station wagon with its front door wide
open, and a young woman with eyes closed sat in the driver's seat.  She
had a spider of blood on her forehead. Her breath steamed from her
nostrils as the steering wheel pressed tightly against her chest.

 
        I don't know, suddenly I was in the back seat, I was just there, 
taking off Jessie's seat belt, pulling my children to me, hugging
them, turning their faces into my coat as they slept.  I was gasping, 

wanting them back inside me where it was safe.  

        
        When we arrived home a short while later, Gabe and I carried the
kids upstairs.  While he unpacked the car, I gave them a drink of milk and
took them to Jessie's room.  She had a spare bed, and I put both kids in
her room for this first night home in a week.  I tucked them in, and their
breath was warm on my hand.

          
     Then I sat on the end of Jamie's bed in the dark, and I stayed as the
minutes crept on. 

           
        Gabe finally came looking for me and poked his head in.

             
        "Are you all right?" he asked softly.

           
        Wiping my eyes, I said,  "No."

 
        "What is it?" he asked walking quietly to me.

 
        I looked up.

 
        "Oh Gabe," I said.  My breath caught in my throat.  "The kids.  I
wish they could be reindeer."

 
        He paused, then sat on the bed.  He touched my hair, my face.  His
hands were full of light.  I tucked my head into the crook of his shoulder.

           

                                                    - The End -
        

        Originally published in THE NORTHFIELD READER and in the 
LAKE COUNTRY JOURNAL.

            

        Copyright 1983 by Richard Jewell.  All Rights Reserved.

             

        Richard Jewell is a member of the English Department of Inver Hills 
Community College, and his magazine and academic articles, popular and 
literary stories, and poems have been published over 100 times.

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Date Last Revised: 3-12-04