Sunday, November 9, 2014

Short Story: The Christmas Miracle

Walking the Tracks

by CJ Heck

It was late December, during what would someday be called, "The Great Depression".

The blizzard had begun last night just after supper with misleading flurries.

Now, in the early hours before dawn, it was snowing like a son-of-a-bitch and piling up fast.

Jake Simons pulled his coat collar up as high as it would go, hoping to shrink the opening so it was less inviting to wayward flakes. "Never mind," he thought with a sigh, "just never you mind. It's winter and it's snowing. It is what it is."

This morning, like every winter morning, snow or no snow, Jake walked the tracks, picking up rogue coal that had escaped from railroad cars as they bounced along the tracks. Coal couldn't buy food, but each shiny black nugget was precious and went a long way to keep his family warm.

These were tough times. The snow only served to punctuate just how bad things were -- and how much worse they could still get.

Jake plodded on, pushing the snow aside with his foot. Coal was already nearly impossible to see in the dark and the falling snow made it even harder to find. With each step, he grew more despondent, knowing his pockets were nearly empty and probably would stay that way.

How in the world had things ever gotten so bad?

There were few jobs
Only days before Christmas, Jake still hadn't found any work. "Children shouldn't have to grow up this fast." Jake said aloud into the darkness, the wind gobbling each word as it was spoken.

"In their innocent dreams, Santa is alive and well in the North Pole and his elves are busy making toys to deliver in a sleigh on Christmas Eve -- even now in the worst of times."

Jake's Wife and little Sarah
Max, Jake's oldest, delivered groceries and stocked shelves for Burt down at the market on Tuesdays. Their middle child, Tommy, had a paper route. Even his wife worked one day a week cleaning for the Parkers. 

Jeb Parker owned the mill. He did what he could, hiring men for a day here, a day there, but few could afford what the mill produced, so even Jeb was on hard times.

And Sarah, sweet little Sarah. She was only two years old. Hardship was all she had ever known. How he wished he could make everything better for her -- for all of them.

Hours later, Jake had reached his lowest point yet. It was dark again and snowing even harder, if that was possible.

All day, Jake had stood in line for the few jobs that were available -- there were always more men than jobs, and he was not one of the chosen.

Overcome by exhaustion and grief, he sat down hard on the curb, his feet planted in the frozen slush. With his head in his hands, Jake's spirit was broken and he finally recognized complete and utter defeat and a growing resolve to end it all. 

Quiet Desperation
Blinking through tears, he prayed for his immortal soul. "God, please forgive me. To those I love, I'm worth more dead, than alive. Please give me the courage to do what I have to do."

Then, pointing his revolver at the roof of his mouth, he humbly lowered his head.

That's when he noticed something sticking out of the slush between his feet.

He lowered the gun and placed it on the curb beside him. 

In quiet disbelief, he slowly reached down to uncover a soggy, crumpled fifty dollar bill.

His prayer had been answered.

“A writer soon learns that easy to read is hard to write.” ~CJ Heck

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