A Christmas Companion
Spending Christmas Day in a hospital bed wasn’t exactly what I had planned. The doctors had promised me I could go home for Christmas, but I reacted to the antibiotics.
Ever since I can remember, Christmas has been my favorite holiday, and not because of the presents.
I’m the youngest in my family, and all but one of my older siblings are married, giving me a plethora of nieces and nephews. With the exception of my brother Chad, the closest family member lives about eight hours away. However, every Christmas they all come back home. But I was stuck in the hospital because of a bone infection.
My parents and most of my family stopped by Christmas Eve to say hi, telling me they’d be back the next afternoon.
To be honest, when I woke up Christmas morning I almost burst into tears, but Karen my nurse was there, wishing me a “Merry Christmas!” to which I tried to respond excitedly.
“Isn’t it a gorgeous day!” she exclaimed, drawing back the curtains and revealing a world covered with white. A white Christmas.
“It sure is.” I hoped she couldn’t tell I was forcing it. My smile felt like it was plastered onto my face. The sudden vision of my whole family running around having snowball fights brought tears to my eyes.
“Stop it, Luke!” I scolded myself. “You’ll have a great day! All alone. By yourself.” My optimism faded.
I pulled the Rubik’s cube off the shelf. It must have been the millionth time I had done it, but hey, it was something. I solved it… ten times. I replaced the solved cube and pulled the four by four cube off the shelf. Four by fours always take me longer. It took me longer than usual. I solved it again and looked up at the clock. 9:02 a.m.
I slumped down in bed and grabbed a pillow, smacking it into my face. What had seemed like hours was really only 32 minutes. So much for a great day. I was starting to cry again.
The door opened and I immediately sat up, removing the pillow from my face and wiping my eyes. Karen wheeled in a hospital bed, just like mine. In it, looking very small in the middle of all the pillows and blankets, was a boy, a few years younger than I.
“Looks like you’ll be having a roommate,” Karen told me.
“Hi!” piped up the boy, very excitedly. “My name’s Jamie!”
I couldn’t help but smile. “I’m Luke. Nice to meet you.”
Jamie started to talk instantly.
“Isn’t it beautiful outside? I love snow. My favorite part is making snow angels.”
“Yeah. Me too.” I could tell my fake smile didn’t fool him. I slumped down in bed. “What’s the use of snow when I’m stuck in here?”
Jamie didn’t miss a beat. “Well, would you rather be looking at brown grass? Besides. At least your nieces and nephews get to play in it. Right?”
I jumped slightly. I hadn’t told him about my family. “How did you-”
But he continued. “And you’ll be well enough to sit out with your family when you get home.”
Something about him made me feel better. I wanted him to answer my concerns, so I continued in the negative. “But it’ll all be melted by the time I get home.”
Jamie smiled knowingly. “There’ll be snow. So. Bone infection, huh? That’s too bad.”
My mind was buzzing, but I nodded and asked, “What about you?”
“Paralyzed. From the waist down.”
He said it so cheerfully that, to my utter horror, I almost responded, “That’s nice!” I caught myself in time.
“Paralyzed! How awful.” I looked down at my own leg, ashamed about feeling so angry.
“Oh, it’s alright, really.”
We continued talking, and before I knew it, a cafeteria worker named Christie came in with lunch trays for the two of us. I looked up in surprise. “Is it noon already?”
She smiled. “It sure is.”
Jamie and I laughed together.
The rest of the afternoon passed as quickly as the morning had and before I knew it, my family was arriving. I looked over at Jamie. He smiled.
“Merry Christmas, Uncle Luke!” My nephews and nieces would have trampled me if they were let loose.
“Hey there, little bro!” Chad smiled at me. “I brought you a present.”
I looked at him suspiciously. Chad was the prankster of the family. One time he gave me a very nice watch for Christmas…It had a custom alarm set for three a.m. that couldn’t be turned off. I woke up to ‘CHAD IS WONDERFUL’ blasting in my ears.
“What?” he asked. He put on a look of mock innocence. “Don’t you trust me?”
I shrugged. “Sorry. I guess you-” I was caught off guard as the snowball hit me full in the face.
My little nephews and nieces each gave me little boxes and bags. They were begging me to open theirs first, because “The spaceship is really awesome!” and “I picked out the Elsa doll all by myself!”
It was only after they had left that I realized they hadn’t met Jamie. I glanced over. He was gone.
I was sitting in utter astonishment when Christie came in with my dinner.
“Christie! What happened to Jamie?”
Christie looked at me for a moment. Then she sighed. “I’ve worked here over ten years, Luke. And you know what? Every Christmas a little boy comes to someone like you, cheers them up, then disappears.”
“But where did he go?”
Christie’s eyes twinkled. “Where do you suppose an angel lives?”
She left me gaping.
Three days later, I was released from the hospital. It was snowing as my mother drove me home. I sat outside watching my family play in the snow, throwing my own snowballs occasionally. Something caught my eye, and when I looked, I could’ve sworn I saw Jamie making a snow angel on the ground.
By A. Choi | December 2016
20 Minute Writing Challenge
The clock struck 6. Dong, dong, dong, dong, dong, dong. Jamie was already waiting at the front door, boots laced tightly and a bandana around his head. The house was still dark with shadows, as the sun was just beginning to peek through the windows. Jamie opened and closed the door as quietly as he could. Mother only let him go out so early in the morning on two conditions: that he waited until at least 6 a.m., and that he didn’t wake anyone else up.
Once outside, Jamie spread his arms out, breathing in the dew-drenched air and feeling the cool breeze on his face. He loved the outdoors, and he loved the silence of the world when everyone was asleep except him. And the animals, of course. Already there were birds calling and squirrels chattering and rabbits nibbling at the grass.
Jamie adjusted the bandana around his forehead and pulled a map out of his coat pocket. A change came over his surroundings almost immediately — no longer was the sun shining brightly, or the animals minding their business. Clouds gathered thickly above Jamie, and a fog appeared out of nowhere. From somewhere deep in the fog a rough voice called out.
“That be my map, matey. Give it here.”
Jamie reached into his boot and whipped out his cleverly concealed dagger. “Come and take it, then!” he called back bravely.
The fog encircled Jamie’s feet, and a noise of chains clanking and the thump of a wooden leg drew nearer. Jamie, hero though he was, decided to make a run for it.
Clutching the map to his chest, Jamie dashed into the forest. Thankfully, he had already studied the map carefully. He knew exactly what the pirate was after, exactly where it was, and exactly where to hide from the one-legged, one-eyed, evil sea captain.
The path through the forest wound this way and that, but Jamie didn’t follow it. Instead he dashed to the left, straight through a thicket of bushes. He could hear the bellowing of the pirate behind him: “You can’t hide from me, ye scalawag!”
Jamie leaped over a rotten log, ducked under a low oak branch, crossed a tiny stream, and then came to an abrupt halt at a hedge. Looking at the map one last time, Jamie closed his eyes and walked through the hedge. The thorns and twigs gave way and opened into a secret cave filled with gold. Jamie grinned.
The pirate was still thumping wildly around with his chains clanking. By the sound of all the muffled curses, the one-legged sea captain was getting caught in the many thorns scattered around the forest. Jamie waited quietly until the pirate finally gave up with one last threat. “I’ll be back, don’t ye worry. I’ll get ye yet, boy!”
Jamie gathered up an armful of treasure and carefully made his way home. As he drew near the front door, the clouds disappeared and the sun began to shine again. Besides the chirping birds and chattering squirrels, there was now the hum of his mother’s sewing machine. Most likely she was patching some of Jamie’s coats and pants.
Jamie opened the front door and took off his boots. He walked into his mother’s work room. She looked up from the sewing machine and smiled. “Find more treasure?”
Jamie kissed her cheek. “You bet! And it’s all for you.”
He carefully laid out the golden dandelions on his mother’s work table and then went to his room to stash his bandana and treasure map away in his secret drawer.
His mother smiled after him as she returned to her sewing.
By M. Choi | October 2016
The Frozen Lion
He stood on all fours, his paws on crisp ground,
Awaiting a foe that had not yet been found.
His ears were pointed, as pointed can be,
Tipped with deep blue that mimicked the sea.
His gaze was a curious mix of deep feeling,
Coldness of mind and fierceness of dealing.
His fangs were drawn and ready to grasp,
Any foul fellow who darest to pass.
His breath was not warm, as is most,
But breath tipped with frost had this glorious host.
His coat was white, hinted with blue,
Which gave our dear beast a most wintry hue.
Looking me in the eye, he stood on the path,
As if to decide if a foe he did hath.
In fear my hands did vigorously shake,
For of this beast I knew not what to make.
He shook his mane leaving in my ears,
The sound of shattered glass that stirred many fears.
He took a step forward his paw hitting ground,
Making a glorious wind rushing sound.
And then his nose, frosted so white,
Touched my forehead, and gave me a fright.
But then he was gone, just like a flash,
Of lightning, or starlight, or winters of past,
I stood on the road, but I was not the same,
For I had seen the beast who had not a name.
And I found the answer many a man sought,
A frozen heart this Lion had not.
By R. Shinnick | 2015