Short Story: Christmas

A short story by e-published author Jamie Guiney

Every year on December the first, Jimmy watched people trudge across town trailing fresh cut pines or spruces. It seemed everywhere he looked there were trees going someplace. Trees crisscrossed with blue twine sailed by on trailers, the odd one even slumped without caution across some car roof, which just looked ridiculous. People blurred into a scurry and dart of earmuffs and scarves, puffing out half-frozen breath like vessels upon a sea.

Without fail, Jimmy would pass by the tree yard just to see what the prices were and always they had gone up. Jimmy Doherty couldn’t afford a tree ten or even twenty years ago and couldn’t afford one now. Usually, he decided this would be the year he went out with an axe and cut his own; but same as the year before, it was dishonest and he wouldn’t steal from another man’s land. Jimmy Doherty could barely afford to fuel his fire or his stomach, so a Christmas tree, although high on his list of wants, was last on his list of needs.

As December nestled in, winter took everything in its grip and the town slowly changed into a wonderland of decorations, colourful lights and festivity. In the window of every house soon appeared the twinkle of a tree. People sang carols in the street, hounded by darkness and cold. Shops burst out onto the pavement and the pub bustled behind its three sparkling trees, one in each wood gridded window. While people went mad and rushed at everything, Jimmy was just the same old Jimmy.

When Christmas Eve arrived Jimmy wandered out to the backyard and stood hands on hips, observing his four chickens. One remained still as though frozen solid, the others pecked at nothing and bobbed as they walked. All were terribly thin, for this year had been particularly difficult. Still, one would have to be selected and Jimmy Doherty watched them for sometime before finally deciding which would be his meal the following day.

After the bird was plucked and prepared, Jimmy just needed some festivity. First he rooted in the bottom drawer for the giant pair of rust-stained scissors that squeaked as they cut, then went down to the bottom of the yard where Mrs. Gillespie’s bushes sprawled over the boundary. For years he had asked her permission until eventually she scowled and told him to just go ahead in future. He snipped three sprigs from her holly tree, then one more for good measure.

For Jimmy, placing holly was no simple task. He arranged the sprigs at different points around the room, on the fireplace, moving one sprig, on the window sill, sitting for a while, before moving them again. Eventually he settled and the room had a look of Christmas about it alright.

Mid-morning approached upon the crest of winter’s chill and he hoped that this year there would be a delivery. The church had begun a scheme three years ago to help old people at Christmas time, bringing them a small hamper of food. Before those deliveries Jimmy would have had a Christmas lunch fit only for a mouse.

Jimmy sat in his old armchair with the gnawed leg where Mrs. Gillespie’s dog had chewed it one summer afternoon, chuffed with his holly and thinking about the day’s remainder, what to do, where to go. Lost in thought his eyes drifted from the curling, pointed leaves of holly to the window, where a delicate waterfall of snow was already coming down. It both excited and pained him at the same time. He had always loved a snowy Christmas as a boy, but a tighter chill to the air meant an already shortened supply of firewood becoming even shorter.

He considered lighting the fire but knew his wood would be gone in no time. Evening would draw in along with a further drop in temperature and Jimmy would be sat with no orange glow to stare at.
A muffled thud-thud came to his door.

Jimmy rose from the chair as quickly as an old body would allow and said right you be to no-one...

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