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After Hours
by David Story
12/07/09
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1


The store manager looked around the store one last time. Satisfied that all was secure – that the computers were off, the lights were off, and the doors were shut – he walked over to the security alarm keypad on the wall next to the fire exit.

He punched in the five-digit password that activated the alarm system. With one quick touch of the “on” button, the security light went red and the alarm was engaged.

He walked quickly through the dark of the store to the front door. Once outside, he used his key to lock the double door. He gave each one a tug, just to make sure they were both locked, and he turned away.

He headed toward his car.

He’d go home, and get ready to do it all again the next day.

2


Larry the Cucumber’s eyes slowly moved toward the direction of his friend, who sat on a shelf next to him. “Do you think he’s gone?”

Bob the Tomato glanced at the door that the man had just locked. “Yeah. I think so. Let’s give it another minute or two.”

A small laugh came from Larry’s direction.

Bob smiled. “Are you excited, Larry?”

Larry began to bob up and down. “I am. I am.” He couldn’t take it any longer, and his body fell from the shelf to the carpet below. He landed with a quiet thud. “I love Christmas. Especially tonight.”

Bob made his way toward the edge of the shelf, and like his friend, dropped onto the carpet. “Me too, Larry.” He leaned into his friend, his round red body slightly touching Larry’s green pickle shape. “C’mon, let's get ready.”

They both “walked” out of the Children’s Section of the “Lighthouse Christian Bookstore.”

3


They made their way quietly toward the Bible Section, passing first by the cards display and then between the isles of books. Larry had a question for Bob. The bookshelves hovered above them as he spoke. “You know it’s my turn this year, right?”

Bob stopped and turned to his friend. “I think it’s been ‘your turn’ for the past five years.”

Larry’s green body started to shake in protest.

Bob didn’t let his friend suffer long. “It’s okay, it’s okay,” he said. “You can do it again this year.”

Larry jumped up and down. “Yippee! Yippee!”

Now it was Bob’s turn to protest. “Shhh. You don’t want to wake everyone up until it’s time.”

Larry whispered, “Sorry, Bob.”

Bob smiled as he started walking again. “Let’s get going. We’re almost there.”

4


The Bible Section was set off in one corner of the store. There were four shelves running along two walls. They came to a stop where the walls met.

Bob and Larry stared at the Bibles that surrounded them.

Larry spoke first. “Wow!”

Bob agreed. “Yeah.”

Larry’s head moved back and forth as he surveyed the shelves. “I don’t see it yet, do you?”

Bob shook his head. “No.” Then, “Wait, there it is!”

Larry’s eyes fell on it as soon as Bob had said, “There it is.”

The cloth-bound Bible loomed over their heads, well out of reach on one of the top shelves.

“How are we going to get it down?”

Bob looked around. “We’re going to need help.”

Larry started to move excitedly. “Can I wake them up?”

Bob whispered. “Not so loud, Larry. Just one. Someone who can help us.”

“Yippee! Yippee!”

Larry took off through the store.

5


He was dreaming. Or at least to him it seemed a dream. Whatever it was, it was suddenly interrupted.

“Uh. Sir.”

Solomon opened one eye.

“Uh. Excuse me.”

He opened the other eye.

“Can you help us?”

The large owl figurine slowly lifted his head in Larry’s direction. He spoke in a low, baritone voice.

“Is it time, Larry?”

“Almost, sir. But … we need your help.”

The wise owl stared down at Larry from his place on the glass fixture.

“Anything for the cause, my friend.”

Larry’s body leaned toward the Bible section, where Bob the Tomato waited.

“The Holy Word. The one we want to use this year. It’s too high for us. We can’t reach it.”

The wise owl smiled. “Say no more.” And with that, he took off, flying through the store, toward the Bible section where Bob the Tomato waited.

“Yippee.” Larry whispered to himself, as he started back toward the Bibles.

6


The owl landed next to Bob, his wings slowly folding to the side of his body. “Well, my friend. Which one are we talking about?”

Bob looked up. “It’s the one up there. On the top shelf.”

The owl followed Bob’s gaze. “Ah, yes. I can see why you’d want that one.”

Larry made it to Bob’s side. “Can you help us?”

“Indeed I can, my veggie friend. Indeed I can.”

And without another word, the owl shot straight up. With one quick movement he grabbed the bible with his talons, and then quickly brought it safely to the floor, where he laid it reverently between Bob and Larry.

Larry picked the VeggieTales Bible for kids and held it proudly. He stared at the picture of himself, Bob, and their VeggieTale friends on the cover. “Oh, thank you, Solomon.” He aimed it toward the owl so he could get a better look at the cover. “It’s perfect, don’t you think?”

“Indeed it is,” exclaimed the bird. “Indeed it is.”

7


Larry was looking at the pictures in the Bible.

“C’mon, Larry. There’s still work to be done.”

The Bible “snapped” shut and Larry snapped to attention. “It’s time?”

Bob nodded. “It’s time.”

8



The work was carried out in an orderly yet rapid fashion.

Bob and Larry, with the help of Solomon the owl, began collecting the necessary “props.” Bob gathered up a Nativity Set in the Christmas Gift Section. Larry pulled the welcome mat from the entranceway of the store and dragged it to the Children’s Section sitting area. Solomon flew to the top of the store’s Christmas tree display and snatched the star from the top of the tree. Each one worked alone, methodically and quickly getting everything into place.

And then, it really was time …

9


Larry the Cucumber couldn’t contain himself. “I’m so excited. I think I’m going to burst!”

Bob smiled. He looked at all the work they had done.

They were standing in the middle of the Children’s Section. Small chairs faced them. Larry’s welcome mat served as a temporary carpet and was placed directly in front of the chairs, facing the makeshift stage. In the center of the stage was the Nativity Set, which included the three wise-men, three farm animals, figures of Joseph and Mary, the little drummer boy (Larry’s idea. In actuality, he came up with it last year), and … the baby Jesus; dressed in swaddling clothes, and lying in a manger. A large Crèche surrounded the Holy Family. A brown tablecloth provided the backdrop for the entire set.

Bob looked at his two friends, and quietly whispered the question. “Now. Are you ready?”

Larry and Solomon nodded.

“Then let us begin. In three, two, and one …”

On queue the three began to sing, and the bookstore quickly filled with the sound of their voices: “O, come all ye faithful, joyful and triumphant, O come, ye, O come ye to Bethlehem.

And from all around the store, they came.

10


The first to arrive were the angel figurines that made up most of the gift items in the store. From all over the store they flew, small ones and larges ones, short ones and tall ones. The short ones landed at the front of the welcome mat, with the larger angels landing directly behind them.

Next came the medium size gift figurines. Children mostly. Some were able to ride their small bikes that were part of the “piece” they came with. There were two small children figurines pulling two more children figurines in a mini red wagon. A very tiny dog and cat ran along side them. One child was even in a small car, mom and dad in the front, dad driving. Most of the figurines walked.

The larger figurines made up the rest of the audience.

Solomon the owl was not the only bird. There were bluebirds and cardinals. There were hummingbirds and blackbirds. There was even an eagle. They all flew in and landed perfectly in the “auditorium.” They stood behind the chairs, in eager anticipation.

Then came the rest: Moms and dads, grandmas and grandpas, aunts and uncles, brothers and sisters, cousins and friends. There were Saints and Apostles, more Josephs, more Marys, and of course, more Messiahs. They also sat in the chairs provided. Most of the chairs were big enough to accommodate three or four figurines at a time. The rest found a spot either on the welcome mat, or on each side of the rows of chairs. Anywhere they could, as long as they could see.

And it began.

11


A single light came on above the stage. Bob the Tomato held the Bible open to the correct page, and Larry the Cucumber began to read …

In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria. And everyone went to his own town to register. So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.

And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”

Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.” When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let's go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”

So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.

The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.


Tears filled Larry’s eyes as he read, and soon there was not a dry eye in the house. When he finished, Bob closed the Holy Book and looked at the crowd in front of him. He began to sing the words to Silent Night, and soon everyone sang along.

And with the final “Sleep in heavenly peace,” it was over.

And everyone returned back to their proper place in the store. And as if they were falling into a deep sleep, their eyes closed simultaneously, eyes that would not open again until the same time, the following year.

And Bob the Tomato, Larry the Cucumber, and Solomon the wise owl quickly put everything back in order.

And they too found their proper places on the shelves.

And they too returned to a deep, deep, sleep … while visions of sugarplums danced in their heads.

12


With a cup of coffee in his hand, the store manager turned off the alarm system and began his workday. Just like he did every day.

He mentally began preparations for the Christmas crowd he was expecting. He prayed a silent prayer, asking God for a good and busy day, a day where sales were made, and needs were met.

He walked through the store, giving it a last minute once over to make sure all was in order.

Something in the Children’s Section caught his eye. He walked over and saw the VeggieTales Bible opened and lying on the carpet floor. He didn’t remember seeing it there the night before. He bent over to pick it up and noticed that it was opened to the Gospel of Luke, the second chapter. Hmmm, he thought, The Christmas Story. He walked over to the Bible Section and placed it on the top shelf where it belonged, thinking to himself as he did so, what an apropos place for the Bible to have been opened at.

The time came, and he opened the doors to let the shoppers in.

And the hustle and bustle of the season, continued …

----------

Thanks to Big Idea and VeggieTales.
The VeggieTales Bible is published by Zonderkidz (The Zondervan Corporation).
The Scripture passage: Luke 2:1-20 (New International Version)
O Come, All Ye Faithful (John Francis Wade)
Silent Night, Holy Night (Words Joseph Mohr. Tune, Franz Gruber.)
And yes, I even took a line from “Twas the Night Before Christmas” (Clement Clarke Moore). I must add, however, that it is strictly coincidence that there are twelve sections to this story, and the author was not thinking of the Twelve Days of Christmas when he divided up the sections, although the author must now admit, he can’t get the song out of his head.

Merry Christmas everyone! And to all a good night!



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