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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Christmas Carols/Carolling (10/02/08)

TITLE: Fifteen Tarnished Christmas Bells


David took a deep breath. The musty smells of the old town hall made his nose itch. This place no longer reminded him of community gatherings, nativity plays or combined Easter services. An old plastic Christmas tree leaned against the wall; bent over and covered in cobwebs. He pushed aside the sagging stage curtain and touched one of the fifteen tarnished Christmas bells which hung in a neat row. He closed his eyes and tried to recall the familiar sounds. All he heard was the squeak of the front door.

"Mrs. Jessop, good to see you. What’s it been...?”

“Twelve months,” she groaned. The old woman placed her scarf and handbag on a nearby table. “Where is everyone? I want to be home early tonight.”

“Well, Teresa married in January and moved to the coast. Donald won’t be here… you knew his wife died from cancer a few weeks ago?”

“Yes, I read the funeral notice in the Enquirer but I was busy.”

David was about to continue when a soprano rendition of Hark the Herald Angels Sing echoed in the empty hall. He turned toward the door and laughed as he was approached by his star performer. The girl’s chubby face reflected enthusiasm which oozed from her. “Meredith, you look um... colorful... as usual.” He stepped back and gazed at her peculiar outfit.

Mrs. Jessop stood with her hands on her hips. Her head moved slowly from side to side. “I hope we’re not dressing in florescent angel costumes this year and sing Angels in the Realms of Glory.”

Meredith giggled. “It’s been a fabulous year, David. I earned an art scholarship in London.” Her eyes sparkled. “I always wanted to work in London. Perhaps this will be my big chance.”

The side door swung open and a middle-aged couple entered. “David, I can’t believe it’s that time of year again.” The woman smiled and offered a hug. “John won’t be coming. He’s still away at boot camp.”

Mrs. Jessop frowned. “Well, well. That was a bit inconsiderate of him, Joan. He could have at least waited until after caroling season before he joined the Army." With another shake of her head she slumped heavily into a chair.

Almost simultaneously, two other choir members burst through the two entries. The commotion rose with reminiscing and laughter which now seem to brighten the dreary hall.

David glanced at his watch and whistled. “Okay, everyone, you know the routine. We’ll have three practices before we start caroling. Let’s begin tonight with Meredith’s choice, Hark the Herald Angels Sing.” He paused as the choir members took their places in a curved line, shuffling closer to fill gaps where others had once stood. David cleared his throat. “It’s sad to think that if we go on like this, within a few years our town’s caroling group will no longer exist.”

Smiles disappeared and expressions became solemn. Whispers betrayed their thoughts.

Joan grew anxious. “Oh please, don’t say that, David.”

David straightened and coughed. “Well let’s not spoil our practice. Maybe we can have a meeting some time and do some recruiting for next year.”

Mrs. Jessop made a throaty gruff noise. “Oh, but we can’t have strangers sing carols with us.”

“Why not?” Meredith’s face flushed.

“Well... because...”

David tapped his baton on his music stand. “Twelve years ago we began with fifteen carolers. We all knew each other like family and regardless of which church we attended, we visited each other during the year. We shared each other’s joys and sorrows.” He sighed heavily. “When was the last time we commenced our annual caroling practice with a party… or polished our bells?”

Meredith sat cross legged on the floor and held her head in her hand. The line dispersed. Joan’s husband, Rolf, brought a chair over so Joan could sit.

“So it’s come to this?” Mrs. Jessop sighed.

The hall grew silent. The only sound was the occasional creaking of the rafters and the wood-rotted door rattling with the slightest breeze.

“I still want to sing Hark the Herald Angels Sing,” Meredith whispered.

David tapped his baton again. “Okay, let’s sing our best this year. We’ll polish our bells and let the whole town know that we want caroling to continue. Let’s announce the birth of Jesus like we haven’t done for years.”

A gentle white snow began to fall outside and the words Hark the Herald Angels Sing echoed in the old town hall and throughout their little town.

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This article has been read 842 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Jan Ackerson 10/11/08
Oh, how sad! I wonder why Mrs. Jessop is the way she is? Well-written story!
Beth LaBuff 10/12/08
I think Mrs. Jessop was the Grinch and Scrooge all rolled into one. :) I enjoyed this unusual creative Christmas story.
Karin Beery10/13/08
I like how you were able to give the characters such personality in such a small amount of time.

I would encourage you to brush up on punctuation. It's a pretty common stumbling block. Review comma usage - it can smooth out of chop up a piece.

Again, nice characterization. It makes me wish there was time to further develope their stories.
Sheri Gordon10/13/08
I love Mrs. Jessop--you portrayed her personality wonderfully.

I was a little confused as to what happened at the end...why they weren't singing. But I'm sure the word limitation caused you to have to condense.

Good dialogue. It felt realistic.
Lollie Hofer10/13/08
You did a good job capturing the readers interest right from the beginning. This was a well-written story. You are a gifted story-teller.
Catrina Bradley 10/13/08
You did a great job of characterizing each member of the choir, and the choir as a body. I got a good picture of them and their sad situation. The turn in the story and the ending seemed a bit rushed to me; but the word count must have confined you. :) Cat
Chely Roach10/13/08
What a bittersweet story. Well written!
Chrissi Dunn10/14/08
Your raised some interesting issues. Your dialogue was well written, and I enjoyed the input of all your characters.
Norma-Anne Hough10/14/08
Lovely story and beautifully told. Your characters are very real. So glad they were singing my favourite carol.
Blessings, Norms
Karlene Jacobsen10/14/08
What a great story. I'd like to see something happen that softens Mrs. Jessop's heart.
Marlene Austin10/14/08
Thank goodness for the precious Meredith's in our midst; so glad she whispered that she still wanted to sing. :)
Pamela Kliewer10/14/08
You really gave us something to think about with this piece. Where are our hearts? Well done.
Joy Faire Stewart10/15/08
Great opening paragraph and excellent characterization. I felt I knew the choir members. Very enjoyable.
Leah Nichols 10/15/08
I thought you did excellent work of portraying the different characters. I thought it could have continued on, but you did have a satisfying conclusion. :) Nice work.
Yvonne Blake 10/15/08
As the kids in our church grew up, our caroling has diminshed too. ...sad!
I was hoping for a newcomer, a stranger to come in and put a new spark into the group.
George Parler 10/15/08
This has a wonderful wisp of one my favorite Christmas time stories. Your characterization is superb. Great job!
Verna Cole Mitchell 10/15/08
You have excellent characterization, especially Mrs. Jessop.
Valarie Sullivan10/15/08
Commas? What commas? I was too caught up in the story to notice! Good job!
Joshua Janoski10/15/08
I really like how each character has his/her own unique personality. Thanks for sharing, Chrissy. :)
Lyn Churchyard10/15/08
Your descriptions of the old hall was great, especially The only sound was the occasional creaking of the rafters and the wood-rotted door rattling with the slightest breeze, and your characterisation - especially David and Mrs Jessup - were excellent. Great story.