Almost every house on Elm Street was blinking Christmas greetings. The homeowners were outside giving the lights a last minute primp because soon the judges for the annual Harbor City Christmas Lights Festival would arrive. Don Miller turned up the volume on the Christmas music in his car, hoping to get into the Christmas spirit, but he knew it would be useless. After he pulled into the driveway of the only undecorated house on the street, dread filled his being. While the rest of the town celebrated the Lighting Festival, he would have to play the role of Ebenezer Scrooge.
The door opened before Don reached the top step of the porch. Looking to the open door, Don saw his friend from childhood miserably welcoming him in. Kevin looked like he had aged 10 years since last Christmas.
“Are you alone tonight?” Don asked after he walked through the door.
“Pretty much. The girls are out looking at the lights, and Alice is upstairs sleeping. Her chemo today made her very sleepy.” Kevin sat down awkwardly on the sofa and looked at the objects in Don’s hands.
Realizing that he just needed to get the inevitable over with, Don first handed Kevin a large, covered bowl and then a thick yellow envelope. “Nora sent cookies with me. She knows Alice is too weak to bake right now.”
“Thanks,” Kevin murmured, but he was already digging into the contents of the yellow envelope.
“There are a lot of papers with legal jargon. Why don’t you look them over tonight and meet me for lunch tomorrow? My treat.” After a minute of silence, Don added, “Kevin, you know I am so sorry. My manager kept vetoing all my ideas until I ran out of time. He is going to give you an extra three weeks to move out.”
Kevin looked up from the papers and said, “Yeah, I know.” Abruptly he stood up and said, “I’ll meet you tomorrow at Portobello’s at noon.”
Don looked around his friend’s house and remembered all the hard work put in to make into a home. Now it was going to be taken away from them because Alice had gotten cancer. “Okay then. Good night Kevin.” Don walked to the door and let himself out, still mulling over his friend’s circumstances and numbly made his way to his car.
“Hey Don, you’re not going home are you?” Don was startled back to reality and looked to the sound of the voice to see Spencer Cormier, Kevin’s neighbor.
“Yeah, I am.”
“Well you can’t go yet. The lighting judges are almost to our block, and when they see my lighting display, I am going to win this year.”
“You’re pretty sure of yourself,” Don said wearily.
Spencer smiled a mischievous grin and said gleefully, “You would be too if you spent $500 on new lights and equipment.”
Don looked back to his friend’s house and thought about what $500 could do for them. But Spencer interrupted his thoughts again, “It’s just too bad we won’t win the neighborhood lighting competition. If you know what I mean.” With an exaggerated nod toward Kevin’s dark house, he made his point.
“Spencer, the family has been going through a lot this year.”
“Yeah I know, but this is Christmas time. Our neighborhood was the Harbor City Christmas Lights Champions for four years running, but there won’t be a fifth.” Spencer looked disappointed at the prospect.
“I don’t blame them for not putting up the lights. Like I said before, there is a lot they have been through this year.” Don crossed his arms and looked to Spencer for a rebuttal.
“Hey don’t get me wrong, I feel bad for them. In fact, my wife and I pray for them every night. I guess there is not much more you can do than that.” Seeing the judges coming around the corner, Spencer started to turn his lighting display on. But he stopped to make his final point, “I know Alice is sick, but they’re not even decorating for Christmas. I find it amazing that someone can totally miss out on the real joys of the Christmas season.”
Don watched Spencer’s display come to life. The lights in the yard danced in synchronization to the Christmas music playing on a new outdoor sound system, and Spencer beamed over his creation. Getting into his car, Don looked back at the two houses, “Yeah Spencer, I find it amazing too.”
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