Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: Christmas Lights (10/30/08)
By J. C. Lamont
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The man ended his rant with the moniker of the Nazarene, and Jordan stiffened, looking up from the wreath she held. “That’s God’s name, don’t wear it out.”
The man arched a brow, evidently confused as to whether he felt amused or angered. “I’m an atheist.”
“Uh-huh,” Jordan said.
The man snorted and ambled down the next aisle.
Setting aside the wreath, Jordan snatched four boxes of blue Christmas lights and headed for the checkout. Jingle Bell Rock blared from the muzac system overhead, and a synthetic pine scent lingered in the air.
Passing signs for holiday trees, holiday ornaments, and holiday cards, she deliberately said “Merry Christmas” to the woman behind the register only to receive a scowl in return.
November rain pelted the street and turned to filthy currents that rushed past the tires of bumper-to-bumper traffic. Beneath fake, tinsel-draped poinsettias hanging from street lamps, Jordan darted between cars with her shopping bag held over her head.
“I’ll never find a man in this city,” she muttered, ducking under a storefront awning to get out of the rain.
From beneath the canopy, she watched people dash to their cars, drivers honk and curse at the vehicles in front of them, shoppers hauling their bags as they hurried home. All appeared indifferent to the holiday cheer decorating the street around them, as indifferent to it as they were indifferent to its symbolism.
She turned to see a sign in the window beside her flashing ‘X-mas Specials’ and shook her head. “Yea, just cross His name out and keep living your stupid, pathetic lives—”
She cut herself off, wishing she could rid her soul of cynicism, but seven years of living in the liberal city of Philadelphia had taken its toll.
Her bus came, and Jordan stepped from the awning only to be splashed with cold water as it groaned to a stop.
From the view through the dirty window, she watched Christmas lights blur past in streaks of white, red, and green, back dropped against grey buildings and a slate sky.
The muddled water swirling the filthy street mirrored the muddled minds and hearts of the people around her. God, Jesus, and the true meaning of Christmas held no relevancy in their frenzied lives. And no matter how hard she prayed, no matter how often she reached out, she was met with the same blank stares, the same don’t-give-me-your-God-crap responses.
She felt so alone.
And oh, how she longed to shake the dust of this country off her feet and go to a captive nation – where people risked their lives to attend a worship service, where they clutched single pages of scripture to their heart like gold, where they slept in gutters because their homes were burned to the ground for their faith, where their pastors were murdered and their children persecuted.
But it was here that God wanted her, so here she would remain – amongst people who slept-in Sundays mornings, whose Bibles collected dust, and who cursed God for the price of oil as they watched TV in their warm living rooms, and ranted that calling December 25th ‘Christmas’ was an infringement of their rights.
The bus stopped at her corner, and grateful the rain slackened, Jordan trudged to her apartment, willing the Christmas spirit to cheer her disillusioned dreams. She longed for a revival – a Christian revolution – to sweep the county she once felt so proud to live in.
Yet all around her, people eagerly embraced their disease, blind to the growing sickness within, willfully ignorant of the decay rotting their soul, eating away at their spirit's flesh.
Pulling open the door to her apartment building, Jordan stepped into the foyer, but her bag snagged on a screw jutting from the frame. The plastic ripped, spilling her lights all over the floor.
Biting her tongue against blurting something she’d regret, Jordan scrambled to scoop up her purchases.
“Need a hand?”
She whirled to see a young man standing behind her. “Not unless you can tell me what these are,” she said wryly.
“Um, they look like Christmas lights to me,” he said. “What do you think they are?”
Jordan handed him a box of lights and noticed a silver cross dangling from his neck. “Well, I suppose you can help then.”
“You’ve got attitude,” he said, suppressing a smirk. “I’m Todd.”
“Jordan,” she said with a smile. “And you’ve no idea.”
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