Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: Christmas Lights (10/30/08)
TITLE: Eye Lights
By Beth Muehlhausen
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Two full shopping bags banged against Terry’s legs as she hurried down the interior of the mall at midnight. Stores were finally closing on this last day of extended late-night Christmas hours. Barred metal doors fell to the floor, one after another.
A few other late-night patrons, hoping to squeeze every last second out of the day, also hurried toward the exits while zipping their coats as they went. Many of their faces seemed wan, pinched, and flat: dark.
Gigantic artificial trees, towering over gaily wrapped boxes, sparkled with profusions of miniature bulbs to created an aura of festivity. But as the overhead lights dimmed, urging shoppers to leave, the brash trees took on an air of eerie artificiality: idols to over-spending. The soles of Terry’s shoes clipped on the faux marble floor and echoed like horses’ hooves: cl-click, click, cl-click.
An anxious newborn’s cry swept down the corridor. Why was a tiny baby out at this hour?
Finally Terry pushed open the glass door with her shoulder to be greeted by a rush of cold night air. The silvery eyes of lighted plastic Santa faces glared from light posts as she headed quickly toward her car in the sparsely populated lot.
Two tottery old people shuffled along, off to one side. They seemed similarly bent over – perhaps from years of being yoked together? While walking arm-in-arm, the woman’s white hair blew about her face from the edge of her thin, chin-tied scarf. Her husband hugged a small sack to his chest.
Maintaining her purposeful pace, Terry grabbed both of her own shopping bags with one hand and fumbled in her purse for car keys. Across the street red and green chase lights ran around a furniture store window with similar intensity.
Suddenly Terry heard a faint tinkling, almost like the opening chord from a music box. She turned to see the old couple hovering like frozen statues over a small plastic bag billowing on the ground.
Without thinking Terry hurried toward them, drawn by an invisible magnet.
“What happened? Did you drop something? I’m so sorry … here, can I help you?”
The two were now down on their knees. A look of childlike astonishment swept across the woman’s face as she peered at Terry over her shoulder. “Why … look, George … an angel!”
Her husband looked up with a similar glint in his eyes. “Oh good, Jo … I DO love angels!” He winked at Terry as she also crouched down.
A sudden gust of wind lashed the three kneeling figures.
George’s gravelly voice puffed white clouds from between his upturned coat collar. “You see … tonight we got … a phone call … our son is … coming tomorrow … and he has a little daughter … so we decided … last minute … to get her a gift.”
His wife chimed in with her own raspy crackles. “We bought … one of those snow globes … that you shake …”
The shattered globe lay in a pool of water while a tiny, plastic baby Jesus stood upside-down on His halo, exposed to the elements. A streetlight bore down from above like a spotlight.
The two old bodies labored together to stand upright. “Thank you for coming over … there’s really nothing you can do.”
Terry didn’t hesitate. “Oh! But there is … there IS! You see, I just bought one of those globes for my niece … did you get yours on clearance at that little gift store down by the coffee shop? I’d love for you to have mine. I can get another one tomorrow, really! Would you please take it?”
Another gust of wind swept the wet plastic bag and drove it up, up like a lighted, glimmering white balloon of celebration, up into another dimension.
Time seemed to stand still as the three watched it disappear.
Then Terry fumbled in her bags. “Please?” She pulled out a tissue-wrapped ball. “Here!”
“See George … an angel …!”
Three pairs of eyes shone like beacons of shared faith and restoration as the globe left Terry’s gloved hands to sit inside a careful nest shaped by Jo’s gnarled fingers.
“Your eyes … both of you … they speak volumes,” Terry mumbled through her own fuzzy tears.
George reached out one arm, drew Terry close, and whispered in her ear. “Now young lady … you’re talkin’ bout’ yourself … angels always have … bright eyes … you know.”
The Christmas Lights were shining.
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