Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: It’s Christmas Day (in the present or living memory) (11/27/08)
TITLE: I Hate Christmas Day
By Debbie Roome
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In the doorway where I lie, there are no decorations and no cheer, just bleak shadows and a crushing chill. I need to get up, get moving to restore circulation to frozen limbs. Some days I wonder why I bother. Iâ€™m just another worthless tramp.
A clock strikes nearby and I count as chimes echoes across snowy streets: eight, nine, ten oâ€™clock Christmas morning. I stuff my blanket away and limp across the road to the public restrooms. The mirror reveals a mess of grey. Grey hair, grey whiskers, grey stumps where teeth have rotted, grey clothes engrained with filth. No wonder people avoid me.
Another homeless man wanders in. â€śMerry Christmas.â€ť he says. I spit towards the hand basin in reply. I suppose I should be grateful that he acknowledged me. To the masses, Iâ€™m a depressing blot on their urban landscape. Even those who toss coins to me donâ€™t communicate much. Besides what would they say? â€śLovely day, Mr Tramp. Howâ€™s your garden doing? Been on any trips recently? Have you seen the new suits at Chesterâ€™s Department store?â€ť
I stomp out of the restroom and across the sidewalk, snow crunching beneath ancient shoes. My stomach is grumbling and I decide to head down the street to Lamberts Restaurant. If I position myself across the street, I may get a few scraps.
The restaurant is decked in red, gold and silver and lights twinkle in the windows. I find a place to sit, directly opposite the door. I place my battered enamel bowl on the street and a plastic sheet to sit on. The first family to come past ignore me. The second cross the road when they see me in their path.
Itâ€™s almost two when I see a figure approaching. Unlike the others, this one is heading directly for me. He looks young, maybe twenty, and his hair is dreadlocked into coarse ropes. To my surprise he stops in front of me. I stare at him and he meets my eye. â€śDo you mind if I join you?â€ť
No one has ever asked me that.
He drops down next to me and swings his backpack to the front. â€śIâ€™ve got some hot turkey sandwiches.â€ť He hauls out a package and hands it to me. â€śOpen it up while I get the cola out.â€ť
â€śHold on. Who are you and what do you want? Are you from the soup kitchen?â€ť
He shakes his head while handing me a plastic plate. â€śNope. I just want to spend some time with you.â€ť
Iâ€™m suspicious, very suspicious, but hunger wins the battle. I shovel one sandwich after another down my throat with no regard for table manners. â€śSo whatâ€™s your name?â€ť I ask.
â€śAnd why arenâ€™t you home with family?â€ť
â€śWe celebrated on Christmas Eve.â€ť
I belch loudly after a swig of fizzy drink. I wish it was wine, warming my innards and dulling the pain but cola is better than nothing. Leaning back against the wall, I look across at my benefactor. â€śSo whatâ€™s the catch? You doing a newspaper article on drunken bums?â€ť
His eyes smile as he answers. â€śI told you, I came to spend some time with you.â€ť
â€śNo one in their right mind sits on a frozen street with a tramp.â€ť I gesture at families spilling through restaurant doors, their laughter sprinkled with exclamations of joy. â€śYou belong with them.â€ť
â€śAnd where do you belong?â€ť
â€śRight here.â€ť I smack the sidewalk next to me for effect.
Zach shakes his head. â€śWhy do you say that?â€ť
â€śBecause I made foolish choices years ago. I donâ€™t deserve anything better.â€ť
I see the cross tattooed on his forearm as he stretches out to take another sandwich. â€śYouâ€™re one of those religious nuts!â€ť
He smiles again. â€śI love God but that doesnâ€™t make me religious or a nut.â€ť
â€śWhy arenâ€™t you preaching at me then?â€ť
â€śWould it make any difference if I did?â€ť
Iâ€™m silent as he continues. â€śChristmas Day is a celebration of Godâ€™s love in sending Jesus to us. Iâ€™ve simply come to share that love.â€ť
The conversation turns to lighter things but Iâ€™m aware that something has begun to change. Something is shifting beneath my grime and brokenness. I canâ€™t explain it but for the first time in a decade, I donâ€™t hate Christmas Day.
Inspired by a true story.
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