The world had been sad since Christmas went away. The lack of Christmas spirit made it just go away. Outside there seemed to be no horizon. The ocean and the sky were gray. No wind. The house and its lack of light made the shadows that followed Aiden seem darker. The beautiful ocean which used to twinkle as if crystals had been cast over the surface, were gone. Now the sea was gray and the smell of despair had taken its place. The sea was flat. It was as if the moon had given up its will to pull on the world. Not even a single act of kindness remained on earth, replaced by cynicism and self-absorption. It is the future or maybe the past.
Aidan had been frightened by this nightmare, except that it was true.
Eight year old Aiden awoke to get his mom so they could attend to Joe. Joe appeared at their door a couple weeks ago. Joe was a homeless man. When he first appeared at their door a few weeks ago his face was undistinguishable. Only after they cleaned him was it possible to see that he was a kind looking old man. Joe was thin with kind green eyes. He has a few long grayed hairs remaining on his head but he was mainly bald. His white beard made him look wise. He couldn’t have been very wise though. What had he done or not done to become homeless? Aidan distrustfully wondered.
Aiden was a good boy. Eight years old. He had stopped going to school the year after Christmas went away. Aiden lived with his Mom. They both missed Christmas. She remembered the days when people used to decorate their homes with lights. Parties were thrown. Gifts were given. Strangers used to say “Merry Christmas” to each other on the street. Aiden wished with all his heart for Christmas to come back. It was his “big tall wish.” Wish though he did, Christmas was dead.
Mom was a cynical person. A few years before Christmas went away, like everyone else she found Christmas to be an annoyance. When someone did say “Merry Christmas,” she felt it to be an intrusion. Deep inside she missed it. Sometimes you don’t know how valuable something is until it is gone.
Joe needed constant care. For a while they thought he might die. Eventually he began to be able to eat soup and seemed he was getting better. The neighbors had seen the stranger in their home. They warned Aiden and his mom that they would regret their act of kindness. They had let the devil into their home.
Each morning Aiden took about an hour to heat water on the stove and pour it into the tub for Joe, one teapot at a time. The water heater had broken and there was no one to repair it. He would comb Joe’s hair. Feed him and lay him to rest. In the afternoon his mom would reluctantly help Aiden with Joe. Mom mainly slept these days leaving the work to Aiden.
The nights were spent keeping Joe warm. Joe would tell Aiden he was a good boy and that things would get better. Aiden believed him. This tiresome routine went on for some time.
It was morning. Today Joe was on his feet. He seemed better! He announced that he would be leaving and had important work to do. He asked Aiden and his mom if he could speak with them before he left. Standing by the window Aiden could see past Joe. Outside Joe could see that gray sky seemed to have a slight bit of blue peeking through.
Joe told Aiden and his mom they had cast the only act of kindness that took place that year. It had been decided that goodwill still existed in the world.
They had been nurturing an angel. Joe is The Christmas Angel, Aiden realized. He smiled.
Joseph stepped out the door He walked through the thick mud and looked to the sky. He stood elegantly writhing. Aiden saw the wings. They unfolded slowly. They seemed damp and crinkled. Standing head to the breeze, Joe’s wings began to flutter. He looked back at Aidan and his Mom. He winked at them. With Joseph’s wink, Aiden knew that their act of kindness had just saved Christmas. Christmas would be back.
Joseph walked a few steps and in a single motion leapt to the sky. He flew and flew. Mom kept on watching until he vanished. He was no longer an annoyance in her life, but an imaginary dot on the horizon of the sea. The dot sparkled before it disappeared.
Roderick Reed owns REEDesign Interiors in Laguna Beach. He lives in town with his wife Kathy and two sons Mason and Jack. http://roderickreed.com/.