CHRISTMAS, A BOY & A GUITAR
© Frank Westcott, 2012 . All rights reserved.
Santa surveyed the countryside. Without their leaves, the trees looked like black skeletons. He didn't like the feeling this gave him. The north was covered in snow, but Alliston was bare. No white tufts perching on spruce boughs. Or sparkling on the Christmas lights. Or glistening on decorations, so carefully placed on the fronts of houses, or in store windows where miniature Santas and Rudolphs bounded happily through cotton-batten fields and farms. No white flakes brightening the backs of the tiny elves, delivering gaily wrapped presents to girls and boys of the town, and of the little hamlets scattered about the countryside. Without snow, Christmas was never the same in Ontario.
And he thought of Tommy. Little Tommy Smith who lost his mother and father in the car crash. Santa's elf, Whiskers, visited Tommy regularly, hiding behind shrubs and bushes, and even the flower pots on the window sill at Tommy's aunt's house. Tommy was living with his aunt and uncle until the courts made arrangements for his future.
Tommy was nine. Too old to not know his life had been shattered. Broken into bits. And Tommy knew he was on his own. Nobody could give him the love his mother did when she baked the chocolate chip cookies every Sunday morning. They used to sit in the living room eating the cookies and drinking hot tea. Tommy's dad would sit sideways in the big chair, and let his feet dangle over the sides. Tommy loved to watch his father this way, a guitar resting, big and full, in his dad's lap, and his father's fingers strumming quietly, playing folk songs they would sing together.
Nobody could play the guitar like his father. Nobody. Not even the guys on T.V. None of them did it like dad. None of them could make the strings sound so warm, and delicate, and caring, and loving, so the sound surrounded Tommy, and he knew his father loved him even when his father was away selling oil drilling equipment, and he only saw his father on the weekends.
Tommy went to bed early Christmas Eve and thought of his father, and his mother's hot chocolate chip cookies. He slept for awhile and dreamed of an old man sitting on a tree stump in a forest he'd never seen. A forest far away where civilization had never reached, and where the animals circled the old man as he played, and the animals lay quietly on the forest floor, at peace and listening to the sounds.
Tommy awoke and checked the clock on his bed side table. The bright orange fluorescent lights flashed 2:41. He didn't know why, but he pulled back the covers and went to the living room window overlooking the front yard. He saw Uncle Bill's grey Pinto and Aunt Mary's blue Sprite in the driveway. His bike leaned against the side of Uncle Bill's car. He should have brought it in. He saw stars sparkling and twinkling in the dark sky. Then he heard the heavy footsteps of a large man in the hallway. Uncle Bill letting Cuddles out the back door. Tommy returned to his room.
There was a long brown cardboard box at the foot of his bed. A card hung from a red ribbon stapled to the side. Tommy opened the card. The words were printed in black felt marker, from one of the pens Uncle Bill carried in his shirt pocket for labelling packages at the express office outside of town.
Tommy read the note:
Tommy, we know we can never replace your mother and father. But we love you, Tommy. In the box you'll find a guitar made by your father's father, your grandfather Smith. It has a small neck and round hollow body and the strings are close to the neck so you don't have to press down too hard to make it sound right. Your father learned to play on this guitar. We know he would want you to have it. Merry Christmas, Tommy. Aunt Mary & Uncle Bill.
Santa smiled and it started to snow.