Translate

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

The Snows of Yule - A Different Kind of Holiday Tale

         

                           The Snows of Yule – A Different Kind of Holiday Tale   

What if the season of Christmas, for various reasons, did not exist as we know it today?   What if the season that it replaced, Yuletide, was still celebrated and enjoyed by its adherents?  Maybe something like this short story could happen.  
                                                  
                          
The snow started to fall early on that late December day.  By the noon hour, radio host Arthur Godfrey had warned his listening audience about the hazards of holiday travel in such hazardous weather.  But the kids loved it!  Everywhere the eye could see, snowmen were rising from the Earth, as if some weird invasion had taken place.  That new vacation phenomenon, skiing in the Catskills and Pocono mountains, was having a boom year.  And, this was the third snowfall in an already frigid winter.
Sam Weyland wanted no part of it; no part of the holiday season and no part of the damned snow.  For Sam, a holiday was just another day, and the snow brought back unpleasant memories to his mind.  It was in the Ardennes Forest, during late December 1944, when Sam learned to hate the white death.  Funny thing about war; it takes the farm boys and city boys, rich and poor, and mixes them together in circumstances where only survival is the paramount concern.  In pitched battle, boys are baptized men, leaving their youth scattered on every acre; war draws men close, leaving them bothers in blood.
It was in a snow like this that three of Sam’s brothers-in-arms were taken from him during the Battle of the Bulge in the Ardennes Forest. It isn't fair, he thought; first my parents then my comrades.  As he shook his head in disgust, he wondered if being close to anyone was worth it.  But enough of the unpleasant memories, he thought, as he tried to dismiss them.  Sam had something to celebrate, and planned it for weeks.  He was promoted to Executive Vice President of Manufacturing for Weyland Steel and that was his reason to celebrate.  He had earned that promotion, and never asked for help from any god or man.
As he closed his desk drawer, Sam thought about his planned evening’s activities.  First, a few well-earned drinks at O’Hara’s and then off to his favorite club where he would be served his favorite meal, Prime Rib, just like his mother used to make many years ago.  He allowed his staff to leave early, thereby dispensing with the only holiday amenity that he was responsible for.  Sam left by the rear stairwell and easily avoided the holiday well wishes of those who attended Weyland Steel’s annual Yuletide party.  Once on the street, his only thoughts were that of O’Hara’s and his prime rib dinner.  Sam reasoned that the holidays served a purpose for him; he had a day off to recuperate from a hangover.  And, Sam planned on getting quite drunk.  But he was roused out of his personal bliss when a young voice called out,   “Hey Mister! Hey Mister! How ‘bout a shine Mister!” 
Sam turned and saw the person who had the nerve to bother him.  It was a boy, not much more than ten years old.  Nose running, patched pants, wet with snow and the little imp had the balls to ask him if he wanted his shoes shined - in a snowstorm!  Sam just starred down at the kid, unable to speak.
            “Hey Mister, are you deaf?  I asked you if you wanted a shine. So, how ‘bout it?”
“Are you insane boy,” Sam managed to get out, “how do you expect to shine my shoes in this weather?”  
 The youth countered with, “Hey Bud, I’ll make you a deal.  For fifteen cents, that’s my lowest price, I’ll give you a shine you won’t soon forget! Honest! My momma always says honesty and hard work always pays off! So how ‘bout that shine Mister?”  Sam had enough; he was late for his self- appointed celebration.  “Get lost boy. I’m late for an appointment!”  He turned and started to walk away; he tasted O’Hara’s on his tongue.
“Please wait Mister! You don’t understand!  All I need is fifteen cents more and I can get my momma the gift for Yule she really wants!”   The boy suddenly slipped on the snow packed sidewalk and grabbed Sam’s overcoat sleeve for support.
The sudden pull on his sleeve had pulled Sam off balance. In the process of steadying himself, Sam’s eyes met the boy’s.  Sam had never seen eyes like that!  They burned with an intense something that Sam could not put his finger on.  But he felt that it was something worthy and good. 
 “ OK kid,” Sam said, “you can shine my shoes but be quick about it! I’m already late!”
 In the shadows stood a tall, thin figure, who intently watched the exchange between Sam and the boy.
The lad then proceeded to clean off a bench and instructed Sam to sit down. The boy did his job well; Sam thought it was a great shine!  But those eyes!  “What’s your name son,” Sam asked in a relaxed tone.
“Why do yah need to know, Mister,” replied the boy with some annoyance in his voice.
“Well,” Sam said, “Why not?   I just let you shine my shoes in a blizzard.  You provided me with a service.  People who do business together should at least know each other by their first name!  So, what’s yours?”   “It’s Phillip. Phillip Mann. Now how ‘bout my fifteen cents; it’s gettin’ late.”  “Oh very well,” Sam said as he handed Phillip the required fee.  “You know young man; I have half a mind to tell your father what a smart mouth you have!”
“You’d have a gawds awful time doing that Mister.  My dad’s dead.  He died in the war fightin’ the Japanese.  Killed ten days before I was born so I don’t even know the guy.  But momma and me get along just fine.  She cleans houses for the rich people and I shine shoes.  Well I gotta go! See yah around town!”  Phillip then added, “Have a nice holiday Mister,” as he walked away.
Sam was numb.  Bad memories flooded him with raw emotion; memories of a man who came to the old family home and brought news of his father.  Bill Weyland, Sam’s father, had enlisted in the Army to fight with General “Black Jack” Pershing’s Expeditionary Force headed for WWI Europe.  Bill was idealistically imbued with the idea that once the Kaiser heard that the Americans were coming to fight in Europe, he would surrender immediately.  Fat chance, as history proved.  Sam could still see the man, dressed in a gray flannel suit, as he tried to calm his mother and explain to her that her husband Bill Weyland was indeed dead.  The rest Sam put into an intentional fog.  His father was killed in an artillery barrage and was buried somewhere in France.  Soon after the word arrived of his father’s death, Sam’s mother became sickly and passed on. Growing up, he was told that his mother had died of a broken heart.  Sam’s grandfather became the guiding force in his life, and tried to fill the void created by missing parents.  But that void lacked the nurturing essence that only a mother can give a young boy.  But, there was the money. 
The Weyland fortune was made ages ago when Franz Weyland first set foot in America and traded with the American Indians and early settlers. The Weyland family moved into land speculation, gold, imports and exports, and finally manufacturing.  But with all this money Sam felt that something was missing; his wallet was full but his heart was empty.
            Somehow with all that churning in his head, Sam managed to stumble forward and found his first stop - O’Hara’s.  He surmised that several stiff drinks would wash away those memories, if only temporarily.  But, temporary was good for now.  Sam enjoyed drinking to excess; it put him into a state of oblivion.  It took away the memories - usually.  However, on that December night, he polished off his third drink and could still see the piercing intensity of Phillip Mann’s eyes.  Sam could not understand why they stirred his brain like scrambled eggs.  He glanced at his watch; it was time to leave.  He didn’t want to be late for his dinner at the club.  At least there he could finish his alcohol bath with food.  As he pulled on his over coat and exited O’Hara’s, Sam noticed that there were three available taxis.  But for no particular reason, he chose to walk.    That same stranger, the same stranger who observed his actions with Phillip Mann, followed him at a careful distance, and watched Sam’s every move. 
           The walk from O’Hara’s to the Executive Club was only three city blocks long; not a terribly great distance but just enough to make this exclusive hideaway a respectable habitation for the Lords of Big Business.  Rumor had it, at least among the working stiffs, that the entrance requirements were deep; you needed really deep pockets.  Moreover, the eagles of big business needed a retreat from their labors and a respectable one at that.  Things like public drunkenness and other debauchery could cost a member his pass key and, peer ridicule.  That’s why the club had its “private quarters.”  If a man of means had to have a mistress, he brought her to the club, not Main Street; it was a safe place for the wealthy to be naughty.  Sam had trouble with those made-made social axioms; they smacked of hypocrisy.  Those axioms that condemned certain behavior but “winked” at the same under certain ‘peerage control,’ usually sent Sam into a rage.   He often thought that social strata determined what is right and what is wrong under the microscope of money:  what a rich man could get away with would send a working stiff to jail.  At those times when his emotions flowed, he swore that he was crazy, but an inner voice always guided him to right action.  It was that voice in his head that had told him to duck just before the machine gun spit out its death and claimed his comrades in the Ardennes.  But as usual when his grief and anger were spent, Sam figured out that he wasn't crazy, at least not yet. 
The three block walk seemed to be miles long in the heavy, blowing snow.  As Sam came closer to the intersection, he saw the stately lights of the Executive Club, as they dimly illuminated the street and the surrounding buildings.  Voices, one young and one old, came from the direction of Tom Watson’s General Store.
Watson’s store was the envy of most of the town merchants.  In Watson’s store, a man could find the finest toys, chocolates from Europe, clothing, and various other “nifty” things to place under a holiday tree.  The yelling made Sam think that Watson was being robbed.  Running as fast as he could, Sam did not find a robbery taking place, but young Phillip Mann with a tear stained face trying to persuade a flustered Tom Watson to re-open his store.  “Evening Tom,” Sam said breathlessly.  “Is everything all right?”   “Not in the least,” Tom replied with a bit of anger in his voice.  “Here it is, the last day of business before the holidays, I’m closed till New Years, and this kid wants me to re-open my place!  I’ve got a wife and son waiting for me upstairs with a fancy dinner that’s getting cold!”
           “Now Tom,” Sam said, using his most persuasive voice, “I know this young man, and he can be quite persistent.  It’s very important to him to make his purchase.  Besides going upstairs and having dinner, what’s it really gonna cost you, this weather?   Another five minutes?  Come on Tom, give the kid a break!  Your wife will keep your dinner warm.”  Tom Watson looked at Phillip.  He surmised that the boy couldn’t be much younger or older than my son Bill.  “Oh well, it is the holidays,” he said, and broke in to a huge grin that could melt Jack Frost’s heart.  Sam followed the boy and the merchant into the store.  Those eyes, again with those eyes!  Even filled with tears, they radiated an indistinguishable something that still had Sam puzzled and filled with unfamiliar feelings.
Phillip moved quickly to a counter in the rear of the store.  There, on a table marked ‘clearance,’ he found what he was looking for.  It was a small box, no bigger than four by six inches, and covered with seashells.
“Ah! A fine choice young man,” crackled Tom.
“Yeah, my momma is gonna love it!  She just said the other day she don’t have anythin’
for her hair combs but she sure does now!  Ain't that right Mister?  Hey Mister, HEY MISTER!
You go deaf on me again?”  Phillip tugged on Sam’s coat sleeve to make sure that Sam was aware of his satisfaction.  Sam heard the boy just fine; clear as a bell.  But he was in another world, a world deep within himself.  He swore that he would never, never again become emotionally involved with another person; too much pain and too many rotten memories. 
“Hey Mister, you OK?” the boy managed to blurt out as he yanked even harder on Sam’s coat sleeve.
“I’m alright Phillip.  It’s just something that my good friend O'Hara can quickly cure.”  The thought of a few more stiff drinks rapidly passed through Sam’s mind. 
            Tom Watson finished wrapping Phillip’s gift and crowned it with a bright red ribbon. Both men then watched as the boy scurried off with his prize.  As Tom pulled on his overcoat, he noticed some emotion in Sam Weyland’s face.  Was the guy capable of any emotion at all?  Well, it is Yule, Tom reasoned, and pleasant memories can be made at this time of year with the simplest of things.  Maybe Sam had a heart in his chest after all, Tom mused.  Sam led Tom out the door so the store owner could properly lock up for the holiday.
Then a strange thing occurred.  Sam Weyland, the man who found holidays utterly useless, wished Tom and his family a Happy Holiday and a prosperous Yuletide!  He even said it with feeling. Oh gawds, Sam moaned to himself.  What has that kid done to me?   He’s turned me inside out!
           Without warning, the voice, that same voice that had saved his life in the Ardennes years ago, spoke in his head and told him to find the boy; follow the tracks in the snow and your questions would be answered.  Sam’s experience in matters regarding this inner voice was simple. Go along with it and things work out just fine; like the Ardennes. Go against it and the results were not good.  Dutifully he set out on this quest, not knowing what he might find or where his search would end.  As he rounded the corner, Sam walked into a tall thin man who wore a wide brimmed hat.  The stranger seemed to point to a patched eye with one hand as he grasped his walking staff with the other.  With a gruff voice, the stranger spoke to Sam and said, “Wonderful weather for this Holy Day isn’t it?  And by the way Sam, I hope that you find what you truly want and desire this Yule.”  With a wily laugh the stranger turned the corner.  Sam turned on his heels to answer the stranger but he could not find him in the blinding snow.  Moreover, Sam knew that he must continue to follow the boy’s footprints.  The snow was furious, and the wind had picked up; those footprints would soon be covered.  Finally, he reached his destination.
            Sullivan’s Row stood out in stark contrast to the rest of the town.  The wealthy were not familiar with this part of their world; it was a part of the city that they had chosen to ignore. Streets with names like Front, Race, Wire, and Railroad held within their boundaries row houses that gave this particular neighborhood part of its name.  Sullivan, whoever he was, was lost in memory.  The row houses twisted and turned up and down their respective streets, with a banality that was only duplicated by the sameness of each house.  In all of his days, Sam Weyland had never set foot in this part of town.  He often wondered about life and conditions here.  Sam meant to visit one day and see for himself, first hand, what life was like here for the poor of his community.  A few times at the Club, he brought up his desire to visit Sullivan’s Row to his peers.  His peers chided him, and reminded him that Sullivan’s row was no place for a man of means.  But that night of questing in the snow was different.  In the snow, Phillip’s tracks ended on Race Street, in front of house number 333.
Sam was not one to sit back and wait for things to happen; he made things happen.  That was one of the reasons why he became the youngest Vice President of Manufacturing in the history of Weyland Steel.  The other, of course, was his surname, Weyland.
Sam knew that he must knock to gain the answers to the questions that he sought.  Boldly, he hammered on the plain wood door three times.  A light was lit in the front room, symbolic of the things to come.  A slight figure approached the door and slowly unlocked it, while at the same time searching the night through a small window in the door for the source of the knocks.  Finally, the door slightly opened and a strong but feminine voice asked, “Yes, who is there and what do you want?”
            Sam stepped closer to the door and said, “Good evening, Madam. I was wondering….”
           “You have some nerve mister, it’s the supper hour on a holiday night and here you are trying to sell a poor woman some worthless trash!”
           “Please Madam, I’m not a salesman but…..”
           “Don’t you have a family to be with tonight instead of bothering me?”
Sam swallowed hard; the words seemed to stick in his throat.  But, he managed to choke out a few words and said, “Please, please, let me explain.  I’m not a salesman and I didn't mean to disturb you.  I just wanted to see that your son got home safely, that’s all.  He seems to be a special boy who cares deeply for you.  I’ll go now and leave you in peace.  Oh, and to the last question, the answer is no. I don’t have a family, good night.”   Sam turned and started to walk away.
         The woman in the doorway was not without compassion.  This was a commodity she was known for in Sullivan’s Row.  Many times the poorest of the poor had found their way to her home and were warmed by her parlor stove and ate from her table.  To turn away a stranger was against her beliefs of hospitality and generosity.  To turn away a stranger who was concerned about her son’s welfare on this cold winter’s night or any night, was unthinkable to her.
“Sir, Mister, please wait! Why don’t you come inside for a while?  You must be chilled to the bone!  I’ll put on a pot of fresh coffee to warm you.”  For reasons he did not understand at that moment, Sam accepted this offer over his previous plans.  He followed the slight figure of the woman into the house and felt the warmth of a home.  The wind had picked up and was howling wildly.  “Please forgive me for being so rude.  My name is Catherine Mann.  Please, sir why don’t you sit down and relax.  I don’t believe that you mentioned your name.”
The full light of the parlor gave Sam the opportunity to see Catherine in full view for the first time.  My gawds, he thought.  Those eyes!  She has that something just like her son Phillip. Those eyes radiate, speak things, and are alive with life! The subtle light of the kitchen silhouetted her figure, a figure which any artist would gladly have used as his model. Sam was stunned and he began to mumble.
“I’m sorry sir, I didn't hear you,” she said as she passed him a tray of freshly baked cookies.  “What did you say your name was again?”
“I’m the one who should be sorry,” replied Sam.  “My name is Sam Weyland but please Mrs. Mann, call me Sam.”
“Only if you would please call me Catherine, and now the coffee’s done.  I’ll be right back!”
Another strange feeling overcame Sam.  He felt comfortable with Catherine, like he knew her so well but yet, they had just met.  He also noticed the lack of a Yule tree and log for the fireplace.  It was obvious to him that Catherine could not afford either.  How sad, he thought, for this mother and son to not have any Yule greenery.  The first cup of that black brew tasted like more and before they realized it, the pot was empty and they knew each other’s life story.  Never before had Sam been so able to open up his thoughts and feelings to another person.  In a short span of time the couple drinking coffee knew each other’s strengths, weaknesses, and desires. Sam surprised himself.  He never cared to discuss his feelings, let alone his life.  But with Catherine, everything seemed just right and natural.  Catherine, who was used to talking to people about various things, felt a strong attraction to this man, a man who she had just met.  She always saw the best in people regardless of their station in life, but this was different.  In front of her she saw a man of wealth and means in distress because of anger and grief.  But Catherine also saw a man who had goodness in his heart but had difficulty in getting it out.  As she looked at Sam she wondered why she felt so attracted to him.  Sam could bear it no longer.  It had started with the first footstep into Catherine’s home.  That feeling grew within him as if it might burst if he didn't get it out.  Finally, he interrupted Catherine by asking, “Please Catherine, hear me out.  This might seem like an odd request to you but please let me do this.  I never had a family to call my own.  I never felt the joy and blessing of Yule as an adult.  Let me go now, but I promise to return.  When I do, regardless of what is with me, or the hour, please let me into your home again.  I know it’s late, but please Catherine, grant me this small privilege.”
She saw the urgent look in his eyes and felt the energy that radiated from him.  Catherine wasn't quite sure what he was talking about, but decided that she could trust this man.  Finally, after what for Sam felt like an eternity, her steady but silent gaze broke and she said, “Yes, Sam, I’ll wait up for you. But go now, it’s getting late and the storm is getting worse.”   Sam reached out for her hand and kissed it.  For the first time that Sam could remember, he was happy. He dashed out of the house, coat, and hat in hand, knowing exactly what he wanted to do.
As he ran, the cold air filled his lungs.  Sam felt like he was purified.  Finding a taxi on a night like this would be difficult, he reasoned, but there one stood, ready and waiting.  The hack driver had the kind of face that Sam had seen so often in the streets; plain without any distinguishing characteristics except for the thick, red hair and beard.  “Hey Cabbie, how would you like to earn a fat bonus for some extra work tonight,” Sam said with some jovial persuasion.
           “Mister,” the cabbie replied, “My job is to take you where you want to go, that’s all.  Now, where do you want to go, Bud?”   Sam reached inside his pants pocket and found his wallet.  He reached inside and pulled out a hundred dollar bill.  He pressed it into the cabbies hand and said, “Here’s that bonus.  No joke!”
The cabbies face lit up like a heat lamp.  “ OK, Mister, I don’t know how with the snow and all but for this I’ll take you anywhere you want!”
“Well alright,” Sam chortled, “First things first.  Let’s find a great Evergreen tree and a Yule log!”  The cabbie earned his bonus that night.  Knowing the streets and people of the town made his task simpler.  In no time at all, the cabbie brought Sam to a street vendor’s shack where he purchased a beautiful six foot fir tree and the last Yule log.  As he got back into the taxi, Sam thought that he smelled goats.  He had no idea why; this was the city and not a barnyard.
The next step on Sam’s agenda was the Executive Club, where he easily convinced the club steward to sell him six pounds of uncooked prime rib.  Sam reveled in the simplicity of it all.  Money was like a tool; in the right hands it can bring benefits to many, but in the wrong hands, it can bring pain and suffering.  Sam was aware of the history of the latter.  In the back seat of the taxi, sandwiched between the tree, the log, and the beef, Sam was oblivious to the cabbie’s ramblings.  The sudden thought of gifts flashed across his mind.  Tom Watson’s face appeared in his consciousness like a cold wave that splashed the beach, and what luck, Sam thought as he smiled broadly.  Watson’s store was just across the street!
Everyone in town knew that Tom Watson and his family lived above his store so that he could be close to his business.  Sam realized that it was late, but he had to take the chance of disturbing Tom and his family. As he stepped out of the taxi, Sam instructed the driver to wait. As he crossed the street, he smelled the odor of goats again.  This was not the time to investigate farm animals in town, he rationalized.  He had to rouse Tom. 
Tom Watson was reading the evening newspaper when he heard three sharp knocks on his door.  Who on earth could it be at this hour, he wondered?   As he opened the door, Tom was shocked.  There stood Sam Weyland, smiling, and Sam was not one to smile, even drunk.  If any other person had asked Tom Watson to open his store for a private purchase on that snow-blind night, Tom would have laughed in his face and slammed the door.  However, this was not just any other man. Tom knew that Sam did not ask for help or look for favors.  But that was not why Tom Watson agreed to honor the request. He saw something in Sam’s eyes that he first saw that afternoon, but now, it had consumed the big man who filled his doorway.  It was as if Sam was reclaimed from hell.  There was a glow about the man, Tom recognized. Something or somebody, a miracle, reached out and touched this man. It appeared to Tom that Sam Weyland had a reason to live and to not just exist.
For Sam, that shopping spree was a new experience.  In the past, he had bought what he needed for himself, but buying for others he found perplexing.  As Tom watched Sam, he thought it was like watching a boy let loose in a penny candy store with a dollar to spend. Watson saw the playfulness and wonder of a child; something we all have, but keep it bottled up. Tom suggested a fine satin dress for Catherine. It was silky smooth with light ruffles on the sleeves and collar.  The blue material would set off the color of her eyes.  That sold Sam on the purchase.  Now for Phillip!  Two pairs of pants, a warm jacket and gloves - yes gloves so that his hands would stay warm.  And, some great flannel shirts to go with the pants.  But what was the Yuletide holiday without some toys for the kids?  Sam bought the American Flyer train set with the whistle and the talking station, and logs, Lincoln Logs, and the Erector Set.  For Catherine and Phillip, Yuletide had arrived in the person of Sam Weyland.
Price was not an issue for Sam, and Tom Watson could not wrap the gifts as fast as Sam bought them.  Finally finished, Tom helped Sam carry the gifts to the waiting taxi.  The two men bid each other a good night and another round of “Happy Holidays.”  Tom felt really good inside.  He felt like he had witnessed the birth of a new man in Sam Weyland, and he could not wait to tell the news to his wife.  Sam gave the directions to the cabbie, “333 Race Street and as fast as humanly possible please!”  The cabbie just smiled at the 'humanly possible' part of the directions.
Sam felt absolutely terrific!  For the first time in longer than he dared remember, he had deep seated feelings for another person; not just one, but two.   What startled him was that he really wanted to care; he wanted to take the chance and let people into his life.  Sam was ready to risk heartache again.  At that moment, he understood that when hearts reach out, past hurts can be put aside, and that a man needed live and love in the present; living in the past was wrong.   
The cabbie had done his job well.  In what had appeared to Sam as a blink of an eye, his driver brought him to the requested address.  He helped Sam clear off the snow from the porch steps, and together they unloaded the taxi.  Sam paid the fare and tipped the driver another fifty dollars.  The cabbie tried to refuse but Sam would hear nothing of it.  “By the way,” Sam said, “what’s your name?” 
“Folks in these parts just call me Don,” the driver replied.  “It’s short for Donnar.  You’re my last fare tonight Bud.  Now it’s time for me to go home to my wife Sibba.  I just know there’s a feast waitin’ for me this night!”  As the taxi sped away the parlor light flashed on and illuminated the porch.
Catherine came to the door and was shocked.  For about one second, the normally vocal woman was speechless.  Finally she managed to say, “Why Sam Weyland! What on this Earth have you done?”
“You promised Catherine, remember?  Now instead of asking me what I did, why don’t you help me get these things inside?  It’s getting really cold out here,” replied a now frigid Sam Weyland.  It seemed like the wind added its own two cents, as it shrieked louder.         
Still numb from all that she saw, Catherine obliged Sam, and together they carried the holiday treasures into the warm house.  Damn it!  Sam remembered that he’d forgotten ornaments for the tree, and began to run for the door.
“And where do you need to go now Sam,” came from the mouth of a very confused Catherine Mann.
“I forgot to get decorations for the tree. I’ll be right back,” Sam said, as he struggled with his overcoat. 
“Now just hold on there big man,” as she gently placed her hand on his chest.  “Come over here and help me.  There is something we need from the hall closet.”  Behind the closet door were stacked two well-worn cardboard boxes.  “This summer I made these, just in case we might get a tree this year.”  From the boxes Catherine pulled out hand crafted tree ornaments, made from paper, cloth, and wood.  How much nicer those are, Sam thought, than the store bought kind.  Those things, he knew, Catherine had made out of hope, the hope for a better day.  Sam was transfixed; he could not take his eyes off of her.  Catherine placed the Yule Log in the fireplace, and it ignited with her first matchstick. Still feeling a little giddy, she thought that she had heard a man laughing heartily outside, but immediately dismissed it as the howling wind.
That night quickly passed, and between pots of coffee and conversation, they trimmed the tree and placed the gifts carefully beneath.   As dawn broke they silently stood together, admiring their work.  Catherine broke their silent tribute by saying, “You’ve been so good to my son and me.  You brought us gifts and a hope for tomorrow.  But we have nothing to put under the tree for you.  It doesn’t seem fair Sam.”  
        Sam was deeply touched by Catherine’s remark.  Here was a poor young mother so concerned that I did not have a gift to unwrap, he thought.  After a pause Sam spoke.  “You’re wrong about that, Catherine.  My gift is seeing that my generosity can bring joy to the recipients and well as to the giver.”  Then Sam took her in his arms; she came willingly.  They shared a passionate kiss that seemed to last for an eternity, only to be interrupted by Phillip’s shrieks.
“Oh man, oh, golly! There really is a Jule Nisse!” (Jule Nisse is an ancient Northern European being who watches over children and the home.  If the children were “good” during the year, the Jule Nisse brought them sweets and gifts.  This is just one of the forms that have morphed into our present day Coca Cola Santa Claus).  But as excited as he was on that particular Yule, Phillip had not forgotten his gift to his mother.  As Catherine carefully unwrapped the box, she knew that it was not empty.  It was filled with Sam’s love.     
            Years had passed since that particular Yule.  The times changed, and so had the luck of many folks; better days had arrived.  Many people said that the person whose luck had changed the most was Sam Weyland.  And Sam, with wife Catherine by his side, had become a dynamic force for good in the community.  After he became President of Weyland Steel, Sam built a new factory that employed most of Sullivan’s Row.   Sam persuaded the city fathers, and his reluctant peers that the community needed a vocational/technical school to educate and train young men and women to enter the industrial world that had sprung up around them.  After he and his wife made a sizable contribution, that school was built, and attended by many.   
The community had grown and got stronger, but, they lacked a public library. Sam and Catherine were well aware of the need for reading.  Within a year of its inception, the community had a new public library, thanks to Sam and Catherine Weyland.
Many folks were amazed at Sam’s generosity and wondered what in the world had happened to him.  One person had the answer.  All you had to do was ask Tom Watson about his friend Sam Weyland and he’d tell you flat out without mincing words.  “Yes sir, Sam’s wife and son, Catherine and Phillip, are the ones responsible for the man he is today.  They just opened the floodgates of his heart and you can see how we all benefit, yes sir!”
This Yule, Sam sat by the fire, absorbed with things past.  Phillip’s Yule gift to his mother of many years ago, the shell encrusted box, was placed neatly on the top of the fireplace mantle.  Catherine was busy in the kitchen, preparing their dinner for Mother’s Night (the day before Winter Solstice - the twelve days of Yule).  The main feature of the night’s feast was prime rib.  Sam had finally accepted the unpleasant things of his past; he did not like what happened, but he realized that those things had helped him to surmount other obstacles, and to understand, that life was meant to be lived to the fullest.  He was happy with his life.  It seemed to him that the more he gave of his wealth, the more he and his family prospered.  The door bell rang. That must be the Watson’s, thought Sam.
Sam greeted his guests and good friends with warm welcomes and huge hugs.  The Watson’s had become as much a part of Yuletide in the Weyland home as the holiday itself.  As Sam guided his friends into the spacious living room, their idle chatter was interrupted when Phillip burst through the door with a few friends. 
“Happy Holidays,” he shouted, with a resonance that filled the entire house. “Hey Dad, I hope you don’t mind that I brought some friends with me.”
“Of course not, son. Your friends are always welcome in our home!”  Phillip was completely transfixed with his father and emulated Sam in many ways.  As a matter of fact, he even took on many of Sam’s facial features and expressions.  A stranger, not familiar with this family’s story, would never have guessed in a million years that Phillip was Sam’s adopted son. After Phillip’s friends were made comfortable, he turned and started out the door, accompanied by Bill Watson, Tom’s son.
“Where are you going now, Phillip? You just got here,” asked his father.
“Well Dad, my friends can’t be with their families this holiday so I thought it would be nice if they had a gift to unwrap!  Tom said it would be OK if Bill and I went to the store.  I just know what to get each of them!”
“Oh, alright, son. Dinner won’t be for a couple of hours.  Do you need any cash?”
“No thanks Dad.  I’m good.  We’ll be back soon!”  Sam watched as his son walked down the driveway. His thoughts flickered back to their first encounter, so many years ago.  Sam couldn't help but love his son.  Catherine overheard the verbal exchange between the two men in her life.  She stood silently and watched them with loving eyes.  Sam felt her eyes on the back of his head.  He turned to meet her and their eyes met.  Still, after all the years, those same eyes!  Silently, as they embraced, they whispered, “I love you so much!”
On the street below the Weyland home, a tall thin man passed by.  His broad brimmed hat flopped as he adjusted his eye patch.  He too smiled, and continued on his journey, his Hunt in Middle Earth.



                         Copyright @1982, 2009, 2012 Terry Unger  

Body Parts - Nick Hammer

It was another court day for the Doc Hansen’s ex-wives club.  They were hungry.  If the bastard can buy a brand new custom made Ca...