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The Blather and Claptrap of Christmas

Posted by MDViews on December 28, 2014

The checkout line at WalMart stopped. Her heels had squeezed her feet all day and now they rebelled with a constant ache. She needed a long, hot bath. The song, “White Christmas” played overhead. She mumbled, “If I hear that song one more time, I think I’ll—“

What, puke?”

She turned toward the voice behind her. A short, twenties-something guy with brown hair and glasses grinned at her.

His smile vanished with her look. “Sorry to comment.”

I didn’t know anyone heard me.” A ding came from the check-out. The light above the register blinked.

Mr. Short with Glasses stepped beside her. “So you don’t like Christmas? Or just that song?”

Both.” She moved away enough so he’d notice and stared at the register. “I’m fed up with the mandatory give-gifts-or-you’re-a-bad-person thing. At the office, I refused to join this “Secret Santa” ruse. The office girls treat me like a criminal or something.”

Yeah. I…”

I what?” She turned toward him.

Oh, I hated Christmas, too.” He looked up, his eyes focused on hers. “It seemed to me the corporations promoted the manger claptrap and blather to enrich themselves. Let’s see, God gave us Jesus, so let’s all spend money.”

She chuckled. “About right.” She turned again to the checkout. The manager spoke on a two-way radio to someone in toys for a price check.

I guess I like it now though. About six months ago, a friend introduced me to Christ and—“

Now they’re doing a price check in toys. Just our luck.” She interrupted him on purpose.

Hey, have you ever seen the movie, ‘White Christmas’? I just love it, especially the last scene with the snow and Bing Crosby and the song.”

The manager shifted from one foot to the other. No response from Toys. This Christmas-loving pest had her trapped.

What’s your favorite Christmas movie?” She frowned. The line seemed to harden like concrete. Her anger sparked to life—the line, this guy, Christmas, the stupid song.

Finally, the line moved.

He reached into his pocket. “Listen, let me give you my card. I’m a computer guy—you know, web design, computer repair, all that. I’m independent, so if you ever need anything computer, give me a call.”

He handed his card to her. “Jeff.”

She said nothing.

He pointed to his name on the card. “That’s my name.” His face turned crimson red.

Thanks, Jeff. I’m Julie.” She stuck his card in her jean pocket to dump in the trash later, swiped her credit card for the gift wrap, scissors and tape and grabbed her bag.

Bye, Julie.” She heard his words as she walked away, but kept her pace.

As she approached the door, she heard her name.

Julie!” Jeff ran up. “You forgot your tape.” He dropped it in her bag and smiled. She felt her face heat up. Is this guy human super glue? “Uh, thanks, Jeff. Appreciate it.”

In the crosswalk, she scanned for her car when tires squealed to her left. Her head jerked around. A red car moving fast was only yards from her! Something hit her from behind—hard. She went flying and landed on her side, skidded, rolled to a stop and blinked her eyes open. The red car went speeding through the crosswalk of the other entrance. Bodies flew. The car reached the street and disappeared.

She struggled to her feet. Something ran down the left side of her face. She wiped at it. Blood. Screams, moans and sobs came from everywhere. She took a step and found her knees weak but they held her up.

The biggest crowd stood only fifteen feet from her. She walked closer. It was Jeff. Two people were doing CPR. A stream of red ran from his head across the back and yellow surface.

You’re the one.” She turned to the man who spoke. “You’re the one he saved.”

What? What do you mean?”

That guy there on the ground. When he saw the car coming for you, he sprinted and pushed you so hard, you flew in the air.” He shook his head. “He didn’t hesitate even a second. The car just missed you, but that guy took if full force.”

In the emergency room, a medical student cleaned her scrapes and placed two stitches in the cut in her scalp. She walked out, her feet more steady. A voice from a large room floated into the hallway. “Let’s call it. He’s gone.” A curtain pulled back and exposed Jeff’s body on a gurney, naked from the waist up, wires, IV’s and blood everywhere. Then she realized she had stopped walking. She’d never seen a dead body before, especially one who moments before placed the tape she left at the register in her bag. There he was. Lifeless. Unmoving. Dead. She turned and ran to the rest room as nausea overcame her.

She flipped on the TV when she arrived at her apartment. Nine people died and twenty-five were injured, some in critical condition. The police captured the perp in a high speed chase. The video showed him yell into the camera. “I hate WalMart, and Christmas and all you Christian hypocrites! You’re all evil and should die!”

A reporter interviewed a psychologist who said he was a troubled young man.

What? A troubled young man? “He’s a monster, a murderer!” She realized she yelled at the TV screen.

Sleep wouldn’t come. The sounds and sights kept rolling through her mind like a video loop—Jeff’s face, the squealing tires, the car bearing down on her, the slam that sent her flying, the people running, screaming and sobbing, the blood on the ground, then Jeff’s body on that gurney. She called in sick to work.

She went to Jeff’s funeral but didn’t know why. After the pastor spoke, he asked if anyone who knew Jeff would like to say a few words. Without a thought, she rose and walked to the podium.

My name is Julie and none of you know me. I only knew Jeff for about twenty minutes before he died. I’m the one he pushed out of the way of the, the car.” Her voice tightened and she lowered her eyes. “He, he saved my life, but gave up his own.”

A gasp left the large crowd. People sobbed openly.

She wiped tears from her own cheeks. “We stood in line together and he tried to explain Christmas to me. I’m still not sure I understand it, but I’m going to try.” She inhaled and looked up into the eyes of Jeff’s family and friends. “And, I now have a new favorite song. It’s “White Christmas.” She looked heavenward. “Jeff, I know you’ll understand.”

©Matt Anderson, 2014

2 Responses to “The Blather and Claptrap of Christmas”

  1. MDViews said

    Thanks, Maureen. It’s hard to tell a complete story in the constraints of flash fiction, so I’m glad you liked it.

    Matt A.

  2. Maureen Dahl said

    I have tears running down my face. Thanks for the story. 🙂

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