(This week I’m posting “It’s Wonderful – A Christmas Short Story” in five daily installments. You can read Part One by clicking HERE, and Part Two HERE. Or you can read the whole thing in one place HERE. )
I returned my attention to Clarence who was having a conversation with . . . nobody.
“Oh, yes.” Clarence looked like he saw someone there to talk to. Even more disturbing, he seemed to hear the other half of the discussion. Passersby gave us an even wider berth. “Yes, that does remind me. Should I?”
“Clarence.” No response – at least not to me.
“You really think so? It might overdo it.”
He came out of the trance or whatever. “Let’s go,” he said, and didn’t wait for me to reply before he was off. I followed. We seemed to step from the city street onto a suburban sidewalk in one stride. “All this has been a setup for the good stuff, right Clarence?” I asked hopefully. He just kept walking. I braced myself for what was coming next.
Clarence and I approached a large house. In a subdivision of huge homes, this was the neighborhood mansion. It loomed, impressive as the downtown skyscraper, at the end of a cul-de-sac. We strolled across the landscaped yard, dodging Santa, Rudolph, Mrs. Santa Claus, and a variety of other lighted Christmas displays. We had to be careful not to trip over the camouflaged green extension cords running everywhere. “Man, Clarence, this is something. I’m doing good if I can get a few lights strung around the bush out front of my house.” I stopped and grabbed Clarence gently on the shoulder. “Why are we here, Clarence? There’s nobody around here that would have known me. This is a little out of my socio-economic class.”
Clarence moved gently out from under my hand. We were right next to the house now. He walked around to a window on the side, then motioned for me to have a look through it.
I looked around to see if the next part of Clarence’s plan to make me feel better involved my arrest as a peeping Tom. It was then that I noticed all the cars parked out front, and that all the lights inside seemed to be on. We’d arrived at a party. It was appropriate that Clarence had brought me to a home that reeked of success where I was to be on the outside looking in.
I stood next to Clarence, peering over some shrubbery and through the full-length, multi-pane window. There was indeed a party going on inside beneath the cathedral ceilings. I thought about the contrast to the artificial tree that my wife and I joylessly put up and decorated every year. Last year, we hadn’t gotten to the decorating part – something about which chair to move to make room for the thing had launched us into a battle that stifled what little Christmas cheer we had been able to manufacture for the occasion. This year the whole mess was still in boxes in the crawl space. Neither of us had mentioned the pathetic excuse for a fake tree – no use injecting another catalyst for argument when there were plenty of things to fight about already.
She was never really much on Christmas anyway. She said it was really a time for kids, and since we couldn’t . . . I forced my attention back to the party through the window. “Looks like a lot of fun. And lots of food and drinks. I don’t suppose we could . . .”
“Could?” Clarence looked puzzled. “Oh, go inside? That would be wonderful, wouldn’t it? But no, no, no. We can do what we need to do from out here.” His cheeriness was certainly aggravating.
“And what is it we need to do?”
“Just watch.” Clarence pointed toward one of the doors into the party room.
Where Clarence had pointed was a woman who greeted with hugs and kisses a couple that looked to be just arriving. This hostess wore a long black dress. I couldn’t see who she was as her back was to me. The guests shed their coats, and the hostess turned to call someone to come get them.
As I caught the hostess’s profile I had to remind myself to breathe. “Clarence . . .” I grabbed him by the front of his shirt.
Two children answered the hostess’s call. They took the coats and a playful kiss each from their mother. It was all so easy to put together.
I pulled Clarence closer. “This isn’t . . . I didn’t . . .”
Just then my wife was joined by a debonair, some would say “dashing,” gentleman just a little older than she and I. She slid her arm around his waist as he joined in welcoming conversation with the new arrivals.
I had to turn away. I pulled Clarence with me. “This isn’t fair. What are you trying to do, get me to off myself? You know, I never really considered that an option until you came. That stuff about not being born, I mean, it was about not being born. It wasn’t about ending things now. Until now.”
Even though I had a tight grip on the front of his shirt, Clarence didn’t look concerned, at least not about his safety. I guess I couldn’t have really hurt him anyway. I mean, what can you do to an angel? But there was concern in the way he looked at me. Concern for me.
I let go. “It’s not your fault, I know. But Clarence, what’s the point?” I sat down on the grass, bathed in the white light of a glowing Frosty the Snowman decoration next to me. I put my head in my hands. “What’s the point of showing me these things? What’s the point of . . . anything? I mean, if I just make things worse, then what good is it? What good am I?”
(Part Four, An Ancient Encounter – Click HERE)