Thursday, December 18, 2008

Friday Fiction for December 19, 2008

This week’s Friday Fiction is a special Holiday story, expanded from a Faithwriters Weekly Challenge Entry for the topic, “Christmas Lights”. This story, like “Away From the Mistletoe”, also takes place during that first year Josh is with the Pod, and is hinted at in later Pod stories. I’ve wanted to write this one for a while, but an earlier attempt ended up floundering (no pun intended). It references also to "Christmas Magic", a Cardan's Pod Holiday Story from a couple of years ago.

Merry Christmas to all my readers who celebrate it. Hag sameach Chanukah to my Jewish readers. I’m not sure if I have any readers who celebrate Kwanzaa, but since it starts next Friday, I’ll extend my wishes for it then. Whatever holidays you celebrate or don’t celebrate, may we all find joy and peace in this season, and in the coming New Year.

Thank you all for reading, and I hope you enjoy this Holiday gift. May you also find the magic in the Season.

Finding the Magic
By Rick Higginson

“I just don’t get why you’re doing this,” Marta said.

“It’s kind of a family tradition,” Josh replied, extracting another string of lights from the box. “Dad always decorated his boat for the annual Parade of Lights, and when they gave me my sailboat, I started participating every year.”

“But, what’s the point of it?”

He connected the string and looked for bad bulbs. “It’s just fun. It’s fun to decorate the boat, and it’s fun to see how others decorate theirs. Some of the bigger yacht owners really go all-out, and it’s awesome to see what they come up with.”

“Maybe I’d understand it better if I’d seen it before,” she said, shifting position on the deck. “From here, though, it seems like an awful lot of effort for one night.”

Pausing his work, he smiled. “I remember someone saying that same thing to my mother one year when she and Dad were getting ready for the parade. The guy told my parents they should be doing something useful instead.”

“Well, that does make sense.”

“Mom told him that Christmas celebrated God sending light into the world, and that the lights on their boat were just a small reminder of the star that shone on Bethlehem, and the glory of God that shown when the angels appeared.”

“Is that why you’re doing this? Do you believe that story about Jesus and the manger and all?”

He secured one end of the string to the stanchion at the stern of the boat, and started carefully wrapping it around the lifeline along the starboard side. “Yeah, I believe it, but even if I didn’t, I’d still do this.”


“Because even if the story is just fable, it reminds us to bring light and joy into our world. If we can embrace the idea that the birth of one baby could illuminate a time of darkness, and bring hope to so many people, then maybe we can illuminate some of the darkness around us, and bring hope to those we meet.”

She smiled at him. “Okay, now that I understand.”

Reaching the end of the string, he connected another to it and continued towards the bow. “You’re doing better than the guy my mom argued with, then. I don’t think he ever got what it was all about.”

“We spent enough time hiding in darkness and barely holding onto hope. If he’d been through what we’ve been through, he might have understood better.”

He reached the bow and swung under the forestay. “Normally, I wouldn’t do any of this until I was at the marina, but we have nice, smooth seas today. I shouldn’t get much splash on the electrical connections on the way to the bay.” He completed the circuit with the lights that ran up the forestay, to the head of the mast where a large star was secured.

“I wish I could go with you and see the other boats tonight,” she said.

He thought for a moment, and then gave her a sly grin. “Why can’t you go?”

“I can’t go to the mainland,” she objected.

“No, you can’t be seen,” he said. “What if you stayed in the cabin? You could lie on the bunk, and watch the rest of the parade out the window. The most anyone might see of you is a small portion of your face.”

“Do you think I really could?”

“Why not? It’ll just be you and me aboard, and we’ll cruise back out here after the parade is over. Just let the Pod know you’ll be gone, and everything should be fine.”

She rested on the bunk hours later, pillowing her head with her arms and watching through the window. The lights of the boats around them shimmered off the small waves, creating an ever-changing mirror display. People lined the nearby beaches and docks, waving and cheering at the vessels, while through the window on the other side she could see minimally lighted boats with occupants watching the display from the bay side.

The sound system played Christmas carols as they cruised along with the festive flotilla. “And the star rains its fire while the beautiful sing, for the manger of Bethlehem cradles a King,” echoed from the speakers and across the normally dark water.

Light and hope showed on the briefly glimpsed faces nearby, but most of all in the faint reflection in the glass in front of her, and she smiled. This, she understood.

Josh came into the cabin as the boat floated offshore after the parade. “So, what did you think?”

“It was beautiful,” she said. “I never imagined Christmas could be like this for me. Is this what it’s like for you every year?”

He shrugged. “It varies; last year, I hoped the Holidays would be special since it was the first year I was married. I imagined we would have the kind of Christmas season my parents always had when they were alive, but instead it was a rather blasé holiday.”

“I thought last Christmas was magic, because Eva wished for enough food for the Pod, and I caught a big block of cheese some people dropped off a boat. Tonight seems so much more magical; I’ve seen more of the world tonight than I’ve ever seen before.”

“Wishing for food; that sounds like Eva, all right.” He looked at her with a wry smile. “I imagine your wish was much loftier. What did you wish for, Marta?”

She turned her face back to the window, and her voice became quiet. “I hadn’t thought about my wish since then. When Eva got her wish, I actually started believing that, just maybe, I might get my wish, too. When Christmas Day came and went, and everything was still the same, I put it out of my mind.”

Running a light touch up her back, he took a seat on the bunk beside her. “What was your wish?”

“I wished I could be a normal person, and that I could have a Christmas like we saw in the movies,” she said, and then sniffed. “Silly, huh?”

He leaned down and pushed her hair off to one side, kissing the back of her neck. “It’s not silly at all.”

The lights of decorations on the mainland shone in the distance and reflected off the surface of the sea, tempting her to once again believe in magic. “Take me home, please, Josh,” she whispered. “I can’t bear to keep looking at what I can never touch.”


She felt a muted anticipation, waiting with the Pod a week later for Josh to return with the supplies for the week. He’d had a party to attend with his company, and promised he would be home early afternoon on Christmas Eve. Rather than venture out into the cold wind and choppy waves that day, they remained inside the Pod’s cavern. Some played in the water, while others rested on their beds, enjoying the warmth of their blankets while reading or talking.

Her attention was drawn to the ladder by the sound of the hoist operating, meaning Josh was sending something down the vertical tunnel. A large, heavy cloth bag appeared and settled at the bottom, followed shortly thereafter by Josh. He unhooked the bag, pushed it to one side, and then walked over to her for a kiss. Her mood lifted a bit on seeing him, and especially at his smile as he knelt down beside her.

“I missed you,” he said.

She kissed him. “We all missed you,” she said. “What’s in the bag?”

“You’ll see; I have to go back up top and lower another first, though.” He stood up and winked at her.

The Pod was gathering close to the first bag as he returned to the ladder, voicing their greetings to him and receiving his in return. The second bag was as large as the first, and when Josh again appeared, he was wearing a furry red and white cap.

Marta stayed back from the ladder, next to Eva.

“I thought Santa was supposed to be fat and have a white beard,” Eva said. Her eyes twinkled with mischief.

“Ho ho,” Josh said. “With the exercise I get out here, I don’t think I’ll ever get fat.” He opened the top of the first bag, and extracted a book from the top. “While we still have some light, I have something here for the kids, so let’s get the children gathered up close here.” He took a seat on the stone, and rested his back against the bag. “My mother used to read this book to me when I was a kid, and it was always one of the highlights of Christmas to me.”

“You’re going to read to us, Josh?” Patricia asked.

“Well, unless you don’t want me to.”

Eva lifted herself higher on her arms. “You’re not getting out of it that easy, Josh,” she called over the rest of the Pod.

“Well, I can’t argue with that, can I?” Josh said, and then laughed. He cleared his throat, opened the book, and started to read. “Every Who down in Who-ville liked Christmas a lot…”


The two bags were empty, and a large artificial tree stood on a level spot, bedecked with shiny ornaments and glittering with battery-operated lights. Christmas music played through a portable stereo, and the Pod rested about the cavern, enjoying the satisfaction of the special treats that had followed dinner that night.

Marta stared at the tree, lying on her belly with her pillow under her chin. Eva crawled up beside her.

“Now this,” Eva said, nudging her, “is Christmas magic.” She waited until Marta met her eyes. “Did you get your wish finally, Marta?”

“Some of it,” she said. She returned her gaze to the twinkling tree. “I’m still a mermaid, though.”

“Well, we don’t have stairs, and we couldn’t run down them even if we did, and I suspect our Santa Claus arrived in a sailboat instead of a sleigh, but I’m betting we’re going to find gifts under this tree in the morning.”

“You think so?”

Eva laughed. “You don’t really think Josh is up in his office taking care of some work stuff this late on Christmas Eve, do you? I’ll bet he’s up there, getting presents ready for all of us.”

“You’re probably right, and now we don’t have anything to give to him.”

“We’ve already given him the one gift he could never buy, Marta. Didn’t you watch his eyes as he was reading to the Pod earlier? We’ve given him a place here in the Pod; a family and a home.” She reached a hand to Marta’s chin, turning her to face to meet her eyes. “He had that same look you had last year, when you came back with that cheese and believed the magic really worked. I don’t think in all our years I’ve ever seen you looking that alive before.”

“We gave him the magic?”

“No, Marta; he found the magic all on his own, just like you did last year. We just gave him a reason to look for it.”

She thought for a moment, and then a smile formed on her lips. “It was just a block of cheese someone dropped,” she said.

Eva smiled back, her face painted the changing colors of the tree lights. “I think you just found the magic again.”

“I guess I just needed to remember a reason to look for it.”
(Excerpt from "How The Grinch Stole Christmas" by Dr. Seuss. (c) 1957, 1985 by Dr. Seuss Enterprises, L.P.)


Joanne Sher said...

Just beautiful. I LOVE your pod stories. I feel like I know the characters. Wonderful.

Patty Wysong said...

Wonderful, Rick! It'd be so cool to see a floating lights parade! I love these stories of yours!!

LauraLee Shaw said...

Engaging read as usual, Rick. Great job, and Merry CHRISTmas to you too!!!

Dee Yoder said...

Oh man, Rick, this is the one that caught my attention a few weeks back. Here's what I enjoy about this story: Even though I haven't read much from this series, the characters are so well written that I feel I know them right away. The closeness to "real" life makes this fantasy story plausible and realistic. Love that subtlety.