Thursday, December 16, 2010

Friday Fiction for December 17, 2010

Merry Christmas! This final Friday Fiction of 2010 is hosted by Catrina Bradley, over at A Work in Progress. Head on over for some terrific Holiday reading!

I’m pleased this week to present a brand-spankin’-new-just-for-the-blog Pod Christmas Story. This one takes place the Christmas after the ending of Cardan’s Pod, and the event is alluded to in later Pod stories.

The Christmas Reading

By Rick Higginson

Just to one side of the door of the new Family Room, a brightly lit and beautifully decorated tree stood. It was larger and nicer than the tree that Josh had lowered to the old chamber the previous two years, and other decorations that would not have been practical in the stone cavern now adorned the walls of the room. Just as the song playing through the sound system said, it was beginning to look a lot like Christmas.

After their years of hiding, the mood that first Christmas Josh shared with them had been hesitant and uncertain. While things were much improved over their hand-to-mouth existence in hiding, their experience with the holiday had been limited to some special music and food that Dr. Marcel had provided when he was still with them. With Josh, that had changed, and this year the mood was very different. Excitement and anticipation filled the air, and the Pod from the youngest to the eldest couldn’t seem to wait for the day to arrive. The first year in the old chamber had been a surprise to all of them. The second, they had been uncertain if the festivities would repeat. Now, they knew Christmas would never be just another day again.

For one, a large television monitor hung on one wall, providing an option for holiday entertainment that they had not had before. Josh waited while the Pod gathered around, in response to his announcement that he had something special for them that Christmas Eve.

“All right, Josh,” Eva said. “Everyone is here. What’s your surprise this year?”

“Well,” he said. “This is something I’ve enjoyed for many years, and I hope you all love it as much as I always have.” With a smile, he hit the ‘play’ button on the remote, and the screen faded from black to blue with a title in the center. He weaved through the audience to take a seat next to Marta, and reclined to watch the show.

The opening musical sequence finished, and the narration began. For a bit less than a half-hour, Josh was taken back to childhood Christmases, and being surrounded again by family simply heightened the nostalgic pleasure.

When the closing credits rolled up the screen, he stood up and pressed “stop” on the remote. “Well?” he asked. “What did you think?”

There was quiet for a moment, until Ophelia spoke up. “Aren’t you going to read the story to us this year, Josh?”

He shrugged. “You just had Boris Karloff read it to you, with Chuck Jones animation.”

Denise looked around at the other Pod members, and then pointedly didn’t look at Josh. “It was okay,” she said. “But I’m not sure I really care that much if I ever see it again.”

Other Pod members mumbled similar sentiments, and then drifted off to other activities. The atmosphere of anticipation had been replaced by an air of disappointment.

Josh watched them go, and then settled back to the floor. “I really thought they’d like it better,” he said.

Marta tapped his side, and gestured towards their room. She didn’t wait for his response, and crawled past the open curtain.

She was waiting in the back corner when he entered the room, and he slumped against the wall and slid to a seated position on the floor. “I don’t know why they didn’t like it,” he said.

Marta rolled onto her side, and rubbed his foot gently. “You still have a lot to learn about the Pod, Josh,” she said.

“I guess so.”

“I still remember many years ago, when we were still very young, and there wasn’t that many of us. Dr. Marcel would read to us – oh, nothing quite as whimsical as Dr. Seuss, but he did read to us. As we got older, and more Pod members were born, Dr. Marcel had less time to spend with us. Between taking care of the youngest of us, and continuing his research work, it wasn’t long before he focused his time with us on essential lessons. Eva and I became the ones who read to the younger children, but that was still limited to the books that Dr. Marcel provided.”

“I still don’t get why the cartoon was such a disappointment.”

“It wasn’t the cartoon, Josh. It was that it wasn’t you reading the story.”

“But it was so much better than my voice or my ability to tell a story.”

She took his hand and gave it a gentle squeeze. “Josh, you could read a boring textbook to the Pod in a monotone voice, and they would appreciate it, because you were taking the time to do so. It’s not the story, or the quality of the reading. It’s the fact that you love them and care enough to take the time. Boris Karloff has a wonderful voice, and his reading of the Grinch was beautiful, but he doesn’t know us and we don’t know him. I’m sure he loved the story, but you – ” She kissed his arm. “You love us, and that makes all the difference. Josh, if you want them to enjoy the cartoon with you, then don’t let it take the place of the reading.”

He chuckled, and met her eyes. “Okay. Let everyone know I’ll do the reading tomorrow morning.” He leaned down and kissed her. “Merry Christmas, Marta.”

“Merry Christmas, Josh.”


Catrina Bradley said...

Awwww, how sweet! It was good to hear about the Pod again, and I loved this Christmas story. It's all about our love, and the best gift is spending time with those we share it with. Thanks, Hoomi!

Sharlyn Guthrie said...

Hearing a story told or read with feeling is one of the greatest gifts, and one we are never too old for. I enjoyed your brand spankin' new Christmas pod tale.