Friday, December 9, 2011

Friday Fiction for December 9, 2011

Friday Fiction is hosted this week at “My Back Door” by Vonnie. If you need a little boost to your holiday spirit, don’t miss her wonderful story, “Tony and Tisha.”

Keeping with the Christmas theme as well, this week I have the third part of the “Clockwork Christmas” chapter from “Clockwork Deacon.” There is just enough of the chapter remaining after this for one more part, and then I need to write this year’s Pod Christmas story. Until then, I hope you enjoy this little tale from an alternate history.

Clockwork Deacon

Chapter 6 – A Clockwork Christmas, Pt 3

Isaac divided the boxes into two piles, and showed Jacob how to put one together, and they proceeded to race to see who could finish their stack first. The placed each finished box on the bench, and Syl would take one at a time, place a toy in it, and then write a name on the top. He scratched the name off his list, and placed the boxed toy into the bag.

Deacon, meanwhile, tinkered with one or two of the toys, apparently giving them a final once-over before they got wrapped.

With the two boys working on the boxes, they finished all of them well before Syl finished boxing the toys. For a few minutes, they watched him rolling each toy in a small piece of paper, placing it in the box, and then slowly writing the name in boxy letters on the top of the box.

He noticed their watching eyes. “You boys mind your schoolin’, y’hear? You might think writin’ and such ain’t too important to you now, but I wish now I’d worked harder at it back then.”

“Ma makes sure we do our letters,” Isaac said. “You want me to write the names on some of ‘em?”

“I would, but I said I would write every one of ‘em myself. It’s somethin’ I gotta do.”

“Why, Syl?”

“It’s kinda hard to explain.” He turned one hand over and back in front of his face. “It’s got somethin’ to do with what your Pa told me, when they first brought me back down from the mine after I lost my leg. He said the Good Book says that God would not forget me, that my name was written on His hand, and that was true for any child of God. Well, boys, I can’t write the name of every child in Loma Roja on my hand, so instead, I figgered I’d write their names with my hand.” He lowered his hand to the bench for a moment. “Sounds kinda foolish, don’t it?”

“No, sir.”

“It took getting’ buried in that dark mine, for me to see just how dark my life was, boys. I was so lost without Him.”

“Pa says Christmas is all about light comin’ to Earth.”

He nodded, picking up another toy to wrap in the paper. “Your Pa is a good man. You boys is lucky to have ‘im.”

Isaac looked towards the door, and the lighted window of the church just visible through the gap. “Ma says the same thing.” He extracted the toy from his pocket, and held it out to Syl. “If you gotta write the name of every child in Loma Roja on those boxes, then maybe you oughta go ahead and wrap this one up, too.”

Jacob looked hesitant to surrender the toy, but finally also held it up for Syl to take.

“Much obliged,” Syl said. “You boys don’t need to act surprised in the mornin’, if you ain’t a mind to. You can tell your folks about this, or you can keep it our Christmas secret, as you see fit.”

As if that had been the cue, their mother called for them, from just outside the church. “Isaac! Jacob,” she called. “It’s getting late, and the sooner you two get to bed, the sooner it will be Christmas for you! You know Santa won’t come while you’re awake!”

Isaac looked from the door, back to the bench. “We gotta go,” he said.

“Well, thank you for your help, boys,” Syl said. “You best mind your Ma, and get to bed. I’ll likely see ya tomorrow at the Christmas dinner at the church.”

“You won’t be with your family for Christmas?”

“Ain’t got no family,” he said. “Save for the church, so I reckon you could say that I will be with my family for Christmas. Now, your Ma is callin’, so you’d better get on.”

They ran to the door. Jacob squeezed out through it without opening it much, and Isaac paused with just his head sticking back in the shed. “Hey, Syl? Merry Christmas.” He closed the door, and caught up with Jacob, just as they reached their mother.

“What were you two up to?” she asked.

“We were just out with Deacon in the shed,” Isaac said.

“I declare, sometimes I think you two would rather spend time with Deacon than with anyone else. You boys should really put more effort into making friends with other boys your own age, instead of always relying on Deacon for companionship.”

“But we like Deacon,” Jacob objected.

“We all like Deacon,” Ma said. “But Deacon can’t help you to learn how to properly relate to other people. A proper young man has to learn how to discuss without arguing, how to listen and not just speak, how to ask forgiveness when he does wrong, and how to give forgiveness when he is wronged. You must learn how to love one another, just as Jesus commanded us, and I’m sorry, but Deacon is just too easy to love for him to be an effective lesson. You need to learn how to get along with other boys that are just as ornery as you two.” Her smile took any sting from the rebuke.

“Yes’m,” Isaac said.

“Now honestly, boys, do you think a real person would have put up with your interrupting them all day, just to try out different parts of a Santa Claus suit you found in a closet?”

“Grandpa would have,” Jacob said.

“Your Grandpa is the one person I’ve ever known, that might have had more patience than Deacon has.”

“He said he had to, after raisin’ you and your sisters,” Isaac said.

“He would tell you that, wouldn’t he? Well, I can also tell you that he would be one of the first to remind you that Santa Claus will skip our house, if you two boys don’t get yourselves to bed, and get to sleep.”

“Yes’m,” Isaac said, and then turned towards Jacob. “Race ya!”

They tore off around the church, towards the parsonage, with their mother calling after them to be careful. Bursting through the house door, they bounded up the stairs and to their bedroom, where they peeled off their clothes and put on their pajamas.

Their father came to the door of the bedroom. “Remember, boys, that just because it’s Christmas Eve, doesn’t mean you can skip your prayers. If anything, you have all the more to be thankful for tonight, since we remember the precious gift that God gave us on that first Christmas.”

“Yes, Pa,” Isaac said, and dropped to his knees beside his bed. He waited until Jacob had also assumed the proper position for prayer, and then started to hurry through the recitation.

“At the proper pace,” Pa reminded him. “Prayer is a privilege, and we should not treat it as an inconvenience that we must rush.”

“Yes, sir,” he said, and made the effort to slow down.

When they had finished, their father came over, placed his hands on their heads, and said his own prayer over them. When he had spoken the amen, he leaned down, kissed them on the forehead, and gave them a gentle boost into bed. “Your mother will be in to tuck you in directly,” he said. “Sleep well, boys.”

“Good night, Pa,” they both said.

After their mother had tucked them in, kissed them, and said her good night, they lay awake in the dark room for a while.

“Isaac?” Jacob whispered.


“You suppose Deacon is goin’ around, playin’ Santa yet?”

“I don’t know. He could be, I guess.”

“We could look,” Jacob ventured.

They slipped out of their beds and went to the window. The church building was dark, and the moon had not yet risen to cast any light on the ground outside. Deacon’s shed, visible just beyond the back of the church, was likewise dark, though the Automaton seemed less in need of light to see, than most humans.

“You see anything?” Isaac asked.

“Naw. You?”

“Nope. I sure wish we could have gone around with him tonight.”

“Me, too, but if we did, then Santa might not have stopped by our house, since we’d’ve been awake.”

They heard a noise from outside. “Was that sleighbells?” Jacob asked.

Both boys bounded back to their beds, and immediately closed their eyes as if asleep.

to be continued...

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