Tag : christmas
Tag : christmas
“No-No-No! I’m sorry! Ah! I’m such a coward for playing dead” Jack Eaton wailed as he shot up to a sitting position on the bed; his voice ricocheting around the bedroom walls like a pinball off paddles and bumpers. The power of his upward thrust pulled the covers from his wife Shannon, after first rolling her to face him.
“You and your dreams, Jack” was her somnolent moan after being snatched from her own strange yet titillating dream. She rested her head on her right palm, then placed her left hand over her startled and pounding heart, as if to keep it from bursting through her breastbone.
His face was in his hands as he started to cry. With hitched breaths he groaned “I-wish-I ne-ver woke up from the co-coma. Ugh…I…ugh…wish that truck would have killed me with Krista and Rachel!”
As Shannon sat up, her sigh could have been interpreted as one of exasperation, but in truth it was one of frustration. She didn’t know what she could do, other than pray for his earthly comfort, and likewise her release.
She wrapped her arms around his strong yet shaking shoulders and tipped her head to rest against his. Her tousled dark blonde hair was draped over her eyes, but in the darkness of the room she’d be able to see little anyway. She didn’t want to take her hands off him, so she blew upward to move the strands, because they itched her nose. The effort succeeded to a small degree, and she thought she saw something move past the keyhole in the door that let a filament of the hallway light in. Rationalizing that it was an optical illusion, she whispered into Jack’s ear, “I’m glad that trucker didn’t kill you; just like I’m glad you came out of your coma so quickly.”
“My friends were hauled off by the DHS and ATF Gestapo, because that had the temerity to survive the shootout” Jack growled; his weeping having ceased. “I laid on the floor like I’d been shot, so they left me. I should have had the balls to stand with my friends! It’s not right that I’ve been spared, Shan. First the truck, and then Village Green. That’s two times!”
“Obviously, God wanted you to stay alive, and it was three times. Don’t forget you lost your brakes” she murmured, with the intent of reassuring him.
“Google, tell me why I’m still alive and still free when most everyone else in that rec room was either killed or taken into custody” was his sarcastic snarl that was fueled by his dislike and distrust of Artificial Intelligence and voice search.
“Don’t do that!” Shannon exclaimed through a loud whisper. “You’ll trigger that damn evil Google Home app on my phone, and I can’t figure out how to disable it!”
“It’s part of the Beast System, and only Jesus can disable it” Jack replied; his speech muffled as he wiped his eyes with the tail of his black t-shirt bearing the phrase SIGN UP on the chest in white block lettering. The shirt was decades old, and was first worn at a time when Jack gigged in a Fayetteville, New York coffee house, where high-school senior Shannon worked part-time as a barista. Jack was too old for Shannon then, and Jack was married.
“Was it the same set of dreams?” she asked, as she pushed her hair out of her face, and then glanced at the red digital numerals on the clock-radio that showed it was 2:42 A.M.
“Yeah, love; the same one. The brakes failing, East Syracuse, Lucas, the dog…”
He started quivering again, fighting to suppress the sobs. It had been eight years to the day since he’d been hit by the Kenworth, and God had healed him physically. It could have – and should have – been fatal. ER physicians didn’t expect that he’d ever wake up, and yet after forty-seven hours he did just that, and was discharged from Crouse Hospital in Syracuse a week later. His physical recovery defied medical science, but where memories were concerned, considerable trauma remained.
His Ford’s brake failure after leaving Shoppingtown Mall in DeWitt should have killed him first, but he was able to sail through two stop signs before maneuvering the car to a rest along the historic, abandoned Erie Canal. As he set out on a walk back to the Motel 6 where he’d been living in a semi-homeless state, he met Rachel and her daughter Krista, who were walking toward the mall to meet someone who would take them on a missionary trip to Africa. After he gave them directions, the women found a gap in the combination rush hour and Christmas shopping traffic and began to cross Bridge Street. Hurrying, they were unaware of the eighteen-wheeler that was barreling toward them; the driver having dosed for just a matter of seconds. Jack ran into the street believing he could somehow push them out of harm’s way, but he was a second too late. The swerving cab grazed him and knocked him to the pavement, but it had already struck Krista and Rachel. The mother was killed instantly, while the daughter was catapulted into the bed of a pickup truck, where she went home to the Lord ninety-one seconds later.
Before moving back to Camillus, a western suburb of Syracuse, Jack and Shannon had owned a three-bedroom house in the eastern suburb of Manlius. It was a mile from where bass guitarist Mick Chase – referred to as the “Young One” by the other band members – owned his first house. It was in Mick’s basement that the Jack Eaton Band rehearsed and recorded. Stan Frederick as the second guitarist opposite Jack, and Kurt Same on drums rounded out the group. Kurt was the cousin of Jesse Same, a nationally known impersonator of Elvis Presley. The JEB wrote and performed melodic power-pop rock that bridged the Christian and secular formats. The band members believed the best way they could evangelize to non-believers was to avoid using the Christian classification on their music releases, and to perform in secular venues. They sang songs that pointed to the truth of Christ’s gift of salvation without being overt, and their approach reached people that wouldn’t otherwise attend a church and listen to a worship band.
The JEB’s most recent album release Spiritual Warfare had dropped in May, and a U.S. tour was to follow, culminating in December. But, days before the tour was to commence, the band partook of a walk on the old Erie Canal towpath in Canastota. The plan was simply to talk, pray, laugh, and enjoy the fresh air. Spiritual warfare had heightened, and its manifestations were dramatic, peculiar, and physical. The Spiritual Warfare Tour never got on the road, because in many instances the roads were closed.
Still sitting up in bed, Jack fought off a tearful reprise, but the shivering and quivering would not cease. “I’m cold. It’s like I’m outside in the elements” he uttered in a voice just a decibel above a whisper.
“Honey, lay back down, cover yourself up, and try to go back to sleep” Shannon answered, as she pulled back the white curtain on the window next to the bed. She ran her left hand through his close-cropped brown hair while holding the curtain with her right, and after leaning closer to the window she mentioned “the Rachlin’s Christmas lights sure are pretty.” Leaning closer to the glass, she then offered the non-sequiturs “there aren’t any suspicious vans parked out there”, and “when was the last time I told you you’re the most handsome old guy in his mid-fifties that I’ve ever seen?”
The lights from the outside illuminated his face just enough so she could the see his wide, tight-lipped smile. It was rare that he smiled anymore, and she was heartened by it. “You still look like Natasha Henstridge from ‘The Whole Nine Yards’ – even at thirty-nine” he chuckled, before giving her a quick peck on the lips.
“Am I the only thirty-nine-year-old you know, Tiger?” she quizzed him; her head cocked to the right, and her penetrating glare focused on his eyes that were barely visible.
“I won’t take another step without you, Shannon – not now, not ever” he answered as he joined her in glancing out the window.
“I remember you saying that when I twisted my ankle when we were hiking. Then, you picked me up and carried me back to the Blazer, and you ran the whole way” she answered with a grin. Then her countenance darkened before she said, “you laid me on the seat, and then you said, ‘we made it to the cabin, and it wasn’t supposed to go this way.’ I remember you standing outside the Blazer, looking at the sky. You were pushing your right hand on your left shoulder like you were trying to stop a wound from bleeding. You stared at the sky for a while longer and then you said ‘what happened Lord? We were all ready.’”
Jack focused on the Christmas lights across the street that festooned the Rachlin’s porch and the two pine trees on their front yard. Combined with the freshly-fallen snow, the bright and brilliant colors were picture perfect for a Christmas card. Red, white, green, blue, and gold, they cast colored shadows across the snow and into the Eaton’s bedroom. Jack released a quick moan that sounded more mournful than painful, before turning his head from the window. He covered his face with his hands and laid back down.
“I just can’t look, Shannon” he whispered. “It’s just too sad and too painful.”
“Yeah, even after eight years” she lamented, as she laid down again. “We’ve been married for six years, and in that time, we’ve never had a Christmas tree. And since the event in Village Green this summer, you can’t even bear to look at a lit candle.”
“Are you complaining?” he growled like a dog whose food bowl was being pulled away.
“No, baby, I guess I…”
He cut her off before she could finish. “That incident in the Village Green rec room was like what happened at Koresh’s Branch-Davidian compound in Waco! But, it was no damn compound, it was merely a meeting with some people who lived in an apartment complex and knew what was going on in this country! But, because that fake alien spacecraft was shot down, and a big piece of it landed in the parking lot, paramilitary goons from the alphabet agencies got there in record time and turned the entire complex into miniature Martial Law where they shot first and asked questions second! You weren’t there, Shannon! You didn’t hear the screams and see the blood! You didn’t smell the death! You…”
“I know, Jack, I know I…”
“You don’t know, Shannon! You don’t know what I saw when I was in the coma! I saw you, and then you came back into my life in reality! I saw what I thought really happened, and it rips me up, okay?! I saw Jes…” A fresh round of sobs made what he said afterward indecipherable.
“I do know…I try to know, baby. I know the band was with you both times. I know there are this Jacob and Joshua that you want to find; but are they even real? And I know you went through Hell out in Village Green, and your bandmates were hauled away. I know that America has changed drastically in six months. I-I know that you…(sigh)… have a hard time coming to grips with what you saw in a coma eight years ago, and what has actually happened. I know Jack, I know, but I don’t know at this point what in this world I can do for you!”
“And I know you want to leave me because I’m not the same guy that played at Robbo’s twenty years ago” he grumbled, and to that she had no rebuttal.
As he again wiped his eyes on his t-shirt, Shannon was chilled as the light from across the street no longer splashed into the room, and the digital numerals on the clock went dark. “Oh crap, the power went out again” was her lugubrious whisper. “Lord Jesus, please help us!”
“Jesus Christ is a fictional character” the digital female voice of the new Google Home Phone app that she couldn’t delete spoke through her Android, without any direct prompting.
There’s something truly out of kilter about the 2011 Christmas season. Admittedly, the past several have been lacking in comfort and joy – and this I have opined about in various written works. But, in my view, this year the populace seems to be less about exhibiting the spirit than ever before.
There’s no arguing the fact that millions in America – let alone the rest of the world – are struggling. The fact that “Black Friday” 2011 smashed all manner of retail sales records only served to point to a desperate consumer base needing a “deal” and not to one that is/was doing well and merely taking part in the madness for sport; or to be part of the scene.
For this writer, it could be the mild temperatures and lack of snow thus far this December in upstate New York that is casting an air of caliginousness over what should be a joyful time. Yes, it could be the weather but I believe it is so much more than that…
…In the struggle, instability, insecurity, and turbulence of December 2011 we may be forgetting the hope that is the reason for the season. Personally, I don’t think that Christmas is ever again going to be what it used to be – but in that we need to hang onto the truth and the hope that is Jesus all that much more. We may likely see a day – perhaps by Christmas 2012 – when the mere ability to purchase or otherwise acquire food will be better than any gewgaw hung on the yuletide tree or marvelous toy wrapped and placed below it.
I am no prophet – nor have I ever played one on television – but I do feel that a year from now the landscape in America and the world is going to be significantly different. That is why the reason for the season should be the reason for our hope and the rock that we rest upon as the earth quakes metaphorically below our feet. As this writer believes in a Rapture, seven year Great Tribulation, and one thousand year Millennial Reign of Jesus Christ on earth before a new Heaven and Earth come into existence, I put no stock in the Mayan Calender finishing on December 21, 2012 or the countdown that has begun to that end. Having said that, I do believe that events in the coming year will be potentially earth-shattering and mind-blowing. Indeed, life as we know it may change.
God bless you all this Christmas season. Be watchful wayfarers, as this Christmas does seem a bit out of kilter.
The above is an excerpt from The Wayfarers | Walking Dreams and to say that “our friend” felt wistful melancholy would be just a partial summary of his pain and sadness. But, Christmas is the most wonderful time of the year and it has a way of salving pain, sadness, anger, and regret. It is the time of the year that we celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ the Lord, as foreseen by the prophet Isaiah hundreds of years beforehand and written in the Bible in Isaiah chapter 9, verse 6:
For unto us a Child is born, Unto us a Son is given; And the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Two thirds of the Wayfarers story takes place around Christmas. You’ll be able to feel the sting of the cold breeze and likewise partake of the olfactory delights that are the aromas of chocolate and the cinnamon. Indeed, you just may see some twinkling lights and shiny, reflective ornaments or “gewgaws.” You might just hear snow crunching under your toes as you yourself become a wayfarer. It is possible that you may never, ever see Christmas the same way again after reading Walking Dreams and then Five Feet From The Cabin Door.
Like “our friend” heard the song, I can hear Bing Crosby singing I’ll Be Home For Christmas and I have to admit to a touch of wistful melancholy myself. But, dear friends – Jacob’s Trouble will be available in time for Christmas and by the time you finish the third and final part of the Wayfarers trilogy you will indeed know what Christmas is all about; and there won’t be an ornament or tree on earth that will accurately portray its color and beauty.
He’s the Mall Santa, and he promises that if one more of those little snots pees their pants on his lap, he’s quitting this lousy job! He meant it in 2006, 2007, and 2008 – and he sits on his soapbox and behind his words in 2009!
Mall management set him up in his shoddily-built North Pole in the center hall with J.C. Penny on his aft and Bath and Body Works on the fore. It’s painted white of course and the cheapskates could have used heavier wood he thinks – and indeed they could have – but times are tough and getting tougher, so costs need to be kept low. But, the elves are cute in their red coats and pointy hats, green tights and red shoes – but he needs to remind himself that despite his loneliness these girls are high school aged and he’s old enough to be their grandfather.
He’d been sitting on his red and green velvet-upholstered chair for all of three minutes when one of the hyper, undisciplined brats spilled Mountain Dew in his snowy-white beard; and it’s a real beard and not part of the costume! Ah, but he won’t yell in protest this time as management has threatened to fire him if he does so again. He’s been warned twice not to use expletives in front of the kids – even though many of the kids are possessed of a mouth more foul than his! No, this time he’ll just whisper in 6 year old Logan’s ear:
“There’s no such thing as Santa Claus. I just dress up in this hideous costume for seven-twenty an hour and let you kids live in a foolish fantasy. Your father is cheating on your mother with one of his nurses. I know this because you father is my urologist! Your dad and mom are stupid to give a six year old kid Mountain Dew, yeah – over-educated but stupid in general and kid, you don’t have ADHD and don’t need to be doped-up on the Ritalin they’ve got you on. Now, Logan – and that’s a sissy name by the way – the information I just gave you is better than the overpriced crap your parents will put under your tree. Now get off of my lap!”
As Logan slid off of the Mall Santa’s lap, spilling what was left of his 32 ounce Mountain Dew fountain drink on the black plastic costume boots, the child staggered back to his mom and dad as though he had been hit in the head and was struggling to remain conscious. As the Mall Santa offered up his most jolly “ho ho ho, Merry Christmas” Logan was overheard saying “mom, Santa said dad is cheating on you with his nurse.”
Indeed, Ted the Mall Santa had the physical gifts for the job: a jelly belly, red bulbous nose, long white hair and thick snowy white beard. His speech was eloquent albeit salty and abrupt; and his voice was deep and sonorous and it served him well first in his career as a young DJ on WOLF AM in the 1960’s and 70’s and then in the capacity of an evangelist on the streets of downtown Syracuse.
But evangelizing was then and this was now and it seemed that God had abandoned him. For all of the passionate and heartfelt exhortation of a simple Gospel message that he put forth at the bus stop on the corner of West Fayette and Salina Streets, it seemed that it fell on deaf ears – despite the sonic clarity of his voice. “Look at this crazy, Godless world” Ted would think to himself in his quiet moments; “and look what God has allowed to happen to me.”
Indeed, his Social Security didn’t fully cover his living expenses, which included an efficiency apartment in DeWitt near Shoppingtown Mall where he now sat in December of 2009. He’d pick up odd jobs where he could, which included this now annual stint as Santa Claus. Ted’s wife Maryann was the one person he loved in this world, and she passed away in 2007 with no life insurance policy. The Mall Santa was struggling and alone and not feeling well physically. Everything on him hurt; especially the arthritis plaguing his right hip. Ted walked with a cane, but that cane did nothing to support the burden of his broken heart and limping, aching soul. As another little boy chortled “some kid spilled soda on Santa’s beard and on his boots ha ha!” all Ted wanted was a hearty hit from the flask containing Rebel Yell that was hidden in a pocket of his Washington Redskins sideline-style jacket that hung in the mall office. Ted purchased the coat from a Salvation Army thrift store for nine dollars and though he disliked Washington’s NFL squad, it was the only warm coat the store had for sale in size XXL on the day of his visit.
So, as it was now on December 16th, 2009 – at 7:31 PM eastern time as a man in a black coat accompanied by two others: someone in a green parka who looked a tad like Morgan Freeman and a 35 pound black dog – all prepared to leave a Dollar Tree store a few miles away – Ted the Mall Santa wondered why so many kids were in the mall when they should have been getting to bed because it was a school night after all! As he wondered, 70 year old mall security officer Gil Stowe – a retired Manlius cop trying to supplement his pension – walked up to Ted’s red and green “Santa’s Chair” that was trimmed with plastic holly and said “the boss says you all can clock out for the night, okay? Ted, he wants to see you before you leave.”
As Gil Stowe sauntered away like the tired old man that he was, a four year old girl and her young mother approached the shabby “Santa’s Workshop” while a 17 year old elf named Megan who was responsible for taking photos moaned in discontent as she thought she could leave and it had been four hours since she’d had a cigarette.
What was peculiar was that it was the mother and not the child who approached Santa…
“I don’t want to sit on your lap” she said with a nervous giggle, and “Santa” was confused as to why this woman would come to talk with him in place of the child. “I know your name is Ted because I recognized you when you came in earlier. You weren’t dressed in your costume yet.”
“Yeah, that’s right, Miss – my name is Ted and did your child want to talk with me? – because I can get the heck outta here now” was his anxious response – and his voice evidenced considerable warmth and depth even when he spoke in a hurried, hushed tone.
“No, Ted. I just saw you so I wanted to thank you” the young woman replied – she and her daughter being dressed in parkas as there was a brisk December wind blowing and it was beginning to drive snow. “I heard you preaching at the bus stop downtown in 2002 and it changed my life. You were yelling and most people were put off and were mocking you, but you said that Jesus loved us and wanted us to spend eternity with Him. You said there was no other way to Heaven. I remember you yelling at the crowd to ‘stop being morons by messing with your eternity’ to paraphrase you. You said that faith in Jesus was so simple that a child could have it and it was those who had the faith of a child that would inherit the Kingdom of Heaven. You said Hell was for ‘overly-educated narcissistic eggheads who were too smart to accept the simple, basic truth of Jesus.'”
“Ted, you had a way with words. It was brash, perhaps a bit insulting for an ‘educated’ person like me, but you reached me and others down there as well. Because of your rough-edged approach and the big radio voice of yours, a few people were reached and came to Christ that I know of. They despised you, but they thought about what you said and it eventually sank in.”
“I don’t know what to say, um…” Ted responded with both humility and shock.
“My name is Katrina Whaley. Me and my husband John own and manage WSSS-FM 106.5, the new Christian Talk station that went on-air last month in central New York. I want you to host a daytime show tentatively titled The Unvarnished Truth. I want to have it on-air January 2nd. I’ll start you out at $55,000 a year. I believe with your unvarnished style and captivating voice, we’ll get national syndication, which would substantially increase your salary. Ted, all you have to do is follow your heart on the air and of course handle callers that might disagree with you. Can you come buy tomorrow morning so we talk business and get this rolling?”
“I’ll come by and we’ll talk turkey, Mrs. Whaley – especially considering that I’m about to get fired from this terrific gig!” Ted responded with giddy sarcasm, and for the first time in months he was smiling as he finished with “but I wonder what we’ll get off the ground first; us or the show…”
The LORD is my shepherd I shall not be in want. He makes me lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside quiet waters, He restores my soul. He guides me in paths of righteousness for His name’s sake. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. ~ Psalm 23:1-4