This copy right story Christmas Story I wrote of Four Characters should be read sequentially in order and comes as four posting on my blog. Stay alert and have a blessed Christmas. Ted
First Character - Maude
We got places where we can get outta the wind and where cops leave us alone, mostly. Sometimes as many as five or six of us, more or less, gather around. More or less because we’re pretty proud and independent, believe it or not. Once in a while, if there’s a steam grate, me and Lil’ and her kids, we’ll kinda take turns gettin’ close to it to warm up a little, if one of the bullies ain’t there hoggin’ it all to himself. I’ll be sleepin’ nearby and Lil’ will sort of yell in a whisper, “Hey Maude.” That’s me. “Maude, it’s your turn.” I do the same for her. And sometimes one or two of the others. Works out okay, mostly.
But no matter how little stuff you got, you gotta remember to keep it close to you so it don’t just disappear which has been known to happen. More’n once actually. Some days, though, if you got real lucky rummaging the trash, you might share a piece of a stale sandwich or half-eaten candy bar with somebody. Like Hank. Or more likely, with Lil and her kids. Makes it seem less like a body’s homeless when sharin’ happens.
Late at night is when it gets to you the most, being homeless. It gets real dark and quiet then, even in the city. That’s when I notice the stars, if it ain’t cloudy or rainin’. Tell you the truth, I love the stars.
But to be honest, when I wasn’t homeless I was indoors mostly so I didn’t notice ‘em so much. I find ‘em kinda hopeful, really. There’s all that darkness, you know, all that space that goes on for who knows how long. Makes you dizzy just thinkin’ about it.
Matter of fact, it makes you feel sort of lost and lonely, more lost even than you feel just bein’ homeless in this here city, on this here world. I mean, I think lots of people feel that way even when they ain’t homeless. I don’t know.
But anyway, there are those stars winkin’ away at ya, those little pinpricks of light pokin’ through, and all that darkness can’t stop ‘em, can’t snuff ‘em out. Even when it rains, you know they’re up there shinnin’ above the clouds. Like I said, I find that kinda hopeful. Like maybe I ain’t really as homeless as I feel mostly.
I guess I feel hopeful that way most of all around Christmas, even if that’s when it’s gettin’ real cold out on the streets. I suppose it’s because of the Christmas stories and all I learned a long time ago.. About the wisemen and the star. And that part about a light shinin’ in the darkness, except I can’t remember exactly how that goes. I mean, whether it’s about stars shinin’ or Jesus bein’ born that’s the light part.
Anyway, the thing is, one night I’d put a trash bag over my head and kinda scrunched down to sleep ‘cause a cold mist was drizzlin’ on us. Well, I was sort of dozin’ off pretty good, when somethin’ woke me up. Or maybe I wasn’t really all the way awake ‘cause real close like I seen this little sorta gold-orange light lingerin’ just a little way off in the dark. I squinted at it, figurin’ it was the drizzle‘ kept me from makin’ it out too good.
Then I realized it wasn’t drizzlin’ at the moment. I thought maybe the little light was a UFO hoverin’ over. Then, since it wasn’t moving much, I figured it might be a special kinda star come to me, like in the Jesus story.
I started smilin’ and feelin’ excited like it was a miracle. It was just there, glowin’ in the dark. Sometimes it got brighter, like it was alive, and then it would get a little dimmer. I figured it was some kind of signal. Maybe a signal like the wise men got in the Christmas story, like I should get up and follow it.
So I sort of stretched up outta the trash bag a little so I could see better. And I realized the light in the dark wasn’t a star. It was a cigarette burnin’. It was burnin’ just bright enough so I could see it hangin’ off Hank’s lip and behind it I just could make out Hank’s face. Hank must a found a cigarette someplace and was leanin’ over there against the building, smokin’ it by himself in the middle of the night. And to tell the truth, in that little light, his face looked sort of beautiful, you might say. Yeah, beautiful.
I sat there thinkin’ about that and it came to me that maybe Hank’s face, sort of dimly lit up like that and lookin’ beautiful, was the signal. I couldn’t of seen Hank’s face in the dark. You can’t see in the dark. But with just a little bit of light, like a burnin’ cigarette, I could see Hank’s face. Like for the first time, better’n I ever saw it before.
It come to me that maybe it ain’t the light itself that matters so much as what you can see by it. Even a little light like Hank’s cigarette I mistook for a star at first. In a way, maybe that burnin’ cigarette really was kinda like a star, pokin’ through the darkness like that.
Then I got to thinkin’ that maybe the darkness it was pokin’ through was in me, sorta. Because I hadn’t never really seen Hank before like that. I mean that he was kinda beautiful, if you look deeper than the dirt and stubble on his face.
So I kept watchin’ him finish his cigarette with a dreamy look on his face. Maybe he was just enjoyin’ that cigarette but I guess I thought is was something more than that. I wondered what he was dreamin’ of. Same thing as me, I suppose. Same as most folks. Something like home, maybe. Where there’s love and understandin’ and sharin’ and belongin’. Belongin’ and not bein’ lost no more.
After Hank squashed out his cigarette, I sat there thinkin’. Maybe prayin’ is more what it was. And it come to me, after while, that I think it really was Jesus the bible was talking about being the light the darkness couldn’t put out. Maybe that’s what the star them wisemen followed was about. It showed ‘em the baby Jesus. Like that little cigarette light showed me Hank. I decided that the next day I’d gonna ask Hank what he was dreamin’ about.
I decided to ask ‘im because of Jesus. Sittin’ there I came to think Jesus is the light that people can see each other by. The light that makes us look beautiful somehow. I sat there thinkin’ or prayin’ and I decided that from then on, I was gonna share everything I get rummaging, no matter if it ain't much, I was still gonna share it with Hank, and Lil and her kids. ‘Cause I could really see ‘em now. That’s kind of a gift, ain’t it? A Christmas gift to me. Glory be.