It was the day after Christmas
December 24, 2012
When my nephew was born, many years ago, I wrote several short stories for him about a brother and sister named Raymond and Christiane Chocolate. Two publishers went broke before publishing them. So I retired the stories for the last couple of decades.
THE DAY AFTER CHRISTMAS
It was the day after Christmas and Raymond Chocolate was very depressed. He was uncommonly quiet. His long face got on everyone’s nerves so much that Mrs. Chocolate was forced to tell Raymond to play outside until he was in a better mood. Raymond was so depressed that he didn’t even object to wearing the pink tuke his Aunt Molasses had sent him as a present.
When Raymond stepped outside his breath came rushing out of his mouth and formed a nice round ball. Usually Raymond liked to take these balls and throw them at Ludwig Van, his invisible dragon. This day Raymond just looked at the ball. The ball waited a moment longer then usual, shrugged its shoulders, and fell into the snow.
“You are depressed, sir!” Ludwig Van said. “I was depressed once. I went to a dentist and had it pulled out.”
Raymond mumbled, “Isn’t nothing.”
Ludwig smiled and added, “It was a wisdom tooth. The only one I had.”
“Ya, right,” Raymond responded.
Ludwig Van became quiet. He was trying to mustard all of his courage together. He put his courage into his mouth like a hot dog and ate it.
“Sir, I don’t mean to be nosy, never have been nosy as you very well know, but what’s got you so sad?”
Raymond turned to the invisible dragon who on such a cold day was almost visible and sighed.
“Ah… you wouldn’t understand!”
Ludwig Van sighed. “I suppose you’re right. If it’s as bad as you say perhaps you could have it pulled out. I was once depressed and I went to a dentist… Oh, I told that story already.”
Raymond took a deep breath and then poured out his heart.
“I’m sad because… Okay, first, there were those socks Christiane got me as a Christmas present. Socks! Socks aren’t presents! And then there was the way everyone found Baby Alan so cute. Since he started talking there’s no way I can get a word in edgewise. I used to be the one that said the cute things. And then of course there’s always the big question?”
“Big question?” Ludwig Van gulped.
“Will there be another Christmas? I heard mom say that the bills were piling up. She wondered how we would make ends meet. And I heard dad say that he didn’t know how the country could be held together. So many people don’t have jobs and so many jobs need to be done. And I heard Christiane say that there might be another ice age and that it started yesterday.”
“Another ice age!” Ludwig Van cried. “That is depressing. I remember the last ice age. Everyone slept a lot.”
And so Raymond Chocolate and Ludwig Van trudged aimlessly through the snow, which had freshly fallen the evening before. Raymond Chocolate sank up to his knees with each step while Ludwig Van walked on top of the snow. Invisible dragons are able to walk on top of the snow because they are born with snowshoes built into their feet.
As Raymond and Ludwig Van trudged down the street through the snow they heard a voice.
It cried, “Hey!” Raymond turned to the invisible dragon.
“Did you hear that?”
“Yes I did,” Ludwig Van replied. “But, I can’t remember when. Was it Tuesday? No, that’s impossible. Tuesday is tomorrow at least for today. Maybe it was Wednesday.”
“Hey!” a voice cried again.
Raymond looked around. “I heard it again.”
Ludwig Van scratched his chin with the end of his tail. “Maybe it was an echo.”
“I’m here under the snow!” the voice cried.
Raymond stepped over to the side of the road and pushed snow off the top of a mount of snow. Underneath the snow he found a beaten up old jack-in-the-box. The head lay out of the side of the box like a tongue out of the side of a mouth.
Raymond asked. “Whet are you doing out here?”
“What does it look like I’m doing?” the jack-in-the-box snarled. “Getting a tan? Of all the people in the world I could have been rescued by, I have to pick a kid. I hate kids! What am I doing here? How many times have I asked myself that question? Why am I out here? Because I’m last year’s toy. Oh, the little monsters, they were very happy with me last year. Last year they couldn’t keep their grubby little hands off me. But now, this year, they say I’m no fun!”
The jack-in-the-box turned its head, looked up at Raymond and hollered. “I am fun! I am! Test me and see. Go ahead, why don’t you!”
So Raymond stuffed the jack-in-the-box in the box and closed the lid. Then Raymond turned the little arm on the side of the box. Raymond warned Ludwig Van to take cover. So the invisible dragon hid behind his master and put his hands over his eyes and gritted his teeth in anticipation of a terrible scare. Very slowly the lid of the box rose up and the jack-in-the-box crawled out ever so slowly and whispered in a very tiny voice, “boo”.
Raymond stared at the jack-in-the-box. Ludwig Van took his hands off his eyes and looked at the jack-in-the-box and puffed out his chest.
“Nothing scares me!” the invisible dragon proudly declared.
When the jack-in-the-box realized he hadn’t frightened anyone he began to cry.
“Oh, I’ve got to face up to it. I’ve lost the magic. Good-bye showbiz. So long world. You’ll never have this jack-in-the-box to kick around anymore.”
With these words the jack crawled back into his box. Raymond closed the Lid and covered him again with snow. Ludwig Van began to weep, his tears turning into icicles, the icicles slipping from his eyes and sticking into the snow just missing the invisible dragon’s toes.
“Maybe things will pick up in the spring for the little guy,” Ludwig Van said.
But Raymond didn’t hear his friend. He was too depressed.
The X-Christmas Tree
Raymond and Ludwig Van continued on down the street. The streets were empty. Everyone was inside being happy, Raymond thought. If only they knew. As Raymond and Ludwig Van turned the corner onto the street that led to the town dump, they heard someone sneeze.
“Was that you?” Raymond asked his invisible friend.
“I wouldn’t be at all surprised, sir,” Ludwig Van replied. “But, I don’t remember sneezing. Of course I have a short memory especially when I’m not warm.”
Another sneeze. Raymond turned and saw some snow fall off a tree. It was a Christmas tree stuck in a snowdrift, still dressed in tinsel, and Christmas balls, and colored lights.
“Was that you who sneezed, Christmas tree?” Raymond asked.
“X-Christmas tree,” the tree responded before it sneezed again. “I think I’ve caught a cold.”
“Shouldn’t you be inside?” Raymond asked.
“Yes of course I should. But they couldn’t wait to get rid of me. Christmas is barely over and here I am, abandoned, stuck in this snow bank and feeling… Haa Choo!”
“Bless you!” Ludwig Van said.
“And it all started out so beautifully,” the tree sniffled as its ornaments shimmered. “Last week when they bought me and put me up in their living room I felt wonderful. They treated me like a queen. Dressed me up, laid gifts at my feet. Well, I can’t begin to tell you how glorious I… Haa Choo! I thought that being a Christmas tree would be so glamorous. But, look at me now. I feel like crawling away somewhere and… Haaa Choooooo!!!”
And with this the Christmas tree began to cry and because it was so cold the tears turned into icicles and because the icicles formed only on one side of the tree, the tree began to lose its balance.
“TIM—BER!” cried Ludwig Van who just managed to get out of the way of the falling tree.
“I’m getting even more depressed,” Raymond said as he turned away from the fallen tree and trudged down the street.
“Well, sir,” Ludwig Van said as he followed behind his master, “judging by that x-Christmas tree and the jack-in-the-box you seem to have lots of company.”
When Raymond reached the jungle, which his father insisted was the town dump, he stopped. Raymond informed the invisible dragon that he was going deep into the jungle never to return. It was Ludwig Van’s decision whether he wanted to follow him.
“We’re a team, sir,” Ludwig Van smiled as he stretched his arms to three times their normal length and wrapped them around his neck like a scarf.
The two friends plunged into the jungle. Because of the numerous snowdrifts they were at times forced to take curving and sweeping trails. But none of this mattered since they were headed nowhere in particular. As they walked they passed half buried pickup trucks, telephone booths, rolls of fencing. A long green hose rose out of the snow several yards ahead, looked at them for a moment, than sank back into a snowdrift. Occasionally the heads of television sets and washing machines were spotted peaking out at Raymond and Ludwig Van.
Ludwig Van said. “This must be the end of the world, sir.”
The invisible dragons’ teeth began clattering together with the cold.
“Don’t you think we should turn back, sir?”
Raymond did not respond. Instead he turned his head and pointed his ear to the east.
“Did you hear that?” Raymond asked.
“I wouldn’t doubt it,” Ludwig Van replied in a cold mousy voice. “I’ve bean hearing things all morning.”
“Someone is singing!” Raymond said.
Raymond looked around. The singing was coming from an old abandoned car.
“Over there,” Raymond pointed.
When Ludwig Van found himself alone he hastened to catch up to Raymond who was headed toward a long very black car.
Raymond and Ludwig Van gazed into the old automobile through the windows but could see nothing because all the windows were frosted up.
“Oh, Iwish you hadn’t done that, sir,” Ludwig Van squealed.
“Yes,” a voice from inside the car replied. “Come in.”
Before Ludwig Van could stop him, Raymond opened a door and looked inside.
“Come in arid join me,” a hurtle smiled. “My name is Reginald Clifford the Third, but my friends call me Sam which is what you may call me.”
Raymond And Ludwig Van climbed into the front seat of the car. The hurtle had been enjoying a cup of tea and he offered Raymond and Ludwig a cup to help them warm up.
Ludwig Van swallowed his tea quickly and sighed.
“I never thought I was going to feel warm.”
Raymond asked. “Why were you singing?”
“Why?” Sam smiled. “It’s Christmas time my boy or at least that’s what we cell it in this neck of the woods.”
“But,”Raymond protested in a sad voice, “don’t you know what’s happening?”
“What’s happening?” Sam asked looking quite concerned.
Raymond proceeded to tell Sam about the jack-in-the-box, and the x-Christmas tree, and the socks, and being the lost kid in thefamily, and the bills piling up, about all the jobs that had to be done, about the ice age, and about the sorry state of the world in general.
“Enough! Enough!” Sam begged laughing. “I know all about those matters and serious matters they are, especially about being the lost boy in the family As far as the ice age is concerned, I thought it started yesterday and you can never have enough socks in an ice age.”
“Does it all make you feel unbearably sad’” Raymond asked.
“Yes,” Sam responded shaking his head, “if I let it. But today, I’ve taken a holiday from all those cares.”
“You mean you don’t want to face the truth,” Raymond scolded the hurtle.
Sam giggled for a moment.
“You are a very serious young man, aren’t you? I haven’t seen someone so upset since my brother Louise woke up one morning and found that someone had painted his shell pink. I thought it was a harmless prank myself.”
Sam reached over to the glove compartment and pulled out a small package wrapped in Christmas paper. He handed it to Raymond.
“For me?” Raymond cried.
Quickly Raymond unwrapped the present. It was a mirror.
“Thank you,” Raymond responded. “But, I don’t understand.”
Sam smiled. “The real present is inside the mirror.”
“That’s me,” Raymond replied.
Sam chuckled. “Isn’t that wonderful? You’re here. It’s better than not being here. My brother Velma was never here and he always had trouble doing up his shoelaces.”
“I know the feeling,” the invisible dragon sighed.
“You see,” Sam explained. “It takes courage to he here. And it takes even more courage to see all the problems of the world and stay here. And it takes even more courage then that to smile and maybe to even change the world a little, to make it a better place for everyone.”
“You mean there’ll he Another Christmas,” Raymond said.
“Of course,” Sam grinned.
“But the way people talk…
“Oh them,” Sam said shaking his head. “Sometimes adults talk very foolish. You’ll understand that better when you grow up.”
“Did you’ hear that Ludwig Van? There’s going to be another Christmas.
“Yes, sir,” the invisible dragon shivered, “But maybe they could hold it in the summer next year.”
Sam laughed. Raymond laughed. Ludwig Van laughed. And then the three friends began to sing Silent Night even though it was early in the afternoon.