Christmas Carol

by Chris

Alternate Universe

Disclaimer: This is a little story and neither little Vin nor the huge preacher are mine, they belong to MGM, CBS etc… and in spite of their VERY bad behavior towards the boys, I’m sending my "MERRY CHRISTMAS" to them too.

Thanks: I wrote this story in an hour, it's a very short one, but I love it. Laurie Anne, my beta – wonderful reader helped me giving the tale the flavor of her own language and I'm very grateful to her for English is to me the language of love. Thanks to the young Austrian priest that long ago, in a snowy night, in a little village up in the mountains, wrote my favorite Christmas carol. Thanks at last to the creator of Litle Britches universe.


Feedback: Yes! Thanks!

The boy was sitting in the dark, motionless despite the cold wind, hitting his sparse frame that was only covered in a worn oversized coat. His tiny hands were bluish from the cold as the air chilled his quite bare limbs, the small body close to exhaustion.

He was staring at the half opened door of the church. The sky was devoid of moon and stars but there were lights in the church on the opposite side of the street. Seeing the lights made the cold night seem warmer to the boy and he wanted desperately to be in that warm, safe place.

After the escape from the orphanage he had wandered all day long about the streets of the town looking in wonder at the well-dressed people, very busy with their Christmas shopping. There were ropes of green branches with holly, ivy green and red decorations at every window of the shops. He also noticed the well-fed, happy children. It all seemed very distant. They all had fathers and mothers and warm clothes too. He longed to be at home, in the little farm so far away in the open prairie with his mother. But he couldn’t, and his mother was gone, along with the little ranch. He was all alone in this strange, huge town.

At the orphanage he was so unhappy because of the many rules, none of which seemed to make sense. Standing, sitting, kneeling, praying, how to answer a query and how not to answer. It was a torment to do all he was told. And discipline came in the form of a cane. That cane was a frightful instrument, one of which young Vin Tanner had never experienced before. . In fact he had lived five years without so much as being punished. Now he had to work to avoid the lashes because of his shy and quite behavior or that he couldn’t write and make sums as tidily as the others boys did.

He had no friends either, the boys avoiding him and always leaving him alone.

He remembered the day before in the classroom, sitting in the corner, the teacher was at the door speaking with the director of the orphanage and one of the elder boys came over to him:

"Tell me, skinny Vinny, did ever your mother kiss you?"

"She did, always," he had answered.

The older boy turned to the others,

"Oh, here is a frog that says a woman kissed him, but he didn’t turn into a prince, he is still a scrawny, ugly frog."

They all laughed at him, and Vin blushed under their eyes, in shame.

Later that evening the director had punished him for some guilt he didn’t remember and locked him up in a narrow, cold room till morning.

Escape came from hiding himself in the cart of the old man who carried the wood into the orphanage. That coarse man didn’t notice being half drunk as usual. He was free now. Free and scared in an unknown town.

The snow began to fall from the darkened sky and he shivered in his damp clothes. Scanning the now empty street he slipped into the church.

There was a cold night smell into the chapel and the little boy frowned, looking for a good spot to hide him. Wandering around he reached the right wing of the church, taking refuge in the darkest side o the room. As he raised his eyes he saw the statue of a woman, in a light blue dress. She had long brownish hair and a sweet, pale face. In her outstretched right arm she was holding a blond, charming little boy.

In his mind he saw again the little room and the pale face of his mother sitting at the fire. She had her feet on the fender and he was leaning his head on her warm lap. She had such a lovely smell. On these nights when the illness was beginning to consume her strength, she has told him the story of the Good Mother in the sky that loved children all over the world. He studied the shining face of the image and saw his mother in front of him, raising her slender arms to embrace him once again. He blinked and it seemed to his tired eyes that the beautiful lady was smiling at him,

"Mom," he whispered as his thin, weary legs buckled beneath him. He fell near the altar with a contented sight, leaning his tousled, brown head on the statue’s lap.

+ + + + + + +

In the church lonely kitchen the preacher had just finished his meal, he was tired and he had never felt himself so alone. After eating cooked ham and some garden vegetables he didn’t feel like consuming any of the cake his housekeeper had brought him. Tonight he couldn’t distance himself from the past, and he saw his late wife before him. Christmas had been her favorite time. At Christmas all the family would gather in that room. Often he thought that her fingerprints were still on the book of poems on the desk and every time he picked it, it was impossible not to pause and remember other years.

For fifteen years he had lived there, not wishing to live anywhere else but tonight the room seemed to him a stranger and awful place in its emptiness. He had left the duty to celebrate the Midnight mass to his young chaplain, needing to be alone, alone with his sorrow and grief. For all the years of their marriage she had been his safe harbor. As a younger man she helped him in many situations, and order had emerged from the confusion that he disliked so much only because of her, and it was his wife who had always begun the process, thought no one ever said in the parish that she was able to understand the sorrow of people as well as he understood the teachings of the Gospels. She had been a red-haired girl with freckles in her round cheeks when he’d married her, very pretty in her way. For what she was he had loved her, appreciating her conversation and the help she had given to him because she could so easily sense the life. When he had found her dead one morning in her own bed he had felt he had lost some part of himself.

Thought many weeks had passed since her death, the problem was that she hadn’t yet become a ghost. Her being alive was still too recent and the past refused to be the past.

He sighed and rose from his seat, remembering he had better finish the speech for Christmas. Rifling through his desk couldn’t find his Bible, recalling he had left it in the sanctuary.

Josiah Sanchez walked into the empty room, the pale flames of the candles the only light as he knelt before the altar. Feeling his hands trembling he raised and in the dim light he saw a little shape hunched in the corner near St. Mary’s statue.

Approaching he saw that it was a little boy, fast asleep. He scrutinized the gaunt, pale face and the soaked old coat. Lifting the boy upwards he hooked an arm under the knees, carrying him into his arms. The boy stiffened and groaned softly in his sleep, the preacher tightened his grip as the unruly head lulled back against his shoulder.

He took the boy to his room lowering him upon the bed. The movement awoke the child and he bucked against the hands restraining him his wide blue eyes blazing with a sudden fear.

"Easy, kid, easy," murmured Josiah laying the weak arms back down at the boy’s side with a mild, reassuring smile.

The boy settled down with a deep sight but his emotive eyes didn’t leave the preacher’s face. Along with the gentle touch, the huge man’s face was kind. He peered out and saw a well-furnished, large room. There was a desk full of books and a fireplace.

"What’s your name, kid?" asked Josiah sitting on the bed near the boy.

"Vin," he exhaled in a little soft voice that disarmed the man.

"What were you doing in the church all alone, you-- Lost?"

The boy didn’t answered and laid his arm over his eyes.

"Where is your mother, Vin?" asked the man.

A sad whisper came from the pale lips "Gone."

"Where is your father?" urged Josiah

"I…I’ve never seen him," the weary boy replied.

Josiah glanced at the boy, his reddish brown curly hair framing the fine features and a little square jaw. People might have called him handsome despite the scruffy and gaunt appearance of his body.

He wasn’t at ease with children and was now confused, raising his eyes. The happy image of a very young Sarah was smiling at him from the little silver frame on the night table. She would be able to find the words and ease the child’s discomfort with a single, mild touch.

"Help me, Sarah," he asked in his mind and with a sad, deep voice he said,

"I need to know the truth, Vin,"

Vin shut his eyes and didn’t respond, he was afraid the man was a priest and knowing about the escape he would tell the orphanage, forcing him to go back. It was inevitable.

"Vin, please … tell me all," murmured the man.

Tears glittered in the child ‘s blue eyes "I cain’t, " he sobbed.

"I know you need my help, Son, ," Josiah soothed letting the shivering boy lean against him, "Please, trust me,"

"Don’t tell them I’m here … they'll punish me again and I don’t like that dark place, I can’t breathe in that room ---" pleaded the child in a pitiful, low whisper.

Josiah felt his heart stop at the sorrowful, small voice.

He laid his callous, large hands on Vin’s chest and he could feel the hammering of the little heart underneath the coarse shirt.

"Are you hungry, son?" The boy stared at him in wonder, no one by a long time had cared about him and he was wary of all the people but this huge, somber man had a kind, broad smile and making him feel at ease.

Without a word the preacher took the boy again in his arms and carried him downstairs.

Vin thought he was caught up in a dream when a plate with ham and vegetables was placed in front of him and his eyes widened when he saw the big slice of cake brought to him. The man poured a steaming cup of tea while the child ate the food quickly, fearing to wake up and see all that food disappear. In the end he leaned back in the chair, his little belly quite full. Josiah smiled softly as the good food and the warmth of the room has turned the pale sickly face of the little boy into a rosy one. Vin smiled up at him and Josiah ‘s heart melted into this shy smile.

Outside the bells of all the local churches started to chime, the boy smiling again. "What’s your name, mister?" he asked in a soft, sweet voice

"My name is Josiah Sanchez," the preacher answered in a low, deep tone.

"Merry Christmas, Mr. Sanchez."

Lowering a big hand on the tiny shoulder his large, a lone tear slipped down the preacher’s rough face "Merry Christmas to you too, Vin." With a sudden movement, he embraced the frail child in his arms.

From the sanctuary there came the sound of the organ and many voices raised in unison:

Holy night, silent night,
all is calm all is bright
'round young Virgin mother and child….

The End

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