A Christmas Book (Short Story)
"Just throw the rock, Nick!" shouted one of the boys. “Hurry up you wuss!" shouted another. “We shoulda brought Emily, I bet she woulda-not been scared," said the tallest boy, who wore a long black coat that stopped just above his knees.
Benny began nervously twitching his fingers, "I would do it, but yesterday I took an arrow to the knee.” John, the shortest and plumpest boy in the group, glanced at the small arrow-shaped bruise on Benny’s knee and laughed. "It wasn't funny John," Benny said, shoving him. “I thought it was," John said, attempting to contain his laughter, as he pulled a small plastic dart out of his pocket and waved it around. Derek, the tallest boy, looked over at the two of them, "will you two stop with the Skyrim jokes?” John tucked the dart back into his pocket, and tried to compose himself.
"What's takin' so long, Nick?" Derek asked, annoyed. “Nothing, it's just... Well he's old, what if he gets hurt?” "He's a hobo, Nick. Look at him.” Nick glanced at the man, who had an exceptionally long beard, and tattered clothes, standing near street-strewn trash, and a small pile of socks. “No one cares about him,” continued Derek; “besides John threw a rock at him yesterday.”
A proud smile erupted from John's lips, "It was funny too, he just kind of held his head, and looked around with a really dumb look on his face. I wanted to shoot him in the knee with one of my arrows, but Derek said that we didn't have time to go back and get my dart gun.”
"I'm sorry guys, I just can't do it; especially not on the day before Christmas," Nick said, handing the rock to Derek. "I told you he was a wuss!" John said, grabbing the small rock from Derek's hand, and chucking it at the hobo. The rock, firmly struck the elderly man on the side of his head, with a loud thud. John was about to burst out in laughter, when the man fell to his knees, and then flat against the pavement. "What did you do?" Derek said, eyeing John. "Nuthin', I threw the rock, that's all."
The boys couldn't help, but stare at the homeless man, that lie face down on the ground. "Umm... I really need to go home now," Benny said, nervously moving his legs, trying to hide the wet spot that formed on his jeans. "My mom is umm... expecting me.” Benny ran off, down the alley, toward his house. The other boys were hardly paying attention to him, as they were fixated on the homeless man.
"Is he dead?” John said, looking over at Derek. "How should I know?" Derek said. "Check and tell us, John.” “Why does it hav-ta be me?" "Your moms is a Doctor, and besides you threw the rock.” John nodded, then walked across the dark, cold, trash-strewn ally, and knelt beside the life-less body, poking at its neck with his fingers. "I don't feel anything.” "Try his hand or somethin',” Derek prodded. "Okay," John said.
"Hey, you know what would be funny?" John questioned. "If he got up, and ate yer brain?” Derek said sarcastically. "No," John said, "I was gunna say, if he wasn't dead, and he just got knocked out or sumething.” "Well, did you find a pulse?” Nick asked. "No," John said. “He's dead. “
"What's that," Nick pointed at an object, lying beneath the man. John pulled a book out from under the body. "It's a Bible.” John said, looking at the book; "someone probably offered it to him when he was trying to pan-handle money." "How do you know?" Nick said. "It could be his, maybe he's religious."
"No," John said, "homeless people don't follow God. That's why mom always says: ‘Don't cast your pearls among swine’; it says that in the Bible, Y’know. Mom says it every Sunday when we pass by those hobo's on the way to the car, after Church.” "You mean she doesn't give them anything?” Nick asked. "No, they're swine. Why would she?" "Maybe because she's leaving church..." Nick said, slightly confused. "Don't get me wrong, I mean, I've never been to church or anything, and I’m not religious,” explained Nick; “but isn't it a good thing to give to homeless people?" "No, not when they're swine" John said. "Look Nick, you don't know anything about Church, okay? Mom and Dad, and me, go to Church every Sunday." "Alright, sorry.” Nick said, rubbing the back of his head.
"Look guys, we need to get away from this corpse," Derek spoke in a commanding tone. "Okay," John said, tossing the Bible onto the ground. Derek glared in John’s direction, "you can't just leave it there; the cops'll find yer finger prints all over it." "Well, I don't want it at my house!" John exclaimed. "I'll take it,” Nick said, bending down, and picking up the Bible. The boys began walking away from the body, and to the bustling street corner, that was a block from the ally where they once stood. “The sweet scent of peppermint fragranced the air, and “Jingle Bells” could be heard, chiming from the inside of a shop labeled “Karby’s Music Shop.”
“Do you think we’ll go to jail for murder?” John asked. “I don’t know,” Derek said. “I still can’t believe we killed him,” Nick uttered. "What should I say to mom when she asks where I was?” John asked. "Tell her you went to 'Karby's Shop,' that's where we were supposed to go anyway," replied Derek. "Okay," John said.
The Next Day...
Emily slapped Nick on the forehead, "get up! It's Christmas, and I want to open my presents!" "Alright, I'm getting up;" Nick said, rubbing his forehead. "Hey, guess what happened yesterday?" Emily said, bouncing up and down on Nick's bed. "What?” Nick said. "Santa died! Well they thought he died because his heart broke, but it was just some homeless guy, at least that’s what mom says." "Oh," Nick said, "you mean he had a heart attack?" "Ya; it's still on the T.V. if you hurry," Emily rushed him. "I'll be in there, Emily. Let me get ready." "Hurry!" Emily squealed, a slightly annoyed look upon her face. "I will," Nick said, gently pushing Emily out of the room.
"I guess we didn't kill him after all," Nick thought to himself; “unless we gave him a heart attack… still, I can’t believe we watched him die... I wish we would have…left him alone.” Nick roughly pulled open his dresser drawer; the dull wood was slightly stained. Nick saw the Bible that he'd found near the homeless man, it was brown and worn, sitting atop his shirt, in the place he had stored it, after having left his friends the previous day; he picked it up, and turned to the first page of the plain book, he saw a quote on the inside cover of the book, and these words scribbled beneath it: Matthew 19:16-23. He quietly read the quote to himself:
"And behold, a man came up to him, saying, "Teacher, what good deed must I do to have eternal life?" And he said to him, "Why do you ask me about what is good? There is only one who is good. If you would enter life, keep the commandments." He said to him, "Which ones?" And Jesus said, "You shall not murder, You shall not commit adultery, You shall not steal, You shall not bear false witness, Honor your father and mother, and, You shall love your neighbor as yourself." The young man said to him, "All these I have kept. What do I still lack?" Jesus said to him, "If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me." When the young man heard this he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions. And Jesus said to his disciples, "Truly, I say to you, only with difficulty will a rich person enter the kingdom of heaven."
Emily mightily banged on Nick's door, "Hurry! Hurry! Hurry!!!" she screamed, in clear frustration. Nick tucked the brown book back into his drawer, and slid his shirt on, then left his room, and walked past Emily, into the living room; the news channel—NNC—was showing on the small television set, and his mom was sitting in the recliner watching it.
"Nick, come sit down, it's time to open presents; Emily has been bugging me all morning.” Nick walked over to the couch, and sat down. “Get a present Nick,” Nick’s mom said, snapping a quick photo of her son. “Sure mom,” Nick said, shifting his eyes toward a pile of awkwardly wrapped presents, sitting under a large Christmas tree. “Did Emily help you wrap this year? “ “Duh,” Emily said, “that’s why they look so good.”
“Why don’t you open the smallest one first, Nick.” His mom said. “Alright,” Nick said, reaching for a tiny red and green package. “Those are socks!” Emily spit out, as she chewed on Christmas candy. “Don’t worry Nick,” Emily said; sucking her candy cane loud and sloppily, “Santa likes socks too!” she exclaimed, pointing at the Christmas stockings, hanging from a shelf near the tree. Nick nodded, and began unwrapping his small gift, then the news broadcast caught his attention:
"The Homeless man, who people are calling 'Santa Clause,' due to an uncanny resemblance; died last night of a heart attack. Reporter Chris Doden, is currently with the man's daughter in Nevaeh, Tennessee. Chris, how is she taking the news? And did she even know her father was homeless? 'She said she did Angela. After his wife died, five months ago, he began developing some strange habits, like collecting socks, and reading the Bible non-stop. Eventually his daughter says, he decided to sell his house, and all of his belongings, donating everything to charity, and the homeless. He lived on the streets for months, but no matter how much his daughter pleaded with him, he was insistent that he had one more thing to do before moving back to Tennessee.’ What exactly was that Chris? 'Well Angela, he wanted to pass on his Bible, to someone that didn't know God.' There was no Bible found by his body, is that right Chris? 'Yes Angela, no Bible was found.' Then maybe he did fulfill his wish after all? ‘Yes he most likely did Angela, he most likely did.’"