Saturday, September 24, 2011
Posted by Jonathan Martin
The wood in the fireplace glowed at Zach as he walked into the living room. He walked over to the fire and added more wood off of the shuttle that sat nearby, using a larger piece of wood to move the charred pieces around, hoping that flames would jump to life again. Unsuccessful, he tore a page out of a phonebook and held it’s edge to a still glowing piece of wood, and watched as the paper began to burn, quickly placing it under the other pieces of wood, and adding more pages, they were up to the P’s now. His desire for warmth and light sated, Zach turned around, heading toward the recliner he had grown up sitting in, only to find the curled up form of Kyle there, fast asleep. Smiling, Zach picked the boy up and carried him back to the room he shared with his mother and Sarah.
Kyle stirred as Zach struggled to hold him and operate the doorknob. “Did he come?” he asked sleepily.
“I think so,” Zach told him, but Kyle did not hear the reply, having already fallen back asleep. Zach set Kyle down on the bed next to his mother, who opened here eyes long enough to see that it was Kyle, smiled, and then drifted off again.
Zach crept out of the rooming, closing the door quietly and returned to the living room, where he again adjusted the wood, adding another log, before settling into the recliner. Rocky came padding into the room and sat down next to him, head just within reach of Zach’s hand resting on the chair’s arm. Zach obliged, petting the dog and staring absently at the tree, reflections of the flames from the fire dancing in the colored glass balls.
Zach awoke with a start as Kyle came running into the room, “He came, he came!”
The fire was low, but flames still licked the edges of the wood, and it perked back up after Zach added yet more wood, and another page of P’s to the ashes underneath. “Looks like he did,” he told Kyle, looking over mess of boxes that littered the floor beneath the tree.
“This ones for me,” The boy said, picking up a package and shaking it. He frowned when it made no noise. “What do you think it is, Zach?”
“I don’t know, who’s it from?”
Zach smiled, “Then you’ll like it. I never got a present from him that I didn’t like.”
“Want some coffee?” Julie offered from the kitchen. Zach had been so wrapped up in her sons exuberance that he had not noticed her come in.
“Love some. Who else is awake?”
“Everyone but Brian.”
“Nope, I’m awake,” came a call over her shoulder.
“Oh, everyone then.”
“Good, whats for breakfast?”
“Presents!” Kyle said, interrupting the adults.
“Sure, let me see if I can get everyone else in here.” Julie said, but Kyle pushed past her, going to find the other adults.
He found them on the back porch, sitting around a large fire, each with a mug of coffee in their hands. “Come on, it’s time to open the presents!” He took Aubrey by the hand and tugged. She followed, laughing, and so did the rest of the group.
“So who gets to open the first present?” Judson asked, pulling in a folding chair out of a corner and sitting on it.
“I think you should mom,” Kyle said, digging through the presents and pulling a plain cardboard box with a single red ribbon around it out. Cautiously, he carried it over to where his mom sat, watching the floor so as not to trip. When he got to her side, he smiled wide and handed the present to her.
Blushing, she looked around at the rest of the group who met her gaze with encouragement. “Go on,” Amy said.
Carefully, she slid the ribbon off of the box and it popped open. “Sorry, I couldn’t find any tape,” Kyle said sheepishly.
Tears formed at the corners of Julie’s eyes as she reached into the box and removed a picture frame.
“Mrs. Aubrey gave me the frame, but I drew that myself. It’s you, me, and daddy. We’re in Boulder City together.” Kyle said, turning around and looking at the presents. “This one says it’s to Brian from Santa, do you want to open it?” He asked, handing a small package to Brian.
“Sure, why not,” the teenager responded, flashing a quizzical look towards the adults. A small manilla envelope, Brian tore an end off, upended it and watched as a full set of guitar strings fell into his hands.
Peter picked up a round box and read the tag. “This one is for Zach, it’s from ‘Mom.’” Aubrey blushed as the box was passed to her son.
Zach pulled the end of the green bow, untying the ribbon and carefully lifting off the lid. Gingerly, he set the box on the coffee table and pulled out a brown, worn leather fedora. “Is it dad’s?” He asked, looking at his mother.
“Yeah, after he passed I kept it for you. I remember how many times he had to pull it off of you growing up. You loved that hat almost as much as he did.”
“More,” Zach breathed, a tear forming in the corner of his eyes. Delicately, he placed the hat on his head, “I thought you had gotten rid of it when you re-married.”
“Nope,” Aubrey smiled. “Look in the box.”
Zach pulled out a silver chain, a pocket watch dangling from it. “If we can ever figure out what time it is again, this will be great!”
“Now who’s next?” Aubrey bent down from where she was sitting and picked up a small container that looked to have once held earrings. “Peter, this is for you, from Judson and I.”
Peter opened the hinged lid, revealing a pair of coins. Before his mouth could form the question, Aubrey explained.
“While I was searching for the decorations, I came across a box, tucked into a corner of our attic. They were inside of it. They’re obols, from about 200 BC or so. Strangely, I don’t remember when we got them, but I know we’ve had them for a while.”
“But why’d you give them to me? They’re probably pretty valuable if they’re that old.”
“Right now, we need stuff to trade, and I doubt anyone will take those coins in exchange for some corn or some green beans. Plus, you know what’s even stranger, the box was labeled for Peter.”
Peter took the coins and turned them over in his hand, “Who is this on them?”
Judson chimed in, “His name was Demetrius, and he was never defeated in battle from what I understand, so we hope they bring you luck.”
“Here Zach,” Amy reached out, holding out her closed hand, a short length of chain hanging from it. “Peter’s been helping me put a hole through it.”
Zach took the object and let the chain dangle. “Is this?”
“Yep, it’s the bullet I pulled out of you.”
“Thank you, I’ve wondered on and off what happened to it.”
“Can I open mine now?” Kyle reached for a large package underneath the tree.
“No,” Julie responded, you can be patient.
“Is there one for Sarah under here?” Peter asked, searching through the few remaining presents. “Ah, here it is.”
“What is it?” she asked, taking the offered package.
“Well, open it and find out,” Peter half smiled, still perplexed by his present.
Sarah did, and pulled out a gold chain, followed by an ornamental letter H. She mouthed the words. “Sarah, with an H.”
“I saw that and thought of you, just hadn’t found the right time to give it to you yet.”
“It’s great, thank you!”
“Here’s one for Amy,” Zach said, pulling out a box with her name on it.
Furrowing her eyebrows at the clinking sound the contents made, she pulled the flaps of the box open, revealing a white metal box. She unlatched and opened it, revealing a medical field kit. “This looks like it came from an ambulance.”
“Yeah, we traded with the Marquis for it. There’s more, pull out the box.”
Underneath the kit was a large hardcover book on medicinal herbs. “We figured it might be worth knowing all of this in case they don’t start manufacturing drugs.” Zach said.
“And for our hosts. First off, we all would like to say thank you for allowing us to stay,” Peter began.
“It’s been our pleasure, we appreciate all of the help you’ve offered us.” Judson replied.
“Regardless, your present is out in your shed. We’ve managed to get you a full set of tools to replace the one’s we’ve been using all winter. I also found a pedal powered potters wheel I think I can rig as a grinder to keep what you have sharp. And for you,” Peter turned to Aubrey, “We have a full set of cast iron cookware out there too. It should last you a good long while, or it will make for great trade should you need anything else.”
“Or, you could always come with us when we go towards Boulder City after the weather calms down some,” Zach added.
“I’m not so sure about that, we’d just slow you down, besides, we like the farm life. This ain’t much different you know?” Judson said.
“Well, think about it.”
“Now is it time for me to open mine?” Kyle asked.
“Sure,” Julie handed the box to the boy who took no time to open it up. “It’s not pink!” He said, pulling out the black winter coat.
“Nope, no it’s not.” Aubrey smiled. “Now who wants to help me with that turkey?”