By Jim Bates

The old man pulled back the curtain and peered into his front yard. It was covered with dirty snow, the stalks of forgotten annuals bent and frozen. He frowned. Should have pulled them last October. Who cared anyway? He let the curtain fall back and made his way to his worn armchair. He sank wearily into the cushion, grabbed his ever-present glass of whiskey, flipped on the television, and gazed at the flickering image of “Miracle on 34th Street.” After a while he fell asleep, thankful for the escape. His wife Abby had died that summer, and he lived alone in their home full of memories. All he wanted was to somehow make it through the holidays. Was that asking too much?

Rrrrrring! Rrrrring! The doorbell startled him awake. What the…? The house was dark except for the image on the television. He looked toward the front door. Rrrrring! Rrrring! Damn. Outside, he heard singing. “Joy to the world. The Lord is come.” Shit. That was the last thing he needed. Carolers singing songs of peace and joy. 

He stumbled to the door, yanked it open, and yelled, “Get out of here!” He caught only a glimpse of a bundled-up group of neighborhood parents and children before slamming it shut. He leaned against the door, hand on his heart, panting. Then he turned the lights off and went back to his whiskey and television. He raised his glass in a toast to the season. “Here’s to nothing.” Then he passed out.

When he awoke in the morning, something made him get up from his chair and go to the front window. He pulled back the curtain and gasped. The world outside had been magically transformed by freshly fallen snow. He noticed a red cardinal and its mate flitting in nearby bushes. Out on the street, a man and a woman wearing matching red and green stocking caps were jauntily walking their black and white terrier. The sun made the snow sparkle like jeweled crystals. 

A tear suddenly formed and rolled down his cheek. It was the kind of day Abby would have loved. She would have made a thick beef and barley soup while he was outside shoveling the sidewalk. Then they would have gone for a walk together. Oh, my, how he missed her.

He went to the front door for the newspaper. As he opened it, he noticed a wreath. It was made of balsam fir and had a red bow tied to it. “Merry Christmas,” the tag said. There was a set of small footprints in the snow. He didn’t have to think, but knew instinctively they were from one of his neighbor’s children. He couldn’t help it. He started to cry. 

That night, he turned the outdoor light on. When the carolers came to the door, he opened it wide. “Merry Christmas!” he called out and began to sing with them. A little girl stepped forward and took his hand. “Merry Christmas,” she said.

Jim lives in a small town twenty miles west of Minneapolis, Minnesota. His stories have appeared online in CafeLitThe Writers’ Cafe MagazineCabinet of HeedParagraph Planet, Nailpolish Stories, Ariel Chart, Potato Soup Journal, Literary Yard, Spillwords and The Drabble, and in print publications: A Million Ways, Mused Literary Journal, Gleam Flash Fiction Anthology #2 and The Best of CafeLit 8. You can also check out his blog to see more:

4 thoughts on “The Wreath

  1. A beautifully narrated emotions. Loneliness, losing one’s companion in life & above all old age. God heals our wounds internally. He awakens the feeling that no one is alone in this world. His constant care saves us from falling a wreck.


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