The Christmas Apprentice

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“Oh, hello Christmas.  Long time no see.”   I crawled out of my lounge chair to give him a hug.  I was not really surprised to see my old friend.  He had never failed in his visits, always bringing a word of comfort and friendly greetings. “I’ll get us a couple of hot buttered rums.  Was looking for an excuse to have one anyway.”

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“Oh, delicious idea.  It’s not been so long, though.  Only a year, remember?  I came to see you a week before Christmas last year, but I’m running behind schedule this season.  We have only three days before the big day this year.  How have you been feeling, my dear?

 

“Oh, all right for my age, I guess.  I was 75 in August, you know.  The arthritis makes it hard to get around as much as I’d like, but the pacemaker is keeping me going.  Do you want to know about my new support hose?  I am disappointed in their quality, considering their price.  I think the only thing they support is the bank account of the department store where I bought them.”

Laughing, Christmas said, “I always look forward to my visits with you.  Instead of asking for things, you always find a way to make me laugh.  But I look in your face and I see that you are tired, my dear.  I know that look because I am tired, too.”

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“Seventy-five years of being obnoxious will make anyone tired, you silly old goat!  But how can you be tired?  You are a spirit!  The Spirit of Christmas can’t get tired!”

“Oh, but we can, and I am.  I want very much to retire.”

Long silence.  “I am astonished!  Christmas retires?  What about all the little children?  What about all the people of the world who believe in you?”

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Christmas laughs again, his jolly voice booming in the small apartment.  “Surely you don’t think I am the only Spirit of Christmas?  There are many!  Can you really think just one person, uh, spirit, can do this enormous job?  The Santa/toys thing is just the tip of the iceberg, and people have made it so commercial, it has lost most of its meaning.  The real job is 365 days a year of providing comfort and cheer, and sometimes relief, to everyone.  That part of the job is still rewarding, but the sadness and pain one sees eventually wears the spirit out.  I have been serving humanity for only 580 years, but I have become…What is the phrase?…Oh, yes…Burned out.  There seems to be a significant amount of rum in this hot buttered.”

“You don’t just appear at Christmas?”

“Not at all, but it is the most difficult time of the year. People get so emotional, especially when I have to take someone away.”

“Take someone away?  As in death?  Don’t tell me you are the Spirit of Death!”  Long pause.  “Are you here tonight to take me away?”

“Now, don’t be upset with your old friend, my dear.  In fact, I have a job opening for you – A very good job with benefits you can’t even imagine.  I need your help.  I am asking you to come with me and be my assistant for a year.  I will show you the ropes, and after a year, you will be the Spirit of Christmas.”

“No.  No.  I don’t want to die.  I’m not ready.  I won’t come with you.”

“Look at your television screen for a minute, dear.  I want to show you where you will be in six months if you don’t come with me now.”  He patted her arm consolingly.

She couldn’t help but look.  Was this some kind of crazy You Tube trick he was pulling on her?  But, no.  There she was, sitting in a wheelchair, alone in a bleak room, eating something from a tray, but spilling most of it down her front.  She could barely see, and her body ached from head to toe.  She felt herself wet her pants.  “Oh, my God!”

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“You see?  We need each other.  I have chosen you to be my assistant for a number of reasons.  You have a sense of humor that will see you through the most difficult times.  You are basically kind and compassionate, and have honest, down-to-earth common sense.  You are somewhat irreverent, in the sense that you are not impressed at all by wealth or fame, and you know how to tell difficult people where they can go when they are wasting your time.”

I gazed at my old friend Christmas, partly in wonder, partly in horror, and with a generous portion of curiosity.  “Then, in fact, I would be Death.  I used to watch all those old movies, Death Takes a Holiday, that Twilight Zone one where Robert Redford posed as a policeman.  And the Meet Joe Black movie – it’s almost like this.  And the ghost stories.  All the ghost stories.  Am I dreaming a ghost story right now?”

He shook his head and smiled.  “You’re going to be just fine, you know.  You’re with me. Now go brush your teeth and get into your bed.  You won’t need to take your pain medication or your sleep medication tonight.  I’ve got you.”  He smiled and kissed her lightly on the forehead.

“Can I call my daughter?”

“No, but I’ll be extra gentle with her.  It’s better this way.”

I shuffled away towards the bathroom.  The pain ruling every step was gradually turning into a pleasant floating sensation.

He looked at his hot buttered rum, which had gone cold.  “Merry Christmas,” he whispered.

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All is well.  Good night and Merry Christmas from Sweet Nan.

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