512 Words

The Day After Christmas

M. Stanley Bubien

It was the day after Christmas, and she wondered what had motivated her to come to the mall today. Frowning people pressed on all sides, and she stood on her tiptoes to search for her husband---who she'd lost when he'd fled to return some shoes.

She shook her head and frowned too.

The crowd tightened, and a teenager with baggy pants and a chain hanging from his pocket brushed against her. As he passed, his chain caught her purse, yanking it from her shoulder.

"Hey!" she yelled. The teen ignored her, disappearing into the crowd.

"You jerk!" she called after him, and several scowls turned her way. Bending to retrieve her purse, she swore freely, doing so only because she knew no one would really hear, but at the same time wishing everyone could.

Replacing the strap upon her shoulder, a tune reached her.

Hark the herald angels sing...

The crowd shifted toward the sound, but it was the opposite direction she wanted to go.

"No. No." she said as she tried to dodge between bodies. "Not that way. Stop. Wait. Let me through. I have to return these sweaters." But it was futile. The press subsided only after forcing her directly in front of the singers.

Glory to the newborn king...

"Don't they know it's after Christmas," she mumbled to an elderly man whose wrinkly jowls hung below his face. He glanced at her to respond, but the harmony lifted toward a crescendo, commanding the attention of everyone in the mall.

Joyful all ye nations rise...

Before her eyes, the old man's features softened, and his loose-fitting skin smoothed while his lips curled upward in a smile. But it wasn't just him, she realized; this change had come over the whole crowd. Looking around, where frowns once dominated, she glimpsed smiling face after smiling face.

In wonder, she cocked her head and listened.

Join the triumph of the skies...

Each note resonated inside her, making her tingle all over, until---all too soon---the song quieted to its conclusion.

She let go a soft sigh. Making a decision, she forgot about her unwanted sweaters and pressed outward through the crowd. "Excuse me," she said, navigating between toes and trying to keep from crushing people's packages. "I'm sorry. Pardon me." The people responded with grins and nods, even the man whose coffee spilled because she bumped his arm.

Breaking free, she heaved a breath of relief, for she saw the way toward the shoe store was clear.

"The last place I saw him," she told herself. "That's where I'll start." As she headed off in search of her husband, a new song began behind her, and she hummed along lightly without realizing it.

Joy to the world the Lord is born,
Let heaven and nature sing...

She caught sight of her husband. He sat on a bench, frowning at everyone who passed. With a grin so wide that her teeth shown, she went to her husband's rescue, and hand outstretched, she pulled him toward the carollers singing their songs of Christmas.

Based on a true story.
Thanks to Bob Siegel and James Carkagis.

Copyright ©1997 M. Stanley Bubien. All Rights Reserved.

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January, 1997
Issue #9

512 Words