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Underneath the Christmas Tree

Short story By: LittleStar
Other


Tom hates Christmas and everything about it. He didn't always loathe this festive occasion. In fact, he used to be a completely different person. But things happened and Tom's heart turned hard and cold. No one dared cross the grumpy man. But one jolly old man came with hopes to bring light into Tom's eyes once again.


Submitted:Nov 17, 2012    Reads: 32    Comments: 0    Likes: 0   


Warm smiles and merry colors invaded the small town. People walking in two's or three's stroll around never straying away from those they loved. Playful laughter and songs of joy harmonize with the peaceful serenade of the season. It was Christmas time and everyone was enjoying the festive occasion - all but one.

Down the corner of the street in a small nearly abandoned house lived a poor man, Tom. He had cloudy grey eyes and a wrinkled face that made him look years older than he was. The youth living in town feared him and the adults looked down at him. Not many people know about Tom. The few who knew him left and never returned. Ever since then, he hated Christmas and all its festivities. He loathed the happiness and brightly colored evergreen trees and cheerful gift giving for they only reminded him of his loneliness and misery. It was too late for him. His family hated him, and so did his few friends. His dog, Scott, left him, too. All the while he thought dogs would be loyal, but Scott was the first to leave him. He didn't exactly walk away and abandon his master. Scott died of cancer. Following Scott was his beloved daughter, Natalie who died because of a brain tumor. After his little girl's death, things fell apart and Tom began to change.

It was on Christmas Eve that his family decided to leave him finally. It was only when he was alone that Tom he realized his faults, but all his begging and crying did nothing to his family whose hearts have seemingly turned to stone.

Years have passed and the man's heart grew cold and dark. Then came a time when Tom ventured out of his beaten down old house to do some grocery shopping at the town square. It was the Yuletide season. A large Christmas tree sat right at the center of town giving joy to all who see. But for Tom, this tree was just another hindrance. 'Round the tree he went trying to ignore the brightly colored ornaments and joyous festivities. Carols could be heard at every corner of town sung by children and adults alike as families join their singing. "Joy to the world, the Lord is come!" "We wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!" "Silent night… Holy night…" With both palms pressed against his ears, Tom pushed forward hoping to get away as quickly as possible.

A relief washed over the man as the small grocery store materialized looking exactly the same as he remembered it. The outside remained unchanged, but the inside was a mixture of the colors red, green, yellow and white. Santa Claus figurines lined up the shelves as elf hats and shoes were displayed individually. "Merry Christmas, sir!" a store clerk greeted as Tom grumbled past. "Happy Holidays, sir!" another said carrying several small boxes, "Precious stones are on sale; the perfect gift for that special someone this holiday season! We have ru -" "No!" "But sir -!" "I said no!"

Tom burst in anger turning over tables of porcelain figures carefully aligned and ripping out Christmas ornaments from the walls. Shattered pieces of little ballerinas and reindeer figures fell on the floor causing the other buyers to rush out in panic. The employees rushed and tried to restrain Tom and calm their other customers. Tom's wrath overcame him as he pushed the poor personnel away who quickly ran off trying to phone the police. A large man dressed in red with rosy cheeks casually entered the store and witnessed Tom's anger. "Merry Christmas!" he greeted in a jolly tone that seemed rather out of place, "May I speak with you for a while, Tom?" Ignoring the cheerful old man, Tom continued to tear down the place as the store personnel rushed around panic-stricken. "Where are the police?!" one called to no one in particular. "Children calm down," the man in red said with a warm smile, "I will handle this." Puzzled but hopeless, the employees decided to allow the stranger to take charge.

"Tom!" he called as he followed the angry man, "Tom, listen to me for a while." Tom stared impatiently as he waited for a response. "You naughty man." The man said suddenly. "What are you talking about, old man? What do you want from me?! Who are you anyway?!" The man stood unmoved but began to speak again. "Let's take this somewhere more convenient. Come with me." "Where are you taking me?!" Tom yelled in protest, but the man kept on walking as Tom followed with uncertainty. Before they left, the man clapped his hands and the store was restored to its former state as if nothing happened. "How did you do that?" Tom asked in bewilderment. "I'll tell you later. Just follow me."

As they got out of the shop, a sleigh materialized in front of them. "Come on, Tom. I'll answer your questions along the way." The man called as he signaled Tom to join him. Tom grumbled but got in anyway. "You're crazy. Who are you, Santa Claus with his magic sleigh driven by flying reindeer? This had better be important, old man." "You'll see." He said with a hearty laugh. Before they knew it, the deer took off to the sky. "Ha! I'm dreaming. I knew something was wrong with this day." "Perhaps you are, Tom. But for now, it is not the time for you to wake up." "Whatever. Just answer my questions." "Well, if you haven't already noticed, I am who they call Santa Claus. I'm taking you to my toy factory in the North Pole to prepare you for a very special mission." "Mission?! I never agreed to do anything for you! Santa isn't even real. This is a dream, remember?" "Believe what you want, Tom. But whether you like it or not, you will be delivering gifts to children of all ages all over the world this Christmas." "Why me?! That's your job! Do it yourself! You aren't even real!" "You've been very naughty, but I believe you have goodness in you. I want you to see once again the true spirit of Christmas once again." "That's never going to happen! They all left me - every single one.." "Perhaps not completely. Well, anyway, we've reached the North Pole. Come! Let me introduce you."

Time passed and finally Tom was suited up and ready for Christmas Eve. He wasn't cooperative, but Santa had managed to convince the grumpy man to cooperate. "If you don't do this, you will never leave this place. The sooner you do this, the easier it will be for you!" "Ugh." "Ho ho ho! Good, good. We'll be off in a while. Here are the gifts and children you will be giving gifts to." "Eh." "I'll give to this half, you give to the other. Your first destination is China. Good luck and Merry Christmas!" With a snap of his fingers, Tom's sleigh had taken flight to China.

Tom had visited each house in the large country before he was set to go to the next country. A small whimper was heard at the back of the sleigh causing Tom to stop. "What?" he checked the list and scanned the children's names for anything he missed. Xian. He had forgotten one boy: the prince of China. He asked Santa for a puppy. "Why would he need to ask a fictional old man? He's the prince of China! He can just order his servants for one! Eh, whatever.." Soon, he arrived at a large establishment. "This must be the prince's place." Tom spoke with a grumble. "Alright dog, you better keep quiet, or I am personally going to send you to the pound." The dog made no noise and gently crept into the man's arms who cradled the puppy remembering his own.

Tom had successfully placed the sleeping puppy under the enormous Christmas tree of Xian's extravagant but rather lonely household. It seems that though he was rich, no one else was there to bask in his wealth. Returning to the sleigh, Tom set for his next destination: the Philippines. The first child in the list was of a poor family in contrast to Xian's wealth. Her name was Biday. She had sent a letter to Santa. It was written in messy but understandable handwriting.

Dear Santa,

Sabi po sa'min ni Nanay na kayo raw po ang nagpapatupad ng mga wish ng mga mabubuting bata tuwing pasko. Naging mabait naman po akong bata ngayong taon eh kaya sana po tuparin niyo po ang hiling ko sa inyo. Simple lang naman po ang gusto ko: na sana magkaroon kami ng kahit kaunting makakain ngayong Pasko. Simpleng Noche Buena lang po ang hinihingi ko. Di na po kasi kami halos nakakakain araw araw mula noong nawala si Itay at hirap na hirap na si Nanay sa pag-aalaga sa'ming lahat kaya sana po kahit sa araw lang na 'to makakakain kami ng masasarap na pagkain. Thank you po.

Nagmamahal,

Biday

Tom couldn't understand what the poor girl said, but her words seemed of pure intention. Her gift was a whole basket full of goods. It had cheese and ham and spaghetti and all those things you eat on Christmas. Tom had reached a small place with houses beside each other. They didn't even look like houses. The place let out a foul odor and Tom put both hands over his nose in an effort to block out the smell. The reindeer didn't fit in the narrow area so Tom had to make it there by foot. Even if they could fit, these homes had no chimneys that Tom could enter through. "I hate this job." He murmured under his breath as he delivered the gifts to each door as discretely as he could for it seemed that almost everyone was awake at this hour. Finally, at the end of the row of 'houses,' Tom had reached Biday's simple house. Inside, he could hear two children and a middle-aged woman talking. "Nay, gutom na 'ko!" came the voice of a young girl. "Ako rin, anak. Kaso lang, di ako nakapag-ipon para sa Noche Buena natin eh. Pasensya na. Di nanaman ako nakabenta kahapon eh." Answered the woman who was probably the mother. "Nay, Ana, 'wag kayong mag-alala. Nag-wish ako kay Santa Klaus na sana magka-Noche Buena tayo!" another young girl said in a hopeful tone. "Hay naku, Biday! Wala namang mapapala 'yang pagwwish mo eh! Kung totoo nga 'yang Santa na 'yan e di dapat ngayon kumakain na tayo ng masarap na hamon at keso!" the woman answered. "E Nay, baka naman po di pa po siya nakakarating!" the girl answered. "Hay, tigilan mo na 'yan, Biday! Ito oh, kumain nalang kayo ng sardinas na natira kahapon at magkaroon naman ng laman 'yang tiyan niyo." the woman said in reply. "Pa'no po kayo? Anong kakainin niyo?" "Wag mo na 'kong isipin. Ang importante, makakain kayo." Tom didn't know how he was going to leave the gift without getting noticed, so he decided to leave it outside of the small house and quickly left giving his best "Ho ho ho!" just to be sure Biday would hear him.

Quickly, Tom left and continued to distribute gifts in different parts of the Philippines and headed to the next country: Africa. Making sure he doesn't forget another royalty, Tom first went to the home of the African Prince, Abayomi. He asked Santa for a rabbit as his own had died just recently.

"What is it with princes and living creatures?" Tom grumbled as he left the prince's house and headed for the other parts of Africa. Tom had witnessed the poverty and health conditions of the Africans. Though his heart was made of stone, Tom couldn't help but feel a slight pity for them. For some reason, he felt glad that he was able to give them at least a small piece of joy through the gifts he had given them. He had heard of the hunger they go through every day through the news, but only now had he realized how difficult it had been for them. He distributed his gift to the last child and moved on to Egypt.

Cleopatera caught the attention of the man as he read the list. "Ha! Cleopat'e'ra. Who names their child that? That sounds like a name for a wannabe Cleopatra." Cleopatera was young peasant girl whose masters abused her and treated her savagely. Though she was experiencing a lot of hardships, her wish was simple. All she asked for was a simple toy boat. Not once in her short life had she had a toy to herself. She wished hard for the simple toy and promised that she would not ask for any more. As Tom learned of the story of the poor child, he regretted mocking her name and silently went to her master's house where she was kept and put the simple gift beside the sleeping girl with a fragile looking body and crept out just as silently. Next on Santa's list was Alaska.

As Tom neared his destination, he could feel the cold Alaskan breeze drawing closer and sending chills through his entire body. This place was colder than he imagined and decided that he wanted to distribute the gifts at an even faster pace as to avoid 'freezing to death.' "Okay, next kid is Eldon." Tom read through the list out loud making sure he wouldn't forget anything. He got a simple box that contained several candles and matchsticks for a child named Eldon who just wanted some warmth to survive the cold winters. "He could've just asked for a sweater like other kids." Tom told himself through gritted teeth, "Well it's his loss, not mine." As soon as Eldon found the gift underneath his small Christmas tree, the young boy's face lit up just as the candle's wick caught fire. Tom watched as several other children emerged from the shadows and came 'round the fire to enjoy the little warmth and joy that the candle provided. Tom, for the first time ever since he could remember, felt his heart warm as Eldon shared his little candle with the other children. "Of course he asked for a candle. If he got a sweater, only he would feel the warmth that it gave." Tom had almost smiled then. "Okay," he stalled as if someone was watching him, "United Kingdom next."

He distributed gifts with a brighter spirit than when he first started. Instead of tossing the gifts under the tree, Tom had a slight change of heart and made sure to place the gifts more carefully under the tree and made more of an effort in giving. Although he didn't want to admit it, Tom was beginning to feel the joy of Christmas. He forced himself not to smile and pretended not to care whenever he sees the warm smiles of the children who receive Santa's gifts. He tries to hide the joy he feels whenever hope is found in the eyes of a poor child whose wish had just come true. "Stop it Tom. That's stupid!" He would grumble to himself whenever he catches himself about to smile or watching in complete awe. He had reached the city of London. The last person on his list made his heart skip a beat. Natasha. The name had reminded him of his daughter - his only life and joy whose life had to be cut short. He couldn't help but remember his daughter in the girl's name. It was just so close. The reindeers stopped just above a hospital. "A hospital? This is where Natal - Natasha lives?" Tom asked himself. He discovered not long after that Natasha was a bedridden patient. Her breaths were numbered. It wouldn't be long before Natasha would die of her cancer. But the young girl knew it. She, like some other children, had written a letter to Santa.

Dearest Santa Claus,

In a few days, I would probably have breathed my last. I'm very grateful that I have lived long enough to even celebrate Christmas. I have two wishes. I hope that's not asking too much. I have really tried to be good. My first wish is for that doll that I had always longed for. The one I always look at whenever my mama and papa bring me to the shops. I've always wanted it, but I dare not ask mama and papa because they already spend too much for me to last even another day. I hoped that you could be the one to give the doll to me. I would be really glad if you did. My second wish is that mama and papa will be okay after I leave. I want them to still be happy. I already said all that I wanted to them. I've already told them not to cry, but I can see in their eyes that they are in pain - maybe in even more pain than I'm experiencing. Please Santa, it is okay if you don't grant me my first wish. But I wish that my second wish would come true. I want mama and papa to be happy, but I don't know how to do that when I'm gone. But maybe you can do something. If you can make millions of kids like me happy, maybe you can make two grown-ups happy too.

Sincerely,

Natasha

Tom couldn't help himself as his eyes welled up with tears. Natasha was a dying cancer patient. As he left Natasha's gift under the Christmas tree, he glanced at the frail girl who clutched tightly onto her mother's protective hand. His heart felt sympathy for the girl's parents. He had gone through the same, and until now had not gotten over the fact. Tom left the room in silence and returned to Santa's sleigh sobbing slightly where he was to make one last delivery for the night.

Tom had gone to every last house in the whole USA and set his course back to the North Pole to return the sleigh. But something was stopping him. Looking back at his list to see if he missed anyone, he noticed a name that wasn't there before. "Ben," Tom felt his heart pounding against his chest as he read the name, "No, it can't be! There's got to be lots of other Bens in America. That's it!" Tom couldn't help but feel uneasy as he thought of his little brother who had left him many years ago. "It's just a coincidence." Tom said, "There's got to be a lot of 12-year-old Bens in this part of the US, right?" Tom shook his head and read through the list again checking for any more information on Ben. Ben hadn't any more information apart from the address and name. Not even his wish was written down.

The reindeer had stopped just above the address where Ben lived in. Tom didn't know what gift Ben was supposed to be given. No gifts where left in Santa's sack and no wish was written in the list. He checked again to see if he missed anything and some words written in fine print materialized on the paper. "Ben - I wish Tom would come back. He was a jerk for some time and he's done some nasty things, but I'm sure he can change. He isn't a bad man." Tom didn't know what to think of what he had just read. "That can't be true! Santa made it up! I've been such a jerk. Why would he?!" Tom cried out in frustration to no one in particular, but went either way hoping that his questions would be answered if he went.

Instead of going through the chimney like he would do at other houses, Tom rang the doorbell and waited casually in front of the door. A woman with black eyes and dirty blonde hair tied up neatly in a ponytail answered the door. "Ho ho ho! Merry Christmas!" the woman laughed, "Are you here to give us some presents, Santa Claus?" "Amanda, don't you recognize me?" Tom said puzzled. "What? Of course I do! You're Santa Claus! You have the beard and belly and all. Wait, how do you know me?" she asked suddenly realizing she was called by her first name. "Well, I am your ex-husband…" Tom said half to himself. "Tom?" Amanda said surprised, "Tom, what are you doing here?" Tom couldn't make out if she was glad or mad, but he answered her question anyway. "I'm here to deliver Ben's Christmas gift." "Hey Amanda, who was at the door?" a young voice that Tom immediately recognized called out and appeared beside Amanda. "Hey, it's Santa Claus!" "Ben, that isn't Santa." Amanda told her little brother. "Really? Who is it then? He looks like Santa to me." Ben asked. "It's me, Tom." Tom spoke suddenly as his costume began to disappear returning him to his original form as if by magic. "Whoa! Tom, it is you! Santa does grant wishes!" Ben embraced Tom as if nothing happened in the past. "Ben… Amanda… I'm so sorry for everything." Tom said nervously but with pure intentions. "You've already been forgiven, Tom." Amanda said joining her brother in the embrace, "You were just overcome by your emotions." "I shouldn't have done that. I should have been there for you when you needed me most." Tom's voice began to quiver as he spoke. "It's alright, Tom. Don't worry." Amanda said pulling him in closer as if she was afraid of being away from him again. "Ho ho ho!" came a cheerful laugh making the three pull apart and look up at the sky. Santa waved from his sleigh and disappeared in the sky just as fast. "Was that -?" Amanda asked with a giggle. "Yes it was. Santa Claus is real, dear." Tom answered happily, "And he really does grant wishes. If it wasn't for him, I would still be in that broken down old house grumpy and alone. I had learned once again the true meaning of Christmas."

A/N: Originally, this was written for a project done by pair, but I am content at how it turned out so I posted it here. Not all of this is mine though. I may have worded everything out, but I've had some help with the idea of the story from a friend of mine. The picture was made by the same friend as well, so thank you. :) I don't know which category (again, lol) to place this in, so it is in other. :P





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