Bennie had a secret.
He smiled at this thought, finishing up his work on the computer. Logging off, he grabbed his coat and pulled it on. He picked up his satchel and hooked it onto his shoulder. Digging into his satchel, he found his gloves and knit hat. Putting it on, he realizes that it's Friday and tomorrow is Christmas Eve. He was certainly looking forward to the weekend. Walking to the elevators, Bing Crosby's voice started to sing Silent Night over the speakers. As the elevator door dings open, an office mate appeared at his side.
"Bennie, Merry Christmas," she said smiling.
Bennie did not smile back. Instead he offered to let her enter the elevator first. "After you."
She attempted at small talk. "Do you have any big plans for Christmas?"
"No, not really. Just something quiet, I suppose."
Inside he was kicking himself. Did I say too much?, he wondered. He knew he was supposed to ask what her plans for Christmas, but he honestly didn't want to know. The ride down the elevator kept playing Bing Crosby's Silent Night.
"Don't you just love this song?" She asked. "It's so slow and melodic. I just love the lyrics." After a moment she started to sing along. "Holy infant, so tender and mild. Sleep in heavenly peace. Sleep in heavenly peace."
Bennie was enchanted for a moment, listening to her sing. He didn't even realize the elevator doors had opened to the first floor.
"Have a Merry Christmas, Bennie. See you next Tuesday."
She walked briskly out of the building and into the cold snowy night. Bennie watched her go, still mesmerized. Bing Crosby finished singing his Christmas lullaby, and the elevator doors were about to close on Bennie. He walked quickly out of the elevator and stood at the building's front doors for a moment. He thought of his weekend, how he was hoping it would go. Christmas has been the same every year, as long as he can remember; lonely, dark, quiet, and cold. This Christmas would be no different. Well, with one exception. He smiled again, at his secret.
"Trying to psych yourself up to get out in that cold?"
The voice startled Bennie out of his thoughts. He turned on his heels and found his boss. His once-smile turned down and said "Yes, sir."
"May I offer you a ride home? I know you only live a couple of blocks from here, so it would be no problem at all."
Bennie thought about that for a moment, then thought better of the situation. "I appreciate the offer, but no thanks. I like the walk. It clears my head."
"Okay, then. You be careful out there. Merry Christmas to you, Bennie."
Since he didn't want to be rude to his boss, he said, "To you too, sir."
At that, Bennie opened the doors to the cold snowy night and began to walk east, away from the parking lot. His boss headed the other direction, obviously, to get to his car. The traffic was very minimal. Bennie thought about grabbing some dinner on the way home. There's a nice sushi place nearly halfway between his work and his apartment. His decision made, he walked a bit faster, almost excited about some warm green tea and maybe a California Roll. He was almost to the door when a couple walked out of the sushi restaurant and opened their separate umbrellas. They kissed, laughed, and walked together into the night. The snow capped the top of the road and the cars that lined it. As it began to snow again, Bennie went into the restaurant and found his usual spot.
After a satisfying dinner, Bennie walked the last block to his apartment. Using his key, the main door of the complex opened, the hinges squeaking loudly to announce his presence. Ignoring the mailboxes, Bennie took the stairs to the second floor and down the hall to his small apartment.
It's a meager one-bedroom apartment. The kitchen was small, and there was very little space. No matter, Bennie thought to himself. I really don't need very much space.
Going through his usual ritual, he hung his coat on the coat rack, tucking his gloves and knit hat into the pockets of the coat. He brought his satchel to the small kitchen table, where only a single chair sits. His laptop was folded closed on the opposite side of his chair. Taking the contents of his half-eaten lunch from his satchel, he disposes of it into the kitchen trash can and rinses out the container.
Weary and tired, Bennie toes off his shoes and soccer-style kicks them by the front door. Not even unbuttoning his shirt, he walks to his bedroom and falls onto the bed. He sleeps in his work clothes.
It is Christmas Eve. Bennie wakes with a pounding headache. Shuffling to the kitchen, he starts a pot of coffee and heads for the bathroom. Throwing cold water into his face, he shivers a bit and takes off yesterday's clothes. Starting the shower, he tests the water. Sometimes the landlord turns off the hot-water heater for the apartment complex. Satisfied that he has enough hot water, he steps in and lets the warm water hit the back of his neck for a while. Finishing up with soap and shampoo, Bennie steps out and grabs his robe off the hook.
A bit more awake, he grabs a cup of coffee and opens his laptop. He spends his Saturday on the computer, playing games and surfing the internet.
At bedtime, Bennie shucks off his robe and reaches into his dresser for his boxer shorts. Slipping under the covers, Bennie realizes that tomorrow is the day. Tomorrow is Christmas. Falling asleep quickly, he has few dreams.
Sunday, Christmas morning, Bennie grabs a t-shirt and pulls it over his head. He makes a pot of coffee and waits for it to finish brewing. Sipping on the hot liquid, he felt it down into his toes. Today is Christmas. Today is the day.
He spent the day preparing. He is excited and nervous at the same time. Bennie just wants to keep up the family tradition. He gets the box from underneath his Christmas tree and opens it. Putting the contents down on his kitchen table, he opens his laptop to his music. He scrolls down and finds the song. The perfect song. Silent Night, by Bing Crosby. He hits the repeat button, for the song to repeat several times.
The slow steady music begins and then the words. "Silent night, holy night. All is calm, all is bright…"
At that moment, Bennie takes the gun, aims it at his head and shoots.