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BLOG - ER Ramachandran

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

The Christmas Gift

A short story of mine was published in Deccan Herald last Christmas; would like to share it with MBP readers. Merry X-mas to all. - ERR

As the train sped towards Vasco, from Mumbai, John’s mind raced back… My God! Fourteen years in a jail. At Fifty I am almost old! Will Bessy and Michael recognize me? Michael, then was just a baby. Bessy…the look she gave, before he was hauled to the Solitary Jail, said it all. It had haunted him… God, why did you do this to us? They were poor, no doubt, but worked hard to secure the future of Michael. When they were hoping for better times, fate had given them a knockout punch…

As he looked at the moonless cold night, his mind went back to that fateful night. After a busy day in the fields, they were tired and getting ready to bed, when his buddies came home. Bessy was angry, as she knew John would go with them and return fully drunk. Since it was the Christmas week, the guys wanted to go and have a drink. Little he realized that the outing would change their lives forever…

While returning home, he had got into a heated argument with Billy, the big Bully. Billy had made snide remarks throughout the evening, which he had ignored. But when he said something about Bessy, that was it. In a fit of drunken rage, he had leapt at Billy’s throat and suddenly, Billy’s face had turned blue with his tongue out.

The Judge had ordered John to be hanged, but surprisingly, Mary, Billy’s mother had asked the Judge to change it to life Imprisonment. She was keen that John should die a slow death in jail and that’s the punishment she wanted for her son’s killer.

In the beginning, Bessy used to come with Michael, stare silently and go back. But that stopped after sometime. He had not received any communication from the outside world. But every Christmas, there was a parcel for him - a pair of knitted mittens and a fruit cake - without any letter. Gradually, he had lost the count of years too….

The train reached Vasco at midnight. He felt weak as he started walking towards his village. Nothing had changed in the village. A few who were out didn’t recognize him.

As he neared his hut, his pulse raced. His head was spinning. Michael must have become a young man and will Bessy forgive him now…

When he entered, he saw an old shrunken woman sitting in a corner against the light of a lantern. As John went close to her, she held out a Cake and a pair of Mittens and stoked his head. He realized it was Christmas Night…

Next to her, was a photograph of young Michael and Bessy. As his eyes met her tearful eyes, she nodded and caressed his head. Bessy and Michael were no more.

Slowly, It dawned on him. It was Mary, Billy’s mother who was sending the Gift to him every Christmas.



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