Black Birds Christmas Carol
All boarded up now at the end of this now abandoned lane of old colonial houses that had seen far better days. Along this litter strewn roadway of for sale signs that look to not be holdin' out much hope of a buyer. In a small town that has long lost its economic bass. Followed by a steady relocation of almost all its community. Stands this last house to become vacant in this soon to be ghost town. It was occupied by an old man who reached the end of his time. A time once as vibrant as this town had once been. He had retired here and with time on his hands. Decided to take up a hobby he dabbled off and on with. That of hand crafting, painting as well as animating a little troupe of marionettes. He had become quite a craftsman at creating and stringing up his new companions. Not to mention putting on a most delightful little show about town with his tethered performers. Yes he became a most sought after showmen at town hall get togethers, church bazaars and county fairs in those days. Though his most enjoyed and loved by all were his Christmas extravaganzas. Yes indeed they were themed along the lines of Charles Dickens. They started as little shows for the children. Then quickly caught on with all the young and old alike. So much so that after a year or two became an elaborate affair. Incorporating the help and particapating efforts of two eager enthusiast. With just the right touch of melancholy threading through and leading up and to the most warm hearted sentiments of love, hope and reverence. That drew not just all the locals but many out of towners as well. Yes he and little troup of costumed actors and singing dancers soon became a main event of the holiday season. He refered to 'em as his kids There were a special girl and boy. They were the first ones he started all this with. He tinkered many times over perfecting them till he felt satisfied. Yes they were his favorites. Not that he would let on to the others mind you. But through the his now gained crafting skill that cleared the way for the rest to come rather quickly. Yep, they were off to the races from there for a good five years runnin'. That is till things took a downward turn.
You see another county over a ways had virually exspanded overnight it seemed. Strip malls, theathers, movie houses and taverns along with the municipalities and a bloomin' nightlife. It had become a hub for commerce. Which in turn made realitively short work of counties that happened to be out a ways from the railway and interstate traffic. Yes it became a magnet that just sucked the life outta surrounding towns. Good old Mac's town held out as long as it could but was doomed to dry up. Just like many a town and/or county off main street somewhere in nowhere U.S.A. First the little shops then the local business's. All had to pick up stakes and relocate to where the action was. Then at first houses/homes one by one went up for sale. There bein' no buyers for this area. A rapid exodus followed of owners that had to just leave it all behind. The last of which tried in vein to get good old Mac to do the same but he had no place to go and was too old to start over. He promised to do so but deep down they as well as he knew that it wouldn't happen. He had a good run he felt so he told everyone things will turn around again just wait and see. They sadly hummored him and went on their way. Leavin' him and his kids to stick it out to the better end. There were a few other hold outs as well but they all were on the far side of town. They would check up on him once a week and see that if he may be needing anything. Evenually they had set up a place in the other county for him live. An old folks home as they were called back then. He agreed only if he could spend one more Christmas here in his own home. To which all agreed and arranged to take him the week after, just before the new year. So it was set. Much to their relief. They really cared about and loved the old guy you know.
So the days went by and here he was on Christmas eve putzin' about the place. Feelin' kinda blue. He just thought he'd go up stairs and visit his two favorite marionettes Marie and Joey for a spell. On the way up the stairs he felt the digging pain in his upper back. Its been a come and go thing the past week or two. Seemed to be pressin' a bit harder lately and quite sharp right now as he reached the top step. It will pass he muttered to himself as he entered his bedroom. Feelin' a little dizzy he sat on the bed. Scooted the the foot of it where his old beat up trunk was. Leaning over to open it a sharp pain ran through his shoulder and arm. It took a minute or so then subsided. So again he reached over and opened the trunk lid. He smiled as he picked them up with their strings tangled and trailin' behind them. He chuckled a little and told them they looked just as worse for wear as he was feelin'.. It was just minutes before midnight when that pian really got a hold of him. Turning to the night table he poured a shot of his sleepin' whisky and downed it. Then another to chase it. Sitting in silence he turned to his two kids and said. "Well kids we've come a long ways together. We've had a really great run we did. But it looks like the final curtain is about drop. Just as well. Who wants to go to a home anyway." And with that he bid them a last goodbye. Placed them back in their own little shoe boxes. Closed the trunk lid but before goin; to bed he wrote somethong on the top of the lid then layed down for the night sayin' "Yep we sure did have a really great run". He then closed his eyes for the last time and thats how they found him a day later.
~As Time Flies~
That was Ten years ago and the place was cleared out and locked up since. Well almost that is. You see there is something that remains. Covered in dust and cobwebs. There's a turp draped over a small pile of stuff. Junk one would say but every Christmas eve. Just a wee bit before midnight something happens. First a dim moonlike glow starts to push back the total dark of the room. A dim but steady stagelight appears about ten feet round. Just touching on that same dusty turp. Then in a ghostly motion it starts to peel over and spread out in front of an old beat up trunk. The lid slowly lifts up and among assorted brick-a-brack someting stirs inside two shoe boxes.The lid opens slowly on one and and then the other. The hand and head of the boy marionette peeks out as the other does the same. They look at eachother and start to clime out and stand facing eachother. Both with sad painted frowns and each with a small tear just below one of their sad painted eyes. As they step in the center of that ghostly light. All around the perimeter of said light the dust starts to stir and slowly swirled into the shape of all the old troupe. Appearin' as a solemn audience. They had been given to the old mans two high school assistants and official apprentanses and sweet hearts along with a secret promise.
The two looked at them all and did a little bow to each. Then faced each other again reaching and holding each others little wooden hands and begin to perform a silent little waltz. As all the others sway and nod as though listening to music being played by a band off stage. Then at the first stroke of midnight from churchbells somewhere really far off. Each one fades and disapears in a small puff of dust one by one save for the girl and boy marionettes. Who have finished their silent waltz and looking at the now empty places the others had left in their stead. They turned to each other steping closer face to face with sad painted eyes with a tear just below one of 'em and a frown. They hold their wooden little hands and mimic a sweet little kiss. Then upon the final stroke they clime back up the trunk and into their respective little shoeboxes. With one last glance they mimic throwing another kiss to eachother. Then with a slow little wave goodbye. They close the lids over themselves. The trunk closes over them and the turp starts to rise up and covers over the whole pile of stuff. The ghostly lighting fades and goes out. The room is as it was. Dusty with undisturbed cobwebs all about in lightless silence. Till next Christmas. Although there did seem to be something kinda different in the wind that year.
Come early spring a few surveyors showed up. Followed by developers. All because that ever growing county had grown into a small city of sorts. Which in turn caused a demand for needed living space. In fact about half of the folks who left it all behind had did pretty well for themselves in said city and had returned to reclaim, referbish and/or rebuild their old properties. Well in about five years this old county had become a genuine satellite neighborhood. All redone with a touch of new and much of the old. Save for that big old house at the far end of a lane that seemed to be waiting for someone special to come. Well sure enough on a early November morning a work crew showed up and began to clean up and air the old house out. Two days later a mini van rolled up and a couple in their mid thirties steped out. Followed by a girl and boy twins about six or seven with a todler in tow. The parents had done quite well for themselves too and needed a biger place to raise their family. As the twins eager to check out their new home run up to and then inside. The mom holding the todler said to her hubby, I didn't know you had the crew paint the place. The hubby said that he didn't. The house looked nearly new. Mom said oh well, the moving truck will be here soon so they should check things out too. Hoping to get somewhat settled for the holidays as they were stepping in the doorway. They heard the twins calling for them real excited like to come up stairs to see what they found.
There in a room just off the master bedroom sat a big old trunk with the words For The Kids writen on the lid. The twins asked if they can open it. The parents passed a funny look between them selves and nodded yes. Inside were the two shoe boxes. The twins picked one each and opened them. There layin' inside were a girl and a boy marionettes. "Mommy they look brand now" the girl said in simi astonishment. And indeed they did. Not to mention both has bright shinny eyes and big joyful smiles to boot. The son said, "they look like they belong with the ones we have dad" Mom and dad passed that funny look between them again. Then dad said "They sure do son they sure do" Can we add them to ours and have a little show?" the boy asked. Dad replied, I'll do ya one better son. Hows about a little recital over at the church bassment? I believe there's the makings of a stage and some props we can use. The twins faces lit up like Christmas lights sayin' how they'd love that. You see they had a pretty good knack at workin' their own marionettes and had did a number of recitals in school with their mom and dad in the city. And did then quite well I might add.
Well you all musta guessed who they are by now right? Yes they are indeed the two sweetheart apprentanses old man Mac had given ten of his twelve marionettes to way back when. High schoolers then, a mom and dad now. Who right at this moment passed a different look between them. The look of a special joyful pride in the accomblishment between two souls who kept a special promise to someone special a long time ago. Along with the wonderful look of realizing said promise now being at last fulfilled.
Or is it a begining?
Epilogue: High in a moonlit sky there be a Black Bird wingin' its way back to its home nest. Secure in the knowledge that down there someplace somewhere U.S.A. at Christmas time. There's a presention of a recital encouraging the virtues of joy, hope, love and warm hearted reverence.
That of which my Black Bird and I and all of us over here
Wish to extend to all of you over there
Wishing you all
Merry Christmas Everyone