A Different Christmas Story (Chapter 6)
Enjoy Chapter 6! Starting today I will post a chapter daily until we complete the story on Christmas Eve.
Happy Holidays! -- George
A Little Christmas Magic
Cassie and Scott pulled in front of the hospice wing of the hospital and backed into the parking space reserved for staff only. Their car displayed a special permit issued to hospital volunteers. They made their delivery of assorted small gifts to each room. With only a handful of gifts remaining, Cassie finished up while Scott returned, alone, to the station wagon.
In the back of the car there was one more big bag of gifts and, just beyond that, a medium sized cardboard box. Scott grabbed the cardboard box and quickly assembled the flocked artificial Christmas tree. As he worked he thought about the past six months he and Cassie had spent getting to know Georgia Petros. He knew in his heart that her end was near and he choked up a bit, tears welling in his eyes, as he wrapped the sparkling lights around the tree. He cleared his throat, wiped his eyes with the back of his hand and carried the tree back into the hospital where Cassie was waiting for him.
Scott and Cassie entered the room together with Scott holding the tree in one hand. “Surprise!” they called out in unison.
Georgia's face filled with delight and her eyes sparkled as brightly as the tree. Mesmerized Georgia asked them if it was a magic tree. For a moment the two visitors were slightly shaken and not sure how to react. Scott felt his throat tighten and became worried the tears would well up again. It wasn’t the question Georgia asked but the childlike manner in which she asked it. Cassie recovered first and answered “Of course it is.”
Georgia smiled radiantly from ear to ear as she stated matter of factly “You know all white Christmas trees are magic.”
The three of them sat quietly for awhile, watching the blinking lights on the magic Christmas tree. Cassie squeezed Scott’s hand and caught his eyes -- her look reminding him they had so much more to do that evening. They warmly said their goodbyes to Georgia and promised her they would return tomorrow, Christmas day, to visit with her. Georgia smiled and nodded, continuing to gaze into the sparkling lights as Scott and Cassie left the room.
Back down in the hospital parking lot, Scott opened the car door for Cassie, gently pushed it shut and stood for a moment outside the door watching the woman he loved sit in silence with her eyes closed and her head bowed ever so slightly. Her lips moved in prayer. He knew it was for Georgia. For the third time that night Scott’s throat tightened and his eyes welled up. He took a deep breath then watched for Cassie's eyes to open before he opened the driver’s side door and slid in. He grabbed her soft hand and squeezed it and started the car. It was getting late and it would still take them a half hour to get to the last stop before returning to the church for the Christmas potluck -- the federal prison just outside of town.
Georgia, now alone in her room, was almost hypnotized by the blinking lights on her white Christmas tree. When the nurse came into the room Georgia suggested they move the tree away from the overhead heater vent. She was worried it would dry out. Her mind was wandering again and she had forgotten it was an artificial tree.
The nurse assured Georgia not to worry and that the tree had plenty of water. Then she smoothed Georgia’s hair and rearranged the bedding. As she tucked in the corner of the bedsheet the nurse reminded Georgia that the doctor would soon come by to check on her. As she left the room the nurse overheard Georgia talking aloud to the tree.
“Poor thing.” She thought to herself. “Such a sweet woman. I’ll be sad to see her go”.
As Dr. Phil entered the room Georgia looked up said “Oh good, you’re here Mac. I have been waiting to talk to you.” This was the second time she had confused her doctor for the butcher from Save Rite Market.
After 40 years of practice Dr. Phil was used to this kind of thing. The white overcoat didn’t help. Georgia laid into him “I’ve got to tell you Mac, that last roast was terribly fatty. By the time I cut it all out there was barely enough meat left for evening meal.”
Dr. Phil, too tired from his day to bother with correcting her, humored her and responded “Please accept my apology Georgia. Sometimes you just get a bad piece of meat. The next one is on me okay?”
He quickly changed the subject “What a beautiful tree Georgia.”
“Oh yes, thank you Doctor” she replied, recognizing him again. “it is a magic tree and it talks to me.”
“That's real nice Georgia.” Doctor Phil replied with a warm but superficial smile “I will try to stop in tomorrow for a visit, but... “
She interrupted him, “Don't worry doctor, my boy Danny will be here.”
“Congratulations Georgia! That’s great news. When did this happen?”
Dr. Phil and every staff member at the hospital knew Georgia and Danny's story and Danny’s vigil for early release.
“I just found out” Georgia said quickly with a sly smile “The tree told me.”
“I see.” Dr. Phil looked down at his feet. Then he buried his discomfort, flashed her a smile and said “Merry Christmas Georgia” as he walked out of the room. Georgia gazed dreamily once again into the bright white of the Christmas tree.
On the outside of town, Scott and Cassie approached the mid-to-high security Federal Prison. Scott heard Cassie breath in sharply and squeezed her hand. It looked like a city from a bad dream. That’s what it really was, a city you never really want to visit, a self-contained hive of misfits and miscreants. The gun towers looming in the distance were an ominous reminder of the population.
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