We love sharing short stories by our authors on Writing Wednesday. We had to skip yesterday to celebrate all things Leigh Raines for her debut release of We’re All Mad Here.
Leigh was the first author to sign on to French Press Bookworks and our second highest selling debut author in our Pen Name Publishing family!
Today, we’re going to highlight another great short from author David O’Sullivan. December’s theme of the month is “Magic”, set in place to celebrate the holiday season.
Don’t forget to check out David O’Sullivans quips and writing on his blog, www.davidgosullivan.com and follow him on twitter – @1davidosullivan
MAGIC OF CHRISTMAS
Seven o’clock at night Simon came downstairs and went out into the street into the freezing cold December, it being only a few days to Christmas. Under Simon’s arm he had tucked away from the cold his wife’s second volume of The Complete Works of William Shakespeare. The book was a beautiful object bound in leather surrounded with gold trim.
His wife had given it to him to take to the Gold Deal Pawn Shop. She had already pawned volume one for one hundred dollars and the man had told her that if she brought in volume two, he would give her an extra two hundred dollars.
“We need the money,” Sarah had told him. “We need it to make rent. We overspent on Christmas.”
“But it belonged to your mother,” Simon replied.
“I know, but I don’t want to be kicked out. It’s so cold outside and this is such a good apartment building, we’ve really good neighbors, it the best place I’ve ever lived. We need the money, I want to stay here.”
He took the Volume off the shelf and held it in his hand. “I’m sorry about this,” he apologized.
He stood on the sidewalk for a moment. Snow sat in dirty heaps about the light poles and a letter box. Simon had grown up in a country where Christmas occurred during summer and he and his brother would sleep out in the yard on camp beds waiting for Santa Claus. They had been beautiful magical times when he was twelve.
If I slept out tonight, he thought, I would die.
He turned and went to walk down the street, the pawn broker was about six blocks away and it stayed open late. He came to a convenience store and he saw the little neighbor girl standing out the front. She held an orange cat and the bright lights of the store lit them up.
“Hello Mr. Swift.”
“What are you doing down here?” he asked. The girl looked up at the young man. She wore nice clothes, a thick jacket and a woolen hat. The cat stayed perfectly still, it seemed very calm in the cold busy street.
“I need some help,” she said.
“Well, my cat is hungry,” she explained, “I need someone to buy him some food.”
“It’s a terrible story Mr. Swift and I would not want to bother you with it. I’ll have to let the cat go.”
“You can’t let the cat go out here, it’ll freeze.”
The little girl said nothing but held her lips tight, the cold wind hurtled down the street and the cat folded it’s ears down.
“I have to,” she stated. “It is a secret and I’m not supposed to tell you but my father… You can’t tell anyone OK?” She looked Simon in the eye.
“I wont tell anyone.”
“Have you ever had eye cancer, Mr. Swift?”
Simon stood stiffly and felt the book almost fall from under his arm. “No, I have never had eye cancer.”
“Well my father has eye cancer,” Mary said.
“Jesus… I mean I am so sorry.”
She continued, “So we do not have the money to buy cat food. Things are stretched as they are, so they say to me, my parents say to me, I can’t have the cat because we can’t afford to feed it so I have to come down stairs and let it go.”
“I know.” She said and hugged the cat tighter to her so that it snuggled against her. “But that’s life. If only I could find a way to keep him for one more week, I think I could get them to change their minds.”
“I can’t take him, my wife is allergic.” Simon continued, “But I could buy you his food for the week if that will help.”
“It sure would Mr. Swift.”
Simon took the girl in the store and spent his last fifteen dollars on cat food, enough to feed him for two weeks.
The girl took the bag of food and the cat and went back into their building, Simon continued down the dark street toward the Pawn broker. It being a long cold walk, the book quickly became heavy under his arm.
The pawn shop stood in a narrow street under a group of tall buildings. The dark narrow store was crowded with all manner of goods including; musical instruments, statues and electrical goods. An old man stood at the counter and looked angrily as the stranger walked in and let a gust of cold wind follow him.
“Hi, I got this,” Simon said and put the volume of Shakespeare down on the table.
The old man turned it around and looked at it and then turned the cover and a few pages, he grunted and then looked at Simon.
“Volume two eh?” he grunted.
“Yes, my wife brought in volume one yesterday and she said you wanted to get volume two, so you had the pair.”
“Oh yeah,” the old man said, as if the event happened a year ago and he could only just recall it. “How much do you want for it?”
“My wife said you would give her two hundred for this one.”
“I don’t think I said that. I’ll give you one hundred for it. I think I already sold the first volume.”
“Oh.” Simon thought for a moment. “She said you could give us two hundred. I have to get the money or Sarah will be mad at me.”
“Who’s Sarah.” The old man asked.
“Oh. I’ll tell you what I can do. I can give you one hundred dollars in cash or…” The man turned away, opened an old timber drawer and pulled out a little round object and put it on the counter next to the Shakespeare. “I can give you this two hundred dollar chip from the Golden Hand Casino. You can go there and get your two hundred dollars.”
“From the Golden Hand Casino?”
“That’s right, the one down by the harbor.”
Simon thought for a moment. The casino stayed open all night and a free bus operated from there to the city and back. He could pick up the money and be back before midnight.
“OK, I’ll take the two hundred dollar chip,” he said. The man nodded and slid the book off the table.
Simon had to wait half an hour for the casino bus. He pushed his hands deep into his pockets and danced from one foot to the other to keep warm. The bus, a small and noisy vehicle, finally arrived. It threw open the doors and the man driving did not look at him. Simon crept on board and looked about. The bus was almost full. A lot of old people sat around the front and some young drunk men sat up the back making too much noise. Simon sat near the front by a window. He looked out into the black night, tiny light snow flakes threw themselves about violently in the wind. The doors creaked closed and the bus screamed away.
They arrived at the bright Golden Hand Casino and everyone poured off the bus. Simon waited for everyone to get off and looked at his watch. It read eleven o’clock. He had messaged Sarah and told her things were taking longer than he thought and he would be home soon.
He climbed off the bus and made his way inside. For a moment he stood still, stunned by the wild lights and colors that filled the noisy casino. He saw the Cashier’s desk in the corner and he went across and pushed the chip under the glass partition.
“Could I cash this please?”
The teller looked at the chip and then pulled it towards herself and had a closer look. “I am sorry Sir, but you cannot cash this.” She pushed it back toward him.
“Why not?” Simon asked, a fear rising in his stomach.
“It’s a promotional chip we sent out. It’s only good for a bet on the tables, it is not redeemable for cash.”
“I can’t cash it but I can use it as a bet?”
“That’s right, it has to be a two hundred dollar bet on any gaming table and any winnings are yours to keep.”
Simon pulled the chip form under the glass wall and looked at it closer. The rules were all written in the back under the big ‘$200’.
“Oh, OK thanks.” Simon took the chip and went and stood behind some slot machines and thought about what he could do. He looked across to the roulette table, bright lights were flashing about it.
He turned the chip over in his hands and walked to the table and sat down. He nodded to the croupier. He nodded back coldly and Simon looked down at the numbers on the table. His lucky numbers were seven and thirteen. He placed the chip on black thirteen and sat back. If it won he would have thousands to take home to Sarah.
“No more bets,” the man said quietly and spun the wheel.
The ball bounced about hysterically, the wheel turned very fast and when it began to slow, the ball began to leap from slot to slot, from eight to twenty-five, from one to zero, then as the wheel slowed the ball fell into number twenty-nine and stayed there.
Simon watched the croupier pull the two hundred dollar chip away from him and then he stood up slowly, pulled his coat together and walked out. He stood in the freezing wind and the wet dark until the free bus arrived that would take him home.
Simon walked slowly up the lonely sidewalk. He hoped Sarah would be asleep when he came in, he hoped he would not wake her. He would have to be extra quiet. He walked up stairs, seeing how quiet he could be. It would work out in the end, he told himself, he would get his pay next week, the landlord would have to wait.
He stopped at his door and quietly searched his pockets for his keys.
“Can I speak to you a moment, Mr. Swift?” A voice came down the hall. Simon looked up in alarm.
“Huh? Oh hello, sure.” It was his neighbor, the one with the daughter he saw earlier, the one with the sick husband. “It’s awfully late though.”
“I know that,” the woman snapped, she had long black hair that shone in the hall light and looked hard into his eyes. “I have been waiting to see you. Were you speaking to my daughter earlier this evening?”
“Yes, it’s OK. I’m glad to help.”
“Glad to help?” The woman snapped. “Everyone in this building knows that Mary has an active imagination. Everyone knows that she is a little girl with a powerful imagination. Everyone it seems except you.”
“What?” Simon asked.
“Mary told me what happened. I found all the cat food. My husband is not dying, Mr. Swift. We did not tell her to get rid of the cat. The cat has plenty of food. My husband…” She continued in a loud angry voice, “Is a diplomat who at this very moment is working in Switzerland. We make a very good income. We do not need charity.”
“I had no idea, the girl was out in the cold with a cat, I thought I reacted well to the situation.”
The woman angrily shook her head. She opened her wallet. “Here is the money for the cat food,” she said and handed Simon a one hundred dollar note. “I would appreciate it if you do not interact with my daughter again. If you see her in the street, please tell me.”
“I only spent fifteen dollars on the cat food,” Simon said.
“I don’t have any change. Keep it.” The woman turned and left, disappearing into her apartment.
Simon stood still for a moment looking at the money, then he went back to looking for his keys. When he opened the door he looked for Sarah quietly, he found her in bed asleep.
He crept in trying not to wake her but she moaned and rolled over.
“Oh, hello Simon,” she whispered.
“How’d you go?”
“I could only get one hundred dollars for the book.”
“That’s OK, it’s enough.” She smiled. “Love you.”
“Love you.” He said and as she fell asleep in his arms.