Old Charlie had been without children for forty years.
He had been without a wife for seven.
He had been retired for five.
He was a silent and uncommunicative man by nature - but something had
happened during the previous October.
On Halloween of that year, while Old Charlie was sitting at home in
careful contemplation of his daily newspaper, suddenly there came a
...as of someone gently rapping...
His neighbor's son, who was all of seven years old, and who had been
expressly told not to bother Old Charlie on Halloween, knocked on Old
Charlie's door. In spite of the fact that Old Charlie's house had
been dark on Halloween for forty years, still this young man came
a'tapping - as though driven by some animus of old forgotten lore
'Tis some visitor Charles muttered, only this and nothing more
Old Charlie opened the door and looked out straight, expecting some
tallish interruption to his solitary life
And then he looked down
To see this seven year old child with eyes as big as the full moon
looking up to him and saying,
"Trick or treat."
"Only this and nothing more?", sayeth Old Charlie.
"Sir?", says the young supplicant.
"Forget it, son. There is no balm in Gilead."
"I have nothing for you", says Old Charlie.
The shrug of disappointment on the young boy's shoulders spoke to him
from a different time.
"Wait!", Old Charlie said, would you like a piece of wood?
"A piece of wood, Sir?", says the boy.
"Yes, to make a toy from, or some other thing.", Old Charlie said.
"I don't know how to make a toy, Sir. Could you show me?"
"Nevermore.", says Old Charlie. "Nevermore."
Old Charlie looked at the boy for a bit then hunkered down to look him
in the eye, accompanied by the snap crackle and pop of his ruined
"When I had boys your age I'd give them beautiful pieces of wood for
Halloween and we'd spend the time between then and Christmas making
presents for Eleanor."
"Not with us these seven Hallow's Eves."
"Would you like to make a Christmas present for your Mum?
"Oh yes Sir!"
"Wait here a minute."
Old Charlie re-erected himself, staggering a bit while his joinery
popped crackled and snapped back into place. He went into the house.
The boy waited patiently until he returned.
"This is satinwood. See how it sparkles in the light?"
"It's very beautiful Sir."
"And this is rosewood, says Old Charlie, see how it sets off the
"But - what should I do with them, Sir?"
"Put them in your bag and come back on saturday."
"Yes Sir. On saturday, Sir."
Old Charlie never expected to see the boy again but he felt content
with the giving.
"Beats the hell out of more candy", he thought to himself. He watched
the boy go down the steps. He thought a bit. He closed the door.
Saturday dawned crisp and clear - and loud - with Old Charlie's door
set to rattling on its hinges.
"I hope I didn't wake you, Sir", said the small apparition on Old
"It's eight o'clock, young man!"
"Yes Sir. I'm sorry Sir."
(Old Charlie hadn't slept later than five in nearly seventy years)
"Not a bit of it. Shop has always opened at eight."
They walked together to the clapboard garage behind the house where
Old Charlie kept his shop.
"It's sort of spooky Sir", said the young boy on seeing all of the
yellowed sheets shrouding Old Charlie's long disused equipment.
"We'll change that quick - now bear a hand."
They removed the covers from the tools, Old Charlie grumbling at the
rust. When they were done the shop looked pretty much as it had seven
years before, when Old Charlie had last done any work.
And in the intervening time 'tween then and Christmas Eve both old and
young enjoyed the snug and cheerful confines of the woodshop.
Old Charlie taught and listened and the young boy listened and
"Where did they go, Mr. Charlie?"
"Beg pardon?", said Old Charlie, bent to his task of mixing up the
"Where did your sons go, Mr. Charlie?"
"They live on the other side of the country."
"But - don't you miss them - at Christmas, I mean?"
"They both have jobs and families of their own. It's hard for them to
come so far, this time of year. Here now, take this rag and wipe it
"It's so beautiful, Mr. Charlie!", said the boy, as he and Old Charlie
looked at the finished jewelry box the boy and he had made.
"You should be proud, Jimmy." "Your Mum should be proud, too."
'Twas the Night Before Christmas when Old Charlie and Young Jimmy
finished their labors.
Old Charlie gave Young Jimmy the set of hand tools that he had been
working with for the last weeks. Young Jimmy said, " Thank you so
much for these and for showing me how to make things, Mr. Charlie. I
have to bring you my present tomorrow."
Charlie figured the boy had been caught out and would have to scramble
for a present to return - to save face. It didn't matter.
"Let me know how she likes it, Jimmy - and Merry Christmas!", said Old
Charlie to Young Jimmy, who cradled his creation as he walked down the
steps and off to his home next door.
"Merry Christmas to you too, Mr. Charlie! I'll let you know
Old Charlie waved to the boy. Thought for a bit - and walked back
into his house.
Came Christmas morning and his door was set again to rattling.
Old Charlie flung it open.
"So how did your Mum like the...", Old Charlie said, looking down for
the boy but seeing instead four largish shoes attached to four largish
legs attached to two tallish apparitions. And next to them - Young
"Merry Christmas, Mr. Charlie!", said Young Jimmy.
"I hope you like my presents."
"They're from the other side of the country!"
...and to all a Good Night!
Merry Christmas from the Watson Family to my friends on the Wreck!
tjwatson1ATcomcastDOTnet (real email)