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Christmas Eve

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Christmas Eve sparkles. Suburban families rumble by in jam-packed mini-vans on the way home from parties and relatives’ houses. Snow falls light on car rooftops, a rainbow of colors spin by. Neon reindeer feed on fresh-fallen snow off lawns, turning their heads now and then to a passing car. Each house tries to out-do its neighbor with an outstanding Christmas display; nativity scenes, plastic Santa’s sliding down the chimney, Rudolph kicking off into the stars, a little green and red train filled with presents turning its wheels. And of course, lights everywhere.

In the center of town, a man waves a wreath above his head in one hand, a jingle-bell in the other. He tries to sweep in the last dozen of tree-buying customers, though most cars just ignore him and wave on by. Behind the man stands a glorious Christmas tree, twenty-or-so feet in height. She wears a long, glossy gold scarf that wraps all the way around her body. Her gown shimmers with regal red, royal purple, gleaming green and pure white, and she wears candy-cane earrings. The man rings and rings his bell, till he is sure the last car has faded away. He whistles and packs up his stuff, his breath like a dragon’s in the cold air. The tree watches him go, a curtain of snow enveloping her beauty.

Children bustle and jumble in backseats of cars, eyes beaming out at the crystal white wonderland. They hop up and down in anticipation, and their mouths buzz with a million questions; When’s Santa gonna be here? Can I wait up and watch for him? Should we leave carrots for the reindeer? Dads and moms crane their necks from the front seat and smile. The sooner you get into bed, the sooner Santa will be here. Children press their faces against the cold glass, trying to get a peek of a sleigh rising off the horizon, a famous red beam shining forth.

Silence sweeps its cloak over the earth. Houses are dark except for the warm glow of a dying fire. Parents lay out the cookies and milk, bedroom lights switch off. Snowflakes waltz and pirouette in the icy evening wind, casting a soft white blanket over hills, trees, and rooftops. Stores shut down, managers pack up their trucks. City loners wander through empty streets, trying to dig up that last scrap of Christmas spirit within them. Couples bundle together in oversized coats, their eyes shining like an ice-rink. Finally, finally, the last doors lock, lights flicker, and the world simmers down into a soundless slumber. Somewhere, beyond their dreams they can hear a distant booming laugh from the heavens, a patter of footsteps across their roofs, and the jingle-jangle of bells, like a shooting star across midnight.





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