Monday, December 14, 2009

Review: The Clauses pt. III

The Clauses:

Part III, Rock-a-bye and Goodnight.

Three years after moving to London the Clauses were feeling settled in. Between the two of them they were making more than enough to live on and had begun putting cash away against the day they would buy a little home in the country. Nick hated his job, but every night when he got home, he knew it was worth it. Mrs. Claus On the other hand, actually enjoyed her job. Back in those days she was was what was known in the snooty, uptight social circles as a 'hottie.' And while this required an extra level of protection each night she worked, it also made for better than average tips. Things were going well indeed.

Then one day as Nick entered their one bedroom shanty, he was greeted by the merry sound of Mrs Claus vomiting. Quickly he was by her side seeing if she needed any help. After catching her breath she informed him with a smile that he would be a father. Nick was overjoyed and squeezed his wife with joy. She responded by sharing her own happiness all over his shirt.

Some women are at their best when they're pregnant. They're happy and feel better than they do when they're not pregnant. They smile and carry on with their jobs almost to the moment of labor. Then there's the opposite.

Pregnancy didn't agree with Mrs. Claus, who found herself alternating between vomiting and fits of rage. Nick the 'bastard responsible for her pain' often found himself dodging errant vases and dishes. However he never got angry or cross with Mrs. Claus. Their doctor had informed them that Mrs. Claus's body wasn't built right for bearing children. Special care was what she needed, and that's what her husband did his best to give her.

As winter that year approached Nick began to worry about what would happen when his wife went into labor. It was a good three miles to Doc Werletzers place and without the use of a horse and buggy, he might not get there in time. Nick, always handy with a set of tools, had built a small shop out back of  their place. It was there one night that he drew up the plans.

While Mrs. Claus slept restlessly inside, Nick stole away night after night to work on a secret project. Inside he spent hours, first sanding down the wood, before the cut. Each piece of wood he sawed, was measured three or four times, just to make sure it was perfect. As a precaution, he saved all the hammering for the day, so as not to disturb the neighborhood. And each night as he finished up in the shop, he would crawl into bed for a few hours sleep before he was off to work.

At last, just as the first snow started to fall he was finished. Very carefully he led his wife out to the shed to see his creation. With a flourish he whipped off the canvas that covered the sleigh. She was ecstatic, covering her husband's neck in kisses. Then she saw the one heart he hadn't sanded off, on the side of the sleigh. With tears in her eyes she ran her fingers over the polished surface of the wood, that bore the names Nick had carved years ago. No one ever knew how Nick got the tree to their shed, and he would never tell anyone, especially not Mrs. Claus.

The following day Nick informed his wife with a big smile that he 'had to see a man about a horse.' He set out to Mr. Hoffmeir's farm. Earlier in the week he had discussed purchasing one of Mr. Hoffmeir's old nags, that didn't have many years left. Out on the farm Nick looked over the selection of horses. None were particularly attractive. They all looked like they might collapse at a moments notice. He settled on a pure black one that looked the strongest. A deal was made, palms were crossed, and Nick rode home.

It was exactly one week from Christmas when Mrs. Claus went into labor. Babies always have a way of coming in the middle of the night, on the coldest day of the year. Nick assured his wife that he would be back shortly and ran out to the shed. Sugarcube was chewing on some hay when he entered. Nick spoke encouraging words into it's ear as led it out to the sleigh.

With a light flick of his wrist he rode off into the night. The snow crunched merrily under the hooves as the horse trudged through the half a foot. About a mile into the trip Sugarcube started to slow down. Nick spoke encouragingly but to no affect. After about another third of a mile the horse stopped. Nick lashed it with the reigns, but the horse didn't move. Quickly he jumped from the sleigh to see what could be wrong. To his horror, Sugarcube was foaming at the mouth. Seemingly in slow motion, he watched as the horse swayed from side to side, then toppled over into the middle of the road. There he lay, dead.

Nick stood still for a few seconds looking on, his mind a blank. Then he began to run. He ran all the rest of the way to the doctors place. Ran through the snow filled roads. Ran past the trees that dotted in between quiet little houses that sat safely holding their families. Ran though his lungs burned with every breath. Ran, but not fast enough.

By the time the doctor and Nick arrived, it was too late. Mrs. Claus almost died herself that night. As she watched the doctor carry the lifeless form of her daughter out of the room, she wished she had. Nick couldn't be there; couldn't stay in that house. He grabbed some matches and a coat and made to leave. The doctor offered him a drink and Nick took the bottle from his hands as he blew out the house.

He walked all the way back to where the horse and sleigh still lay in the road. Nick had drunk half the bottle by the time he got there, but he didn't feel drunk. Calmly he poured out the remaining contents of the bottle over the horse and the sleigh. He then pulled out a match and struck it on his cheek, a habit he'd picked up from his father. He watched the match fall; watched the fire spread out quickly engulfing his failed dream. Then as the sun was just beginning to peak above the horizon, he walked back home, leaving the flames behind him.

NEXT: Like a Thief in the Night

Or if you missed a previous part: Part II Part I

No comments:

Post a Comment

Related Posts with Thumbnails