Thursday, December 17, 2009

Review: The Clauses pt IV

The Clauses:

Part IV, Like a Thief in the Night.

Neither Mr. or Mrs. Claus spoke for two days after the loss of their child. They did not eat. They did not move except to get some water. On the morning of the third day Nick got up, dressed, and left for work. His boss, Ebeneezer, had heard nothing from him and had no idea of what had transpired. When Nick arrived, Ebeneezer called him into his office for a lecture. Nick stood numbly in his place, letting the words run down his body and slip to the floor. Ebeneezer closed his speech by informing Nick that he would have to work Christmas day. Which is when Mr. Claus snapped.

He did not tell Ebeneezer that his daughter was dead. He did not respond to working on Christmas, by informing him that would be the day of his baby's funeral. He did not speak one word to his defense. Instead Nick walked over to Ebeneezer's desk, picked up the oil lamp that sat there, rarely ever lit because of the cost of oil, and smashed it against a wall. His boss was frozen with anger, and watched as Nick continued by taking the business ledger and began ripping it to pieces. Ebeneezer had sold his soul for it's weight in gold, and watched now as the numbers representing his soul fluttered to the ground. Finally Nick swept the huge stacks of coins off the desk along with all the other papers and notations regarding delinquent accounts to the floor. As he walked away he could hear Ebeneezer blustering through his rage that he was fired. But Nick didn't care. Not about some silly man, not about anything.

When Nick arrived, his wife intuitively understood what had happened. Silently she stood up and began packing some clothes into a suitcase. She was still weak physically and had trouble lifting the case to the bed. Nick walked over and gently took it from her, laid it on the bed and opened it. He turned back and looked into her eyes. A dark yet soft green searched his own eyes. Even in the depth of pain she felt, they were beautiful. He had often told her they looked like the evergreens that grew on his family's estate. He repeated this to her then. And last release came as the two of them fell into each other.

After the Christmas funeral, that they alone attended, Mrs Claus prepared to leave. Until Nick found work where he could support them, she would stay with her brother in Banbury. With a goodbye that was both parts painful and relief, Nick watched her ride off. The passage had cost them almost all their savings. What little was left he had given her along. But he wasn't worried about that. Work was something that was always there for him when he needed it.

This time it wasn't. Much as everyone hated Ebeneezer, people still feared him. Quickly Nick found out that he had been blacklisted. With only a few weeks payed ahead on the hovel he lived in, he nervously watched as the days wilted away. It seemed there was no limit to how far Ebeneezer's grasp reached. Nick found himself being denied by fish gutters, and chimney sweeps. Desperate measures were knocking down the door and after finding himself with no time remaining; out on the streets, Nick answered them.

Under the covering of night he crept outside the house. There was no light from inside and everyone appeared to be asleep. Finding the door locked, Nick tried the windows. The two in the front were locked tight, but one in the back yielded itself to his touch. He slid silently into the kitchen, listening intently for any signs that he'd been heard. The snores echoing through the house from the upstairs bedrooms, reassured him. Nick made his way to the living room. In the dark he had trouble seeing anything and began blindly grabbing things and stuffing them into the large burlap sack he carried with him. When it was full he exited through one of the doors.

In an alleyway he emptied out the contents of the bag into the snow and took stock of his haul. There were some silver statuettes and a decorative copper plate; a large crystal vase with some paper flowers still inside. There was an almost full cigar box. Nick bit off the end of a cigar and lit up before continuing on. A large clunky thing he had grabbed ended up being a lap harp. He strummed it and admired the high twinkling of the strings. Another box, one of cedar, contained a small amount of coins, which he immediately shoved into one of his pockets. Then as he moved an old wool hat out of the way, he saw it lying there in the snow. Quietly he picked up the rattle and held it in his hands.

Shame filled him suddenly, and he knew he would have to return everything. As he placed the items carefully back into the bag, he decided to wait until the next night, in case anyone had waken already to find the disturbance. The rest of the night he spent under a bridge next to a fire. As he lay there watching the light play shadows on the brick above him, he wondered if he would ever be happy again. Unbeknown to him at the time, providence was just around the corner.

The next night he had to wait. The father of the house stayed up longer guarding his home, just in case the thief came back again. At last though, sometime around 3 in the morning, the light was doused. Just to be safe, Nick waited another half hour and then made his way to the house. This time he found all the windows locked tight. This was something that he hadn't considered. As he pondered over his problem, he leaned against the chimney. A slight warmth still emanated from off the bricks. Finally it clicked for him that he was leaning against the answer.

It took him a few minutes to find a way up. As he stood there on the roof, sack in hand, he peered nervously down the long chute. He knew he was either the smartest man alive or else the stupidest. With only one way to find out, he carefully made his way down. All the chimney sweep experience he'd had in his childhood had endowed him with the ability to easily go up and down. But never before had he tried it with a heavy bag in one hand. Somehow though, in the most awkward of ways he made it down safely. And there waiting for him was providence, sitting in a chair with a shot gun gun across his lap.

All in all Nick was lucky. The owner of the house had been content in breaking one of Nick's arms. If he had fought back, be would have been shot. The next night, as his wife Mrs. Claus, sat in a parlor with her family, listening  to her cousin recite poetry, Nick sat in an overcrowded jail with his arm in a sling. His damp black hair was matted down against his cheeks, covering slightly the large bruise that had begun swelling up around his left eye. And when one of his cellmates made a crack about him not understanding that 'burglars are supposed to remove things from houses, not bring presents' Nick just sat back and sarcastically chuckled.

"Ho, ho, ho."

NEXT: Dawn Breaks.

OR check out previous installments: Part III   Part II   Part I

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