Monday, December 21, 2009

Review: The Clauses pt. V

The Clauses:

Part V, Dawn Breaks

When Nick was 10 he was already living a double life. While school yard bullies may have considered the son of  a chimney sweep to be poor, it couldn't have been farther from the truth. While he may have gone to work every day with his father after school, the fact of the matter is that his father owned the largest chimney servicing company in southern England. This was something Nick enjoyed playing up. At school he was the lower class kid like most of his chums, but at home he had everything he could possibly want.

As he aged, Nick grew smarter about disguising who he was. Mostly he enjoyed manipulating people to get whatever his passing fancy happened to be passing at that moment. He'd often spend time pretending to be royals and well known business men to hook up with women, and pocket spare cash. It was all a game to him; a game he had given up when he met Mrs. Claus.

As Nick awoke on the second day of the fourth month in the third year of his prison sentence, something felt different about the day. His dark hair had grown long in his internment and he had grown a respectable (if not more than a little shaggy) beard. He had grown leaner but more muscular. A quick glance showed the door to his cell to be open. As he got up and began walking around, it was clear that the entire jail was empty. Outside was a completely different scene altogether.

The warden of that particular penitentiary, Joseph Miller, had long ago instituted a policy for the inmates. If you behaved and did as you were told; if you caused no problems and attempted to reform, you were rewarded by work outdoors. Closely guarded of course. If however you misbehaved, acted bad, caused trouble, or otherwise disobeyed, you were sent to work down in the coal mines. It was back breaking work that you didn't get paid for, and it was just about the worst punishment you could get. To keep track of who was good and who was bad, warden Miller had two lists, "one for the good little boys, and one for the bad little boys." Nick had never done anything to deserve the bad list, but he knew most of the inmates at one time or another had, and that all of them resented it.

So Nick wasn't particularly surprised to see a riot had broken out. He merely wondered how he should act. As fists met faces and bully clubs landed on the backs of other, Nick sat himself comfortably on bench and watched as the violence raged around him. When a group of prisoners succeeded in opening the gates to freedom, those who were still conscious quickly poured out, along with every available guard.

Nick watched it unfold with keen interest. As he stood up and began walking towards the gate, he stopped to take the jacket off a fallen guard. As he slipped it on he felt a little weight in one pocket that turned out to be a tobacco pouch and papers. Nick rolled himself a cigarette, patted the jacket and found the matches he desired, and lit up. As there were no more guards around to stop him, Nick quietly walked out of the prison yard and back into civilian life.

In all the years he had been imprisoned, he had not written his wife out of shame. He had no idea how she would react to seeing him alive after so long. Since his sister was closer it was to her residence that he stopped first. After he had told her his story, he informed her that he would have to leave the country as he would be counted among those wanted. His sister promised to keep his secret but suggested a letter of warning to Mrs. Claus. Nick agreed and sent a note before him that informed her a Spaniard with news about her husband would be visiting shortly.

Mrs. Claus nervously awaited the arrival of the mysterious Spaniard. With no word from her husband in over three years, she had begun to give up hope of ever seeing him again. When it was announced that a Mr. Kristopher Kringle from Santa Pola was in the drawing room, her heart was beating so fast it felt like it might just burst from her chest. And then she saw him and everything in the world seemed to brighten. As she rushed to him, Nick held up a hand to stop her. He waited until he was sure they wouldn't be overheard before he explained everything that had happened.

Nick explained that he would have to leave the country, and that he would send for her as soon as he was settled. The words flew at her but she didn't hear them. Instead she dove into her husband. Nick worried about his escape, nevertheless he yielded to his wife. They spent a very emotional and passionate night together. As morning dawned Nick prepared for a journey that would take him away from his wife and his country.

Holding on to him as long as she could, Mrs. Claus questioned where he would go. As he held her tight he told her of a far off land he heard about. This place was told to have stores of gold yet untapped by man. The best part was that because of the distance and the climate, few had even attempted to go after it. There was however a ship that would be leaving soon with a group of intrepid individuals, like himself, to tackle the far away land. As he let go he again assured her that it wouldn't be very long at all before he sent for her. He would gather a ton of gold from the North Pole and then they would be reunited in Greenland.

And so it was Mrs. Claus's turn to watch as her husband drove off into the distance.

NEXT: The story concludes with 'The Start of What Was.'

OR check these previous installments: Part IV   Part III   Part II   Part I

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