Thursday, 19 December 2013

The Gift by Jenny Brigalow. Sharing the Christmas Spirit.


Hi Everyone and Merry Christmas!
I know this should be about my own traditions but, to be honest, Christmas in my household is pretty typical, a cosy family affair with too much food, drink and too little exercise. So I thought I'd share a short Christmas story. This is a work of fiction inspired by a real life hero.  Up until know Brian has been an unsung hero. Brian Garth is a driver. He gets up in the dark on Christmas morning and goes about his business. Rubbish doesn't stop for the Festive Season. And, every Christmas, Brian leaves a gift for each boy and girl along his run. A most unlikely Santa  in a most unlikely slay. Thank you, Brian, for reminding me what Christmas is really about.

                                                       
                                          The Gift by Jenny Brigalow
Laura held her breath as she gently lowered Daniel into his cot with hands that trembled with anxiety and fatigue. As his damp head settled onto the cool cotton sheet Daniel stirred and Laura stiffened in anticipation. His tiny mouth puckered, but then relaxed. For a long, long moment Laura hovered at his side, unable to believe he was asleep. At last.
 Suddenly the silence hit her. It was dark. She went to the window of the bedsit and looked out. Moths danced around the yellow street lights like punk rockers and a tabby cat padded across the road with satin paws. Cicadas shrilled in the gumtrees and the moon shone like a silver marble in a velvet sky. Even with the window wide open there was not so much as a sigh of wind. Her tee-shirt stuck to her back and her fringe clung to to her forehead like clingfilm. What she needed was a shower.
 But she didn't move. It seemed too hard. A wave of homesickness washed through her body with gut wrenching agony. How she longed for the sweet smell of cow shit in the cattle yards and the pungent scent of lantana that rampaged along the creek. And she'd give almost anything to hear the rain hammer down on the old tin roof of the farmhouse.
 In her mind's eye she pictured her family. Christmas Eve would find them at home. Mum would be clucking and fussing around the old oven, telling anyone who had a mind to listen, that the mince pies wouldn't be as good as last year. Dad would be sat on the veranda asleep, with the paper collapsed in his lap. And her brother John would be hanging around Mum, drinking beer from a glistening brown bottle, and driving her crazy. And - if she'd been there - Laura would be sat at the table chatting with them both, her kelpie dog, Cashew, curled up at her feet, his pointed black nose twitching as he dreamed of rats and mice.
 Laura didn't cry. She hadn't the energy. When she was a little kid, her dad used to ring-bark the trees. They'd die quite undramatically, millimeter by millimeter. And that's kind of how she felt - like she'd been ring-barked. And for a moment she was flummoxed. How had she got to this place? How had she ended up, all alone, in this hot box of a bedsit with a baby?
 Automatically she turned to look at Daniel. But he was still asleep, his tiny hands opening and closing like coral. Her heart felt like it would burst with the love of him. For a moment she wondered if Jack would come tomorrow. It was Christmas after all. And Daniel was his son. But she knew deep down it would be another no show. All the signs were there. The money he'd sent so faithfully for months had become erratic. His phone always went to message bank. Panic fluttered in her head like a wind swept paper bag.  What the hell was she going to do?
What she wanted to do was to get on the bus and go home. But she couldn't. She was so ashamed. Her family would be devastated. It'd kill her dad. It was better they didn't know. She'd have to get a job. But all she knew was cattle and horses. What good was that when you had a baby? It would have to be Centrelink. The dole. The thought made her feel sick. A bludger. That's what she was.
 She sighed and went to the bathroom. The cool water washed away the salt and dirt of the long day and night but not the worry and exhaustion. Maybe she'd think straight when she'd had some shut eye. Daniel still slept peacefully as she collapsed onto the narrow mattress. Sleep swallowed her whole.
When she awoke Daniel was screaming. Her head throbbed and her eyes were like sandpaper. She glanced at her watch. It was four thirty. She'd barely had three hours. And then a sound filtered through Daniel's howls and a hot lump formed in her chest. She couldn't believe it. Was that really a garbage truck on Christmas bloody morning? It was too much.
Laura staggered up, threw on her clothes and picked Daniel up. Her breasts tightened and milk ran. She took no notice and headed for the door. She went down the back staris and raced out into the street, murder in her heart. And there it was, a great green, muck raking monster, clanking and grinding and waking her baby.
She stalked down the pavement and glared up at the driver. He spotted her and the window wound down. A gush of cool air fanned her face. "What the hell do you think you're doing?" she yelled.
The man looked down at her. "I'm doing the bins," he said, in a slow and reasonable tone.
Laura wasn't interested in reasonable. "You woke my son. He's been sick and hasn't slept and then you come along on Christmas morning at some ungodly hour and wake him up." She paused as the injustice of it rolled over her. "Woke us both up!"
He lifted a battered  Akubra from his head and ran a strong hand through a crop of black wavy hair. "Well now, Mrs, I'm sorry. That's a bit rough."
Laura opened her mouth to lash him with her tongue but she jumped like an angry ant as the truck door opened and the man dropped down beside her.
He smiled and she realised that he was only young. Not much older than herself, maybe twenty five tops. Her eyes slid to the hat held in his hands and something inside her subsided like a punctured tyre. It was a hat that anyone and everyone she knew would have worn. A faded, floppy, spotted  felt hat that had seen better days a century or so ago. And her heart felt like it was caught in a vice.
The man watched silently, turned to the truck and jumped back up into the cabin.
All the fire in Laura fizzled and she walked away.
"Wait!"
She stopped and turned, to find the driver hurrying after her.
He smiled, teeth gleaming like ivory in a dusky face. "Here," he said, and handed her a parcel wrapped in red and white Santa paper.
Laura looked at the parcel and then looked at the man. His brown eyes were steady under her scrutiny. Daniel stopped crying. "What is it?" she said.
He looked down at his feet and shuffled a bit. Then laughter rumbled like thunder in his broad chest. "It's a gift, you know, for Christmas."
She couldn't find anything to say. How strange.
Perhaps he sensed her unease. "I do it every Christmas. You know. Leave a bit of something for the kids on my run. He was silent for a moment and then rubbed his chin. "It's supposed to be a surprize."
And then she was crying, this unexpected kindness unraveling her entirely. Her eyes spouted fountains and her nose ran like a gully in full flood. When he lifted Daniel from her arms she didn't protest. She took his hanky and blew her nose. "I'm sorry," she said.
He handed Daniel back. "No worries. My name's Zach. Zach Carseldine."
"Laura. Laura Kerr."
Zach put on his hat. "Well, happy Christmas, Laura."
"Happy Christmas, Zach."
He handed her the parcel and this time she took it. "Thank you," she said.
Zach glanced at his truck and back at her. "Best be off, then."
She nodded, but loneliness seeped through her limbs like quick dry cement. "Bye then," she said. And as he strode back to his truck she found herself wishing that he didn't have to go.
He stopped mid stride and retraced his steps. He cleared his throat. "This is going to sound a bit lame," he said "but, I wondered if I could stop by later. My family's out west. Drought's been real bad this last three years. It'd be good to have some company."
Laura tried to be cool but her face split like a watermelon. "That'd be fine Zach. My family's a long way away too. Daniel and I would be pleased to see you."
He grinned. "Say, about four then?"
She nodded. "Sure."
The truck clanked and roared off down the road like a bad tempered dragon. Laura went back inside and stood at the window with Daniel until the garbage truck had gone and the sun had come up. She settled on the sofa and fed Daniel. She ran a finger softly down his cheek. His skin felt cool. He fell asleep at her breast.
Laura picked up her phone and looked at it. Her fingers tapped in the number and she waited for the connection. The line clicked and hiccupped. A phone rang.
"Hello!"
For a moment she couldn't speak. She took a deep breath. "Dad, it's me, it's Laura."
And, across the vast, arid landscape of Australia, love crackled between them like ozone.
                                                         The End.

Thanks to Denise Covey at work...edit...publish for this opportunity. You can see more or join in at

19 comments:

  1. A brilliant story - the telephone call at the end got me.

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    1. Hi Sally, thanks for dropping by and sharing this with me.

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  2. Oh I have goosebumps, seriously. This was very well crafted and you ended it perfectly, with hope. Loved it. Thanks for sharing! Merry Holidays!

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    1. Thanks for coming by Lisa. Glad to have someone to share the post with at this Festive time.

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  3. Hi Jenny. Awesomness. Such a lot of emotion which is often the case with Christmas. I love your imagery and how you kept it related to the country. I love the Aussie country feel overall. I'm with her moving on...and maybe there might be a little romance in the offing. I love the garbo giving gifts to children. How lovely.

    Thank you for sharing this tradition with us Jenny. Thank.you for being an enthusiastic participant in the WEP blogfests. I hope you can continue next year.

    Merry Christmas !

    Denise

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    1. Hey Denise, hope you're keeping warm out there! Great share this post with you. Aren't people amazing. Brian just blows me away. Merry Christmas to you and your family and happy travels.

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    2. Thanks Jenny. Having a wonderful time. Meeting some great people too. Happy holidays !

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  4. What a lovely tale of romance and the Christmas spirit! Thank you for sharing and that photo - awesome! Added such authenticity!

    Wishing you and yours a lovely holiday season!

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  5. So pleased you enjoyed the story Yolanda. I wanted to follow Brian's example and give a bit of something! Merry Christmas.

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  6. That was a beautiful story Jenny, I am glad you shared it. I'm sure your own Christmas traditions are not boring or average; but special and unique to you and your family.

    Happy holidays to you and your family.

    ......dhole

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  7. Thanks for sharing my story with me Donna. Happy holidays to you and yours too!

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  8. A lovely, heartwarming story. Very true that some people have to work so that others can celebrate the festivals. Sorry it's taken me so long to get here. Happy New Year.

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    1. Thanks for dropping by and Happy New Year!

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  9. A lovely story, Jenny! Thanks for sharing!

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    1. Hi Kelly, it's lovely to have you on board. Hope you are writing up a storm (or something less scary).

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  10. Love the romance in your post. Like your display of emotions !

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