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'Twas XII: Gone With The Wind

The Coop

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Another year's gone by, and it's time once again for the yearly Twas poem. This one's a bit long (as usual), but it's ready for reading. So grab yourselves something to drink, use the bathroom if you need to, and let's jump right in, shall we?



'Twas XXI: Gone With The Wind

The Coop

Twas two weeks before Christmas,
and in the town hall,
one Nick Fern listened as
each man there spoke of all

that had happened in their lives
over the last two
weeks since the last time
they had all gathered there to

talk of the trials that
came with their struggle to stay
on the wagon and keep
their addiction at bay.

Pam was the councilor
for each session they'd hold,
and her group was made up
of just five men, all told.

And though the room was
warmer than the air outside,
they left their coats on,
rather than put them aside.

Nick was the newest
member of Pam's AA group.
Matt, Todd, Brad and Joel,
made up the rest of the troop.

They sat in a circle,
each on a folding chair.
Six people were present,
but seven chairs were there.

The four other men spoke of
how long it had been
since the last time they'd touched
some beer, whiskey or gin.

They spoke of bad moments
that tested their resolve.
Of avoiding events
that would surely involve

everyone around them
drinking or getting drunk.
Of how the struggle, at times,
left them in a funk.

Of the yearnings and such
that made some days so rough
when problems arose
that made sobriety tough.

With the group being small,
Nick's turn soon came about.
He stood up from his seat
and let a small sigh out.

“My name is Nick Fern,
and it's been over a year
since the last time I drank
any whiskey or beer.”

After some light applause
from the rest of the group,
“However,” Nick added,
“my will power did droop

“a bit a few days ago,
when I was alone
scrolling through Facebook while
I was on my iPhone.”

“What happened?” asked Pam
with some concern on her face.
Nick said, “A memory
I wish I could erase

“came back at me when I
wasn't expecting it.
My mood really tanked and it
made me feel like shit.”

“Is that memory really
that bad?” Pam asked him.
Nick nodded a bit with,
“Yeah, it's pretty damn grim.”

Pam then asked, “Is it something
you feel you can share?”
“No,” Nick replied. “It's not
something I want to air.”

Pam could see that Nick seemed
like he felt out of place.
“That's fine, Nick,” Pam said with
a small smile on her face.

“If it's something that hard
for you to go into,
then I think moving along
is what we will do.”

She looked about at
all of the other men there,
who looked curious over
what Nick wouldn't share.

“So... now that we're fnished
with our meeting,” Pam said,
“rather than going home,
let's have some fun instead.”

A few seconds later,
into the room strode a
man dressed in attire
for the nearing holiday.

From the red coat and pants
lined with furry white trim,
to the thick black boots and
white hair and beard on him,

the heavy-set man gave off
a very jolly air
as he smiled warmly at
the people who were there.

As he approached, he gave
his large belly a pat
and let out a “Ho ho ho!”
on top off all that.

In one hand, the man held
a full, big and red sack
that he'd slung over his
shoulder onto his back.

He looked the part as
he came up to the men, who
looked as if they didn't
know what to think or do.

Some groaned a little,
while others looked on, confused.
And others still seemed
to be a little amused

as the Santa-looking man
sat down with a grunt,
removed his fuzzy red cap
and rubbed his forehead's front.

He brought the sack around
and put it at his feet,
then looked out at the men
that he'd been brought to meet.

“Gentlemen,” Santa smiled.
“Greetings to all of you.”
He looked to Pam with,
“And Pam, hello to you too.

“I've come here tonight
to wish you all some good cheer,
and to congratulate you
for still being here.

“For fighting your demons
and trying your best to
overcome your addiction
and just make it through

“each day, one at a time
as you rebuild your lives...
not just for yourselves,
but your children and or wives.

“You've all struggled and fought,
and tonight, I'm here to
give a very special gift
to each one of you.”

Santa then leaned forward
and rested his elbows
on his knees, then opened
the sack before his toes.

“So tell me,” Santa said
as he looked to his right.
“What present is it that
you'd like to get tonight?”

The man who sat there gave
a bit of a laugh as
he held up a hand with,
“Thanks, but I think I'll pass.”

“Oh come now,” Santa scoffed.
“There must be some thing that
you lost in your battle
with your addiction, Matt.”

Matt looked to Santa with
suspicion in his eyes,
and said, “Telling you that
wouldn't be very wise.”

“Why is that?” Santa asked,
to which Matt then replied,
“Because I'm the reason
that someone I loved died.”

When the man stayed silent,
Santa patted his knee.
“It's alright, son,” he said.
“Go ahead and tell me.”

It took a few seconds,
but Matt let out a sigh
with, “My old calico cat,
who I caused to die.

“I came home drunk one night
and pulled up to my place.
I went in to my bedroom
and planted my face

“on my bed and passed out
until later that day.
When I woke up, I called
my cat to come and play.

“She always did before.
It was kind of her thing.
But this time, Casey didn't
seem to be coming.

“I got up and checked
ev'rywhere for my old cat,
but just couldn't find where
Casey was hiding at.

“I started to worry
and got dressed to go see
if somehow she'd gotten
outside because of me.

“But when I went outside,
I got to the drive way
and saw something that I
can't forget to this day.

“Casey was pinned under
the front tire of my truck.
She'd died because of me
being a dumb, drunk fuck.”

Santa could see the pain
strongly in the man's stare;
a stare that was getting
glassy as he sat there.

“Bringing back the dead is
well beyond my control,”
Santa said in a tone
that was meant to console.

“But I think I might have
something that you can take
home with you that might help
a bit with your heartache.”

Santa reached into his sack
and dug for a bit,
then pulled something out that
made Matt gasp, “Holy shit!”

In Santa's hand was
a small stuffed animal that
looked very much like
a chubby calico cat.

“This is yours,” Santa said
as he held out the toy.
Matt just stared at it with
both sadness and some joy.

He looked at the way
the white, orange and black fur
was patterned on the toy,
and said, “It looks like her.”

“This is my gift to you,”
Santa smiled as Matt took
the toy from Santa's hand
with a bewildered look.

Matt's had fully teared up
as he smiled at the toy.
“Thanks,” he croaked out.
Santa said, “You're welcome, my boy.”

From there, Santa looked to
each of the men and asked
if they would tell him of
what they'd lost in their past

thanks to the addiction
they continued to fight.
And one by one, each man there
answered him that night.

Todd lost a coin that was
a gift from his dead dad.
He'd pawned it because it
was all the cash he had

and needed to go get
his next alcohol hit.
He didn't pay them back
and they got to keep it.

Brad lost a pocket watch
he'd gotten from his son.
It was lost in a drinking
game he hadn't won.

Joel sold his wedding ring
to get booze, and his wife
found out, divorced him,
and then walked out of his life.

As each man got their turn,
Nick listened to their tales
of how their addiction
led to the biggest fails

of their lives and how it
cost them all something dear,
and gave them the regrets
they'd endured ev'ry year.

And once each man was done,
Santa reached in his sack
and pulled out something that
made each man's face go slack.

A coin that looked just like
the one that had been pawned,
the sight of which left Todd
unable to respond.

A ring that was sold and
cost Joel his lovely wife,
which he viewed as the biggest
mistake of his life.

And a watch that was gambled
away on a game;
an act that left Brad filled
with great remorse and shame.

With that, Santa said,
“I know these gifts won't undo
all the feelings of regret
that still trouble you.

“But keep them close as a way
to spur yourself on
and focus on the future
and less on what's gone.

“You can't change your pasts,
but you can make each step count
as you go forward in life
and work to surmount

“the choices and moments
that came from your mistakes.
And I believe you will.
You've all got what it takes.”

Santa then looked to Nick,
who seemed filled with unease.
“Now it's your turn, Nick,”
Santa said. “If you would, please,

“give me some insight on
what you lost on your way
to ending up here with
all of us on this day?”

Nick was quiet at first,
but then spoke with a quick,
“My drinking didn't cost
me anything, St. Nick.”

“Are you sure?” Santa asked.
“Nothing was lost with you?”
“The thing I lost,” Nick replied,
“had nothing to do

“with me getting too drunk
and screwing up my life.
I'm just here to stay clean
and prevent any strife

“before booze gets a chance
to screw up my life too.
So just skip me, please,
if it's all the same to you.”

With that, Nick left the room
as each person still there
looked a bit uneasy
as they stayed in their chair.

“I... guess that's it,” Pam said,
in a caught off-guard tone
as she looked at the time
that was shown on her phone.

“Our last meeting of this year
has come to a close.
And with that, you're all free
to head home, I suppose.

“Just remember that our next
meeting's on the fourth.”
To Santa, “Thanks for coming
down here from up north.”

“You're welcome,” Santa said
with a smile as he stood
from his seat, and added,
“I hope I did some good.”

“By the way they acted,
I'd say you did just that,”
Pam said as she gave Santa's
shoulder a firm pat.

“Thank you for coming,
and have a great holiday.”
“You too,” Santa said,
and then started on his way

out of the room he'd given
presents to the men.
But as he went through the door,
he found Nick again.

Santa stopped where he was
and looked over at Nick,
who cast him a sideways glance
that was very quick.

“You alright, son?” Santa asked.
“I will be,” Nick said,
to which Santa replied with,
“I'm about to head

“back home for the night
and take some time to unwind.
I'm still willing to listen,
if you're so inclined,

“to share what it is that
pushed you to end up here.
If you want to, I promise,
I'll lend you my ear.”

Nick said nothing for a bit,
as he closed his eyes.
“The dead can't come back,
no matter how someone tries.”

“Who died?” Santa asked.
Nick said, “Someone that I can't
picture in my damn mind.
So, unless you can grant

“the dead some kind of way
to visit with someone,
I think this conversation
is pretty much done.”

With that, Nick walked away
as Santa watched him go
out the building's doors and
into the falling snow.

Nick got to his car and
drove back to his home, where
he got changed and sat down
in his reclining chair.

With a mumbled swear word,
he got back to his feet.
“I just want to sit down,”
he grumbled. “I'm so beat.”

He got a fire going
to help warm up the place,
then got back in his chair
with some ire on his face.

He rested his head back
and let out a small sigh.
Within a few minutes,
he looked ready to cry.

The ire had faded and
was replaced with sorrow,
until tears broke free and
reflected the fire's glow.

“I hate this,” he muttered.
“This whole damn time of year.
Ev'ryone else is happy
and I'm sitting here

“trying not to cry over
who I can't recall
even a little of what
they looked like at all.”

The minutes ticked by as
Nick sat there quietly
and a few more of his tears
silently broke free.

But in time, Nick dozed off
and left the waking world
for the one his mind's eye
cruelly went and unfurled.

The roar grew louder
as ev'ry second ticked by,
so much so that he could
barely hear himself cry,

“Mommy, what's happening?!”
in a child's voice that held
great amounts of panic
in the words that were yelled.

He looked all around
at ev'rything in his sight,
with his eye level at
a six year old boy's height.

This made the noisy house
that was all around him
seem much scarier as
daylight began to dim.

The world grew darker;
like the sun was blotted out.
And a panic filled, “MOMMYYYY?!”
was what Nick did shout.

The air was filled with a sound,
not unlike a train,
and the wind whistled through
ev'ry closed window pane.

His ears began to hurt
as the air pressure grew
within the home until
the roof of the house flew

up into the air
in chucks that were big and small.
Then came a woman's voice;
one with a southern drawl.

The house began to shake,
the cacophony swelled,
and he could barely make out
what that woman yelled.

“MOVE IT, NOW!” she shouted,
and the next thing he knew,
he was pulled down a hallway
and hurried into

the bathroom where she
shouted, “GET IN THE TUB, NOW!”
over what sounded like
something'd begun to plow

through the entire house
as the sound of breaking wood
and things that were shattering
did all that they could

to drown out the world
with the loud racket they made.
And as this went on,
the light continued to fade.

But for a moment,
he saw the shape of someone,
with their face and body
blurred as ev'rything spun

wildly out of control
through the air behind them.
And as the bathroom
became chaotic mayhem,

that same woman's voice
came as daylight faded out.
“I LOVE YOU, NICK!” were her words
as she tried to shout

and be heard over all
of what was going on.
Nick let out a scream...
and then ev'rything was gone.

All of the loud noises
could no longer be heard.
The wind, the woman's voice,
and not a single bird

made even the slightest
little bit of a sound.
It was as if there was
nothing alive around.

The silence was a shock
as Nick found himself in
the middle of what had
at one point in time been

the house where he grew up.
But now it was no more.
There was no ceiling or walls.
Not even a floor.

Instead, ev'rything he'd known,
was now just debris
that seemed to stretch out
as far as his eyes could see.

But unlike before,
ev'rything was seen from a
grownup's height while his thoughts
went into disarray

as he saw the rubble
where his home used to be.
And in panic, Nick let out
a pain-filled, “MOMMYYYY!”

But the voice that rang out
wasn't that of a child.
Instead, the voice was that
of a grown man whose wild

and panicked eyes scanned
over the debris that lay
on the ground around him
as he relived the day

where all that he had known
was taken away by
a violent wind storm that
came down from the sky.

“Mom?” he called in a voice
that was filled with dismay.
“Where are you?! Answer me!
“Tell me that you're OK!”

When all that he got back
was a silent reply,
he looked to the storm clouds
and simply muttered, “Why?”

as tears built up fast
in his sorrow-laden eyes.
But sorrow was soon joined
abruptly by surprise

as Nick heard a man say,
“I can see why you had
reluctance to bring up
a memory this bad.”

Nick looked around with,
“Who the hell's out here with me?”
as his eyes looked about at
the scattered debris.

“It's just me,” came the voice,
and Nick turned back around.
He looked utterly confused
and what he then found.

Where once no one had stood,
there now was a man who
was dressed like Santa,
and who seemed familiar too.

“Aren't you the guy from the
AA meeting last night?”
Nick asked, to which Santa
replied, “That's me, alright.”

With ire, Nick demanded,
“Why the hell are you here?”
Santa looked to Nick and
saw both anger and fear

in Nick's eyes as he stood
on what had at one time
been a house, but was now
rubble covered in grime.

“What happened?” Santa asked,
his voice filled with dismay.
“Get out of my head!” Nick strained.
“Go the fuck away!”

“Please, talk to me, Nick,”
Santa said as he drew near
to where Nick stood on some rubble.
“What happened here?”

“What the hell do you think?!”
Nick shouted at the man
before he turned around
and continued to scan

what had once been a house
before the storm moved through.
“I have to find my mom.
I'm done talking to you.”

“You're mother was here?”
Santa asked as he followed
a bit behind Nick,
who walked toward the nearby road.

“Of course she was!” Nick snapped
as he pointed to where
the old bathtub still stood.
“She was standing right there.

“She grabbed me and put me
into the tub before
ev'rything was ripped apart
from ceiling to floor.”

Once he had reached the road,
Nick looked up and down it.
He saw no one about,
and uttered a hard, “Shit!

“Why's nobody coming?!
I need help to find my
mom and get her to safety,
or else she might die!”

Santa watched as Nick returned
and began to dig
through the many chunks of
his home; both small and big.

He pushed rubble aside.
Lifted up partial walls.
He dug through broken
furniture and let out calls

to his mother in hopes
of getting a reply.
At times, he looked mad.
At others, like he could cry.

Santa could do little
as he watched the man pour
over all the debris
as he kept calling for

his mother to say something
so he could find where
she was trapped and be able
to free her from there.

But the minutes ticked by
as the light of day waned,
and Nick's calls to his mother
grew more and more strained.

Santa heard how the heartache
in the man's voice grew
with each patch of rubble
he finished going through.

“Mom, please answer me!”
Nick yelled as his voice cracked while
he moved over to the next
mangled debris pile.

As Nick did so, Santa
looked about at the scene
and took in what little
around him could be seen.

Besides the rubble of what
had once been Nick's home,
the world seemed to be
encased inside of a dome

that was made up of a thick
gray fog that blocked out
ev'rything fifty feet
away, or just about.

What had to have once been
the back and the front yard,
were coated with debris
and so utterly marred

by the wind and rain from
the twister that came through.
And what grass still remained,
was all torn apart too.

At the front yard's end,
the sidewalk was quite tattered.
The street fared no better,
as it too was battered.

Chunks of concrete and asphalt
had been thrown around,
and holes in both the street
and sidewalk were abound.

Yet it all faded away
into that thick fog.
Meanwhile, Nick dug through debris
like a panicked dog.

“Nick,” Santa called out.
And when he got no reply,
Santa turned and saw how
Nick continued to try

to find the one who
he desperately searched for.
“Nick!” Santa then shouted.
“She's not here anymore!”

“Bullshit!” Nick yelled back.
“I know my mom's here somewhere.
So help me or fuck off!
Which you choose, I don't care!”

Santa stood there and watched
for a few moments more,
as Nick called out to the one
he was looking for.

Santa then went over to
where Nick stood and dug.
And without a word,
Santa gave Nick a large hug.

“LET ME GO!” Nick shouted
as he tried to get free.

“She's gone, son,” Santa said,
his voice soft and somber.
Nick replied with a frantic,

Santa kept hold of Nick
until the man grew still
and at last had a chance
to let his anguish spill

out of him in a sob
that was filled with sorrow.
And when Nick's crying had stopped,
Santa let him go.

Nick did his best to get
his emotions pushed down.
He looked embarrassed
and kept his tear-filled eyes down.

“I... I'm sorry,” Nick said
with both remorse and shame.
“I didn't mean to shout
at you and act so lame.”

“It's fine,” Santa said,
his words filled with empathy.
“I'd be in tears too if
it had happened to me.”

Nick was silent as he
awkwardly looked around
at the rubble of his home
that was on the ground.

“Will you tell me what happened?”
Santa asked gently.
“Back when I asked what you'd lost,
you had said to me

“that you couldn't remember
how someone did look.
I'm guessing they're the one
that violent storm took?”

Nick took a moment,
but soon nodded in silence.
Santa said, “The pain from that
must have been immense.”

“Yeah, it was,” Nick replied
and then remained quiet
as he seemed to gather up
his thoughts for a bit.

Before long, he looked to
Santa with a pained stare.
“My mom and I lived
in the middle of nowhere.

“Some dull, little town
called Forrestville or some shit,
which made no sense since there
were no trees around it.

“But that's where we were
living until I turned six,
and then Mother Nature
played the meanest of tricks.

“It was after my birthday
that a storm came through.
I'd only been six for
a measly day or two

“before ev'rything got turned
onto its head by
a strong tornado that
dropped right out of the sky.

“The thunderstorm didn't seem
all that bad at first.
But that changed pretty quick
when the tornado burst

“out of that damn storm and
initially touched down
maybe a half mile or so
just outside of town.

“The thing quickly became
a really bad F3.
When the sirens went off,
my mom came and got me

“from where I'd been watching
it out on the front lawn.
And barely a minute later,
my mom was gone.”

“That fast?” Santa asked,
his voice filled with great dismay.
“Yeah, that fast,” Nick nodded.
“It took my mom away.

“I remember her yelling
my name as I stood
scared shitless as the storm
tore up my neighborhood.

“I can still hear her voice
and how panicked she was.
But I stood in place
like I was frozen because

“of ev'rything I
was seeing all around me.
Our house was being torn
apart, literally.

“Chunks of roof were pulled off
and the house shook like hell.
But on top of all the noise,
I heard my mom yell,

“'Get in the bath tub!'
as she put me in that thing.
The next thing I remember,
I just heard nothing.

“No wind, nothing breaking,
no yelling from my mom.
When I got out of the tub,
it looked like a bomb

“had gone off where our home
had been standing before.
But thanks to that tornado,
our home was no more.

“I called out for my mom,
but I got no answer.
So I dug through the rubble
to try and find her.

“I called and called for her,
but she never replied.
I refused to believe
that my mother had died.

“An hour later, some people
showed up to help me,
and they got me over to
an emergency

“shelter so that I could
be checked for injuries.
The whole time I was there
I just begged them to please

“find my mom and to make sure
that she was OK.
For nearly a week,
I had no choice but to stay

“at the shelter 'till
the police came and told me
that they couldn't even find
my mother's body.

“They all searched for days
and several miles around.
But despite all of that,
no trace of her was found.

“Ev'rything in our home
was completely destroyed.
And from that moment on,
my life became devoid

“of people who truly
tried to take care of me.
I just bounced from one
nameless foster family

“to another for years
until I turned eighteen.
By that time, I'd become
a drunk prick who was mean

“and pretty much hammered
twenty four hours a day.
And for the next twenty years,
that how it would stay.

“I was angry and hurt.
I had not one thing to
remind me of my mom
as I tried to work through

“all the shit that had happened
to me on that day.
But instead of getting help,
I kept folks at bay.

“I shoved ev'ryone off,
being the prick I was.
I mean, I was ten
when I got my first booze buzz,”

Nick said with a small laugh
and a shake of his head.
“I'm honestly surprised
I didn't end up dead

“before I had become
a legally grown man.
And now, here I am,
doing the best that I can

“to keep my life from taking
another nose dive.
Taking it day by day
and just staying alive.”

At first, Santa didn't
seem to know what to say.
He stood there in silence
with a look of dismay.

“You don't have anything?”
Santa finally said.
“Nothing,” Nick replied.
“All I've got's what's in my head.

“A nightmare where I just
never seem to see her.
And in my other memories,
she's just a blur,

“like she's out of focus
or something. It's damn weird.”
Santa let his gaze lower
as he stroked his beard.

“At least I can remember
her voice,” added Nick.
“But what my mother looked like
just refused to stick.

“I tried therapy when
I wanted to get clean.
I told my shrink about this,
asked, 'What does it mean?',

“and he said that maybe what
I saw scarred my mind.
The trauma of the storm
and how they couldn't find

“my mother got mixed up
inside of my own head.”
With sadness in his eyes,
he sorrowfully said,

“But I really wish that I
could see her again,
and not just this blur
that I've had ever since then.

“To hear her talk to me
without having to yell
over ev'rything around
us going to hell.”

“I wish I could help, Nick,”
Santa said with regret.
“If I could, I'd do something
to help you forget

“what happened to you
and your mom on that bad day.
But I'm no magician
who can just wave away

“a bad memory or
bring back those who've passed on.”
“I know,” Nick replied.
“I just wish she wasn't gone.”

“I do too,” someone said
in the same woman's voice
he'd heard in his nightmare.
“And if I had the choice,

“I'd be right there with you
to ease your mind and heart.
But the world had other
plans to keep us apart.”

Nick began to look
all around bewilderedly.
“What the-?” he uttered.
“Yes, Nick,” the voice said. “It's me.”

“But... how?” he asked, puzzled
at what he had just heard.
That was when a shape appeared
that was very blurred.

So much so, that it looked
like some odd-colored cloud
that resembled who
he'd seen when the F3 plowed

into their home and he'd been
gotten to safety.
“Mom?” he asked as he watched
the cloud. “Is it really-”

“I don't have a lot of time,”
the woman's voice said.
“So please, don't ask questions.
Just let me speak instead.

“I know you lost me
when you were just a young boy.
That you suffered a lot
and found so little joy

“as you tried to grow up
without me at your side.
That you felt so alone
as you grieved and you cried.

“But I've always been near you
when you needed me.
I just had no voice to hear,
or body to see.”

“I don't even have a place
to mourn you,” Nick plead.
“No pictures, no trinkets...
I got nothing, instead.”

“I know,” the woman's voice came.
“I'm here to fix that.
It's the best I can do
with our brief time to chat.

“When you wake up, my boy,
go to the place you'll see.
Once you get there, I promise
that you will find me.”

It was then that the sound
of sirens began to
fade in from the distance
as they made their way through

the fog that surrounded
where Santa and Nick stood
among all of the pieces
of metal and wood.

“Help's on the way,” Santa said
as he looked to where
the road vanished into
the dense fog that was there.

As the siren's grew louder,
the woman's voice said,
“I'll be at that place, Nick.
You'll find me in my bed.”

“Bed?” Nick replied as he
watched the cloud start to fade.
Then with urgency,
“Mom, you can't leave!” he forbade.

Within a few seconds,
Nick was snapped wide awake.
He sat up in his chair,
gave his head a small shake,

then mumbled, “What the hell?”
as he rubbed his forehead
just before a mumbled
“I gotta piss,” was said.

Inside the bathroom,
as he took himself that piss,
a mental image surfaced
from his mind's abyss.

He stood in place and mulled
over what he had seen;
of a place familiar
with a lake so serene,

the water had no ripples.
It was smooth as glass.
The lake was surrounded
by a huge field of grass,

in which a single tree
rose up above it all.
“I know that place,” Nick gasped.
“I have to make a call!”

Within a couple of hours,
Nick had called in sick
to work and gotten himself
a plane ticket, quick.

By early afternoon,
he was on his way to
the place he'd seen that he
was certain he knew.

Once on the ground, Nick
got a rental and went down
to the cop station
of what was once his home town.

He told the police chief
about what had gone down
with his dream and the lake
some ten miles from the town.

And once Nick was finished
describing ev'rything,
he was insistent with his
request that they bring

anything that might be
needed to search the lake.
The chief was hesitant
and thought Nick's tale was fake,

but Nick swore that it was
all true and not a lie.
At six the next morning,
the search team was parked by

that lake as they began
to sift through the water
and the lake's slimy bottom
as they searched for her.

Nick paced back and forth as
he stood near the shore line.
Hours passed by, until it was
about half past nine

when someone yelled they'd found
something in the lake's bed.
At that moment, Nick knew,
they'd found his mom's deathbed.

In the days that followed,
DNA tests were run.
The remains where Nick's mother's,
which meant that her son

could give her a proper grave
for her final rest.
And doing so took a huge
weight off of Nick's chest.

He paid the extra cash
to get it done so she
could have her place of rest
given to her quickly.

And on Christmas Eve,
Nick paid his first visit to
his mother's resting place
in plot three-twenty two.

On that night, for the first time
in what had to seem
like an entire lifetime,
Nick did not have that dream.

Instead, he slept soundly
and began Christmas Day
with a smile as he got up
and then washed away

the “sleepy seeds” from his eyes
in the bathroom sink
and used the cup in there
to get water to drink.

He left the bathroom as
his eyes stung from the soap.
And that was when he saw
the small white envelope

on the coffee table.
“That wasn't there before,”
he mumbled to himself,
then looked to the front door.

He could see that the door
still remained chained and locked.
The sight of that brought him
to look a little shocked.

He went over and picked
the envelope up and
took out the letter
within it with his right hand.

He tossed the empty
envelope onto the floor.
And soon, his sleep-riddled
eyes had begun to pour

over what was written
in the letter he held.
But just a few lines in,
“What the hell?” he expelled.

“Nick,” the letter began.
“I want to talk with you
a little about the
nightmare that you went through.

“What I saw in your mind
was something horrific.
A brutal tragedy
like that would surely stick

“with someone who'd gone through it
for their entire life
and undoubtedly cause
untold amounts of strife.

“It's easy to see why
you had turned to the drink.
To endure such a thing
would cause most hearts to sink

“to a bad place that
many would not want to see.
And such events can cause lives
to shift drastic'ly.

“You lost all that you knew
in one minute's passing.
Your home, your mom and
the life you knew... ev'rything.

“Those are things I can't return
to those who would ask.
To make it all come back,
is just too big a task.

“Your mother gave her life
so that you might live on.
She did that out of love.
And although she's been gone

“for quite a few years,
it still stings you to this day.
But please, don't fear that pain
or push it all away.

“It's there to remind you
how she loved you so much,
that your mom was willing
to endure death's cold touch

“and make sure you saw
the life that she wanted for
the one who came from her.
The one she did adore.

“That bad day took her from you
in more ways than one.
And though that event's
something that can't be undone,

“I hope what you saw
last night will give you some peace.
That the nightmares and hard nights
will finally cease

“to burden you now that you'll
get to see her too.
And that, my dear boy,
is my Christmas gift to you.”

“See her?” Nick remarked with
confusion on his face.
“It was just that odd cloud
in my dream of that place.”

It was a moment before
a bright flash appeared
that filled the air with light
before it disappeared.

Nick looked down a bit as
he blinked his eyes quickly
a few times to both
recover and let him see

that the light had come from
the envelope that he
had opened, which continued
to still glow dimly.

“What the hell?” Nick uttered,
confusion in his stare
that was locked on the
envelope as he stood there.

It took a few seconds,
but he soon reached down for
the envelope where it
still rested on the floor.

When he picked it up,
he felt something inside.
“This was empty before,”
he said, then chose to slide

his fingers into it.
And what he found inside,
made his jaw go slack
as his eyes opened quite wide.

He pulled out an old photo
that was stained by mud.
And when he saw it,
memories began to flood

his mind as he looked at
the scene the photo held,
which brought tears to his eyes
as his emotions swelled.

In the photo was a boy
who was about six.
He wore a shirt with
the logo of the band Styx

going across its front
as he smiled with such glee
in the midst of what looked
like a birthday party.

There were balloons behind him
and a small cake that
was adorned with six burning
candles where it sat.

Behind all those balloons
was a banner that read,
“Happy Birthday, Nick!”
in blue, green, yellow and red

letters that were tilted
and lined up so askew,
that it looked like it was drawn
by a child of two.

“That's me,” Nick said as
a small smile came to his face.
“I remember that shirt
that I won in some race

“at school, where we had to
spin around where we stood,
before we all had to run
as best as we could

“to the finish line without
falling to the floor.
I came in second, and that
shirt was my big score.”

But his train of thought then
vanished when his eyes came
to rest on who else
was there in the cam'ra's frame.

There was a woman next
to his six year old self.
She was leaning over
and looked beside herself

as she smiled with her arms
around his far shoulder.
She looked at most thirty,
and not a year older.

Her round face and warm smile
were filled with so much joy
as she gave a side hug
to that six year old boy.

Her cheek was pressed to his
as they looked at the one
who had been taking
the picture of all the fun.

Nick said nothing as
his eyes grew glassier still,
until from their corners,
his tears began to spill.

They made their way slowly
down his left and right cheek
as he let out a sad, “Mom,”
that was strained and weak.

He looked at the picture
for just a moment more,
until his emotions
at last began to pour

out of him as he started
to quietly cry.
He did this for a
minute until he did try

to regain his composure
just enough to say,
“Hi, Mom,” as he fought hard
to keep his tears at bay.

He set the envelope
on the coffee table,
then went to get tissues
so that he was able

to look over what was
in the photo and not
damage the photo more
with falling tears and snot.

Once he'd left the room,
the envelope was taken
away in a bright flash
of light that was gone when

Nick returned to the room
and had himself a seat
on his sofa before
he brought up both his feet

and rested them on the
coffee table before
him so he could look over
the photo some more.

For the first time in quite
a large number of years,
he saw his mother through
both sad and happy tears.

In a violent moment,
nature took away
ev'rything he knew just
after his sixth birthday.

The horror of it
left him without even one
thing or mental picture
of the loving woman

who brought him into
the world, 40 years ago.
But now he could see her
and how she loved him so.

The short stretch of time
she was with him as he grew,
come flooding back to him
as if it was all new.

He now had a face
to put to her, which meant he
felt more attachment
to each precious memory.

And though they were few,
they brought him a new found joy
as he looked at the one
he lost as a young boy.

Sometimes the world can take
what is dear to someone
and cause deep scars on those
left behind when it's done.

They can be on the body,
or the mind and heart.
And the latter two scars
can still tear lives apart.

But once in a while,
even unseen scars can be
healed so that the one
inflicted, can be pain free.

And so, as Nick basked in
that moment's healing light,
Merry Christmas to all.
And too all, a good night.

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