Looking Back

Wyld FLASH – December 25th 2020

By Jane Saunders

Trembling fingers reseal the parcels, fusing together the crumpled, patterned paper. Gift tags and ribbons swarm out from an impossibly tangled pile, unravelling and attaching themselves to the smooth surfaces with careful precision. Then, excited hands replace the parcels underneath a brightly lit tree.

More and more of these parcels arrive beneath the tree, until they are piled high under branches weighed down with golden baubles and sparkling silver ornaments.

The day dims, night awakens, and a woman sits alone near the tree. From her mouth she streams honey-coloured liquid into a small glass that glints under the lights. She grimaces as she spits out orange pieces into a long root vegetable which she places intact on a tray next to the glass. Her fingers make curved lettering disappear from a piece of writing paper.

Later, she peels the brightly covered paper from the parcels, her mouth and fingers adding small strips to a growing roll of yellow stickiness. Scissors repair the tubes of wrapping paper, which are then positioned into a wardrobe, nestling into a hiding place which they will share with old cards and dusty decorations.

One by one, a range of items disappears from an untidy mound upon the woman’s bed. She pushes a smile back into her face and puts everything into carrier bags, and then places them all into the boot of her car.

She slips quickly into a car park space at a large store, where cars beep and lines of people are busy taking bags of items to checkpoints where they receive money in return.

Her pace is slow and then fast as the number of items in her green pull-along basket are one by one placed upon the shelves. Finally, she backs out of the revolving doors, her expression changing from determination to anticipation, before driving around the car park many, many times and then heading home.

Home is a place where smiles seem to fade as the days go by. Family members replace chocolates into shiny wrappers and fit glittery cards back into envelopes. These envelopes are then sealed and placed on the doormat where they are sucked into the outer world.

In the food cupboard, supplies reduce, mince pies are consigned to packets. A cute calendar closes its doors, little treats appearing day by day. In a month, it is removed from the wall and slides back into its cellophane wrapping.

Finally, the proud pine tree in the corner is stripped of its finery, left bare and humble. It is forced into the back of the family car, encased in fraying white netting, branches upraised in self-protection. The tree is then released of its bindings by a machine that allows it to spread free once again. Before long there is pain, but then joy as it rejoins a shrinking community of green.

And in the church, where so many people come to return their sins and take away their prayers, there is the story of a man who stepped down from a place of torture. Miraculously, his wounds disappeared, and he rejoined his friends and followers. But then he changed. He gave suffering to people who had had come to him in health. He took away food from the starving and hope from the needy. Soon he returned to the place from where he came, leaving behind many people who were lost and looking for salvation. Up in the skies, he travelled, shimmering, leaving behind a world in darkness and pain.

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Author Bio: Jane Saunders is very excited by Christmas but gets depressed on December 26th because there are 364 days to go until the next one. She’s also convinced that most of the time we’ve got it all backwards. Put these two things together and Christmas might come back sooner than we think.

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