I’ve mentioned that Christmas and other holidays can be difficult times for those dealing with aloneness, difficult family situations, and past traumas. Mother’s Day used to be my bad holiday. (And do read my post last week if you are among those not looking forward to Christmas for similar reasons.)
One of the plots of my novel Pilot Point is how Clayton Hays and his friend Bowie Smith deal with their aloneness – and they do not deal with it very well. One Christmas opens a window to this.
The following excerpt from that Christmastime is short and simple. We see their reluctance to accept an invitation to a family Christmas; it reminds both of the families they do not have. Bowie instead has arranged to work cattle on Christmas Day.
We also see Bowie adding logs to a dying fire. That does not seem a significant moment at first. But his words as he does so end up echoing through the novel – and through Clayton’s struggle.
Kim, Bowie, and Clayton were playing poker over at Bowie’s. He had a fire going, but it was dying from neglect—the three were so intent on their cards.
The armadillo on the rafter had a red elf cap on, and there was a picture up of Santa wearing a cowboy hat with his sleigh being pulled by longhorns. Those were the only Christmas decorations Bowie had up.
After a hand, Kim asked Bowie, “What are you going to be doing Christmas?”
“Nothin’ much.” He shuffled the cards.
“The wife says you’re welcome to stop by for Christmas dinner. So come on over.”
“I appreciate that, but I don’t know if I’m going to have time. I’m going to give the Hunt land workers Christmas by taking over for them. Most of them have families to go to, and I don’t. So I figured I’d stand in for them so they can have the day off. Seven-card stud.”
“That’s awful nice of you. I didn’t know you were doing that for us. I appreciate it. The offer still stands though.”
“I thank you.”
“How about you, Clayton?”
He shrugged his shoulders and kept looking at his cards. “I don’t have any plans.”
“Well, come over for dinner at my place then.”
“Thanks, but I’d feel out of place. Christmas is a time for family and…” his voice faded.
“Keep it in mind anyway. Janet’s cooking and hospitality can make anyone feel like family.”
When they finished the hand, Bowie looked over at the fire. “Hell, there’s only one log left burning and barely at that. We’re so busy with cards, we weren’t paying attention.” He got up and walked over to the logs he had piled to the side of the fireplace. He leaned over. But before he picked one up, he looked back at Clayton with an expression both wry and yet as serious as a long winter.
“One log can’t keep a fire going. A lone fire dies. You’d think we’d know that.”
Clayton watched him as he turned back to the fireplace and put three logs on. They watched as the fire began to grow strong again.
Bowie came back to the table. And they went back to their cards.
When the cards came around to Clayton, he asked Bowie, “What kind of work are you going to be doing Christmas.”
“Oh, mainly just feedin’ and docterin’.”
Clayton shuffled the cards and began dealing them. “Five-card draw.”
After losing some more money, he asked, “Could you use a hand on Christmas?”
“Sure, are you offering?”
“We haven’t won that much money off you, have we?” The three chuckled.
“I appreciate that,” Bowie then said without any bluster, looking at Clayton.
Pilot Point is available at Amazon.
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