Intangible Gifts by Malina Douglas




There was a man dwelt by the churchyard. When snow fell he shoveled paths and brushed snowflakes from plastic flowers. At Yuletide he decorated tombstones with holly. Those attending mass would remark on how festive it looked but stayed away because he muttered to the air.

As Michael yawned through Midnight Mass, he thought of the yew tree strung with fairy lights, ice-rimmed red berries on ledges of stone. He crept out to investigate.

Dashing from a gust of icy wind, he found the Caretaker in a clearing with outstretched arms.

Michael ducked behind a tombstone to watch.

“If you’ve come for your present, you’ll have to wait,” said a little girl’s voice.

Michel whirled but saw no one.

The Caretaker waved his arms skyward.

As Michael squinted upwards, a bone-white transparent shape appeared. A sleigh. It was pulled by spectral reindeer, a silver-edged Santa at the reins.

It landed on the snow without a sound.

“I want a nutcracker for Christmas,” said the girl’s voice. “What do you want?”

“I want a new video game.”

“What’s that?”

Michael frowned. “How have you never heard of a video game? Where are you?”

“Here,” she said. An outline shimmered and a transparent girl stepped forward, in a flared skirt with stockings, round face framed by silvery curls.

“I’m Angela. The only game I play now is frightening people.”

“Does it work?”

“Oh yes. They run away every time. Look!”

Santa was unloading a sack. The Caretaker murmured something. Santa nodded.

“Are you ready?” called Santa.

Michael gazed wide-eyed as figures rose from the tombstones, small as he was, with full translucent cheeks and glowing eyes. As each came forward, Santa distributed gifts.

When Michael approached, Santa gave a stern look and said, “Not for the living.”

He saw Angela’s pride as she took her nutcracker.

“Goodbye Michael, I hope you enjoy your video games.”

“Wait—” He heard only a soft thump as wind dislodged snow from the yew.

Brushing snow from the gravestone beside him, he read Angela Toppins, 1838-1843.

The man of the churchyard put a finger to his lips.


Published 12/30/21

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