THE LETTER

19 Nov

The letter was grabbed by the wind and whipped from the girl’s fragile hands. The girl was seven and hungry and the wind was vicious. The girl wore a thin cotton dress and the wind had gorged itself on snow in the frozen North. The girl was due to die quite soon unless something radical happened to change things, and that wind would never die.

The wind was quite at home down Elm Street, and the girl was homeless.

The wind held the letter tightly in its wintry fingers and teased her by whipping it high into the invisible sky.

That was the way of things.

Then the wind, laughing like a hurricane on acid, tore the letter into two separate pieces and threw them hither and thither until one was North and the other was South and maybe never the twain would meet. It sniggered at that, and rested awhile, and the girl lay down by the post box.

She couldn’t post what she no longer had, but she laid down and closed her eyes anyway.

“It’s time,” she thought, always positive, “to sleep…”

The North part of the torn letter danced and pranced and jiggled around until it was quite lost and couldn’t tell what was up, what was down, what was left or what was right, but it found a chimney all right.

It found a big, tall, fat, brick chimney and slithered down it into an ice palace far below.

The South part of the torn letter soon felt the sun on its wrinkled edges and started drifting so peacefully you might have mistaken it for a sleeping butterfly and because all was peace and serenity it lost all control over where it wanted to go and drifted into a cloud.

The North part of the letter in the chimney felt so hot it knew what was going to happen and, cheerily, almost burst into flames just as a jolly fat man in a scarlet suit reached out to grab it. And when he grabbed it he blew the embryonic flames out and looked at the words on the scorched and battered paper.

The South part of the torn letter got so wet in the cloud that its writing started to run until there wasn’t much left of it than an inky smudge that hardly said anything. And eventually, when the cloud was really fed up with it, it drifted down into the hands of a passing Sheikh.

The fat man in the scarlet suit could make neither sense nor meaning when he looked at his scorched piece of paper, so he frowned and frowned and frowned and stared and stared and stared. But still neither sense nor meaning came, so he shook his head and poured himself a stiff drink with loads of alcohol in it.

The passing Sheikh stared at his half of the girls’ letter, but the writing was so smudged he barely knew it was there. Yet one word stood out from the smudges because it had been written extra large in the first place. “DEAR” it said. Just “DEAR”, and nothing else.

When the fat man in the scarlet suit had finished his stiff drink he stared at the scorched half-letter again, and thought, in his brain-addled stupor, that he could make out one word because it had been written extra large. “SANTA” it said. Just “SANTA”, and nothing else.

The passing Sheikh rubbed his forehead in concentration and decided there must be more to the paper, and he decided to go in search of the truth, and he rode his long-lithe-limbed camel fast as it would go in search of that truth. Across deserts he went, and rivers and mountains, for he was a truly powerful Sheikh and could do such things. And eventually he came to a little light.

The fat man in a scarlet suit, when he was sober again, looked one last time at his half of the paper and decided, in a moment bordering on the heroic, to go forth and find the rest of the torn paper in the hope that he would learn more from it. So he gathered his favourite reindeer to him and harnessed them to a sleigh and went forth into a black and bleak winter’s night. And he rode almost as fast as the wind had blown until he came to a little light.

“This is my little light, for it is written that it must be,” growled the Sheikh when he saw the fat man, and “The little light must shine on my paper,” rumbled the fat man in scarlet.

Then both men held up their halves of the paper so that the little light shone on them. It shone on the wet one and it shone on the scorched one, and as it did so the writing that had once been on it shone in the dimness of the little light.

“Dear Santa,” it said when it was pushed together, “help me for I am homeless and sick, and all I want for Christmas is my mummy back….”

That was all. No mention of x-boxes or iPhones, not a single word suggesting laptops or tablets, not a syllable demanding a talking doll that wet its knickers, just that.

“The poor child,” rumbled the fat man in scarlet, sobbing.

“She must have what she desires!” agreed the Sheikh, in tears

“Shush or you’ll waken the baby!” snapped the father in the stable, and he grabbed the two halves of paper and screwed them up and tossed them out into the world, where a passing wind grabbed them and ran off, whistling with them.

And as nothing radical happened to change things, and lying by a post box a long way away, a little girl died when her mummy didn’t come back..

© Peter Rogerson 19.11.16

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