During this Christmas season, I’ll be republishing many of the Christmas short stories I’ve written over the years. Danny’s Firetruck was written many years ago but re-edited for publication this year. – Dale
Six-year-old Ben was the first to wake up that Christmas morning. He took a look to see if it was light out yet. Mom had been explicit last night, they couldn’t get up until the sun was. “It must be light out,” he thought, squinting to make out Winnie the Pooh watching from the dresser. Deciding it was ok he jumped out of his bed. “Danny wake up! It’s Christmas,” he said while giving his three-year-old brother a shake. In a few moments, Ben’s excitement registered with Danny and he was out of his bed in a flash.
Both boys sprinted down the hallway and burst into their parent’s room. “It’s Christmas,” they yelled. Then they ran back down the hallway towards the living room where a Christmas tree had been set up a few weeks earlier.
“Are you awake?” Rod asked Evelyn.
“Uh, barely, what time is it?” she asked.
“6:45,” Rod said after checking the clock on the nightstand.
“I didn’t know that it was light this early,” she said groggily as both began to stir out of the bed.
The boys surrounded the tree, guarding the presents to make sure none escaped. “Well boys why don’t we wait until tonight to open these,” Rod teased. The boys looked stricken. “Just teasing, Let me get some coffee on, and then once your mom’s here we’ll see what’s in all those packages.”
This Christmas was going to be better for Rod’s family than previous years. Rod had only been in his new job for about 10 months, but they had managed to catch up on their bills so there was a little extra available for Christmas. Not that Christmas was extravagant. Each boy received a new shirt and pants and one toy. Ben opened a set of building blocks and Danny got a bright red fire truck with a working ladder. “Woooooooo, woooooooo,” he mimicked pushing it around the floor. Evelyn had also wrapped a lot of smaller things too like candy bars and chewing gum just to give the boys plenty of things to open. After the presents were done and the wrapping paper picked up Rod gathered his family together to read the Christmas story out of the Gospel of Luke.
Next door, in Mrs. Anderson’s house, the holiday was only noticed by the calendar. She had never had much family, and what family she did have was either too distant in relationship or in geography to include her in their festivities. She didn’t mind though; she had a long habit of ignoring Christmas. Well, of ignoring practically everyone all the time. Except when someone’s grass grew a bit too long or some trash cans were not retrieved from the curb.
In the Parker’s house on the other side of Rod’s, Christmas wasn’t missed, but gifts were few. Fred had been dreaming of a football since Thanksgiving, but his only present was a pair of jeans. Fred’s father also had a new job, but with the recent medical bills from the newborn, their funds were very limited. They celebrated Christmas as best they could by gathering around the tree, reading the Christmas story, and opening their few packages. Fred really did have his heart set on a football.
After Christmas dinner, Ben and Danny went outside to play in the snow. Fred was already outside working on a snowman. “Hi Fred, Merry Christmas,” Ben called.
“Merry Christmas, I guess,” Fred replied while adding to his snowman’s midsection.
“Whatcha get for Christmas?” Ben asked.
“A crumby pair of jeans, how about you guys?’ Fred asked.
“We both got clothes too. Danny got a toy fire truck, and I got some building blocks.”
“Wow, that’s cool,” Fred replied with a little envy.
“Fred, time to come in,” his mother called.
“See you guys,” Fred said plodding back inside.
Danny pulled on Ben’s coat to get his attention. “Fred no toys for kisstmas?” Danny asked.
“You wouldn’t understand; you’re too little,” Ben told him. “Let’s go build a snowman.”
“Otay,” Danny replied.
After supper, Ben and his dad were playing with the building blocks while Mom cleaned up the kitchen. Mrs. Anderson, out on the sidewalk taking her Yorkie for a walk, noticed a small shadow sneaking across Rod’s yard heading towards the Parker’s. After her eyes adjusted a little more, she was able to make out that the shadow was a small coatless boy carrying what appeared to be a poorly wrapped present. Curious she followed at a distance and spied on him as he snuck on the front porch and placed his bundle by the front of the door. The little shadow then jumped up, pressed the doorbell and sprinted back home.
Evelyn, Fred’s mother, opened the door and noticed the present. Bending down to take a closer look she could make out the lines of a toy fire truck through the holes in the wrapping paper. “Fred, come here,” she yelled as Mrs. Anderson looked on from the sidewalk.
“Yeah, Mom?” Fred asked.
“I think that someone brought you something. Go ahead and open it. Fred removed the wrapping revealing a toy fire truck.
“Is this mine Mommy?” Fred asked.
“I suppose so sweetie. Do you have any idea who could have left it?”
“Ben said that Danny got a fire truck for Christmas, but why would he leave it for me?”
From the sidewalk, Mrs. Anderson volunteered, “I don’t know why, but I saw a small boy bring it over,”
“Oh,” Fred’s mom said. “I didn’t see you there Mrs. Anderson. You saw Danny drop this off?”
“I was walking Sparky, and I saw a small boy come out of Rod’s sneak over with a present and ring the bell,” Mrs. Anderson said. “I don’t know their names, but it was the littlest one.”
“I wonder why?” Fred’s mom asked.
“Why don’t we go over to Rod’s house and ask?” Mrs. Anderson suggested.
The four of them marched over to Rod’s house: Fred with the fire truck, Fred’s Mom, Mrs. Anderson, and Sparky. When they got to the front door, Mrs. Anderson rang the bell which Evelyn answered.
“Mrs. Anderson, Fred, June, good evening. Can I help you?” she asked, puzzled by the delegation standing at her front door. Mrs. Anderson briefly explained the reason. “Why don’t you come in and have a seat,” Evelyn invited. And in they went, including Sparky who was ready to come in out of the cold.
Evelyn started by asking, “Danny did you give Fred your fire truck?”
“Yes,” he replied
“Why did you do that honey?” she asked.
“Fred sad, no kisstmas toy,” he said.
“We couldn’t afford much for Christmas this year,’’ June offered shyly. “Hank started his new job just a few months ago, and then the baby came. With the hospital bills, we just didn’t have enough money for much more than a pair of jeans. You know how little boys go through jeans.”
“I sure do,” Evelyn nodded. “We didn’t have a much either. The boys each got some clothes and a toy; the fire truck was Danny’s present.”
“Fred, give the fire truck back to Danny,” June said.
But before Fred could hand the fire truck back Danny bolted out of the room. The adults sat and looked at each other, each one wondering what to do next. After a few moments, Mrs. Anderson softly said. “I’ve never seen anything like it. That little boy, he’s, well, I’ve never seen a heart filled with that much goodness. Reminds me of something long forgotten.” She grew introspective for a few moments. “It’s been a long time since I’ve given anyone a Christmas greeting, would you mind?”
“Well no, Merry Christmas Mrs. Anderson,” Rod said. They each, in turn, went around the small circle expressing their holiday greeting to her.
When it came back around to her, she said “Merry Christmas everyone. My, it’s been a long time since I said that.” The Yorkie gave a small yip as if to agree and from the next room a little voice joined in. “Merry Kisstmas Mrs. Anderson”
“I needed that,” Mrs. Anderson said. A tear was rolling down one cheek. “Danny, come out here please I have an idea I’d like to share with you.” Once Danny settled on his mom’s lap Mrs. Anderson continued, “Fred, do you like the fire truck?”
“Yea, I guess so,” Fred said
“What did you really want for Christmas?” Mrs. Anderson asked.
Mrs. Anderson turned to Danny. “If I get Fred a football for Christmas, will you take your fire truck back?” June started to protest, but Mrs. Anderson held her hand up.
“Otay,” Danny answered.
“Ok, tomorrow Fred and I will walk down to Mr. Green’s Store and pick out a football. If that is ok with you, Fred.” Fred handed the fire truck back to Danny. “Now boys why don’t you go play,” she suggested. Ben and Fred scampered out of the room while Danny pushed his firetruck behind them going “Wooooo, Woooo.”
“Thank you, Mrs. Anderson, you didn’t need…” June started.
“Yes, I do. That little boy showed me what Christmas is all about, and I don’t want any arguments. He reminded me it’s about giving something of yourself and not expecting anything in return. It’s been a long time since I’ve celebrated the season. I have some catching up to do.” With that, she pulled the checkbook from her purse.
“Mrs. Anderson?” Rod started.
“Hush,” she said sternly. Then she made out two checks. She handed one to Rod and the other to June. “I know that may seem like a lot of money, but like Scrooge said, ‘there’s a lot of back payments included’ if I remember my Dickens right.” With that, she pulled on Sparky’s leash and rose to leave the room. “June, send Fred over at 9:30 tomorrow morning. Merry Christmas everyone,” she smiled when she heard herself. “My, that feels good to say.”
Mrs. Anderson kept her promises and more. A few months later, on a warm spring day, Rod looked out the living room window over at the park. He was surprised to see Mrs. Anderson pitching underhand to the boys while they took turns batting. When she saw Rod, she waved and mouthed, “Merry Christmas,” and then returned to the game.