December Blog: A Christmas Short Story

Deep Christmas Pockets  by Deborah McCormick Maxey


Maw turned from the kitchen table where her hands and forearms had been buried in a wooden bowl, kneading bread. With a floured white finger she pointed to a tin Clabber Girl can on the shelf over the stove. “Fetch a dollar Junior and get me two cups a sugar at the general store. Tomorrow is Christmas Eve. This family’s gonna have cookies.”

John pulled down the former baking powder tin and opened the top. Looking in he felt his stomach turn when he saw that only one dollar remained.  He paused then pulled it out. His eyes were drawn to his father’s mark in blue ink on the top right, “LHU1.” Paw always marked the money, counting down from twenty, before he left for work on the pipe line.

“Maw are you sure we should…”

“Junior it’s Christmas. You’re eleven. That’s my decision, not yorn. It’s cold so wear double socks on your hands. Get along now in case it snows deep, cause you aint got no high up boots.”

“I want to go too.” Esther said, coming into the kitchen, her tone filled with injustice.

“You finish stringing the popcorn and paper chains Missy. That tree aint gonna decorate it’self. You just had croup. You’d be sick till nineteen and forty-one.”

John searched for the few buttons left on his hand-me-down coat. With the wind howling, he was prouder than ever Maw had sewn new deep pockets in it for him. He pushed the dollar bill to the bottom of one and pulled the socks onto his hands as she watched.

“Home before dinner. Don’t dilly dally. I’ll worry.”

The wind pushed against him as he walked. Soon he grew surprised at how fast the snow was beginning to accumulate. Usually his pesky eight-year-old sister accompanied him with constant chatter. Somehow her absence, the unusual quiet of snowfall and not knowing if Paw would make it home for Christmas left him uneasy. He wondered if his father would agree that the last dollar should go for sugar. He couldn’t shake the notion things were about to go wrong.

John squinted and bent his head leaning into the wind. Two miles and he could warm up in the store. He hoped the storm would slow down before he started back. Finally, the big Esso sign loomed ahead. Two cars covered in snow, and a pickup John didn’t recognize were parked in front.

As John approached a man got out of the truck holding onto his black leather Stetson cap, stepped under the porch and came toward him. “Merry Christmas young man.” John noted he had on the most expensive looking overcoat he had ever seen. His hair was shiny and black. So were his shoes. No one John knew had shoes like that.

John stepped under the tin roofing and felt relief from the snow against his face. “Merry Christmas,” he returned.

The man reached into his pocket and pulled out a small brown bag. “Young man, I have here in my possession something my managers at Superior Jewelers have commissioned me to market to the very next person I happen upon. That sir would be you. I am able to grant you the prospect of purchasing this fine jewel as a goodwill gesture of Superior Jewelers, because you sir are the lucky individual who appeared next in my line of vision. That makes you a winner. All I would need is your name and your agreement to state that you feel lucky to have been selected by Superior Jewelers for our marketing campaign in nineteen and forty-one and you can purchase this fine gift.” The man proceeded to open the bag and pull out a black velvet jewelry box.

John held up his hand to stop him. “I’m sorry sir. I only have enough money to buy sugar.” He started to move around to the door, but the man stepped in front of him.

The man chortled. “You don’t understand. This is what most would call a Christmas miracle. I would bet young man you have a fine mother at home who deserves the best. You believe in miracles, don’t you?”

John did believe in miracles. He nodded.

The man opened the box to a beautiful cameo necklace the size of a quarter, with a matching gold chain.

“Exactly how much money do you have young man?”

John felt embarrassed. “One dollar.”

“My instructions are to accept whatever you offer. One dollar it is. I will put it in a fresh bag and you mother will have a Christmas to remember.”

John’s heart pounded. He looked at the man’s eyes. They reminded him of his grandfather. That had to be a good sign.

The man opened the box, took the necklace out, and even in low light the gold glistened. “Fourteen carats,” he said, his voice deep and authoritative. “Your mother will have to work over that sugar if you take it home. Cookies are gone in no time, but this will last forever. Doesn’t she deserve a Christmas miracle?”

She did. Esther and his father would think so too. John took a breath, then reached deep into his pocket and pulled out the dollar. As he handed it over his eyes searched for his father’s mark, “LHU1.”

“One second, I’ll put it in a fresh bag.” The man shoved John’s dollar in his trouser pocket and went to his truck and opened the door. John, lost in thought about his decision, watched distracted as the man’s long coattails flapped in the wind. The man bumped his head on the door frame when a neighbor’s horn sounded as they passed and waved hello to John.

The man bolted towards him, shoved the fresh bag in Johns hand, and said, “I have to run.” He sprinted for his truck and backed out, tires spinning in the snow.

John’s heart began to pound. The man had stopped smiling. He didn’t ask for John’s name for marketing either. Or ask him to repeat the lucky phrase.

John pushed the bag deep into his pocket. He needed to get home. The snow was piling up fast.

All the way back John’s mind tormented him. He rehearsed telling Maw there was no sugar. He wanted to believe in the Christmas miracle, but he was too scared to look. So, he prayed.

Cold and wet he was forced to walk slower and slower. The snow was already knee deep. Lights from a truck coming toward him blinked high, low, high, low. John stepped off the road for safety. The truck stopped just ahead of him and the driver got out and came towards him. A man opened his arms wide. “Son, it’s me.”

John ran towards his father and flew into his embrace. “Paw, oh Paw.”

Safe in the warm truck they pulled off the road. His father brushed the snow from John’s pants and warmed him, telling him the minute he got home and heard John was out in the storm that became a blizzard, he set out to find his son.

John told Paw what he had done with the last dollar and why he was worried now that it wasn’t a miracle after all.

“Christmas morning we’ll have a surprise one way or another son. But right now, it looks like to me, we still need that sugar. Let’s just go back and get some.”

When they arrived at the general store Mr. Tibbs, the owner, greeted them with a howl of delight as they opened the door. Sitting by his coal stove he slapped his knees and laughed. “Well now have you ever? This here is finer than frogs hair. First that grifter shows up, then the sheriff comes in right after and hauls him and his truck off. Now the two of you. It’s a fine how de do.”

“Sounds like things are buzzing, Mr. Tibbs,” Paw said with a smile.

“You could say so. That there con-artists been up to no good all down Route 29 for days. Coppers finally nabbed him. Peers he was sellin’ a necklace then givin’ folks a empty box in a bag. That is until he gave your Junior here the wrong bag. Coppers said that necklace belongs to Junior now. Fair and square. Just before the coppers came that swindler came back in here and showed me the dollar. Asked me, ‘you know who gave me this dollar with this here mark ‘LHU1’ on it? I need to find um.’  I told him the blame truth. I said, ‘Didn’t nobody give you that dollar in front of me, so I can’t rightly tell you who done it.’”

Paw smiled. “Truth always wins out don’t it Mr. Tibbs?”

Mr. Tibbs nodded and smiled. “Your boy here got himself a true Christmas miracle. By the way. I’ve been seeing that mark LHU for many a year. If you don’t mind sayin’, what exactly does it stand for?”

“Lord help us.”

The Conversation

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    The Conversation

  1. Kimberly says:

    This is a charming and heartwarming Christmas story. I laughed out loud
    when I read the last line! I loved it! Thank you.

  2. Jeff Ostrander says:

    A wonderful story, and very well told.

  3. Robert says:

    I felt like I read this before.great story

  4. Deborah (also) says:

    Thanks for such a heart warming story which we all need at these particular time with all that is going on here and in the world. We all need to get on our needs and say, LHU!

    • Deborah Maxey says:

      Thank you. I agree our surroundings are reminding us to ask for His continued intercession and peace. Have a blessed Christmas!

  5. Sue M Ramsey says:

    A wonderful read.

  6. Diane E Tatum says:

    Wonderful tale, Debbie!

  7. Tyger says:

    Deborah, this is precious ❤️❤️❤️. I hated that it ended.

  8. Holly S says:

    Loved it!!