Short story - THE CHRISTMAS PRESENT | Sunday Observer


Rita was so engrossed looking at the statue of Virgin Mary that she felt as if a silver flash was running along the edge of the light blue robe Virgin Mary was wearing. For no reason she felt happy as if she had been promised that something was going to happen

“Only a week more for Christmas,” thought Rita listening to the chiming of the church bells. “I’ve bought nothing, not even a new suit for Krisantha. After all, what Christmas for me when my husband is not at home? He is suffering in prison. How can we celebrate Christmas?”

Tears were flowing down her eyes as she knelt down at the statue of Virgin Mary, whose kind face was looking at her, she thought.

“Amma,” the voice of her only child disturbed her reverie.

“I must buy something for him,” she decided, as she turned round to answer her son.

“Amma, I just heard Thaththa’s voice calling me. Did he come home?”

“No dear. He will be finishing his term at the end of May.”

“I heard his voice as if he was coming through the door. However, I am going to church to pray for him,” he said going out.

Rita and Percy lived not far from the church. They were not rich. They had only a hand to mouth existence. Yet, they were honest. Percy did any kind of odd job he could find to keep the home fires burning. Rita too made various kinds of sweets at home to sell, as an extra way of earning some coins. Krisantha was their only child.

One night, when Percy was standing near their house, Martin invited him to join him in a walk down the lane. Percy knew Martin was a known looter in the area. Yet, without thinking, he joined in. After walking for a few minutes, Martin suddenly jumped over a low wall into a garden covered with shrubs and bushes.

“Come on Percy,” he called as he jumped over.

It dawned on him then, as to who Martin was. At once Percy realized that Martin must have hidden some stolen goods in that garden.

“My God! Why did I never think that Martin was a looter?”

He turned back to run away home. But it was too late. Two police officers were there just behind him.

“Caught red handed!” one shouted.

“Sir, sir,” Percy stammered.

But he was already being handcuffed and pushed into the jeep.

“A good lesson for me for teaming up with robbers!” said Percy to his wife when the case was over and he was sentenced to ten months imprisonment in jail.

“Six months more,” said Rita to herself looking at their family photo hanging on the wall.

That evening their Parish Priest, Father Ben visited the mother and son.

“Are you ready for Christmas, Krisantha?” he asked the boy.

“What Christmas for us, Father?” replied Rita, wiping away the tears that suddenly started flowing down her cheeks.

“We know that Percy is innocent. Haven’t you heard that birds of a feather flock together? People do believe in this. Martin too gave evidence that he came along with Percy. That’s what happened in this case. It is a good lesson for you too, Krisantha not to get involved with bad people,” Father said patting the boy’s head.

“We know you are very religious. I too have written to the authorities about Percy. We will see how it works out. However, I have brought Krisantha a new suit as a Christmas gift. Don’t lose faith. God will look after you.”

“As long as I can remember, I have never missed the midnight Mass on Christmas eve. After marriage, I always attended the Mass with my husband. I was just thinking of it and was wondering how I could attend Mass this year without him,” said Rita covering her face with her hands.

“Don’t worry Rita,” answered Father Ben. “Think of this incident as a trial God has sent to check your faith in Him.

I know that all three of you are very religious. You never miss the Sunday Mass and have great faith in God. Pray for your husband. Pray for all of you. I am sure you would be rewarded at the end.”

Saying thus, the Priest looked at the place where the statues of Virgin Mary and of Lord Jesus stripped to the cross were kept. A tiny bulb was giving it light even at daytime.

“You don’t switch this off even at day time?” he asked looking at Krisantha.

“No Father,” he replied. “Mother lit this the day Father was taken to prison. She said, this should be kept switched on the whole day until my father comes back.”

Father Ben smiled and walked up to the statues. He recited a small prayer in front of them while mother and son stood behind the Father with folded arms. Rita was so engrossed looking at the statue of Virgin Mary that she felt as if a silver flash was running along the edge of the light blue robe Virgin Mary was wearing.

For no reason she felt happy as if she had been promised that something was going to happen. Father Ben blessed them, and asking them not to miss Christmas Mass, went on his way.

“Amma, now that I have received a new suit, you don’t have to spend money to buy me another. You buy yourself a new frock,” said Krisantha as Father disappeared around a corner on the road.

Rita did not reply. Instead, she was thinking what had made her happy when Father was carrying on the prayer.

Christmas day dawned with no clouds in the sky as if promising a happy Christmas for all. Krisantha too had made a small Christmas tree with a thrown away branch. He had no trinkets to make it shine. Yet, some gold, silver and shining coloured paper helped him to decorate it with the help of his mother.

He kept it close to a window where the rays of the sun fell. When these coloured paper strips fluttered in the moving wind, the sun rays fell on them and shone.

“How beautiful!” thought Krisantha.

Mother and son had dinner and were waiting impatiently to go to church when somebody knocked at the door.

Rita opened the door and stood aghast as if she had seen a ghost. Krisantha, who was standing behind her shouted joyfully as he ran to the person standing there.

“Putha,” the newcomer folded him in his arms. Tears were running down both faces.

Father Ben, who stood just behind him exclaimed, “A Christmas Present for both of you,” he was beaming happily.

“The officials received Father Ben’s letter. They decided to send me home immediately so that I can be here for Christmas. Before coming home, I went to church to thank God and also to thank my saviour, Father Ben,” said Percy embracing both mother and son.