End of a Season

Submitted into Contest #178 in response to: Write a story about an unconventional holiday tradition.... view prompt

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Fiction Holiday Adventure

At the dawn of the day he woke up from his flat thin mattress with a severe backache. In the tiny room he noticed his children one on top of the other in the corner floor mat, snoring in unison,. Without much delay he washed and rushed to the bus station, navigating the forest of people clustered at the old station, his steps dividing men and women and slipping through the pockets of space to make it on time. The season was fast approaching and his work was always heavy this time of the year.

When the factory clock horned at six he was already on the assembly line, he parted the little red lever that came on the conveyor belt to move the parts before placing them in the box. The task master came out top and his face was increasingly red this morning. He looked down noticing the conveyor stopped and shouted something in the air. Soon after the system restarted and the speed of the belt was doubled. The task master paced back into his air conditioned office above the factory roof. He hurried back out and hang a big poster on the railings by his office.

“Christmas working hours: 5am to 8pm” 

He looked up and sighed in a soft sadness that relinquished all in effortless submission. As the buzzer sounded in the hall, the conveyor belt rattled and roared forward towards him, returning his melancholy thoughts to the attention of the next box assembly parts.

The boxes were cushioned with packing styrofoams and wrapped together before being placed in a long red shipping container. At the port the inspection agent circled the red container slapping small stickers with “cleared” written on black ink. He was always cautious with time during this season for many companies would seek damages for any tardiness related to his office. As it was in his administrative tradition especially in this festive season he added a small bow sticker to at least one of the stamp papers.

A wretched looking truck driver was finishing his smoke when he noticed the crane hovering with a giant metal box. The container with mild sickness of rust had traversed the ocean and was nearing its destination. The driver screamed some profanity for the operator to hurry up before his truck ran out of gas. He grumbled below his unshaven chin dreading the cold and lonely hundreds of miles he still had to travel. 

“The worst time of the year” he protested as he entered the long blue Volvo with Kentucky plates.

The snow beat hard on the icy roads shaking and waving the truck on the urban highway. Each flake diminished the vision of the driver and fatigue crept in. By the time the truck pulled at the back of the store the drive was ready for a nap. He handed the delivery clerk a receiving slip to sign and climbed back to take a nap at the bed behind the driver’s seat. He wondered what his son wanted for Christmas but before a thought could fully form he was lost in the shadow of sleep. Later he would find one empty box left behind like a lonely island missing the continent as a perfect coincidence to deliver home a gift to his only loved one. 

At the storage facility behind, dozens upon dozens of workers in the same blue colors sorted and packed the boxes by number and type. The procurement manager walked with his inventory pad taking count of the newly received items, processing and updating the floor manager on available items as they were received. The system worked seamlessly with each member perfectly placed to ensure no delays happened especially during their busiest shopping season.

Inside the floor area Robert Hall waited anxiously by aisle B23 turning his head left and right, in hopes of seeing the tall dark haired store clerk returning. He was looking for a particular gift for his boy Mac but he noticed the empty shelves with only the price tags. A sour thought of emptiness embedded itself in the bushes of his mind peeking-in at the hope of a season. The clerk had promised he would check the back for any restocking items if they were available. The frown on his face immediately evident as the situation was unfolding. 

Mac had been talking for days about the latest edition of the Pirate Roy set as the only thing he wanted for Christmas. He had done chores and helped around the house with a determination he had never seen before. The thought of missing this particular set filled him with dismal thoughts every time he imagined Mac’s little face on Christmas morning. It pained him in ways he was familiar with. A reminder of him when he was growing flashed bring the pictures of his childhood home, a household that barely gave presents during this holiday and how much he longed for the gifts Santa gave to his neighbors. A stunning remind that Christmas was not always equal in every family and maybe he could learn to be more grateful.

The elation of surprise and ecstasy was clearly evident when the dark haired clerk appeared with the blue box. And so as the stunning thoughts came so did the stunning smoke too dissipate and he forgot his earlier conviction allow the cloud of the success of this Pirate Roy set to carry him away. The items meticulously arranged by a craftsmanship that even the working elves of the north pole factory could not have done a better job. He returned his eyes to the clerk who rampantly came to his face wearing a grin so perfect he almost called him Santa.

“Thank you!” Robert said.

“Merry Christmas Sir! Hope you have a good one.” The clerk responded. 

He rushed into the line of people at the checkout lines carrying the set with a few wrapping paper and ribbons for a night of packing. He was met with cool smiles and vibrant cheers from store clerks to the shoppers. When he finally got to his car he removed the list from his pocket and crossed a few items with a soothing joy that brought a smile of satisfaction. On exiting the parking lot, a large semi-truck honked as it was also exiting, to wave for Robert to pass. He on the other hand waved away and gave the truck a right of way letting the back side of the truck obscure the road with the blue and white tags hanging from down below.

Robert picked groceries and other additional items on his way home, and with each stop his jubilation increased twice fold when he checked things off his list. By the time he pulled up the driveway the light of the day had essentially died and only the glimmering twinkles of the yellow strips of light haloed the house. He remembered how the lights were arranged and even though he knew all the imperfect spots were he had fiddled a little to get them to stick to the house he was pleased nonetheless with the overall appearance.

The night of Christmas eve was always special. Memaw sat with Mac and grandpa when he was alive and they would all sing carols by the tree on the living room. This year was no different some faces were missing but the carols started shortly after dinner followed by the favorite stories and laughters.

As the night dimmed, Mac snored in his snowman pajamas cosily tucked in the blanket as the star light rotated on his night stand. Robert went into the kitchen and wrapped the Pirate set box in the festive green wrap with a red bow to finish before dropping it by the tree. A perfect illusion sat in his mind at the joy of a boy receiving his wish list from the man up north. He took a bite at a cookies and drained the milk slowly before climbing the stairs to his bed in the silent night.

The following morning Mac rushed into the living room eager to see if the old man with the red suit had stopped by. The first thing he noticed was the half eaten cookie and the empty glass of milk. He immediately shifted his gaze to the tree noticing a number of packages well aligned with his name on it. The six year old was engulfed with a sea of emotion that made him scream cheerful while he ran around the house. The drunken frenzy of merry was met with the whole family coming down to see what the commotion was about in pretense that was common to this very day.

On the other side of the world alone in his apartment a shipping agent sipped a cup of coffee that morning as he looked at his list. Feeling proud to the close of another holiday season under his stellar stewardship. It was one of those days where he did not have to go to work but he could not help but plan his following days because no one rests during Christmas.

The factory man woke up again in his thin slice mattress of a bed, and just like any other day his back was still no better than the day before. He watched again silently the sleeping children tossing and turning in deep slumber. He smiled remembering this was the one day he can actually sleep in and the end of a season was fast approaching. He walked outside and sat by the door of his small hatched one bedroom house waiting for the warm sun to rise and usher a new day at the end of a season. A small buzzing sound came from afar but at least for today he will be saved from the rattling sound of the conveyor belt.

December 31, 2022 03:15

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1 comment

Wendy Kaminski
03:53 Jan 04, 2023

Loved this story! Thanks for sharing it. :)

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