Merry Christmas: Our Short Story Winner
Friday, December 25, 2009 at 12:09PM
Editor

CHRISTMAS EVE:  MIDNIGHT IN THE PASTURE

By MJ Goodwin

“That can’t be true,” Phillip said, his eyes wide with disbelief.

“Well, it is,” Grandpa replied, continuing to brush the horse.  “Animals can talk at the stroke of midnight on Christmas Eve.”

Phillip turned and strode from the barn with a purpose that belied his six years on earth.  He continued his pace into the pasture and up to the huge American Paint Stallion that inhabited it.  “What you gonna say?”  Phillip asked.  The huge animal looked up from his grazing.  Mouth full of grass, his half blue eyes met Phillip’s.  But he said nothing.  He rubbed his head against Phillip’s leg, then returned to grazing.

“Not time yet, son,” his grandfather called from the barn.

“How much longer?”

“Tomorrow night.  But you have to be asleep then.  Or Santa won’t come.”

“That doesn’t seem fair,”  Phillip retorted, as returned to the house.

“Come on sweetie, I’m putting on the Rudolph DVD,”  Mama called.

“Ok, Mama.”  But Phillip couldn’t pay attention.  His mind kept returning to Grandpa’s comment.  Phillip knew animals don’t talk.  But Christmas is a magical time of year.  Everybody knows that.  So maybe, just maybe….

                    ***

Christmas Eve is the longest day of the year for six year old boys.  Phillip played, watched DVDs, and helped Grandpa with chores.  He knew he had to be in bed early so Santa wouldn’t fly right by the house.  But he had a plan.  He was going to find out if animals talk at midnight. 

Right after supper, Phillip brushed his teeth without being told and went to bed.  He carefully set his alarm clock for 11:30pm.  Surely Santa would have come and gone by then.  He could take a short walk out to the pasture and find out for himself.  He put his flash light and his coat by his bedside.  He was ready for his mission.  It was hard, but he finally drifted to sleep.

Beep!  Beep!  Beep!  The alarm clock rang and pulled Phillip from his dream world.  He carefully put on his shoes, socks, coat and hat and slowly made his way through the dark house.  He did take a glimpse into the living room.  He thought he saw the outline of a bicycle in the darkness.  But that would have to wait until morning.  Carefully, slowly, he opened the front door.  A blast of cold air smacked him in the face.  He reconsidered his mission.  He could hear Grandpa snoring in his bedroom.  Mama was going to be mad that he went outside without permission.  But he had to find out.  He just had to find out.

He snapped on the flash light and made his way across the porch and down the front steps.  It was a clear, cold night with a raw, bitter wind.  He had on his coat and hat, but his pajama pants were thin.  It was very hold and he started to shake.  But he had to keep going.  He swept the flash light across the pasture.  It was dark.  He did not see any animals at all.  “Maybe they are in the barn,”  he thought.  He crossed the yard, using the flashlight as best he could.  But he didn’t see the rock.  Suddenly, he was sprawled out on his back.   The world was spinning.  He saw the stars in the sky spinning around; then the world went black.

                    ***

“Phillip!  Phillip!  Phillip!”  a loud voice shouted.  “Wake up!  You’ve got to wake up.  Wake up, Phillip!  Wake up, Phillip!”

Phillip did not recognize the voice he heard.  But he knew he had to try to wake up.  The voice kept shouting.  His world kept spinning.  He couldn’t see who was shouting.

                    ***

Mama was crying.  He was wrapped up in a quilt, on a stretcher.  An ambulance with red lights flashing was in the drive way.  The horse was by the fence, watching everything.

“Mama, Mama,”  Phillip whimpered.

“Baby!”  Mama screamed.  The ambulance man jumped a little when she screamed.

“I’m Ok, Mama.”

“Ma’am, he still needs to be seen at the hospital.  We don’t know how long he’s been out here and he could have hypothermia,”  the ambulance man said.

“What, what time is it?”  Phillip asked.

“What?”  Mama said, wiping tears from her face. 

“It’s midnight,”  Grandpa said.

“Exactly?” Phillip asked.

“What?”  Mama said.

“It is exactly midnight?  What time is it exactly?”

“12:05,” the ambulance man said.

“I missed it!”  Phillip began to cry. 

“You could have frozen to death,”  Mama said.  “If I had not thought I heard a man shouting your name, we would not have known you were outside.   I guess I dreamed it, Phillip.  But I thought for sure that I heard someone calling your name.  Why in the world were you outside, baby?”

“I had to see if it was true.  And I missed it.” 

“See if what was true?”

“The animals.”  Phillip whimpered.

“The animals?”  Mama looked confused.  “I thought I heard someone shouting your name.  I sat up in bed and then I heard the horse raising cain.  I woke your grandfather to see if it was coyote or something.  And we found you.”

“I wanted to find out if the animals can talk,”  Phillips whispered.  “I wanted to see if it was true.”

“Oh, it’s true, son.  It’s true.  Who do you think called your mother out of the house to find you?”  Grandpa said.

The American Paint stallion uttered his low gutteral whinny.  Phillip knew, for sure, that it was true.


Article originally appeared on The Anderson Observer (http://andersonobserver.com/).
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