Merry Christmas, my dear readers!
I hope you have a wonderful Christmas with your loved ones. I’ll be spending the holiday with my parents and sister. Before we get to the gift-exchange portion of the celebration, we’ll be reading the Christmas story about Jesus coming to earth in order to save our souls. This is my favorite part of Christmas.
Here’s a short story for you to enjoy. It was inspired by YOU, my sweet readers, who participated in this contest.
Note: This short story made the finals of a contest. Further details below the story.
Copyright 2018 by Andrea Renee Cox. All rights reserved.
The Border Between
by Andrea Renee Cox
inspired by Kellyn Roth (and her brother James)
The cityscape puttered by the window. Helene Jackson checked her diamond-studded watch and tapped a single knuckle on the glass partition between the cab driver and herself.
The dark-skinned man glanced over his shoulder and gave her a smile of crooked but gleaming-white teeth.
“Can you hurry up a bit? I’ve got somewhere to be.”
He cracked the partition open a couple of inches. “Do you need more air? The air condition is broke. I’m so sorry. I think the heater work.”
Helene picked a speck of dust from her slacks and looked down her nose at the driver. “I need you to find the gas pedal.” She adjusted her handbag from one thigh to the other. “Whoever thought to use the heater on a seventy-degree day, anyway?”
“Are you happy for Christmas?” He gave her another smile, this time accompanying it with a bobble head-style nod, before looking back at the city street before him.
“My little girl, she is so happy this morning. She tells me, ‘Papa, you bring much happy to passenger today.’ I tell her I will try.” A chuckle bounced across the space between them.
“I didn’t ask for a commentary, only a ride.”
“No worry, lady. Conversation is free.” He clicked on his blinker and moved into a new lane, then looked over his left shoulder to check for traffic.
She gasped and clutched her bag to her stomach. “Don’t you check first?”
“Why? I haven’t hit nothing yet.”
“Where are you from, the darkest part of Africa? Doesn’t the taxi company check for a license before they let you loose?”
“No, no. I’m from a port city in Gabon—”
“Just drive. And speed up!”
“What is hurry?” He turned a concerned look to her in the rearview mirror, which wasn’t positioned correctly. It was cockeyed and seemed to be barely hanging on to the windshield. “You need relax. Enjoy this happy Christmas.”
“What’s so happy about Christmas this year? Or any year, for that matter. It’s just another business day for me.” She watched another three skyscrapers pass by. It seemed there was something missing in this day. But then, it’d felt that way for years. Ever since…
She didn’t want to think about that.
She tuned back into the driver’s monologue.
“… my birthday sad one time.”
The driver continued as if he hadn’t heard her mumbled inquiry. “I go to boat, try to see whale. For three days, we hear there whale in bay. I go; no whale.”
Why was the guy carrying on a conversation with her? She’d given him every indication that she just wanted to make it to her destination as quickly as possible. Certainly she didn’t see any point in listening to his misadventure stories.
“I come home to my little girl.” He pulled his hand downward in front of his face. “She sad when I tell her I see no whale. She wait all day for me to come home and tell her about big whale. But… no story. So, I take out wood and knife, and I carve while I tell her story of a whale that swallowed a man who didn’t do what God ask him.”
Helene scooted over so she could better see the taxi driver’s profile. How long had it been since she’d slowed down long enough to truly connect with someone? To hear their stories, see their expressions, to listen to their hearts? Had she really lost touch with humans in her mad dash toward retirement funds and vacation homes? How long had she neglected her own faith, thinking that monetary things were so much more important? They paled next to eternal hope. How had she allowed herself to forget that?
“Did your little girl enjoy the story?”
He smiled at her. “Oh, yes. She always like my stories from Bible-book. When I finish, I give her carving of whale. She smile big then. Her happy make my birthday happy.” He patted his chest. “Make my heart happy.”
Helene settled back against the seat and listened to the traffic buzz by. For several blocks, she took notice of the Christmas decorations in office building windows and outdoor holiday items that added a dose of cheer to the atmosphere of the city she called home. Had she ever noticed how festive things got around here? Why hadn’t she looked deeper, into her own heart to see what she was missing? This man had definitely found it, holding fast to his faith even when life disappointed him. She wished she could figure out how to again live out her faith as this man clearly was doing.
Finally, the car stopped. She blinked and looked out the other window at the building that housed her corner office. She could step out of the taxicab, walk into the building, take an elevator up seventy floors, and inhale the amazing view from her windows in a quick gulp before getting down to the business of crunching numbers and making blueprints make sense for a few clients. Somehow, though, that just didn’t sound like a good idea anymore. Not today, anyway.
“Is the price no good? I take five dollar off. Holiday special.”
Helene shook her head, giving herself a hefty mental jolt. “No… no.” She gave a small smile—the best she could do on a rusty memory of the action—to the chatty driver. “What’s your name?”
“American no say right. You call me Fred.”
“All right. Fred, do you have plans to spend time with your little girl today? For Christmas, I mean.”
“She wait at home for me. I work today, like you.”
A car honked behind them and eventually switched lanes and went around. Fred and Helene looked at each other. Neither said anything for a while, but their compassionate blinks carried on a wordless conversation.
Something like hope or fresh life sparked into Helene’s heart. It might have felt like middle-ish spring, sorta summer outside the cab, but suddenly it felt exactly as heartwarming as her childhood Christmases inside it. Fred’s little girl might have asked him to give his passengers a happy Christmas—and he was definitely succeeding with Helene—but she wondered if she could return the favor. Would he accept her offer? It was a risk she’d have to take.
“Yes, lady. You no want go here now?”
She shook her head. “If I give you a full day’s pay, would you let me… I probably shouldn’t even ask, but… May I share Christmas with your little girl and you?”
He stared at her for at least thirty or forty seconds. Then, a brilliant smile overtook his entire face. “My little girl be made happy. Happy happy.”
Helene pulled out her checkbook and wrote a check for a larger sum than probably three days’ taxi fare. Since Fred had renewed her perspective on life, she felt she owed him much more than what this slip of paper would provide.
As she handed it over to him, she posed another question. “Would you consider a change in employers?”
After he moved his mouth like a guppy at the number on the paper between his fingers, he peered at her with wide eyes.
“I could really use a chauffeur. Not all the taxi drivers are as friendly as you, and I would be glad to discuss starting a college fund for your daughter.”
“I no know what to say, Helene.”
“Unless you’d rather keep working for the taxi company…”
Fred reached his hand into the back, across the border between them—namely, the glass partition. But also, the divide of ethnicity, class, and strength of faith. There might be many things wedged there, but with her offer and his acceptance—they shook on it now—they could build a bridge to span the distance. Perhaps they’d even be able to create a friendship that would fill up more than just this one day, this single Christmas. Maybe this would be the start of new happy memories to join those childhood ones with her deceased parents, which she’d locked away for too many years. Starting now, Helene Jackson fully intended to cherish each moment and smile a whole lot more. Perhaps one of her New Year’s resolutions would be to make her clients’ hearts happy, as Fred so quickly taught her this special Christmas day.
Heavenly Father, You grant my heart such happiness. I am thrilled to share that feeling with others through not only the stories you have for me to tell, but also through my daily life. Thank You!
Kellyn (and her brother James), thank you for inspiring this short story. I never know where story ideas will take me, but I have found such joy in this little tale. Thank you for sparking this one with your creative mish-mash of ideas.
My parents, thank you for teaching me to live out my faith.
|Designed by Kellyn Roth
I entered this short story in Kellyn Roth’s 1k Contest
. It was chosen to be nominated for the final round of competition! While it did not win a prize, it did receive some pretty high praise from Miss Roth… and she made a mock-up cover for it, which I adore and am including here. (You may find out who won the contest and see other mock-up covers in this article
Feedback from Miss Kellyn Roth:
Review: I love this story! It’s well-written, yes, and not confusing, but it’s also meaningful. I mean, a lot of the stories were meaningful, but this story—and especially the ending—really appeals to me. I liked “Fred” a lot (he’s a very funny, sweet guy), and Helene was awesome, too, in a “I feel bad that she’s like she is” way.
Who are you sharing Christmas with this year?