The Ghost of Christmas Present

BOOK: The Ghost of Christmas Present
3.18Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub


The Ghost of Christmas Present

“Like the beloved classic
Miracle on 34th Street,
Scott and Amy's timeless Christmas tale works its way into our hearts and charmingly inspires us to see beyond ourselves and embrace the true spirit of Christmas all year long.
‘Into the breach, dear friends.'”

—Maura Dunbar, EVP/Chief Content Officer, Odyssey Networks

“I simply could not stop reading
The Ghost of Christmas Present
 . . . . Books like this serve to remind us of the blessings that we so often take for granted.”

—Kevin Carter, college football analyst, ESPN; fourteen-year NFL veteran; founder of The Kevin Carter Foundation that serves children and their families like Braden and his father, Patrick

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In memory of
Raymond L. Harris

“To thine own self be true.”
—William Shakespeare's


Chapter 1: The Fourth Wednesday

Chapter 2: Cold Forever

Chapter 3: It'll be a Relief

Chapter 4: A Sacred Reality

Chapter 5: Dickens Knew It

Chapter 6: The Ghost of Christmas Present

Chapter 7: Still the Man in Green

Chapter 8: Spare Some Coin

Chapter 9: A Ha' Penny Will Do

Chapter 10: A Commanding Position

Chapter 11: The Authentic Elf

Chapter 12: They Should all be Allowed to have Hair

Chapter 13: My Son's Father

Chapter 14: A True Laborer

Chapter 15: If We Shadows Have Offended

Chapter 16: Wanderers of the Dark

Chapter 17: The Ghost of Christmas Past

Chapter 18: The Man with the Plan

Chapter 19: Something's Changed

Chapter 20: Strife, Wife, or Life

Chapter 21: Newmans

Chapter 22: Love Disappointed

Chapter 23: The Second Sunday

Chapter 24: Holiday Hobgoblin

Chapter 25: A Nutcracker Ready for his Next Walnut

Chapter 26: Where Playacting Ends and Real Life Begins

Chapter 27: To Thine Own Self

Chapter 28: The Third Thursday


About Scott Abbott and Amy Maude Swinton

Chapter 1


t was the fourth Wednesday of November, and Patrick Guthrie was giving thanks.

Tomorrow there would be no turkey, no cranberry sauce on the side, no dry stuffing to somehow strategically hide under a drumstick so as to not offend the chef. Tonight there was only a slice of pumpkin pie sitting on his son's hospital tray along with a single can of ginger ale, the pop that Patrick and his ten-year-old son, Braden, shared.

“But it's not ‘pop,' Pop,” Braden said as he grinned. “It's a ‘soda.' You've lived in Manhattan for, like, thirteen years. You've got to start picking up the city lingo or you're gonna get your keister kicked out there on the mean streets.”

Patrick smiled at the boy lying in the bed, his head balanced on a neck that seemed too thin to hold up such tough words.

“Keister?” said Patrick. “Where'd you learn to talk trash like that? We need to clean up your vocabulary.” Patrick lifted the book in his hand.

“Sure,” said the boy. “Clean up my vocabulary with the story about the guy who kills his king, then kills his best friend, has the nutso wife who can't stop washing her hands, and then ends up getting killed himself when he thinks that a bunch of trees are, like, walking up to his castle to get him. That's a good clean one, Dad. Yeah, let's read that one again.”

Braden had his mother's love of ribbing Patrick about his obsession with Shakespeare, and the father embraced it as the teasing that is allowed inside the intimacy of real love. Especially since it was something Braden had inherited from Linda, Patrick didn't want to discourage it.

But Braden hadn't inherited only the gift of Linda's sly irreverence; he'd also inherited her heart. Her big, generous, and genetically flawed heart. Patrick's wife had been born with hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, an extreme enlargement of the heart that one day suddenly stopped hers, and broke his. It had been just under three years since he'd lost her, since the night she'd gotten up from her barely touched meal only to collapse in his arms at their favorite bistro.

Patrick had buried her, and then, on the advice of the hospital cardiologist, had Braden examined only to discover that the child had indeed inherited his mother's condition. The doctors' consolations and explanations spun around Patrick's brain like debris caught up in the whirlwind storm that was still circling his broken home. The heart condition was “asymptomatic,” not detectable through regular physical exams, giving signs of heart abnormalities in only three percent of people before cardiac arrest. All Patrick could think was that it was a cruel irony since he had often said to Linda, “Braden's got your gift for compassion. He's got your heart.”

It was the bitter truth. Braden had been born with HCM, as it was called when doctors would sit across from Patrick in offices, or nurses would crouch down beside him as he sat on a chair in a hallway, or a technician would pop his head out from behind a machine's control panel . . . “HCM.” The abbreviation made it easier to say. There was so much information to absorb.

A hospital therapist had told Patrick he should bring someone along to the meetings with the doctors, someone who could listen with a calm head and later review all the medical information that was discussed, a family member.

But the sole relation Linda had left did not speak to Patrick, and everyone in Patrick's family was gone. His father had succumbed to cancer not long after Patrick left home, and his mother had died soon after that from a blood clot. Patrick liked romanticizing his mother as the other half of a couple who'd married for life, unable to live on after the death of her soul mate.

But he knew it was nonsense. Patrick's own soul mate had died and he was still here. No blood clot, no lightning bolt, no grand piano dropping on his head. He lived on after Linda's death, if for no other reason than for Braden. Of course he had lived on. Where there was Braden, there was life: his own and, more important, his son's.

So Patrick relied on all the abbreviations to get him through the days at the hospital, where he walked alongside Braden's gurney as it was pushed down a hallway to yet another test. Then there came the day when the tests stopped, and so did the abbreviations. There was no short way of saying the word “palliative,” the kind of gentle care given to terminally ill patients who are simply waiting to die. And that's what Patrick and Braden were told was all they could do: wait.

ut that was before Patrick got the call. It came the day he was teaching his students at Independence High School in West Greenwich Village. Patrick, a drama teacher, had just begun his class filled with seventeen-year-olds. He'd grown quite fond of them in his first three months at the school, and to his surprise, they'd taken a shine to him and his flair for acting out Shakespeare and filling the air of the room with his spirit, rather than leaving the old bard to collect dust on the shelves of their young minds.

“All the world's a stage, and all the men and women merely players.”

More than a few of the young men in the class were actually listening to Patrick, and more than many of the young women were quite in love with him.

“They have their exits and their entrances and one man in his time plays many parts.”

Patrick relinquished his acting pose and sat down behind his desk with his worn copy of
As You Like It.

“What is Shakespeare saying to us in this passage about life?”

“That everyone's a big fat faker,” one boy said.

“Give that man a pair of tights, because he's wrong.”

The class chuckled.

“Old Bill is telling us that to find our way through life's drama, we must play a different role in each of its stages. He boiled it down to seven: infancy, childhood, the lover, the soldier, the sage, old age, and then of course decline to death.”

The last handful of words brought Patrick's lecture to a silence that settled through the seated rows filled with the young faces who'd heard about their teacher's dying son. A girl in the front row spoke up to fill the quiet.

“Where are we?”

Patrick came to and clapped his hands together, perhaps in some wish to break the spell of his thoughts. “You are all still in childhood, though I imagine many of you are anxious to audition for the role of the lover before you're prepared for that particular part.”

BOOK: The Ghost of Christmas Present
3.18Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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