A Christmas Tale

Arian Knops

A Christmas Tale

3 mins
December 28, 2020

There is an appointed time for everything, and a time for every affair under the heavens,” it says in the Bible.

Ecclesiastes goes on to say, “A time to love and a time to hate.”   

The wise person who created those aphorisms millennia ago, placing simple words on a parchment scroll, didn’t anticipate mankind this far into the future. The sage who scribbled those lines never anticipated mankind of the twenty-first century.

We are a strange and sorry species. We all want for things well beyond our needs and at Christmas time we want even more. We want when we should be thankful for what we already have. I have what I need as far as human needs go: a comfortable home, a woman who has chosen to love me, food and clothing.

It hasn’t always been so.  

When I was in the Navy, back in the early and mid ‘60s, I had only the shipmates, or friends if you will, who were also a long way from home for the Christmas season. My life before the time in the Navy wasn’t anywhere close to a happy life. My mother died before I reached puberty and the man who had fathered me considered me a hindrance and a worthless leech who was responsible for the problems in his life that he himself had created. The Navy was a salvation to me.

When Christmas time came around many of my friends wanted to go home to parents who loved and cherished them. I was guilty of envy.  Not everyone who wanted to go home could. Some of them had guard duty that needed to be fulfilled.  If the sailor found someone to stand their duty or watch they were, more often than not, allowed to go home. Getting someone to fill in for them could be a daunting task. Enter guys like me who had no desire to go back to a house empty of love and the loneliness of a cold and empty room. We would gladly fill in for those lucky enough to be going home to see a loving family. But there was a price. Ten bucks was the going rate for one watch period and when a person was making only a little over a hundred bucks a month, filling in for the home bound was a profitable period.

I know full well that charity is one of the heavenly virtues, but in the world of here and now cold hard cash trumps virtues. One year, I made seventy extra dollars by walking several four-hour shift guarding our aircraft. The rifle didn’t have any bullets in the magazine or the chamber, so what I was doing was ceremonial rather than a deterrent to some evil doer. Four hours of guarding aircraft no sane person would consider stealing was an easy way to make ten bucks.

I remember only one of the people who I had done a duty for.  His name was Allen Gray Lloyd, and he was from North Carolina. He had a vehicle and could easily make the 400-mile trek from Mississippi to his home in under a day. The reason I remember this one so well is that on his arrival back at base Allen came to my room with a fairly large box his mother told him she wanted me to have. In that box were: homemade candy (divinity and a pecan crunch), a variety of cookies, a card and a bottle of aftershave. Rubber banded to the bottle of aftershave was a twenty-dollar bill. In the card was a note from his mother telling me that she thought I was a wonderful person to fill in for her son so he could be with family for the holidays. Allen’s family was not rich when it came to money, but they had a richness of life that I could only dream about.

I was filled with guilt. Against any common sense I possessed I took the twenty plus the addition ten that Allen had given me back to him. “I won’t even consider taking it,” was the answer I got from him.  “I’m not a person who accepts charity,” rounded out the sentence.

Allen never lived to be an old man. I don’t know all the details of his demise, but his life had been filled with willingly given love of family. In his short life; he was one of the luckiest people in the world.

I hope you had a safe, peaceful and merry Christmas.

This article was orginally reported by
Arian Knops

Arian is a short story contributor to the Sentinel & Rural News. Arian has written two full-length thrillers which have received critical and popular acclaim. Arian lives in Bruce, WI, with his charming wife, Arlene.