Monday, November 27, 2006

The Christmas Book part 2

James buried his face in his hands. The Zippo writer would never sign the book for his mom, and his mom would have a horrible Christmas. He felt his stomach tie up in knots again.

The writer noticed she had upset him. “Why are you upset, sugar?”

“I was going to get my mom a book,” he mumbled, his voice muffled by his folded arms. “I have to get her a autographed Zippo book for Christmas. If I can’t do that, I’ve ruined Christmas. I might as well just get on a plane back home as soon as we reach the airport.”

“Why do you need an autographed Zippo book?” the woman asked. “Why not a different book? What’s so important about a Zippo book?”

“They’re my mom’s favorite,” his muffled voice answered. “It’s the only thing that makes the sunburst come back in her eyes. And she’s sick, so this might be her last Christmas. So it’s got to be perfect. But it won’t be perfect. It won’t be perfect at all, because she won’t remember it. If she had the Zippo book, she would remember.”

The woman was quiet for a few minutes. “I see,” she finally said. “But I think you’re wrong?”

James sat up and looked at the woman in shock. “What do you mean I’m wrong?”

“I think your mother would love you just as much without the book,” the woman said quietly. “I think she’d remember the Christmas because you were there with her, not because of a present.”

James smiled sadly and shook his head. “You don’t understand,” he said, looking at the lines on the seat in front of him. “That’s not what would make the Christmas perfect.”

“Then what would?” she asked.

James turned to the woman and smiled. When he smiled, the corners of his eyes crinkled out. “The sunbursts,” he said. “The sunbursts are what makes it perfect.”

After a minute, the woman threw back her head and laughed so James could see the silver fillings in her teeth. “Good answer,” she said. She reached into her bag and pulled out a copy of the latest Zippo book and a pen. Flipping the book open, she scrawled on the inside cover and handed it to James.

“Thank you very much,” he said politely. “I appreciate this, but I really need the real author to sign it. She’ll know if it’s a fake.”

The woman guffawed and shook her head. “You silly boy,” she said. “I am the writer.”

James’s jaw dropped open.

“You’re the writer?”

“I’m the writer,” the woman said, smiling at him. James opened the back of the book and stared at the photograph. Inside, a polished, sophisticated woman who had only a slight resemblance to the half-crazed lunatic beside him smiled up at him. James throat tightened. He could hardly believe this.

“Excuse me, ma’am,” James said slowly, “But this doesn’t look like you.”

“Damn good airbrushing isn’t it?” the woman said proudly. “It works every time. But go ahead- test me. Ask me what is on a page- any page.”

James opened the book gingerly. “What is on page 21?”

“When Harold traveled down the staircase, he saw a dragon staring up at him,” she said immediately. Speaking clearly and confidently, she recited every word off the page accurately. James stared at her in admiration.

“You are the writer!” he said. “You truly are!” In shock, he stared at the book he held in his hand. “And you signed this book! My mother will be so happy! Thank you so much!”

The woman smiled, a true smile for the first time during their flight. A flush of pink touched her cheeks before she turned away. “Enjoy the sunbursts,” she said.

James clutched the book to his chest until the flight landed. He thanked the writer again and immediately hopped on the next flight home, where he continued to hug the book to his chest. Several hours later, he had made it back to hospital and was running through the halls. Nurses frowned and doctors shouted at him as he ran up the stairs to his mother’s room. He burst through the door, his cheeks red and grinning ear to ear.

“Mom!” he shouted. “I got you the best present!”

“A present? Before Christmas? You’re darling, James,” his mother smiled. “You’re so good to me.”

James excitedly dug out the book and plopped it into his mothers lap. “It’s not wrapped, but I wanted to give it to you as soon as possible.”

“Oh thank you, darling,” his mother said. “I love the Zippo books, and this one hasn’t been released yet. How did you get this?” James stopped and stared at the book again. He had been so intent on getting it to his mother, he hadn’t even realized it was the new book.

“That’s not the important part,” James said impatiently. “Look inside.”

His mother opened the book and gasped. James face lit up in anticipation. It was coming, he thought. “How did you do this?” his mother said. “This is remarkable.”

She looked at her son, and smiled so great her eyes crinkled into starbursts. James felt happiness fill his chest so quickly it threatened to burst through his fingers and toes. His mother drew him into a hug. “Thank you, darling,” she said. “I do appreciate it. This means more to me than you could ever know.”

James just grinned at her when he heard a knock at the door. He and his mother turned and James jaw hit the floor. The writer was standing in the doorway.

“I thought your mother might like another present,” she smiled. “May I introduce myself?”

The writer stayed for the afternoon, talking to James’s mother until she drifted off into a contented sleep. James walked her out to a cab.

“Why did you come?” he asked. “It was very kind of you. I know my mother loved every moment.”

The writer smiled for a minute before answering. “Any son who goes to the trouble you did to see his mother smile, deserves a bit of kindness,” she said. “Merry Christmas.”

“Merry Christmas,” James said, smiling. It was a Christmas he wouldn’t forget.