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Back You are here: Home Themed Collections The Collective Speaks Dec. 2011: Holiday Disasters Burning in the Light of the Lord
Monday, 05 December 2011 19:15

Burning in the Light of the Lord

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It took three attempts for Victor Haggard to break down the gate. The roads were slick with ice and the car was not getting enough traction. It slid forward, bumping impotently against the target. On the third go he smashed his foot as far down on the peddle as his strength would let him and the car screamed forward, the windshield spider-webbing, the metal gate bending back with a grinding screech far enough for him to squeeze through the gap, scratching long, red lines over his chest and belly.

The snow kept coming, inch after inch, and he thought of his wife April, his child Jacob, their Christmas Eve gathering by the fireplace in his living room, friends and family in a home filled with love, mocking and leaving him for the wolves.

Mills, that skinny Methodist from Concord, the court-appointed trustee, had thought it best not to open Hope’s Well for business this year, considering the controversy. When Victor had sat in Mills' office, across a desk Victor had bought the man as an anniversary present, begging for access to his bank accounts, Mills slipped into a mode of careful deliberation before sending him out with nothing. The funny thing was that while Victor bore his own cross, the scorn of the public and the dissolution of everything he held sacred, Mills and April were still fucking.

Where was the other woman? With family, or in some rich man's bed?  Victor's body was weak, his spirit all the weaker. She was his desert temptation, and he failed. Instead of being given the world, his was taken away. All over one little videotape, a copy sent to his wife, another to the Church Elders, and a third to the newspaper.

He cast his view over the land like a lighthouse and resolve filled in the empty place inside of him.

The town built by faith was quiet and dark. Little more than a two mile loop, Hope's Well was to be his legacy. He would have expanded, first with a new church home. Victor had the blueprints drafted long ago. It would start small, but every two years they would expand, allowing more people in to have their hearts filled with the Lord’s light. They would found a school, maybe later a seminary. One of his advisors had the idea of creating a theme park there. They had plenty of land for it all. Victor bought the property from a real estate developer that had been unable to start a picture perfect neighborhood. Rumor held that just after the War, when the industrial complex that spread over the landscape went under, so did certain materials that were too expensive or sensitive to dispose of the legal way. No one wanted to buy any of the lots, to build a home on blighted land, so Victor’s ministry was able to buy it for ten cents on the dollar.

A bubble of snot popped on his nose but he kept onward, walking deeper into the stillness. The plows had not touched the loop and the snow came up to his knees. The cold slipped into every atom of his being. On each side of the road the displays were dim imitations of past year’s grandness. Hope’s Well used to be a vista painted bright in green and reds. They allowed both the secular imagery associated with the holiday and the more orthodox symbols to be displayed. The first quarter mile was a tunnel of evergreens covered carefully by coordinated patterns of lights, each tree mirroring the one across the road. An angel, washed clean and holy in the bright, stood at the pinnacle of each evergreen, heralding the guests inward with holy music. The moon and stars reflected off the snow, an imitation of daylight that revealed the cheapness of the display. The angels were nothing but plastic and wire. The music came from speakers hidden between the trees.

The snow kept coming. Victor could not feel his hands, his feet. Each step brought him closer to the warmth. Further was a neighborhood, a recreation of cinema's fiction. Houses covered with the same lights as the trees. Giant Santas and reindeers on top of each roof. Candy canes and icicles hanging from cardboard trees. They were facades. One wall with nothing on the other side, an imitation. Maybe one day they would have finished what the previous owners started, create a great place for the proper Christian families of the nation to call home. Without power, this part of Hope's Well was just pathetic.

Victor stood where his empire would have been born. The Nativity. This was the centerpiece, what everyone came for miles to observe. In the first days, it was a small wooden display, store brought animals and Wise Men, Mary and Joseph and the Holy Babe himself in the manger, a manikin dressed as an angel above holding the Star. As the years went on and they could afford more, they constructed a great barn and brought in real pigs, donkeys, and goats from a local farm, paying by the day for their presence. People replaced the replicas, save for the Lord child.

Through the Nativity scene he walked away from the path the celebrators followed, to the storage buildings. They kept several gallons of gasoline there for any who ran out of gas. A common problem. The volunteers from the church would offer the stranded a top off and a cup of hot chocolate and send them on their way with a prayer. He picked up a can and hobbled back outside, to the manger. Victor could not tell if there were tears on his face as he quoted from the book.

'I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance, but he that cometh after me is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear: he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost, and with fire.'

Hope's Well was alight again, and they came from miles around to see, and they were awed at how Victor was redeemed.

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Chris Deal

Chris Deal writes from Huntersville, North Carolina.  His debut collection of microfiction, Cienfuegos, was published in early 2010 by Brown Paper Publishing.  You can find and harass him at www.Chris-Deal.com.

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