The missing piece (a Christmas short story)

christmas_scene

It sure as jingle feels Christmassy right now; as I write this, a sprinkling of snow as fine as Santa’s dandruff is settling on the window sill. I know I should sweep it off the sills, but I don’t think I will. Not tonight. I already shovelled the walk and the driveway earlier, and my back is acting up.

Not that sweeping the snow off the windowsill would aggravate the issue – it certainly wouldn’t. But I’ve done enough snow maintenance for one day, thank you very much. Besides, the falling snow gives such a lovely effect, as it reflects the streetlights; an effect which would be ruined, in my opinion, by even considering its removal.

It’s cold outside, but very warm and fragrant in the sitting room. The fire in our handsome – yet not at all ostentatious – brick fireplace is burning down to the remaining embers. A red glow still emanates though, and it’s certainly more than warm enough in here, but that’s hardly the point of a fire in the hearth. I’ll need to soon decide what size of cherrywood log to put on the fire, or it will be too late, and the embers will have gone dark.

Perhaps a small log will suffice, if I decide to turn in soon, although I may just decide to keep these festive good times rolling, and stay up for a few more hours. That would call for one of the larger logs. Looking around, with the snow, and the fire and the twinkling tree, I think I know which one I’ll choose.

***

Ah, that’s better. The largest cherrywood log sits in the middle of the embers, and in two spots is already catching, thanks to a little bit of proficient bellows-work. While I was up, I flipped over Bing Crosby’s “Sweet Yule Classics” on the Kronos hifi system, turned it up to 3, and poured myself another large rum and egg nog.

My overstuffed leather chair makes a range of not unpleasant noises as I settle back into it. Bing sings “White Christmas”, while I sip my egg nog. I sigh contentedly. Not theatrically, just a gentle – if slightly maudlin – sigh. I admit: I had a little bit too much to drink, but it’s the holidays. Cheers.

Only due to the late hour, and the solitude can I can admit to the feeling of a slight gnawing … well I’m not sure what to call it. I’d describe it as not dissimilar to that feeling of satisfaction one might get having completed all but one piece of a 1000 piece jigsaw puzzle. It feels good, but still!

I use this metaphor not out of a sense of poetry, but because I completed all but one piece of 1000 piece jigsaw puzzle just this morning. It was a difficult beast of a puzzle too: a sleigh ride on a clear day. I’ll be damned if I know where the devil that last piece of crisp winter sky got to, but it’s certainly nowhere I looked. For if I’d found it, I sure would’ve put it in it’s rightful place – top left corner.

I looked under (and in) the couch, on the bookshelf, in the pockets of my cardigan, amongst the presents under the tree, and all around the house, but couldn’t find it. My irritation reached its peak around the time I discovered that I’d ripped open a pretty new vacuum cleaner bag for no reason whatsoever, but ebbed shortly after.

***

That was much earlier though. This morning. Well, it’s well past midnight now, so it was technically yesterday morning. Practically a lifetime ago!

After regaining my composure, I washed my hands, changed my clothes, and decided not to let something as silly as a missing puzzle piece spoil my day, and I succeeded. But now, alone with my thoughts, I am reminded of that eerie feeling. That nagging irritation. The confusion. A lack of closure and completeness.

The last of the guests left over an hour ago, and Jane went to bed shortly thereafter, declining an offer to watch Netflix and chill (a phrase which I know the meaning of). Instead, I decided to stay up awhile longer, and bask in the post-party glow. It’s only now that my thoughts return to the puzzle piece – some thirteen hours since I was so consumed by the search. Keeping the concern away must count as a victory of sorts, as well as be a testament to the all-consuming nature of party preparations and hosting.

Now that I’ve been reminded of the missing piece, I start to wish I had gone to bed. But now that new log is crackling away, and I’m loathe to let it go to waste, or leave it unattended, or attempt to – what douse the flames? I know: I’ll find that puzzle piece, and not go to sleep until I do!

I realise I’m still wearing my Santa hat, which is why I feel so damn warm – hot even. But I decline to take it off. I pull it down a little farther, flip the pom-pom to the back and begin my search anew.

 

 

2017-09-14T08:43:35+00:00 December 24 2015|