“The Greatest Gift.”
Gerald’s fingers skipped lightly across the keyboard…and then stopped! “The Greatest Gift?” he mouthed the words. “The Greatest Gift is um, er, uh, well, let me see.”
He stared at his computer screen and thought… then he thought again! He looked out of the window, got up, and walked around the room a few times, but still nothing!
He sat in his inspiration chair, with pencil and paper. Ideas come better when handwritten, all writers know that! He’d seen Jeffery Archer on the telly, telling how he was at his desk at six every morning, and could only hand write with a certain type of pencil.
“Stupid Christmas competition,” he said, sucking his pencil “I hate it when they expect a story from three silly words.” It took a few minutes of pencil sucking before inspiration struck.
‘THE FORMULA! That’s what I need.”
Central character with a problem, an intriguing beginning, and a satisfactory ending with some kind of resolution. He thought again…but still…nothing! The immediate problem seemed to be ‘The Intriguing Beginning!’
Glancing out of the study window, he noticed the afternoon was late. The tall, feathery birches in the garden had the dark, dusky look of Winter. Time was passing, a year almost gone.
“Bit of fresh air, to clear the cobwebs, that’s what I need,” he suddenly said, pressing the save button on his keyboard, before walking into the kitchen.
The house was quiet. The only sound being a snoring coming from Kimmi’s basket.
He looked down at the sleeping black and white spaniel, tightly curled, nose warmly tucked between his tail. It seemed a shame to wake the old dog, but he could do with the exercise as well.
“Come on boy.” Gerald gave the dog a gentle tap on the nose. “I know it’s nice and warm in there, but a bit of fresh air will do us both good.”
Kimmi opened one brown eye and glared at his master. He hated being awoken when he was enjoying his favourite dream of racing through fields, and chasing ducks in the park. All he had now was his dreams, it had been many tears since his old legs had chased anything.
Slowly, Kimmi climbed out of his basket, and with collar and coat that Gerald had warmed on the radiator for him on, was led to the open kitchen door. Head upright, he sniffed the cold air, and shivered with the chill that crept from the tip of his tail to the very point of his black, shiny nose.
“What a baby you are!” Gerald scolded “Come on, you’ll soon warm up.”
Ears drooping and doleful eyes gazing appealingly at his master, they stepped outside. It was a freezing, cold day. A fine rain had been falling all morning, and overhead the dark clouds were gathering for the storm that threatened to erupt later in the afternoon. The dankness of the dank earth filled Kimmi’s nostrils; his doggy senses were a thousand times more acute than a human’s. His feet shuffled amongst the dead leaves, and overhead he heard the tall beeches whispering secrets to one another.
Gerald was deep in thought all the way to the park, pondering on his opening line. “Something from my childhood, perhaps,” he spoke aloud.
What HAD been his Greatest Gift? It certainly wasn’t the fort his father had made for him, as it fell apart after two weeks, or any of the two sizes too big jumpers, that his Gran insisted on knitting every Christmas.
‘What was it?’ he wondered, racking his brain, sifting through Wedding, Birthday, Christmas presents… No!… Perhaps he should think more “laterally?” he asked himself. “The Greatest Gift is…Love?… Compassion?… No, far too clichéd.” He thought of moments of great personal happiness. Graduating from University, first job, marrying Jenna, birth of their daughter Bethan?
Reaching the park, he sat on a bench, Kimmi at his feet, and contented himself with just being at one with nature. The greenery overhead sifted and scattered dark shadows as the clouds speeded across the grey sky. A few leaves came rustling down. He emptied his mind, and concentrated on his breath, forming little clouds of steam in the cold air.
A young woman passed, pushing a pram. She looked tired, but managed a friendly smile, and sat down on the bench. The sleeping baby stirred, opened its eyes, stared straight up at the swaying trees then closed them again. “It’s the only way I can get her to sleep,” she said wearily, “taking her out in the pram, the motion, you know.”
Gerald nodded sympathetically, “I know what you mean, my daughter was the same, used to walk for hours trying to get her off. She’s twelve now, just started high school, they grow up fast. Too fast!”
The sleeping infant brought back the joy and wonder of his own daughter Bethan being born. Old memories returned… The financial struggle of the early years, and the Christmas he’d brought Kimmi home.
He remembered Beth’s squeals of delight as the little dog tumbled out of the Christmas gift box, red bow tied around his neck. and how protective Kimmi had been towards their baby daughter. They’d expected him to be jealous of the new addition, but the small dog and baby seemed to bond immediately. They often saw him peeking into her crib, as if checking she was alright.
He also remembered the night the little dog had awoken them with furious barking. “Kimmi, what’s the matter with you boy? Have you gone mad, shut up, for goodness’ sake!” Gerald remembered his words well.
But Kimmi refused to shut up. He pulled at the bedclothes until Gerald and Jenna were forced to follow him into the nursery.
“Baby Beth,” Jenna cried. “Look, she’s turning blue, what shall we do? Quickly phone for an ambulance!”
“There’s no time,” Gerald replied, picking up the baby and running downstairs with Kimmi close at his heels. “Into the car, we’ll go straight to the hospital, it’s only a mile away!”
That short mile seemed like a thousand, and the few minutes it took to carry Bethan into casualty, like several hours, but thanks to Kimmi they were in time.
The doctors quickly cleared a blockage in the baby’s throat, and an hour later she was safe from danger! After an overnight stay to check her out, they were allowed to take her home.
Gerald was suddenly hit by a realisation, enlivened by a dust of such bright gold that he wondered at its invisibility.
He sat there in the park, smiling at his own foolishness. Looking down, he noticed the old dog was shivering. Turning up his coat collar against the wind, Gerald stood and turning to the puzzled young woman, said, “I must get THE GREATEST GIFT home to his warm basket! Come on boy, we’ve a ‘prize winning’ story to write.”
By Geraldine Seymour