Smitty is 13-year-old kid who is the narrator of the short story, “The Summer of the Homerun.” https://www.smashwords.com/books/.
He is also the lead character in a work in progress so far called “Three Rivers.”
Smitty’s best friend is Danny, a kid from a troubled home, and his girlfriend is the fabulous Katina, piano virtuoso, who is in Paris for a year.
This is a letter he wrote her for Christmas.
With Christmas coming up and you in France and all, I was thinking about you.
And, you know, missing you.
I remember last year how your grandmother had a little party for us and she gave me gloves so my hands wouldn’t freeze when I was delivering the paper, which I really needed. And you played the piano for me, a mini-concert, which was so special. I love watching you play. You and me can barely talk to one another, although we hold hands when we walk, sometimes we can’t say what we want.
So you say it when you play the piano, and I write stuff down, even though it doesn’t make much sense. You smile, and maybe that’s all you need to do.
But this year, you’re gone, and so’s Danny, so it’s just me.
I want to get in the holiday spirit, but it’s been hard, and not just because you’re not here.
It’s just, I don’t know, something’s not right.
The school had its Christmas concert, but the music sounded hollow. The downtown is decked out in wreaths and colored lights and Santas and reindeer. But it all looks old and used.
I’ll bet Paris is beautiful. I’ve seen the pictures, the City of Lights.
But Three Rivers is dull, recycled. Feels empty.
So I thought that maybe I was growing out of the little kid idea of Christmas, you know, a pile of gifts, waking up at six in the morning and having hot chocolate, and then maybe football in the snow or a snow ball fight in the street.
So – and I wished you had been here to come with me – I went walking around town and talked to people. It would have been so much more special if you had been here. But I told them about you anyway, how your hands fly over the keys and your head and hair are bobbing all over the place and how you, and me, get lost in the sounds.
They all smiled and told me how lucky I was and I told them they didn’t know the half of it.
And I told them about Danny and how we had been palling around since we were little kids, but that he and his Mom and gone out of town for a while and left his drunk old Dad at the house, which is probably a wreck by now.
And know what? They asked if they could help. They didn’t know Danny or his Mom at all, but they wanted to help.
And it wasn’t like these people were rich or doctors or ministers or anything. Just regular people.
I met one man at the cemetery. He was clearing branches and stuff from the graves of soldiers. He had a few wreaths and leaned them on a few gravestones. Friends, he said. Guys he served with. One was his son. Killed in Vietnam when he was nineteen. That was before I was born. I help him clean off the graves and stood silent with him over each one.
I wish you could have seen it. The place was so quiet and his face was so sad. And it seemed like half his life was in that cemetery.
He said thanks.
Then I stopped at the old diner. The cook there said he kept the place open late around the holidays to give the cops and a few homeless guys a place to get out of the cold. He had coffee on and a big pot of soup that he gave out with some really good bread. A couple dozen people came in and he asked them all how they were doing. He said that sometimes he’d try to keep a homeless person in the place because they seemed sick. Sometimes they’d stay, but mostly, he said they would wander off, with a cup of soup and extra bread in their pockets. He’d tell the cops to watch for them.
I asked the cook if it made him happy to help out, and he said, it wasn’t about being happy, just helping. He’d been there, he said.
So I talked to lots of others – nurses, gas station attendants, garbage men, a few of the homeless guys, store clerks, truck drivers — and they all said they were OK, as if saying they weren’t OK was admitting to a crime.
But, Katina, they weren’t OK. They were all sort of sad and lonely, but they could not admit it.
Still, they did what they could and I suppose the world was better for it.
I think they all feel the way I felt after the last time I saw you, before you left for Paris.
I remember how we hugged.
You threw your arms around my neck and I held your waist, and we held on to each other for maybe three minutes, and even as I loosened my grip a little, you tightened yours, and we hugged even longer, standing there in silence.
And even though I was sad that you were leaving for Paris, the promise that you were coming back filled me with hope.
And I think that is what all the people I talked to had, but couldn’t say. Some kind of hope. That if they brushed off one more grave or served one more cup of soup, said thank you one more time, cleaned one more windshield, that the hole in their soul would be filled just a little.
Cause that what it seemed like, Katina. There is a hole in the soul of the world.
So we need to figure out how to make Christmas for all of us.
Yeah, that would mean that you and I hug again for longer this time. And Danny and his Mom can have a few nights of calm, and the cops and the cook, the nurses and the old guy in the cemetery can find someone to stand with them, so all the sacrifice and loss can be, not replaced, but shared.
Maybe if we share it, it’s not so bad.