A short story written for A Merry Minion Christmas, an anthology coming to your eyes soon.
Author Michael Wombat, eBook Yes, Dedication To all the splendid writers contained herein. I am honoured to be in your company.
Miss Brightsmith smiled happily. This year’s nativity play was going extremely well, a stark contrast to last year’s disaster. Everything that could go wrong did go wrong last year. The baby Jesus losing his head, which rolled into the front row of the audience. The innkeeper saying to Mary and Joseph “Yes, come in, there’s plenty of room.” Worst of all, the Archangel suddenly getting severe stage fright and weeing himself before sitting down in the puddle and bawling his eyes out.
This year, however, the children were doing her proud. Kara James was word perfect as Mary, and her brother Ethan’s Joseph, though snotty, was performing with a bravado that made the audience of indulgent Mums and Dads chuckle.
This year Miss Brightsmith had, for once, decided to take a seat in the audience rather than standing fretting in the wings, and it was paying dividends. Much of the tension was lifted out here among the smiling, Christmas-spirited adults perched awkwardly on chairs that were just too small. Here she was able to appreciate the play for what it was; a joyful slice of Christmas fun presented by five-year-olds, rather than a professional production that had to be word-perfect.
“And lo a mighty star…” announced Lisa Shambrook, projecting her voice just as Miss Brightsmith had taught her. This was just perfect. As the youthful voices joined to sing ‘Away in a Manger’, she looked about her. Most of the audience was beaming, eyes moist as their offspring sang to them the same song that they too had sung for their own parents decades ago.
Now that the play was nearing its end, several of the smallest children were becoming tired or bored. Shepherds fiddled with their trousers, stars waved to their mummies and sheep picked their noses. There only remained the crowning moment when the Archangel appears to bless everyone and to prompt the singing of the final carol. Following last year’s disaster, Miss Brightsmith had decided to try something different this time. She had built a fairly high platform to the rear of the stage, unobtrusive until lit by a single spotlight. She had chosen the brightest boy in her class, the eager and enthusiastic Caleb Walker, as her Archangel. He had listened intently as she instructed him how to carefully climb the steps and step into the spotlight right on clue. She had impressed upon him the importance of his role, and he was determined to present the Archangel properly.
“Don’t worry, Miss. I won’t let you down,” he had piped cheerily. “My Mam always says the show must go on.”
“You should always listen to your Mam,” she had smiled. “Be careful not to let go of the handrail when you’re on the platform.”
“I won’t, Miss. I know the angel’s important, and I know what to do. I’m not nervous or anything. The show must go on.”
Caleb’s moment had arrived. Right on cue, he appeared behind and above the assorted children on the stage. The audience gasped. The new arrangement had worked better than Miss Brightsmith could have dreamed. The Archangel seemed to materialise out of thin air, and he looked ethereal and translucent, glowing with light. His paper wings wafted gently, looking almost real. Caleb spoke his line with a meaning and conviction that belied his age.
“Joy to all here assembled! May everyone find true happiness and love through all their life. Harken to the heralds of peace!”
Everyone in the school hall joined in a rousing rendition of ‘Hark The Herald Angels Sing’ as Caleb faded out of the spotlight and the hall lights came up. An enthusiastic round of applause filled the hall as the song ended. Afterwards, parents sought her out and congratulated her on the wonderful production.
She turned round, beaming, ready to accept more praise, but her face adopted a puzzled expression when she saw that the man who had spoken was a serious-faced police constable, his hat gripped in his left hand.
“Yes?” she raised her eyebrows, “Can I help you?”
“It’s about Caleb Walker, I’m afraid.”
“Really? I can’t imagine why you’d be interested in him. He’s one of the good ones, never any trouble.. He’ll be getting changed right now. I’ll see if I can find him for you.”
“I’m sorry,” the constable laid a gentle hand on her arm. “Your Headmistress was supposed to have told you already, but apparently there was some sort of mix-up with the secretary not passing on a message. The Head only discovered that you hadn’t heard a short time ago, when I arrived to make certain arrangements. Since I am trained in such matters, I offered to tell you the news myself.”
“I don’t understand.”
“My apologies, I’ll speak plainly. Caleb Walker was run down by a hit-and-run driver on his way to school this morning, and suffered massive head injuries. He was rushed to hospital, where the doctors did everything they could, but I am afraid he died from those injuries at about eight-thirty this morning.”
“I’m sorry that you weren’t told. You must have been worried when he didn’t turn up.”
“I thought… I think he might have.”
“Hmmm,” the constable nodded, his expression a mix of confusion and concern, possibly for her state of mind. “I see that you managed to find a stand-in for your angel, anyway. The show must go on, eh?”
“Yes, yes. Bless him, Caleb was always determined that the show must go on.”
To see the other stories that have been published for this collection, click here: