Pay It Forward

Brett Matthew West, a long time Freelancer here in Nashville, with a huge online presence, and many articles published in a variety of newspapers and magazines, has posted his Christmas story for 2016.

Showcasing his writing, this story comes from Brett’s soon to be published book Astatula, and tells the story of a young boy raised to disdain everything about Christmas.  Can this youngster learn the true meaning of the season?


Pay It Forward

Christmas time was fast approaching in the small West Texas town of Astatula.  Cody did not care.  Why should he?  To him there was no special significance to the day.  It was just one more in a long line of 365 days that constituted a year.  Besides, Cody had lived through nine such days already.

“What was so almighty special about another Yuletide?” he asked himself wishing the day could just be wiped off the calendar altogether.

Cody’s father, Earl Anthony Schroder, had repeatedly drilled one thought into his young mind, “Christmas means nothing so get over it!”

And, Cody did.  Or at least he tried to.  That pretend, wannabe, elf known as Santa Claus had never once come down Cody’s chimney, let alone set foot inside his house the entire time he lived in Palo Pinto.

Earl Anthony Schroder absolutely forbid such nonsense.  This left a certain disdain for the occasion in Cody’s mind.  No toys magically appeared under a Christmas tree in Cody’s house.  Nor was there even a tree to begin with.

“You want something get off your duff and work for it!” Earl Anthony Schroder pounded into Cody his whole life.

So, Christmas meant absolutely nothing to Cody.  There was never any reason for it to.  And, now living in Astatula, Cody was contented with what he had always been told by his father about the day.

“Just let it pass and forget it ever existed!” was the stringent motto Earl Anthony Schroder raised Cody by.

As he rode his bicycle on the crowed sidewalk full of last minute shoppers, Cody noticed the wide array of Christmas decorations the town displayed in its Downtown area.  He headed towards the Astatula Mall to meet Matt Cochran.  They would drink hot chocolates with extra marshmallows.  Cody’s blue Mongoose was his most treasured possession of all.  He loved the freedom the bike allowed him to have when he wanted to go somewhere.

He observed the glittering strings of colorful lights that outlined windows, buildings, and doorframes.  Sure they flickered on and off.  Weren’t they supposed to?  To Cody they were no big deal.  Neither were the ornate decorations, myriad of snowmen, reindeer, elves, angels, and Santa Clauses he saw no matter which direction he looked in.

The more he witnessed the decorations cluttering up the scenery the more Cody wondered, “What is the big deal about all this Christmas stuff?”

Cody also knew he would be much happier when the season everyone else seemed to be caught up in was over.  He always was.

Now it was Christmas Eve.  Sheriff Daniels, Cody’s foster dad, and Beth Sorenson had placed enough lights around their house to land an airplane.  Still, there were no presents under the elaborately adorned tree standing in the middle of their living room among their prized Christmas knickknacks.

Once again, this proved to Cody that Santa Claus was nothing more than a big, fat, phony!  He could not possibly be real.  So, who needed him?  Cody did not believe Earl Anthony Schroder was correct about too many things, but, his views of Christmas appeared to be right on the money.

Noticing the Sidewalk Santa ringing his little bell on the corner, and collecting donations for the less fortunate, Cody slowly shook his head in disbelief of the overwhelming sensationalism of Christmas he saw as he walked into the mall.  He almost bumped into the Angel Tree that stood right smack dab in the middle of the way inside the door.

“Couldn’t they put that stupid tree some place else?” the miniature Grinch mused to himself.

Cody noticed only one name still hung on the tree.  He could not resist the temptation.  Making his way to the tree, Cody read the name that was written on the white tag.  It belonged to Jerry Denton, who only wanted a bicycle for Christmas.

“Looks like you’re outta luck there, Jerry,” Cody half-smiled to himself saying, “Christmas is tomorrow and you’re still here.  Oh well.  That’s the way it goes.  Welcome to the real world, Dude!”

Cody found Matt.  They bellied up to the bar at Klingman’s Tastee Treats and ordered their piping hot chocolates.  Then, they found a nearby comfortable table and plopped down at it.  The boys liked palling around together the way best friends do.  They laughed, cracked corny jokes, and talked about whatever thoughts entered their minds.  Somehow, Jerry Denton’s name joined their conversation.

Jerry Denton had battled a rare form of childhood leukemia all year long.  He was losing the fight and his doctors did not expect him to live to see another Christmas after this one.  Financially strapped to pay his medical bills, his parents could not afford any Christmas cheer for him so they placed his name on the Angel Tree.  Cody remembered it was the only one still hanging on the tree he passed by coming into the mall.

Two hours rapidly flew by as Cody and Matt chatted away, in between playing their favorite video arcade games.  That was the other reason they had come to Klingman’s Tastee Treats that evening.

Over the public address system they heard the alert, “Attention shoppers!  The Astatula Mall will be closing in five minutes.  Please head to the nearest checkout counter at this time, and all your friends here at the Astatula Mall wish you, and yours, a very merry Christmas and a happy New Year!”

“Bah humbug!  I hear and I obey!” Cody cynically thought to himself.  He was having a good time and was not ready to leave yet.

However, the announcement was the boys’ cue it was time for them to go.  Cody knew he should ride his bike home with Matt, but, decided he had another stop he needed to make.  He watched Matt ride west on Cassandra Boulevard and he turned east.  He was only going four blocks.

Cautiously, so as not to get caught, Cody rode his bike up the uneven driveway of the residence he pedaled to.  There, he dismounted his bike and quietly walked it up the three cracked cement steps leading to the weathered, wooden porch.  Placing its kickstand down on the ground, he rang the doorbell of the house then rapidly darted beside the far front panel of the SUV parked in the driveway.

Jerry Denton opened the door of the house.

Approaching behind him, his mother asked, “Who is it, son?”

“Santa Claus!” Jerry excitedly exclaimed, the happiest he had been in a very long time, “And, he brought me a bike!  I just knew he would!”

Mrs. Denton placed the palm of her hand over her face.  She desperately tried to keep Jerry from seeing her tears fall down.

Mr. Denton spotted Cody hiding behind his car.  He could not speak.  “Thank you, Cody!” he mouthed to the boy.

Positioned on his hands and knees, Cody nodded his blond head to respond, “You’re welcome.”

Mr. Denton placed his right arm around Jerry’s shoulders.  Somehow his fondest wish had come true and Jerry would enjoy one last Christmas.  He closed the door with his left hand to keep Cody’s little secret between them.

Rising to his feet, Cody knew he needed to get home in a big hurry.  As he rounded the corner of his house, he did not have a clue what he was going to tell Sheriff Daniels about why he had broken his curfew, especially on Christmas Eve, or what happened to his bike.

Flinging open the front door of his house, Cody loudly announced his arrival home.  Entering the house he noticed the pile of presents scattered around their Christmas tree and that most of them had his name emblazoned on them.

It was then Cody noticed a letter laying on the dining room table.  Little Mister Personality could not resist reading through what it contained.  He stopped when he read the words:

“adoption approved!”

Now, Cody had a home he could call his very own.  Suddenly, Cody had an epiphany:  so, this is what Christmas is all about.  It really is the most wonderful time of the year!




Look for Brett’s exciting novel Astatula to possibly make an appearance on this blog in the very near future!!!!  You will not want to miss this book!!!!

You can help my blog grow by:

-liking my posts
-regularly following my blog
-passing my blog on to other people who you know will enjoy reading what I write

What are you waiting for?  (Going viral is one of my goals!)

The Nashville Freelancer


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