New Writers of the West
A Christmas Mystery
Written By Don Janssen
In my little town on the Columbia River, we always had snow . It was really cold and the streets were icy enough to ice skate on. In our front yard my brother Dick and I had erected a nice sized snow man right next to our outside Christmas tree. We had an outside and an indoor Christmas tree. The outside tree was a dark green lovely fir tree that we had dug up way out in the woods. When we loaded it into the car I accidentally slammed the door on it and crunched the tippy top into a “Z” shape. We planted it in the front yard and it grew into perfect fir tree form, except for the top which had a lovely “Z” shape.
During the winter we put left over pancakes and apple cores and day old bread up in the branches for the little birds that hopped around our yard.
One frigid evening as I came home from my school’s Christmas Pageant practice, “IT!” happened. The sky was overcast and a few snowflakes wandered through the darkening lateness. I went up the front steps and as I was about to open the door; something stopped me. I turned and looked out over our front lawn. Every thing looked sparkling white. The snow man that Dick and I had built smiled his black toothed grin at me. Then it hit me! Our wonderful lovely friendly outside Christmas tree was gone! I ran over and saw where it had been cut down and dragged across the lawn down the steps, across the sidewalk and out into the frozen street where the trail stopped. I ran into the house and roused Dad and Dick and we searched up and down our street to no avail. Our tree was gone.
To Mom and Dad, the customers at our little corner grocery were like family. During the season Mom baked piles of goodies. Cookies, pies ,rolls and breads to be given to our loyal customers. One night as a storm settled over the valley, Dad and I walked to some of the customers homes. The last present we delivered was to Mrs. Stewart, an elderly lady far down Cascade Street. When we gave her the present, she insisted that we come inside and warm by the fire. We sat in the front room by the fire place and looked up at her wonderful Christmas tree. It had colored lights and silvery cascades of tinfoil lying over the branches. Then I noticed something and I pointed it out to Dad. We both silently agreed that Mrs. Stewart had our outside Christmas tree. The tippy top of the tree looked just like a “Z”.
Dad whispered: “Don’t say a word.”
Mrs Stewart came into the room carrying our hot chocolate. Dad said: “Where did you find that beautiful tree? I’d like to get one just like it.”
She smiled: “I was lucky. That nice Bobby Ames from over on Ferry Street came by and sold me this lovely tree for just three dollars. He even put it in a stand that I had. Isn’t it lovely?” Dad and I both said what a lovely tree it was and after a few pleasantries we bid her a ‘Merry Christmas’ and went out onto the street.
The storm had really turned into a blizzard and Dad told me to go on home and tell Mom he had a few more places to go. Then he hurried down hill and disappeared into the blowing snow.
The next night just before seven there was a knock at the door. Mom admitted a man and a young boy about my age. Dad crossed the room and shook the man’s hand and said: “I’m so glad you came Mister Ames; and this must be Bobby. Come and sit, please.”
, My brother Dick came into the front room and Mr. Ames stood up and said: “We have come on a very grave occasion. My son, Bobby, wants to tell your family the errors of his ways. Get up, Bobby, and face these good people and ask their forgiveness!” Bobby stood up and could hardly look us in the eye. His eyes were red . His cheeks were glowing. He kept biting his lips. He just stood there and fidgeted. His father cleared his throat and said gruffly: “Speak! Now! Tell it all! ” Bobby gave a little jump and stammered out his confession. “I sawed down your tree and sold it to Mrs Stewart for three dollars. Here’s the money. I hate it! I’m sorry for what I did and when the ground thaws out I’ll replace the tree, and…and… and…” Then he started to blubber. Then Mr Ames said: “I have let Bobby become a bad spoiled child and he has run with bad boys. This will be his last crime. I have spoken to Mr. Janssen and beginning this Sunday Bobby will be riding to the Sunday school with the Janssens. Mrs. Ames, Bobby and I will go to the church as a family. Right? Bobby?”
Bobby was weeping so loudly that we were all moved to make him feel better. Mom scurried into the kitchen and brought out some cookies and hot cider that she just happened to have on hand.
So ended the mystery of the missing tree. Bobby rode to Sunday School with us for a long time. He attended church with his Mom and Dad.
In the early spring Bobby and I dug a deep hole and we planted another wonderful outside Christmas tree.
And the birds came back.