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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 2 – Intermediate)
Topic: Christmas Carols/Carolling (10/02/08)

TITLE: Carol at the Door
By Carol Slider
10/02/08


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“It came upon the midnight clear, that glorious song of old,
From angels bending near the...”

“What do you want?”

The little group of young carolers, bundled in coats, scarves and woolly hats, stopped singing raggedly. Some stopped mid-sentence; others continued awkwardly to the end of the phrase. They huddled together, eyes fixed on the door. Perhaps their parents had warned them about people who didn’t like Christmas carols. Perhaps they thought the harsh-voiced woman behind the door was one of those.

But Eloise did like Christmas carols. She just didn’t want to hear that particular carol–not tonight, not ever again.

It had played over the hospital intercom on the Christmas morning she had held a small, swaddled bundle and looked into a tiny face. And she had remembered another verse of the hymn, one that carolers never sang:

“And ye, beneath life’s crushing load, whose forms are bending low...”

“She’s beautiful,” Eloise’s mother had said, brushing back a furtive tear. “Beautiful, and this is the right decision...”

“Who toil along the climbing way...”

Yes, it had seemed the right decision when she had first spoken with the social worker. She couldn’t take care of a baby at sixteen. It had been easy to sign the paperwork, sign away all rights to the growing life within her.

“With painful steps and slow...”

But it had not seemed so simple on the Christmas morning when she held her daughter for the first and last time.

The carolers were still standing on the porch, whispering about what to do. Most of them wanted to go.

“But maybe it’s someone who needs our help,” said one timid voice, a girl’s.

“Come on, Carol, she doesn’t want us here...”

Eloise pulled back the door abruptly. They stared at her, puzzled, and she knew that they had expected an old woman, not one in her early thirties.

“I don’t hate Christmas carols,” she said, managing a faint smile. “It’s just... that one brings back some memories. But you sound... very good.”

“No we don’t,” said one young man, with cheerful honesty. “Most of the time, we’re out of tune.”

“So are you just spreading Christmas cheer to the neighborhood? Or do you want money?”

She tried to sound more amused than cynical, and almost succeeded.

“Well...”

“Um...”

“Uh...”

A couple of the young people tried to hide the cans they were holding. But a young woman near the back–the one with the timid voice–said quietly,

“It’s for disaster relief. Our church is collecting for the people who lost homes in the flood last month.”

“Well, come in, then,” said Eloise, and held open the door. “I’ll find something for you.”

The young people crowded into the foyer, while Eloise went upstairs to get her purse. She didn’t mind visitors. Her house looked liked a photo spread from a design magazine, and there wasn’t anyone else around to spoil its perfect order. She’d dated, but never liked anyone quite as well as Ricky–Ricky, the high school sweetheart who had wanted her to have an abortion, and stopped speaking to her when she made another choice.

When she came downstairs, she found that the young people hadn’t moved out of their huddle. But Eloise still spotted the quiet-voiced girl, the one who had told her about the disaster-relief project. She could barely see the girl’s face, swaddled as it was in a thick red scarf, but there was something about her eyes...

Eloise handed the girl a twenty-dollar bill, and the girl grinned,

“Thank you, ma’am, thanks very much.”

“Your name’s ‘Carol,’ isn’t it? I heard one of your friends say that. Were you born on Christmas?”

“Christmas morning,” said the girl. “I’m adopted, so my parents call me their ‘Christmas gift...’”

Her eyes... Ricky’s eyes? Eloise swallowed.

“Do you... mind much? Being adopted?”

“No, not really. My parents are great, and my real mom... I’m sure she had a good reason for giving me up.”

“I’m sure she did,” Eloise echoed hoarsely.

She wanted to ask something else, say something else, but she didn’t. It was enough.

The young people tumbled out the door, waving backwards, whispering unsubtly,

“Wow, twenty bucks! Best we’ve gotten tonight!”

Eloise closed the door, and leaned against it. She listened as the song faded away, and heard the words without pain for the first time in fifteen years:

“O rest beside the weary road, and hear the angels sing...”


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This article has been read 623 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Carole Robishaw 10/09/08
This was very good. I liked the ending, full circle.
Robyn Burke10/09/08
Oooh, that was good!! the voice of Carol was authentic and Eloises feelings came through very clearly. Nicely done.
Lisa Keck10/09/08
Ah that one stanza that never seems to get sung but woven creatively into this story. I was a bit surprised by the abrupt change of attitude in Eloise but oerall thought it was a good story.
Anne Linington10/09/08
This was a tale that kept my interest from beginning to end- glad the ending wasn't beyond ideal and therefore unbelievable. A friend of mine has recently fought cancer successfully, and since then been reunited with an adopted son and three grandchildren!
Sheri Gordon10/09/08
This is well written, and the dialogue realistic.

I really like the direction the story started with the memory of placing the child for adoption--but I found it a little hard to believe that her child would happen to be standing at her doorway singing. It seemed a little too pat. I would have liked to see the story continue without that huge coincidence.

I love that you used a verse that is rarely, if ever, sung. Nice job with the topic.
Jan Ackerson 10/09/08
That's a super carol, not often sung, and I enjoyed reading this piece that's built around it.

I'm having a hard time believing the coincidence, myself, but I'm a notorious cynic.

I like the double meaning in your title.
Holly Westefeld10/10/08
This story is beautifully woven with the carol, and I always love a strong pro-life message.
In my opinion, fiction, by definition, is contrived. Some of it is just more predictable than others.
I did not find this predictable, not realizing until the sentence about Carol's eyes that she was Elouise's daughter. Miracles, God incidents, amaze us because they are so unexpected.
Your ending was excellent, resisting any urge to have Elouise reveal herself.
Lollie Hofer 10/10/08
I liked how you wove the song into the story. Great dialogue. The pace of the story was good as well.
Beckie Stewart10/10/08
What a neat way to bring healing to the hurting mom. Being an adoptive mom, I hold gratitude in my heart for the young frightened mom who gave life to my sweet daughter and allowed us to love her forever.
Marlene Austin10/13/08
Lovely story. Very nice work on your characterizations. :)
Karlene Jacobsen 10/13/08
It would be cool to find out that Carol had been looking for her mom and stood in with the carolers in order not to be conspicuous. Just a thought; it might tie it together a little tighter.

I do love stories with hopeful endings.
Celeste Ammirata10/16/08
Wow, talk about a gift from heaven. I'm glad she got to see her daughter. I'm sure it lightened her heart. Congratulations on second place. Well deserved.