This short story was written for my senior creative writing class and I wanted to share it with you.
The walls of the small home began to moan as they were struck by another of winter’s cold breaths. The icy knives cut past the walls and the clothes of the inhabitants, an uncle and his nephew. The two were celebrating Christmas, sitting before a small collection of dying coals.
Beneath their small, browning tree was a single box. A red box. It was much taller than it was wide, though still small. The shape resembled that of a shoebox that once contained a child’s shoes. The box was wrapped as if by the hands of a working man, the cuts and folds bearing gruff precision and skill. It had a thin layer of dirt on it just like everything else in the room, fitting for the poor quality of paper; it was a cheap brown wrapping paper that had been stained red.
This box was not an unusual box. Many gifts had been given just like it, and the child looked upon it with curiosity and excitement. He was too young to have wrapped and given something to his uncle, but he paid it no mind.
The uncle noticed the child’s expression and welcomed him to the gift with a smile.
“Have at it, little one! I think you’ll enjoy it very much.”
“What is it, uncle?” the child said while shaking the box.
It made a dull thudding noise as it shook.
“It’s a bit heavy.”
“That’s for me to know and you to find out. Open it.”
The child did so. The sound of tearing was of a lower tone, unlike more fine wrapping papers whose sound is sharp and crisp. The tearing made a small cloud of dust, seen from the light of the coals. The child ripped gleefully, stripping off the layers with eager speed.
The uncle remembered the Christmases of his own youth and how he had opened his gifts with the same vigor. They were sweet memories he was glad to share. The child opened the box.
He lifted its content with the awe a child has for a parent. He was at the age where all he wanted was to replicate his uncle’s every act, and this made the old blacksmith’s gift that much sweeter.
The heavy head of the hammer made the boy’s small arm shake, but he held it with pride. It was his.
“That’s a smith’s hammer, boy.” The uncle said.
The child was even more enticed and looked from it back to the uncle.
“This year, I’m gonna take you on as an apprentice; I’ll teach you what your old uncle does in his shop all day so that when you get bigger, you’ll have a trade … You’ll be a blacksmith, just like me.”
The child was grinning from ear to ear.
“You gotta have a trade if you wanna be useful someday — if you want to be a man. Tomorrow, we’ll begin.”
The uncle knew this was all his nephew wanted since they began living together. The child thought he was too young to join his uncle; normally, it is older children who are chosen, but an exception was made for him.
“Thank you, Uncle! I’ve always wanted one of my own!”
The child knew then what he would do with the rest of his life. From that moment on, all was laid out; there would be no deviation. His life would rise and fall to the strike of that hammer, and just as he had been given the gift of inevitability, so too would he give it to his own children, and they give it to theirs.
The uncle knew this and gave it anyway. Such a gift was a ward from poverty and starvation the likes of which few others were afforded.
The child ran over to hug his uncle who still smelled of charcoal and metal. He hugged the child back.
The winds from then on blew softer and the drafts were not as cold; the coals had more life and gave more heat; the tree was not as small nor as brown.
They were not as poor anymore.
This series titled In My Son’s Words features the experiences of my son, Joseph, as a teenager and a child of a single parent.
If you would like to contact him, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.