Antoinette Stockenberg's 2018 Christmas Display

Angel(6K)

Change has come to my mantel village of antique cardboard houses and tiny tin figures.  At long last, the village has a working harbor.  As a result, many new faces can be seen milling about.  Travelers, tourists, seamen, tradesmen—the village is downright bustling!  It's all possible because this summer I was able to devote long hours to painting many new tin figures to add to my original collection of antique Zinnfiguren.  Miniaturization is an art, and I'm clearly not an artist who is up to it, but (despite a stiff neck and a newly acquired and possibly permanent squint) I had a lot of fun creating the new characters.  I hope you enjoy the result.

Christmas by the Sea
The 2018 Christmas mantel.
   For closeups, click on the Church and each of the thirteen houses.

Antique Christmas cardboard house putz (village) on fireplace mantel at night (105K)

For a widescreen version of this mantel village, click here.

deer(14K) Mayor Albert Pittman is at it again:  moving heaven and earth to make his sleepy village a more prosperous and exciting place to live.  All of the villagers wanted to be more prosperous, of course, but not everyone was up for more excitement.  Some of the people in the village liked its sleepy, familiar feel.  They were proud of knowing just about everyone by name, and happy to be able to walk to the village center for their everyday needs without having to hitch up the horse.  From pharmacy to fabrics, the little shops that supplied the villagers had been around for generations.  Not very much was new.

Snow(50K) deer(14K) deer(14K) The mayor was determined to change all that, but  there were issues.  The roads were poor and the train did not stop regularly.  What to do?  Why, bring people and commerce to the village by boat!  After years of prodding the government to dredge a sand bar that had been blocking all but small craft from entering the harbor, the mayor finally has realized his dream:  ferries and steamships can now bring passengers and goods from big cities like Boston and New York right to the heart of the village.  But can the village still hold on to its sweet, old-fashioned charm?  Only time will tell.   

Some things new  (House 1):

Snow(50K) Having moved his medical practice to the village's new hospital, Doctor Nicholas Greene has decided to sell the large cottage that housed his old offices.  As it happens, Will and Harmony Jenkins are interested in buying the place.  Or more accurately -- Will is interested.  The house has a large barn on the property, and what could be better for a fellow who works in construction?  Harmony, on the other hand, is perfectly content with the small but pretty house they bought eight years earlier.  Both of their children were born there, and it's already filled with memories.  Still, she has agreed at least to look at the house to see whether she might not be happy there.

Max Schurster, the town's banker, has agreed to accompany Harmony.  Will had repaired Max's roof within hours after it was stove-in by a tree branch on Thanksgiving, and now Will has called in a favor:  he wants Max to see if he thinks the asking price is fair.  (Will thinks the price is more than fair.  He really wants that barn.)

"It looks good from the outside," Max tells Harmony.  "The price is a little high— but then, it does have a barn."

Harmony nodded, but to herself she was thinking, What is it with men and their barns?  In her mind, value was all about the number of bedrooms and the size of the yard.  They had two children, were hoping for a third, and owned a dog.  They needed room.  But Will needed a barn.  And ... this property had both.  She sighed almost in resignation and said to Max, "I guess we should see inside."

Not far from them, Lavinia Pittman is seated behind her beautiful dappled mare on her way to the town's center when Dorothea Sparks waves to her and has her driver ease her carriage to a halt alongside Lavinia's.  Although the mayor's wife and Dorothea Sparks, social rivals, will never be best friends, they have come to a truce of sorts, joining forces when the village needs help and going their own ways when it doesn't.  At the moment, things are going well in the village; the new harbor sees more ships' traffic every week, and there are no immediate crises to address.

But Dorothea has something else on her mind.  She greets the mayor's wife warmly.  "I'm so glad I've run into you, Lavinia!  I hope you're well."

"I am," Lavinia replies with a formal nod.  "And you?"

deer(14K) "I could not be better!"  And, indeed, Dorothea looks unusually happy and animated, even for Dorothea.   "I'm planning a small dinner party a week from tomorrow, and I wonder if you and the mayor will be able to come.  If that's not convenient for you, please tell me what day would be.  I can easily arrange to have it then."

Caught off guard by the intimate invitation, Lavinia allows her nose to tilt ever so slightly up in the air and says, "Well, I ... would have to look at my calendar."  She wanted to add, "Is there some point to this?" but of course that would not do.

"I want you to meet someone, a remarkable man," said Dorothea, her cheeks turning pink.  "He's captain of the steamer Contessa.  You've probably seen his ship in the harbor."

Even Lavinia, who had no interest in things that floated, had noticed the Contessa.  It was a fine ship, kept in Bristol fashion, and apparently was the talk of the waterfront.  "I shall let you know if I'm free," Lavinia says again.  The two continue on their way, with the mayor's wife wondering whether Dorothea Sparks has set her sights on husband number two.


Little June is concerned (House 2):

deer(14K) Little June-Bug, clutching her doll, is counting the days until Christmas.  She hopes that this year Santa will bring new clothes for her beloved Dolly, because her doll's cap has a big hole in it and her pretty polka-dot dress is torn.  With five brothers and sisters, June understands that Santa's bag can hold just so many presents, so she doesn't allow herself to think about anything more, like a new pair of shoes for Dolly — or for herself — but she does hold out hope for the cap and the dress.

She has whispered as much to Miss Martha, who, in keeping with her tradition, has just dropped off a supply of peppermint candy for all of the children.  "I'm sure Santa knows that," Miss Martha says, adding "You remembered to write him, didn't you?"

June nods vigorously.  "But mama mailed my letter only yesterday because she's been so busy.  What if it doesn't get to Santa in time?"

"Have no fear, child.  It will.  And Dolly will have those new clothes."  Miss Martha will make sure of it.

Nearby, Mr. Jack Jones and his wife, who is still referred to as Miss Bates in the village, are making their way to the train platform with their dog Boots.  They aren't going to board the train — where would they possibly go? — but are meeting one of the passengers, the shepherd Lucas, original owner of Boots.  Lucas and Jack have struck up a friendship, and all because of Boots Bates, as Lucas has cheerfully dubbed the dog.  "He were a terrible sheepdog, even when he had two good eyes," Lucas teases, fondly rubbing the dog's belly. "And ain't I that glad he has a new home with them as cares for 'im."

They will all sit down to a hearty stew in front of the Jones's hearth tonight, and Boots will be so happy. deer(14K)


Farmer Hooks is deeply troubled (House 2):

The sound of a neighing horse signals the arrival of old Farmer John Hooks, hauling a sleigh-load of happy, excited children behind him.  It's an annual tradition now, and Farmer Hooks is grateful for the increase in pay that the mayor has decided to bestow on him this year.  Because there's no denying it:  times are hard.  This year, times are hard.  Emotionally, financially, in every possible way ... times are bitterly hard.  Farmer Hooks's son, his only child, has been lost at sea.  It doesn't seem possible, and John Hooks is having a dreadful time wrapping his head around the idea.  It's true that the farmer and his daughter-in-law Sonja had misgivings about Johnny shipping out on a Gloucester schooner—in the winter!—to fish for cod on the Grand Banks.  Looking back now, the idea of it seems completely daft.

deer(14K) And yet Johnny was so confident, so enthusiastic about the promised rewards that he managed to convince his father that the venture was perfectly logical.  Sonja was not convinced, but what could she do?  She was outvoted.  And Farmer Hooks was going to have to live with that.  He pictured vividly the thick fog, pitching seas, icy decks ... and wondered why he hadn't been able to imagine such a scene before his son went off to Gloucester.   Fool that I am!  To let my boy do that!

John Hooks shook his head and sighed, hardly aware that little Yolanda, seated at the tail end of the sleigh, is yelling, "Too slow, old man, too slow!" at the top of her lungs.  The farmer winces.  The girl is right.


Abby and Annie make a run for it (House 3):

Ahead of the farmer's sleigh, Abby and Annie, best friends since first grade, are in a big hurry.  The train will be leaving the station, and they're supposed to be on it, bound for the next town where their friend Bessy, who never did manage to get Russell to propose, has moved to live with her grandmother.  "I wonder if Russell will ever marry anyone," Abby says, out of breath.

"Hurry up, Abby, or we'll miss the train," Annie scolds, and then adds, "Why should Russell ever settle down when he can have so much more fun playing the field?"

"I do think he has a new lady friend ... she's just moved ... down ... oh my! ... by the harbor.  I see Russell ... there sometimes ... and — will you slow down, Annie?  I'm going to have a heart attack!"

Annie picks up the pace and says grimly, "We'll miss the train, and if we do, it's your fault."

train(14K) "Well, I couldn't decide which hat!"

Two laundresses share a moment (House 3):

deer(14K)

It's not all misery being a laundress, even though the work is the most grueling part of maintaining a household.  Sometimes a laundress can find work with understanding homeowners who know how hard it is to keep linens free of stains and clothing pressed and neat.   Mrs. McGillicutty, a middle-aged widow, has just accepted a live-in position as laundress in one of the better houses in the village, and she's thrilled beyond words.  No more frozen toes selling hot beverages at the outdoor fêtes!  No more living in a boarding house with half a dozen strangers!  She cannot believe her luck.  Today, a sunny and not overly cold one, she is about to hang out a second load of laundry — but first, her kind mistress suggests that she warm herself with a cup of tea.

train(14K) Sitting with her steaming cup on the piazza, she spies Mrs. Appleby, a for-hire laundress, pulling a heavy load behind her.  "Missus," she calls out.  "I see you're struggling with that.  Will you stop for tea?"  Mrs. Appleby looks up, considers, and says with a tired smile, "You know, I wouldn't mind."

One act of kindness begets another ....

Will Jenkins has a proposal (House 5):

train(14K) train(14K) While his wife Harmony is considering the barn that happens to come with a house, Will Jenkins is doing his best to convince two of the village councilmen that it's well past time to repair the village school.  "The roof leaks, the sills are rotten, and some floorboards have sprung.  It is not only unpleasant but even dangerous for a child to be in school.  How can she learn anything when she has to skirt around buckets filling with rain and sit at her desk with an umbrella over her head?"

Attorney Jeremy Pettifore, one of the councilmen, is surprised at Will's fervor.  "I did not assume it was so bad as all that," he admits, taken aback.

Of course you wouldn't, Will thinks.  Your little Eloise has her own tutors.  But aloud he says diplomatically, "The reason I'm so aware is that my daughter Felicity has begun school.  Last week she tripped on a floorboard and required stitches."  Even though he is not normally a confrontational man, Will is still furious over the fact.

His tone—and possibly his towering size—make an impression.  "Well now!" Pettifore says.  "We'll have to look into that.  Be assured, Will, that I will bring it up at the next council meeting."  (The attorney is well aware that Will has influence in the village.  And that the school could be sued.)

"Please be sure that you do," Will answers.  "And please understand that this will not be an easy fix."

"Understood," says Pettifore.

"You would know," says the other councilman.

Will turns on his heel, in a hurry to catch up with his wife before she's finished her house tour; he wants to be there for the barn part.  Watching him walk off, Pettifore mutters to his fellow councilman, "He'll be running for office one of these days;  he likes too much to get things done."

Mrs. Pettifore has a scare (House 6 ):

money(14K) money(14K) Everyone in the village knows how careful Mrs. Pettifore is about her daughter's health.  But somehow, despite all her mother's care, Eloise has managed to get bitten by a bug, which caused a little redness and itching on her arm and a fit of hysteria by her mother.  Convinced that Eloise was attacked by a fatal Black Widow spider, Mrs. Pettifore rushes her daughter to the hospital, where it is learned that (1) it was not a fatal Black Widow spider and (2) it was not a spider.  "A sleepy honeybee is the more likely case," says Doctor Greene after rubbing the bite with vinegar-soaked cotton.  "She'll be fine."

Well!  That was easy enough for the physician to say.  But what if it had been his own child that was bitten, Mrs. Pettifore would like to know.

"I would have rubbed the bite with vinegar-soaked cotton," the physician answers with a resigned smile.  He has tended to Mrs. Pettifore before.  (For a simple cough and not consumption, as she believed.  For indigestion and not a heart attack, as she believed.  For indigestion again and not a blood clot, as she believed.)

Nonetheless, Mrs. Pettifore cannot stop talking about the fright she'd suffered, so Doctor Greene and Mayor Pittman, who have met at the hospital to discuss more serious issues than a bee sting, listen patiently.  Mrs. Pettifore, after all, is an exceptional fundraiser, and funds are always needed at the hospital.



The train platform (Houses 6 and 7):

money(14K) Because the holidays are drawing near, there is much activity at the train platform.  Of course, the fact that ferries can now enter the harbor also helps.  It's exciting to see passengers getting off and on the train, and going to and coming from the new ferry dock nearby.  The mayor is convinced that the village is finally, finally on the map and takes deep pleasure from all that he continues to accomplish.

Not only villagers but many newcomers are gathered at the platform.  A mother, luggage in hand, and her fire-haired daughter are waiting to be met and taken to visit at a nearby home.  A Franciscan friar, on his way to see his old friend Father Andrew at his church, is asking directions from the village newsboy, who knows everything and everyone.  An elderly man and his granddaughter, snuggled warmly in her mother's arms, are waiting on a bench to be shuttled to the ferry after having missed the last ride there.  A woman and her businessman husband are just back from New York, where he has attended a meeting and she a long-running musical.

The seats on the train are filling fast.  But those scamps Jeffrey and Jimmy, brothers in mischief, are trying to sneak aboard without paying.  The plan is for Jeffrey, perched on his brother's shoulders, to climb up, get in, and haul his brother after him.  Unfortunately, they've been spotted by the caboose crewman, so that will be the end of that.  As for Abby and Annie? If they do manage to catch the train, they may be obliged to stand.

A most familiar sight (House 7):

train(14K) It's Christmastime, so Santa is holding forth on the steps of City Hall.  As ever, children wait patiently to deliver their Christmas requests.  Some have long lists neatly written down on paper, but some have committed their wishes to memory, having made a more serious effort to memorize their lists than they ever did their multiplication tables. 



Margaret and Clyde say a tearful good-bye (House 8):

train(14K) For the first time ever, Margaret and Clyde will be separated -- not because of a sudden illness in the family, and not because Clyde has to travel on business.  (Clyde has no business.  He's just rich.)  No, Clyde will be boarding the private coach on the train, which will take him to New York, where he will board another train for Chicago and more specifically, the famous Chicago stockyards.  Clyde has just inherited a small stockyard of his own that is located alongside the Michigan Central rail line.  Clyde knows nothing about cattle and meatpacking and not much more about railroads.  But he does know that there is Vanderbilt money in the railroads that run through the stockyards, and that means the Chicago stockyard that Clyde inherited from a distant relation is in a very desirable area.

"You know what they say," Clyde tells his wife as he gazes into her welling eyes:  "Location, location, location."  He wipes away a tear from her cheek.  "I will be back before you know it, and after I sell the stockyard, I will be back a much wealthier man."

That's the good news for Margaret.  The bad news is that with Clyde away, Margaret is the one who will have to interview prospects for a new French tutor for the children, and her  French is only middling.

Sam Rickens has a new friend (House 9):

Poor Sam Rickens.  His job as a street sweeper almost guarantees that he doesn't get to share his thoughts with anyone, because who wants to stand near a pile of swirling dust to listen to him?  And so it is today.  The old granary, left from the days when the town was mainly farmland and still unused except on rare occasions, keeps on gathering dust.  A lot of it.  It's Sam's job to keep the building swept, inside and out, just in case the town needs it for some emergency.  But it's an odd building, and no one can figure out what to do with it.  "Tear it down!" say some.  "Grow mushrooms in it!" say others.  "Make it an ale house!" say many more.

train(14K) train(14K) Sam doesn't care, he really doesn't.  He just wishes someone would do something with the place.  It's getting more run down every year, and sticking a tree in a pot in front of it doesn't help the look much.  "So what do you think, Pank?" he asks old man MacGowan's cat, who as usual has the run of the village and right now is the only one keeping Sam company.  "If it was me, I'd tear off the tower and make it a proper train station.  Lord knows we could use one.  But does anyone ask my own humble opinion?  Not never," he grumbles. Tired of listening to his own voice, Sam resumes his silence, and the only sound is of his broom:  sweep ... sweep ... sweep.

train(14K) Away from Sam's dust and grime, Alice's brother Eddy finally arrives.  Alice has jumped down from the station bench and, as usual, has sharp words from her brother.  "Eddy, you are absolutely impossible!  You will be late for your own funeral.  Tie that shoe and let's get going!  We missed the trolley, and now we're going to have to walk to the ferry landing."

Eddy, who wonders when his older sister is ever going to get married and move out of the house, is taking his time, just to annoy her further.  "It's only a little way to the harbor.  The way you talk, we could be trying to climb Everest.  Just ... hold yer horses, will ye?"

"Oh!  Oh!  You make me so crazy!"

Grace is there for Sonja (Houses 9 and 13):

Surely one of the kindest and most supportive people in the village is midwife Grace Greene.  If there is heartbreak, she will be there to soothe.  If there is fear, she will be there to reassure.  If there is a loss of any kind, no matter how small or how deep, the village can count on Grace to help heal.

train(14K) Today she is especially needed, because today would have been Sonja's and Johnny's wedding anniversary.  Sonja, still mourning the loss of her husband at sea, continues to be inconsolable, even by Grace.  The midwife has not given up her effort, however, and has accompanied Sonja, yet again, down to the harbor.  Sonja is still determined to ask every sailor, every stevedore, every captain, every new seaman she sees whether their ships might possibly, miraculously, have heard of Johnny being pulled out of the water.  Because he cannot be gone, Sonja believes.  He just can't.

But once again, Sonja and Grace come up empty.  Some seamen are too busy to answer her, and with all of the noise and activity, some can't even hear her.  Some are respectful and sympathetic  — they know the dangers of the sea — but the answer, sadly, is always the same.

It is getting late.  "I just want to look out at the sea," Sonja implores Grace, who has been waiting patiently for her to give up for the day.  "Please, Grace ... five minutes more."

Grace realizes full well what will come next:  Sonja will knock on the door of a certain harbor-side house, now a small inn, that belongs to a woman who lost her brother to the sea.  Sonja will climb the stairs to the second floor and then step out onto a small balcony that overlooks the harbor and beyond it, the sea.  She will stare with fierce concentration at the ships that traffic the harbor, practically willing Johnny to be a passenger aboard the next incoming ferry.  And eventually she will become chilled to her bones, and will return inside and retrace her steps to Grace, who will be waiting for her near the fishmonger's stall, where they will have agreed to meet.

train(14K) But standing on the balcony today, Sonja has a marked feeling that leads her if not to hope, then at least not to despair.  She scans the horizon, looking for ... what?  Even she does not know.  And then suddenly, out of the vapory mist of the water's surface, she sees  — or thinks she sees  — the brawny figure of her husband.  But he is not on the ferry!  He is on the water itself, hovering above it, looking her way.  She draws a sharp breath ... is dizzy ... totters in place.  It's all she can do not to fall from the balcony.  Never has she felt so wobbly, not in all of her years skating on ice.  And then, just as suddenly, Johnny is gone, sliding into the vapory mist.  So intense was the premonition that Sonja finds herself staggering back inside and dropping into the nearest chair, unable to walk or think or hope or despair.  She is numb.

Below her, Grace waits.  After a wistful exchange with the fishmonger over poor Sonja's plight, Grace decides to get a cup of tea.  (The fishmonger has bought the beverage business from Mrs. McGillicutty, who has taken a position as live-in laundress.)  Trying to ward off her own chill, Grace thinks,  Sonja is taking so long today.  What can be keeping her?

If only she knew.

She waves absent-mindedly to the Woodcuts, who are taking their own refreshment (which is not hot, and definitely not tea) on a bench nearby.  Mr. Woodcut waves back, but he shakes his head and murmurs, "That Sonja just won't give up, will she.  That can't be good."

Sighing, Mrs. Woodcut says, "Hard to say.  Hope keeps her going.  It will get her through the hard part.  Then again, she's such a slip of a thing, and anyone can see she's lost weight.  Still, I count on Grace to steer her right."

"Yes, Grace.  Grace will do her right." 



Billy has something to say (House 10 - the church):

train(14K) Father Andrew waits in front of his church for the arrival of his old friend Joseph, a Franciscan priest.  Joseph has traveled to the village for the first time by boat, and Father Andrew is eager to see if Brother Joseph found the trip more or less convenient than by coach.  But in the meantime, Big Billy shows up with a question of his own.

Having spied the priest outside and alone, Billy has rushed to intercept him.  "Father Andrew?  Um."  Billy clears his throat.  "Um ... I kind of have something to say" he begins.

The priest cocks his head.  "You mean, you wish to confess, Billy?"

"No, not confess, exactly.  It's more like, I have something to say," Billy repeats.  "It's more like a question.  I just want to know, will I be going to heaven?  Do you know?" he blurts.  He would like to add, "You probably could ask and find out," but he doesn't want to seem pushy.

A half-smile crosses the elderly priest's face.  "Well, now, that depends.  Have you been a good boy?"

Billy's eyes open wide.  "That's what Santa always asks!" he cries, amazed by the question.  "Why does everybody ask me that?  I'm always a good boy!  I don't ever get a chance to be anything else, even if I wanted to be a not-good boy.  But I don't!  I am!  Good, I mean.  I think."

Glancing down the road for Joseph and not yet seeing him, Father Andrew turns back to Billy. "Perhaps you want to make a quick confession?"

Billy compresses his lips in thought and then says, "Maybe, for one little thing."

The two retreat to one side of the church, and in a whisper, Billy confesses whatever it is he was worried might keep him out of heaven.

The working waterfront  (House 12):

Fascinated by the hustle and bustle of a group of sailors loading provisions onto their ship, a little boy can't decide what to watch first:  the way the men work together so well, or the constant movement of ships in the harbor.  It is all so wonderful!  When he grows up, Thomas wants to join the navy.  It's all he's wanted to do, ever since he visited his uncle on his ship.  Thomas was so lucky to be able to go with his parents on the tour.  He had to promise to behave and not to touch anything, of course, and that was really hard to do.  But he was so well-behaved that his Uncle Seth sent him a monocular for his birthday last month.  For his very own self!   

train(14K) Steadying himself alongside a heavy anchor, Thomas focuses his miniature telescope on a beautiful gaff-rigged sloop sailing toward the lighthouse.  Very pretty!  It's too bad that the navy has mostly gone to steam-powered warships, Thomas thinks, but his Uncle Seth said that there were still naval ships around that could move by either power or sail.  Thomas hoped to make it aboard one of those.  If only he could grow up faster, before it was too late!

train(14K) On the nearby shore, two men contemplate the state of the local fishing industry.  Sitting in a beached dory, one of them seems less concerned than the other; perhaps it is the pipe he's smoking that has made him so mellow.  The other man is much more upset, grumbling about the ships' traffic in the harbor.  "Why, I was practically run over by one of them steam-driven ferries; the helmsman was a maniac.  I've a mind to report him to the mayor."

"Mayor won't care," the pipe smoker says.  "He's all fer progress."

"How'm I supposed to row across the harbor, pullin' me traps, if I have to be watchin' over me shoulder the whole time?  And don't get me started on them propellers.  I've lost half a dozen traps already to 'em.  I tell you, I have a real mind to—"

"Mayor won't care," the pipe smoker says again.  He draws deeply on his pipe.  "Progress."

Not the same old Russell (House 12):

Among the humble houses that line the waterfront is one that has just been rented by a family of seven.  It is a hardworking family, newcomers attracted to the village's expanding commerce.  The man of the house has taken on work as a stevedore.  His wife sells fish in the waterfront market.  Their oldest son is a cabin boy on the ferry, and their youngest three are taken care of by their beautiful daughter Ruth. Russell has seen Ruth in the village square, trailed by three little ones.  At first he'd assumed the worst — that Ruth was married and the children were hers.  It didn't take long for him to learn that they were all siblings, and that Ruth herself was unspoken for.  He cannot believe his good luck.

train(14K) train(14K) After accidentally (on purpose) running into Ruth several times as she went about her provisioning, Russell is now on a first-name basis with her.  Lately he has begun walking with Ruth (and, alas, all those siblings) into town, carrying her bags, introducing her to shopkeepers, making them promise to treat her well.  Ruth is easy to talk to, and he finds himself opening up more to her than to any girl he's ever known.  She has a sense of humor; he likes that.  She's not afraid to take him down a peg, and he's amazed to find that he likes that, too.  In short, Russell is falling in love.

The only problem is with Ruth's parents.  For one thing, they both work on the waterfront and can keep a pretty good eye on her comings and goings.  For another, they absolutely need her to take care of the little ones while they work.  And, wouldn't you know, Ruth is one of those responsible types who take their duties seriously.  She isn't at all like the flighty girls that Russell has always found himself attracted to.

As he waits for her on the porch of her humble cottage, Russell wonders where it's all going.  And then he hears Ruth's musical voice from within, and he pretty much knows.

The light keeper's house (House 14):

train(14K) Leaning against one of the stone bollards in front of the light keeper's house, the newest keeper is passing the time in idle chat with a lad who's come to deliver provisions for the week.  The lad should be in a hurry but isn't; once he returns to the shop with his empty baskets, he's just going to have to go back out again, so what's the point?

train(14K) The light keeper nods in the direction of a fast-moving sloop that's outward bound under full sail, and on a windy day.  "Sure hope that fella knows what he's doin'," the keeper says.  "He's skirtin' them rocks awful close."

The delivery boy follows his glance.  "Oh, that's Dennis.  He knows these waters like the back of his hand.  Grew up here.  He won't be runnin' up on no rocks."

"Well ... mebbe."  The keeper asks the boy, "You seem to know folks.  Why did the last keeper leave?"

"Old man MacGowan?  Hah.  He says it's because his rheumatism got that bad.  But everyone knows the real reason:  he wouldn't give up his cat."

"True?  He left because of a cat?"

"Yep.  But then, Pank ain't just any cat.  She belonged to Papa Ted, a man what was well-loved in this village.  After he passed, Pank just wandered the streets until she attached herself to old man MacGowan.  You know how this keeper's house gets cut off from the mainland on every low tide? Pank would either be stuck ashore or stuck in this house.  MacGowan couldn't have that, so he gave up the job.  It was becuz of the cat, not the rheumatism," the lad says, shrugging.  "Everyone knows that."

"Huh.  Because of a cat." train(14K)

train(14K) And so it is that the villagers, and their children, and their babies, and their cats and their dogs continue to wend their way slowly—although not so slowly as before—into the future, carried on a wave of hope and longing and love.



For earlier chapters of this Christmas tale, click on the links to previous mantels:

2017 Christmas Putz



Xmas Angel(102K)



Xmas (102K)

2016 Christmas Putz

2015 Christmas Putz

2014 Christmas Putz

2013 Christmas Putz

2012 Christmas Putz

2011 Christmas Putz

2010 Christmas Putz

2009 Christmas Putz

2008 Christmas Putz

2007 Christmas Putz

2006 Christmas Putz

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