Friday, December 4, 2009

“Home for Christmas Day”
from “Ghost of Christmas Past”
Cliff Heck

“You should have been here yesterday,” the Trailways agent sighed. “Today the bus to Pullman and Lewiston is completely full. There's another bus tomorrow at eleven...”

“Tomorrow?” I echoed. “Tomorrow is Christmas Day.”

“Yes, that's why the bus is so full today,” the agent nodded.

“But I want to be home for Christmas Day,” I insisted.

“We're completely full, everyone has checked in so there's not even the possibility of a standby seat,” the clerk said again. “Personally, I'd let you sit in the stairwell, but the regulations won't let us.”

“Great!” I snapped. “I spent last Christmas alone in Denver, and now I'm going to spend this Christmas Eve in Spokane.”

“Excuse me,” some old guy spoke up from where he had been sitting listening to our conversation. “Why don't you give the airman my seat? I'll take tomorrow's bus.”

“Are you sure?” the agent asked.

“I once ran into a veteran of the Great War, who gave up his seat on the last train to London so that I wouldn't miss my ship home, which meant I could have Christmas with my family for the first time in four years,” the old codger said. “That was, what, nineteen years ago, and I had almost forgotten about it. Give him my seat, I'll go tomorrow.”

I was dumbfounded. “Sir, I can't ask you to give up your seat...”

He held up his hand and said, “That's almost exactly what I said to him, word for word. So I will say what he said: 'I must insist.'”

“And what was your reply?” I asked.

“Very well, and someday I will do the same for someone else.”

“It's a deal,” I said, accepting his ticket.

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