Of Men and Angels (by Inca / aka Tye)

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Summary:  This story was written for the 2016 Advent Collection.

Rating:  G  (1,460 words)

Of Men and Angels by Inca

“Silent night, holey night…”

Adam, trying to enter receipts in the accounts book, closed his eyes and took a deep breath. Hoss could remember only the first two lines of the hymn and had been belting them out intermittently for the last half an hour as he and Little Joe unpacked the Nativity figures from their straw-filled crate and arranged them to make the annual Ponderosa nativity scene.

Holy,” he corrected his younger brother.  “It’s holy night, not holey.”

Hoss looked round and flashed him an amiable smile. They had spent the day getting the great room ready for Christmas, and that always made him happy. “That’s what I said.”

“No, you said holey. Holey describes the knees of your pants, not the heavenly host.”

Hoss mouthed the two words to himself, the subtle difference in pronunciation apparently eluding his ten-year-old mind. Shrugging off his older brother’s obsession with pedantries, he turned his attention back to the wooden figures in front of him. Pa had carved Mary and Joseph a long time ago, when he and Adam were first heading west with the wagon train, before Hoss had even been born. There was a baby Jesus too, but he was never in the box with the other figures. He would mysteriously appear later that evening, much to the delight of the younger boys, when Pa brought out the big Bible and read the Christmas story aloud.

Over the years, the holy family had been joined by a couple of wooden shepherds and an assortment of animals, whittled with varying degrees of skill by Adam and Hoss. But there had never been an angel.   So, four-year-old Joe had taken it upon himself to remedy that omission. By means of a white handkerchief donated by Adam (his own weren’t very white any more), two sticks, and some remnants of wool to stuff the angel’s head, he had designed and constructed what looked to Adam more like the puppet of a ghost than a seraph. Hoss, casting his critical appraisal over his little brother’s efforts, had noted the absence of a pair of wings, and had volunteered his dubious artistic talent to draw and cut from paper a generous, if slightly unbalanced, pair of those celestial accessories. But before the two boys had got as far as attaching the wings to the back of the handkerchief angel, Little Joe had come up with the brilliant idea of making them even more realistic by covering them with chicken feathers. It had all turned into a much messier affair than either of them had anticipated, and even now, hours later, scraps of white down were still drifting around the room, like lost snowflakes.

Adam himself had then been conscripted into the angelic endeavour because the gummed and feathered wings were proving too much of an encumbrance for the stick-thin, heavenly body, and required some fiddly structural adjustments to make everything stay where it was supposed to be. Hop Sing contributed a cut-in-half potato into which the stick angel’s solitary foot was inserted. And there it was, magnificently feathered and upright. Little Joe’s finishing touch had been to add a face to the angel’s bulbous head. Two huge, round eyes, meticulously ringed by long, spidery eyelashes, consumed the upper half of the misshapen face, and an ear-to-ear grin (or what would have been ear to ear if the creature had possessed any) engulfed the lower half. It was easily the most grotesque—and yet the cheeriest—representation of an angel that Adam had ever seen. Now, as Little Joe positioned his empyrean masterpiece behind the little wooden box that served as a stable, Hoss once more burst into song.

“Silent night, holey night…”

Adam rolled his eyes in exasperation. “Holy, Hoss, holy!”

Little Joe looked round at Adam. “It’s ’cos of the angels,” he said, by way of explanation.

“What is?” said Adam, his attention once more focused on the figures in front of him, and not on his youngest brother. His plan had been to surprise Pa by having the receipts all finished when he got back from town. But with all the interruptions and distractions…

“The angels,” explained Little Joe. “They came through the holes in the sky.”

Hoss, at least, was paying attention. “What holes, Little Joe?”

“From heaven.” Joe made a careful adjustment to the position of his own angel. “They came through the holes from heaven.”

Hoss giggled at the image. “There ain’t no holes in the sky, silly.” He looked round at Adam, hoping to share the joke. “Hey, Adam, Little Joe thinks the angels came through holes in the sky.”

Little Joe gave him a hard look. “They did. Else, how did they get there?”

Hoss shrugged. “Dunno. Not through any holes though.”

Little Joe stuck out his chin and looked to Adam for support. “The angels came through the holes in the sky, didn’t they, Adam?”

Frowning as his distracted brain registered the question, Adam sighed and once more raised his eyes from the book in front of him.   “I don’t think anyone knows how the angels got here,” he admitted.

Little Joe looked smug. Apparently, he did.

“Look,” said Adam, “Pa’s gonna be home any time now and I want to get this finished so he doesn’t have to worry about it over Christmas. So, if you could just let me get it done without any more interruptions….”

 

When Pa arrived home, he had two surprises waiting for him. Not only was the room decorated for Christmas, with the stable scene taking pride of place on the table by the stairs, but Adam had worked hard to bring all the accounts up to date.

“That’s a very impressive angel,” said Pa, nodding, as Little Joe pointed proudly to his masterpiece.

“It’s easy to see why they were all ‘sore afraid’ when the angels appeared unto them,” said Adam, with a barely disguised smirk. “I’d be terror-stricken too if something like that appeared in the sky in front of me.”

“Adam,” warned Pa, but not without a twinkle of amusement in his eye.

Later, after dinner, they sat round the fire together and Pa got out the big Bible to read the Christmas story, as he did every Christmas Eve. Little Joe jigged up and down in excitement because there was a Joseph in the story. No Bens, no Adams and definitely no Hosses. It made him feel very important. When they reached the part where the angels appeared to the shepherds, he sat forward in his seat and looked his father earnestly in the face.

“How d’they get there, Pa?”

Pa looked up from the page in front of him. “What do you mean?”

“Little Joe thinks the angels came through holes in the sky,” put in Hoss, with a snigger in Joe’s direction. “That’s why it’s a holey night.”

“Well,” said Pa, pausing to consider, “I suppose it might have been something like that.”

Little Joe gave Hoss an “I told you so” look.

“It was a very special night, after all,” said Pa, “God coming down to earth the way He did.   I guess heaven and earth were as close then as they’ve ever been. When the shepherds saw those angels, it must have been like looking into heaven itself.”

Adam looked thoughtful. With the accounts off his mind, he could now give his full attention to the holy hole theory. “Maybe not so much a hole. More like a doorway. A doorway from heaven to earth.”

“A doorway,” said Joe, making some metal adjustments to the image in his head. Judging by the satisfied smile that crept over his face, he liked what he saw.

“But it was still a holy night,” said Adam, “even if it wasn’t a holey one.”

And when Pa finished reading the story of the Christ Child, he opened his fingers and there in the palm of his hand was the wooden baby, looking like a tiny mummy in his carved swaddling bands. Together, Hoss and Joe settled him comfortably in the straw of the manger. Then Adam brought out his guitar and they all sang together:

Silent night, holy night!
All is calm, all is bright
Round yon Virgin, Mother and Child.
Holy infant so tender and mild,
Sleep in heavenly peace,
Sleep in heavenly peace

Silent night, holy night!
Shepherds quake at the sight.
Glories stream from heaven afar,
Heavenly hosts sing Alleluia,
Christ the Savior is born!
Christ the Savior is born

Silent night, holy night!
Son of God love’s pure light.
Radiant beams from Thy holy face
With the dawn of redeeming grace,
Jesus Lord, at Thy birth
Jesus Lord, at Thy birth

 

Link to 2016 Advent Calendar – Day 10 – The Miracle of Christmas (by Indiana)

 

 

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Author: Inca / Tye

I like angsty drama, so that's what I mostly write. Writing is very important to me and I am always genuinely interested to know what readers really think, so please don't be timid about telling me.

2 thoughts on “Of Men and Angels (by Inca / aka Tye)

  1. Very nice! I giggled all the way through the description of the angel-making process. Fantastic. ? And I’m w Hoss on the holey vs holy thing … I’d probably get it all wrong too … ?

    Very enjoyable, thx for writing!

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