Rated: 13+ · Short Story · Drama · #1620002
Wishing on a snow globe is better than a letter to Santa
The Snow Globe
George R. Lasher
Word count: 2,616
Shortly after midnight on Christmas Eve, Harry Bailey begged his company's CEO, Jacob Bragg, to slow down. Speeding along a feeder road in Dallas, he shouted, "For God's sake, Jacob, it's sleeting! What's the rush? If we miss our flight there's another one back to Houston a half-hour later. You're going way too fast and you drank way too much at the after-hours networking event!"
"Oh shut up, Harry, I'm fine. If I could jusht get thish oily film off the windshield..." Bragg fumbled with the wiper blade controls of the vehicle they rented at the airport.
"No," Bailey insisted, shaking his boss's shoulder. "You need to listen to me. You're not fine, Jacob." The Nissan SUV drifted too far to the right, hitting a deep puddle near the curb and aquaplaning dangerously. A rooster-tail of water sprayed high into the air as they flashed beneath a large Christmas wreath hanging from an overhead street sign.
"Jacob, that sign said the Stemmons Highway entrance ramp is coming up. You need to get in the left-hand lane."
"Plenty of time, Harry, jusht let me get around —"
"You're not gonna make it, man!"
~ ~ ~
Twenty-four hours after catching an early morning, Southwest Airlines flight from Houston's Hobby to Dallas's Love Field, Harry Bailey and Jacob Bragg lay in I.C.U. at Methodist Dallas Medical Center. Eyes swollen shut, their barely recognizable faces were cut, bruised and blackened. In each man's room, descending from an array of bags suspended from a tall pole, plastic tubes delivered a trickling, intravenous cocktail of nutrients and narcotics. Relegated to no more than a useless sack of broken bones, their bodies would require a succession of surgeries, if they survived long enough to endure them.
Outside Jacob Bragg's room, Tommie Jean Anderson, an R.N. just arriving for her shift, asked, "What happened to them?" Holding a medical history chart, she stood next to Dr. Nazhim Bhamani, a tired neurosurgeon in rumpled, green scrubs who had worked through the night, performing a craniectomy on Bragg, removing a piece of his skull to relieve the pressure on his swelling brain.
The pair stepped into the tomblike atmosphere of the sparsely furnished room where the predominant sounds were the monotonous, unemotional beeps of a heart monitor and the measured, mechanical gasps of an artificial respirator. Their attention strayed briefly to the storm, visible through the austere room's window blinds. Ghostly shapes of wind-driven snow swirled across the landscaped grounds, illuminated by security lights that remained on until the sensors detected sufficient daylight. The faint scratching and ticking of the snow's tiny ice crystals against the window sounded like something, or someone, trying to get in.
"Look at that," Bhamani pointed. "It's really coming down. Feels like we're in one of those snow globes." Turning his attention to Bragg, the surgeon said, "This guy's blood alcohol level would have made it difficult for him to walk, much less drive. The police report said he lost control of an SUV doing over sixty miles an hour and slammed into a light pole. The next twenty-four hours are going to be critical for him and the patient in the next room, Harry Bailey. Bailey suffered severe internal injuries in the same accident. Someone told me his wife suffered a heart attack last month. But I hear she's coming up on the next flight from Houston, can you believe it?"
"The poor thing, she must be devastated," Anderson empathized.
Stroking his stubbly chin, Dr. Bhamani gazed past the inert form of Jacob Bragg; out through the window, into the wintry storm. "Sometimes," he mused, "I find myself wishing, especially during the holidays, that we could do more than prescribe medicine, set broken bones, and sew up torn tissue. Wouldn't it be great if we could magically prevent disease, trauma, and pain from happening?"
"Yeah, sure," Anderson nodded; curiosity in her voice and on her face.
After a brief silence, Bhamani explained, "I brought that up because I'm having one of those eerie, déjà vu things. This all feels so familiar. For years I've had this recurring dream where I start to make rounds and one of my patients is missing. . . not because he died and not because he got moved to another floor. He's gone because somehow, don't ask me how..." he glanced at Anderson and then back at the swirling snow, outside. "Somehow, the clock gets turned back and his injury or illness never happens. In this dream, everyone looks at me like I'm crazy when I ask where my patient is. That part is very confusing and frustrating, but I always wake up feeling relieved, knowing that he's going to be okay."
Leaving Jacob Bragg, the doctor nodded in the direction of Harry Bailey's room. The pulled-back privacy curtain revealed another doctor checking on his patient's progress. "Dr. Kiley had to remove Bailey's spleen. He thinks he was able to stop the hemorrhaging, but . . ."
~ ~ ~
Two days earlier, Natural Energy CEO, Jacob Bragg had picked up a small snow globe, a last-year's Christmas gift from his thirteen-year-old daughter, and shook it, creating a blizzard that swirled around a miniature representation of the Dallas skyline. His wistful smile faded, becoming a frown as Harry Bailey, the company's senior sales manager, entered his office and stood staring at him.
"Can't you cancel this friggin' business trip to Dallas?" Bailey asked. "I need to be home with my wife."
Setting the globe down, Bragg growled at the man who ten years earlier had been his boss, "You just don't get it, do you, Harry? You know what your problem is?" Not waiting for a reply, Bragg continued. "Your problem is that life is a dance and you've got two left feet." He stared at Harry the way a frustrated high-school principal might stare at a disappointing student awaiting disciplinary action. "Two left feet and they're both flat," Bragg added as he swiveled in his leather executives chair and pointed to the wall of glass, behind him. From the fifty-seventh floor, his corner office provided a panoramic view of the Houston skyline and the flat, Gulf Coast topography that stretched out as far to the south as the eye could see. "There's a world of opportunity out there, Harry. If you have any aspirations of someday moving up and sitting in this chair, you'd better —"
"I hate your condescending attitude, Jacob. What the hell are you trying to say? What do you want? I came in here thinking you were going to give me my Christmas bonus."
Bragg shook his head and reverted to his metaphorical lecture. "You're stumbling around, attempting a clumsy Waltz when you should be doing the Tango. If this were ‘Dancing with the Stars’ you'd have been voted off the show, long ago."
"God, you're killing me!" Harry complained, running a hand through his thinning brown hair. "Are stupid metaphors your only method of communication?"
"Harry, let me be frank—"
"Please, Jacob," Harry interrupted. "Be Frank. I don't know who Frank is, but he's bound to make more sense than you."
Jacob stared for an icy, uncomfortable moment before saying, "That's not funny, Harry, and I don't like to be interrupted. Good salesmen don't interrupt, they listen. You taught me that, back when we worked at Reliable Energy, ten years ago."
"I tried to," Harry replied.
"Harry, I asked for more commercial sales from Victoria and Wharton a month ago. You showed me a list of businesses your team was supposedly going to call. Summoning his most intimidating stare, Jacob inquired, "Have you finished calling those prospects?"
Harry glared back, never breaking contact with the CEO's confrontational scowl. "I haven't heard anything about the newspaper ads or the mailer you promised in support of this new campaign. I spoke to Nikki, in marketing. She said you never approved the funding for the promotion. Besides that, look at the timing on this thing. It's Christmas, Jacob. Nobody wants to talk to a salesman during the holidays."
"Holidays?” Bragg leaned forward, his bushy eyebrows creating a dramatic ‘V’ over his nose as he quoted Ebenezer Scrooge. “'Humbug!' Have you guys made any calls, Harry?"
"I went out into the field last week and spoke to some agents in Rosenberg. We need to change the campaign. The pitch, the one you said was a sure thing, is all wrong. The insurance agents you thought we'd get leads from have their noses permanently stuck up in the air. They think it would be a betrayal of trust to advise their clients to call us. They couldn't care less which electricity company their customers select, no matter how much we're willing to pay for referrals."
"Harry," Jacob drummed his fingers on the polished, mahogany desk, "the band is playing and you're just standing around, making excuses. That's why I passed you up in this business, you know. I get things done. You just stand around tapping your foot to the beat."
Harry cringed. "God, not another dance metaphor. One more and I swear I'm gonna lose it."
"Oh, you might lose it, all right," Jacob pointed. "Your job, that is."
Jumping up at the mention of his job being in jeopardy, Harry shouted, "Damnit, Jacob! How can you even say such a thing to me? You know my wife had a heart attack last month. I'm doing the best I can to cope with that and the pressure you've been applying."
"Hey, buster, sit down and settle down. This heat isn't coming from me." Bragg patted his chest to underscore his sincerity. "It isn't me, man. It's the stockholders. Yesterday, at the board meeting they all bitched about the lack of sales."
Still standing, Harry defended himself. "Did you happen to mention that you cut the advertising budget in half? Did you remind them that our pricing isn't competitive with the rest of the market, or that you cut commissions to our sales staff, last month and half of them walked out?"
Jacob shrugged. "You gotta overcome the bumps in the road, Harry. Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers never —"
Slashing the air with a horizontal karate chop, Harry stopped Jacob before he could finish. "Jacob, that's it. No more metaphors." The two men glared at each other until Harry ran a hand through his hair and said, "Man, we used to be such good friends. I wish things could be the way they used to be." Looking tired, he took a deep breath, let it out, and slumped back into his chair. Once seated, he reached forward, picked up the snow globe from Jacob's desk, shook it and held it out to be observed. The two men watched as the Dallas skyline disappeared in a whirlwind of white. As the last of the swirling flakes settled, Harry said, "When I was a little kid, my dad used to tell me to make a Christmas wish whenever I shook a snow globe. 'Better than a letter to Santa,' he used to say."
“Yeah? So what’d you wish for?”
“When I was a kid?"
"No, I mean now. What was your wish?"
"My secret, but it includes you, I’ll tell you that much.”
~ ~ ~
"Where are they?" Hands on hips, Neurosurgeon, Dr. Nazhim Bhamani stood in I.C.U. on Christmas morning and stared at the rooms Jacob Bragg and Harry Bailey had occupied. The white, privacy curtains that served as outer walls were pulled back, exposing the interiors of both rooms. The neatly made beds were empty. "Where are they?" Bhamani demanded.
Looking up from where she sat behind the long desk at the nurses station, The R.N. in charge, Mamie Preston asked, "Where are who?" Mamie's morning had been quiet and uneventful, just the way she liked it, until now.
"Bragg and Bailey," Bhamani pointed toward their rooms. "They were here, yesterday. The guys from Houston who were in the car accident right after midnight. I performed a craniectomy on Jacob Bragg. Doctor Kiley removed Harry Bailey's spleen. There was an R.N., named Anderson, on duty. . . I spoke with her about them. What happened? Did they both die?"
"I didn't work yesterday. I was off," the nurse replied. "Let me check the records." She turned and typed Jacob Bragg's name into the computer.
"Is Anderson on duty this morning?" Bhamani wondered.
"No, she's off the rest of this week."
Oozing impatience, Bhamani scanned the area and asked, “Who's here this morning that worked yesterday?"
Mamie turned to her left, where a young, Hispanic, Personal Care Assistant sat down and took a short sip from a bright red coffee mug with a snowflake motif. "Rita, were you here yesterday morning?"
"No," Rita answered. "My baby was sick. I think a temp came in for me. That's what Maria said when I spoke to her. She's off today, though."
"Do you have her number? Can we call her?" Bhamani asked.
"You can try," Rita replied. "But I think she's on a plane to Las Vegas with her boyfriend."
Mamie turned back towards Dr. Bhamani and asked, "What's the name of your patient, again?"
"Jacob Bragg. He came in with Harry Bailey."
"I can't find a Jacob Bragg in our system, Dr. Bhamani."
"Check the O. R. records and the E. R. admissions starting with midnight, yesterday morning."
"That's what I'm doing now." She typed in another query. Moments later she shook her head. "Unh-uh, nothing there."
"Try Harry Bailey. That's B-A-I-L-E-Y."
Preston nodded, patiently typing Bailey with and without the 'i', and then with and without the 'e'. Finally, she shook her head again and asked, "Dr. Bhamani, do you do any volunteer work at other hospitals? Are you sure you were here at Methodist, and not somewhere else?" Turning away from the doctor, she glanced over at Rita and rolled her eyes. Rita smiled back and nodded.
"This is ridiculous," Bhamani fumed, and then it sank in. Oh, my god, it's the dream . . .
~ ~ ~
Two-hundred-fifty miles to the south, Jacob Bragg laughed with unbridled joy as he hugged his pajama-clad, teenaged daughter, Susie.
“Daddy, how did you know I wanted one of these new, Droid cell phones?” she asked. “I never told you."
“I’m not sure, sweetheart. Somehow I just knew..."
"And what made you change your mind about that business trip? You seemed so determined to go."
"Well, honey, Harry Bailey wanted to be with his wife, and I realized he was right. The weather was supposed to be really bad in Dallas . . . and being with you for Christmas, especially since your mom and I split up, seemed way more important than business."
Making him happier than any present a father could hope to receive, Susie hugged him again and said, "I love you, Daddy. Merry Christmas."
~ ~ ~
Less than five miles away, Harry Bailey and his wife, Becky, were waking up, wishing each other a Merry Christmas; their thirty-seventh, together.
"I'm so glad Jacob cancelled that trip to Dallas," Becky whispered. "The weather, there, is just awful." Smoothing thin strands of disheveled hair away from her husband's forehead she asked, "What made him change his mind?"
Happy to be home on Christmas morning, Harry gave his wife an affectionate peck on the cheek and replied, "I think it was the wish I made."
"You made a wish?"
"Yeah, I shook a snow globe in his office and wished he'd change his mind."
"You and your snow globes," Becky shook her head. "What was it your dad used to say?"
"Better than a letter to Santa."
Ready for another Christmas story?
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