Small towns are boring, except at Christmas time. On Main Street, the snow is falling gently while the lights from the stores bathe the people that pass in a golden glow . Every face is familiar most are friends..
Dan stands in front of the theater with the boys. They have known each other since day one. Some are no longer here. That’s another thing about a small town: memories last. He is the first to see the girls come around the corner. He strains to see through the muted grey of the early evening. When he finds what he is looking for, his heart skips a beat.
Sherry became a friend on the first day of school, but for the past couple of years, Dan cannot stop thinking about her. His shyness keeps him from telling her how he feels. Sherry walks right up to him and asks for a cigarette. When he holds the lighter for her, their eyes meet and both seem to understand all of those unspoken words.
Once in the movie, Sherry makes sure that they sit together. When she takes his hand, his heart pounds and he worries about his sweaty palms. After the movie, he walks her home. Their conversation is not the usual talk, tonight it’s about their dreams. In front of her house she makes the first move; he is glad for he would never have had the guts. The sweet, moist taste of her lips enslaves his desires.
He has to hurry on the walk home. It is Christmas Eve and his family is beginning to gather for the feast. When he walks in he is greeted by hundreds of little bears, mice, snowmen, angels, and elves, all in Santa hats, looking out of every nook & cranny. Mom always loved Christmas and her decorating is an act of love.
After dinner, all of his aunts, uncles, cousins, and his family sing carols. Dan hears crying and leaves the living room to investigate. He opens an unfamiliar door. His mother is in the room and she is crying. He can see her busted heart within her eyes.
“I am coming home mom. Don’t cry; I am going to make it. I am coming home.”
“MEDIC, MEDIC!” the screams brings Dan back to reality. Dan sees it is Bronowski and he is covered in blood.
“Don’t worry, you’re okay. You’re going to make it man; come on, come on, you’re going to make it,” Bronowski screams, silhouetted by the flashing darkness.
Dan is propped up against the sand bags. He looks down and sees his insides, which are sitting on his lap like some reddish brown puppy. A man jumps in and pushes Bronowski away, who goes back to firing into the wall of noise.
“Stop shaking, keep still!” The man screams as he sticks Dan with one, then another, of the morphine tubes.
Dan’s body is tingling as he watches the man, who jerks at every flashing sound, wrap his insides with a bandage. He remembers, back in basis training, when they said to never try to stuff something back inside. That’s for the Doctors.
“Come and get him,” the man screams into his radio as he quickly darts away.
Dan feels two hands grab him by the shoulders and drag him from the ditch onto a stretcher. Two men carry him toward the rotating sound. Dan sees such fear in their faces that he becomes scared. As they come out of a cloud of red smoke, the man carrying the back of the stretcher is shot down. The other drags Dan to the chopper door. Once the man hands Dan off to another inside, he is shot down. The door gunner jumps out, throws the wounded man inside, and then quickly hops back in.
Two men shot trying to save my sorry ass, Dan thinks as he wishes once more for that dream.
Dan walks down Main Street as he always does on Christmas Eve. The foot prints in the snow bear witness to the passing of time. There are a lot more people in town and some are strangers. Dan never got with Sherry. By the time he got back she was married to Billy.
He married Mary, who came to town when the big paint factory opened out on Coldwell Road. They have five children, his youngest son is now in Iraq. Dan prays for his safe return. Man's ultimate test is being a warrior. Dan thinks about their wars. They are similar in the fact that the "defeat with dignity" crowd is at it again, looking for the easy way out. Soldiers don’t think politics, it's all about duty.
It's time to get home; the family is gathering for the feast. When he walks in he is greeted by hundreds of little bears, mice, snowmen, angels, and elves, all in santa hats, looking out of every nook & cranny. Mom is now gone but the tradition has been passed on. At the table they pray and an empty seat waits in respect for his soldier son. After dinner all of his borthers, sisters, cousins, and his family sing carols.
Dan looks at the Christmas tree that sits upon a mountain of presents. He thinks about that Christmas in July where he got his greatest gift. That gift being to win the hard fight to make a dream come true.