The Quest for Winter Gold

An original South Cariboo Christmas tale

Illustration by Robyn Ganguin – Story by Max Winkelman

Tom was sitting in the restaurant eating an early dinner by himself when his phone buzzed. For a fleeting moment, the absolutely smallest of smiles could be seen in the corners of his mouth but it was just that, fleeting.

“Merry Christmas from your dentist,” Tom’s most recent email read. Before that, his list of emails included two more Christmas greetings, one from his bank and one from his cell phone provider. Three notifications that said his bill was ready, from his bank, cell phone provider and internet provider and an email reminding him of his next dental cleaning. None of them were personal emails.

He’d finished hauling his last load of logs for the week and was eating dinner as usual. The restaurant was fairly full but the tables around him were all empty. Another gentleman was also sitting by himself checking his phone. Tom had stared at him for a bit but the gentleman never looked up from his phone.

He finished up, gave the waitress a generous tip and decided to go for a stroll down Birch Avenue past all the stores. He didn’t have any shopping to do but liked seeing all the decorations and Christmas activity.

Up ahead some young girls were inviting passersby to come to their Christmas concert that evening. Tom let out a deep sigh and crossed the road before they got to him. Even another night at home reading a book seemed better than being ignored at a big social event. He stared at the ground as they passed on the other side of the street. He kept on walking, dragging his feet a little, before noticing a cat lying in a windowsill above one of the shops. He stared at it for a while before he moved on.

Up ahead, a cashier who’d checked his groceries and had been really friendly was walking in his direction. He smiled but she didn’t notice and walked right past him.

In one of the stores, a big sign said, “Christmas lights 30 per cent off.” He opened the door and walked in. He picked up two boxes of Christmas lights and proceeded to the till.

He paid for the items, got in his truck and set off on Highway 97. On the radio, they were reading stave one of A Christmas Carol. Tom found himself envious of Scrooge who had a clerk and nephew to talk to. After a long while, he took a left turn onto a gravel road. A large red sign noted “Private property.” Another one in black and white said “No Trespassing.”

He drove down the gravel road, which had a solid nearly a foot of snow on it, for ten to fifteen minutes before a house emerged. It had the absolute best Christmas display anywhere in the Cariboo. Out on a hill beside the house sat a big sleigh with eight lifesize reindeer in front. The whole display was covered in white Christmas lights. With how dark it was outside, you could have taken a picture and it would have looked like it was flying in the night sky.

Where Tom parked his truck, old-style lanterns lit up the area.

The house itself was absolutely covered in lights from red ones along the roof to icicle lights along the window and more white lights in the shape of snowmen along the walls. The windows had little elves painted into the corners.

Right where he took off his boots, there were two little metal bowls, both empty. He went into the kitchen and put the lights on the counter beside four more boxes of Christmas lights. There was also a little bit of mail. A statement from the bank and a letter that read “thank you for your donation.” On top of it lay a little collar that read “Tigger.” In the whole house, there was not a single photograph.

He made a cup of tea, sat down in his chair and picked up a book.

Tom wasn’t sure how much time had gone by when he looked up and saw a light moving at the neighbours’ house across the lake. He grabbed his binoculars that were sitting on a shelf and looked out the window. The light was moving as if someone was walking around with a flashlight but he couldn’t see what was going on.

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