…to make up for my absence around here of late. This is the rough draft of a little story I wrote for Thanksgiving, and I thought you’d enjoy it. I’d love to hear what you think, good and bad. So, without any further ado, here is Mr. Morrison’s Thanksgiving. As always, please don’t copy or print it without my permission.
It was snowing – again. Thomas Morrison kicked the falling snow and scowled at the sky. Thanksgiving Day and already snowing. Not that there was anything to be thankful for. That was just the name that some foolish person had given to November 27, 1949. On the calendar that morning, Mr. Morrison had frowned at the small letters spelling THANKSGIVING DAY. Maybe it was for the rest of the world. But for Thomas Morrison, today was just another day of work.
Mr. Morrison turned and walked grumblingly away, toward his small barn. He was a hermit, so to speak: he’d lived alone for eight – almost nine years in his cabin, set back from the country road. He wasn’t a very nice-looking hermit, either – his beard was scraggly and uncombed, like his hair, which ranged over his head like a bramble bush. But the reason children coming home from school hurried past when Mr. Morrison came out to the road to get his mail was his angry eyebrows and dark scowl. He didn’t smell very nice either. He had goats and chickens and he wasn’t fond of bathing.
Even in the crisp air of that November morning, hearing the cackling of his chickens, Mr. Morrison was not happy. Well, he was never happy. He was not one to appreciate the beauty of the snow or the warmth of his coat against the chill of the breeze.
He spent the rest of the day chopping wood and nailing down his shutters in preparation for winter. In the early afternoon he went into the house for a cup of coffee – strong, no sugar or cream – and he glanced through yesterday’s mail. He ripped open an envelope addressed in a clear, neat hand.
“Dear Uncle Thomas,” read the letter inside,
We hope you’ll come tomorrow to our Thanksgiving dinner. You know you’re welcome any time and we’d be very happy to see you.
It was signed, Bertha Morrison. Bertha was the wife of Thomas’s nephew Robert. Every year they invited Thomas to their dinner, and every year he refused. He moved to toss the letter in the trash, but something caught his eye. He went to the window and peered out. There was a small hole in the roof of the barn, and snow was blowing in. Thomas Morrison thunked the letter and his half-empty cup down on the table and plodded out to the barn to fix the roof.
Several shingles, insufficiently nailed in, had blown away during the night, exposing the beams underneath. A strong draft was blowing in, and the animals were huddled in the corner.
Thomas Morrison got a ladder and set it up against the wall. He bent down grumbling and picked up a square of canvas and some nails. He climbed slowly up the ladder, feeling for his back and groaning. Finally he reached the top rung and grasped the beam he’d have to shimmy along to reach the hole.
Suddenly his foot slipped. He just managed to catch hold of the beam with one hand, and then the other. He was hanging suspended, his feet ten feet from the floor. Time seemed to stand still, and he imagined himself falling.
If he didn’t break his neck, he’d break a limb, and what could he do? He would lie there until he starved. No one would come – Thomas Morrison had created such a wall of unfriendliness that no one could enter, even if they had the best intentions.
All of Thomas Morrison’s life flashed before his eyes. Faces, mostly. His nephew’s face was the biggest he could see. In all of the five years Robert and Bertha had lived near him, he’d never visited the even once. Now he would never have a chance to apologize, or even see them again. To see anyone again, ever in his life, if he fell. In that second, he prayed a silent prayer. Please. Please, God, let me live. Let me live. I will change, I will.
He was swinging slowly by his hands from the beam across the barn. He hands seemed frozen stiff with fear. His feet were at least a foot from the ladder. If he kicked out, he might drop his hold…
It takes far longer to tell than to happen. Less that a minute had passed in real time from when he lost his hold.
There was only one thing left to do. Thomas Morrison tightened his left-hand hold and tried to move his right hand toward the ladder
God, help me.
Slowly, slowly, the right hand slid along the beam toward the ladder. Then – ever so carefully, his heart doing somersaults in his chest – he pulled the left hand over the right and slid it along the beam. Almost there – another pull and there was the ladder. Thomas Morrison rested for a moment on the ladder rung, breathing in and out slowly. He finished his task with shaking fingers and stepped down the ladder. His legs gave way under him and he sat down on the dirt floor. For the first time in a very long time, he realized how beautiful the little things were – the warmth of the barn, the contented bleats of the goats, the cackles of the chickens.
He sat there for a long time, just feeling the ground underneath him. He felt as if he had aged years and years.
Finally he got up and went outside. It was snowing harder now, and everything was just barely covered in tiny snowflakes. Thomas Morrison took a deep, deep breath, enjoying the feel of his boots on the ground and the sharp wind nipping at his nose and ears.
He went slowly into the house, savoring everything – just the fact that he was alive. He would live. And he would change. He would live every day as if it was his last. He would savor the little things.
He glanced at the letter on the counter beside the still slightly warm cup of coffee.
A while later, Thomas Morrison stepped out once more into the November air. He looked a bit different – his beard and hair were neatly trimmed and brushed, his teeth gleamed like pearls, and he had bathed.
He straightened his coat and smiled at the sky. If he started now, he would be at his nephew’s house in time for dinner.