TITLE: “My Gift”
AUTHOR: Edward Leech
OCCUPATION: Laborer, Cunningham Farm Supplies
There’s a man in town named Mr. Driscoll. Some people think he’s crazy, but we all treat him well. He’s old and was born blind, but he’s a seer. He’s proved it time and again.
He likes to chew plugs of cherry tobacco, so whenever someone wants an answer to something they bring him one and he’s happy. With kids, all they have to do is bring him a handful of Bit o’ Honeys and he’ll do the same.
Ten years ago, when I’d just turned eight, I started worrying about something, so got some Bit o’ Honeys from Wentworth’s and walked up the hill to his shack outside town. It was early December and a light snow was falling, but Mr. Driscoll was sitting on his front porch like always, rocking in his chair, his gray beard stained with tobacco juice.
“How you doin’, Eddie Leech?” he asked when I was still fifty paces off. I paused. His blank, white eyes stared at me as he smiled. “And you brought me a present, too,” he went on. “I like you, kid.”
I sat down on the mildewed, overstuffed chair next to his and handed over the candy. I shivered in my coat, but Mr. Driscoll, he wore nothing but a plaid work shirt and trousers and looked comfy as a clam. “I got a question, Mr. Driscoll,” I said simply. . . “My friend Davie said there’s no such thing as Santa. Is that true?”
“No,” Mr. Driscoll said immediately. “Davie is wrong. Santa is real.”
I wasn’t convinced. “But how do you know ?” I asked him.
He smiled, unraveled a Bit o’ Honey, and popped it in his mouth. He chewed a long time before answering. “Next year, your grandma will break a hip but she’ll get better. In three years the big oak in Uncanny Square will be struck by lightning, but half of it will live.
When you’re fifteen, you’ll find an injured deer by the side of the road and do the right thing. When you’re eighteen, Davie will ask Katie Lockwood to the prom and she’ll say ‘Yes.’
He paused. “If none of those things happen, I’ll eat my hat. If three of those four things happen, there is no Santa. If all four happen, there is. In the meantime, take my word for it and believe. I never lie. Any more questions?”
I gulped and shook my head. Without missing a beat, Mr. Driscoll reached out and patted my head. “Wait ’til you see what Santa got you this year, kiddo,” he said. “Now beat it and have a Merry Christmas.”
I did, and I believed again. That year I got a new bike. My dad had been out of work, so I never did figure out how he managed it. The following year Grandma broke her hip. She got better and lived another six years. Two years after that, in the midst of a big summer gale, the Liberty Oak in Uncanny Square was hit by lightning. Half of it fell away. They cemented up the wound and the rest of it lived. Three years later I was riding my bike back from fishing Still Creek all day and came across a leg- shot deer panting in pain by the side of the road. I had my tackle knife, so I cut its throat . . . I was sick for a week after, but knew I’d done what needed doing.
And now Prom is two weeks off. Davie’s a bit homely, but he asked out Katie Lockwood yesterday morning. She wasn’t sure . . . So I gave her twenty bucks to say “Yes.” I wonder if Mr. Driscoll knew I’d do that, too? Anyway, it’s an early Christmas gift for Davie . . . even if he wouldn’t understand.
And for me, too. I still believe.
Btw, on on my way to Six in a Row -- four-star reads. I have my fingers crossed for the next book after this one -- that would be lucky 7. (Knocking on wood. -- hmmm, I think this book is affecting my superstition factor.)