Saturday, December 08, 2007

A Proper Christmas

A Friendly Visit by William Merritt Chase

For a Workshop Challenge to write a Christmas story for this painting.

A Proper Christmas

"My dear, there's been talk." Mrs. Willows looked like a heavenly apparition in her dazzling white outfit, complete with fake flowers on her bonnet and lacy frills, right down to her spotless parasol which she tapped on the floor to emphasize each syllable.

"There's been talk of this rooming house, your unsavory clientele, the filth." At the word filth, she turned her nose up at the dusty table tops and grimy pillows scattered across the floor. "And the blood stains," she added. "There are blood stains on your floor, and you offer no explanation for it."

The other woman said nothing.

Mrs. Willows again. "There have been people missing around town. People who used to board here, people who walked through your doors and never came out again."

Still nothing.

"Really, Miss Peoples, you must have some explanation." With that, Mrs. Willows sat back, waiting to listen.

The other woman shook her head as though to wake herself. She looked to Mrs. Willows, surprised to see her as though it were the first time. "Christmas is coming," she murmured. "I must get ready for Christmas."

"Christmas!" Mrs. Willows said. "Really, Miss Peoples, do you honestly consider yourself a good Christian?"

"A Christian? Yes, I consider myself a good Christian. Do you consider yourself one?"

"Well, really! Of course. I'm a pillar of the community."

"Well, as a 'pillar' of the community, I feel it is my duty to inform you the blood stains on my floor are from a wounded Negro I helped. He arrived here beaten by some of your other 'pillars,' and I nursed him back to health. The other 'unsavory' characters who disappear after coming through my doors are the unwanted poor and homeless you people cast aside. You kick them out of the alleys, chase them out of the taverns, and push them from the churches, because they wear ragged clothes or they smell bad. They come to me and I nurture them, feed them, and find them homes away from here. Far away from here..."

"Well, perhaps you are no better than the renegades with whom you commiserate."

Miss Peoples glared back. "Mrs. Willows, the one thing I'm certain of is that those 'renegades' are Christians. As for yourself, I'm not so sure."

"How dare you?"

"Get out of my house. I have to get ready for Christmas. There is food to cook for them, and tiny gifts to assemble, anything to brighten their wretched lives. Go home to your perfect house and your perfect family, clean and white, yet empty and clueless. Go home and wash your hands of the poor and homeless. But by all means, enjoy your holiday.

Mrs. Willows left in a huff. She had a house full of guests to tend to, and she needed to check with cook and make sure dinner preparations were in order. She'd be showing her family a proper Christmas. Yes, a proper Christmas, indeed!

Copyright 2007 JO Janoski


  1. jo...

    that was wonderful!! i so wanted to go with the "blood stains" on the floor,, but i couldn't figure out how to handle it... you did a superb job on this......

  2. Yes, there's something very Victorian about the writing, thematic and structured, it dedicates itself to the painting. Nice job, Jo.

  3. Excellent Jo! I too wanted to include the blood stains but as Paisley said, they just didn't fit into my interpretation. Yours worked perfectly!