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Look to the Light

A Christmas Short Story.

by Everett Wilson
December 24, 2007

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Look to the Light
Technologically speaking, it takes place in the distant past--when four-door sedans had big empty trunks and rear wheel drives, and nobody carried cell phones.  On the bright side, in those days, you could roll back-seat windows all the way down! I share these facts for those who want their stories realistic.
They were trying to get back to the city for the Christmas Eve service at seven. They allowed plenty of time; it was only a hundred miles on a good but lonely highway.
The four of them—Dad, Mom, sixteen year-old Mike and fourteen-year-old Elizabeth--had felt it a necessary trip. Grandma would almost certainly be celebrating her next Christmas in heaven, so they'd had lunch with her at her nursing home, sung some carols and prayed, and were on the road toward home by two-thirty. If all went as usual, they would be home by sunset, even on one of the shortest days of the year.
Returning home wasn't optional because Dad was the Pastor and Mom was the organist.
They made good time the first hour. Then it started to snow, a lot more snow and wind than predicted.
In minutes, they were moving straight against the wind in a whiteout. Dad slowed to a crawl but kept moving, in the illusion that he could still see where he was going.  By sunset, which they could not observe but knew from the increasing darkness, they were still more than twenty miles from home.
They came to an unexpected dip in the road. The car began to skid sideways. Dad realized too late that it wasn't a dip but the embankment on the right side of the road. He managed to keep the car upright, but it spun all way the around. Their headlights were now pointed up toward the road they had left.
Dad turned on the dome light. "Is everybody okay?" He was answered by three breathless voices. "Yes." "I think so." "What are we going to do now?"
"Well, first I am going to turn off the engine so we won't die of carbon monoxide. That will turn off the heater, so we'll have to bundle up with every wrap in the car.   Then Mike and I will get out and take a quick look."
But when they were ready to get out, their doors wouldn't open. They had slid into a deep drift.
Silence. Then Mike said, "I could probably crawl through the window and take a look."
"Okay, but keep at least one hand on the car. I'll leave the dome light on."
"Turn on the headlights," Mom said. "The flashlights too, if they're handy. We need all the light we can get." They did, and the car became a feeble beacon in the storm.
By this time Mike had the window open and snow was blowing in.  His knees were on the seat, his hands on the door ledge, ready to push himself through head first.  Then he said, "What's that?"
"There's somebody out there."
"You're hearing things," his sister said.
"No I'm not."  Then he leaned out the open window.  "HERE!  OVER HERE!  LOOK TO THE LIGHT!"
Then a faint voice they could all hear, "I can't move. The snow is too deep."
Before his parents could protest he was out the window, and scrambling to his feet in the drift.  "HOLLER AS LOUD AS YOU CAN. I'M COMING.!"  Then he started to move.
There was a break in the wind; they were silent in the car, straining their ears for some sign of life.
It came as a tap   on the window.  Elizabeth rolled down the window and barely got out of the way before a white bundle about her own size came through the window, as though it had been pitched through--as it had, in fact, by Mike.
"Thank you," gasped the bundle.
It was a girl more Mike's age than her own. Mike followed under his own power, causing them to scoot out of his way. When he was planted on the seat and the window was closed, he said, "Wow."
"You bet wow," said his mother.  "Are you both all right?"
"I am now," said the girl.
"Me too," said Mike. "Just out of breath."
"Good work, Mike," said his Dad.
"He saved my life," said the girl.  "I was driving home alone – a dumb thing to do, as it turned out. My name is Amy, by the way."
The conversation only got as far as saying their own names before there was a sound louder than the wind, and a bright light glaring through the windshield.  "A snowplow!" It was almost a cheer from all of them.
Another tap on the window, this time on the driver's side.
A friendly voice said, "It looks like you guys could use a hand."
"What can you do?"
"Well, I'm John Dixon, and this is my land. If you hadn't turned on your lights, I would have missed you. I can tow you out of this drift and take you to our house."
"Do you think we can still get to the city by seven?"
"You can't get anywhere but to my house.  The highway is closed.  I think you folks are the last ones out."
"That will be too much trouble for you," Mom said with automatic courtesy, though they all knew it was the only possible solution.
"My wife will be tickled," Dixon said.  "She had enough food ready for fifteen people, but they all called saying they couldn't get through. You don't have to worry about your welcome.  Even the beds are ready." He turned away to attach the vehicles for towing. He didn't wait for a yes answer because no other answer was possible.
There was silence in the car. Then Elizabeth said, "Dad, what will the church do?"
"If they haven't cancelled, they'll sing, and read the Christmas story, and pray.  I'm sure they'll pray for us.   Here or there, Christmas is Christmas just the same."
"But didn't we ask God to bring us home safe?"
"Don't you think he answered us?  Where would Amy be if we hadn't gone off the road, and Mike hadn't hollered to her to look to the light? Where would we be if Mom hadn't told us to turn on all the lights?
"I think dinner at the Dixons was what God had in mind for us right along."

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Janet from Virginia writes:
December 25, 2007
This story was a wonderful gift for me to read in the early morning on Christmas Day. Thank you so much!

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Real Things first appeared in serialized form on the Partial Observer in 2001. It is now available in print for the first time.

Over thirty years after a senseless crash redefined his life, Greg Thompson and his family finally learn why.

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