A Christmas story…

Here’s a story that I wrote for English class. Hope you enjoy it.

Mr. Schwartz’s Christmas

by Hyeunjoon Kim

Christmas. The word was an anathema to him. He did not partake in the festivities and found no joy in singing carols and giving gifts. In fact, the last time that he had celebrated this holiday was over 10 years ago. Reynold Schwartz was a con artist and Christmas was just a time for him to make more money. Fake Rolex watches, fraudulent vacation packages and counterfeit gift cards all sold like hotcakes during this time of year.

December 24th, 1986, it was business as usual for Reynold Schwartz. Most people called this day Christmas Eve, but for Schwartz, it was just December 24th. He had made around 3000 dollars in the span of two hours. All it took was some sweet talking and a couple of uncannily genuine looking Rolex watches. He didn’t feel too guilty about what he was doing, for his customers, most of them rich and ignorant fools would never know the difference. Every shady deal was a win-win situation for the master conman, for his clients were happy with the “excellent deals” that they got and he was happy to take their money.

It was around 7 o’ clock in the afternoon and it was getting quite dark. The sun had disappeared hours ago. Reynold enjoyed the blackness of night, he felt welcome in the shadows. The nature of his profession required him to be sly, stealthy and secretive. Most people believed these 3 words to be synonymous, but the conman knew the subtle differences. He called it the “triple S code”. He took a quick glance at his watch – the dials read “7:10”. “It’s show time,” he thought. He quickly packed up his merchandise that consisted of 4 rugged briefcases filled with fake Rolex watches, stuffed it into the trunk of his Honda and drove off. He could have easily afforded a much better car. He drove his crummy, silver Honda for one reason only: it attracted no unneeded attention. After all, a conman had to keep a low profile.

He got on the freeway and drove towards Eastside Mall. Eastside Mall was the biggest shopping center in town, a true haven for conmen, for it was always filled with bustling crowds which made it all the easier for a conman to do business and slip out unnoticed. At this time of day, the mall was crowded with gullible housewives loaded with cash. Schwartz liked to con women. They were an easy target. You see, women had a tendency to build strong first impressions on people based on their appearance. Naturally, Reynold had the appearance of a true gentleman. He was immaculately dressed and groomed. His dark gray suit fit him like a glove, his jet black hair was neatly cropped, his face clean shaven and his honest smile looked well…honest. The ladies loved him and above all, trusted him. He walked into the plaza, near the high class bistros (a fancy word for coffee shop) –a favorite spot for rich women. He made sure no security guards were around and quickly set up his make-shift stand. It consisted of a nice mahogany folding table and a neatly designed poster that read “Authorized Rolex dealer – special Christmas pricing”. Now, all he had to do was wait. One minute, two minutes, five minutes passed by. Ah! A rich matron was walking towards him. She was already carrying several bags. He read the labels: Armani, Gucci, Chanel and Louis Vuitton. “A high spender on a shopping spree, how convenient!” he thought. He waited for her to initiate the conversation, for rich hags didn’t like pushy salesmen.

“Hello mister, what have you got there?”

“Just some beautiful Rolex watches young lady, I’m sure your husband would love to receive one for Christmas.”

(He called her “young lady”, but she was in fact an overweight woman that looked to be around 40.)

“How much?” she asked.

“1100 dollars including tax.”

“Only 1100? (Rich people always felt the need to flaunt their richness) I’ll take one.”

She pulled out a fat black checkbook studded with diamonds and wrote him a check for 1200 dollars.

“That’s 100 dollars too much, I can’t accept this miss.”

“Oh I know, it’s just a little bonus…for being such a gentleman.” She winked as she said this.

He almost shuddered in disgust. Just how rich was this woman anyways? He waved her goodbye and she left. That was it. That was all it took for Schwartz to make a whopping 1.2 grand…all in the span of 5 minutes. “This is too easy,” he muttered to himself. He then proceeded to sell another dozen or so watches in just 2 hours.

The clock struck 10, Eastside Mall was going to close down for the day. The master con artist packed up his stuff and expertly blended into a crowd of shoppers. He put on a straight face and avoided eye contact with the security guards. He made it out to the parking lot and sighed a deep sigh of relief as he got into his Honda. Schwartz got on the freeway and drove home. Upon arrival, the conman parked at his usual spot and got out of the car. He popped the trunk open and gathered his things. Reynold was exhausted, the briefcases felt even heavier than before, which was ironic because they were actually lighter since he had sold a lot of watches that night. His feet made loud clunking noises as he climbed up the narrow metal stairs to his domicile. He fished his pockets for his keys and jammed a tarnished key into an equally tarnished keyhole. Reynold Schwartz was home at last. He lived in a small single bedroom apartment. He lived by himself and had been doing so for close to a decade. His wife, Nancy, died of cancer almost 10 years ago and they never had any children.

One might wonder why one as rich as Reynold Schwartz lived in a crummy, old apartment. Truth be told, Schwartz was never planning on spending his money. He was going to donate all of it to cancer research. In fact, Reynold wasn’t always a conman. He used to be a surgeon, but on that fateful Christmas day 10 years ago, he failed to save his wife’s life. After Nancy’s death, his life lost all sense of purpose. He lost his job and got into a bad habit of gambling and eventually lost everything. Reynold Schwartz ended up on the streets and became a con artist to survive. He eventually got very, very good at it.

That’s why he hated Christmas. He hated it because it was the day that his wife died and he had never truly gotten over it. He fell asleep that night feeling bitter and sad. He had the same dreams every Christmas Eve, dreams of what Christmas would be like if Nancy was still with him. He dreamt of kissing her under the mistletoe, singing carols with her and holding her tightly. Little did he know that something amazing would occur the following day.

*DRRRIIIIIIIIIIING—–DRIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIING*

“What the hell?”

“Oh it’s just the phone.”

He took a glance at his alarm clock –the display read “7:00AM, December 25, 1986”.

“Who the hell is calling me at 7:00 in the morning on bloody Christmas?!”

He picked up the phone, still not fully awake.

“Wh-who is this?”

“Reynold is that you? It’s me Al Jacobs from Middleton Hospital. You remember me right? We used to work together 10 years ago.”

“Y-yeah I remember you… What do you want?”

“Just come on over to the hospital alright? I have something important to give you.”

“Wh-what? Why? Is this some kind of joke?!”

“No, it’s not, now I’ve gotta go, I have a patient. Just get over here.”

*Click*

“Hey! Wait….no! Don’t hang up on me…”

It was too late. He had already hung up.

“He sounded pretty urgent, might as well check it out,” Reynold muttered to himself as he kicked his sheets out of the way and rolled out of bed. The cold, barren floors of his virtually unheated apartment sent shivers up his legs and spine. He called it the “morning sting”. He threw on an old sweatshirt, some sweat pants and a baseball cap. It wasn’t his usual con artist “attire”. It felt quite liberating for him to wear such comfortable clothes, for he had grown so accustomed to the stiffness of a suit and tie. He ran into the kitchen and grabbed a banana and a cup of coffee. Ten seconds later, Reynold Schwartz was revving out of the driveway in his crummy old Honda. He didn’t even need a map or anything; the directions to Middleton hospital were almost programmed into his head. It had been his workplace 10 years ago –it had been the place where he had first met Nancy and it was also the place where she had spent the last moments of her life.

Good old Middleton, he could already see it in the horizon. Reynold Schwartz—formerly Dr. Schwartz immediately recognized the shoddily designed concrete building. It looked more like a warehouse than a hospital. One side of the building was almost devoid of windows –it was as if the contractors ran out of glass half way through its construction… The sight of the building brought back a flood of memories. He remembered his first day as a surgeon.

“It was autumn and I was fresh out of grad school. I had been assigned to work at Middleton hospital. It was my first day at work and like an idiot, I couldn’t find anything. A lovely nurse walked up to me and helped me find my way around. I read her name tag, it said: Nancy.”

He could reminisce all day, but decided to snap out of it. He drove up to the hospital and almost instinctively turned towards the “staff” parking lot when he suddenly stopped. “That’s right, I don’t work here anymore,” he thought. Schwartz turned around and took a spot in the guest parking lot. He got out of the car and walked past the familiar sliding doors. Al was already waiting for him. He was leaning against the reception desk, clenching something in his hand. It appeared to be a note.

“Reynold, it’s been a while, I’m glad you could make it.”

“…Hello to you too…why did you call me here?”

“Well you see Reynold, this morning we were having troubles with the hospital ventilation syste-“

“Ventilation system?! How the hell does that concern me?! Is this some kind of joke?!”

“I’m not done yet… just listen to what I have to say. We had a guy checking the vents and he found this note, stuck in an air filter. It’s for you Reynold. Sorry, I couldn’t help but read it. It’s a note….from Nancy. I figured it would be very important to you so I called you here to give it to you in person.”

Reynold Schwartz’s heart skipped a beat at the mention of Nancy. He snatched the note out Al’s hand and read it.

December 21st, 1976

Dear Reynold,

I am gathering up the last of my strength to write this. I know that I don’t have long to live. Honey, I want you to know that I don’t fear death. I’ve lived a great life and the last couple of years with you—the man of my dreams-have been especially wonderful. Baby, I don’t want you to feel guilty about my death. You’ve done everything in your power and I love you for that. When I leave this world, I want you to move on. You might grieve at first and that’s okay, but you can’t linger in the past forever. You have a long life ahead of you and I want you to live your life! Go and meet new people, go make new friends and find a new woman to love. You can even raise a family, something that you’ve always wanted to do! Hold me close in a corner of your heart, but don’t let the end of my life end yours as well. I love you honey, and I’ll see you in heaven.

-your dearest wife, Nancy

Tears. Tears ran down his cheeks and he wept as he read the last sentence. He finally felt that he could move on. He was liberated from his own misery at last. This note was over 10 years old. What were the odds of finding it on this day? It was truly a miracle-a Christmas miracle!

Later that year, Reynold would quit being a con artist and got a real job. He finally had the strength to get his life back on track. Schwartz anonymously donated all of his money to a cancer research foundation and got a job as a paramedic at Middleton. Several years later, he would get remarried and have a family of his own.

Christmas of 1986 was a time of redemption for Reynold Schwartz. In fact, that’s exactly what Christmas is about: redemption.

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~ by hyeunny on December 7, 2008.

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