Led by the Light
by Luisa Reyes
“Christmas on the island has been effectively cancelled”, Henry grumbled to himself as he swallowed another sip of his whiskey. All while trying to tune out the strains of the carolers singing “Bearing gifts we traverse afar” outside. Sure, the calendar date of December 25th would still appear on people’s calendars and digital devices. But, the impact would be minimal given that the young hearty pilot from the island to the mainland surprised everyone by suffering a heart attack in his early forties. And the doctor was adamant that he not fly for at least ten days, preferably not by himself for at least two weeks. With the licensing procedures demanding a lot more restrictions on top of that. And to top things off, the ferry service from the island to the mainland was also nonfunctional with the money for the much needed repairs currently being held hostage by one government bureaucracy after another.
“I saw three ships come sailing in, on Christmas Day on Christmas Day!” came the crooning from the persistent Christmas carolers. It was a lovely Christmas carol to be sure. But having been the keeper at the lighthouse for over thirty years now, Henry had little tolerance for it.
“You had best stick to Silent Night” he yelled at them derisively while walking past them. “There won’t be anything happening tonight, I can assure you.” Their glances in the affirmative indicated that they well knew that gifts and provisions weren’t to be had this year. However, they kept on singing. Much to Henry’s chagrin. For not once in his thirty years as a light keeper had Henry ever witnessed a Christmas ship come sailing in.
Kicking a small tin can out of the way, Henry reached for the flask inside of his coat pocket. Small tin cans were prized along the island since people came up with all kinds of contrivances to try and improve their spotty Internet connections. And tin cans on top of antennas were a favorite means of trying to connect to the world beyond.
“Ah, there it is!” came the voice of the local man of the cloth as he bent down to pick up the can. “I was wondering where it got to.”
Henry quickly secreted his flask inside his coat pocket as quickly as he could. Not that the pastor had ever judged him for his drinking habit. However, Henry would prefer not to be seen imbibing on his way to the lighthouse. Satellite navigation systems and automation processes were quickly rendering the keepers obsolete. And there was no sense in giving people further cause to claim the wonders of modern technology.
“Shall I see you at the Christmas Eve service, tonight?” the pastor asked Henry. Never missing a chance to recruit Henry into his congregation.
Henry shook his head in the negative. “The old lighthouse, you know. She is calling me by name.”
“Ah, that’s right” the pastor responded. “Perhaps I’ll see you there.”
Henry hurried on past him as quickly as he could. The last thing he wanted was to spend Christmas Eve with the pastor prattling on about peace, love, and joy. His whiskey provided him with enough joy. And his love for it, well that was unchallenged. Whether or not such love was requited was another matter altogether.
“Oh Holy Night, the stars are brightly shining”, Henry stopped himself when he realized what he was doing. The whiskey was definitely taking effect. He took a glance at the heavens above, it was definitely covered with stars. Millions of stars. With each one of them sparkling brightly in the night sky. Making it impossible for any one star to be singled out from the rest. The three wise men wouldn’t be able to find their way to Bethlehem tonight, that’s for sure.
The pastor shifted all of his weight towards the door and knocked it down as fast as he could. So far, their plan had worked smoothly. But, now, there was no sign of light or life coming from inside the lighthouse. Only the sound of snoring. The pastor looked around. Out of all the things they had taken into consideration while undertaking this venture, this most obvious one of all had escaped their attention.
The pastor reached down towards Henry and tried to wake him up.
“So led by light of a star sweetly gleaming”, was his only answer. The whiskey had been too powerful tonight. The pastor would give Henry his ultimatum of remaining sober some other time. But, for now, he had a more pressing matter to attend to. It wasn’t much longer until they came. And the boulders were too solid and jagged for any vessel to attempt in the dark. His studies at seminary hadn’t included lighthouse keeping, so now the pastor was faced with a task for which he was soundly unprepared.
Or was he?
The boat’s captain looked around. Having mastered the coastline of the island over the years, he was taken aback by how different things always look from the air. And at night, too. If only he had something to guide him. Some signal from the lighthouse. Anything that would help him traverse the waters without peril. The captain reached for his chest with his hand. He had no wish to render his wife a young widow. Was it too late to ask for a miracle? the ship’s captain wondered. It wasn’t as though he didn’t know better than to risk such a venture when the doctor had given him strict orders to rest and not fly.
The captain squinted his eyes. For suddenly the front of the lighthouse was illuminated as though by the sun. Revealing the coast in all of its rocky splendour. Only it wasn’t the sun that was shining so brightly. But, a star. A star that stood out from among the rest casting a wide penumbra that shone light blue.
It was a miracle. It had to be. But not being one to argue with such a beautiful star, the captain glanced at the coast and spotted the pastor waving his arms. Showing him right where to dock this rickety little boat. His eyes threatened to fill with tears. It was a small little boat. But one ladened with provisions and gifts from afar. Christmas had come to the island, after all.
Luisa Kay Reyes has had pieces featured in "The Raven Chronicles", "The Windmill", "The Foliate Oak", "The Eastern Iowa Review", and other literary magazines. Her essay, "Thank You", is the winner of the April 2017 memoir contest of "The Dead Mule School Of Southern Literature". And her Christmas poem was a first place winner in the 16th Annual Stark County District Library Poetry Contest. Additionally, her essay "My Border Crossing" received a Pushcart Prize nomination from the Port Yonder Press. And two of her essays have been nominated for the "Best of the Net" anthology. With one of her essays recently being featured on "The Dirty Spoon" radio hour.
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