Jane Bwye

The Gift


A Christmas Story


Moses trundles a rickety toy bicycle behind him outside his family home. He made the toy himself, from wire found at a building site. It kicks up the dust where chickens scratch and peck for food. It is hot, so hot, all he's wearing is a pair of underpants; and the sweat drips in rivulets down his arms.

His mother appears with his only pair of trousers, to go to church. He doesn't want to go. All he ever wanted was a toy truck so he could practice being like his father, whom he hardly ever sees, because he’s a driver in the big city.
But his mum insists. "You can ask God for one," she says, fastening the buttons on his best check shirt. "Christmas is coming." Moses hadn’t thought of that. He might just give it a try.

About eight months earlier, in faraway Eastbourne, the Brown family were worried because they hadn’t heard from Uncle Joe for months. He went to Africa many years ago, and never came back. Although they sent him a parcel of clothes every year, two Christmases have gone by without a word.

His favourite nephew, Billy, played quietly upstairs in his room, listening to them packing a parcel.

“Is it worth even sending it?” said his mother.

“Let’s try just this once more,” replied his Dad. “You never know.”

Billy rummaged in his cupboard, and dug out a large, dented tin truck, its paint scratched from lots of use. He could hardly remember what colour it was. It was the last present Uncle Jo gave him before he went to Africa. It was precious.

If he sent the truck to Uncle Joe with the clothes, perhaps Uncle Joe would remember him?

That night, Billy crept down the stairs, careful not to bang the toy against the bannisters and wake his parents. The big box of clothes stood there, not yet sealed. He rummaged through, almost to the bottom, pushing the clothes apart enough to make a space. Lovingly, he placed the truck amongst them, and piled more clothes on top, pressing them down. There.

Billy went back to bed.

He waited – and waited – many days – and months.

Father Joe Brown stands in the warehouse surrounded by twelve boxes of donations for the twelve villages in his parish, covering hundreds of square miles. He is exhausted. He’s always exhausted at Christmas time. His team of willing workers has dwindled. Everybody seems to be sick with malaria. He has no time to sort through the donations.

He wipes his brow, and a gleam of sweat trickles down his arm. Thank goodness his sabbatical leave is due next year. He must let his family in the UK know. Had he even written to them last year? He couldn’t remember.

He rummages in his desk and pulling out a marker pen, goes to each box and scribbles a village name. He usually opened the boxes and sorted the gifts, but there is no time now. It is the best he can do. Joram, his driver, will distribution them over the next few weeks.

It is Christmas day, and once more Moses is bundled into his best clothes. They are too small for him, and he grumbles, hanging back. His Dad grabs his hand and pulls him on.

“I’m sure we’ll find a new suit of clothes especially for you at the church,” he says. I delivered a big box there last week.”

But Moses doesn’t want new clothes. He’s been busy making himself a wire car to play with, and is keen to get on with it. The service is boring, although he enjoys the carols and the sweets which are handed out. He stands in front of the crib, where the three wise men are offering their gifts to the baby, lying in a manger. One of the men comes from Africa. Moses wonders what kind of present he will be able to bring for Jesus when he grows up.

All the mothers come to the front of the church at the end, crowding round as the box from 'UKAY' is opened.  They rummage through the contents, sharing them out between the families.

“What’s this?” says his Mum, pulling out a large rusty object. A sharp edge pulls at a thread of a jumper as she extracts it. Moses’s eyes grow wide with astonishment. He runs forward, remembering his urgent prayer to God for a truck just like his dad’s.

“I’ll have it – it’s mine,” he says. “I asked God for it, and He answered my prayer!”

Bending over the precious toy, he didn’t notice the scratched paint and dented sides. It was exactly what he’d always dreamed of having.



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Jane Bwye finished Invincible Louisa by Cornelia Meigs https://t.co/n3zwveXylo
Saturday, 27 January 2018 04:39