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A Christmas Story.

Posted: Sun Dec 13, 2009 6:08 am
by LordRetard
I actually wrote this last Christmas. This should be the same version that I submitted alongside a book proposal as a writing sample, which was passed on (probably more due to the fact that the proposal was absolute shite). Also, it is over 4000 words long. Somehow. I've gotten tl;drs from people that I asked to read this. Looking back on it today, I could probably edit it into something close to half-decent right now (I never actually edited it, as I was in a hurry to send it off) and have already spotted many rough spots but I mean ya know whatever.

"I'm sure you know why I've called you here today, Mr. Duncan, I apologise for taking time out of your busy schedule but you are of course aware that your Uncle Luke recently passed on."
Duncan paused for a moment. "No," he said, "no one informed me." He remained unfazed by the matter, a dull, almost impatient look on his face.
"The police should have notified you. This must come as quite a shock, I'm sorry that I had to be the one to tell you this."
"Yes, it is."
Duncan was relatively certain that he had met some uncle or another no more than twice in his life, and could not remember the name of that uncle, either, most likely because no one had bothered to introduce him. If he knew more about his parents' families he might have been able to produce some statistic of the likelihood that he had met Uncle Luke, but he didn't even know what side of the family Uncle Luke was on. If it were not for weddings and funerals Duncan probably would have never met any of his relatives for that matter. As he understood they were not particularly close.
"Your Uncle Luke fell from the roof of his condominium one night. Very strange. We don't know if he fell off by accident or if it was something more sinister, if someone pushed him off... A neighbour told police that your Uncle Luke was known to go onto the roof frequently so no one thought twice about it. A damn shame."
No response from Duncan.
"This must come as quite a shock. But there is still the matter of business, unfortunately. You see, your Uncle Luke had no will, or perhaps it's simply disappeared somewhere along the line. All the same we have no record of it. And since it appears that all of your Uncle Luke's other relatives have passed on, you are the next of kin, and are the rightful claimant to your inheritance."
Duncan remained as stoic and motionless as before, though his uncle's lawyer noticed that his face had begun to look less impatient and more disinterested.
"Before we go over his possessions I will inform you that your Uncle Luke was in possession of a large sum of money. He was very wealthy, as you know he ran a large and successful business."
Duncan remembered his father saying something about some rich so-and-so in the family, so this must have been true, then, and Uncle Luke must have been the rich so-and-so.
Now Duncan appeared interested.
"Excuse me while I recover the information on his assets, I will be just a moment." And the lawyer left the room.

After leaving the office and proceeding down the street Duncan didn't know what to think. Sure enough he had inherited some money. Enough money, in fact, to quit his job and retire and life the rest of his life in luxury, if he so desired; his Uncle Luke was apparently extremely rich. Even so, Duncan became suspicious of the lawyer. The sum seemed short. Of course, Duncan had no way of knowing, he was not privy to his financial details prior to the meeting. "Of course you understand that there are some legal fees incurred for taking care of this business, your Uncle Luke would have been well aware of it, it's very clearly marked down here." Duncan wasn't used to reading these legal documents but the number seemed in order to him, he wasn't sure of how much a lawyer would normally accept but it seemed reasonable and it would hardly dent his newfound assets. Perhaps he overlooked something that would indicate a larger claim to Duncan's rightful wealth. Maybe he should hire his own lawyer, and ask him to check the numbers. Of course that lawyer would also likely be crooked, and accept his own fee, and it would become astronomical once the lawyer found out how much money Duncan now possessed. In a way, he had lost. The complete opposite of a Pyrrhic Victory.
It began to snow.
Slowly, at first, but it started to gather speed and soon the ground was covered. The streets were slippery and Duncan's bus arrived late and moved slowly, it took him an hour to reach his apartment. He didn't have anywhere else to go today; he didn't have much money, his inheritance wouldn't move until tomorrow (though Duncan thought that this was exceptionally rapid), he didn't know anyone he could visit with so little notice, and he had taken the next two weeks off for the holidays. He did not normally take a vacation yet in a moment suddenly called up his boss and announced his intentions, he did not even know what they were before the words left his mouth, and his office was quick to agree to it since he had taken almost no time off since he began working there. At first he thought it was a moment of some sort of weakness or illness that led him to this course of action, but he decided eventually that he deserved it, and he may even enjoy it. So he went home and, exhausted from his journey, fell asleep on his couch without even undressing.

The next morning Duncan received a phone call, from the lawyer again. "It's taking longer than I expected to clear everything," he said. "There's a police investigation, which means some of the assets, stocks, his condo, personal possessions, et cetera, none of it will likely pass to you for a couple of months.
"I've spoken with your Uncle Luke's former accountant, who says that everything adds up fine. And I've spoken with the police, and apparently you're not suspected in any way since you do not appear to have been in contact with your Uncle Luke for at least a decade, it seems. So you have nothing to worry about, and you will definitely receive your entire inheritance." Duncan was quick to note that the lawyer made some special emphasis on 'entire', causing him to become suspicious once again, but he managed to remain silent on the matter.
"Luckily for you, much of the money cleared without a problem, and it has been transferred to your bank account without fault.
"I'm sorry we had to meet under these unpleasant circumstances."
Duncan showered, changed clothes and made himself breakfast. Then he immediately went to his bank. The snow had piled up overnight and covered much of the cityscape, however ploughs had cleaned the streets and sidewalks and things were running smoother than the day before; the snow was now reduced to a few small flakes still falling and they would be cleaned before they amounted to anything. When he checked his account, he discovered that the sum was even shorter than before, and realised that he would, no doubt, have to take matters into his own hands and hire his own lawyer. Even so, his personal savings from before were diminutive in comparison to the astronomical windfall that he had just received; even if he received nothing more from the lawyer, he was guaranteed to live in some comfort for the rest of his life, and could still conceivably retire immediately. He took out some small bills (or what was now small), put them in his wallet, and left the bank. He had to set priorities now; he had no idea how to spend that kind of money when he had never had anything like it. Ultimately, he figured that he would need a new suit, and should probably consider a car and a house. He wasn't prepared to quit working yet but he was already seriously considering it.
He had hardly stepped out of the bank when he was confronted by, of all his misfortunes, a man.

The man was grim and imposing, certainly he stood much taller than Duncan however his back had become so hunched and twisted that they were nearly level. His clothes were of high quality, however his suit and coat were wrinkled and dirty. His hat hung over his face, making it difficult to make out his features, however it did reveal greying hair and a dirty, stubbled chin, he had not shaven in a couple of days. He was definitely an older gentleman, much older than Duncan.
"Mr. Duncan, I presume."
"Excuse me, sir, but I have no time to spend for a stranger who accosts me on the street and knows me by name already. I will be leaving now, do not follow me or I will call the police."
Duncan did not move before the man continued talking. "That money is mine, you know. It belongs to me."
This remark seemed to disarm Duncan in some fashion, though he could not clearly say why, and neglected to move away as he had insisted that he would. "How does it belong to you?"
"I knew your Uncle Luke. We worked together. He owed me this money, he promised it to me. You have nothing to do with this, and you should hand it over to me immediately."
Duncan scoffed. "I don't know who you are, and this is definitely my money. I don't know what you're talking about and I don't care. Good day." With that, he walked away and did not look back, if he had he knew that the strange man would be still there, watching him until he was out of sight.

Duncan did buy a suit and a watch and a new wallet. However, all through these trips as well as Duncan's various diversions over his holiday, he continued to run into the man, often showing up in random places. Sometimes he would be on the street, or waiting for him inside of a store, Duncan never saw where he came from, he always appeared out of what seemed to be nowhere; Duncan could turn around and there the man would stand, staring at him. Despite the man's strange appearance and physical stature and strength, however, he did not seem threatening, and Duncan decided to refrain from calling the police yet, always telling himself that he would call the next time he saw the man. The man always seemed a step behind intimidation or threats, and his idiosyncratic behaviours and speech betrayed some intention that he apparently was otherwise reluctant to indicate or act upon.
Over time, Duncan learned some things from the man; his name was Isidor Bouchard, and was a high-ranking employee and personal friend of his Uncle Luke. He did not mention his particular claim to the wealth, except to note that it had previously been indicated by his Uncle Luke that he would certainly receive the money eventually. If his Uncle Luke had lived longer or written a will, Bouchard would have already received the money, according to his own way of seeing things. Still, Duncan did not trust him, his instincts told him that the man was lying, while he was not confident that this man was the thug he appeared to be, he certainly could not have good intentions and was probably simply trying to earn a quick buck now that his Uncle Luke was dead. Duncan thought that perhaps the lawyer was onto something, and it could have been Bouchard that murdered Uncle Luke; even so, Duncan remained aware that it did not at all look like his Uncle Luke was murdered.
Duncan didn't know what to do with his vacation. The first week passed quickly. He bought books, went to coffee shops, watched movies, whatever he could think of, however he remained bored; money is not interesting if there is nothing to spend it on. He was also uncomfortable flashing his money around; he was careful with his wallet, but during a lapse of judgement he went as far as to pay for his suit in cash. He chastised himself, for using the money, for carrying it around, and never did so again; even so, that did not take back his actions, surprising the salesman and earning a dirty look from a clearly less fortunate fellow (though by no means poor, at this point most people were less fortunate) in the store. Luckily neither one harmed him.
Duncan continued to run through anything he could think of, spending on anything that came up that might occupy him. And Bouchard at first saw him once or twice a day, but by the start of the next week it felt like he was omnipresent, ready to suggest the possibility of a threat of a violent assault and robbery at any moment.
Luckily Bouchard did not follow Duncan into his apartment. One day, he and Bouchard had gone through the lobby, up the elevator, down the hall to his apartment, and he saw a package in front of his door. He picked it up and took it inside. Bouchard waited outside, and Duncan had begun to wonder if he even planned on going home or sleeping. Duncan had not seen Bouchard eat anything in an entire week, and even went as far as to offer him food through the door, which Bouchard refused.
Soon after entering, Duncan received a phone call, inevitably from his lawyer, the only person to call him since he went on vacation. "I hope that package has found you all right," he said, "I've managed to clear some personal items, some clothes, letters, things like that, I thought I would send them as soon as possible. I hope you appreciate this, again I'm sorry that we had to meet under these unpleasant circumstances." Duncan had hardly spoken before the lawyer had hung up, and it occurred to him that he had hardly spoken to this man and had not seen him personally since meeting him. He opened the package. Nothing very interesting, there was a handcrafted watch that he exchanged for his new one, a gold-plated lighter, all very nice and expensive but nothing groundbreaking, as if some man named Uncle Luke possessed such things. Duncan had become irritated at this long-lost dead relative who had invited some uncomfortable spectre or phantom into his daily life. Soon, though, he came across letters. He decided to quickly look through them, and as he had assumed, one would be from an Isidor, someone known enough to his Uncle Luke that formalities were unnecessary and neither of their last names would need to enter any conversation.

The details of the letter are of course unimportant and not very interesting, the gist of which is, hello Duncan's Uncle Luke, how are you doing, thank you for your help, so on, so on, and, as is inevitable, thank you for the help you have promised, I can never thank you enough, you have my gratitude, the money will help me and my family so much, so on, so on. The letter appeared supernaturally, as if divinely ordained simply to support Bouchard's story. Of course, it could still be a setup; after all, Bouchard did not appear until the lawyer had delivered the money to Duncan, and the lawyer even made the effort to note the presence of letters in the package. He would have to think the matter over. First, though, he should confront Bouchard about the letter. He stepped outside, to an empty hallway.

As inappropriately timed as his arrival was, Bouchard disappeared at the exact moment that Duncan wanted to see him. This was probably not the plan of the insidious lawyer; if Duncan had read the letter as soon as possible, Bouchard would have likely stayed in the hall, waiting for a response, as if he had personally delivered it. Still, that was not enough to make Bouchard seem innocent; there was definitely something about him. Duncan went about his personal business again; random diversions, again nothing to keep him occupied for very much time at once. He started looking at some ritzy open houses on the Upper Class side of the city. He spoke to some sellers but made no promises, he was unwilling to make such a commitment yet, especially if he had Bouchard's money. Through all of this time Bouchard would not show up, no matter how long Duncan spent out. For a short time he considered repeatedly going in and out of a building as if to provoke his presence, and Bouchard would simply appear, out of nowhere, as usual, but then he dismissed this notion as insane. It stopped snowing. Bouchard did not appear until Sunday, the last day of Duncan's vacation.

There was snow still on the ground, the air had not heated up at all to melt it away. It was evening, and Duncan was walking toward the station to get home. He had been looking at houses in a quiet, residential area, and still quite wealthy. Thankfully he had the new suit, or he would have attracted unnecessary attention, someone may have called the police and have him arrested as a burglar. Unfortunately, unfamiliar with the area, he had become lost. He wandered around aimlessly, deciding that it would be rude to knock on someone's door to ask for directions at this hour. There was no one on the street.
In the end he wandered into a strange area, something that resembled a town square. There were no roads for cars, just open area, like sidewalk. There were a few snow-covered benches, and a tall fountain that had frozen over, the shape of a bulging snow-covered statue above it. Duncan had seen photos of places just like this, though never anywhere in person; they may have only existed in books, or television, or Europe, or Canadia, or wherever. Duncan walked to the fountain. There was a small plaque, covered in snow, and Duncan brushed it with his hand. It read, "FOUNTAIN SQUARE 1884". "Creative," thought Duncan. He turned around and there, sitting on the bench next to the statue, was Bouchard.
The man looked ahead, and he may not have even noticed Duncan. He had no hat on, the first time that Duncan had seem him like this, and it revealed a large bald spot, over an oddly shaped skull; nothing to make you frown or stare, but it was still unexpected. His back was hunched, as usual. Duncan walked over to him and said, "Bouchard."
Bouchard looked up. He said, "oh, it's you," and then went back to staring outward, only barely acknowledging Duncan's presence. In his odd, hatless state, he seemed at least twice as old and frail as before. Duncan had seen this bench already and was almost certain that it was empty. He looked at the ground near Bouchard. Of course, he had left footprints. Duncan mentally reprimanded himself for thinking such a thing.
"What are you doing here?" Asked Duncan.
"Sorry, I live around here. I like to come here and think once in a while. I've been thinking a lot, lately." He sighed. "Excuse me for following you around like that, I had become desperate. You see, I wasn't very good at my job, but, you know, your Uncle Luke always stood up for me and kept me in my job. My house has a huge mortgage, you can't believe how much he put as a down payment to convince a bank to give me it. But now, your Uncle Luke's dead. Control of the company has passed on, and, this new guy, you see, he's an asshole. Doesn't know anything about people. So, they booted me pretty quickly, and here I am now."
"I'm sorry to hear that," replied Duncan to the monologue. "I wish I could help you but I can't. I don't know you. At all. You could easily be telling me some sob story so that you can bilk me out of all of my inheritance. Excuse me for saying this, but I don't believe you; it's too suspicious." He paused. "What do you need the money for, anyway? You could sell your house and move somewhere cheaper. My old apartment wasn't bad, and it wasn't even that expensive; I could give you that one."
"Thank you, Mr. Duncan," he said, "but it's not much help. I'm not just in danger of losing my house. My mother has cancer; her medical bills would be paid by your Uncle Luke, but he's no longer with us. I can't sell the house and pay for her bills because I hardly even own the house. And my savings will dry up pretty quickly." He paused. "My wife can't work, she is handicapped, and her disability cheque is essentially nil. My son is also mentally disabled, and no school around here will take him, so he has to go to a special school. That costs money, too. I also have problems with some neer-do-wells, unfortunately; I regret my dealings with them but that was the only way to help my family, and now they're expecting something back, that I don't have. Your Uncle Luke promised to help me with all of these things; now, he's gone. Funny how that works."
Bouchard stopped. Duncan remained speechless, looking at Bouchard. Then the man looked up at Duncan, the first time Duncan had seen Bouchard's eyes, and Bouchard burst into laughter. "Yes, that's right; I am the unluckiest man in the world. Or at least in the entire neighbourhood. I'm sorry for wasting your time. I don't even know what I'm saying, that's how men get when they're desperate. But you don't believe a word. I'll be off, it was a pleasure to meet you." He then stood, dusted his hat off, wore it once more, and walked off, no longer even glancing at Duncan.
He was nearly out of the square when Duncan called out, "wait!" He had not intended to do this, it was beyond his control. But he had no choice, and he had spoken the word long before he realised what he was about to do. But he felt compelled, as if by a spirit of sorts.
Bouchard turned around.
Duncan walked up to him and asked. "How much money do you need? For everything."
Bouchard told him.
Duncan grabbed the chequebook from his inside jacket pocket, and wrote something on its front page, and tore the page from the book, and handed it to Bouchard. Bouchard stared at the cheque for a moment. "Mr. Duncan; this is too much."
Duncan shook his head. "I don't need this money. I don't want it. Mind you, that's not everything--" Duncan had left a paltry sum for himself, that would allow him to move to a better apartment and start a better life; "but I'll do what I can. That's all I can do. I'm sorry."
Bouchard stared at the cheque for some time before looking up at Duncan, and a single tear rolled down his face. "God bless you, sir," he said, "for what you've done for my family. If you need anything at all, or even want anything, you will have to ask me for it. No question about it. Any favour at all, just ask. I cannot thank you enough." Bouchard looked as if he was about to hug Duncan, and then thought better of it, preferring a handshake. Duncan obliged. Bouchard continued to walk away, then. Duncan thought to himself, "why could I have possibly done that? That was nearly everything. I must be crazy." Bouchard was almost too far away to hear when he turned back, and shouted, "oh yes, Merry Christmas, sir!" And proceeded to run off, not quickly, but as fast as his crippled back could allow.
Duncan stood dumbfounded. He had forgotten what day it was, why he had even bothered with a vacation. Too caught up in his money. Maybe his lawyer would eventually give Duncan the rest of the money, and he could be rich like Bouchard. He couldn't care less about the money, though. In fact, he felt happy, that he could help the man, happier than he could remember being. He thought to himself, "perhaps that's what I'm supposed to be doing, helping people, not buying suits."
He stood there for quite some time, lost in thought, still staring out onto the street that Bouchard had long disappeared from. He had finally realised that Bouchard was speaking the truth, only after he had left. And he had said, "Merry Christmas"; "How long has it been since someone said that to me?" Of course it had been a year, someone always says "Merry Christmas" to you by the end of it, at least one person. This year it had been Bouchard.
Suddenly he heard a man call out. "That's him! Get him!" He turned around to catch a glimpse of someone running. Before he could get a better look, someone had stabbed him in the back; once, then repeatedly, and Duncan had already begun to fall to the ground, his vision blurring. The muggers grabbed his Uncle Luke's watch, his new wallet, his shoes, he knew that there were at least two of them but felt as if there were thousands, like an army of angry locusts, all ripping and devouring all of his material possesions from his body. They had the dignity at least to leave his clothes, and Duncan had the dignity to remain with them. Soon after they had fled, and Duncan could barely make out the sound of one of them yelling angrily. Something like, "damn, he didn't have any money!" But he knew that he was imagining it, no one would say such a thing. He also imagined, too, that he recognised the man, possibly the man who saw him pay for his suit; but that can't have been, he wouldn't know where he was, he couldn't fathom at this point who could possibly have known that he had money. Of course, nothing was left; he had given it to Bouchard. He imagined that, if he had not given Bouchard the money, if Bouchard had not said, "Merry Christmas", perhaps he would have left in time, escaped his death in time, free to spend the money as he wished for the rest of his life; of course, the man had seen him, he could never have escaped this fate, and he resigned himself to it. He lay there in the snow, blood flowing from his body, dying the snow red. He could barely see at this point, or move, but he looked up and saw that there were snowflakes falling from the sky again, the first time in a week. He let his head fall back to the ground. He said, "dear God," his eyes closed, he mumbled something incomprehensibly, and he passed out.

Re: A Christmas Story.

Posted: Sun Dec 13, 2009 6:53 am
by Kimra
I understand the irony in this, but I can't read it right now. If you post a reply in this thread it'll show up as unread and I'll actually remember to read it when I have time. Otherwise I will forget... do you want me to forget? Ha? Do you?

Re: A Christmas Story.

Posted: Sun Dec 13, 2009 6:56 am
by LordRetard
I don't see any irony here...

Re: A Christmas Story.

Posted: Sun Dec 13, 2009 11:59 am
by Kimra
Well since all those other people all went tl;dr, I figure not having time right now to read it... kind of ironic? Maybe Alanic instead?

Re: A Christmas Story.

Posted: Sun Dec 13, 2009 12:36 pm
by Kimra
Double Post Madness!

Okay. I read it, yay for me! I honestly thought I'd put it off for longer than that. Points to you as well for making it an enjoyable and easy read. Note that an easy read is not a negative or derogative term, it simply means it flows well, held my interest and was well written.

And yes I think if edited this story would be much more powerful, but it is a good piece as it stands. If you want excellence though... edit away. :)

The end was interesting. I had this overall sense of apathy from the piece, a sort of disassociated blankness that is emphasized by the ending. Was that on purpose perhaps? It was certainly interesting. And by blankness, again, I don't mean it in a negative way. I think it's quite fascinating when someone can make a bland character so interesting to read.

Anyway. It was a good read and curious read.

Re: A Christmas Story.

Posted: Tue Dec 15, 2009 7:08 am
by LordRetard
Kimra wrote:The end was interesting. I had this overall sense of apathy from the piece, a sort of disassociated blankness that is emphasized by the ending. Was that on purpose perhaps?
Not exactly. Most of my stories just end up like that (that's just the kinda person I am), and I guess it's my favourite thing to write about. I thought a lot of things about the ending and had a lot of ideas about what it would mean, and I just decided I liked this the best... Maybe your interpretation makes more sense but I actually thought the ending was kind of positive. I guess that's kind of confusing to understand since I didn't really explain it in the story. Maybe it's not important.

Re: A Christmas Story.

Posted: Thu Dec 24, 2009 11:24 pm
by Cirtur
Truly, an interesting message for us all. I think a short poem is in order.

"GIVE me a golden pen, and let me lean
On heap’d up flowers, in regions clear, and far;
Bring me a tablet whiter than a star,
Or hand of hymning angel, when ’tis seen
The silver strings of heavenly harp atween:
And let there glide by many a pearly car,
Pink robes, and wavy hair, and diamond jar,
And half discovered wings, and glances keen.
The while let music wander round my ears,
And as it reaches each delicious ending,
Let me write down a line of glorious tone,
And full of many wonders of the spheres:
For what a height my spirit is contending!
’Tis not content so soon to be alone."

-John Keats 1817

Re: A Christmas Story.

Posted: Sat Dec 26, 2009 9:44 pm
by Edminster
Now that it's actually Christmas I figured it was time to read it. Or at least the version over on your blog, which appears to have been copy-pasted from here. I noticed that you spelt it Canadia rather than Ca.nada, but other than that the story was fantastic.

No other criticism or commentary, though, because I suck at that.

Re: A Christmas Story.

Posted: Sat Dec 26, 2009 9:49 pm
by Cirtur
I was going to comment on "Canadia". It appears that nowhere is safe from the wordfilter.

Abd rightly so.

Re: A Christmas Story.

Posted: Sat Dec 26, 2009 9:50 pm
by LordRetard
Hahah I did? It's because I copied it over from the forum (because I can't ever remember what my latest edit is). I'll fix it now.