Do not hate me
Mr. Wilkin who was 87 years old lived alone in an old Victorian cottage in the country. He spent his days growing carrots in his garden and writing letters to his best friend who lived in Jerusalem. Mr. Wilkin had three sons who did not stay with him. The eldest Noel was a Bank Manager in London, and was the apple of Mr. Wilkin’s eye and his favourite. The second son Abraham, who was two years junior to Noel, was married with three young children and was an Event Manager in New York. Mr. Wilkin was fond of his second son as well, especially of his three grandchildren.
However, there was yet one more son who was five years junior to Abraham and whom Mr. Wilkin the patriarch……detested beyond words.
This young man’s name was Zaray. He was according to Mr. Wilkin, a thorn in his side, a worthless fiend and a waster. Zaray was a notorious gambler and an alcoholic. He never got along with his father and abhorred the presence of his elder brothers Noel and Abraham. He had divorced his wife and had been jailed twice. Mr. Wilkin hated his youngest son to such an extent that for the past seven years he had neither invited Zaray to his cottage nor telephoned him, although he did keep in touch with his other more steady sons, Noel and Abraham.
Now in his eighty-seventh year, Mr. Wilkin was growing rather weak and knew that he would probably not live to see his eighty-eighth birthday. He had his will made, dividing all that he owned between his first two sons, Noel and Abraham.
“What about your third son, Zaray?” asked the country lawyer while he was preparing Mr. Wilkin’s papers.
“What about him?” asked Mr. Wilkin in a dark foreboding voice.
“Well…….aren’t you going to leave him anything?” replied the baffled lawyer, “He is your son after all, isn’t he?”
“Let the devil take him,” grunted Mr. Wilkin with a nasty punch on the word ‘devil’ and after that moment the country lawyer never mentioned Zaray’s name again.
Then, came the season of Christmas and Mr. Wilkin was most excited. He was decorating his tiny wooden cottage with holly and mistletoe. He was excited because he had invited his two favourite sons and Abraham’s family to the country to celebrate Christmas with him.
All the preparations were made. Mr. Wilkin had even baked a special sponge cake for the occasion, surrounded with a few carrot pieces in a neat symmetrical design. He even placed in his hall, a tiny little Christmas tree decorated with homemade vanilla snowmen and strawberry candlesticks.
“Aren’t you going to invite Zaray this year?” asked Mr. Levi, his best friend from Jerusalem, in his letter a week before Christmas.
Mr. Wilkin hot and angry scribbled back a message to Mr. Levi with a curse.
“I have no other son. Zaray is not my son, I disown him till the end of time. It was a black day on which Zaray entered the world……may he rot in his drink.”
Mr. Levi said nothing about it and went about his Christmas shopping.
On Christmas Eve in the evening, which was so cold as to chill the marrow, the eighty-seven year old Mr. Wilkin, cold and shivering sat himself down upon his leather couch in the hall. The sponge cake was placed in front of him on a glass table, and there was a satisfied smile on his pale face, which grew paler as the weather outside got nippy.
He sat with a woollen muffler around his neck waiting for his Christmas guests.
He waited….and he waited….and he waited with an intense expression on his countenance and with chattering teeth.
“Damn this blizzard must be caught in the snow,” muttered Mr. Wilkin to himself.
“They will be here any minute now. Those kids of Abraham will love the cake and the goodies on the Christmas tree,” he continued to babble pulling his muffler tighter around his skinny neck.
“And then there will be my Noel, wanting to click photographs of everyone, like he used to do in those days when we stayed in Piccadilly. Won’t the kids love that?”
Mr. Wilkin waited….and waited….the 19th century grandfather clock behind him struck 11 o’clock, but there was no sign of Noel or Abraham.
It then suddenly dawned on Mr. Wilkin that maybe (God forbid), the family was stuck in the snow or might have met with an accident. He trembled as he dialled Abraham’s cell number, on his old black telephone. He tried the number thrice….but there was no answer. He then tried the cell number of Noel to no avail.
Suddenly there was a knock on the front door of the cottage.
“Thank God it’s them!” exclaimed Mr. Wilkin with relief as he put the ancient raven black telephone down and slowly shuffled towards the door to unlock it.
“Merry Christmas, do come on in from the bitter cold,” chuckled Mr. Wilkin as he unlocked the door….but, when he opened the door, he saw a young man in his late twenties standing alone in front of him with dark brown eyes and high cheek bones, just like Mr. Wilkin himself.
Mr. Wilkin snarled when he saw the young man standing in front of him, with a smile on his handsome face, for he was none other than Zaray in the flesh.
“Pops!” exclaimed Zaray, as he held out a daintily wrapped gift in his white gloved hands.
“Get out of my sight!” yelled Mr. Wilkin, with a tremor in his voice.
“Pops, now really do be sensible, I’ve come all the way to wish you a Merry Christmas and this is the welcome I get….let me in, it’s freezing out here,” exclaimed Zaray with a twinkle in his eyes as he pushed his way, like a stubborn mule into the cottage and banged the door shut behind him.
Zaray then set the Christmas present on the glass table next to the sponge cake and seated himself on a rocking chair next to the neatly decorated Christmas tree. Mr. Wilkin was burning and his face set itself into an awful scowl, as he grudgingly returned to his leather chair, wondering how to get Zaray out of the cottage.
Zaray on the other hand, like a seven year old, was happily staring all around the house, at the holly and the mistletoe.
“Pops!” declared Zaray cheerfully, “You’ve outdone yourself this time; this old barnyard cottage is looking grand.”
“Why are you here?” grunted Mr. Wilkin, sourly ignoring the compliment.
“Chuck the roughness, Pops….I’m here for Christmas of course.”
“You were not wanted nor invited,” mumbled Mr. Wilkin.
“Ha-ha, come on poppy woppy,” said Zaray as he went up to his father and to the surprise of Mr. Wilkin, hugged him so tight, that Mr. Wilkin almost choked.
“I missed you my poppy-woppy,” cooed Zaray, stroking the bald egg head of Mr. Wilkin.
“Let go, you gambling drunk!” shouted Mr. Wilkin struggling out of Zaray’s grip but landing more closely into his swarthy arms.
“I’m not drunk tonight, Pops!” laughed out Zaray gaily as he let his father go and stared at the Christmas tree.
For the next one hour, Zaray drove the elderly Mr. Wilkin almost crazy. He ate all the vanilla snowmen that were on the Christmas tree and fed one of the strawberry ones to his father. He ate a slice of the sponge cake and gulped down the carrot slices before Mr. Wilkin could say ‘stop’. Zaray then tried to hug Mr. Wilkin again and in the tussle, Mr. Wilkin and Zaray fell off the leather chair, landing flat on the heavily carpeted floor.
“Young urchin, I’m going to whip you!” growled Mr. Wilkin, but instead….he began to cry a few soft tears, because Zaray had put his handsome head onto Mr. Wilkin’s aged lap and chirped, “I love you my papa, don’t hate me.”
Mr. Wilkin had heard these words several years ago, when Zaray was only a child. He would always act quite absurdly with his elder brothers and when he was found out, he would sleep gently on Mr. Wilkin’s lap and say that he was terribly sorry….Mr. Wilkin would never have the heart to throw him off….he did not have the heart to do it even now, after all these years.
As the snowflakes pelted on the cottage window pane and the heater rumbled a very rumbly tone, Mr. Wilkin stroked his youngest son’s smooth jet black hair, while like an infant Zaray slept soundly in the old man’s lap, with a serene expression on his clear face.
But all this came to an abrupt end, when suddenly a thought came into the mind of old Mr. Wilkin and took shape. He flew into a rage never witnessed before and slapped Zaray with the back of his hand.
“Papa….papa” stammered Zaray with unfathomable sadness in his dark brown eyes.
“I’ve come to my senses!” said Mr. Wilkin standing up over the young man with vehemence. “You want me to change my will, don’t you….so that I give you your share, that’s why you are here acting like a grovelling pup. Well you are not getting a penny from me to gamble it away, you aren’t—-get out of my cottage!”
Zaray pleaded with his elderly father, but was forced to leave closing the wooden door behind him gingerly, just as the grandfather clock struck twelve midnight.
Mr. Wilkin sank down into the leather chair and grumbled curses under his breath. At a quarter past midnight however, there was a knock on the cottage door. Mr. Wilkin half sleepy dragged his weathered self towards the door and opened it….it was Noel and Abraham alone, with perplexed faces and red eyes.
“What took you so long, and where are the others?” asked Mr. Wilkin confused.
Noel looked at Abraham and motioned him to explain, so Abraham said:
“Daddy, we were leaving when we got a call from the hospital downtown. It’s Zaray dad….he is no more….he died of liver inflammation at 5 o’clock this evening.”
Mr. Wilkin looked at Abraham’s face with a weary expression. He then turned back into the hall where Zaray had left the Christmas present on the glass table. He hastily unwrapped it and beheld a shoe box; in it there was a framed photograph….a photograph of a very young child, sleeping soundly in his father’s lap and behind the frame was engraved in gold:
“I love you my papa, do not hate me……Merry Christmas.
Your youngest son
Born: 1st July 19….
Died: 24th December, 20….”
Copyright © 2012 by Fiza Pathan
A Short story from my book ‘Treasury Of Bizarre Christmas Stories’
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