by: William C. Burns, Jr.
Christmas Eve and the sky was threatening to snow. Lester knew he
should head home but instead turned his beat up Honda civic into the
parking lot of the “Oh!-Aces!”. Lester always favored the setting of
this particular bar as often as possible. Several of the regulars
called ‘hello’ as he came through the door. So what if it was
Christmas Eve, he just didn’t feel like going home right away and there
was no one there anyway.
Three beers into the evening, Lester was none too happy with his
life. As long as memory served, he always felt something missing and
Christmas Eve had a history of making him particularly cantankerous.
Most of the time he blamed these empty feelings on his childhood in the
orphanage. Other-times he blamed them on his poverty. This particular
night he was blaming Christmas. Hadn’t the guy on the radio said this
time of the year made everyone depressed?
Looking into his sixth beer, he began to speculate that rich
people did not have this kind of problem, especially not at Christmas.
Lester spent the balance of the evening lamenting all the things never
owned and all the people never met. He was less than delighted when
the barkeep pronounced last call.
Trudging through the snow, on the way to his car, an idea struck
Lester. Why not just drive up and see how all those rich snobs spent
The roads weren’t very good and he was none too sober at the time,
but he managed to get to Eastside, where the really enormous houses
were. The blatant display of multi-colored lights on all those fine
houses, struck him almost physically and the longer he drove, the
madder he got.
Toward midnight, Lester came upon one house that stood out from
the rest. Every straight edge of the house was aglow with lines of
tiny white lights. He drove past it, but for some reason those lights
stuck in Lester’s mind and without thinking, he turned back. Pulling
to the side of the street, he stopped the car across from the over
decorated house. He sat in silence the longest time, just staring and
thinking very heavy thoughts. On impulse, he decided move in a little
closer to those rich folks.
Inside the house in question, Stephen Wallace, of Wallace, Wallace
and Sons, was also spending Christmas Eve alone. Stephen had long
since concluded that most people tolerated him only because he was rich
enough to pay off the National Debt. He had busted his butt building
up the company inherited from his step father. He never had much luck
at relating to people, as his ex had often attested in court and
elsewhere. He oftentimes attributed this deficiency to a childhood in
the orphanage. The therapist diagnosed him as an over-achiever trying
to compensate for feelings of insecurity, loneliness and neglect by
building up vast stores of money. Stephen had noted, with a certain
smugness, the therapist had no trouble accepting payment for such
Stephen decided to spend the evening with a pot of Earl Grey, in
front of the fire, curled up with a new Louis Lamour. Having lit the
fire, and donned his favorite smoking jacket (yes he had a smoking
jacket, paid top dollar for it), he picked up his tea tray and headed
for the living room.
Lester, his judgment more than just a bit clouded, opened the car
door. Without thinking about what he was doing, he headed across the
snow-choked street, up the short stair and across the lawn to the
Inside the house, Stephen rounded the alcove wall and happened to
look out the window at the same instant Lester looked up into the
window, and for a electrified instant each was convinced they were
seeing their own reflections in the window.
You see, Stephen and Lester were twins, separated at birth. A
common practice at the time of their adoption. It was easier to adopt
out a single child than to find homes willing to take on twins.
Lester, standing in the snow, looked up through the window and saw
his own face in a fine robe with a tea pot on a tray and a book under
his arm. Stephen saw himself in grubby clothes, standing knee deep in
snow, out in the weather. Neither could tell if he was seeing some
sort of twisted reflection of himself or someone else.
When finally it occurred to them that they were facing strangers
Stephen ran back to the alcove to grab the phone. Lester ran across
the lawn, hiding behind a hemlock. Both peeked around the edges.
Stephen wanted to call the police and Lester knew he should run, but
both men were curious and afraid. Neither knew just what to do.
Lester wanted to see if the man in the house was real while
Stephen tried to think of a way to talk to this stranger without risk.
Suddenly, a truck turned the corner and started swerving on the
icy road as the driver fought to avoid Lester’s car. In slow motion
the bulky vehicle jumped the sidewalk and raked the short brick wall
separating Stephen’s yard from the street. With a terrible screeching
of metal against stone, the truck came to rest, crashing against
Stephen’s mailbox post.
Their situation all but forgotten, both Lester and Stephen dashed
to the wrecked truck to see if they could help. Lester reached the
truck first and climbed into the cab. He pulled the man, slumped over
the wheel, into an upright position and tried desperately to remember
some of his first aid training. A tiny rivulet of blood trickled out
of the truck driver’s mouth. Lester shouted for Stephen to call 911,
and bring a flashlight and some blankets. In the pre-dawn darkness,
both men labored in tandem to keep the man alive. The paramedics told
them later their combined effort was the only thing that saved the
truck driver’s life.
As the wrecker pulled the truck from the mail post in the breaking
light of dawn, both Lester and Stephen regarded each other and smiled.
“Care go inside and put my fire to good use?” Stephen asked.
“I believe I would like that,” Lester answered.