"Visions and Revisions: A Christmas Thanks"
The original short story -- "Visions and Revisions"
-- written by
Marie O'Hara in 1980, won the
Southwest Baptist University
1980 Scop Award for Creative Short Story Writing
and the Dunnegan Scholarship in Literature.
During the 1998 Christmas Holidays, Marie rewrote the story
as a Christmas story and asked that it be presented to her friends
as a Christmas gift in thanks for their financial assistance.
The revised story and the following message was
sent to a group
of her friends during the 1998 Christmas season.
We would like to thank all who have given help to
Marie O'Hara through this last several months.
With Marie's permission, we would like to present
a Christmas gift to the group -- a short Christmas
story written by Marie O'Hara and entitled "Visions
Please enjoy ....
"Visions and Revisions"
by Marie Ann O'Hara
I woke to the blinkless stare of digital clock in
whose barren eyes I read the time--5:32. With a
penetrating shudder, I turned over and tried to
visualize the activities of the coming day.
Moaning images blurred into my drowsy mind. Ghoulish
white pages moled with spider-black print swayed
senselessly amid a sea of serpentine sentences which
slithered into the sweltering fog of footnotes. The
stale chant of ranting rhetoric pounded, "Whan that
April with his showres soote...."
Subtly, the chill of coiled slime slid around my
naked mind, and tightening, dragged me into the
drowning, inky blackness.
Gasping, I snapped my eyes open. The morning, a harsh
yellow light, burned into my brain. My eyes winced,
spasming into the black darkness. Restlessly, I fumbled
among the blankets, burying my head in the pillow,
hoping to suffocate the apparition.
Slowly, though hazed and muffled, new images meandered
into my thoughts, a misty collision of sounds and senses:
the padding of slippered feet on waxed, wooden floors,
the downy softness of pink cotton quilts, the frenzied
warmth of a laughing puppy, soundless giggles, sizzling
bacon, rattling plates, a voice, a gentle voice, my name...
Screeches seared the silence as blazing music screamed
from the clock radio. I surmised it was time to get up.
An hour later I swung open the front door, leaving the
stifling, peopled warmth of the dormitory. I swallowed
a frigid breath of caustic winter greyness and it,
together with the dull, iron taste of shower water,
slid icily down my throat. Suddenly, the nauseating
thought of the school cafeteria's breakfast standard --
green eggs and slime -- froze my stomach.
The Cafe, just a few minutes walk in the opposite
direction, had a special on breakfast that week.
My legs, spurred by the promise of bacon and eggs,
knew their way instinctively.
Murmured mists of conversation, muted by the slow swirl
of smoke and steaming coffee, engulfed me as I shuffled
into the cafe. With a brisk shiver, I shook off the
stinging cold and immersed myself in the heavy odor
of hot breakfast mingled with honest sweat.
"Hey, scholar, you want coffee?" came a warm, familiar
"Sure," I acknowledged, greeting her welcome with a
"Perk up, kid," chirped the waitress, playfully brushing
my feet from their perch. "Think of all them great books
ya get to read today."
"Sure," I grunted, replacing my feet, but mustering a
bemused grin in spite of myself.
"Usual?" she asked, already in the process of scribbling
the order on her pad.
"Yea. Got any cherry jelly?" I queried cautiously. One
always queries cautiously when asking for cherry jelly.
"Oh, I don't know. It's pretty hard to come by, ya know."
She smiled as she swirled about and, seeing my obvious
dejection added, "But for a hard-working kid like you,
I'll see what I can do."
I scanned the cafe as I settled into my seat.
In the back, a father and his new baby boy entertained
a group of factory workers, a huddle of overalled farmers
pondered pig prices, and two young men smartly decked
in three-piece suits sat in a crosslegged discussion
A boisterous clamor erupted form the far corner as a
construction worker mimicked the antics of his much
despised foreman to the infinite delight of his fellows,
who roared in leg-slapping laughter. Across form me,
a pair of old women meticulously ordered their meager
meal. Scattered about the diner a collage of people
meditated over breakfast.
I caught snatches of conversation as the mist of words
swirled about my head:
"The fish is biting at the Lake; now if'n I can
convince the missus I got a business meeting at four
in the morning ...."
"Ted, better watch that road goin' home. Man, that
ice is slick as snot."
"Them pigs is feeding good, though. They's fat as
blowed up toad frogs."
"Doris, look here. I got some little silver bells
and some pretty red velvet wrapping paper on sale at
Wal-Mart ... the real good stuff, too."
A brisk breeze and a flutter of light stirred me from
my observations as an old man entered the diner. He
stood motionless, a grey shadow against the brilliance
of the morning as he surveyed the cafe.
Like the granite face of a mountain, his craggy features
displayed the engraved trails of the wind, rain, and wear.
Even so, sunlight still dawned in his grey eyes and
shimmered through his wind-grey hair. He was an Indian.
As the door groaned to a close behind him, he strode
down the aisle and stopped before me.
"Mind if I have a seat?" he asked quietly.
"No. Go ahead," I responded vacantly, quickly jerking
my feet from the chair.
With a slight gesture, he motioned for some coffee.
Efficiently, the waitress obliged with some of the
steaming brew. Scooting into the booth, he removed
his hat, and cupped the coffee in his rugged hands.
For several uneasy minutes he sat, content to sip his
coffee, and gently scrutinize me from across the table.
Instinctively, I averted the intensity of his searching
stare. Plunging my thoughts into the depths of my coffee,
I pretended to ponder some engrossing philosophical
truth in it grounds.
A sigh of relief surged through me as the waitress slid
my bacon and eggs (over hard with no lace) onto the table.
With more than my usual relish, I hurriedly bused myself
with the ritual of jellying my toast, salting my hash
browns, and diluting my fresh coffee with ice, sugar,
"Eat up," chided the waitress. "It's almost time for
classes to start."
"Uh-huh," I agreed, chewing as I spoke.
"Are you a student?" The man's voice rang unexpectedly
above the low murmur of the cafe, jarring me from the
intensity of my feast. His words sparkled with an unusual
fullness, a fresh richness charged with sunshine and
"Yes, sir. I am," I replied, pausing in the midst
of my eggs.
"What do you study?"
I hesitated for a moment. His serene features betrayed
no latent malice, no insidious intent to argue; he
simply wanted to know.
"English," I informed him timidly.
"What do you learn in this English?"
"Well," I stammered vaguely, "we learn about literature --
poetry and prose." His unyielding gaze demanded a more
specific response. "For instance," I recited loquaciously,
intensifying my diction with authoritative, scholastic
tone, "We study such literature as Beowulf, an ancient
Teutonic epic poem which details the--"
"Why?" he interrupted abruptly.
"Why?" I echoed. I had never considered that. Why?
"Because ... because it's great literature," I groped,
by that time amply irritated at the old man for disrupting
my peaceful meal by questioning such obvious truth.
"Because it's beautiful."
"Beautiful?" the old man mused as his eyes brimmed with
patient thought. "Do you know what that means?"
"Sure I do," I asserted firmly, preparing to launch into
a stilted discourse on the fundamental concepts of truth
He quelled my eagerness with a movement of his hand,
a gesture of his eyes. Softening his tone, he continued
in a vibrant, deliberate hush.
"Tell me, young one, is it more beautiful than a sunset?"
My response trailed into stunned bewilderment,
"I don't know. No. no. I don't guess it is."
The old man shook his head perceptively, and after a
calculated pause, proceeded, "Then is it more beautiful
than that?" he ventured, pointing across the cafe.
I followed the line of his finger to the back table
where the father played with his young son. The giggling
youngster flapped his arms gleefully in a vain attempt
to capture the small, stuffed toy which his father
butterflied about him.
The downy ball of furry pink movement darted with
hummingbird precision about the boy's head--rustling
his golden hair, nuzzling his ear, nipping his nose,
and then fluttering back to the safety of the father's
arm. The boy's high-pitched squeal of pleasure incited
a burst of affectionate laughter from his father, who
quickly shielded the tiny pink beast from the bright-
eyed wonder of his delightfully perplexed son. With
smiling warmth, the men gathered about the pair chuckled
in hearty contentment.
"No, I don't think it is," I faltered weakly. He remained
speechless for a moment, allowing the silence to speak.
"Tell me now, young one, is it more beautiful than that?"
Once again my eyes followed his finger, and lighted
on the two old women in the booth across form us. The
younger woman, about sixty, still maintained some of
the dexterity and vigor of youth. She talked incessantly
as she buttered her pancakes and sipped her coffee.
The older woman sat dumbly submerged in her own
silent world, enshrouded in a cancerous pain which
dimmed her hueless eyes and convulsed her once-fair
skin into furrowed wrinkles. Her faded print dress
draped over her tiny, withered frame which trembled
with each difficult movement.
Before her sat her meal, a cup of hot tea. Her failing
strength would not allow her to hold the cup's porcelain
bulk, so she ponderously attempted to lift a spoonful
of tea to her lips. As she did, her aged hand trembled
violently. Frustrated anguish welled in her colorless
Her friend paused and, reaching across the table,
gently took the old woman's hand. Patiently, she guided
the feeble hand to her friend's pale, quivering lips.
"No," I heard myself say. "No, it isn't.
His gaze dropped briefly to his cooling coffee.
He drained the last of the warm liquid, paused, and
lifting his eyes, stared into my soul.
In the greyness of those eyes I saw something I had
never seen before.
"Remember that," he whispered, "and someday you
will be a great writer."
As the silent, dawn snow feathered into a shimmer on
the busying pavements outside, I returned my gaze to
I don't remember seeing him leave, but when I looked
up, he was gone. The only remnant was a pile of change
and an empty cup of coffee.
Copyright Marie O'Hara, Christmas revision, 1998
****Happy Holidays and Merry Christmas****
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