THIRTEEN‘s characters try to celebrate Christmas in an occupation zone.
Click to go to – Part 1 – The Crawlspace
There were nine of them sitting in the room that had housed the tree. They were Jack’s friends, those who came every week to meet, share information, and find ways to help those in the community to survive this occupation.
“Someone must have told the soldiers you had a tree.” Jenny was saying.
Jack wouldn’t have been surprised if it had been Jenny, except she hadn’t known the tree was up. Jenny followed the rules the soldiers laid out to the letter and was a thorn in the group’s side because she would lecture them if they planned on doing anything that bent the rules.
“My dad says your mom is … well some not nice things because she is dating that cop who works with the soldiers.” Ryan said. “I mean come on man, I can see his point. Not the words he used, but Nick is a traitor and he lives here with you. Kind of looks bad.”
Jack wished he could tell them the truth about Nick. To do so could mean death for Nick and labour camps for Jack and his mom, so he said nothing. He let them believe that Nick was a traitor. It left him with a bad taste in his mouth. Were all secrets so hard to keep?
“Not sure I want to give you your share then.” Jack said as he handed everyone a can of food. “Where does your dad think the cans of food comes from? Or do you eat it all before you get home?”
It wouldn’t surprise Jack if Ryan did, the kid used to eat everything in sight. He used to be built like a river rock wall, solid and round, now he had lost weight and though he was still solid he was less rounded.
“I don’t walk around with a can opener in my pocket. I know you spread the wealth but Dad says the end does not always justify the means and he doesn’t want the charity.”
Ryan handed Jack back the can of peaches with a sad look on his face.
“Take the can downstairs and ask mom for a can opener and eat the peaches before you leave. Your dad won’t know.” Ryan’s face beamed and he rushed out of the room hugging the can like you would a fragile treasure. “Merry Christmas.” Jack yelled after him.
“Hell I was ready to take his can.” Brock said.
“Well here’s yours.” Jack handed him a can of peaches.
“His dad is going to get them all killed with his mouth. The other day he was trying to get my parents to plan some kind of attack. Said they needed to fight back to save the kids from the tyranny of something or other.” Brock said. “My parents are all for fighting back but his dad is a hot head and they are worried he’ll draw too much attention from the soldiers.”
“Would you parents fight back?” Aiden asked.
“Yeah. If it was done right, I guess. I mean, they aren’t too happy with the soldiers being here. Dad says we need to be ready to help the US & Canadian armies when they come.”
Aiden looked at Jack and they nodded at each other.
“Christmas.” Jenny blurted. She was rocking back and forth, her eyes darting to the door and the window.
“What?” Brock said.
“Christmas. I mean. I don’t know. I just. Well. Can we talk about something else. Anything else.”
“Can the soldiers really cancel Christmas?” Aiden asked.
“I don’t know. They seem to think so.” Brock said.
“Well they make the rules now and if they say no Christmas.” Jenny shrugged with a look of total acceptance on her face. “It’s not like there’s anywhere to buy food or gifts and with no one allowed to travel how would families get together anyway?”
“Is that all Christmas is?” Paige’s voice was quiet and sweet. Every time he heard it, Jack felt warm and automatically smiled.
“Without the decorations, gifts, food, and people it’s just another day like every other day.” Jenny said.
“What about Jesus, the reason for the season and all that.” Brock said.
“All the churches are closed. No one is allowed to pray or worship or whatever they do, no matter the religion. Religion is banned.” Jenny pointed out in her I know more than you tone. The sound of that tone in her voice raked across Jack’s nerves, grating at them and leaving him tense, irritated, and ready to strangle her.
“Nick said something about a Black Market, that’s where he bought mom’s gift. He wouldn’t let me know where it was though. I want to get my mom something but I don’t know where to go and what they use as money.”
“I do.” Paige said.
Jack looked at her and it took a moment for him to realize his mouth was hanging open.
“You do? How?” Jack asked.
“Well. My step-father does. If you want to go he can take us.”
“They don’t exactly have currency. More like bartering. If you brought a couple cans of food you’d be able to trade for pretty much whatever you wanted.”
“Maybe we all could go and get something.” Brock said.
“No way.” Jenny’s voice piped up. No surprises there.
“Well come by my place tomorrow late afternoon. You can see what John has. If he doesn’t have anything you want we can go with him to the market.”
“You mean your step-dad sells stuff on the black market?”
“Uhm. Yeah. He kind of organizes it.” Paige was looking down at the floor and her white skin was flushed red.
“Hey those were some good peaches.” Came Ryan’s voice from behind Jack. “Hey what did I miss?”
Shannon Peel is the author of THIRTEEN and is currently working on Book 2 in the series about a boy, his mom, a cop, and an invading army. She has brought war to a North American town to answer the question, what if it happened here?