Tears For Christmas

By Christian Martin

Copyright © 2009

The evening of the twenty-third of December, I was rushing to do my last Christmas shopping. The wind was icy, bitter, and snow hit my face making it redden from the sting. As I was passing a dark alley, I heard a whimper and wondered what could be out this late in the evening, as it was nearing closure for the day. I decided to investigate and entered the alley, mindful of getting mugged as this was a good night to do the deed and get away with my burdensome shopping and my money.

I stood still, letting my eyes adapt to the darkness as I looked inside the dirty, trash-filled passage, trying to locate the source of the noise. The stench of decomposing matter was overwhelming, the ground icy from a combination of urine and melted snow, boxes of all sizes strewn everywhere, as rats scurried underfoot, disturbed by my unwelcomed presence. Definitely, the sound came from one of the garbage bins, sounding like a little pup was stuck in it. Who would be so heartless to throw away a dog like garbage, I thought!

I walked slowly towards the sound, trying not to step on any rodent for fear of getting bitten. The smell was overwhelming, and I almost puked as I got near the container. The bin was too tall for me to see inside, so I resorted to piling up some boxes, hoping they would be strong enough to hold my weight. After ten minutes of hard, dirty, and smelly work, I managed to build myself a ladder of sorts made from a few wooden crates and a couple of boxes filled with what seemed to me rotten fruits, from the smell they gave out.

I slowly climbed on the unstable pile and tried to peek inside. Initially I could not see anything, as the cover was almost completely closed, barely leaving enough space for me to insert my hands. I tried to lift the lid but it was heavy, and frozen in place by condensation.

I climbed off the pile and began to search the alley for a tool to help me lift the cover. Finally, after looking behind a pile of boxes, I found a crate cover, which I could lift and bring to my ladder of fortune, if that construction could be called such. As I brought the crate cover over, I hit my foot on a cement block and fell face first in the crass. Luck was with me, I had made sure the crate nails were underside so I did not blind myself as I fell, and the nails acted as brakes on the ice. After a few chosen words muttered under my breath, I resumed my trek towards my destination, trying to remember where the cement block was, as it could be of use later, maybe.

I climbed back up and inserted the crate cover between the container's body and its cover, slowly at first as the nails were protruding and stopping any rapid progress. The whimpering, was now intense, and I wondered what animal could be so loud. I managed to insert about a third of the crate cover, and judging I needed the rest of the length to act as lever while the container's body would act as fulcrum, I began exercising pressure to the protruding crate cover, hoping it would not break from the pressure.

At first, the cover did not budge, but repeated pressure finally broke the ice lock in its joints, and the cover began to lift, at first, slowly, but, as I progressed in my efforts, ever more easily.

Suddenly, the resisting cover gave way, and opened, slamming against the back wall to fall back hard on the offending crate cover. The result was as expected, the crate cover pulled me upwards with a tremendous force, sending me flying backward in a pile of rotten meat boxes, to the openly displeased rodent population. As I stood back up I saw a multitude of little accusing eyes, who seemed to say “can't we enjoy our Christmas dinner in peace?” along with squeals and hisses that told me I was overstaying my welcome.

Ignoring the little beasts, I climbed back onto my pyramid, which had miraculously resisted my downfall, and lifted the cover. It would not stay up, and kept falling back, so I decided to get the previously offending cement block in an effort to keep the lid open, using the crate cover as a precarious stud. I climbed down the trash pile and progressed, by foot touch towards where I remembered the block to be located. It took me a few minutes to find it, more because it showed traces of my light-coloured pants than by any other sign.

This time, luck was with me: it seemed my fall had dislodged it out of the ice, and I managed to carry, or should I say pull it to the base of my precarious construction. I lifted the block to the top of the crate which constituted my first step, sweating like a pork on a roast, and climbed after it, having repositioned my crate cover over the left corner of the container.

I stood up, hoping all the effort was not for nothing, and lifted the cement block so it was sitting on the rotten fruit boxes, which sagged dangerously under its weight. Whoever said as you moved away from the Earth center things became lighter never lifted a cement block!

I lifted the garbage container's cover easily this time, and managed to sit on its side, one leg inside and another outside. The container had grown silent, as if death had descended on its treasure of life. Oh God, I thought, please make sure whatever is in there still lives!

I bent over and lifted the cinder block up and placed it in precarious equilibrium on the side of the container. It held, more by miracle than anything, I thought, and then slid back, slamming or jamming itself against the corner that joined the side and the front of the container. I now had a stopper for my crate cover.

I stood up, my back against the cover, and slowly lifted the crate cover lever come stud so it would be jammed between the container lock and the cinder block, at an angle of about sixty degrees. The container cover would be held in place while I investigated its contents.

At first, all I could see was a black mass of putrid contents, but as my eyes adjusted, I spotted movement at the furthest corner of my position. I moved slowly towards that area and, hoping I would not get bitten, sank my hands towards the movement. The moment I touched the moving object, the whimpering redoubled, becoming a full-blown wail of anguish. I kept my hands still, until the noise settled down, and then began to move slowly, gently, in an effort to get a good grip. I figured the animal was very nervous as it trembled under my touch, and did not move as I explored its body. I finally found its underside, or so I thought, and began pulling up, slowly as the garbage was exerting suction much like quicksand. I was surprised at its weight, and had to rest repeatedly as I slowly lifted it out of the contents.

Finally, I managed to lift it far enough to get an idea of the size of the ball of filth I was lifting; It seemed to be a rather big animal, but for the life of me I could not yet identify what kind, as it was too dark, and the animal was literally covered with detritus. I took the slippery body under the front paws and pulled slowly up. I placed it, belly first, on the side of the container and climbed down. I then pulled the body off the container's side and carried it under my arm like a bag of potatoes. The whimpering had completely stopped but the condensation told me it was still breathing, albeit shallowly.

I emerged to the street from the alley, and moved some of the objects my snow sled was carrying so I could place the body on it. It took me ten minutes to reach home and get everything inside, including the sled, the two or three things I needed to prepare for the Christmas meal, and the rescued animal.

To say I felt filthy would be construed as the understatement of the year, if not of the millennium but I decided to clean up both the animal and me in the shower, throwing my ruined winter coat, pants and whatever I had been wearing in a garbage bag to bring everything to the cleaners between Christmas and New Year.

I brought the still immobile animal to the bathroom after stripping completely, and began the shower. What emerged of the filth was a total surprise: it was a blond boy, aged two or three from his physique, thin as a rod, showing marks of physical abuse of all sorts, and totally naked. Someone had thrown a boy, alive, in the garbage bin!

I quickly finished washing him, and myself, before putting on a set of tracksuit, and carrying the boy to my bedroom. As he had not yet surfaced, seemingly exhausted, I called up a friend of mine in the police department at home, and asked him to come to my place as fast as he could. As soon as the phone went dead, I called in another favour from a paediatrician I had befriended during our medical studies, and asked him to come over since I had an emergency in his field. He wanted to know more but I told him he would know what I knew when he came over.

Half an hour later, my doorbell rang, and I opened to see both my friends at the door; they had arrived simultaneously, and I proceeded to the introductions. I then brought them to my bedroom, where the mystery boy was under a thick layer of bedcovers, in a foetal position, sucking his left thumb. Questions began immediately, but I delayed explanations to the living room as I did not want to wake up the boy and scare him. First came the police questions: who is he? No idea. What age? Two or three, from my best estimate. Where did you find him? In the alley between St-Laurent and Clark Street. You can find the container of which I fished him out by the fact that it's kept open by a crate cover and a cinder block, and there is a garbage pyramid to get on top. When? About an hour ago, and he was covered in garbage almost to the mouth, having sunk in it from his efforts to get out, I guess. Did he have anything on him to identify his parents? No, he was nude, I thought I was rescuing a big dog! The police officer took everything down and then called in some of his colleagues to protect the crime scene as he called it.

As we waited for the team to arrive, I asked the doctor to examine the boy while he slept so he would not be aware of anything. Jeffrey, the police officer, accompanied us to the bedroom and the doctor took out a recorder, set it up and began describing what he saw. He then took a needle and began giving the boy shot after shot: tetanus, wide-spectrum antiviral and antibiotic, and eye drops to disinfect the eyes, eardrops to disinfect the ears, a full body rub of antibiotic medication. He then called in the emergency paediatric hospital, Sainte-Justine, and ordered immediate emergency delivery to my place for every conceivable childhood vaccine. Jeffrey told me as he proceeded to the order that the condition of the boy was such it was likely he had not received any and that the exposure to the filth probably put his health in jeopardy. He then called in the dietetics department and ordered a full complement of fortifiers for children, to be delivered right away. His voice was so icy I was afraid the phone line would freeze!

As he finished with the phone, the police team came to my door, and I invited them in. The police photographer took pictures of the boy on all sides and faces, as I made a copy of the police and medical report for the investigators, under their careful surveillance.

As I was finishing with the recordings, one of the investigators began searching my house, to my very explicit displeasure, and I asked him where was his search warrant to which he tried to intimidate me. It did not sit well with me, and I told him to pick his fat ass and leave or I would personally throw him out on his bum. He tried to arrest me on charge of resisting arrest, which pushed the button for me: a well-applied judoka move sent him out on the street and a well-placed kick in his family jewels made sure he wouldn't be standing up for a good fifteen minutes. Andy, the doctor, and Jeffrey had both recorded the exchange, which probably saved me a big deal of grief later.

The next visitor that night was a lady from the Child Protection Agency. The lady was horrified at the pictures and wanted to take the boy right away. I told her in no uncertain terms that the boy was staying, and that it was way too cold to take a child nude outside. A quick call to her superior brought her back to reality. I was granted emergency guardianship by the much more accommodating lady, after she talked to Andy and Jeffrey.

Once everyone had left, I decided to call my lawyer, and a juvenile court judge I knew from days long past while we were studying the legal aspects of the medical profession. His course had been very enlightening, and I figured he would be best informed from me rather than a biased report from the CPS bitch. To make things short, it was convened that both would come early tomorrow morning to talk to me and to the boy, if he could. Both Jeffrey and Andy had promised to return with some clothes for the boy as he was to be brought to the hospital for blood tests and in-depth examination of his body. It was now well past my usual bedtime, so I crawled in bed, right next to the boy, who instinctively cuddled to me for the rest of the night.

The next morning, I woke up feeling wet: the boy had peed during his sleep, and the bed sheets were soaked. I gently untangled myself from the grabbing arms, and changed into dry clothes quickly, before slowly lifting the still sleeping boy and wrapping him in a towel. I removed the soiled sheets and wiped the mattress cover clean before remaking the bed with fresh linen. I put the soiled sheets in the washer and started the cycle, before running a quick bath. By then the boy was stirring and opened his deep blue eyes as I wiped the pee off his body.

At first he did not realize what was happening but as reality took hold, he began to whimper and shake nervously. I tried my best to reassure him and, after holding him for fifteen minutes against my chest, he settled down. I brought him to the bathroom, sat him in the warm water, and washed him gently. His eyes kept watching my every move, and I noticed he was very anxious and trembled a lot as I cleansed his groin and asshole. This behaviour worried me and I resolved to mention it to everyone this morning.

I dried him quickly, and having no clothes his size, I decided to let him wear one of my thick warm winter t-shirts, which hang almost to his knees on his diminutive frame. Breakfast was a discovery for both of us: it seemed he had never eaten anything other than cereals: toasts and jelly were a discovery for him and a mess for me! I think he was so enamoured with the strawberry jam he painted himself with it. The face, fingers, hands, and forearms were reddish from the mixture. Luckily I had tied in a flap to protect my t-shirt or it would have been ruined.

The breakfast had barely been finished and the boy cleansed of his jelly body painting that the doorbell rang, making him jump sky-high. I took him in my arm and he gripped me so hard I thought I would suffocate. We went to the front door where I let in Jeffrey and Andy, both carrying boxes of clothes and toys. As we tried each and every piece of cloth on him, Andy tried to make him talk, but nothing came out, other than more whimpers. As we settled on a set of clothes that seemed to fit, the doorbell rang again, and Jeffrey went to get the newcomers. I recognized my lawyer's big voice, which seemed to scare the boy to no end. I asked silently to Andy to go talk to Robert, so he would moderate his voice some. Barely had Andy left to bring some decorum into the hallway that the bell rang again, and Philip, the judge, was let in. I figured the lawyer and the judge knew each other because I could hear muffled greetings by name.

The two jurists joined us in the kitchen where Andy prepared coffee as the yet unnamed boy was gripping me with vice-like force. We quickly updated the jurists of the situation, making them listen to my copy of the police report and the medical report. Jeffrey had taken the liberty to ask for multiple copies of the pictures taken the night before and asked me and my lawyer to keep separate sets, as he would too. The judge signed each set of pictures behind, to make sure I would not be accused of harbouring juvenile pornography.

We discussed the options, and tried again to make the boy talk. Suddenly, Andy became white as a sheet and gently moved towards the boy, mimicking a person opening his mouth. The boy did as asked, and we found out why he could not talk: the poor child had his tongue cut out! How bestial can humans be with children!

The issue was now very clearly a case of extremely severe child abuse. What else would we find? Andy called in the children's hospital and asked for a child rape kit be prepared as well as a surgery room. No way was the poor boy undergoing the exam without a full anaesthesia. Fortunately, the anaesthetist was available, as a car accident implying a child had been brought in that same morning. We quickly boarded the police cruiser and sped to the hospital. Meanwhile my lawyer and the judge made the placement permanent by preparing the papers jointly. The police division of crimes against individuals were also notified by radio and were waiting for us at the hospital when we arrived. Shortly after our arrival, a bailiff delivered to me the permanent guardianship sighed by the judge, thus letting me sign for the procedures at the hospital.

The boy got scared of the needle, but I gently told him to relax as Andy applied novocaine on a circumscribed area where the needle would go. Fifteen minutes later, the skin was insensitive and Andy inserted a cannula in a vein and the anaesthetist began putting the boy under. Less then an hour later, the process was completed, and blood draws were done to test for any sicknesses.

As I patiently waited for the boy to emerge from his induced sleep in the wakeup room, Andy and the virologists did their preliminary work. Just as the mystery boy was stirring, Andy came into the room and told me they had found traces of anal rape and genital abuse on the boy. He had been used as a sex toy. A bit later the virologist came in and told me the boy had syphilis and gonorrhoea, and probably other sexually transmitted diseases, but that the others would need a bit more time to identify. We proceeded right away with a massive injection of antibiotics while the boy was still pretty groggy, and Andy got me some medications to take home with me. He told me and Jeffrey to go home as soon as the boy was able to stand, and that he would press for emergency reports on the other issues which the blood tests could bring out.

As we drove back to my flat, Jeffrey wondered aloud what name the boy had, since it was unlikely he knew how to write, much less know his full name. I told him it was his job, but that I would try to find at least the given name, using body language. If I was lucky I would get that relatively quickly, and, using the telephone book as a source for names, I could probably find out his family name if he knew it. I invited Jeffrey and his family for the next day, explaining I was expecting at least my brother and mother for the midnight mass and lunch. He accepted, as his wife had died the year prior of lung cancer, and he was at a loss as to what to do with his two teen boys. As soon as he left, I called my lawyer and the judge to come with me and the mystery boy to the Christmas midnight mass, and share with us the following lunch. Both accepted as neither had children. Andy called me as his shift came to an end, and I also invited him over. He promised to be there with his wife and two daughters. I was not afraid of running out of food, as I usually made enough to feed a regiment and keep me in stock for a month.

I kept myself busy that evening and on the twenty-fifth preparing everything for the upcoming night feast, as mystery boy slept and played with the toys Jeffrey and Andy had brought. He seemed subdued, and tried to hide and keep out of the way, which both pleased but also worried me. What had the boy been through to act that way?

I figured I should call mom and my brother to inform them of the addition, as I was working on the turkey and finishing the ham's clover décor before cooking it in the oven. Mom was pissed I had not called her before because there was no way she could buy the boy a toy for Christmas, since the stores were now closed until the twenty-sixth. I told her not to worry, just to bring one of her famous cheese cake and the boy would be happy. She asked me why I kept referring to him as 'the mystery boy' and I told her to wait and see. It was no use to put her through grief during the night for something she could not change. A call to my brother went short, as always. He never asks questions, and accepts things in stride. I figured he would be there with his current flame of the week, which seemed to change every Sunday.

The first to arrive for the evening party were the judge and his family, who brought the presents for their children to put under the tree; soon came my brother and his current new interest. He brought presents too, and the tree base was slowly filling up. Then came the lawyer, accompanied by a hunk of a man he called his boyfriend, to my total surprise. No incident was expected as I had always made a point to be open to diversity. Next came mom, who took over the kitchen even before removing her winter coat. Jeffrey and his wife came next, accompanied by their teen boys, and a pile of toys for 'mystery boy' The two boys were hugging him and I could see quite a few tears being shed by the boys as they realized what had happened to their new protégé. Andy arrived and joined the crowd.

Andy signalled discreetly to me that he wanted to talk privately. His face told me the news was not good and I followed him into my bedroom with a sense of dread. He hugged me and told me the preliminary results showed that 'mystery boy' was HIV, and his immune system severely compromised. He told me he feared the beginning of treatment would trigger a severe immune response much alike an allergic shock, and that he and the virologist were discussing options, but that prayers were in order.

I decided to tell everyone the bad news, and that it would be an occasion for all of us to pray and ask for divine intervention. We agreed to go to Saint-Joseph Oratory in a convoy, and we all left to be on time for the Midnight mass, which was usually packed solid. I had not picked this place out of random. The Oratory is well-known for the miracles that happen there; if ever a miracle was needed it was for that boy.

We proceeded to the front pew, and sat down as the huge cathedral slowly filled up. The prayer requests were collected and the service began, I prayed the Lord for a miracle for the little boy I had rescued. Finally the communal prayer requests were announced. Ours came last, as it seemed everyone in our group had asked the same. The Archbishop read the request with tears in his eyes and began a call for prayers. As he sang the prayer to our Father, everyone sang with him; the church resonated with the strong voices of the public, the organ played to the full capacity of its 32 foot long bombarde, the bourdon bell rang at full power, and the chorale must have thrown out their amygdales as they seemed to put out all their worth. The power was such the whole building seemed to vibrate to the music.

We departed after the service and returned to my home to eat and celebrate the birth of Christ, our mood lifted by the Mass. As we were eating our dessert, 'mystery boy' came to me and hugged me, tears in his eyes. As we both wept openly in front of everyone I heard him ask, oh miracle of all miracles,

“Are you my new daddy?”