The Gifts of the Magi (verse and epilogue).

Dec 24, 2016

The Gifts of the Magi or Gift of the Magi by O. Henry is one of my favourite stories. I had an idea to turn it into a superhero origin story but then got distracted by re-writing the original in verse. So I did both. The verse is made to the feel of the type of light jazz Christmas songs I like. Cover image icons from the Noun Project by M Ryan, Parkjisun and Alice Noir. Merry Christmas everybody. Oh, and read the original story, it’s lovely.

The Gifts of the Magi

Ori­gin­ally writ­ten by O. Henry, Decem­ber 1905. Verse and epi­logue by Filip Hnízdo, Decem­ber 2016.

There’s a little house on a big­ger street, Where two deep in love barely make ends meet, But they smile at each-other and their joy’s com­plete, For their hearts can beat with little food to eat

When there’s LOVE on the table, The house would hardly sell if it were sold as a stable. But there’s love on the table by the broken plates.

Her name is Della, Jim’s her love-struck fella, They do (pretty much) everything they can to­gether. Ex­cept work work work til the sun is down, They come home to each other and their frowns flip around

Then they dance all over their single room, To the neigh­bour’s mu­sic lit by only the moon. Round-eyed, smiled-wide, glow in­side, Re­flec­ted in a broken win­dow they’re dan­cing be­side.

What does he like about her? Her hair. What does she like about him? EVERYTHING. Every kind­ness that a man could bring. Now he thinks he might have missed out a couple of things.

She’s sweet… And thought­ful and funny! No he would­n’t, trade For an­other or money.

She thinks he only likes her hair, but when she’s stood up with her hands out and just talk­ing there, He’s home and he’s never go­ing to give that up. Don’t you dare.

Jim dresses in brown but has a watch shined in gold, It was his father’s own father’s it’s of­ten been told. It lights up the world, de­tailed, time­ful and bold, At least com­pared to its home, the poor and over-worked’s hold.

Del­la’s Hair’s so flow­ing and thick, The bristles fell from her brush now she’s us­ing a stick. While Jim looks to the ground as he’s feel­ing quite sick, Dropped The Watch on the floor again, phew, still got a tick… If only he had a chain, It gleams like his wild­est dreams… he’s dropped it again.

Both know the gifts, They’d buy for their lover… But they’ll soon dis­cover the greatest gifts are each other.

It’s Christ­mas and the shop­pers shove and shout. But ac­cessor­ies cost money and the money’s run­ning out.

Del­la’s at the watch­makers, this chain is plat­inum heaven, But it’s 21 dol­lars, she’s got 1.87. Her hair droops on the counter in a down­hearted frizz, But she locks her eyes in and whis­pers “you will be his”.

Still she barely makes it out be­fore her eyes be­come pools, As she spies a wig maker by her old primary school.

No don’t even think that. But it’ll grow back. He’ll hate me undate me. But it’ll grow back. He loves me much more, yes, it’ll grow back. What if it doesn’t grow back? What if it doesn’t grow back?

I’ll scream at my image. But it’ll grow back. It’s my dearest possession. But it’ll grow back. There’s no point in obsession, it’ll quickly grow back. It always grows back, what if it doesn’t grow back?

She blinks and they’re already cut­ting away, Locks all un­lock­ing she’s start­ing to pray. Against the snip­ping, sli­cing blades scream­ing in shim­mer­ing grey. 20 dol­lars for her sac­ri­fice is all they would pay.

Now she’s clutch­ing it tight in her purse, She sees her re­flec­tion, I guess it could be worse. She trades it in and now she’s only got .87, and that Pocket Watch Chain made up from plat­inum heaven.

She’s tidy­ing what’s left of her hair, As Jim opens the door and he freezes right there…

“It al­ways grows quickly, so it’ll grow back, I hope you don’t hate it, still it’ll grow back. I did it for you look! And it’ll grow back. Try The Chain out I’ll wear a scarf un­til it grows back.”

“Why are you laugh­ing dear?” She’s flits dizzy between per­plex­ment and fear, Her heart sinks as his an­swer hits her un­covered ear, “I sold The Watch to get you this, take a look over here”

She’s scared to go near it, But also quite close to snap­ping. So she tears softly away at the brown pa­per pack­ing, She lifts off the pa­per and can­not take what is hap­pen­ing. The thing of her dreams use­less un­der the wrap­ping.

“THE COMBS!”, the box, she saw in the win­dow with Jim, He no­ticed! She knows, She only wants him.

He looks at The Chain, the one he wanted for years, Matched against the hand clutch­ing it the want dis­ap­pears.

She looks at him, He looks at her, Real­ise they were fine with things just as they were. Their love costs noth­ing and it’s here to stay, So they put aside the other gifts for an­other Christ­mas Day.

An Epilogue for The Gifts of the Magi

It’s one of those ward­robes you never went into. Old things you’d al­ways mean to clear out but never got around to. Not even your old things, other people’s old things. It was an old house. There were new things in it but an old house can never com­pletely be made new. There are al­ways old things in it wait­ing in the walls and the ward­robes. The kinds of ward­robes you never went into.

But one day you’re look­ing for that wrap­ping pa­per you did­n’t tidy away prop­erly the pre­vi­ous year. You look in places you know it could­n’t be but try any­way. It’s got to be some­where so you might as well look every­where un­til you find it. Like that ward­robe you never went into.

But then you hear a sound and the search for wrap­ping pa­per is ex­changed for curi­os­ity. It’s quiet but clear enough and sound­ing at a pulse so reg­u­lar you can get your bear­ings and fig­ure out where it’s com­ing from. It’s sharp, pre­cise and get­ting nearer as you look. It’s tick­ing.

You find a stool to stand on and reach to the very back of the dusty top of that ward­robe you never went into. You can hardly touch it but you find a handle and pull the shoe­box-sized case over the shelf edge. The tick­ing is loud now as you gently take it down.

You put the case on the dress­ing table where the light is bet­ter and open it. In­side you find the source of the tick­ing. A beau­ti­ful golden pocket watch that for some reason makes you feel dizzy when you look at it. It sits in the middle of a soft, spiralling fab­ric that it takes you a mo­ment to re­cog­nise. The two ob­jects, so dif­fer­ent in form and func­tion seem per­fect to­gether. A beau­ti­ful golden pocket watch without a chain and a wig of the richest hair you’ve ever seen.

You reach into it and your body falls un­der the grip of the box. Your mind flashes back to memor­ies that don’t be­long, down dusty streets in a city older than the one you’re in. A couple in a win­dow, em­bra­cing and ex­chan­ging gifts in over-made the­at­rical ges­tures while laugh­ing and glan­cing long­ingly at each-other. A box of brushes for her, com­ic­ally mis­matched with her short hair and for him a chain with noth­ing on it. They hold out the gifts be­hind the win­dow, smile and then everything changes.

She brushes the air with her seem­ingly point­less gift and the very nature of the room swells and sways be­neath the bristles. His chain starts mov­ing in a pen­du­lum mo­tion and he dis­ap­pears.

The flash­backs be­come more short and sud­den. Or are they flash-for­wards? Your mind wishes you were back on the wrap­ping pa­per but you’re tangled in this and can’t let go.

Only three things are con­stant in the im­ages. Her, him and that same long­ing look for each-other, never wan­ing though the times and places change. Brush­ing through space and spin­ning through time, both trav­el­ling on through other people’s prob­lems. You can let go at last so you catch your breath and look be­hind you to catch two sil­hou­ettes cast onto the wall by the single light of the dress­ing table.

They’re with you. She’s clutch­ing a comb that bends her fin­gers around it. He’s spin­ning a chain that moves both for­ward and back. They look at each-other, then at you and fi­nally at the opened case on the dress­ing table.

She giggles as he puts his arm around her and they both hold out their hands to­wards you.

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