When Angels Sing: A Christmas Story

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Algonquin Books, Jan 1, 1999 - Fiction - 111 pages
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This classic Christmas story of rekindled spirit is the inspiration behind the 2013 holiday film Angels Sing, starring  Harry Connick Jr., Willie Nelson, Kris Kristofferson, and Lyle Lovett.  

This is the tale of Michael, who was eight years old on the Christmas Day he lost his brother David. The day had started out well--Michael and David opened their presents, and much to their delight, they had both received ice skates from Santa. With great excitement they set out to the pond behind their grandparents' house in New Mexico to try them out. But the pond wasn't safe, and David didn't make it out of its icy cold depths. For Michael, the meaning of Christmas changed forever that day.

Thirty years later Michael is the neighborhood Grinch. "To me the only wonder of Christmas is not why that tragedy marked me so," Michael says, "but how the rest of my family can seem so completely unscathed." He scowls at his neighbors' fervent holiday traditions and at his own children, who want nothing more than to string Christmas lights through their front yard. But when another holiday disaster strikes and his own cherished young son loses his spirit to live, Michael searches deep within himself to root out the anger, the fear, and the pain of the past. Can he bear to remember exactly what happened that Christmas Day? And will he make peace with this past for the sake of his own children?


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Chapter 1
Chapter 2
Chapter 3
Chapter 4
Chapter 5
Chapter 6
Chapter 7
Chapter 8
Chapter 9
Chapter 10
Chapter 11
Chapter 12

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About the author (1999)

In my childhood, year after year I hoped that St. Nick would bring me a red Schwinn bicycle. And year after year, after practically flying down the Lodge's split-log steps on Christmas morning, I'd be delighted that Santa had found us again-so far from San Antonio-but would have to work to conceal my disappointment about not getting that bike. Instead I received other gifts, most of them long since forgotten, and rode David's old bike.

It was much later that I realized why Santa never fulfilled my wish. The problem was that I'd been unwilling to actually tell anyone what I wanted him to bring me. There were a lot of Santas in our extended family, and had I only spoken up or written a letter to the North Pole, no doubt my dream would have come true. But I didn't know there were many Santas, and I felt certain that anyone with flying reindeer and a checklist of every kid in the world could surely see that in my heart of hearts I really needed that bike.

But that final Christmas in New Mexico, I was beginning to worry that Santa had finally discovered my long-held wish. For David's tales of fly-fishing had suddenly swayed my desires away from the bike, so that all I could think of was whether Santa would bring me a split-cane fly rod for the upcoming summer in the mountains.

The much-awaited day dawned clear and cold. David and I rushed our dawdling sister and assorted cousins out of their beds, and we all bounded down to the towering Christmas tree covered in lights and crystal angels, with a large, bright star at the top. Under the tree I found neither bicycle nor fly rod, either of which would have been immediately evident. Instead I discovered two identical boxes, one to David and one to Michael, both signed, "from St. Nick."

Racing to see who could open his box first, the two of us soon withdrew matching pairs of ice skates, the black leather uppers glistening almost as brightly as the mirrorlike blades.

"Wow!" said David, a light in his eyes, "I bet we can skate all the way to the North Pole with these!"

After breakfast, the two of us bolted out the front door for the big pond where Da Walker had taught David to cast the old man's hand-tied flies. It was a long walk down the hill and the sun was reflecting brightly from the snow, prompting us to dodge a few puddles that had melted in the road.

"Sorry you didn't get the fly rod," David told me as we clomped and splashed along.

Stopping in my tracks, I stared at him in surprise.

"How did you know?"

"I'd have bought you one myself," he continued, shrugging off my question. "But they cost too much. Besides, your birthday's coming up and I bet you can count on Da."

David was worried that the ice on the pond might be melting like the snow on the road. When we arrived, he made me wait on the shore while he tested the ice. Holding onto the end of an old rope swing that hung from a nearby silver Aspen tree, David walked out onto the ice and stomped his

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