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Brian Ferguson
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Sunday was family day in the McKinley household. Or, I should say, households, because the three sons had long ago started families of their own. For as long as anyone could remember, one or more of the McKinley homes was host to at least one other on a Sunday. As often as not, they all gathered at the site where the second newest generation had been fostered. As was the case on this Sunday, the last one before Christmas.

Evan McKinley had been gone for many years now, but Ruth still maintained the Cape Cod style home that had seen the three McKinley boys grow up. She loved the days when all her sons and their families showed up for dinner. It was a lot of work now that she was nearing her 75th, but a family get together was what she lived for.

Jason McKinley was the last of the boys to show up that day, with wife Janice and son Bradley. At 44, Jason was the youngest son. He had been just 10 when Evan McKinley had passed away in 1971, and his memories of his father were hazy at best. To him, it just seemed that Ruth had spawned the family all by herself. She had never remarried, and Jason could remember only his mother being present at important points in his life. His father was just a man in many of the old family photographs - a man he could vaguely recall, but could never really say he knew.

During dinner that night, Ruth asked her grandson what he wanted for Christmas. "Not much, Grandma - just more slot cars or model kits, and maybe some good tools so I can build some proper slot cars myself". Then Bradley asked his father about the toys that he had played with in the house as a child. Jason explained to his 12-year-old son that his prize possession had probably been his Lionel train set. Bradley, of course, asked where the train set was now.

Jason paused for a moment, then asked, "Mom... any idea whatever happened to that old train set?"

Ruth shrugged and said, "I have no idea, Jason!"

"He probably sold it for pot money in high school", joked his older brother, Kevin.

"No", interjected his other brother, James, "I seem to recall he traded it to that football player, Mark whats-his-name, for an intro to that shapely, blonde cheerleader in grade 10. Remember her?"

"Ohhhh, yeahhh!", groaned Kevin.

"That's enough of that!" said Ruth. Meanwhile, Janice was looking sideways at her husband wondering if there was anything here she should know about.

Ruth was passing a bowl of potatoes across the table when she suddenly stopped. Hesitantly, she said "You know... it just could be that your old train set is up in the attic. I haven't been able to get up there for years now, but I know some of your father's old stuff is there and there might be some things from when you kids were young too."

"Hope the cheerleader isn't still up there!", quipped James.

Janice again scowled at her husband. "After dinner, I'll check out the attic", Jason said, and then, looking at his wife and laughing, he added "and if she's still there, I'll bring her down and introduce her to you!"

By the time dinner was finished, everyone had forgotten about the quest for the missing train set. Everyone, of course, except Bradley. "Dad, are you going to look in the attic now?"

"Oh yes, almost forgot, didn't I?", replied Jason, taking the final sip of chardonnay from his glass.

Beginning to clear the dining room table, Ruth advised, "You'll need a flashlight. The light up there is a few feet to one side. Don't ask me which side. It's a pull chain thing. And it'll be cold, put your coat on. Oh, and watch out for the ladder - when you open the attic hatch it'll fall on your head, and it's none too sturdy either!"

"His head's very sturdy, Mom! Like granite!", laughed Kevin.

Jason headed upstairs, giving his brother a light smack on the head as he passed. The hatch was in the hallway near one of the bedrooms. He grabbed the step stool and flashlight from the linen closet, the same place that the same items had always been since before he was Bradley's age. After positioning the stool, he handed the flashlight to Bradley who had, of course, followed him upstairs. "Hold this please, son, while I get this contraption down." He struggled with the latch for a minute, then it turned and he could feel the weight of the folding ladder above. Carefully, he lowered the hatch door with one hand and reached above with the other to steady the flimsy folding ladder. Stepping backwards off the stool, he lowered the ladder down to the floor. "How the hell did Mom ever get this down?", he thought to himself.

He reached for the flashlight from Bradley. "Can I come up, Dad?", asked Bradley, eager to explore new territory. "No Bradley, not now. Maybe later. I don't know what's up here - I have to check it out first."

Jason climbed the rickety ladder, careful to check each rung as he went, half expecting the entire thing to crumble under his weight. But it didn't and he soon hauled himself up and sat on one edge of the hatch opening, feet dangling into the hallway below. It was freezing cold but he told himself he'd only be up here for a few minutes. He switched on the flashlight and slowly shone it around, looking for the light. It was behind him and he swung his legs up into the attic, and crawled on his knees to where the light pull was. To his surprise, the bulb was good and it lit up. He couldn't stand here, the roof was too low, and so he surveyed the unfamiliar space from his knees.

The light was too dim to reach everywhere clearly, but there was stuff scattered here and there in small piles. A thick, heavy layer of dust covered everything, and cobwebs gave the dark attic a rather eerie appearance. The floor was merely random pieces of plywood loose-layed over the ceiling joists of the floor below so he had to be careful where he placed his weight. It was never intended as usable space, and he imagined his father had placed left-over scraps of plywood up here to make a small storage area. One wrong step on the unsupported end of a board and he'd find himself taking the quick way back down.

"Can I come up, Dad?" cried a muted voice from below. "No, son, it's too risky", replied Jason in a loud voice.

He decided that a pile-by-pile search was the only way, and he picked the pile of boxes that were furthest from the hatch to start at, figuring they might contain the older stuff from his early childhood. One by one, he flipped open the boxes and looked at the contents. His father's war-time uniforms, some clothes from a distant time - probably the fifties, a box of 78 rpm records (big bands and the like), books galore with titles like "Fabrication of Metal, for Fun and Profit" or "Soldering - A Guide for the Do-it-yourselfer". Each box was an eerie glimpse into a past era that he couldn't quite reach far enough back to remember.

The first pile of boxes had revealed nothing that he was searching for, though he felt strangely connected and intrigued by the discoveries he had made. He was shivering from the cold but wanted to press on.

As he searched around with the flashlight to determine where next to look, the beam fell upon something hidden from the hatch area by several boxes and only visible from where he now squatted. It was a very large wooden case, painted blue, with brass hardware and brass corner guards, with a clever fogged paint scheme that echoed the edges of each piece of brass trim.

Memories raced through his mind like Formula One cars through the tunnel at Monaco. He was transported back to the sixties - watching, as a very young boy, his father leave the house with that very box in his hand, disappearing into the night as he did every Monday. He remembered watching as his dad would put the box and a suitcase into the car for a very infrequent weekend trip to some distant place. And he remembered a parting hug, pat on the back, and the words "... I won't be gone long!"

And all at once it hit him. The slot cars!

He inched his way carefully to where the box sat. The two latches were secured and the hasp that could have been secured with a padlock was closed but no lock was in place. He shone the light on a multitude of small metal panels stuck to the top of the case. He brushed away a heavy layer of dust with his hand. They were obviously brass, and engraved with various inscriptions. He realized they were a testament to his father's success as a slot car racer. "1st - 3 Hour Enduro, 1967", "Champion - A Class - 1968", "1st - Concourse - 1968 Can-Am Series", "1/32 Sportscar Champion, 1967" .... and the list went on. The case lid was absolutely covered with such plaques.

He wasn't sure why, but he was trembling as he reached to unlatch the lid of his father's box. Click. One latch was opened. Click. The second latch fell open. He reached to lift the arm of the hasp that represented the last obstacle to opening the box.

Suddenly, the attic filled with light. It came from nowhere yet everywhere. Jason cringed and shielded his eyes, blinded by the sudden brightness. As his hand fell away from the latch, the bright light receeded.

"What the hell?" he cried out.

He again reached for the hasp, and again the attic filled with light. He shielded his eyes with his one free hand but kept the other firmly on the latch of the hasp.

Images began to dance before him, like holograms. They were here and there, changing rapidly. He was unable to interpret all of them - they were gone in a flash and replaced by another. They appeared all around him and his eyes darted back and forth trying to keep up with the surreal slideshow. His father was in most of the images and Jason fought to decipher what he saw in each brief flash. It was like momentarily seeing each single picture in some giant collage, without the benefit of seeing the final, assembled product.

But while Jason struggled to focus on each of the images, his mind was assembling them into an order that began to take form and make sense. Piece by piece, his subconscious was compiling the sensory input into a completed jigsaw puzzle. He saw his father sitting at a workbench, scale drawings of cars strewn about, photos pinned on the wall, bits of brass and wire laying here and there, smoke emanating from a hot soldering iron tip. He saw a nervous hand grow calm as the finishing brush strokes of paint were applied to a model body that had been a labour of love. He saw the look of pride when a car had proven itself on the track. He saw, in his father's eyes, the look he had seen so often in his own son's - the intense pleasure and satisfaction when a completed model exceeded his own hopes. He saw, for the first time, the passion for modelling that had eluded him but had been so great a part of his father's life and, in recent years, had become so prominent in his own son's existence. He saw Bradley's eyes after recently finishing a complete rebuild and repaint of a cheap slot car that Jason had previously thought was ready for the trash bin. And he realized that Bradley's eyes were exactly the same as his father's.

Suddenly, the wild light show stopped. The bright glow in the attic faded as fast as it had come. Jason sat for several minutes, deeply shaken and stunned by what he had experienced.

Despite the freezing temperature, Jason no longer shivered. He felt a strange warmth, and sensed that something very important had just been passed on to him. Something that wasn't his, but had been entrusted to him. Something that he had to ensure was dutifully delivered to the right person.

Jason left the case closed. He snapped the brass latches shut. Carefully, he lifted the heavy box from where it had sat for so many years and carried it toward the attic hatch. First, he switched off the light, then passed the flashlight down to Bradley, who was still waiting in the hallway below.

Without a word, Jason began to descend the ladder, carefully holding the handle of the heavy wooden case in one hand and gripping the ladder frame with the other. Bradley could sense that something was preoccupying his father's thoughts, and it wasn't until Jason had sat the case down and folded away the attic ladder, that he just said, "Dad?"

Jason looked his son in the eyes, the very same eyes he had seen in the attic, and as a tear ran down his cheek said, "I didn't find the train, but your grandfather has sent you the Christmas present he would most want you to have."

Bradley was puzzled and confused. "What is it, Dad?"

Jason pulled himself together, picked up the case, and put his other arm around his son's shoulders. As they headed for the stairs back down, he answered, "We'll all find out on Christmas morning!"
 
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Now I must confess that this story really appeals to me on many different levels.

It's beautifully written, and I think the story line is really inspired.

So Fergy your are a multi talented man, as well as a Hero in Wales.

Best wishes,

Jeff.
 

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Alan Tadd
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Fergy......What can I say?


Wonderful story, and very well written.

Regards

Alan

Now if you would just forget all about this stuff and build me a power supply and lapcounting system we will all be happy.
 

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Excellent, Fergy! I hardly dare ask if there is a part II....
Or do we have to wait 'till Christmas morning? My family won't be too pleased if I have to log on on the big day!
 

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Brian Ferguson
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3,652 Posts
Discussion Starter · #11 ·
Thanks for the kind words guys!


To be honest, no second part was intended. But perhaps I'll think about it, since I have until Christmas...
Sorry, Howmet, I can't possibly have Christmas happening before Christmas, now can I?


QUOTE Is any of it factual?

No, except for the basic description of the house and family, and perhaps some elements of the dinner table chit-chat.
 
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Well Fergy, it is most interesting the way fiction mirrors reality as I have just bought for my wife a Victorian Child's treasure box put up in attic nearly ninety years ago containing all her treasures including her purse with Victorian money, a French dolls dress, leather shoes, a dolls hair brush.
I even have her scrap book from her father. I am planning to use this as the basis for a book.

Jeff.
 

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Brian Ferguson
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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
And women say we aren't romantics!
Nice one, Jeff!

.... and yes, I think part two is in the works....
 

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Brian Ferguson
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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
Part II - Christmas Eve
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It was Christmas Eve, and Jason McKinley uttered a mild curse as he struggled to get the car through six inches of fresh snow and up the slight grade into the driveway. It had been snowing since noon. As was his custom, despite yearly vows to get it done sooner, Jason had just returned from doing the last of his Christmas shopping. He glanced at the time display on the car radio as he switched off the ignition. It was 5:10 PM. "Better than 6:30, like last year", he laughed to himself as he reached into the trunk of the car and scooped up several bags. As he closed the trunk lid, he realized the scene around him was really quite breathtaking. The snow covered everything in a beautiful white blanket. The boughs of the evergreen trees on the front lawn sagged slightly under the weight of the snow and the lights that had been hung upon them shone magically, like hundreds of tiny multi-coloured candles set into reliefs in the snow.

His boots made a soft crunching sound as he made his way up the walk to the house door. As Jason opened the outer glass door, the wooden inner door opened as if by magic. "Hi, Bradley!", said Jason, as he stepped inside. "Now go to the other room while I put these things down, please".

Bradley stepped out from behind the door. "Anything for me?", he grinned impishly.

"Definitely not, if you hover about!", his father said with a faked stern look, and Bradley quickly retreated to the living room.

Jason quickly shed his boots and coat, and carted the bags upstairs, where he placed them in the bedroom closet for safekeeping until later. Tucked away in the back corner of the walk-in closet lay the large blue slot car case that had been a constant topic of discussion since its discovery several days earlier. Jason smiled as he saw that the, as yet unopened, box now sported a considerable amount of red ribbon tied around it, with large bows on either side of the handle. "Not bad for a lady that doesn't care about slot cars", Jason thought to himself.

Back downstairs, he greeted his wife in the kitchen with a quick kiss. Janice had just put the finishing touches on a simple dinner, since tomorrow was a traditional feast day and they wanted to get Bradley off to bed early so they could finish wrapping gifts and get prepared for a morning that seemed to come sooner with each passing year.

By nine o'clock, they had dined, cleaned up, and given Bradley the chance to add the last touches to the Christmas tree that had been in place for several days. He was so picky about the look of the tree that he could spend minutes placing a single ornament. "Okay, Mr. Perfectionist, that's the last one!", said Janice. "Off to bed now." Reluctantly, Bradley kissed his parents goodnight, and headed upstairs to get ready for bed. Within minutes of his head touching the pillow, he was fast asleep.

They gave him thirty minutes, then Jason brought down the gifts they still had to wrap for him. Using the dining room table as a wrapping area, Janice and Jason soon had Bradley's gifts finished, although Jason agonized over two Fly Ferraris (a 512S and a Daytona) and a Scalextric Williams F1, until Janice handed him three small boxes that held the cars perfectly. "I knew I kept you around for a reason!", he said. She glared back at him in jest. Then he added, "By the way, nice job on the slot case ribbons. It looks great!"

"What are you talking about?"
"Dad's slot case upstairs. The red ribbon and bows look fantastic."
"I never touched it!"

Janice was steps ahead of Jason as they headed for the stairs. A quick check by Janice ensured Bradley was sound asleep in his room, then they met in their bedroom walk-in closet. Jason pointed to the case.

"I didn't do that! In fact, it was covered with an old dress so Bradley wouldn't see it!", said Janice.

"Well, if you didn't, and I didn't....", Jason's voice trailed off.

"And Bradley didn't either", said his wife. "He still can't tie a proper bow in his shoelaces - he could never have tied those, they're absolutely perfect! And look... I put a tiny piece of clear tape over the side of the lid seam - it's still there, he hasn't been into it, as I know he would have been if he found it."

They looked at each other for what seemed like hours. "You scared me with your story of the attic", said Janice finally, "but this is getting very eerie!"

Jason took the case and the pair headed back downstairs. He placed it near the Christmas tree and then went to the kitchen to pour his wife a glass of white wine and get a beer for himself. "Here, I think you probably need this!". She took the goblet from him, drew an uncharacteristically large sip, and said, "And maybe a few more!"

They said little as they finished up the gift wrapping. Their thoughts were firmly affixed to the blue case. They placed the last of the presents under the tree and Jason put the slot case in a prominent spot just to one side, since it was far too tall to go underneath.

Janice went to make sure that everything was ready for their traditional early morning muffin pre-breakfast, and Jason brought in a supply of firewood to stock the basket by the fireplace.

Satisfied that everything was ready, the two sat down at last, as they always did, arms around each other on the couch to watch the fading embers of the Christmas Eve fire and enjoy a few quiet moments of closeness. Neither spoke about it, but both felt a strange third presence, like someone watching from a distance. Someone who wanted tomorrow to arrive.
 

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This is a great idea, Fergy. Forget Christmas shopping- I'm just going to hop up into the attic and drag a couple of old boxes down for the kids. A lot easier on the old credit card too. Brilliant.
Now we just stuff them in the wardrobe and wait while ol' Sanity Claus is going to do the wrapping for us as well- is that it?

One more thing- you won't forget your old pal Howmet when George Lucas buys the movie rights on your story for $10,000,000 will you?
 

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By the way..'Toys in the Attic'? I think I still have that album tucked away somewhere......Should be under 'A' for...

Excellent!
 

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Come on dont stop typing now..............I dont have my PC at home set up so wont be able to check anything you add over christmas, its not fair I tell you, write some more fergy!!!!

PLEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEASE
 

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Brian Ferguson
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@ Howmet. Yes, how could I forget Aerosmith. Ooops... possible copyright infringement.... there goes the $10,000,000....


I promise..... since I'll be too busy next week, that the story will be finished by Friday morning.... part three tomorrow, and yes I'll force you to read a fourth part too! I'm an evil SOB!
But you can blame Rail Racer in part, since we have shared brain cells on this one. There, now I don't have to take all the blame myself!
 
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