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Last year’s visitor

Lisa was standing on the edge of the roof. A sharp gust of wind made her wobble. She crouched quickly and grasped the crest of the roof with her hands. The cold wind and a surge of self-pity brought tears to her eyes. She was always like that! First she does something and then she thinks about it.

She never knew how to pause. She didn’t have that pause. Anything that came into her head she set in motion at once. Just now: she had to drag herself up the rickety old stairs to the roof. There was no one at the allottment cottage now, only the smoke of someone’s stove flickering in the distance, torn by the wind. If she fell from here, nobody would find her for a long time. “And you deserve it!”, she muttered to herself angrily, “Why had I gone up on that slippery roof from yesterday’s downpour?”

Lisa rarely went to the cottage. She wanted to be here more often: it was peaceful and, most importantly, quiet here. But every time on arriving here she discovered something that needed doing, and all her planed vacation time was spend in repairing something that had fallen off, rotted, broken or had been crushed by winter snowdrifts.

Arriving at the summerhouse this spring weekend, she found the chimney clogged, smoke billowing into the house, no matter how hard she tried to unblock the chimney with a poker from below. The day was overcast and very cold, the wooden house had been soacked through over the winter, and it was impossible to keep warm or, indeed, to rest in it now. Glancing up at the roof of the house, Lisa decided that she could do it herself, and armed with the very same poker, went in search of a ladder.

Now that she was already up here, she wasn’t sure if she could ever come down. Lisa gathered her courage, and half squating crawled to the chimney. In a couple of minutes she was really hugging the chimney with her icy fingers, thanking all the saints.

Lisa got up and peered inside the chimney. Although it was dark there, she could managed to make out some piece of rag clinging to a protruding corner of the brick. With great effort and the help of the poker she managed to fish out the rag and pull it out into the light. It was a piece of red velvet cloth, blackened and tarnished. She looked down again and found something dark blocking the entire passage. The poker was way too short to reach it. Lisa made up her mind and threw the poker at that something. After all, she didn’t want to have to take it back down again. The poker landed on the dark object with a thud. She waited for a while and decided to go down. It was easier to go down, although her fingers were numb, but the thought that it would all be over soon helped.

The first thing she did when she got into the hut was to turn on the electric mini cooker and put the kettle on. She had to get warm somehow! She remembered there was some mulled wine left somewhere – she was going to celebrate Christmas at the cottage, but changed her mind at the last moment. She put on what she could find and sat down with the mulled wine in front of the dead fireplace, thinking long and hard. What bad luck! She had lost her job last year and the new one was the worst she could do. Last year in general had been full of troubles. Her personal life had been ruined, holidays had also been impossible because of her new job, and the pandemic had added to her loneliness. Liza felt like she was hooked on a drug. That drug was her heavy thoughts. Since last year they had not let her go, no matter how hard she tried. The summer cottage she inherited from her great aunt was her only outlet, but there were always some kind of disasters… Und was what the funny smell?

Suddenly some loud popping sound made Lisa shudder, and the next moment she had to jump to her feet – something heavy moved down the chimney, slowly at first, then – picking up speed, and plunged into the open fireplace. The ash cloud took of into the air and flew into the room. Lisa stood spellbound as she watched the ashes settle on the armchair, the table, and the floor lamp. Beautiful! Just like the snow at Christmas! As the ashes settled, Lisa woke up and decided to come closer…

She couldn’t believe her eyes – last year’s Santa Claus was lying in her fireplace with a bag of presents. Why he didn’t fit through the chimney was not clear. Maybe he, like people, was in isolation and had put on a lot of extra pounds, or maybe her chimney was too narrow for a regular Santa Clause. After a while, pulling herself together, Lisa called the police. They arrived quickly. The police told her that one Santa Claus had disappeared last year. They thought he might have gone over the border, but now it’s turns out, that he had been stucked in your chimney all the time.

Santa Claus was already being loaded in a wheelbarrow and Lisa, watching from the window, sadly thought that she should have come here at Christmas time – it was always magical here. And there were still more Santa Clauses to come! And maybe she could help this one to stay alive…

The policeman turned back and knocked on Lisa’s door again. Embarrassed, he handed her a small red bag, “This is yours! A present from Santa Claus…”

Lisa now laughed, a silly and wild laugh, but accepted the gift. Closing the door, she sat down in front of the fireplace, which the local policemen had kindly light. She sat looking at the flames, moving her lips thoughtfully. What had Santa Claus given her?

A few hours later, after warming up and drinking a decent amount of mulled wine, Lisa decided to open the present. Shaking off the ashes, she carefully set it on her lap and untied the string…

In the bag was a small book and a note with blurred letters. She could read, “Lisa, let me die in peace, leave me (and your last Year) in your past at last! Your Santa Claus.”

Perplexed, she opened the little book as well. The title read: “Last Year’s visitor.”

Lisa began to read, “Lisa was standing on the edge of the roof. A sharp gust of wind made her sway. She crouched sharply and grabbed the crest of the roof with her hands. The cold wind and her own self-pity brought tears to her eyes. That was the way she always did it! First she does something, and then she thinks…

Author: T. Weingart