I’d give anything to be back home.
Sergeant Andrew Carter stood on the steps, his hands on top of an old straw broom, a far-away look on his face. The job of sweeping the steps to the Kommandant’s office all but forgotten, he watched the sky. It was sunset, and dark clouds hung low, but the much wished for snow had yet to fall. It wasn’t going to fall, either, Carter thought dejectedly. And it just wouldn’t be Christmas without snow.
This was Carter’s first Christmas as a POW, his first Christmas away from home, actually, and the last place in the world he wanted to be right now was at Stalag 13. His mind drifted to his family. By now his mother would be completely stressed out, and secretly loving every second of it. The Christmas tree would look perfect, every person she knew would have already received a loaf of her famous eggnog bread, and every detail of Christmas dinner would be planned, down to which ladle to use for the gravy. This was the most important meal of the year—the one meal guaranteed to bring the whole family together.
Lost in his thoughts, Carter didn’t hear the car pull up to the Kommandant’s office.
“Carter, what are you doing?” Kommandant Klink demanded as he approached the homesick young man. “Don’t you have a job to be doing?” Carter, startled, felt his face flush. “If you prisoners would actually work instead of daydreaming…” Klink cut himself short and looked at Carter curiously. “What were you thinking about anyway?”
“Oh..uh..nothing.” When he saw that Klink expected an answer, he answered. “Just thinking about the folks at home, I guess.”
“Well…” Klink faltered. Making a point to sound annoyed, he scolded, “If you’re just going to stand there, wasting time, you might as well go back to your barracks.”
“Yes, sir!” Carter exclaimed. He almost saluted, and then grimaced as he caught himself. Turning quickly, he headed back to Barracks Two.
He was greeted with a curse as he opened the door, though it wasn’t directed at him. Newkirk, clearly irritated, pressed down on a fresh cut on his hand.
“What happened?” Carter asked as he walked in. He noticed LeBeau studiously avoiding Newkirk, and consequently any chance of seeing blood. It was probably just as well. “Did you cut yourself?”
“Did I cut myself,” Newkirk repeated sarcastically. “What does it look like, Andrew?”
Carter looked at the knife sitting on the table next to an odd collection of tin cans and some crudely cut pieces of metal. As Kinch came to the table with the first aid kit, Carter went to retrieve one of his favorite tools. “Here, Newkirk. This will make it easier.”
Newkirk acknowledge Carter with a nod. Taking the instrument, he began to cut the tin cans into strips. “Well, if you’re just going to sit there,” Newkirk mumbled, “you might as well make yourself useful.” Pointing to the cans sitting on the table, he added, “You can peel those labels off.”
Carter delved into his task, not paying any attention to what Newkirk was doing until every label had been peeled. When he looked up, he was pleased by what he saw. “Hey! You’re making a tree!”
“My, my, now aren’t you a smart one?”
Carter pointedly ignored his friend’s sarcasm, and pitched in to help. Before long, they had a small, scrappy looking tree sitting on the table.
“I like it,” LeBeau said when it was finally finished.
Newkirk wasn’t satisfied. “It’s not finished yet.” Together, the three of them hung the colored scraps of paper from the tree. When they were finished, the little tree was decorated with little folded paper ornaments, longer strips serving as garland, and even an odd shaped star on top.
Kinch came up to see their finished work. “Hey! That’s looks pretty good!”
“Almost like a real Christmas,” Carter said wistfully.
“Of course, it is like a real Christmas,” LeBeau said. “I know just what we need, too. Tomorrow I will make the most fantastic fruitcake.”
“Fruitcake, Louis?” Newkirk asked incredulously. “You must be out of your bleedin’ mind!”
“Of course, I am joking,” LeBeau scoffed. “Who would think that I would make fruitcake? I will make my grandmother's bread pudding.”
“I thought bread pudding was and English dish,” Kinch questioned.
“Non, not like I make it,” LeBeau said proudly. “And of course, it will have the best bourbon sauce to go with it.”
“Well, I don’t think you’ll get to make the sauce,” Kinch joked. “But if you can cover up the sawdust taste, I don’t think anyone will care!” Then, snapping his fingers, he exclaimed, “There’s just one more thing that we need!” He dashed off and came back a few moments later with a phonograph machine and a small stack of records. Soon, the cheery sounds of Tommy Dorsey and his Orchestra filled the barracks.
“He knows if you’ve been bad or good, so be good for goodness sake…” Carter sang along. He looked over at Newkirk slyly. “I don’t think Santa is coming for you this year, Newkirk. Those words you said earlier weren’t very nice.”
“Oh, leave off,” Newkirk grumbled, but Carter could have sworn that he saw the Englishman smile.
“Hey, Kinch,” LeBeau asked. “What about that new record?”
Kinch’s face lit up. “That’s right! I’ve been wanting to hear that!” He dug through the pile of records until he found what he was looking for. “Good ol’ Bing.”
Soon, the singer’s smooth, rich voice washed over everyone in the room, drawing them into the song that they all were hearing for the first time.
I’m dreaming of a white Christmas
Just like the ones I used to know
Kinch’s eyes took on a dreamy look as memories of his childhood flooded over him; he always leapt out of bed and raced to his bedroom window on Christmas morning, hoping with all his might that the ground and trees would be draped with a blanket of snow. There was always something special about a white Christmas, and even as he got older, it had never really lost its charm.
Where the treetops glisten
And children listen
To hear sleigh bells in the snow
Carter glanced over at Newkirk, who had become uncharacteristically still and quiet. The British corporal had his head cocked slightly, as if he were straining to hear the sound of bells approaching from the woods outside the wire.
I’m dreaming of a white Christmas
With every Christmas card I write
Le Beau thought of the many letters he had written to his family, and to his favorite girls back home. Tomorrow, he needed to take the time to sit down and write especially long letters to the people who mattered most to him.
May your days be merry and bright
And may all your Christmas be white.
As the song finished, Kinch quietly walked over to the phonograph machine and lifted the needle off the record. A gentle silence descended on the room, as each man thought of home, of family, and of the memories that made Christmas so special.
Hogan opened the door to the barracks to find his men in hushed meditation. “What’s going on?”
“Nothing, sir,” Carter answered. “Just thinking of Christmas.”
“And home…” Newkirk almost whispered.
“And snow,” Kinch said with a smile. “The best Christmases have snow.”
“Well then, today’s your lucky day.” Hogan opened the door, and they all crowded to see the large, fluffy snowflakes that fell silently to ground. Carter couldn’t help but grin like a little kid, but he didn’t care. He expected Newkirk to tease him about it, too, but when Carter looked over, he saw that Newkirk had exact same expression on his face.
Schultz, never one to have great timing, chose that moment to walk up. He immediately herded them all back into the barracks. “You know what time it is. Lights out!”
“Aww, Schultz,” Le Beau grumbled. “Come on. It’s Christmas Eve!”
“That’s right,” Schultz agreed. “And all little boys need to go to bed, or else Santa Claus won’t come.”
“He won’t be coming for you, that’s for sure,” Carter grumbled.
It took some time, and a lot of fussing from Schultz, but eventually the lights were out, and the men had fallen asleep. Only Carter lay awake, listening to soft breathing of the men around him. He pulled his thin blanket up to his chin and curled his legs up in a vain attempt to get warm. As he did, his eyes fell on tree that he and Newkirk had made. Any other time, he would never consider that sad little tree to be a Christmas tree, but in the moonlight, it looked almost beautiful.
He didn’t have his family, and he wasn’t home, and nothing here could make up for that. But he had snow, and a tree, and he was surrounded by the best group of friends he would probably ever have. For now, it was enough.
Text and original characters copyright 2005 by Rebecca Cloud
This copyright covers only original material and characters, and in no way intends to infringe upon the privileges of the holders of the copyrights, trademarks, or other legal rights, for the Hogan's Heroes universe.