THE BELLS OF PROMISE

By Karen Morgia


It was very late, almost midnight, as two boys stood side-by-side just inside the entrance of a large drainage tunnel in Central Park. The view from the safety of the tunnel was limited but beautiful; like something from a painting of one of the old masters or a Currier & Ives Christmas Card. A heavy, wet snow, which had blanketed the city for the better part of the day, had finally slowed and eventually stopped, leaving the ground thick with a frigid whiteness and the tree branches drooping from the added weight. The temperature had dropped, but the air was not exceptionally cold; the sky, still overcast and gray, foretold of a possible return of snow. The lights which burned incessantly in this large city reflected off the cloud cover giving everything an elegant golden glow, contrasting with the stark whiteness of the snowfall and only adding to the surreal looking landscape.

 "Come on. Let's go." The taller of the two boys, obviously older, was impatient to complete their venture into this winter wonderland. "If he catches us, we're really gonna be in for it this time. Come on!" he pleaded, tugging on the younger boy"s hand.

 "I don't think this is such a good idea, Dev. I'm not even supposed to be up here." The brilliant, sapphire-blue eyes of the younger boy, peeking over the scarf wrapped around his face, were wide with worry.

Except for their silhouettes, not much could be seen of either boy, for they were both swathed from head to foot in heavy coats, scarves, mittens, and knit caps. Wisps of pale hair did manage to peek from beneath the cap of the younger boy, but that was all that could be seen of him. His face and voice were muffled by the scarf wrapped around his neck and covering the lower portion of his face.

 "I got something I want to show you and if we don't do it now, he'll never let you above to see it"you know that. He"d really get mad at me if he knew I brought you up here as it is. Come on, short stuff!"

"Why can't you just tell me what it is you want to show me. I've got a good imagination," admitted the younger boy proudly, still afraid of venturing out into the unknown world of Above.

"It wouldn't be the same and you know it. You gotta see it. Let's go. The quicker we get there, the quicker we can get back to the tunnels and he"ll never have to know we were even gone."

"Well, I guess"."

The older boy took this momentary hesitation as consent to proceed as he grabbed Vincent's hand once more. The boys slowly left the safety of the tunnel, watching intently in all directions to insure that they were not seen.

The knowledge that a separate thriving community existed beneath the streets of the City must be kept secret for many reasons, the most important of which was the existence of a very unique boy. It was because of this young boy"s uniqueness, that he was not allowed to venture up into the world Above. The denizens of the City were not very tolerant of people or things that were different and because of young Vincent's oddities, anything connected to that world was a danger to him. This night, however, was a special night; a night when goodwill seemed to infect and fill the hearts of most men and for that reason, Devin thought it might be safe to bring Vincent up to show him something beautiful, something wondrous"a gift from one brother to another at this very special time of year. Moving quietly through the dense snowfall, their foot­steps silent, the two boys crept from shadow to shadow beneath the snow laden trees until they arrived at a structure standing silent and foreboding in the darkness.

When they reached the safety of shadow beneath a large tree near the side of the building, Vincent pleaded, "Dev, can I please take this stuff off now? I don't like this on my face."

"Shhhhh! Ya gotta keep quiet," Devin hushed. Then he added, "Yeah, I guess it would be okay"now."
Little Vincent took his brother at his word and made short work of pulling the scarf down from around his face and taking a long, deep breath of cold, crisp wintery night air. "We're here anyway-this is it. I want you to stay right here and keep hidden in the shadows while I see if I can get the door open. Now you stay right here," he ordered, shaking his finger under Vincent's nose as he had seen Father do on so many occasions. Devin turned and carefully climbed over the fence surrounding the building.

After a few minutes Devin was back at Vincent's side, his face a picture of abject disappointment. "I can't get it open, Vincent. I'm sorry." Devin was so discouraged at not being able to give his little brother this one thing that tears began to fill his dark, brown eyes.

"Dev, it's all right." Suddenly a thought occurred to the younger boy. "Are there any lights on inside?"

Devin nodded silently, still very downhearted. "Then why don't you just lift me up so I can see through the window in the door. We can do it that way, can't we?" There was a spark of hope in the younger boy"s voice that infected his brother.

 "Hey, why didn't I think of that? That'll work," Devin agreed. "Come on," and with that Devin helped Vincent climb over the fence and then shortly joined him on the other side. Reaching the employees" access door of the structure, Devin stepped behind his little brother, bent his knees, and firmly wrapped his arms around the small boy"s narrow waist. Standing up wasn't as easy as he first though, however"Vincent was heavier than he looked.

"Ugh!" Devin grunted, as he lifted his younger brother up to look through the window. "There-can you see?" he asked, breathless.

At first Vincent didn't say a word. he couldn't, for before his eyes was the most beautiful sight he had ever seen. It was round and circled by all kinds of animals each one painted differently in gold and silver and a myriad of other bright colors that he had only read about. The security lights inside the building were not overly bright, but they were enough for the young boy's eyes to light up with wonder and delight. His words were soft and hushed with astonishment. "Devin-what is it?" he whispered in awe.

"It's called a merry-go-round," Devin answered in a very quiet, matter-of-fact voice. Then he added, "Father calls it a carousel, but it's the same thing. Pretty, isn't it?"

 "What does it do?" Vincent asked, his voice full of wonder, eyes glued to the sight before him.

 "Ya see all those animals and things?" Devin asked in a hushed voice. "Yeah," Vincent whispered back. "Well, ya climb on those and ride them," Devin explained. "Ride them where?" came the innocent inquiry. "Oh, they don't really go anyplace, silly. The animals just move up and down and whole thing turns round and round in a circle, and all the time you're moving around there's music playing and lights flashing. It's really kinda neat-for little kids," he added hastily.

 Devin con­sidered himself a very grown up nine-year-old. "Dev, do you think I could-" Vincent turned and cocked his head as a sound floating toward him on the cold night air, distracted him from the sight inside the building. "What's that?" he asked mystified.

"What's what?"Devin asked as he set his brother down. He couldn't hear anything unusual.

"Listen!" Vincent said in a hushed voice. The younger boy

s exceptional hearing picked up the sound first, but as it traveled across the city and gradually increased in volume, Devin was able to hear it as well.

"Can you hear it now?" Vincent asked. "Bells?" the sound of church bells coming from all over the City; each church and cathedral adding their crystal-clear bell voices to a musical celebration of the birth of a child from long ago"a child of peace and love.

"Oh, that," Devin commented. "That's just church bells."

"Church bells?" Vincent asked, puzzled.

"Yeah, church bells. It must be after midnight and that means it's Christmas. Every year at midnight all the churches ring their bells to welcome the birth of the Christ child, at least that's what Father said."

The air had gotten colder and the clouds had thinned allowing a silvery, full moon to peek through gaps in the clouds. Its moonbeams glittered across the snow and created a sparkling landscape of diamond-like beauty.

"Christmas!" came a hushed reply. "Devin, do you think if I made a special Christmas wish it might come true?"

Devin hesitated for a moment not sure how to answer the shy request. "Yeah, I suppose ya could. Why?"

"I just want to wish peace and love for everyone"and maybe a little for myself, too. Do you think that would be okay?"  "Sure"go ahead. Someday it might come true."

Silently he added, "Don't worry, little brother, I promise to do all I can to make it come true."  

Submitted/published in "Chamber Cameos", Issue 1, Vol 8 (December) 1990.