The Worst Christmas Ever by Jim Vanore

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When a young policeman finds himself stuck walking an underground beat the night before Christmas, his loneliness and isolation is almost more than he can tolerate, until he happens upon someone who is faring far worse—someone suffering through a trial for which his police training has not prepared him.

Based on actual events, this first-person narrative illustrates how the most modest and unpretentious circumstances often generate human interaction that can be life-altering for those involved.

A short work of fiction from our Nibs literary line.


It was my worst Christmas ever. I had to work.

I couldn’t be home with my family like most normal people on Christmas Eve night. No, I had to work the 4 p.m. to midnight shift. Just my luck.

I was a very young, very trim, very idealistic rookie police officer walking a beat in that section of the city where the subway connected with the Pennsylvania Railroad via one-quarter mile of twisting underground concourse.

The Christmas fairy must have really been angry with me that night, for I was assigned to beat number one: the concourse itself.

It was crisp and sunny as I descended the subway stairs at 4:15 p.m. You always had a sinking feeling (literally) as you approached beat number one—as though you would never see the sun again. That was especially true on this December afternoon more than 40 years ago.

Usually, the rush hour movement of people through the subway concourse could keep you occupied—at least mentally. But this was Christmas Eve. Most center-city offices had emptied out hours ago. I was left with only stragglers and last-minute shoppers to contend with, none of whom made especially jovial Christmas companions. This just had to be my worst Christmas ever.

Any day in the concourse was bleak. There could be a raging evening monsoon up above, or a bright, sunlit, spring morning. No matter. Here it was always gray cement walls splashed with impotent and sparsely placed fluorescent lighting. And there would be no difference tonight, save for the one I carry inside. This concourse seemed darker, more barren, and far less tolerable than ever before. Boy, this really was turning out to be a rotten Christmas.

I don’t know how many times I had walked the concourse from end to end, hearing little but the repetition of my own footfall. I do remember that not many people say hello to you twenty feet underground. That’s why I guess I was a little startled when approached by an exuberant, pre-adolescent, shoeshine boy at about 6:30 p.m.

These were the days before the high-gloss dress shoe, and shoeshine boys were omnipresent. But this was Christmas Eve, and the concourse was deserted. His greeting of, “Shine, Officer?” was more a plea than a sales pitch.

  • Published by: Untreed Reads

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