The Black Robin Christmas Carol: Stave 3: Dominic

Stave 3

At the stroke of two o’clock the alarm clock on Robin’s nightstand started to chime. Robin’s eyes burned from restlessness when she turned to face what had woken her up.

“Stupid broken out-dated piece of junk. Why is it going off now, and whose clock is that? Sure ain’t mine,” said Robin in a groggy and barely audible tone of voice. Robin slowly got herself out of bed, stood in front of her nightstand, and picked up the clock. She turned the clock over and around looking for a dial, a switch, or a button to stop the clock from chiming. She didn’t find one.

“You’ve got to be kidding me. I can’t sleep with this thing chiming like this,” said Robin in a slightly more lucid but still groggy tone of voice. “Maybe if I put this in the closet, the door will muffle this thing enough so I can sleep.” Robin turned around and started walking toward her closet. With every step Robin took she became slightly more awake, a state she hoped to soon rid herself of.

Robin stepped into her walk-in closet expecting to find a shelf she could set the alarm clock on. This is not what she found, not at all. What Robin found was an open air courtyard, so small that a crowd of people couldn’t fit comfortable but big enough that a sea breeze passed through with relative ease. As Robin looked around what was supposed to be her closet she saw things she had only read about or seen in movies. Renaissance era Venetian architecture, beautifully handcrafted stained glass windows, and framed works from the masters da Vinci, Uccello, and Masaccio.

As Robin looked around and marveled at all the beauty that surrounded her, she felt a weight disappear from her hands. Robin looked down and saw that she was no longer holding the alarm clock that had awoken her. Robin turned around to the door she had entered this courtyard from and found not the closet door but a hand chiseled artistic piece of wood that served as a door. Robin scanned across the courtyard looking for a way back to her bedroom and back to her bed. Instead what she found was a man sitting at a table with two chairs at it.

Robin hesitantly approached the table in middle of this courtyard. She couldn’t see the face of the man, in a tailored tan suit sitting at the table, engrossed as he was with his newspaper. Robin stood next to the empty chair and said to the man, “Excuse me.”

The man sitting at the table turned down his newspaper, smiled and said, “Hello Miss Robin,” in a cheerful tone of voice with a slight Italian accent to it. “Please, sit down. I’ll have the waiter bring you something to drink.”

As she hesitantly sat down in the empty chair at the table, Robin said, “Actually, I’m, not thirsty.”

As he was folding up his paper and setting it aside, the man said, “How about something to eat then? The chicken alfredo here is quite excellent.”

“Actually sir, I’m quite tired. Can you tell me how I get out of here and back to my bedroom?”

The man sitting at the table said, “You can’t go home untill you talk to me.” He may not have had the intention of doing so but Robin took what the man said as a threatening statement. Thinking this, Robin started taking a defensive stance toward the man.

“Who are you and what are you doing here?”

The man sitting at the table got a serious look on his face and got down to business. “I believe you met one of my colleagues earlier this evening when the clock that was sitting on your nightstand struck midnight.”

Robin started searching her mind then remembered the previous time her slumber was interrupted. “You mean the encounter I had with an angel who said she was The Ghost of Christmas Past?”

The man replied, “Yes. By the way, how is she? I hope she’s well.”

Robin completely ignored the man’s question and said, “What does that have to do with you, sir?”

“Like I said, I am one of her colleagues. I am an angello. My purpose is to tell the living of what is happening currently. I am, as you might say, the Ghost of Christmas Present.”

Robin listened to what the angello was saying but could hardly believe what she was hearing. Robin swallowed hard and put her head down on the table in front of her. “Oh no. Not again.”
The angello looked puzzled. “Excuse me, Miss Robin?”

“I’m hallucinating again. I had too much to drink, I hallucinated about an angel visiting me, and now I’m hallucination again.”

The angello looked at Robin oddly. “No Miss Robin, I’m not a hallucination. However, if you’re interested in something to drink, there’s a fine bottle of Merlot waiting to be served.” The angello motioned to a young man in a waiter’s uniform carrying two wine glasses and a bottle of, if the angello was to be believed, Merlott.

Now crying a little bit, Robin said, “I just hope I don’t end up driving.”

The angello reached across the table, lifted up Robin’s head, and said, “My dear, I assure you are perfectly safe. No harm will come to you while you are here.” Then the angello put this big smile on his face like you do when you’re trying to get a child to believe everything is all right.

“I wish I could believe you.” Clearly Robin was not impressed as she put her head back down on the table.

“Okay, fine,” said the angello, now a little bit frustrated. “Don’t believe I’m real. Believe all of this is a hallucination, whatever. Wouldn’t it be better to go along with the hallucination untill it reaches its conclusion, rather than stubbornly fighting it?”

Robin lifted her head from the table. The tears had stopped and her face looked slightly optimistic. “You got a point there. Okay mister- What do I call you?”

“I am an angello.”

“Okay angello, show me what you have to show me,” said Robin in an optimistic tone of voice. “Just remember not to show me to my car.”

“Fair enough Miss Robin,” agreed the angello. The angello then motioned to the waiter. The waiter put down the bottles and glasses he was holding, grabbed a stand that was sitting on the floor nearby, walked over to the table, and set up the stand on Robin’s left hand side. Then the waiter plucked one of the paintings off the wall of the courtyard and placed it on the stand. The angello then asked, “Miss Robin, do you recognize this painting?”

Robin looked at the painting for some time then said, “No. Art history was not something we spent much time on in school.”

“Fair enough. This is Annunciation, painted by Leonardo da Vinci with Andrea del Verrocchio sometime between 1472 and 1475. The angel holds a Madonna lily, a symbol of Mary's virginity and of the city of Florence. It is supposed that Leonardo originally copied the wings from those of a bird in flight, but they have since been lengthened by a later artist. What else do you notice about this painting, Miss Robin?”

Robin again looked at the painting, more intently then she had before. “It’s flat. It’s completely flat. This clearly isn’t an original, or even a good reproduction. It looks like the kind of laminated print a college student would hang on the wall of their dorm room.”

The angello grinned joyfully. “Ah, you’re on the right track Miss Robin. This is not an original, nor a reproduction. However this is not something a normal college student could easily afford.” The angello snapped his fingers and the painting changed from Annunciation to a family gathered around a dinner table. This was not a painting of a family, rather-

“This is a video screen,” asked Robin with a glint of wonder in her voice.

“Indeed, it is a video screen. Now, Miss Robin, watch.” The angello pointed at the screen as the two looked on.

The video that played seemed ripped out of a Norman Rockwell painting. It was an idealized scene of a family, husband, wife, kids, and dog, all sitting around the table, just enjoying being together as a family on Christmas Eve. The eldest son was helping his dad carve the turkey, the youngest daughter was entertaining her mom with amusing story from school, and the middle child was feeding table scraps to her dog Scraps.

Then, as Mom and Dad started serving up the turkey and the kids started serving themselves helpings of stuffing, corn, frogeye salad, Dad suddenly remembered something and went into the other room to get it. When Dad came back into the dining room, he was carrying gifts and the kids became even happier. The dad set a present down next to each of the kids and Mom, giving her a quick kiss when he did so. After the family had their fill of the fine Christmas dinner that Mom had taken great care in preparing, each member of the family opened their present, even Scraps. These weren’t big presents, little toys and brain teasers and a chew toy for Scraps, but they served as a fitting topper to a truly wonderful family evening.

As the family began to stand up from the table, presumably to make their way to their beds, the video screen began to transition from the video back to Annunciation. When the transition was complete, the angello lowered his hand and said, “Well, Miss Robin, what do you think?”
Robin had a blank look on her face when she said, “About what?”

“The family. All of them being together and enjoying each other’s company. Isn’t that nice?”

“Yeah, I guess it is.” Robin still had this blank expression on her face, almost as if she had no idea what was going on.

The angello could sense that he was about to have a breakthrough. “Don’t you see yourself in a situation like this?”

Robin thought about this question for a moment, then said, “Not really. I mean I’m too young to fill the role of the mother, too old to be either of the daughters, and me as a guy is just plain ridiculous.”

The angello sighed in frustration. “True, Miss Robin, but can’t you see yourself eventually in this picture?”

Robin answered honestly. “No.”


“No, I don’t. Why do you ask?”

The angello closed his eyes and shook his head in frustration as he motioned to the waiter again. The waiter came over to the table with another stand in his hand which he quickly set up on Robin’s right hand side. The waiter then went over to the Paolo Uccello painting, took it off the wall, placed it on the stand, then went back into the outside wall of the courtyard. The angello pointed to the painting and asked, “Do you recognize this piece, Miss Robin?”

Robin looked at the painting for a second then said, “Does it matter? It’s just a video screen anyway, right?”

The angello looked at Robin sternly pressed forward, “This is The Hunt in the Forest, painted by Paolo Uccello in about 1470. The painting is an early example of the effective use of perspective in Renaissance art, with the hunt participants, including people, horses, dogs and deer, disappearing into the dark forest in the distance. It was Uccello's last known painting before his death in 1475.”

Robin stared at the angello blankly throughout his description of The Hunt in the Forest. When the angello was over, Robin said, “And?”

The frustration was growing inside the angello. “Do you not care about learning about great pieces of art, Miss Robin?”

“Frankly, I’d rather be sleeping right now.”

This aggravated the angello further. Robin wasn’t purposely aggravating the angello but she was doing exactly that. The angello chose not to express his frustration but instead continued to point to the Uccello painting, directing Robin to watch it.

When the painting began to transition to the video, what was revealed was different scene from the one from the one that played before. The scene featured a group of young adults who are about the same age gathered in a front room or den type area. Also different from last time is that this wasn’t some random scene with some random people. As Robin watched this scene play out she saw some of her fellow co-workers. Then Robin saw Erin, the woman who had approached her about going to a party on Christmas Eve. Robin asked the angello, “Is this the party that I was invited to?” The angello nodded and continued to point at the video screen.

The party was beginning to wind down. There were board games that people had been played, gifts that had been opened, and bottles of wine that had been drunk. Erin, the host of the party and the one who had invited Robin to it, called for the attention of her party guests.

“Excuse me,” Erin said, tapping her wine glass with a commemorative fork she had just received as a gift. “I just wanted to tell you all before we leave to be safe out there and have a Merry Christmas.”

The rest of the party guests echoed the Christmas well wishes to all the other guests at the party. As the party guests started putting on their coats and scarves and hats, Erin began cleaning up the board games and wrapping paper and wine glasses. As she did so, Erin noticed an unopened gift sitting on the table where the other gifts were.

Erin picked up the gift, looked at the gift tag, and said, “Oh yeah, this is the gift I got Robin. Too bad she had that family thing, I bet she would have liked this figurine that goes with that other figurine from that show I can’t remember right now. I’ll have to give it to her when I see her at work.”

Erin put the gift back down on the table and went back to the light cleaning she was doing before she was to drift off to bed. As Erin was washing out the wine glasses and putting them in her dishwasher, the video screen began to transition from the video back to Uccello’s The Hunt in the Forest. When the transition was done, the angello said, “Well Miss Robin.”

Robin said, “What,” maintaining the blank look on her face.

“What did you think of that scene I just showed you?”

Robin thought about that question for a second, then said, “That scene made me thirsty. Do you have any of that Merlot you offered me earlier?”

This annoyed the angello but again he chose not express it. “Doesn’t that scene make you feel anything else? This is a party you were invited to, a party you could have gone to. Doesn’t it look like you could have had fun there?”

Robin dismissively replied, “Not really. Do I have to motion to your waiter to get a glass of that Merlot?”

The angello again closed his eyes and shook his head out of frustration as he motioned to the waiter. The waiter came over carrying the two glasses and a bottle of Merlot he was holding earlier. As the waiter set the glasses down on the table the angello said to him, “No. Leave the Merlot and set up the final painting.” The waiter did as he was told, leaving the bottle of Merlot sitting between the two wine glasses and quickly setting up the stand and the final painting directly behind the angello. “I take it you’re not interested in learning about Masaccio’s Madonna and Child with Angels, right Miss Robin?”

Robin plainly replied, “No, but if you could move out of the way a bit, you’re blocking the video screen with your head.” The angello did as he was asked and moved just enough to allow Robin full view of the Masaccio piece transitioning to the video.

The room this scene took place in was dark, illuminated only by a fire in a fireplace. Unlike the other scene where there was a whole group of people, there was only two people here, a man and a woman. The two were sitting on the floor in front of the fire, staring into each other’s eyes, and talking, just talking. They talked about how soft the carpet they were sitting on was, the service at the restaurant they just went to, the way the woman’s hair fell over her ears and down to her shoulders. The man and the woman moved closer to each other. They moved closer, and closer, and closer still. Then the two kissed. They kissed again. They kissed a third time, this time longer.

As the man and the woman began to move closer to each other, and began to get more intimate, the angello snapped his fingers, triggering the video screen to transition from the video back to Madonna and Child with Angels. Once the transition was over, the angello looked kindly at Robin and said, “Well, Miss Robin, what do you think of that?”

The look on Robin’s face was not happy. Not happy at all. As Robin sat in her chair at the table, across from the angello in a small Italian courtyard far from her home, she looked as if she was about to explode. Explode she did.

Robin stood up, sending her chair flying backward as she did so. She grabbed the wine glass closest to her and threw it at Annunciation. The painting cracked and shattered into pieces, falling in a pile like a broken plate glass window. Robin then grabbed the remaining wine glass on the table and threw it at The Hunt in the Forest, causing it to shatter in the same way as the first. Then Robin took aim at Madonna and Child with Angels. She grabbed the full bottle of Merlot by the neck, reared back, and sent it flying, end over end barely missing the angello’s head, right toward the Masaccio piece.

The bottle of Merlot didn’t have the effect on Madonna and Child with Angels the way the wine glasses had on Annunciation and The Hunt in the Forest. The effect was considerably larger. The cracks began at the painting and splintered out like a spider’s web, splintering to the stand the painting was resting on, to the ground the stand was resting on, to every part of the small Italian courtyard Robin and the angello were in. The cracks were so all encompassing that they began to critically affect the structure of the courtyard. Then the structure failed and the whole area started to fall down. Rather than fall in a traditional manner, with huge chunks of the courtyard falling to earth, the courtyard broke down into tiny little fragments, fragments no larger than a snowflake. Slowly these fragments came to Earth, flittering and floating on the ocean breeze that passed through the courtyard. Once these tiny fragments hit the Earth they dissipated, disappeared, and were otherwise wiped from existence. Every part that constituted this courtyard fell away and disappeared untill all that was left of this small courtyard was a cold dark nearly empty space, filled only with two chairs, a table, the angello, and Robin.

The angello looked at Robin with a bizarrely annoyed look on his face. “Well, Miss Robin, do you see what you’re little temper tantrum had done?”

Robin violently turned the table over, then began to yell at the angello. “Why do you insist on taunting me with what I can’t have? I don’t belong in any of these situations. The family, the party, the couple, none of it! Those people don’t want me there and I really don’t want to be there either. There’s no point to showing me those scenes, other than to launch me into a depression or launch me into a rage. Now take me back to my bedroom so I can finally, at long last, get some sleep.”

The angello slowly rose from his chair, straightened his suit, turned on his heel, and started walking, slowly and confidently into the darkness. Robin watched the angello walk for a moment and became angered even further by the angello turning his back on her. “Hey! Where do you think you are going? You’re supposed to take me home.” Robin then started to take after the angello. She started with a fast walk that evolved into a slot trot that evolved into a full on sprint. Robin was running as fast through the darkness toward the angello as her legs could carry her. However, no matter how fast Robin ran him, the angello continued to put distance on her with every step he took.

Robin stopped running after the angello just as he fell out of sight. Robin was exhausted hunched over, catching her breath and yelling at the angello, when she looked up and saw something odd. Well, odd to most people. A crystal. A small crystal orb hanging on the end of a string that extended up into the air. Most people would have looked at such an object oddly, not Robin. This was something she recognized right away.

Robin reached up, grabbed on to the crystal ball, and pulled down on it. The crystal orb attached to a string extending up into the air was attached to a light bulb that began to dull yellow light. Light from this source began to fall upon t-shirts, pants, hats, jewelry boxes, and all the other things that filled the room Robin was actually standing in, her walk-in closet. The light eventually fell on the door that was right in front of Robin’s face. Robin grabbed the doorknob on the door, twisted, then pushed on the door. It didn’t budge. Then Robin grabbed the doorknob again, twisted, then pulled on the door.

When Robin opened the door she saw something expected and yet unexpected. She saw her bedroom, in the exact state she had left it, still dark and moderately warm in temperature. Robin looked around her bedroom and the closet she was standing in, trying to get her bearings. Finally, after a thorough inspection, Robin said to herself, “Well, at least I didn’t drive my car.”
Robin again didn’t think much of what she had just seen, dismissing it as an alcohol fueled hallucination. Robin began to tiredly make her way from her closet to her bed, all the while hoping that this time she could get some much needed rest. As Robin got to her bedside, she glanced over to her nightstand and saw something sitting on it. The alarm clock. The alarm clock that had woken her up. The alarm clock that she couldn’t turn off. The alarm clock she had gone to her closet to put away. The alarm clock she seemingly could not rid herself of.

Unlike previously, where she drifted off to sleep intending to deal with the alarm clock in the morning, Robin was determined to deal with that alarm clock at that moment. Robin took the alarm clock off her nightstand and walked over to the doors that led to her balcony. She unlocked the door, pulled down on the surface bolts that acted as a second line of security, opened the doors and strolled out to her balcony with the alarm clock still in her hands. Robin walked out to the end of her balcony, looked over the cast iron fence at the edge of her balcony, and found the concrete walkway situated underneath the balcony that went from the back door of her house to her rear gate. Robin held the alarm clock out in front of her, taking care not to thoughtlessly fumble the thing while lining it up with the walkway underneath her balcony. Then Robin released the alarm clock and let gravity do its work.

The impact of the alarm clock hitting the concrete and the ensuing destruction wasn’t all too spectacular, but it worked for Robin. This was because she had taken something that had been a bother to her and had it done away with. No doubt she’d have to go down in the morning and clean up the shards of alarm clock that had been scattered throughout her backyard, but that was a problem she could deal with in the morning.

Robin turned around and made her way back to her bed, closing her balcony doors behind her but not locking them. Robin crawled into her bed, found a comfortable place near the middle of her queen size bed and started drifting off to sleep. Before she did fall asleep, Robin turned to look at her nightstand, ensuring that the alarm clock that had previously woken her was there no more.

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