The Black Robin Christmas Carol: Stave 4: Shawn

Stave 4

At the stroke of four o’clock the alarm clock on Robin’s nightstand started to chime. Robin turned to look at the alarm clock that had awoken her, the same alarm clock that she was sure she had dropped off her balcony and onto her concrete walkway. “I thought I got rid of you.”

Robin threw her covers off, got out of bed, grabbed the alarm clock, and turned around intending to throw the alarm clock against the far wall. When she did so, Robin saw a figure in a long black cloak with a hood on it standing in the corner of her room near the door. Instead of throwing the alarm clock at the wall, Robin threw the alarm clock at the figure. “Cure you vile pest!” The alarm clock made a nice arch in the air, tumbling ever so slightly, untill the dark cloaked figure reached out and caught the alarm clock in his hands.

“You know, this is a really valuable clock. You shouldn’t be throwing it around like this,” said the figure to Robin. The figure bent down and put the alarm clock on the floor beside him. When the figure returned to an upright position, he flipped down his hood and removed his cloak. In doing so the figure had changed from a mysterious figure in a black cloak to a mysterious black man in a black pinstripe suit.

Robin looked at the man and didn’t respond. She didn’t know how. Robin didn’t know if this was a visitation or another hallucination. As Robin looked at the figure she noticed that he wasn’t trying to impress her with an aura of peacefulness like they first angel she saw. Nor was this figure happy and inviting like the second angel she met. The figure appeared not to be making an effort to make an impression with his pressure at all. The figure chose to make that impression with his words.

“Good evening Robin. My name is Shawn, I am the third angel tasked to visit you this evening. I feel the need at this time to apologize for the colleagues that came before me. They disturbed you in ways that left you restless but also clearly aggravated. The fault in this lies in the routine that is usually followed by those like us who are tasked to greatly alter the path a person is travelling upon. A routine that we believed would work in all cases. Clearly we were wrong.”

As Robin continued to listen to Shawn she was impressed with what she thought was Shawn’s honesty this was something Shawn continued to build upon as he continued speaking. What Shawn was saying felt to Robin to be honest and true. “The first angel you encountered, a woman named Celeste, is an angel tasked to remind you what was by showing you visions of your past. The problem with that approach is you do not need to be reminded of your past. I am unfortunately aware that there are times that your past is all you can think of.” Robin slowly nodded her head in agreement. She knew there were times that Robin, sitting alone in her cubicle at work, would spend entire days dwelling on many negative experiences from school.
Shawn continued introducing his colleagues. “The second angel you encountered, a man named Dominic, is an angel tasked to show you what could have been. Dominic is tasked to show you scenes that you could easily have entered if only you had made slight alterations in your life. The problem with that approach is you lack any faith at all that you could have belonged in those scenes. Robin, you resigned yourself long ago to not fitting in, not anywhere and not at anytime. Due to the mindset that you have in life, presenting those scenes to you would only serve to taunt you with what you can never have.” Upon hearing Shawn saying this, Robin got this sullen look on her face. Robin knew what Shawn was saying was true.

Shawn continued on with his speech. “The role that I have been tasked with in this routine is to show you that which will be. Normally I would be taking you to a cold dark place and showing you horrific images of your completely depressing future in the hopes that, if Celeste or Dominic didn’t change your life, I would. The problem with that is it’s fairly clear that you’ve already resigned yourself to a completely depressing future.” Robin’s face became even more sullen as she knew that this statement was true as well.

“Robin, again, I apologize on behalf of my colleagues, and now for myself because I am about to disrupt your slumber even further. If you allow me, I will break from the routine and show you something I feel will be far more compelling to you.”

After he was done speaking, Shawn started walking over to Robin. Robin, at this point didn’t trust Shawn but had a different opinion of him than the other angels she had encountered that evening. Robin stopped Shawn from walking toward her after a couple of steps. “Stop. Just stop. While I do appreciate your honesty, I- I just-” Robin turned away from Shawn and stared longingly at her bed. “I just want to go to sleep. That’s it, just sleep. I want to be done with these hallucinations or visitations or whatever they are and just get some sleep.” After a full night of dealing with something she didn’t understand, Robin was completely exhausted. As she stood there, pleading with whatever was there to allow her to sleep, Robin started to cry a little.

Shawn got Robin’s attention, causing her to turn back toward him, “Robin, I understand. I’m sure you’re exhausted, both mentally and physically. I know a good night’s rest would be bliss to you right now.” Shawn started walking toward Robin again. “Robin, I know you don’t trust me. I wouldn’t trust me, and I’m not sure how to gain your trust. What I do know is that at one time I was in the same position you are in right now.”

Robin, moved by this comment, said to Shawn, “You were?”

Shawn placed his hand on Robin’s shoulder and said, “Yes Robin, I was. I haven’t always been a stylish and well connected angel. I used to be an absolute reject, just like you. At one point in my life I was mere inches away from throwing myself off a high ledge and ending it all in that moment. But in that moment, I was visited by an angel, a man by the name of Anthony. The things I learned from Anthony changed me and I am grateful for those changes. So grateful that upon my death, after a long and fruitful life, I asked if it was possible for me to serve in the same role as Anthony and affect others lives in the same way that mine was. That is what brought me here tonight, Robin. Will you allow me the opportunity to change your life in the way that mine was changed?”

Robin looked into Shawn’s eyes and tried to find a reason to say no to him, but no reasons came. After wiping tears from her eyes, Robin said to Shawn, “Yes. Yes I will.” Shawn gently closed his eyes, took a deep breath, and breathed out long and slowly. By the time he had stopped breathing out, Shawn and Robin was no longer in Robin’s bedroom.

Shawn and Robin materialized in what appeared to be a normal family home. There was a refrigerator filled with magnets, calendars, and semi-good artwork in the kitchen, an alter to all things electronic in the den, and a simple illuminated Christmas tree topped with a simply cute illuminated cherub in the front room. As Robin looked around this house her expression changed from the sullen look she had before to one that was slightly happy. Shawn took note of this, saying, “You seem to be in a good mood now. Care to tell me why?”

Robin, still looking around and growing happier and happier, said to Shawn, “This is my parent’s house. This is the house I grew up in. I remember every year a couple of days after Thanksgiving, I would sit on my Dad’s shoulders and put that cherub on top of the tree, all the while my Mom insisting we get the ladder and do it safely.”

Shawn let out a hearty laugh and said, “Yeah, that’s what mothers tend to do when fathers do fun things with their kids. So, where do you think your parents are right now on this Christmas Eve?”

Robin thought for a second and said, “Knowing them, they’re probably in their bedrooms preparing the Christmas gifts they got for their grandchildren.”

“Well, let’s go up there and look,” said Shawn. Robin led Shawn up the stairs and to the door at the end of a long hallway. The light in the room was on but the door was open only a crack, so Robin carefully crept up and peered into her parent’s bedroom through the crack in the door. Shawn, still upright and making no effort to hide, looked at what Robin was doing and said to her, “Robin, it’s all right for you to walk into their bedroom, you’re not going to disturb them.

Robin, still hunched down on the floor, said, “You mean open the door and close it quickly behind me?”

Shawn replied, “No,” then walked thought the door like Celeste and Robin had passed through the classroom wall earlier, and said, “through the door.”

Robin stood up and walked through the door to her parent’s room just like Shawn had just done. What Robin found was her parents did what she thought they’d be doing, preparing Christmas gifts for their grandchildren on their queen size bed. There were wrapped gifts, stocking, little tinker toys, brain teasers, chocolate, and many other things seemingly designed to thoroughly and efficiently annoy parents. An older gentleman, who can be safely assumed to be Robin’s father, looked over the assorted gifts, and said, “Okay, let’s go over and check that we have everything.”

An older lady, who can be safely assumed to be Robin’s mother, held up a piece of paper and responded, “All right, I’ve got the list right here.”

“Okay, gifts.”

“Yes, seven gifts, wrapped tagged, and ready to go.”


“Yes, seven stockings filled with chocolate and oranges and olives, labeled with cute little tags for each child.”

“You get those tags at that place in the mall?”

“No, that place closed. I had to order these online.”

“Okay, annoying gifts.”

Mom looked at Dad weirdly. “Really? Annoying gifts?”

“Yes,” then Robin’s father picked up one of the tinker toys, and shook it, causing the toy to clink and clank and tinkle for an extended period of time, and said, “You tell me this isn’t designed to annoy parents.”

“Okay, annoying gifts. I got toys like the one you’ve got there for the five younger kids and,” Robin’s mother picked up one of the brain teasers, “and brain teasers like this for the two older kids.”

“Are they sufficiently annoying?”

Robin’s mom tossed one of the brain teasers to Robin’s dad and said, “Here, play with this and see if it annoys you.”

Robin’s dad shook the brain teaser a bit then tossed it by the others and said, “Okay, is that everything on the list?”


“So why does it feel like we forgot something.”

“I don’t think we forgot anything. We got the gifts for Keith and Karen’s kids, we got gifts for Neil and Amanda’s kids, I don’t think we forgot anyone.”

Then a look of realization came over Robin’s dad’s face. “I know what it is. We don’t have anything for Robin’s kids.”

“Yeah, that’s right.” Robin’s mom lowered the piece of paper she was holding, and her spirits seemingly lowered along with it. Robin’s mom slowly walked toward her husband saying, “I keep on waiting for Robin to get out of this funk she’s always been in. I keep in waiting for Robin to cheer up, find someone to share her life with, and just move past that pit of negativity that she’s seemed to have found a home in. We didn’t do wrong by her, did we?”

Robin’s father put his arm around his wife, kissed her on the cheek, and said, “I don’t know. I hope not, but I don’t know.”

Robin watched this scene develop then reacted to it passionately. “No. No mom, no dad, you didn’t do anything wrong by me. You weren’t responsible for what the morons I went to school with did to me. It’s not your fault!”

Shawn stood behind Robin and watched as she pleaded her case to her parents, then said, “You know they can’t hear you, right?”

Robin turned to Shawn and said, “Is this real? Is this really how my parents feel?”

“I’m not making this up. I’m not manipulating this in any way. These are your parents, Robin, and this is really how they feel.”

Robin turned back around and kept on reacting to what she was seeing. “I- I didn’t know. I didn’t know that they felt this way. I didn’t know I was affecting them in this way.” The more Robin looked on as her parents arranged the Christmas presents they had bought, the more sorrowful she felt about how she was making them feel. Shawn placed his hand on Robin’s shoulder and began to breathe deeply again. By the time he had finished breathing out, Shawn and Robin had left Robin’s parents house.

They materialized in what appeared to be another normal family home. This home was built about a decade after Robin’s parent’s house, but the floor scheme was nearly the same. The décor that filled the house was much different though. Throughout the house there were many various items with religious significance. There was a bookshelf filled with various texts, both ancient and recent, that either spoke of or helped to build up the faith. There was a radio in the den tuned to the area’s only religious radio station and nearby was music that was crafted with the faithful in mind. There was even, near the front door of the house, a print of a piece of artwork that is largely interpreted as Jesus patiently waiting for someone to let them into their home.

Shawn was looking around this house, his smile growing larger and larger, when he said, “I can see the spirit has found a home here.”

Robin was looking around this home, feeling lost but not anxious about being so, when she said, “Can you tell me where we are?”

Shawn stopped looking around long enough to point into the home’s living room and say, “Her house.”

Robin followed Shawn’s finger into the living room. Given the lateness of the hour, this room was dimly lit with only the Christmas tree providing light. The Christmas tree itself seemed to be the exact opposite of audacious and garish. Just a few religious ornaments hung on the tree with a single bright star topping it. In front of the tree was a modest assortment of wrapped gifts and candy filled stockings being arranged by a woman. This woman looked to be the same age as Robin, and was dressed in modest flannel pajamas as if she was about to go to bed.

Robin slowly entered the room the woman was in, this time cognizant that she couldn’t disturb her, and asked Shawn, “Who is this woman?”

Shawn put his finger to his lips and said, “Just watch.”

So Robin did just watch. The woman finished arranging the gifts in front of the Christmas tree, then took a step back to check her work. When she was satisfied with her work, the woman knelt down on the carpeted floor in front of her, folded her arms, and closed her eyes. In a voice soft enough to not disturb the people in the house who were asleep but clear enough to be heard, the woman began to speak.

“Father in heaven, I bow my head on this the night of our Savior’s birth to give thanks. Thanks, o Lord, for the sacrifice that your son gave so that my family and I may enter the kingdom of Heaven. I thank you, o Lord, for the great blessings you have bestowed onto me. I am most especially grateful for my beautiful family, the great health that we enjoy, and the security, in our bodies and in our spirits, that we enjoy. Finally, o Lord, I want to give thanks for the opportunities that you have granted unto me. I know that I was a pretty horrible person when I was young. It’s something that I wholly regret every day. I came to realize the kind of person I was upon reflecting on my treatment of my schoolmate Robin. I know, o Lord, that only by following the path you have set for me have I been able to redeem myself of what I did in the past. I hope someday that I will be able to personally ask for forgiveness from my schoolmate Robin, and, o Lord, I ask for your help in allowing me to do that. I say these things, o Lord, in the name of your son, Jesus Christ, amen.”

As the woman unfolded her arms and opened her eyes, she wiped a tear that she had shed during the course of her prayer from her eyes. Robin watched on as the woman stood up, made her way up the stairs, and went to bed. After the woman closed the door to her bedroom, Robin asked, “Was she referring to me, Shawn?”

“Yes, yes she was.”

Robin was moved by this fact. “Whoa. It makes me wonder who that was.”

Shawn quickly responded, “That was Shannon.”



“The most popular girl in school, who not only tormented me in school but was the leader of the tormenters?”

“That’s the one.”

Robin was again moved by this fact. “Man. I didn’t know that Shannon could feel remorse, much less felt it toward me.” Robin had to hold back a tear at this moment. Robin realized that someone she had completely written off had managed to redeem herself. Shawn placed hand on Robin’s shoulder and began to breathe deeply. By the time he was done breathing, Shawn and Robin were no longer in Shannon’s home.

Shawn and Robin materialized in a much different place than what they had visited before. Gone were any elements that a family of any kind ever had or ever would live in this house. What passed for decoration in this house was racy pinup art, garbages overflowing with takeout containers and beer bottles, and a general state of mess.

As Robin stood in the home’s living room and looked around at this place the more repulsed she became at it. Then Robin’s eyes fell on something, a calendar hanging on the wall sold by a strip club. Robin looked closely at this calendar, not at the picture of the semi-nude surgically enhanced woman that accompanied the calendar, but at the date on it.

“Hey Shawn?”


Robin pointed to the calendar she was looking at. “This looks like it’s a calendar from last year. This isn’t present day, is it Shawn?”

“That’s right Robin. It is Christmas Eve, but Christmas Eve of last year.”

Just then, from the kitchen of the house, the whistle a tea kettle was heard. The whistle was quickly silenced as someone removed the kettle from the heating element and water began to be poured from it. A couple of seconds later a man emerged from the kitchen and was walking into the living room holding in his hands a mug of hot water and a tea bag he was seeping into it. The man slowly walked over to his sofa, occasionally fiddling with his cup of tea, and sat down in what appeared to be a well worn rut in his sofa.

As the man sat there and dipped his teabag in and out of his mug, Robin started walking toward him, staring at his intently while doing so. Shawn took note of this. “What are you doing?”
Robin got closer and closer to the man on the sofa, to the point where if she could have affected the world she was in the man would have felt her breath on his face. “I swear I recognize this guy, but I can’t quite place him.”

“And you think getting that close to him will jog your memory?”

“Maybe, I don’t know.”

Shawn walked over to Robin, pulled her away from the man on the couch, and said, “Do you remember the first ghost that visited you?”

“Celeste? Sure I do.”

“No, not her, the first one. The ghost that visited you before you went to bed for the night.”
Robin looked back at the man on the couch. A second later it hit her. “Oh! That’s the guy who told me that the three of you were going to visit me.”

Shawn nodded his head and said, “Yes, that’s exactly right.”

“Wow, I thought that was a hallucination fueled by gin.”

“Robin, none of us are the production of excess alcohol consumption. Maybe that’s the reason we were born, but that’s not what brought us here to you.”

As Shawn and Robin went through the process of identifying the man on the couch, the man in question had begun drinking his tea. He started with small sips and slowly built up to larger gulps. After every drink of tea that he took the man on the couch grimaced as if he was drinking something bitter. When his mug was about halfway empty, the man held the mug out in front of him, looked at it, then began to talk to himself.

“It’s unfortunate that those people get to win. It’s unfortunate that with every sip I take from this mug, all of those people get that much closer to victory over me. All those people who wanted nothing to do with me. All those people who wanted me to get away, to go away, to be gone from the realm of existence they currently occupied. It’s unfortunate that Shannon, Brent, Dwayne, Rachel, and even Robin get to win.” A smile came over the man’s face as he said that last name. “Robin. Oh Robin, my one last true hope. I thought in you I could find a kindred spirit. A fellow rejected soul. A person with whom I could stand and fight the rest of the world with. That didn’t happen. As much as she strove not to be, Robin was no different from the rest of them.”

The man then put the mug he was holding to his lips and drank the rest of its contents in one long gulp. The man then set the mug on the coffee table in front of him, laid out on his couch, and looked ready to take a long rest. Robin thought what just happened was strange, not the way the man was laying on his couch but by what the man had said. “Shannon, Brent, Dwayne, Rachel and Robin.” Robin, not knowing who else to ask, turned to Shawn and said, “Was that guy referring to me and people who went to school with me?”

Shawn replied, “Yes.”

Robin thought about that for a second. “Does that mean he went to school with me,” Robin asked hesitantly.

“Yes, Robin he did in fact go to school with you. Do you remember who he is?”

Robin looked at the man on the couch, trying again to recognize him. “I wish I did.”

“His name is Eric Berman.”

Robin searched her memory, trying to remember a man named Eric Berman. Then she remembered one of the things that Celeste had shown her. “Eric is the guy. The guy who tried to approach me in high school. The guy that I completely blew off.”

“That is correct Robin.”

“He said that I am one of the people who attained victory over him.” Robin turned back toward Shawn and asked, “What did he mean by that?”

Shawn didn’t offer a vocal response, he merely pointed at Eric, still lying on the couch. Robin looked at Eric, looking for some sign, some clue as to the meaning of what he just said. What she got from Eric was nothing. No clue, no sign, not even any movement. No twitching of his fingers and toes, no rise and fall in his chest, no flaring of his nostrils. Then Robin noticed that Eric’s eyes were open and had been open for several minutes.

Slowly the weight of what Robin was observing hit her. “Is he dead?”


“But he was fine a couple of minutes ago. What happened?”

Shawn walked over to the mug sitting on the coffee table, stuck his nose in it, and took a huge whiff of it. “Usually when people add something to their tea, they mean to make it somewhat sweeter. Some sugar or some honey perhaps. It appears Eric’s choice of additive was for another purpose entirely.”

Robin didn’t want to ask this question but she felt she had to. “Shawn, what did Eric add to his tea?”

“Several doses of ant poison, which is a low concentrated form of cyanide.”

“So he’s dead?”


“Because of me?”

“To say his death is your fault would not be correct, but to say that you didn’t contribute to Eric choosing to commit suicide would not be correct either.”

Robin didn’t say or do anything to express a reaction at first. She just seemed to stare blankly at the floor for some time. Then Robin started walking away from Eric and into the kitchen area. Just as she left the living room, Robin turned back around and looked at Eric, still lying perfectly still on the couch. Robin began to tear up a little but was trying to fight her emotions, a fight she was quickly losing. Rather than having her emotions overcome her in Eric’s apartment, she chose to go running through the kitchen, out the back door to the deck outside in the warm arid air. Shawn followed after Robin and found her crumpled down on the deck. Her head was in her hands, tears were streaming down her face, and she had just started vocalizing her emotions.

“I thought I had done it. I honestly thought I had done it. I thought I could wall myself off from a world that I thought was adamant about not wanting me and have them and I not affect each other at all. I thought I had done it. I thought I could do it, but I was wrong. I now know that not only can I not wall myself off from the world, my attempts to do so ended up hurting people. In trying to rid myself of people, I hurt the people who care for me. I didn’t want to hurt people, but I did. I did more to put myself in this situation than anyone else, and I’m not the only one who suffered for my actions. I need to change. I must change. If only so I can gain a true connection with those who care for me.

Robin continued to cry crumpled on the deck as Shawn slowly walked to her. “This is it. This is why my colleagues and I visited you Robin. I believe the change we wanted to occur has happened.” Shawn placed his hand on Robin’s shoulder, this time to comfort her. “Robin, I wish you luck on your journey through life, I wish you treasures of unimaginable joy, but I also wish you perseverance. The journey you have in front of you will not always be easy and the treasures not always recognizable. But if you keep on moving forward, Robin, you will attain all of the good things in life.”

At the end of his speech, Shawn left Robin’s side. Robin didn’t know this happened at first as she was trying to clear the tears from her vision. Robin didn’t suspect that anything had changed untill the warm arid air that had surrounded her was replaced with a soft cold breeze blowing on her back. Robin opened her red and bleary eyes to see that she was no longer on the deck outside Eric’s house. She was at her house, on her balcony, outside of her bedroom.

Robin did her best to wipe her tears from her eyes as she rose to her feet. For a moment, Robin thought she was going to have to climb down off her balcony, find the potted plant her key is under, and unlock her back door to get back in her house. Then she noticed her balcony doors were unlocked. Robin opened her balcony doors just wide enough for her to squeeze through, then quickly closed them behind her, making sure to lock them this time.

Robin was at that point of tiredness where you are tired, completely so, but can’t get to sleep. Rather than try in vain to get to sleep, Robin chose to walk, nearly on autopilot, to her den to watch TV. Robin slumped down in her chair, and turned on the news. It was the usual fare. Politician sticking his foot in his mouth, well connected company ripping off its customers, and a celebrity only known for getting drunk and getting naked doing exactly that. In her nearly tired haze, Robin’s eyes began to wander around her field of vision, eventually falling on a clock she kept in her den. She read it and realized it was six A.M. on Christmas Day. A thought came to her mind as Robin stared at that clock.

“If I got in my car, right now, I could be at my parent’s house by ten.”

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