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January 8, 2023

Holiday Tokens

The change happens gradually, as winter slowly undoes the fall like an

unwanted knot. In the village, cottage casements and store windows 

are all decorated, their glow heralding the holidays. Sycamores uplift 


their wasted hands, snow dusts the last blooming plants, and the only 

sound is stillness. This afternoon, it is already dark as the old widow 

stands before her open jewelry box. Her late husband of forty-years 


was never what he seemed. He lied constantly, but at least he supported 

her and bought her jewelry. He would always brag about the diamonds, 

emeralds, rubies, sapphires, gold and silver and how they were tokens 


of his everlasting love. So many necklaces, rings, brooches and earrings, 

all given for occasions long forgotten, like old keys in a drawer. But 

it doesn’t matter, because she needs money, and hasn’t worn the jewelry 


for the longest time. Just like the inevitability of winter, she knew this 

day would come. She has worries that linger like unwanted guests, 

making her think about getting old, being alone, and paying bills. 


She trudges with her jewelry box down the cold, dark street to the pawn 

shop, her boots crunching and squeaking on the unshoveled sidewalk. 

She opens the door to the tinkle of a small bell and stamps her feet to 


shuffle off the snow. A fireplace overheats the store in contrast to the frigid 

air outside. There are holiday decorations on the windows, walls and 

counter. The old pawnbroker, with the face of a mastiff wearing a Santa hat, 


gives a damp-handed greeting. He slowly opens the jewelry box, his eyes 

burning like opals. He carefully examines each piece with a loupe and writes 

numbers on a spiral-bound notepad. He offers her seventy-five dollars for 


the entire box, saying that there wasn’t one precious stone or metal in the 

whole collection. Thinking of her husband, she shakes her head with a resigned 

smile, realizing it was impossible for this to have turned out any other way. 


© the author

by William Ogden Haynes

William Ogden Haynes is a poet and author of short fiction from Alabama who was born in Michigan. He has published nine collections of poetry (Points of Interest, Uncommon Pursuits, Remnants, Stories in Stained Glass, Carvings, Going South, Contemplations, Time on My Hands and The Works) and one book of short stories (Youthful Indiscretions) all available on Over 200 of his poems and short stories have appeared in literary journals and his work is frequently anthologized.

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