Nagelvoort by Chris Raia

They would all crowd around the water cool and talk about him. It was how they spent their breaks. That poor Nagelvoort, they’d say. The guy just can’t catch a break.

“Did you hear the boss go on him this morning? What do you think he did this time?”

“Same shit, different day. You name it, he probably did it. He’s a nice guy, but let’s face it, Nagelvoort sucks.”

“He really does. He means well, but he’s just the worst.”

“Hey, go easy on the fellow. His marriage is falling apart just in time for Christmas.”

Yes, despite his many obvious flaws, Stanley Nagelvoort did have a family. He had a marriage that had probably lasted fifteen years too long and three children whom he loved to death and wanted nothing more than to finally earn their respect.

Poor, poor Nagelvoort.

It was Christmastime in Madison, Illinois. Snow covered cars, trees, sidewalks; everything you saw was blindingly white.

Stanley woke up in the morning and started his daily routine, painfully lifting himself and his bad back out of his old mattress.

He supposed that’s why Martha started sleeping in the guest room. She probably just didn’t want to share that old, springy bed. Yes. That was the reason.

He took a shower and brushed his teeth, and started layering up. First, his work clothes, a short sleeve button up shirt with a tie. Over that, a sweater; over that, another sweater, and over that, his thick winter jacket.

“You look ridiculous,” his wife would say as she exited the guest room rubbing sleep from her eyes.

He’d just sigh and look down at his boots. “Have a good day,” he’d think about saying, as he thought about kissing her goodbye. She still would not have brushed her teeth; that’s why they never did that anymore.

“Stanley,” Martha called. He turned around promptly. “Yes, dear?”

“Please don’t forget to pick up the Christmas tree after work. The kids want a nice one this year, so don’t get the cheapest little shit of a tree like you do every year.”


In Martha’s defense, she was absolutely right. Stanley never really thought the size of the tree or the beauty of the tree mattered; it was what it represented. He was raised to see it as a sign of family, togetherness, and tradition. His family didn’t see it that way. They just saw the enormous, extravagant trees the Ericksons next door brought home every year and thought anything less than that was bullshit.

All he ever wanted was to make his children happy. The entire day at work, he stared at the pictures in his cubicle. His daughter, Shelly, pretending she was a witch with Bugles on her fingers, and his two sons, Jonathan and Stuart, fighting with their toy dinosaurs, beating them against one another with their curved, spiky tails.

Finally, it was five o’clock. He started making his way to the Christmas tree farm, the best one in town, around 20 miles from his building. Stanley was fine with driving through the snow; he’d lived in Madison his entire life. But there was one little tunnel on the way to the farm that he could not stand. It was barely big enough to fit a normal-sized car through, so he laid on his horn to warn drivers from the other side that he was coming. That tunnel was just too small.

He finally made it to the tree farm and asked the owner for his most expensive tree. He had just cashed his small Christmas bonus and had it in an envelope in his pocket. He was not going to let his family down this year.

The man led him to the biggest, most impressive Christmas tree Stanley Navelgoort had ever seen.

“That’ll be two hundred and twenty-five dollars, sir.”

Stanley handed him the envelope and went on his way with the Christmas tree, his sole success, the token that would make his children and his wife actually happy to see him when he walked in the door, tied securely to the roof of his car.

Tonight would be different, he thought to himself. Tonight, he’d be the hero. His kids would jump up and down when he walked through the door. His wife would smile and kiss him on the cheek. He’d be like the fathers on television, like Mike Brady. Maybe Martha would even sleep in his room. He found himself smiling.

A few yards away from that tunnel, Stanley started honking. He knew nobody else would be on the road, but he liked to be safe. Just in case. He drove to the entrance of the tunnel, the tunnel that was barely big enough to fit a regular sized car through it, and just kept driving. He never thought about the tree on top of his roof.

The sides of his glorious, beautiful Christmas tree were pressed against the sides of the narrow tunnel; the big, fat branches scraped against them. It was tied so securely that it didn’t fall, but its outside branches were pushed backwards, making the once wide, plushy tree look like a skinny, bristly rod. It looked like his daughter’s Bugles stacked on top of each other, or one of the tails of his sons’ toy dinosaurs. It certainly did not look like the most expensive tree in the lot.

He pulled over on the side of the road and looked helplessly at the roof of his car. At least it’s a tree, he’d try to tell his family. At least we’re together for Christmas. He doubted they would like that response. He sighed to himself and drove home quietly. He’ll never be a hero. He’ll never be Mike Brady, not with a tree like that. He’ll always just be poor, poor Stanley Nagelvoort.

I'm a senior Advertising major at Marist College located in Poughkeepsie, NY. I very much enjoy black pens, whiskey, the Oxford Comma, and short author bios that include an eclectic list of personal interests. I like writing simple stories about strange characters because I think that strangeness is what makes people real. Want to talk? I'd love to! Send me an email at