The Night of the Meek

When one thinks of The Twilight Zone, words such as “strange,” “spooky,” and “science fiction” often come to mind–and rightly so.  But over the span of its five seasons and 156 episodes, Rod Serling’s masterpiece delved into many different subject matters and genres.  For all the scary or suspenseful Twilight Zone episodes, there were also quite a few that could be termed “touching,” “magical,” and “heartfelt.”

One such episode, a second-season story titled “The Night of the Meek,” starring the great Art Carney of Honeymooners fame, has long been one of my holiday favorites.

norton

 

The story begins in a department store at Christmastime.  Children are lined up, waiting to visit Santa Claus.  The trouble is, Santa is nowhere to be found.

As we soon discover, Santa is sitting at a bar down the road.  No other patrons are there–just Santa and the bartender, a grouchy, tough-looking guy named Bruce.  The man in the Santa Claus costume is Henry Corwin (played by Carney), a down-and-out sort who has a penchant for drinking too much liquor.

santaatbar

 

Drunk, in a stupor, Corwin asks the bartender what time it is, realizing he’s late getting back to the department store.  Then he asks, “Why do you suppose there isn’t really a Santa Claus?”  But Bruce doesn’t want to talk.  He kicks Corwin out of the bar when he sees him reaching for a bottle without first offering to pay.

Stumbling around on the sidewalk, the night bright with falling snow, Corwin slumps against a lamppost.  Two children appear, one boy, one girl, attracted by his Santa costume.  Clearly they are poor, and they ask him for presents he of course cannot give.  The girl also asks for a “job for my daddy.”  Corwin puts his arms around them, cries, wishing he could help.

withthechildren

 

withmorechildren

 

Then Rod Serling appears on-screen, and offers the opening narration:

“This is Mr. Henry Corwin, normally unemployed, who once a year takes the lead role in the uniquely popular American institution, that of a department-store Santa Claus in a road company version of ‘The Night Before Christmas.’  But in just a moment, Mr. Henry Corwin, ersatz Santa Claus, will enter a strange kind of North Pole, which is one part the wondrous spirit of Christmas and one part the magic that can only be found in–The Twilight Zone.”

serlingonsetinsnow

 

**************

When we next see Corwin, he is back at the department store, an hour late, and on the receiving end of a tirade from his boss, Mr. Dundee.

Trying to gather himself, though still drunk, Corwin sits in his chair and calls up the children, one by one, to ask him what they want for Christmas.  But then he falls out of the chair.

One boy exclaims, “Look, Ma!  Santa Claus is loaded!”

The mother is disgusted, telling Corwin he should be ashamed of himself.  He assures her that he is.  He tries to stop her, to explain himself further, but she barges out.

drunksantagettingyelledat

 

Mr. Dundee, livid, fires him on the spot.  He calls him a loser, a drunk, and tells him never to set foot in his store again.

dundee

 

Corwin pauses, tells his boss that his drinking on the job is inexcusable.  But then he goes on to explain, “I can either drink, or I can weep.  And drinking is so much more subtle. . . .  But as for my insubordination, I was not rude to that woman.  Someone should remind her that Christmas is more than barging up and down department-store aisles and pushing people out of the way.  Someone has to tell ‘er that Christmas is another thing, finer than that. Richer.  Finer.  Truer.  And it should come with patience and love.  Charity.  Compassion.  That’s what I would’ve told ‘er, if she’d have given me the chance.”

Mr. Dundee, desperate to get rid of Corwin, tells him again, in no uncertain terms, to leave.

Corwin continues, “All I know is, I’m an aging, purposeless relic of another time, and I live in a dirty rooming-house on a street filled with hungry kids and shabby people, where the only thing that comes down the chimney on Christmas Eve is more poverty!”

Dundee tells him to keep his voice down, he is causing a scene.  Parents and especially their children are watching, listening . . .

“You know another reason why I drink, Mr. Dundee?” Corwin says. “So that when I walk down the tenements, I can really think it’s the North Pole and the children are elves and that I’m really Santa Claus, bringing them a bag of wondrous gifts for all of them.  I just wish, Mr. Dundee, on one Christmas, only one, that I could see some of the hopeless ones, and the dreamless ones–just on one Christmas . . . I’d like to see the meek inherit the earth.”

Here the camera pans, showing the children’s faces, one by one.

“That’s why I drink, Mr. Dundee,” Corwin concludes.  “And that’s why I weep.”

carneysanta

 

He leaves the store, the kids watching as he staggers out.

Later, walking down an empty, snow-filled alley, Corwin is startled when a stray cat jumps out of a sack perched atop a collection of trash cans.  The cat’s leap causes the sack to fall to Corwin’s feet.  Suddenly, in the distance, he hears the sound of sleigh bells.  And he discovers, as if by some wonderful brand of holiday magic, that the sack is stuffed full with wrapped presents.

magicsack

 

Excited, Corwin, still dressed as Santa, flings the sack over his shoulders, and races out of the alley, shouting, “Hey!  Hey, kids!  Hey, everybody!  Merry Christmas, everybody!”

withsackgiving

 

As Corwin soon learns, the sack offers up the perfect gift to everyone.  When he reaches into the sack to give a present, it is always the one item the receiver most desires.

Word spreads throughout the neighborhood.  And a police office arrives, taking Corwin with him to the station, where Mr. Dundee awaits, having been summoned by the police, who believe Corwin must have stolen merchandise from Dundee’s department store and then stashed it away in his Christmas sack.

police

 

But when Dundee reaches into the sack, he pulls out garbage, not stolen goods, and another stray cat.

“It seems the essence of our problem is–we’re dealing with a most unusual bag,” Corwin jokes.  The officer tells him to get lost.

Back on the street, Corwin learns his sack has once again turned magical, producing gifts to every child he comes across.  Whatever they ask for, he is able to reach inside and hand it over.

Eventually, all the children leave, and the sack is empty.  Corwin looks at it, sits on a step.

santaoutsidebar

 

Burt, an old man Corwin had given a present to earlier that evening, comes out and sits with him.  He points out that, though Corwin’s given gifts away all night, he never received a gift of his own.

“Nothing for you,” the old man says.  “Nothin’ for yourself.  Not a thing.”

But Corwin assures him he’s had the nicest Christmas since “the beginning of time.”  Besides, “You know, I–I can’t think of anything I want.  I guess what I’ve really wanted is–to be the biggest gift-giver of all time.  And in a way, I think I had that tonight.  Although if I had my choice of any gift, any gift at all, I think I’d wish I could do this every year.”

Corwin leaves Burt, walks into the same alley where he’d discovered his Christmas sack.  And he sees . . . a sleigh, two reindeer, and an elf!

elfandreindeer

 

The elf giggles, says, “We’ve been waiting for you quite a while, Santa Claus.  We’ve got a year of hard work ahead of us to get ready for next Christmas.”

The elf tells him to hop in the sleigh.  “Are you ready?” she says.  And they drive off, the reindeer galloping through the night and taking to the air.

In the closing narration, Rod Serling states in a voice-over:

“A word to the wise to all the children of the twentieth century, whether their concern be pediatrics or geriatrics, whether they crawl on hands and knees and wear diapers or walk with a cane and comb their beards.  There’s a wondrous magic to Christmas, and there’s a special power reserved for little people.  In short, there’s nothing mightier than the meek, and a merry Christmas to each and all.”

xmasmagic

 

*************

One of the primary goals I had when I wrote the novel The Eye-Dancers was to bring the magic alive, to inspire the belief that all things are possible to those who keep the faith, and that, in the words of Ray Bradbury, “The stars are yours, if you have the head, the hands, and the heart for them.”

merrychristmas

 

My holiday wish for each of you is that you take a moment, pause, wander outside at night and look up, at the moon and the distant stars that sparkle like diamonds across the canvas of the sky.  Take it in.  Make a wish.

Believe.

miracles

 

Thanks so much for reading, and happy holidays to all!

–Mike

69 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Parlor of Horror
    Dec 20, 2013 @ 17:13:37

    One of my fave episodes for sure and one we always watch this time of year. The basic plot is one repeated in the cartoon Ziggy’s Gift which is a cartoon Christmas special 🙂 Have a great Holiday, to you and yours too!

    Reply

  2. Sherri
    Dec 20, 2013 @ 18:05:53

    Wonderful! Happy Christmas Mike, hope you have a wonderful time 🙂

    Reply

  3. The Fashion Huntress
    Dec 20, 2013 @ 18:34:43

    🙂 great thoughts- taking a pause this time of year is much needed.

    Reply

  4. Fashion Mayann
    Dec 20, 2013 @ 18:58:50

    How generous of you, Mike, to ask us to believe ! Christmas is such a magical moment … I hadn’t seen this “Twilight Zone” episode, and it is pretty magical indeed ! I wish you a very magical Christmas !

    Reply

  5. Bruce Thiesen
    Dec 20, 2013 @ 19:08:58

    Mike – this is an excellent post about an excellent film with an excellent message starring an excellent actor. Excellence all around. Thanks.

    Reply

  6. BroadBlogs
    Dec 20, 2013 @ 19:24:50

    The story is very moving. Giving is receiving and having purpose is satisfying. I’m hoping I can find this and watch it.

    Reply

  7. Eric Alagan
    Dec 21, 2013 @ 00:24:20

    Dear Mike,

    I read through this entire post, relishing, reliving that episode. Rod Serling conveyed the theme of true giving which is actually receiving in disguise.

    Thank you for bringing this to the fore. Poignant and so very true.

    Peace ane blessings,
    Eric

    Reply

  8. jjspina
    Dec 21, 2013 @ 01:41:28

    This is a wonderful episode showing the meaning of Christmas – giving unselfishly. It brought tears to my eyes to remember it. You delivered it so eloquently. Thank you for sharing.

    Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to you and yours! Xo

    Reply

  9. Minister Gertrude Ferguson - Founder & CEO- Enough Tribulations
    Dec 21, 2013 @ 02:37:29

    Thanks! Have a Merry Christmas and a Wonderful and Prosperous New Year. Looking forward to your interesting penmanship in 2014. God bless you my dear brother.

    Reply

  10. Jilanne Hoffmann
    Dec 21, 2013 @ 06:49:29

    An awesome post, Mike! And as i read, I seemed to recall seeing this myself, though it’s been buried in my memory for years. Thanks for bringing it to the surface. Between this and A Christmas Carol, I’m in the Christmas spirit. Keep the magic alive!

    Reply

  11. dharmabeachbum
    Dec 21, 2013 @ 09:24:02

    Merry Christmas, Mike. One day I must get your book. I’m sure it is one great read. I absolutely loved this piece. So well done. Beautifully written. Think I’ve seen every episode of “The Twilight Zone” at least three times. Some many times. Serling was a genius. Someone who truly cared about humanity. Peace, my friend.

    Reply

  12. merrildsmith
    Dec 21, 2013 @ 11:58:25

    Thank you for this, Mike. Happy Christmas to you and yours.

    Reply

  13. jenniferkmarsh
    Dec 21, 2013 @ 13:48:28

    You know, just the other night I did that; I went outside at night, and there wasn’t a cloud in the sky, and all stars gleamed alongside the brightest moon. I haven’t seen a moon so bright in a long time. It painted the world in silver light 🙂 I found myself staring up for goodness knows how long.

    I hope you have a very merry Christmas and a wonderful New Year 🙂 Have a blessed time!

    Reply

  14. Lyn
    Dec 22, 2013 @ 12:20:55

    Thanks Mike, this was a great post. We all need some of this Christmas spirit.
    Have a very Merry Christmas and a wonderful New Year filled with joy, peace and contentment.

    Reply

  15. greenlightlady
    Dec 23, 2013 @ 04:06:06

    I am so glad that I stopped by, Mike; this was a wonderful read!

    Christmas Blessings to you & yours ~ Wendy

    Reply

  16. stockdalewolfe
    Dec 23, 2013 @ 08:46:41

    This was so great to read! Thanks so much for posting! Merry Christmas to you and yours! xx Ellen

    Reply

  17. ahardrain
    Dec 23, 2013 @ 18:38:48

    Great memories from Christmas past. Merry Christmas to you and your family 🙂
    ~Glenn

    Reply

  18. ptero9
    Dec 23, 2013 @ 19:02:49

    Thanks for the review here, as usual it a wonderful read. My husband and I watched the show last night on Hulu. TV is just not the same anymore!!!
    Merry Christmas!
    Debra

    Reply

  19. Svelte
    Dec 23, 2013 @ 20:24:09

    Merry Christmas to you!
    – Jen

    Reply

  20. laurie27wsmith
    Dec 23, 2013 @ 21:04:47

    My goodness what a wonderful read, I got goose bumps as I read through it, remembering the episode. What a great gift for Christmas Michael. Thank you.
    Laurie.

    Reply

  21. 2embracethelight
    Dec 24, 2013 @ 00:36:07

    Loved it! I was watching the Twilight Zone last night. For the space of time of his programs, he entertains us so much.
    Yisraela

    Reply

  22. BeWithUs
    Dec 24, 2013 @ 10:54:41

    Merry Christmas, my dear friend!

    All the best to you and your loved ones in Year 2014! Cheers~ 😀

    Reply

  23. Sam Han
    Dec 24, 2013 @ 15:40:32

    Merry Christmas Mike! 😀 😀 😀

    Reply

  24. Sue Dreamwalker
    Dec 24, 2013 @ 15:58:36

    Wow, what a brilliantly put together Post Mike, 🙂 May the Magic of Christmas stay with you throughout the whole of Next Year.. wishing you many Blessings over the Holidays and peace and health for 2014…

    Thank you for your support over at Dreamwalker’s Enjoy your holidays

    Love and Blessings Sue xox

    Reply

  25. dannadesigns
    Dec 25, 2013 @ 00:05:07

    Great post and a very Merry Christmas to you!

    Reply

  26. Sheryl Wright Stinchcum
    Dec 25, 2013 @ 02:09:01

    I must have missed that “Twilight Zone” episode. I loved the “Honeymooners” and saw Art Carney in-person in a one-man act in Washington, DC. Such a talented man!

    Reply

  27. Shakti Ghosal
    Dec 25, 2013 @ 07:44:06

    That’s a great take-away in your closing line, ” …there’s nothing mightier than the meek.” I believe the world is at the cusp where technology, connectivity and transparency is making this happen. We need to only look around us to see.So how would that shape the world, right from Geo-politics, corporations and societies? Would you wish to ponder on that?

    Merry Christmas.

    Shakti

    Reply

  28. teagan geneviene
    Dec 25, 2013 @ 14:54:10

    Wishing you every blessing of any holiday you hold dear,
    teagan

    Reply

  29. Carol Wuenschell
    Dec 26, 2013 @ 18:09:07

    I love that Twilight Zone episode too. Let’s hear it for the magic!

    Reply

  30. fashionassist
    Dec 27, 2013 @ 01:03:27

    Wonderful post as always–thank you Mike…
    and enjoy the wondrous magic of Christmas~

    Reply

  31. likeitiz
    Dec 27, 2013 @ 02:10:14

    It’s all summed up on your last word. Believe.

    Reply

  32. insearchofitall
    Dec 28, 2013 @ 17:30:53

    I don’t think I ever saw that show. Watched a few of the Twilight Zones but not much TV at all. I like that story and wish I had seen it. I know how he feels. If I could drink, I would. I just weep for the hardship in the world. Some days the ache is just almost too much to bare. I too would give anything to be Santa Claus and have done my best to spread some joy with limited resources. I’m a little late getting here but it’s been a very busy holiday season. Rest will come later. 🙂 Hope yours was merry and bright.

    Reply

  33. ampbreia
    Jan 08, 2014 @ 17:17:46

    I love that episode too. It’s so full of hope and compassion. It sparkles with a light all its own.

    Reply

  34. Mary Strong-Spaid
    Jan 14, 2014 @ 23:48:38

    Wish there was still something like the “Twilight Zone” on TV.
    It was great!

    Reply

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: