by Lloyd C. Douglas
(told by Brent A. Barlow in “A Christmas Needlepoint”)
The story is about a man named Phil Garland, his wife, Shirley, and their two children, Polly and Junior. Phil was very disgruntled as he was driving home on Christmas Eve. He had just lost his job. When he arrived home, Shirley greeted him in her usual pleasant manner. But she, too, became discouraged as Phil conveyed his job loss to her. Their financial situation had been difficult enough when Phil was working. He now seemed even more distant to Shirley and the children than he had during the past few months.
That evening Shirley tried to include Phil in some of the Christmas Eve activities with Polly and Junior. But Phil just grumbled at the price of the gifts. He reminded Shirley that in their tight financial condition they couldn’t afford any gifts at all. He said Christmas was overly commercialized anyway. Eventually, Shirley helped Polly and Junior get ready for bed. Then, tearfully, she retired to their bedroom.
Afew minutes later she heard Phil calling from the hallway. He yelled for her to get the pliers. “I’ve stepped on a needle,” he groaned. Shirley brought the pliers, and Phil used them to tug on the needle protruding from his foot. Out came half of the needle. “That means,” he muttered, “the other half of it is still in my foot.” He and Shirley discussed the possibility of going to the hospital that night to have the other half removed. But Phil assured her it could wait until morning.
The next day, Christmas, Phil drove toward the hospital but then paused outside. Somewhere he had heard that if you get a tiny piece of metal in your body and do not remove it, it can eventually move to one of the vital organs and cause death. For some reason Phil decided to leave the other half of the needle in his foot and take the eventual consequences, if and when they occurred. He drove home and told Shirley that everything had been taken care of. From that moment Phil believed his life was in jeopardy. He really didn’t know if he was going to live from one day to the next. He decided he would try and make the most of life on a day-to-day basis. There was a marked change in him. He treated Shirley with more kindness and spent time playing with Polly and Junior. Phil had a very pleasant Christmas Day with his family. He didn’t know, after all, if he would be alive tomorrow. Tomorrow came and Phil Garland found himself alive. For the second day in a row he was extra considerate to his wife and children because it might be the last day of his life. The story proceeded with examples of Phil spending more time with Shirley, Polly, and Junior on a day-by-day basis. He also took daily odd jobs in the community to financially support his family.
Precious Jeopardy ended, as it began, on Christmas Eve on year later. It was in sharp contrast to the previous Christmas because Phil was so happy. On Christmas Eve, Phil played a few games and romped with the children. Before putting them to bed they exchanged a few small gifts they had made during the year. During those months Phil had made a walnut sewing cabinet for Shirley. He took her to his work area and presented his gift to her. Shirley was again tearful, but this year it was because of Phil’s thoughtfulness. As the clock struck Shirley informed Phil that she also had a gift for him. She handed Phil a small box which he opened. There was a tiny fragment of steel pierced through red velvet. It was the other half of the needle Phil thought was in his foot. The story ends: “You’ll forgive me—won’t you dear,” Shirley begged. “It was just the next day—I was moving the rug and found the other half of the needle. I wanted to tell you—at once. But you see,” Shirley went on, brokenly, “this other half of the needle gave you back to us. I couldn’t risk losing you again, could I? And it made you so brave and kind!” Phil’s arms tightened around her shoulders, protectively. He slowly released a long pent-up sigh that sounded as if he might have traveled a great distance. “Well, thanks, Shirley,” he stammered. “I’m glad to have it. Just what I wanted. No, no, don’t cry, darling. It’s Christmas.”