At seven o’clock in the evening, George pressed the button.
There was an explosion of light and color.
In the street, those in the know were already applauding. He went out to cheers and greeted the spectators crowded by the fence of his suburban house. George had surpassed himself this year.
Ever higher, ever better.
His house had been transformed into a temporary Las Vegas, past which strolled hundreds or even thousands of curious passers-by from all over the region. Because George had become a local celebrity. Every year, he was featured in numerous articles in the local papers, which had nicknamed him “The Illuminator”. To which he invariably replied that it was better to be an “Illuminator” than to be the Illuminati. For three years, he had also been seen on regional television and he had just been asked by NHK, last month, for a piece to be broadcast in Japan on 24 December. A tour operator even made a detour through the little neighborhood so that his clients could enjoy the spectacle, which was famed throughout the region.
He mingled with the crowd, responding willingly to requests for selfies and autographs. He had his photo taken with young children in his arms, their eyes wide in amazement. He shook countless hands and embraced hundreds of people.
When the excitement had calmed down a little, he turned round to admire his work. On the roof, clinging to a rope ladder which led to the chimney, a jovial, red-faced Father Christmas was waving with his right hand to the frenzied crowd, while the 2 miles and six hundred and seventeen yards of illuminated garlands (he had measured them), arranged over and around the house gave the impression of being on the Strip, the famous boulevard in the capital of gambling and vice. Not to mention the numerous animated tableaux. The snowman and his garden gnomes. The reindeer which came to eat out of the hand of Mother Christmas. The elves’ workshop. The crazy farmyard. The Dolls of the World Ball. That year, George had invented another novelty with a scene directly inspired by ‘Beauty and the Beast’. Ever further, ever better.
George made the very most of it, only absenting himself for a brief time to go and have a bite to eat.
At five to eleven, he collected the contents of the box where visitors could leave a voluntary contribution. That night, seven hundred and thirty-five dollars and sixty-two cents would swell the fund used to buy new items for next year.
Because that was what George was like, it wasn’t for his own benefit, he just loved giving pleasure and creating happiness for others.
At eleven o’clock, he pressed the button.
The lights and colors disappeared.
The magic went out with a hiss like the end of the world.
At five past eleven, he put his kitchen light on.
Even with a very low bulb, the light stung his eyes.
He lit the candle and turned off the lamp. That was the only lighting that was any good for him now.
The doctors had made themselves clear, the illness would progress and he would end up totally blind.
They had also warned him that the illuminations would only accelerate the process.
But George was like that, he just loved giving pleasure and creating happiness for others.
At eleven fifteen, he went to bed.
In his head, a kaleidoscope of lights burst into life.
He already knew they would long outlast his future blindness.
He was fine.
Tomorrow would be another day.
Translated by Wendy Cross