Alexander Hammil was in and out of the mine all morning, organizing, indexing, categorizing. His long, angularly handsome form haunted the miners; shadowed them, pestered them with questions, took their tools and chopped at the ore himself. By noon he was filthy with holiday dust — confectioner’s sugar bleached his face over the sharp clean line of his mask.

During the mandatory lunch he walked over the ridge and looked down into the valley, watched the cool blue smoke of his sister’s car come purling up the road. He was figuring demand, distribution, refining as she climbed the hill. “What do you think?” she asked.

He rubbed the sharp angle of his jaw and squinted, steely-eyed, into the bright light of the future. Through gritted teeth he ground out one word, the culmination of his long morning’s work: “Expand.”

She stepped back, her hand pressed nervously to her throat. “In this economy? Wouldn’t it be better to retrench? Consolidate?” Her weak blue eyes were watery and uncertain behind her glasses.

“We’ve come too far,” he told her, “lost too much. You give me this mine, oh my sister, and I will give you the world. In three years we could corner the market on Christmas; in five, everything from Halloween to New Year’s.”

The whistle blew, pulling the miners back to work. Another seven tons of holiday cheer trundled its way out of the earth.

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