Editor's Note: The story below is a work of fiction by Hillman resident Jerry Johnson provided the Dispatch in the spirit of Christmas. Enjoy.
It was a few days before Christmas Eve and the store was filled with people doing last minute shopping. Christmas music filled the store and all the sales clerks wore elves hats and were busy wrapping presents.
The main aisle of the store was spanned by arches made with red Christmas balls and had huge, green wreaths in the center. The arches were anchored at each end by all white Christmas trees. Each tree was decorated with all white lights, balls, ornaments and wrapped with white garland.
There was a long line of kids waiting to see Santa. There were kids that were excited to see Santa and then would scream and holler and not go near him; and those that got on his lap and wouldn't talk, just stare at him. Everyone was excited and laughing, everyone anxious to meet Santa. The line moved right along until it was Ronnie's turn. Santa looked down at Ronnie and said, "Ho-ho-ho. Come up here little boy and sit on Santa's lap. Tell him what you want for Christmas.
Ronnie was about 9 years old. He was wearing a threadbare coat two sizes too big for him, a dirty baseball cap, jeans with holes and patches, and an oversized flannel shirt. He had red hair, freckles and a mischievous glint in his blue eyes. He bounded up the step, jumped on Santa's lap and loudly said, "Hey whisker face, how's everything?"
Stunned, Santa looked at him. "Ho-ho-ho. What a nice boy you are."
Ronnie, not one to be put off his game, said, "Yeah, right. Ho-ho-ho yourself."
Flustered, Santa said, "Tell Santa what you want Santa to bring you for Christmas, little boy."
"Hey whisker face, you can cut out the little boy. By the way, you need a shave and some deodorant. Now let's see, what do I want for Christmas? Oh yeah, a motorcycle."
"A, a motorcycle?"
"You're too little. Santa can't bring you a motorcycle. What else would you really like?"
"Well, what I'd really like is a gift for each of the kids in the orphanage and their stockings to be full of candy and apples. Oh, but what they would really want are moms and dads, but you can't bring them, either. But you know what would be the best gift of all? Enough gifts so all the kids in the orphanage could wake up Christmas morning to a room full of toys. How's them apples, Santa? Bet you can't do that either?"
Santa sat looking at the little face—a face that had too many disappointments in his young years.
"No, son, Santa can't bring the kids moms and dads, but Santa has other nice presents for them. You'll just have to believe. Here's your candy cane—next."
That night, as Jim, the store Santa Claus, was taking off his Santa suit, he couldn't get the little boy out of his mind. He took his day's pay and headed to the liquor store where he bought several bottles of muscatel and headed to the cardboard box he called home for an evening with his friends. They sat around the fire barrel drinking the muscatel while Jim told them of his encounter with the little boy at the store and what he'd wanted for Christmas. The years had hardened these men and each of them had heard their share of sad stories they could tell, but Jim's story touched them.
Ronnie had been abandoned on the steps of the orphanage when he was only a few months old. For many years he watched adoptive parents come and choose other kids and he'd be passed over. There was nothing anybody could do or say to ease the ache in his heart when he cried himself to sleep. He'd hardened over the years and accepted his role as big brother to the other kids. He protected them from the taunts of those kids who had parents, helped them with their homework and comforted them when their hearts were broken.
When Ronnie got back from the store the rest of the kids in the orphanage were busy in the big meeting room with last minute gift wrapping and decorating their small Christmas tree. The tree only had a couple of branches with two strings of lights, a few balls and some tinsel but it was their tree.
Christmas Eve night, after their stockings were hung and before they went to bed, they asked the orphanage manager if they could leave the lights on so Santa could easily find them. He told them it was OK.
When they finished their prayers and snuggled in their beds, these kids didn't have visions of sugarplums dancing in their heads. Their dreams were of having a real mom and dad that would love them and tuck them in bed and kiss them goodnight. They dreamed of having brothers and sisters, grandmas and grandpas and a whole bunch of presents under the Christmas tree just for them.
The kids that woke first got the others up and together they raced downstairs to see what Santa had brought. When they ran into the meeting room the first thing they saw were two huge white Christmas trees decorated with so many lights it blinded them. The trees were covered with white lights, balls and decorations; around each tree were presents piled so high you could barely see the trees. Each child had a stocking filled with apples, oranges and candy. The children were laughing and singing as they opened their presents. They were so excited they didn't notice the faces watching them through the windows. If they had, they'd have seen the unshaven faces of hardened men smiling and laughing, and, if they'd looked real close, they would have seen the tears of joy on each man's face.
Ronnie sat in the corner of the room not believing all he was seeing. After he'd opened his presents of a new jacket and cap, two new pair of jeans and shirts he saw an envelope in his pile addressed to him from Santa. Inside was a picture of him sitting on Santa's lap with just one word on it—Believe.
Jerry Johnson, Hillman, is a self-published author who writes novellas in a wide variety of genres including suspense, children's stories, Westerns, humor and feel good stories. He took up writing as a hobby after his retirement in 2001. The ideas for his stories come from a fertile imagination and are all fiction.