Old man winter had settled snow on the large town in the middle of Michigan. The white blanket covered all that there was, everything…every last inch of the once-bare ground was covered in the deep clean cushion.
The streets were crowded, men, women, and children all out in the shopping malls doing their last minute shopping.
And at one such mall, a little boy stood outside of the front window, looking in.
A small child, he couldn't have weighed much, and his clothes, they didn't cover his body like everyone else's… But even so, this young boy has the spirit of a tiger. His heart yearned for the things he knew that he would never have, and his spirit soared when he thought about the very possibility that, maybe, perhaps, this year, he would meet the one called Santa.
He didn't get his hopes up, he wasn't that kind of boy. He knew when his chances were slim, and, this year, they certainly seemed that way. He'd always held some kind of regard for the man who gave gifts… and every year, when there was nothing for him, he bowed his head and thanked God for what he did have.
He might have been five, or even seven years of age… But he'd never learned to read like other kids, or to write, and he was shy. Oh so terribly shy!
The reactions he'd gotten from his dirty, smudged clothes, was enough to make him run crying home, but he didn't.
He told others, he said, "I live in a ….broken home…"
And certainly, he was right. His home was broken, he didn't have one…
But his idea of a broken home, and the world's idea, were two very different things, though not all that different if put into the right light.
He wanted his mother back, and his baby sister and older brother… He wanted so many things, but he knew that no matter what, he wouldn't get them… It wasn't something that was given to someone without a home, without floors, ceilings, walls, and a tree in the living room.
His mother had always said, "Santa don't deliver no gifts to poor folks, just them ones that have trees in their livin' rooms, and a ceilin' above their heads…"
But he never gave up hope. Ever… One year he'd hauled a tree twice his size from a lot where it had been discarded. But he'd gotten no gifts…and he thought, maybe… just maybe, his mother was right.
His hope dropped a notch. Maybe Santa did only deliver gifts to those that had a roof over their heads…
He continued to peer into the brightly lit building that sent flickers of red and green, and blue and orange into the night. It was so pretty… And he wanted to touch it so badly.
"Don't touch! Don't touch anything!" his mother would yell. "We can't be buyin' stuff that we break, so iffen you break somethin' you've gotta work fer free fer as long as they say you have to, even if you've done paid them with workin' labor…"
His mother was from down south, his father from up north, Canada in fact. And they wandered around this particular part of Michigan all year long, trying to make it on small odd jobs and little odds and ends found in the street.
He looked at the people staring and whispering at him, and his face flushed deeply. It was involuntary, he had no control in it. He sunk to the ground in a heap, his wrapped hands covering his eyes.
He's tried to be strong.
Really, he had.
He'd been strong when the little bird he'd tried to save had died.
He'd not cried when his brother left home and never returned.
He'd not thrown a fit when he never got his way.
He didn't complain because he had no friends…
He didn't try and fight back against the homeless kids older than him.
He wasn't bitter at God when his mother passed away suddenly the winter before.
He didn't get mad when he couldn't have a dog like the other kids he saw.
He didn't sigh when he didn't get any toys.
He didn't tell others that he was better than them.
He never lashed out at others' for his family's misfortunes.
He didn't moan when his leg broke and his family couldn't afford a doctor.
He didn't gripe at his parents when there wasn't food on the table.
He didn't whimper when he wasn't warm enough.
He didn't cry when his baby sister caught pneumonia and nothing could prevent her death.
He was strong…
He tried so hard.
And yet, his world was empty.
To him, being strong meant nothing. He hadn't gotten anything from being the strongest willed person in the whole state of Michigan.
His life was crumbling to the ground at that very moment.
And his inner self was trying, so hard, to rebuild what had fallen down.
It wasn't as if he didn't care, because he did… He was afraid to care, afraid that if, he cared too much, he would be hurt deeper than he ever could be. Even a knife wouldn't be able to compare to the damages that would be caused.
He thought about …ending it all…
But he had dismissed it as something too stupid, too…final…
And God certainly didn't want him taking the easy way out. He'd read, in the small black book his mother had kept, her only item… The only thing she owned… the only thing his father hadn't tried to sell for food…he had read that, if one committed a murder, committed the sin of killing another, they would roast in the pits of hell for eternity.
And wasn't suicide, killing someone; even if it was your own life you were taking?
And so, he'd resorted to watching, from a distance. And wondering…and thinking…
The "what if's" plagued his mind. What if things didn't work out? What if his father died? What if his younger sister died? What if-?
He peeked out through his hands at the people rushing in and out of the huge building. He wanted to go in, he wanted to see what they saw…he wanted… And he couldn't help but want…
He wanted to taste the ham and goose on dinner tables Christmas day, he wanted to smell the pine needles form the Christmas trees…
And he wanted his family to be together again, like they were before. Even if it meant less food for him, less time to himself, he would give anything to have everyone together again.
And he decided that, just this once, he really would go inside of the big building everyone called a "mall". Just to see what was inside, and to see what Santa really looked like.
Old man Johnson sighed to himself. Every year, they picked him to be Santa Claus at the mall downtown.
It wasn't that he minded.
He always felt…guilty…
He knew he wasn't Santa, and that the children who depended on him so much, wouldn't really get everything that they wanted. There were some parents that couldn't afford all of the expensive gifts for the children.
He stood up after the last child had left. A little girl who'd wanted five different dolls and a tea set. He'd done the standard "I'll try my best to get you what you want", but his heart wasn't in it anymore.
"Jessie, shut the gate please," he said to one of his 'elves', and Jessie went to do as he asked.
He wondered if he understood what he was doing.
Lying to the children…
What about the kids who wouldn't get what they wanted? And they believed, really believed, that Santa Claus would somehow squeeze down their chimney and give them everything their little hearts desired.
It made his old heart break.
He shrugged out of his Santa Claus clothes, and tugged on his giant coat. The coat engulfed him after he pulled the pillow from his stomach. But it was time for him to go home and finish wrapping gifts for Christmas tomorrow. The goose was in his car trunk, staying cold in the outside weather, and the last of his gifts sat in the backseat.
And he shuffled along, step by step, slowly; until he reached the edge of that department of the store.
And his eyes took in the sight of a small boy, dressed in nearly threadbare clothing, dirty as could be, but the look in the boy's eyes…it was…
He just couldn't describe it.
"Hello, son," Johnson said. "Did you come to see Santa Claus?"
"I-I…." The boy stuttered. "Does Santa give presents to people who don't have a roof over their heads?"
Johnson was caught off-guard by the question. "Whatever do you mean?" he asked.
"Well sir, we ain't got no tree, and no home, and no roof… and we ain't never got no presents neither…" He scuffed his shoes against the tiled floor, bare toes sticking out of the front.
"I was just wonderin', that's all," the boy said softly.
"It's fine son, it's fine. Santa isn't as mighty as everyone thinks he is…"
"Can I ask you a question, sir?"
"Yes young man, of course you may."
"Well, how's come people like to lie to kids?" He wrung his hands together. "I dun' mean to be disrespectful or nothin', but I know's there's no Santa Claus… It's all a lie, to get kids to believe that they'll get what they want, when, it's not even true at'all."
"Well, son, I know what you're saying. First off, how's about you give me your name, and I give you mine."
"Your real one, sir?" the boy asked. "Cause you can't get me to believe in Santa Claus no more."
"Yes son, my name is Johnson, Scott Johnson."
"I'm Shawn, sir, but I cain't remember my last name none."
"It's fine Shawn. And yes you're correct about there not being a Santa Claus… He doesn't go down the chimney handing out gifts left and right, and I myself don't understand why folks would lie to their kids to get them to believe something that isn't true."
"Yes-sir," Shawn answered quietly. "I just needed to ask somebody, I didn't mean to take up none of your time or nothin'."
"It's fine Shawn, I don't mind. What did you want for Christmas though?" Johnson asked, curious to see what the boy would say.
"Well if ya want me to be truthful to ya sir, I want my
mother and baby sister back, and I want my older brother to come back home. But
since even I know that's impossible, I wish my dad had a blanket and some
gloves, his hands get awful cold in the winter, and his feet too… And my baby
sister, I wish she had a doll or somethin' to play with. I didn't never have no
toys, but I truly wish she did…"
Scott Johnson's heart thudded in his chest.
There were a few throws that he'd gotten on sale for $7 each…and boots, he had a pair of them in his trunk that he never wore, they were for emergency's… and he had a doll that he was going to give to his granddaughter, but he'd already bought three of them for her.
And he was wearing a nice pair of warm gloves…
He jumped up quickly and rushed out of the mall to his car, his hand wrapped around little Shawn's. He lifted his eyes to Heaven, asking God silently if maybe, just maybe, this was what he was to do.
He pulled the items out of his trunk, putting the doll, the old boots, three throw blankets, his own gloves, the goose into a bag. Then he dug frantically for one last item, something for little Shawn himself.
Finally, at the bottom of the bags of Christmas gifts, he spotted a decent sized plastic vehicle. He put it in the sack and tied the knot, making sure little Shawn saw nothing that he put inside.
"Now Shawn, listen carefully to me, okay? I want you to open this tomorrow morning… do you know what tomorrow is, son?"
"Christmas Day sir," Shawn answered, his voice confused.
"Good. I want you to open this then… But don't look at it until then."
"And remember one thing, there isn't a Santa Claus, but maybe people's image of Saint Nick has changed… Once, Saint Nick was probably someone who just…helped people during the Christmas season, and now, it's a big fantasy for the world."
"Ya mean like the good Samaritan in the Bible, sir?" Shawn asked. "Do you think that maybe Saint Nick is just a term for a good Samaritan?"
"Yes Shawn, that's exactly what I think," Johnson smiled. "Take care son, and even though I probably won't see you again, just remember to try your best, for you and for your family."
"I will sir, thank you kindly…" Shawn answered, turning to go back to the alley that was home to him.
"One more thing son!"
"It's good to be strong for others, but when it becomes too much, it's good to cry…"
Shawn blinked and looked down at his feet. When he looked up, Scott Johnson's car was leaving the parking lot. He turned to go home, hugging the bag to his small chest, excitement building in his heart as to the prospects of the contents of the bag.
A tear slid down his cheek and fell into the snow with a "plop". It was alright to cry, he said… But this time, he wasn't sad… He was joyful, and his step was high, his gait quick, and his heart, it was in the Heaven's, higher than anyone that shared the street with him.
And he thanked God for sending such a wonderful person, someone who truly cared, someone who wouldn't scoff at him for what he said, someone who…understood…
And for the first time in a long time, he didn't care that people were talking about him, he didn't care what he looked like, or that he was in dire need of a good bath…he put a smile on his face and ran home to be with his family, at home…
And no matter how low of a home it was, it was still home…
This year, finally, for the first time, I feel as if I've actually done some good… Johnson smiled widely and continued to drive home to his family. He would sure miss that goose, but there was ham in the freezer, and it would just have to do.
Alright, I feel as if I need to explain some things. First off, this is a story that has multiple chapters, each about a mostly angsty story.
Second, I don't want flames for the whole "santa isn't real, don't lie" kind of thing. It's what I believe it's my opinion. And it isn't true, so why lie? I would like opinions on this, however. Opinions and constructive criticism would be VERY well appreciated.
This is my first original story, if you want more chapters to this (about different people, each chapter will be a miniature story) let me know and I'll work on it if I have time after exams end (next week).
Thank you kindly for reading, I hope it wasn't too bad of a story. ^___^