(Logan)1148

Nineteen-year-old Logan Kilburn smirked as he leaned against the Wal-Mart jewelry counter, crossing his arms over his chest. This was just as hilarious as he'd figured it would be. Watching all the people in Wal-Mart on Christmas Eve evening was better than watching an episode of The Simple Life- and he had to admit that he was a Paris Hilton admirer. The jail sentences only made her more attractive in his eyes, gave her more attractive in his eyes, gave her more edge. But even Paris Hilton couldn't measure up to this. Christmas Eve at Wal-Mart- now that would be a cool reality show.2149

It was crazy, watching all the people hurrying past him with wild eyes and nearly frantic expressions. They were all rushing past Logan without glancing at him, so desperate were they to get to the next item on their lists, the shortest line or last item. Already Logan had watched with great amusement as four separate fights broke out over Playstations and I-pods, two of them physically and requiring police intervention. Logan had not even tried to smother his laughter, and during the third fight, he had actually had to wipe away tears. These people were so freaking SAD. They were actually FIGHTING over the privilege to throw away their money on cheaply made, overpriced Wal-Mart junk!3150

Logan was fervently glad that he felt no compulsion to do such things. He spent as little as he could on as few people as possible. This year he had bought both his parents $20 gift certificates to restaurants, and that was it. Luckily he didn't have some girl he was dating who would expect expensive crap from him. And as for his brother- forget it. They rarely talked on normal days- what would getting him a Christmas present prove? Most likely Mark wasn't planning on getting him anything anyway. Or if he was, he was probably in Wal-Mart at this very moment, picking out a soccer ball or something of the like that Logan would have no use for.4151

Logan sneered at the thought, almost hoping he would see his brother pass in front of him. Now that would be some entertainment.5152

He shook his head as he scanned the carts of each person that passed him, unable to believe how they could find so many items in the place which they thought other people might want. It was completely ridiculous, especially the ones piled up with toys. They'd probably go home, wrap all the stuff up, and proudly present it to their little darlings in the morning- only to have the brats turn up their noses, declaring that their gift wasn't the cool gift anymore. 6153

It would really save the suckers a lot of time and effort if they just handed their kids and everyone else money, Logan reasoned. It was more honest. Why didn't everyone just do that?7154

Oh, he knew- because some people wouldn't want everyone to know how cheap they were. And the whole "Santa Claus" thing. Yeah, right, like all these little brat kids believe in Santa Claus. They're probably all just milking it for as long as they could so their parents couldn't use the excuse of "that's too expensive" when the kid asked for a pony or a guitar.8155

Christmas, Logan knew, was a crock. It was like Valentine's Day, a holiday made up to jumpstart the country's sagging economy. But in a way it was even worse than Valentine's Day. On Valentine's Day you only have to get people stuff if you're married or a couple. On Christmas, EVERYBODY has to buy crap for people. Still stupider, Christmas is toted off as a time of good will and unselfishness, purity and spirituality. Yeah right- like all the people racing past him were having holy, Jesus-like thoughts. More like constant profanities.9156

Logan shook his head again, still smirking as he watched a very stressed-appearing woman with a cartful of food and toys speed-walked past him. How could anyone really believe that Christmas was anything but consumerist crap, especially THESE people, who were at Wal-Mart shopping on Christmas Eve, rather than church or with their family or something? Sure, they'd probably all sing the praises of Baby Jesus tomorrow. But tonight, without even realizing it, they were all showing their true colors- and those of the holiday.10157

These thoughts had scarcely finished running through his head before Logan saw her- a very thin older woman, slowly pushing her cartload of a few inexpensive items along. Unlike the other shoppers, she seemed in no hurry at all, just calmly as if she had as much time as she needed to get done. This in itself set her apart from the others, caught Logan's attention; but differentiating her even further was the sheer purple scarf pulled over her head. It had slipped back slightly from her forehead, just enough that Logan could tell she only had a few thinning wisps of hair. Clearly, the woman had or had had some kind of cancer.11158

Logan looked away uneasily, not even bothering to scrutinize the items in her cart. Illness or disabilities of any kind made him uneasy, but especially cancer; there was nothing you could really do to prevent it.12159

Regardless of his discomfort, when he sensed the woman was drawing even with him, he found himself looking up, looking at her… she was still walking along at the same leisurely pace. And even stranger, she was smiling. Not a huge grin or anything, but a little smile all the same… as though she was contented, peaceful.13160

Logan stared after the woman as she continued on her way, suddenly confused. What could the woman possibly have to smile about? She was middle-aged, by herself on Christmas Eve, clearly not done with her shopping like all the others in the place. What's more, she had or had had cancer. She didn't have any hair, and she probably had tons of medical bills. Judging from her clothes, she couldn't be very rich. So why would this woman, rather than any of the others in the whole store, be the only one who wasn't stressed out- who even seemed pretty happy?14161

It was several minutes before an idea occurred to Logan, minutes where several shoppers passed that he barely noticed, certainly didn't think about.15162

Maybe, he realized slowly, with some discomfort, maybe she really is pretty happy. Maybe she's just glad that she's alive, that she's still here to buy crap for people another year. Maybe Christmas actually kind of means something to her this year, and she isn't just saying it like all the other people…16163

As he thought about it, he grew more and more uncomfortable, and he found himself looking away from other shoppers, attempting to dodge only accidental eye contact.17164

Well, most people don't think like that, he thought defensively. And she probably wouldn't if she hadn't had cancer. Hardly anyone's really happy at Christmas like you're supposed to be.18165

Yeah… but maybe we should be. Maybe all that crap they say about being happy from making others happy- all that preachy Hallmark crap-19166

Please, Logan. You look at some stranger and start buying into all this? Come on! 20167

Still. Maybe he should have gotten a little more for his parents. Flowers or something. He wondered if there were any flowers left. And it wouldn't kill him to get something for his brother. Maybe food- he could eat half of it like that, make it seem not a big deal… maybe…21168

Abruptly Logan straightened up, heading to the front of the store for a buggy. Maybe he could make it before line 7 got too long…