A Christmas fantasy for the 2016 season.
KRIS STOOD COMFORTABLY, his tweed coat warming him in the chill air. It didn’t hurt him to be standing there denied. He had just finished searching the faces of two men to whom he had revealed himself.
Not like I’ve never been denied before. Two men, one on either side of me, one full of doubt, and the other…absolute denial! Do I try to convince them or just move on? The children believe in me. Isn’t that enough?
Kris turned and got ready to walk away, but something stopped him, a familiar something. He had especially strong reservations about the younger man.
The older man will take some work, but the other looks so angry, so unattainable! I’ll try, but why I bother, I’ll never know? Yet…
Thoughts silently worked behind the kindly face. He didn't like interfering with other people’s beliefs. He agonized every time before the will to fight for what he believed boiled up, but it always did.
For centuries I have turned my face toward the children of this world. I have done so in every language and remembered every custom. I am called by many different names. I have caused most children’s parents to feel the Joy of Christmas. They apply themselves to giving during this special time. They think they are doing it on their own. That I smooth their way is surely of value to them.
He had carried his benevolent need for an incredibly long time. Finally, the thought that put his feet to action, the thought that caused him to turn back came to him.
These are ones who have lost the magic. I must help them to find it again. I must…I simply must try.
He squared his shoulders and prepared to speak. He must be the responsible one. Too many parents in the world had forgotten the child they once were. Such a pity!
The tall man stood as though deep in thought, gazing at a house on fire in the distance. The darkness, cold night and brisk numbing wind made him put up his collar in a vain attempt to keep the chill from his neck. Kris sensed the man would help if he could, but what could he do?
Fire trucks surrounded the building. Miniature figures cast long shadows in the flickering glare.
“Too bad,” he heard the tall man murmur to the air, “an awful night to have your house burn down.”
Images of people, tiny impressions in a night that brightened and dimmed as hoses spraying the building made momentary inroads into the all-consuming fire. Miniature people gazed hypnotically at it. Kris couldn’t see their faces but he could sense the tragedy written there.
The sounds of fire crackled across the still night air. Suddenly a shower of sparks vaulted into the night. A section of the roof on the attached garage collapsed. A kind of “Whoosh!” came to them a second or so after the crash.
It seemed a signal, because at that moment Kris began to speak. As he spoke, the old man glanced at the younger man nearby, including him in his words.
“Such a sadness, to see all the work and time and history in that home going up in smoke and flame. Does it affect you as it does me?”
“Yes, and on Christmas Eve, too,” the tall man replied.
Then Kris said, “What they need is a Christmas miracle. Tell me, sir, do you believe in Christmas? Do you believe that perhaps a Christmas miracle could indeed occur, if all of us were to wish hard enough?”
The tall man looked at him for a moment, but only said. “I’m afraid it’s too late for these people. I’ve been alive too long to believe in miracles…” he hesitated briefly and finished, “anymore.”
Kris looked at the fire and back at the two men.
“If I told you I was Kris Kringle and that if we all wish hard enough right now, we could stop this fire, could you believe and help that poor family?”
“I know your intentions are good, sir,” said the tall man, “but I no longer believe in Santa Claus, nor do I believe in any miracle that could stop this raging fire.”
“Sirs,” Kris said, now speaking to both men, “I am Kris Kringle. If you can believe, we can put out that fire as a gift to the unfortunate family.”
“Sorry.” The tall man offered Kris a look of pity. He turned his head away and gazed again at the conflagration.
The young man raised his head and his chin jutted defiantly. He looked down his nose and stared at the fire, clearly hoping the old guy who'd just told him he was Santa Claus would evaporate and disappear. He knew the old man saw his expression before he turned away. Silent insult; ignore the old duffer.
The stuff he’d laid on the tall guy on the other side of him…whew! Crazy as a loon! He relished his blazing return.
“Ha, ha, old man. Who says you lose your imagination when you get old? You must be nutty as a fruitcake. Why don’t you get lost?”
Kris looked at him with infinite patience but no fear. Unexpected, he could see it bothered the man when he spoke up, a sympathetic expression on his face, and said, “You have two children, don’t you?”
The angry man stared at Kris. How could he know that?
“What’s it to you?”
“They want their Dad home tonight. It’s a special night. It’s Christmas Eve.”
“Why would I care about that? The old lady is home. She can take care of them. They don’t need me. What do you mean, asking me a bunch of questions? Who the hell are you, anyway?”
“Why,” the bearded man said, “I’m Kris Kringle, just as I told the other man a moment ago.”
That’s when he’d laid the fruitcake thing on the old relic. He hoped it would be enough, but the old fellow just stood there, pondering.
Kris squinted out over the field to where the house continued to burn toward the ground. The firemen weren’t having much luck with this one. The wind rose, carrying burning embers out over the small crowd. Every so often they would hear a muffled thud, like an explosion. The young man owned a paint store. He knew the sound of exploding paint cans. Somebody had stored a lot of stuff in that ramshackle old place.
Wonder who lives there? Nah, who cares? The young man thought. Fascinated by fire since his youth, the young man endured the cold, moving now and then from one foot to the other. He intended before he’d stopped to hit the local pub. A couple of shots would warm up the insides. It could wait for this, though. Why couldn’t he enjoy it in peace?
Still, the old guy wouldn’t go away. He thought, pretty soon I’m going to get this guy out of my face. As he thought that, the voice of the portly man began again.
“Sir,” it said in a respectful enough tone, “I can see that many bad things have happened in your life, and that your business isn’t doing well.”
Who is this guy? How does he know? It was true, and it worried him sick, why he planned to stop at the pub. A few brews with a couple of shots would take the edge off.
“Sir,” Kris spoke to him again, “with all respect, I don’t want to pry into others’ lives. I just want you to try to remember back to when you stopped believing.”
“Look, mister! I pulled myself up the hard way. Nobody gave me nothin’! It’s real hard to keep it. What are you bothering me for?”
“When was it, sir?”
The guy wasn’t going to be insulted, and he wouldn’t take no for an answer.
“I don’t know!” he answered savagely, too loudly, “That stuff’s for kids. When you grow up you find out it’s a lot of hooey. The old lady wants to buy presents for the kids. I got to work late to come up with the dough to pay for all that stuff. I’d be ahead of the game if she didn’t bleed me. ‘You got to do for the kids,' she says. “What can I do? One step forward, two steps back. Life’s dance! I’d rather watch that house burn down.”
Now the tall man turned away from the fire and stared at the two strangers. The exchange disturbed his despairing thoughts. Why was the little man being so feisty?
Kris noticed the change and while still talking directly to the younger man, began to share his words with both.
“Life is just life. It owes you nothing. It is what you do with it that counts. People and circumstance will pull you away from what you know to be right and good, and away from the magic you knew as a child who believed. Think back to when you were eight, when the world was bigger and full of magic. You can do it. Try.”
Both men stared at Kris. As they did, Kris passed his hand across the air in front of them. Suddenly both men were transported back to their long forgotten childhood.
The firelight made shadow-grams across their faces, but they no longer saw it. They’d returned to the world of big people, of play, of presents and of bright joy. They dwelt there for what seemed a long time. The spell lasted only an instant, but oh my, the change! Their mouths turned up in smiles. A glint came to their eyes.
The young man said. “What did you do, old man? I had forgotten. All that happened so long ago. My parents; they are both dead. They were good people. I forgot.”
The tall man didn’t say anything then, but he smiled. His problems receded. He felt…changed.
Kris answered, “I helped you both pull back the veil, that’s all. Those memories are yours, and they are good. You just needed a helping hand.”
Suddenly the tall man wanted to be home, and the young man forgot his problems and his need to drink them away. He ached to be home, too, to see his children, to see his wife in an older, better, and more loving light.
They began to move away, but Kris stopped them.
“There is one more thing to do tonight,” Kris said. He looked at the fire raging away in the distance. “Will you help me to help them?”
“What can we do?” came from the two men.
“They need a Christmas wish. Grasp my hands, one on either side, close your eyes and we will wish a mighty wish.”
They did as bid. They faced the fire, closed their eyes, and wished the fire out. A heavy, thick cloud formed above the house, and in spite of the bitter cold, it began to rain. It rained torrents, buckets. The distant bright glow dimmed and went out.
As suddenly as it appeared the smoke cleared and the cloud disappeared. Behind it they discovered a glorious full moon rising above the trees on the horizon. The ill, chill wind that had fanned the fire became a gentle breeze. It carried the piney smells of Christmas and their spirits soared.
Perhaps now the people who lived there could salvage their lives. Perhaps they would raise their eyes to the sky, from whence had come this Christmas Eve miracle. Perhaps the Christmas spirit that had been ripped so awfully out of their lives would find its way back, and would bring them peace.
They turned to Kris to thank him. They were alone. They looked at each other in wonder, shook hands and went home to their families.