The Season of Giving
Little Joey Turner couldn’t believe his eyes when the man in the red suit with white trim turned around. That white beard, those rosy cheeks, the hat with the large snowball-like puff at the end: it was him alright.
“It’s really him!” Erika Turner squealed into her little brother’s ear, her blond pigtails smacking him in the face. “And look at all the presents he brought!”
Santa Claus moved his wide frame to the side and revealed the massive pile of gifts behind him. Each was wrapped with precision with large velvet bows adorning the tops. Next to the lit Christmas tree, hung upon the fireplace, were their stockings. Previously empty, now they were overflowing.
While the siblings were impressed by the amount of presents they had, it wasn’t all too uncommon. Arriving downstairs into the large foyer with their best silk pajamas on, Erika and Joey were spoiled. They lived a lavish and wealthy lifestyle that few adults, let alone children, had. Still, the very sight of Ole Saint Nick was not something they ever thought they would see.
“HO! HO! HO! Merry Christmas, Joey. Merry Christmas, Erika. Santa made you two his very last stop in the whole wide world just so I could do something special for you.”
The brother and sister duo stood in shock, each still sporting their particular versions of bedhead. Not only was Kris Kringle standing in front of them, but now he had spoken to them.
“Well, don’t just stand there. What are you waiting for? Open your presents.”
The two still didn’t move. Neither could believe this was indeed happening. Each pinched themselves, thinking it was a dream. Surely, it was still the middle of the night and they were fast asleep. Little Joey was the first to break the silence. “What. . . What about mom and dad? We can’t open our presents without them.”
Santa smiled and knelt down in front of the boy. “Ahh, yes. Your mom and dad.”
“HO! HO! HO! Merry Christmas.”
The man in the most well known red suit outside the Devil himself stood outside the department store. The metal kettle hung suspended on its rusty pole, waiting to devour any coins or cash that came its way. The portly man next to it rang a tarnished yet golden bell, calling to those walking by like a Siren singing to ships sailing by. Each clink of coins brought a smile to the man’s face.
“HO! HO! HO! Merry-“
The couple had walked past the old man so fast he hadn’t been able to finish his standard greeting. He had seen them emerge from their silver Mercedes and head toward the store’s entrance. He knew they could afford to offer up whatever was in the pockets of their long, wool jackets and still be able to buy up half the store.
But no. They rushed by him with their hands in their pockets, holding tight to their money.
The old man shook his head and thought to himself that he’d get them on their way out. They’d break one of the several hundred dollar bills in their billfolds and be able to donate a little to help those in need.
So, he waited. He rang that bell who anyone who walked by and they gave what they could. Large or small, the donation size didn’t matter. It was the season to give. He had a mission. He took that mission seriously.
Then, they came out. Each had several shopping bags in each hand. Santa’s white gloved hand shook the bell as hard as he could, hoping they would put their bags down in the snow, hoping they would reach into a pocket or purse, hoping they would slip something into the bucket. Sometimes people made a big spectacle of their giving, hoping to impress strangers as they passed by. Sometimes they did it discreetly like two lovers ashamed of their lust, hoping no one witnesses their wavering eyes.
But no. They walked by. They loaded the bags into the trunk of their overpriced car. They left the world of the poor and needy to return to their house, to return to the lap of luxury.
“Don’t you worry, Joey. Your mom and dad are tired. Let them sleep in. They will appreciate it. Now, let’s open those presents!”
The Turner siblings needed no more convincing. They sprang forward, shaking off any bedtime fogginess and grabbed for the numerous boxes beneath the gaudy tree. Each had a pink or blue tag with each of their names on it. They tore into the wrapping paper, leaving crumbled, colored balls in their wake.
The duo threw their newest toys aside and went onto the next. More balls of paper joined their brothers and sisters in the macabre graveyard of painted, dead trees.
Santa smiled. “I’m glad you kids like it,” he said as they dove in for more.
Erika beamed over her shoulder at the old man. “It’s everything we ever wanted!”
“All your wants were always fulfilled. You have no need of anything. You live your lives in this spacious shelter apart from the dregs of society.”
Mr. and Mrs. Turner sat in matching oak chairs from their dining room set. The antique grandfather clock stood behind them, its hands slowly moving unlike the shackled hands of the married couple before it. It’s tick. It’s tock. They each came faster than the couples’ heartbeats.
It was midnight.
The children were nestled all snug in their beds. Their parents sat beaten and bloodied before the Christmas tree full of sparkling crystal ornaments. The satin tree skirt soaked up any bodily fluids that flowed endlessly from their bodies.
“All I wanted was pocket change, enough to buy a small trinket for a child. You two buy and buy and buy for your offspring while other children lie dying in gutters as you speed by in your luxury car. You could have run one over, and you’d never notice. And if you did, neither of you would care.”
The couple couldn’t respond if they wanted to. A silver jingling bell was shoved in each of their mouths and held in by leather straps acted as ballgags.
“For the want of a little, you both will pay dearly. Santa Claus has come to town. He has come to your home. He has come to collect. For you both, tonight will not be a silent night. Your mouths might be stuffed fuller than a stocking on Christmas morning, but I guarantee there will be screams inside your heads that will not end until I say so.”
From the large sack behind him, he did not pull out presents, or candy, or a doll, or a shiny, new bike. He pulled out pliers, a hacksaw, a hammer, and an assortment of knives that was more varied than a box of chocolates. Each tool had years of rust on their handles. The other end of each was stained by those who failed to give.
“Merry Christmas, Turners.
Little Joey and Erika Turner turned back to the old man with smiles ear-to-ear. “Thanks, Santa!” they each cried, one after the other. The stockings were emptied. The Christmas tree was now bare underneath. Neither had noticed the darkened areas on the skirt.
A more mischevious smile appeared under that white beard. “But children, there’s still two presents left under the tree. I believe there is one for each of you.”
They looked back at the tree. When they didn’t see anything, they crouched down and spotted the two gifts tucked away in the back. Each crawled under the lowest branch to retrieve their own box, pulling it as they backed out. Neither noticed the dark stains that had settled at the bottom of the boxes nor did they notice the trail left behind on the floor, or the extra ashes inside the fireplace as they passed by.
“These two presents are the best ones yet, my children. Within the fancy wrapping and decorative bow is the greatest gift I could you two. It is exactly what you two need. It is your freedom from this world of wealth. It’s a lesson for you two to learn.”
Joey and Erika were confused by what he had said, but it didn’t stop them. They tore through the wrapping with twice the frenzy they had with any of the other gifts.
“Some things are more important than material goods. You’ll soon come to realize this. The most important things in life are made of flesh and blood.”