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Stories by Laura Lagana
Santa Retires


            Joshua kicked the pebble along the beach while salty sea spray from the ocean, blew a fine mist over his jacket. He held the camera to his eye and snapped a picture. Joshua then looped the camera over his wrist, continuing his stroll down the beach. Moments later, he rounded the corner. A boulder blocked the path. With tentative steps, he tiptoed across the wet sand and drew up short. “Santa?”

            A man in red pants, black flip flops and a white beard stared at the ocean. “No,” he sighed, “I’m not Santa.”

            “Yes you are!” Joshua plopped down next to the man. “I’m a kid. We’re born with the knowledge of knowing who Santa is.”

            “But I’m not Santa…not anymore.”

            Arching his brow, Joshua said, “Yes you are. You have the beard, spectacles, and red pants.”

            Santa shoved the spectacles further on his nose before blurting out, “I retired.”

            Joshua stiffened. “You what?!”

            “Now don’t have a fit on me. I said I retired.”

            “But you can’t retire,” cried Joshua.

            “I can and did.” Santa inhaled the sea air while running the soft granules of sand through his fingers.

            Laying a comforting hand on Santa’s shoulder, Joshua whispered, “Why did you quit? Are we all bad?”

            Santa’s tear filled gaze met Joshua’s. “No, that’s not why.”

            “Then what was it?”

            “People forgot about the true Christmas spirit.” Santa wiped the tears that fell unchecked beneath his sunglasses. “Children worry more about ‘receiving’ than ‘giving’.”

            Joshua tapped his foot while chewing on his bottom lip. “If I can show you ‘true Christmas spirit’, will you go back to being ‘Santa’ again?”

            Santa stared at the ground. “I’ve lost all hope.”

            “Well don’t. Once we go back home after Thanksgiving, I will restore your faith in Christmas, but how will you know if I have any?”

            A twinkle appeared in Santa’s gaze. “I’m Santa…remember? Trust me, I’ll know.”

            While Santa ran his hand thorough his beard, Joshua leaned closer to Santa and snapped a picture of the both of them. “Say cheese!”

            Santa shook his head as the flash from the bulb temporarily blinded him. “Give me the camera.”

            “Why?”

            “Because, no one can know who I am.”

            Joshua grumbled and handed over the camera. “Bit late for that, isn’t it?”

            Santa arched a brow as he tucked the camera into his pocket.

            Sand scattered around the two as Joshua leapt to his feet and ran down the beach. Turning to wave, he called out, “See you later Santa…and have a Merry Christmas!”

            Santa grinned and waved at the boy’s retreating back.

            Once Joshua returned home, he shoveled snow from the neighbor’s driveway, and sidewalks. At breakfast the next day, he said to his parents, “I want to volunteer and read stories to the elderly at the retirement home.” So every Saturday, Joshua brought his favorite book, and read to the elderly for several hours.

            On his way to school, he passed several houses with their newspapers in the street, so he set them on the porch steps for easier access. A neighbor struggled with several bags of groceries and he helped her carry them into the house.

            “That was mighty nice of you young man. Would you like a five dollar bill for the help?”

            “No thank you ma’am. I just wanted to help out.”

            When the teacher needed help cleaning the chalkboard, Joshua volunteered. If the gym teacher needed help putting the equipment away after class, Joshua was there to provide assistance. The neighbor’s, teachers, and Joshua’s friends all noticed a change in his behavior. When the people saw Joshua helping others, they would also volunteer. Joshua’s ‘giving’ spirit was infectious.

            The day before Christmas, Joshua snuggled under the covers. His mother and father kissed him on the cheek before heading off to bed.

            “Sweet dreams,” said Joshua’s mother.

            “Merry Christmas,” said Joshua’s father.

            Once his parents were in bed, Joshua crept down the stairs and waited on the couch as he held a plate of cookies for Santa. Hours passed by before he nodded off.

            The sound of laughter woke Joshua from his slumber. He sat with a start and rubbed the sleep from his eyes. Presents wrapped in silver tissue paper filled the room. He ran to the table and read the note left from Santa.

Thanks for making me believe again. Hope you enjoy the gifts.
Merry Christmas,
Santa

            “What is all that noise,” said Joshua’s mother.

            “Just a visit from a friend.” He turned to his mom. “Can we give the presents to needy children?”

            With disbelief sounding in her voice, she said, “Are you sure you want to give everything away?”

            “All but this gift. This one I want to keep.” Joshua held a framed picture of the photo he snapped of Santa on the beach. He whispered, “Thanks Santa.”


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