This is the third section of the short story, “Kyle Helps Santa”, from “Christmas on Pleasant Hill.” This is one of 12 stories in the book, available from Amazon. To read “Kyle Helps Santa from the beginning, click here.
That night Moriah lay in bed staring through an uncurtained window at a street light. Andre was in a sleeping bag beside her; he had heard scratching noises in the wall of his room and was afraid to stay there. She looked at him in the beam of light, at his beautiful face, narrow like his dad’s, but with her large eyes. She hated that she had brought him to this broken down house, to this uncle who had been such a joy to her in her childhood but who now was as broken down as his house. She felt trapped. Andre’s dad’s people were no good, her brother was in a group home, her auntie in Atlanta already had a house full of kids and grandkids. This uncle was her only option. She would have to make it work. They were one drunk of an old man away from homelessness. She let some tears spill out of her eyes. She realized, having cried twice in a day, how much she had let herself hope for a new start. She felt foolish.
She kept seeing Andre’s face on Christmas morning, twisting in disappointment that there was nothing to unwrap. Her biggest fear was that this hopeful, optimistic child would become bitter. Just before going to sleep tonight, he had said, “It ain’t so bad, Mom. There’s a park, and basketball courts and a pizza place. It’ll be alright.”
Moriah could see herself getting this house cleaned up and livable. She could see herself finding some emergency help to get food and bus fare. She could even see herself getting a job. But she could not imagine how she was going to find money in time for this boy to get presents on Christmas morning. She wished she could pray. She had not been able to pray since her mother had died. It seemed as though there was a wall between the light of faith and the darkness of life and she was on the wrong side of it. She stayed awake for a long time.
After Andre’s first visit, Kyle could not stop thinking about how the boy did not get what he wanted for Christmas.
That night he asked his father, “Dad, is Santa always right?”
“Santa? Yeah, I guess so. Why?”
“Well how come I get what I want, but other kids don’t?”
“Well, maybe they ask for stuff they shouldn’t have. Like, say, if you asked Santa for a car, he wouldn’t give you one because you’re too young.”
“But what about when they just want games rated E or something, and all they get is a sweat suit?”
“Who only got a sweat suit?”
“I don’t know, I just heard of it.”
“Well, maybe that kid wasn’t very good that year.”
“But my friend Andrew’s never good and he got rockets last year. That’s what I want this year – rockets.”
“Well, I guess Santa can arrange that.”
“But why does Andrew get rockets when he’s bad and other kids get crummy stuff?”
“Buddy, you’re asking too many questions. You need to go to bed.”
Kyle couldn’t sleep. He kept thinking of Andre getting up on Christmas morning and having nothing. He considered writing a letter to Santa but feared there would not be time for it to reach the North Pole before Christmas. Then he wondered whether Santa might just get things a little mixed up once in a while; he had so far to go in one night. Maybe some of the presents Kyle was getting were meant for Andre; they lived close, and they were about the same age. Sometimes the mail people got letters mixed up, and he always got so much stuff, more than one kid needed. This explanation rang true for Kyle, preserving the benevolence of Santa, if not his omniscience.
Kyle decided it must not happen again. He would give some of his presents to Andre. But as he thought it through he realized that wouldn’t work. Andre would still wake up and be disappointed that nothing had come to his place, and it was not likely that Kyle’s parents would understand. They probably wouldn’t let him take half his Christmas haul down to Andre, especially since he wasn’t supposed to know Andre in the first place. Then he got an idea. He could give Andre some of his old stuff that still looked new. His parents wouldn’t notice. His dad used the telescope sometimes, and sometimes they built with Legos together, but they didn’t pay attention to his other toys. He had put his old game system in the closet when he got the new X box, so he could give that to Andre, and the games that went with it.
The next day he got a big plastic garbage bag from the kitchen when Ania was cleaning the bathroom. He ran it up to his room and put the game system in it, in the original box, with all its cords and controllers and games. He hid it in his closet under some clothes, and over the next few days added to it things he thought Andre might like: a board game he had never opened, a book about pirates, a foam football that looked new, and two of his nine action figures. The action figures were a true sacrifice; he even included Batman. The bag got heavy, so he snuck another bag for reinforcement.
Kyle’s regular level of excitement about Christmas multiplied.
In the days before Christmas, Kyle saw Andre almost every day. The weather grew colder and Andre showed up with no gloves or hat. Kyle smuggled some out to him. They pretended they were in the Revolutionary War, fighting with George Washington in the middle of winter. Kyle had learned to scale his back fence, gaining access to the woods behind his house, which extended for miles to the west and south. They slid on a frozen creek bed. They spotted rabbits, deer, even an eagle. Andre had never been in the woods before. Kyle looked forward to every afternoon. He was in a new world with a friend to share it with.
Two days before Christmas, Andre said, “Can’t we go in your house? I’m cold.”
Kyle winced. “I know, but if my parents find out I’ve been sneaking around, they might not let me play with you.”
“Well when it gets all snowy we can’t be playing in the woods all day.”
Kyle sighed. “OK. I’ll ask them. But we have to wait till after Christmas. Let’s just keep everything quiet till Christmas is over.”