The Sad Santa

by Bernice Mathay

He sat alone cold in his rocking chair, his famous white beard now silver with age and gleaming like tinsels before the fireplace. He reached to pick up a mug painted a gaily green and red on the end table and took a long sip of the ginger ale that would later relieve him from his prickly cough. Winter was colder this year. It was definitely colder, he thought. He lurched forward to throw in another piece of wood into the furnace. The fire crackled, and within a minute he began to feel warm again.

He looked down at the bulky object waiting to be opened on his lap. His hands were quivering, lying clasped together upon it. Whether he was nippy or nervous, it could not be decided. He finally flipped the cover of the photo album and inside it were thousands, probably millions and billions, of photographs of millions and billions of children all around the world, and it was truly a hefty thing in deed.

His eyes searched every photograph for a proof of timeless and youthful happiness. Children of all ages, boys and girls alike, skipping with excitement and blushing with delight. He turned to one page and there stood an image of a little girl with a glass of milk and cookies on a plate. "Oh, those were the days," he sighed. The ember beneath the playful fire mirrored in his sad, glassy eyes.

The children grew up, as all children do, and he loved these kids be them bad or good. He missed the Christmas carols, the ones they'd sing for him on Christmas Day, but eventually the kids grew older and no longer believed in his name.

He still receives letters from children, asking for a toy or two, so every year he sends them gifts until their dreams come true. He'd hear their wishes before their slumber and listen to their prayers at night, so on Christmas Eve he'd tumble down the chimney and prepare them their surprise. But these kids, too, get older, and no longer do they wait to see him on Christmas night.

He closed the photo album in wistful dismay, the fire now burning ablaze. He stared outside his window and caught sight of his long-forgotten sleigh. He climbed out of his rocking chair and took another swig of his piquant ginger ale. Then a pair of heavy footsteps made its way outside, the heels of its leather black boots clattering on the hardened ice. He knelt down beside Rudolph, his favorite reindeer, and tapped his little runny, red nose. Rudolph sneezed and the stout old man sobbed. "They don't believe in me anymore."

Rudolph nudged the side of his face gently and motioned him somewhere with his antlers. The stout old man raised himself up and pursued its direction. He looked to see his mailbox overflowing with letters. He opened the first stack and found nothing new. Millions and billions of requests from children all across. Children who would later on grow out of toy cars and Barbie dolls and all beliefs in Santa Clause.

"They may forget me, but I will never forget them," said he whose famous white beard was now gray and weary with age. He packed up his infinite, red sack and hurled it into his rusty old sleigh. He lunged himself in, took a deep breath, and let out a little cough. Old he was and tired, but he loved all these children. Be them bad or good, young or old, he loved them all the same.

So Rudolph and the reindeers leaped and together they went around the world. And softly to himself Santa said, "T'is the season to be jolly after all."

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