“Grandpa! Are you ready?” his grandson who everyone else except his mother called Little John, so as not to confuse him with his grandfather called John, was tagging at his sleeve.
“In a minute, little John, give me a second” John combed into place a couple of stray hairs into place. He had been maintaining an impeccable beard since he had turned twenty eight. Women swooned over his beard and men envied him. Once he overheard his neighbour saying “It’ll get thin and patchy when he is old. Wait for it”.
Now he was sixty nine years old and his beard looked as perfect as always. Even white had not altered its style to the worse; it had just transformed it a pure and wise beard.
In short, John was very proud of his beard.
“We will be late for the Christmas market!” little John was losing all patience. As all kids of his age, loved the colours, the music of the toys, the hot chocolate and the candy flavours so rich one could taste them in the air. The city was in the Christmas festive mood and all loved it.
All except John. He hated Christmas.
He must have been the only place on Earth that hated Christmas. But he loved his grandson so he was out of the comfort of his Christmas free living room and into the Christmas infested streets. He had hoped that his wife would join them, he depended on her the last fifty years to calm him down when he got angry. However, that day she made them dress in their matching red pullovers and ushered them out the door. “I have to finish baking the Christmas cookies!” was her excuse.
He had just bought caramelised almonds for little John and a hot wine for him, when John stroke his beard and thought “Well, I might survive this after all”. Not so many annoyingly happy people were around, the wine was good and the kid didn’t run away. If he knew how wrong his assessment was, John wouldn’t go out till May.
A tug on his sleeve. Confused he looked in front of him; little John was still where he had left him. The tug on his sleeve repeated and this time he tried to locate its source to his left and behind. A little girl wearing a strawberry hat looked at him expectedly.
“Can I tell you now what present I want?”
John was confused. “Tell your parents, little girl”.
“But we are supposed to tell Santa. They are not Santa”.
“So go tell Santa. Where are your parents?” John concerned looked around for the little girl in the strawberry hat parents. No adult in the vicinity seemed eager to collect the little girl.
“Aren’t you Santa?” she seemed confused and John speechless. Him Santa? But why?
“My grandpa is Santa!” exclaimed little John enthusiastically and with a content for being right the little girl with the strawberry hat started listing the gifts she wanted. She kept track of their number by counting with her chumby fingers. Before he had time to clarify the mistake or locate her parents, more kids surrounded them, as if they had appeared out of nowhere. They were drown to him like moths to the flame.
He put the blame on little John who took a lot of his persuasion among kids’ cheers to convince him to stop shouting ”My grandpa is Santa!” on top of his lungs. He had hoped for parents support, for parents to keep their children under controlled, but today’s parents let them roam like little beasts.
Nightmare was the only word in his vocabulary that could satisfactorily explain what was happening to him. Hungry for gifts kids tried to catch his attention and tell him all the toys they longed for and his parents refused to buy them. He was drown in an ocean of happy Christmas spirit embodied by bewitched little devils, ready to devour him in exchange for a toy.
Panic, anger, confusion. Why him? Why did God hate him so much?
With a mind buzzing with little people’s voices, filled of too many Christmas words, John shouted angrily above them all “Santa is not real!”
Silence followed his words. A swarm of doe-eyed faces stared him on the verge of confused tears. Too many upper lips trembled with suppressed cries and a cynic pair of eyes stared at him satisfied that his suspicions were correct all along.
And by his side the confused and heart broken little John. The blood of his blood looked as devastated as any five year old would have been in his place. John cursed himself and Christmas and capitalism and parents who couldn’t keep an eye on their offspring.
“Santa is not really me!” he tried to convince the mob in front of him. ”He left for another Christmas Market to visit other kids… But he knows what you want, so don’t worry”.
“You aren’t Santa?” again the little girl in the strawberry hat. She finally got the point.
“No. But he exists” John reassured her quickly.
“But you have Santa’s beard!”
“And his sweater!”
“He exists, are you certain, sir?” asked the boy with the cynic eyes.
“I am certain. Now off you go to your parents!”
Collectively the little people in front of him thought over it and reached a decision at the same time. Much to John’s relief, they decided to trust his word and live him in peace.
On their way home, John promised himself to not go out till May.