“I’m telling you Hank, he’s fer real.” Harley leaned back in his rocker chair and sipped his beer.
“Ah Harley, ev’ry time you say something like that, it ends up costing me.”
“So, you’re saying you don’t want a cut? We could score big this Christmas.”
“I’m not saying nothing. It’s just you got a big problem with getting excited over everything.” Hank grabbed a cold beer from the cooler then sat down on a stool.
“What if I could prove it?” Harley belched. “What then?”
“You can’t prove nothing of the sort.” He popped the top and drank from his can. “Santa’s a figment of somebody’s ima… imagan… someone made him up. And you knows as well as I do, that one in the mall’s just an actor.”
“Not when I was there. He was fer real like I said.”
“Oh come on, Harley. Why you believe that?
“You wants to hear the story?”
“Do I have a choice? You bought the beer.”
Harley drained his can then held his hand out to his friend.
Hank leaned over and dug into the cooler. He swished the ice around then pulled a can with a big blue ribbon on the side. He threw it to the old man in the rocker.
“Thanks.” He pushed the porch floor with his feet, setting the rocker in motion. “Alright, remembers I told you I was going to the mall a few days ago?”
“Yeah, you said you needed to get a new stick shift knob fer your truck.”
“Yep, that were the time. Well, they had the Santa stand all set up in the space by the fountain.”
“It’s called a feryer.”
“Whatever they calls it, they had it made up like the north pole done relocated to Shelmaville. There were barber poles dressed up with white fluff making them looked like it done snowed, and a green and red throne big enough to make yer daddy proud.
All around there were decorations. They had a huge tree done up in lights and strings of popcorn. The gold star at the top nearly touched the glass roof. Underneath they done placed gifts with giant red bows glittering with sparkles.”
“I know what it looks like, Harley. I went there just yesterday.”
“So why’s you let me say all that?”
Hank shrugged and chuckled.
“I’m of a mind to not tell you now.” Harley clicked his tongue and looked toward the muddy driveway.
“Oh, go on. You know you wants to tell me, so finish your story.”
Harley shook his head and narrowed his eyes at the other. “Well, like I done said, they had it all decorated. In front of it all, there were a line of young’uns with their mothers that reached to the mall doors. They were going on about what they planned to ask Santa for and fidgeting like they were in line for an outhouse.”
“So whatcha do?”
“I walked past them all and went to the hardware store. What did you think I was going to do? Stand in that line?”
“No… but… nevermind.”
“Well, after fighting the crowd at Sares, and getting my part fer a decent price, I headed back towards the entrance, ready to go and fix up my truck. That’s when everything changed fer me.”
Hank leaned forward, holding his beer in both hands. “What changed fer you?”
“Everything I thought I knew about Santa.”
“I was coming up on the… fer-yer?” He looked at Hank who nodded. “When Santa got outta his chair and walked my way. I took a good look at him because something seemed odd. All the other Santa’s I had done seen where plain and you could tell they were actors. They’d have those strap-on beards and you could see the outline of a pillow under their suits.
“This guy, though, was different. His long white beard was real. His fat was real. And instead of a plain poly-hester costume, his suit was real. It looked like red velvet and it done had green trimming that sparkled like stars. His eyes were as blue as the sky in middle of spring turkey season and his cheeks and thick nose were red and chapped like he done stood in the cold fer too long.”
“That doesn’t sound like the guy I saw. He had one of them tie-on beards.”
“See? I told you, this guy was different. My stomach started acting up as he walked toward me. At first I thought I ate something that didn’t agree with me, but when I started to sweat, I just knew something special was about to happen. I’ll never forget what he said to make a believer outta me fer good.”
“What did he say?”
“He looked at me with his bluer than blue eyes and says, ‘Excuse me, Harley. I need to get by.’”
“He said that? He used yer name?”
“He did as sure as I’m sitting here.” He crossed his arms, leaned back and nodded his head.”
Hank stared at him then sighed. “Harley, weren’t you wearing that shirt when you went to the mall?”
“The very same.”
“Well, it’s got yer name right there on yer chest.”
“No it don’t.” He moved his arms, smiling and allowed his friend to read the green oval over his right breast pocket. “This is your shirt.”
Bio: TJ Marshall is a father of two adorable girls, a career soldier and a writer of fiction. TJ just entered the world of writing in January 2012 when he enrolled in the F2K creative writing course. Since completing the course, he has gone on to join Writer's Villiage university participated in this year’s National Novel Writer’s Month for the first time and won. He is currently working on his first novel, a fantasy adventure titled The Finder’s Tome. It is scheduled for release in late spring, 2013 as an e-book. In his spare time, TJ enjoys creating custom designed dream catchers and spending time with his girls.