Shorty's Christmas

Shorty's Christmas

Part 1
The First Christmas Together

Shorty was a rag-tag street kid.  He had been surviving here in the city for the last two years, since he ran away from his mother and step-father.

He had finished his daily rounds, and was returning to his room, he liked to think of it as his hide-out.  When he was about a block away, he saw what he thought was a bundle of rags, through the light drizzle that was still falling, that cold December day.  He had been thinking that if the temperature fell any more, it would be snowing.  A few more steps and he realized that it was a body.  On the streets, a body wasn't all that unusual, especially when cold weather set in.  As Shorty watched, several others walked right by, not even noticing the cold bedraggled form.  As Shorty got closer, he realized that the body was that of a kid, about his size and he could see little gray puffs wafting skyward that told him the kid was still alive.  Shorty didn't hesitate for a moment. He quickly went over to the kid.  The kid was beaten up pretty bad, Shorty thought it might be the 'The Street Hawks' doing, but this was not their turf.  There wasn't any blood, though, just scrapes and bruises.

Shorty didn't even stop to think about it.  He helped the kid get up, and managed to navigate him slowly, up to his little place.  Shorty had the use of part of an apartment. It was situated above a little store.  Mr. Lincoln, a kind old black man, owned the store.  He had moved to a better part of town and now he only used his old apartment for storage.  Shorty had been caught trying to steal some food and Mr. L. made him work to pay for it.  Then he really surprised the heck out of Shorty, by taking him across the street and buying him a nice hot meal at the diner.  By the time he was finished, Shorty had agreed to sweep Mr. L's store every morning, and to wash dishes at the diner for his food.  It only took a couple of minutes for Shorty to hide his day's earnings.  It had been a slow afternoon because of the rain and only a couple of his regulars had showed up.  But even so, he had a good amount of money to add to his stash. Shorty was careful with what little money he had, and didn't spend it on things he didn't need. He carefully stowed it where it would be safe, and no one would think to look for it, should they think to do so.

Then he turned his attention to the kid.  Well, he thought, he couldn't leave him lying on the floor, where he had slid once Shorty had helped him inside.  He was still wearing his wet clothes. Shorty didn't want him to catch pneumonia.  It took longer than Shorty thought it would, to strip the kid.  Shorty gasped when he saw what the kid looked like under his clothing. There were bruises all over his body, but his arms and legs didn't seem to be broken.  When he was as dry as Shorty could get him, Shorty dragged him to the bed and covered him with both blankets.  Shorty then left to go back to the diner, do his evening dishes and get food to bring back.

When Shorty returned, about eight o'clock, he had food enough for both of them.  The kid was still pretty much out of it, but he did manage to sit up enough to eat a grilled cheese sandwich, and drink a mug of hot chocolate.  Shorty ate two sandwiches and drank a mug of hot chocolate as well.  He covered the two slices of apple pie he had brought, to save them for breakfast.

The other boy lay back down and drifted off to sleep, without answering any of Shorty's questions.  Shorty picked up the kid's clothes and hung them over various pieces of furniture, so they would dry.  He then looked at the newspaper he had picked up.  About an hour later, he was tired and thinking of going to bed.  When he went to check on the kid, he found that the kid was shivering and was hot to the touch.  Shorty remembered that when he was little, his grandmother would give him aspirin when he was sick.  Well, he didn't have that, but he had some store brand stuff for headaches, so he got the kid to swallow two of the pills.  Then Shorty got undressed and climbed into bed, the kid scooted away at first, but later he moved closer for the warmth.

At six o'clock, Shorty woke up, like he did every morning.  However, he felt nice and cozy this morning.  When he opened his eyes, there was a pair of beautiful deep brown ones staring back at him.

"Hi," he said, grinning, "I'm Shorty."

"I'm naked!" came the confused reply.

"Hi, Naked, how you doin' this morning?"

"No, no, my name is Karl.  I feel like I've been beaten half to death, again.  I'm sorry, Shorty, but I don't remember last night."

"Well, Karl, you have been beaten pretty bad, but I think you will be okay.  You had passed out, on the street; I managed to get you up here, got you out of your wet clothes and into my bed to get you warm.  I also brought some food home from work, for you.  Think you could stand a bath?  The tub in the bathroom has lots of hot water."

"I'm not sure I can stand, on my own."

"That is not a problem, I'll help, you get in there, and I'm sorry to tell you, but, you need a bath, Karl.  You stink."

"Thanks, Shorty."

A few minutes later, in the bath, Shorty was very gently soaping Karl's tender bruised body.  Finally, both boys were clean, Shorty brought Karl some of his clothes, since they were close to the same size, and helped him dress  They shared the pie, and then it was time for Shorty to go sweep the store for Mr. L.

Karl thought about leaving, but he realized that he didn't have the strength to move around the room a lot, much less try to make it back onto the street.  So he explored the room and found that Shorty liked to read a lot of books on history and he had a whole bunch of newspapers.  Karl finally found a book that he thought he could read, so he sat in the easy chair and began reading.  He soon fell asleep.

That was where Shorty found him at two, when he returned with lunch.  Karl was all apologies for sleeping in Shorty's chair.  "Stop it, Karl, It's fine, I sleep there all the time.  Here, come on, let's eat."

It took about a week for Karl to get his strength back.  Shorty helped him as much as he could.  The weather was getting colder and colder and now, sadly, there wasn't much extra income, like there was in warm weather.  Karl knew that Shorty was really stretched thin. 

Then one night, Shorty came home with a small rather bedraggled Christmas Tree.  "I got this at the lot down on second street." he told Karl,  "They were just going to burn it, so I talked them into letting me have it real cheap."

The boys had a great time, finding things to hang on the tree.  It was an interesting tree, with what was basically colorful bits of trash, as ornaments.  Karl asked, as they admired their work, "Shorty, when is Christmas?"

"Kind of lost track of time, huh?  It's in two more days." Shorty smiled at Karl.

Karl sighed with relief; he still had a little time.  "Good, I used to like it a lot, before Dad died, and Mom..."

"Yeah, my Mom woke me up one night, and we left Dad. Then she got with this loser, and he beat her and me both, and he made me do stuff.  I finally had enough, so I stole his money and ran away.  I've been here about a year and a half, I guess.  Things are pretty comfortable now."

"You sure got it good, Shorty.  I wish I could stay, but that creep is trying to find me.  He just loves to see people suffer.  I'm trying to get as far away from here as I can.  I guess I need to change my name, too."  Karl was getting uneasy, just thinking about his recent past.

Shorty lay awake that night, thinking about what Karl had said.  He made a decision and then drifted off to a contented sleep, cuddled up close to his friend.

After Shorty left in the morning, Karl found a scrap of an old 2X4, got out his pocket knife, and began carving.  He cleaned up all the chips before Shorty came home.  The weather was getting very cold, and it had snowed a few inches last night.

By Christmas Eve, Karl had finished the carving, found some paper to wrap his little gift to Shorty in, and placed it under the tree.  After dinner that night, Shorty placed a gift under the tree for Karl.  Shorty insisted they bundle up and go to the church which was about two blocks away, for the midnight service.  It was very late when the boys climbed into bed and they smuggled close together, to ward off the cold.

Both boys were like little kids, in the morning. They argued about who was going to open his gift first.  Once they were dressed, and went to the livingroom, they had a real surprise.  There was a stocking for each of them, with candy and cookies and a big orange in it, and a box for each of them with a bow and their names.  They looked at the tags on the boxes, and they were from Mr. Lincoln.  The boys opened them.  Each box was full of clothes, and there was a good warm coat, for each of them too. 

Then Shorty opened his present from Karl.  It was a beautiful little Angel, and on the base, Karl had written, 'To a real Angel, who gave me Haven.'   "Don't you mean Heaven?"

"No, haven, a safe place, that's exactly what I meant." Karl said.

Karl opened his gift, it was a wallet.  He opened the wallet and there were several cards with names on them, and a lot of cash, more cash than he had ever seen.  And there was a bus ticket to Philadelphia.  He just looked up at Shorty in shock.

"Those cards and stuff are mine." Shorty pointed out.  "You need to disappear, so I figure, you should become me.  I sure don't need that stuff, so there you go.  The ticket will get you far enough away, that no one will be looking for you there.  The cash is to get you started in a new life, without having to endanger yourself.  I've come to love you, very much, and I want what is best for you."

The boys hugged and cried and hugged some more.  It was the best Christmas ever.

End part 1 The First Christmas Together

 

Shorty Part 2
The Next Christmas Together, Fifteen Years Later

The young business men were milling about the hotel lobby.  The convention had been very exciting and the future was looking quite bright. 

One young man was watching the others and making notes about traits he saw in each of the future CEOs.  He had found that the more he knew about the people in a company, the better he could judge what the stock of that company would do.  In the past fifteen years, he had taken his small amount of savings and invested it carefully.  Now, at age twenty five, he was well set, and about to change his life. 

In five days, he was marrying a wonderful woman, who knew about his past, but didn't care.  His thoughts were drifting, when he saw a face from his past. 

A young man walked up to him, extending his hand, "Shorty, how wonderful to see you.  I had to do a double take to be sure that it was really you.  I have been looking for you for the last ten years, and this is about the last place I expected to find you."

Shorty gave a firm handshake, "Karl, it really is you.  Do you have time?  Could we go have a drink and maybe dinner?"

"Of course, my friend.  Are you staying here in this hotel?" Karl asked.

"Oh, no, not here.  I live in this crazy town."

"Well, let's go get a drink and catch up on old times."  Soon the two men were in the bar, having a drink, Shorty had a Rob Roy and Karl a double Scotch, straight up.  "Shorty, I am so glad to see you again, and it looks as though you are doing well."

"Yes, actually, I have done quite well.  The stock market has been most kind to me, and I am worth more than I ever dreamed.  I have started trying to help kids like us, take them in, and get then back on their feet.  I do as much as they will let me."

"That's great. Shorty, I need to tell you what happened.  You getting me away and giving me a new identity was a real lifesaver.  I was able to get a little place, and was beginning to get along pretty well.  I managed to find work, and thought things were great.  After about five years, I had decided to leave and come back looking for you.  The day before I was going to get on the bus, this private detective cornered me, and told me to come with him.  Of course, I tried to get out of there, but he knocked me over the head."

 

"Karl, I..."

"No, don't interrupt. Shorty, this is important.  Anyway, when I came to, I was in this nice bedroom and there was an older guy, he was like in his thirties, and two kids, a boy, about ten and a girl eight, in the room.  When I opened my eyes, the man grinned and said to me, 'Hello, I'm your father, and I have been looking for you for almost twelve years.  I don't know what you know or don't know, but I am very happy to have you here.'"

"Karl..."

"I said don't interrupt. Please, just let me talk. Anyway, he was your Dad, not mine; he thought I was you, since I was using your name, and all.  He was so excited to have his son back, and the two kids were excited to have an older brother.  They wouldn't let me explain.  Suddenly, I was a part of this really great family.  The kids' mother had passed away, and they were glad to find their missing half brother.  I got up and they had this huge feast, it was more food than I had seen in one place before.  Then after dinner they told me all about themselves and stuff.  Finally the kids went to bed.  I thought, now was my chance to talk to the man, and explain that I wasn't the kid he was looking for.  He didn't give me a chance.  See, he had the same thing his wife had, and knew his time was running out.  He had wanted to have his kids all together and he was so glad I was so nice, because it would soon be up to me to finish raising the kids."

Karl was shaking with the remembered emotions.  "I'm so sorry, Shorty, I couldn't tell him. I couldn't break his heart. He needed to believe his kids were going to be okay.  I wrote you a letter, but it came back.  I even managed a trip back, and found the whole area was rebuilt and no one remembered the kid I was looking for.  A year later, Dad passed in his sleep.  I cried for him, like he was my real father."

Karl wiped his eyes, and Shorty did also.  "Then the business became mine, and I was making the decisions.  It grew and prospered.  I hired a detective firm to look for you, but it was like you had disappeared from the face of the Earth."

"Harry and Ruth grew up and I was so proud of them.  When they both got married, I sold the business and split the profit three ways.  I then started my own company and it seemed that everything I tried worked even better than I had hoped.  Shorty, I'm filthy rich, and it is all yours.  You deserve it; I've been living a lie."  Karl hung his head and cried, silently.

Shorty shook his head.  "Karl, listen to me. Stop being a jerk!"

Karl snapped his head up and looked at Shorty.

"You know, I read the papers.  I knew they found you, the next day.  I'm so glad that they did.  You needed some people to care about you, that you could care for.  I was doing pretty good by then.  I had about three hundred thousand in the market, and was living in an apartment uptown.  It was so damn funny, everybody talked to me like I was some dumb shit kid, and they were always asking me to tell my father they said hello.  They had no clue that I paid the rent and lived alone.  I have known all along, what happened, and Karl, I do not want your business.  It is yours; you built it from the ground up.  And don't you ever dare to go public with it.  You keep control, I watch the decisions you make, and you do what is right, not what makes the most money.  I wish there were more businesses like yours."

"You knew?"

"Yes, I was trying to tell you, but you wouldn't let me."

"Oh God, what a relief.  I was so afraid you would hate me."

"No, Karl, I could never hate you.  I am proud that I was able to help you in some small way."

"Small way?  You were Santa Claus."

Shorty gave him a strange look.  "Oh yeah, that reminds me, what are you doing for Christmas?" 

"No plans really.  Just go home, I guess.  What about you?"

"Oh, I have lots of plans.  How's about you stick around and join me?"

"Ah, sure." Karl replied.

The two old friends left the hotel and went to Shorty's apartment.  It was a huge place, taking up half the twelfth floor of the building.  There were sacks all over the place, all bulging with wrapped presents.

"Ah, Shorty..."

Shorty grinned, "You got me started, doing it, you know; Now I'm Santa.  There is a big Christmas morning celebration and all the kids attending have a present specially picked for them, under a tree.  It is a real treat, watching them search for their gift.  I have organized several civic groups to research the kids and find out what they need, and more importantly, what they want.  The gift under the tree is a toy, sometimes it is the first toy the kid ever had.  Then there are boxes for the parents that have the things the kid needs, like shoes, coat, a new dress or whatever."

"That is such a great idea, Shorty. I love it. You are an angel, just like I said. Geez, it must cost a small fortune to do all that."

"Hell, Karl, it's only money."

"How can I help?"

"You can help me carry all this down to the trucks tomorrow and you can be my elf."

"Whew, there for a second I thought you were going to make me Mrs. Claus."

"Oh, no my fiancïe, Martha, is Mrs. Claus."

"Fiancïe?  When?"

"The day after Christmas.  Would you be able to stay and stand with me?"

"Shorty, I would be honored."

Martha joined them for dinner and they went to one of the best restaurants in town.  Karl fell in love with Martha too.  She was a wonderful person and was thrilled to meet the boy that Shorty was always talking about.  Karl felt so at ease with her.  He wished he could find someone like her.

The evening ended way too soon, Shorty and Martha dropped Karl off at the apartment and Shorty escorted Martha home.  When he got back Karl was asleep.

The next morning, Shorty left Karl, to go check on things at his office.  Karl also went out for about an hour, and returned before Shorty, with a small package, which he put in his coat pocket for later.

When Shorty returned home, the two men began transporting all the gifts downtown.  Each present had the child's name on it and the larger boxes had numbers.  Shorty explained, "The parents of the children had received an invitation to attend the celebration and the Christmas Feast afterwards.  When they leave they give the elves the invitation which has a number on it and receive their box."

"How long have you been doing this?" Karl asked.

"This is the fifth year.  It keeps getting bigger and bigger, the churches and civic groups are now doing a lot on their own.  The City is even talking about taking over the program.  It should be interesting the next few years.  The feast is coordinated by Martha.  That is how we met.  Now I give her the money and she purchases the food and hires the staff to cook it, from her own family recipes.  She now uses three school cafeterias to cook the meals.

Karl was amazed at how many people were being served. When they arrived, the trees were set up and decorated.  So they began putting the gifts under the trees.  There were sixteen trees and Shorty said to put twenty five presents under each tree.  Four hundred children and their families will have a good Christmas.  This was an amazing event. 

It took the major part of the afternoon to get all the gifts transferred from the apartment.  The two men went out to dinner; Martha couldn't join them since she was directing the feast preparations.  Her volunteers would be up all night preparing and cooking all the turkeys and other food.  Once back in the apartment, Karl asked Shorty if he would tell him his story.

"Well, you know the first part about my mother and her deserting my father for that piece of crap she was with.  Well he did things to me that no kid should ever have to bear. Well a couple of years before we met, I ran away.  When I finally stopped running, I got caught stealing food.  That was the best thing that ever happened to me.  Mr. Lincoln gave me a place to live and found me a job that would feed me.

"A year after you left, Mr. L. died, and left the store to me.  It was about six months after I took over, that some developer wanted to buy it.  I held out for a while, he kept going up in price and I got a big wad of money for it.  I had been investing in the market for several years, so I knew how to do it.  It is now a decent little fortune.  I moved here and that's that."

The next morning, Shorty woke Karl bright and early.  Shorty was dressed as Santa and he gave Karl an elf costume.  They arrived at the Salvation Army Mission hall, which Shorty had acquired the use of, for the weekend, and Karl was surprised that there were families already lined up waiting to get in.  "The kids pester the parents until they can't take it anymore." Shorty whispered to Karl.  Then he walked to the crowd, "Ho, ho, ho, Merry Christmas.  Let's go inside where I left presents for all the good boys and girls.  Ho, ho, ho!"

Shorty opened the doors, and the kids raced in.  It was fun to watch as they searched under the trees for their presents.  When they found their gift, they ran to their parents, and opened them. {RR & TSL ï The presents they opened the presents}  Karl had expected that most of the presents would be pretty generic, but they weren't.  One boy received three books that he had been hinting to his parents that he wanted, and he was so excited because he hadn't read any of them before. He got; The Time Machine, The First Men in the Moon and The Island of Doctor Moreau, each leather bound volume was personally autographed to "Master Eugene Roddenberry, May your imagination lead you on a trek to the stars. Live Long and Prosper. Herbert George Wells,"   a beautiful young girl opened her gift to find that it contained a lovely china doll which she had first seen in the window of the Woolworth's It had  several changes of clothes and beautiful blond washable hair.  Each child had a gift that was just what they wanted.  Karl was a little envious of the Pollux twins who got the Lionel O27 starter set.  Shorty whispered to Karl, There is a bunch of additional track and cars set up on saw horses in room three.  Why don't you show them, and let them know that it is all theirs."

Karl and the twins played with the setup for a while and then one of the twins asked Karl, if it would be okay to invite the other kids to come and play too. Karl thought that would be a good idea, walked into the large room and asked how many children wanted to play with the beautiful trains. There was soon a crowd waiting to run the trains.  The local bully came in and wanted his turn right away.  He naturally threw a fit when Karl told him no.  In his fit of anger he managed to break a model plane that one boy had received and he pulled the transformer off the table. It landed, because there is a God, squarely on his own foot.  Tears began to fall, and the boy squalled. Ignoring the cries of the bully, Karl retrieved the transformer and made sure no damage had been done. (To the transformer, he really didn't care too much about the little bully's foot.)  Shorty entered, summed up the situation, "Ignatius Oglethorpe Sooker, the Fourth!! You WILL apologize to the twins and to Benjie McNeil and HE will have your wooden horses to replace the plane you broke."

The tears intensified, "Mommy!"

Oggy's mother, Helena entered the room, her bazooms of mammoth proportions, (they were the size of Montana) threatening to escape from their woolly confines, leading the way.

Oggy ran to his mother and was enveloped in her LARGE PILLOWY bazooms.  "What have you done to my poor sweet innocent lovable precious baby? Sweetums, are you Okay?" Poor Oggy blushed eight shades of red and pulled himself free of his mother.

Shorty said, "It is more a question of what your poorly mannered baby sweetums did to himself and others.  He broke another child's present out of pure disregard of others and so must forfeit his present, and he nearly broke the transformer to the train set, but as there is a God, only his own toes suffered."

"Well we certainly will not stay where we are not wanted."  Mrs. Sooker left, pulling her son behind.

"But Mama, he's right I deserved it." Oggy said.

"Don't you sass me young man."  She held tight and continued pulling him out the door.

"Sorry about your plane, Benjie." Oggy managed as he was dragged out of the building.

Karl and Shorty exchanged a look that conveyed the 'Thank God' to the other.  A cute little girl brought Benjie the horses.  There were three of them; a stallion, a mare and a colt.  Benjie took them from her carefully, after putting the broken plane down and pushing it aside.  He sat down in the corner and began making friends with his horses.

"Hello there. You certainly are beautiful. I wish I had a real live horse. I am going to find out more about horses, and someday. I will get one of my own." He said with the conviction that only a child can have.

 It was a life altering moment, for the future race horse trainer.  Karl knelt down, in front of Benji, and Benji introduced Rex, Betsy and Prince to him.  Karl gave the boy a card, "Well, Benji, if you decide to make horses your life, I will have a place for you."

About that time a young man, also dressed as an elf, came in, "Was someone injured?"

"All taken care of, more hurt pride than anything.  Saul, I'd like you to meet a very old, dear friend of mine, Karl." Shorty said.

"Hello, Karl, my name is Saul; I'm a third year medical student."

"What kind of medicine do you want to practice?" Karl asked.

"I'd really like to be a country family doctor."

"Any idea where?"

"I don't have any family, so I don't really care."

Karl removed a card, and handed it to Saul.  "Get in touch with me when you graduate."

Saul looked at the card, surprised, "Who is this?"

Karl grinned, "That's me.  It's a long story; maybe we can get into it some day."

Martha came in and told everyone that the feast was ready and Santa and the elves were needed.

The elves were in charge of taking the turkeys to each table and carving them for any tables without a father present.  There was plenty of food and good cheer.

It was the best Christmas Karl had ever had.  By the time the feast was served, he was tired, from playing with all the children.  He helped pass out the gift boxes, as the families were leaving.  He added an envelope containing a crisp new one hundred dollar bill, into each box, as they were given to each family. 

Karl stood with Shorty the next day.  After the civil ceremony, Karl hugged Martha and whispered to her, "Thank you Martha. You are one of a kind.  I know you will take good care of him.  He is so very special.  He is the only person I have ever loved."

 

End Note:
I hope you enjoyed this tale of two Christmases.  This is my small gift to you for the holidays.  Merry Christmas.

str8mayb@paddedroom.us

Editor's Notes:
Oh, you know me too well. I certainly did think you said opened the parents, and I was so disappointed to see that it was only the presents.
I wonder how many readers figured out what is going on. Oh dear I gave them a clue, didn't I? I bet Ice Mist gets it. TSL probably won't, but Dark Star will, I bet.
Thanks for the nice Christmas Present Str8mayb. 
Let me know if you get any letters from people who get it. I really want to know who did. 
Darryl
AKA Radio Rancher

Fort Chief Editor's Notes:

I got it Str8mayb & RR ;)  A very interesting and intriguing story/stories I hope we see more of Shorty and  Karl. All readers I suggest that you go back and read this story again. If you don't you will have missed quite a bit of information.

Merry Christmas to All,

TSL