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A Collage of Short Stories emerged from my imagination--a few actual experiences--and some possibly conjured from a previous life, if you believe in reincarnation and Edgar Cayce.
The Strange Horizon ranges from stories less than a hundred words to over four thousand words. There isn't any profanity, gore or sexual innuendo in any of the short stories. The genre varies from mystery, suspense, contemporary, horror, science fiction and fantasy. You may smile, chuckle, express a tear or two, feel a sudden chill or feel a warmth at the end of the story. Emotions are in the mind of the reader and the heart cuddles or rejects those emotions.
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Adam leaned forward and slid his shovel between the sidewalk and six inches of snow. His peripheral vision saw someone walking toward him. He straightened up and gazed at an elderly man wearing a parka. A cold northern wind gently blew at the man's white hair and long white beard.
Adam threw the shoveled snow next to him and said, "How are you?"
"Just fine, thank you."
"I'm Adam Morris."
"Please to meet you. I'm Ben Stanton."
"Didn't you and your wife move into the old Kramer house last month."
"Yes. We did."
"Is everything all right there? It sat vacant for a few years."
"It's just fine. We're very comfortable."
"I heard you're going to play Santa Claus at the family shelter on Christmas Eve," Adam stated.
"Yes. I'm looking forward to it."
"You sure do fit the part. Don't need an artificial beard."
"No. I don't," Ben said, pulling at his beard.
"I understand you retired a few years ago."
"What kind of work did you do?"
"Public relations for a large global company."
"Did your wife retire too?"
"You ask a lot of questions. You must be a newspaper reporter."
"Yes. I am. How did you know that?"
"You're standing in front of the Northern Star Newspaper office."
Adam rolled his eyes, grinned. "Never was good as an undercover reporter."
Ben placed his hands on his large protruding abdomen and chuckled.
"You laugh from your belly just--"
"I know," interrupted Ben. "Just like Santa on TV or in the movies."
"Didn't mean to offend you."
"You didn't. It doesn't bother me at all. Matter of fact, I take it as a compliment."
Two teen-aged boys approached them. "Hey old man, where's your reindeers?' asked one of the boys. The other boy snickered.
"Get out of here you juvenile delinquents." Adam scowled at them.
The boys kicked snow on the shoveled sidewalk in defiance and took off running.
"You little brats."
"They mean no harm," interjected Ben. "They got good hearts. Their attitudes just need some guidance."
"Being in public relations, I would think you'd have negative judgments of people."
"No. I try to see positive attributes in people. It's the way I am. Too old to change now."
~ * ~
About a week before Christmas, the Santa at the mall became sick. Adam heard about it when the manager of the mall came into the newspaper office to place an ad in the paper. He contacted Ben, who accepted the position.
Ben sat in a large, adorned chair. A woman in her late twenties, holding the hand of a girl around six-years-old, walked up the red-carpeted entranceway and stopped a couple feet away from him.
"Hi, Santa," said the little girl.
"Well, Jasmine, how are you today?"
"How did you know her name?" asked the woman, frowning.
"Santa knows all the boys and girls of the world. Although, I heard you call her name a few minutes ago when you walked behind me."
"So, Jasmine. What do you want for Christmas?"
"A daddy. Mine died when I was a baby."
"I'm not sure if Santa can promise you that." Ben glanced at the mother. A tear ran down her cheek.
Jasmine's face saddened, as her shoulders slumped. "That's okay, Santa Claus. I still love you."
"Bless your heart. What else can Santa bring you Christmas morning?"
"My own bed."
"Do you share your bed with someone else?"
"Oh. No Santa. The shelter owns my bed."
The mother leaned forward. "We're staying at the family shelter in town. It's just temporary until I earn enough money for a place of our own."
"I hope things work out for you and your daughter. Have a Merry Christmas. And God bless you." Ben handed Jasmine a candy cane.
~ * ~
On Christmas day, Adam sat at his dining room table surrounded by family members.
"I heard that Ben and his wife suddenly left town two days ago," Carl remarked, Adam's brother. "No one seems to know where they went."
Adam frowned. "That's strange. Ben was looking forward to playing Santa Claus at the family shelter."
Maybe they wanted to spend Christmas with relatives in another town or state."
"I don't think so."
"Why's that?" asked Carl.
"Ben and his wife were 'only children' and didn't have any relatives. At least that's what he told me a while back."
~ * ~
"Jasmine, get over here."
"Karen. She's okay," said a young man in his late twenties, sitting next to her on a bench in the mall. Across from them, they were dismantling the Santa Claus stage.
"I still can't believe how we happened to meet after not seeing each other since high school."
"Me either. The elderly man that was playing Santa here at the mall came into my store a few days before Christmas. He asked me if I would go to the family shelter on Christmas Eve dressed up like Santa. I couldn't believe it when I saw you there."
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