The afternoon of Christmas day found two little boys sitting in the loft of the Currys’ farm house. Their parents and siblings were gathered around the big table dominating the kitchen-living room below and filled the air with a cacophony of voices and laughter.
The blond member of the pair sitting on the floor looked pretty unhappy. “Why do we get all this senseless stuff every year? Santa shoulda known better what a boy really needs! Ain’t he ever been young himself?”
“True. Maybe he’s getting too old for the job. I wished so hard for a jackknife. I really could use one! But at least I got new hooks for my fishing pole - besides the inevitable clothes that is,” the dark-haired lad replied without great excitement, rolled his eyes and snorted scornfully. “What did Santa miss out to bring to you, Jed?”
“I needed a gun,” the younger one declared.
“Ah, that.” For months Jed had been talking about nothing else, but his friend suspected that it was a dream that wouldn’t come true. “Now, that’s not a request he would expect from a boy, I guess. Didn’t you tell him?”
“I did! I wrote a letter! In my own hand! And I’ve been drawin’ a picture, too – just in case, you know!”
Knowing about his friend’s writing skills, Han was suitably impressed. “Yet you didn’t get one?” he said, wondering how hard-hearted one must be to ignore such immense efforts.
“Well ... no. I got one.”
“Really?” Dark-brown eyes popped wide open in surprise. “So, what’s the matter now? And why didn’t you show it to me?”
Jed produced a revolver from under his pillow. It was a beautiful piece, decorated with lovely engravings - the finest woodwork Han had ever seen.
“Ah, I see,” he said compassionately. “Would you mind giving it to me?”
Jed shrugged and proffered the offending piece of wood.
Han took it in his hands, weighed it and caressed the smooth surface with his fingertips. “It’s beautiful, Jed. I’ve never seen a piece like this before. Someone made a great effort to make it look and feel as real as possible.” He took a closer look and traced a fine line in the wood to a hole which was filled with metal. “They carved it out and filled the hole with lead to make it heavier. It’s just marvelous, Jed.”
“But it ain’t a gun!”
“In a way it is.”
“But it ain’t helpin’ with all that trouble goin’ on! What if the injuns come and attack us? How can I protect anyone with that sorry excuse for a weapon?” The young boy’s voice dripped with disgust.
“Let’s face it, Jed: your father would never allow you to carry a real gun, just being 6 and all...”
“In six months!” Han objected. “That’s the best you could get and I tell you what: I bet it’s good enough to start practicing on your fast draw!”
Han shrugged. “It’s the best you’ll get for a while, so it has to do, I guess. And all the boys will envy you for that mighty fine t... tool,” he ended his sentence, carefully avoiding the term ‘toy’. Han knew better than to get his cousin riled up again.
Jed took his wooden gun back and eyed it closely. “You’re right. It is a mighty fine gift. Nobody else around here has such a fine one!” A bright smile lit up his face again. “And it’s a lot better than Mrs. Kringle’s knittin’, for sure.”
“Mrs. Kringle’s ... what?”
“Who the heck is Mrs. Kringle?”
“The wife of Kris Kringle - Santa - you know?!”
“Kris Kringle has a wife?”
“Why not? You think he lives all alone up there with no one around but silly elves who make toys? Winter nights are long and cold and he’s got a lot of work to do. I bet he appreciates it nice and cozy when he comes home to a wife who does all the women’s stuff for him. You ever seen a man doing needlework? You think he does all the sewin’ and knittin’ by himself? All the sweaters and socks and mufflers and gloves that come at Christmas must be made by someone. You don’t believe in magic, do you?”
“Well, no, but...”
“See! And I already found out he’s buyin’ his stuff at Barnwell’s, too.”
“You did what?” Jed’s figuring had the usually keen boy speechless today.
“See the color of my new cap? It’s about the same wool Becky used for the mittens she was workin’ on for months every time she thought nobody was watchin’ her. She got it at Barnwell’s, so...”
A small blush flashed Han’s face, as he recalled one of his underwhelming sartorial gifts. Covering his embarrassment he commended, “Jed, you did a whole lot of figuring here.”
“Yeah, you’re not the only one who can do a fine job on that!”
“So it seems,” his cousin admitted hesitantly, his face clouded over with a frown. Just a beat later a bright smile flashed across his face. “You know what? After all it’s a good thing, we’ve got stuff in the same color now. Won’t we make a fine team with matching clothes?”
Jed beamed at him. “We sure will!”
“What about sneaking down again and find out if there’s any of the fruit cake left?”
“That sure sounds like a plan!”
“It’s a Hannibal Heyes plan!”
With twinkling eyes, the boys exchanged grins and went down to join their families for an evening filled with joy and love and laughter.