Copyright © 2015 by Jandar Tyr
The night was cold and it was snowing as Mark Randle's little truck made the turn into the small gas station in Stonington Maine and coughed up its last bit of life. He turned the key and stepped on the gas hoping to get it started one more time and make it home for Christmas, but all it did was make that choking noise. It was done, it had gone its last mile. He cursed and punched the dash board upset. He was having the most horrible day of a long string of bad days. He looked out and noticed the lights were still on in the station. Maybe this was finally a bit of luck.
Mark reached to his side and grabbed the brown bag and stuffed it in his jacket then pushed open the door and stepped out of the truck.
Out in front of the station sat a little old 1950 red ford truck. Mark smiled as he looked it over. It was clean and looked like it had been kept in good working order. Maybe his luck was changing. Quickly he put on a cap from his pocket and went to the door and stepped into the stations little.
Sitting at a desk covered with letters, an elderly heavy set man with white hair and a long white beard looked up as a bell announced Mark's entrance.
"Merry Christmas my friend." He smiles as he puffed on his pipe. "It's freezing out there, why don't you come in and have a cup of joe, its fresh."
"Thank you." Mark said rubbing his hands to warm them up. "It is cold out there. But I just need to use your phone if that's ok."
"Sure you can." The jolly old man said. "But it won't be working right now with this storm blowing out there. The lines here are terrible in the winter, but it'll be working soon. Why not have some coffee or hot chocolate while you wait. I have those little marshmallows."
Mark smiled. The office was warm and the old guy was nice. He had time, one cup couldn't hurt. The bank would still be open in an hour.
"Tell me son." The old man stood up and went to the little stove in the corner and poured him a cup of hot chocolate. "What brings you out in this storm?"
"Christmas shopping for my kid." Mark said as he reached up and took the cup of chocolate. The old man dropped three marshmallows in his cup and sat back down with his pipe. "You know, last minute shopping."
"Ho ho ho ho!!! Yes, I know all about that. As a matter of fact, I have something here that your little boy might like."
The old man reached back behind his chair and into a red bag and pulled out a long red fire truck. He placed it on the table in front of Mark, then leaned back.
"Do you think Christopher would like that?"
It was beautiful. Just what Christopher had asked for though he didn't have the money to get it for him. Had just recently lost his job for being caught drinking on the job. He had been out every day for the last 3 weeks looking, but he couldn't find anything. He was desperate. It was almost rent time and they didn't have much by way of food at their apartment and Shelly and Christopher would be home from her parent place tonight. What he had in his jacket pocket was his only answer.
"I think he'll love it." Mark said. "But I can't take this from you. You've been too nice to me. I should go."
"Go where Mark." The old man looked him deeply in his eyes. "Do you really think that's the answer? Do you really think a gun is going to help in any way?"
Mark looked at the old man in shock. How did he know? Did he see it? Did he say Christopher? Did he just call me Mark? How does he know who I am? Who is this old man?
"If you leave here." The old man tapped his pipe on the ashtray to empty it before he refilled it. "Someone will die in that bank and it will be by your hand. You will be caught and Shelly and Christopher will be devastated. A little boy and girl will lose their father and end up being taken by the state because their Grandparents are too old to care for them. The manager will have a heart attack and never be strong enough to walk or work again. You will destroy Christmas for three families, maybe more. All because you're down on your luck."
Mark dropped the cup and stared at the old man. He didn't know if he should believe him but in his heart, he knew it could all be true. He had never broken a law in his life, but what choice did he have? He couldn't go home empty handed. He couldn't face Shelly and Christopher as such a failure. Maybe he should just leave here and start walking and never look back.
"That's no answer." The old man shook his head. "Christopher needs you to teach him how to be a man. He needs you to teach how to love and treat people. You're his hero, you're his father. Shelly needs you too or she will grow old alone and sad. You are the key to so many lives and it will happen in the next few minutes. If you make the right choice."
Mark thought about the day he met Shelly and that spark he saw in her eyes. He knew the minute he had seen her that he would marry her. Then he thought of the day Christopher was born and how he had been so happy, he went out and ran and jumped and screamed in joy. He had almost been arrested for disturbing the peace, but the policeman understood and just congratulated him. He thought of the day his wife had died delivering his daughter, whom he named after her mother. No, he could never leave them. He loved them too much. There was only one thing he could do. Mark reached into his pocket and pulled out the bag with the gun and gave it to the old man."Ho, ho, ho, ho!!!!" The old man laughed. "I knew you would make the right choice. Now we just have to get you home. Here, take my keys to the truck. It'll get you home."
"Thank you so much." Mark shook his hand. "I think you saved my life."
The old man picked put the toy truck and handed it to Mark.
"Just tell your family Merry Christmas for me." He said. "Now you get out of here and go home. Merry Christmas!!!"
Mark waved as he left the office. He felt like a million bucks. He looked back to see the old man waved and shut the office door and turn off the light. With the truck in his hand, Mark hurried to the red ford truck and got in. As he started the truck, he noticed a small bag on the seat next to him. He picked it up and opened. There was a sheet of paper on top. Mark turned on the dash board light and read it. It was the deed to the gas station with his name on it. Mark had to read it again to be sure he wasn't imaging it. But there it was. Then he felt the bag and realized there was something else in it. He turned it over and emptied it on the seat. It was a stack of hundred dollar bills. Ten thousand dollars to be exact and a Christmas card. He opened it. It read Merry Christmas from Your Friend Nick.