The once shinny mall had been closed for decades. People, as well as other things, had long ago set up house inside the decaying shops and restaurants.
But at Christmas time, people worked to clean up the place and make it look a bit more presentable. After all, everyone knows that Christmas is the most wonderful time of the year. Besides, there were still a few children left in the surrounding area. Presents, and I use the word loosely, were made or scavenged, and a chair was set up in the parking garage. Someone painted reindeer on the walls.
Food, such as it was, was laid out on old newspapers and the Christmas countdown began.
The earth had been ravaged by one environmental disaster after another. Insane leadership had made sure of that. So people did the best they could with what they had, which wasn’t much, believe me. They really had no one to blame but themselves, but it was Christmas and blame didn’t do anyone any good.
The volunteer Santa didn’t have the kind of lap anyone would want to sit on, so the children just stood in front of him and told him what they wanted. Clean air, was at the top of almost all of their lists, followed by water. They all wanted to see the sun and they wanted to have better things to eat. They wanted to be able to go out more often and not be poisoned by radiation and they wanted cookies. They wanted everyone to stop coughing and dying and they wanted to live long enough to grow up.
Santa, listened to each request, and tried not to cough until he fell over. He told the children that he wished he could give them each one of the things they asked for but he didn’t know how. He said that he was sorry. Sorry for a lot of things. But he told them that the one thing he could do, was tell them stories. So, the children gathered around Santa’s chair and listened to tales of dogs and cats, beaches and baseball. He old them about books and salad bars, of bottles of pop and water. He told them about birds. He talked about families and doctors, contact lenses, and cars. He told them about a lot of things and then he told the children to dream those things back into reality, if they could. He told them to be better than past generations, more caring and thoughtful. He told them to be kind. He told them what went wrong. He told them it might be too late. He told them to love each other while they still could. Then he smiled and sang Jingle Bells at the top of his damaged lungs. The children joined in, and those who could, danced around, clapping and pounding their feet.
When the small fire burned down, and darkness started eating the light, the party ended, and everyone went back to wherever they were hiding. Another Christmas was over.