In the spirit, p.1
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       In the Spirit, p.1
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           Brad Cochrane
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In the Spirit
In the Spirit

  By Brad Cochrane

  Copyright 2013 Brad Cochrane

  In the Spirit

  Winter. On one of the shortest darkest most miserable days of the year, Johnny shook wet snow off his colorless coat, unlocked his gray office, switched on the shabby stereo –and danced. As the singer sang of sunshine and summer, he gyrated wildly, enthusiastically partnering a broom to sweep across the floor secure in the knowledge that he was alone and unseen. The last notes faded into silence and he stoically turned the dial to inoffensive renditions of unremarkable but well-known Christmas music. Opening the clattering window blinds, he stared out into the bleak street. A Sidewalk Santa relentlessly rang a bell and stomped his feet as a hunched pedestrian side-stepped by. The Pawnee Falls Information Center and Museum was open for business. Johnny waited for his first customer.

  * * * * *

  Nearby on the other side of reality….

  “That’s it! I’m shutting down Christmas!”

  Grandfather Nick glared down at the meeting of magical beings, family and business partners all, who sat across the boardroom table. Their usual squabbling fell silent as the night and they froze.

  “Halloween is eating into early sales and that damn Cupid is piggybacking onto our late season. The vet bills for the livestock are astronomical and the Elf Union is threatening a slowdown.”

  Uncle Stan, stroking his white beard, was the first to recover. “But the operation’s ready to go. We’ve got supply complete and transport is counting down. The schedule is set.”

  Nick thundered, “Too bad. Christmas starts when I say it starts. Don’t forget that I AM the Spirit of Christmas. See here, I started out as just another destitute wandering spirit…”

  Cousin Get nudged Cousin Give, “Here comes the story again.”

  “…when I came across the humans on a cold winter’s night. Over the river and through the woods, they shivered and stomped their feet around a cedar tree, exchanging wishes of goodwill and handmade presents. They thought I was a beggar, and I guess I was, but they welcomed me in anyways. That was the start. Would any of you have seen the possibilities? No, it was me, with hard work and good press, I made Christmas what it is today! I gave you all jobs and now you’re rich. But you’re not happy.” He paused. “I’m not happy.”

  ‘Now, Nick,” said Aunt Candle, “You’re just in a dark mood. Lighten up.”

  “Worry for me and none for you. Does anyone thank me? Not even a simple ‘Merry Christmas’.”

  Under the table, Get pinched Give. “Ouch! Stop that!”

  Nick turned his eye upon the squirming youngsters. “You two are the worst! I assign you the Gift Division and all you two do is argue.”

  “And try to steal my territory,” sniffed Uncle Stan. “For once and for all, stay off my hearth and stick to your tree.”

  “But gifts are gifts no matter which side of the carpet they land on,” protested Get. “It’s our jurisdiction.”

  Stan rose angrily and Nick promptly pushed him back down. “This is just what I mean. We’re at each other’s throats, each trying to outdo the other, everyone scrabbling for just a little bit more treasure than the other. When is enough enough? Shouldn’t we be having, I don’t know, fun?”

  “Fun?” asked Get. “It’s fun whenever I get a present. That’s what Christmas is about.”

  “It’s better to give than receive,” replied Give.

  “Why you sanctimonious little sprite, I’ll give you a black eye if you don’t shut up. That’ll definitely make me feel better!”

  “Hush boys,” said Candle. “See here Nick, let’s shine some light on the subject. You’re ending Christmas because you’re unhappy. Right? And you’re unhappy because of the arguing. So, let’s settle the argument. Then you’ll be happy and Christmas can go on bigger and better than ever.”

  “Hmmm,” said Nick, “Is it better to give than receive?”

  “We’ll put the question to an outsider,” said Candle, “an arbitrator, and whatever they say goes, final answer.”


  “A human. The most average normal usual human we can find.”

  Stan asked, “What if he can’t answer?”

  “Then Christmas is canceled,” said Nick.

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