© 2006 Jess Mercer

The Christmas Companion

The very few acquaintances I have invited into my home, frequently tell me, in envious tones, that they wish they could be in my situation, but they are unaware of the heavy personal and psychological costs to me.

I have a spacious, nicely decorated, sound-proofed apartment on the top floor of a small, extremely exclusive office building with secure, enclosed, ground level parking with video surveillance and an armed guard on the security desk in the lobby twenty-four hours a day. A few people I know have laughed at my choice of such a place for a dwelling, but I'm constantly bombarded by offers from top executives working in the building who admire my foresight. The building was planned for only ten floors, the tenth floor entirely occupied by the executive offices of the real estate empire I inherited. Looking over the architects rendering as construction was beginning and for my convenience, I convinced them to add a flat of my own design on the roof, not hard to do since, unknown to the public, the trust controlled by me owns the building. I have a small private lift with only four possible stops, my enclosed parking space in the basement garage, the lobby, my private office, and my flat. There is also a secret staircase from my flat down to my private office. No one other than Mike, my personal secretary, knows when I'm in my office.

Not only am I the only residential occupant, but a serpentine brick wall outside my flat hides and acts as a sound barrier for the few rooftop mechanicals required for such a building. The remaining space is a lovely deck and roof garden, with an 'endless' lap pool. I enjoy swimming and while I would have preferred a full size swimming pool, practicality decreed otherwise.

I also own a frequently visited log cabin in the mountains in the western part of the state. My trust fund provides an income sufficient to cover my needs as long as I am not overly extravagant. My father chose executives of highest honesty and moral character to operate the various divisions of his business. They have remained in place and continued as they always have, so I am not bothered with minutiae. However, I am not a totally useless sod for, while it is not a necessity, I do work, at least a little. At age twenty-five, with a PhD in performance, I hold the position of senior adjunct professor of organ at a nearby university, teaching a few advanced seniors in the organ performance major in private sessions. On special occasions, I play at the church I attend to please the pastor who is an organist himself.

I will play on Christmas Eve for the regular organist wishes to go out of town to be with his family. This is a special treat, for I love Christmas, the music, traditions, the High Mass and pageantry, but most of all, the music! I can play with abandon and get few complaints. There is a thrill in mixing traditional carols with brilliant harmonizations and a sprinkling of ones seldom sung. I've always thought it a shame that at most there are only two Sundays in the liturgical Christmas season and so many lovely carols that never get sung because of the brevity of the season, Advent having its own carols.

So it is that on Sunday night a week and a half before Christmas, I have been practicing the music I plan to play for my Christmas Eve recital and the High Mass that follows. I am pleased with the registrations I have worked out and saved in the multilevel memory of the organ.

The snow is falling lightly enough to be Christmas card beautiful. It lays on the grass, but the warm pavement melts it for clear driving. When the dead bolt clicks, I withdraw my key and turn. A slight motion in what I perceived to be a pile of rags by the nearest buttress, followed by a tiny moan tweaks my interest.

I brush away some of the accumulated snow expecting an animal, instead I lift a woolen cap and see a child's grubby face.

"What are you doing out here, son? It's far too cold."

His teeth chatter for a moment. "G g g g-got nowhere else. I heard the organ and hoped maybe a door was open so I could get in out of the cold, but all of them were locked. I got cold and sleepy and this was out o' the wind, so I set down here."

"What about going home?"

I see his eyes fill with tears. "Haven't one. My old man kicked me out two weeks ago, I guess it was, and mom didn't say nothing."

"Dear Lord!" I have to make a decision fast, the temperature is dropping swiftly since the sun has gone down. I know the shelters will be filled to overflowing as they always are on nights like this.

"Come along with me. You can get warm and have something to eat." As I pull him up, I catch a whiff of his acrid odor. "Yes, and a bath as well."

He pulls against me, but I see he's reaching down, so I ease my grip. He lifts a pair of old crutches, pounding them against the pavement to remove the snow, then pulls them under his arms and looks at me.

I can see there's no shoe at the end of the right jeans' leg but that's all. He swings cautiously along the few steps to my car. I hit the remote to unlock the doors and he carefully brushes the snow from his clothing before sitting down, a move I appreciate as this Jag XK convertible is my one real extravagance.

He looks a bit surprised when I use my key card to open the sliding doors to the enclosed parking area under the building. Once I've parked and gotten out, he joins me at the door of the lift. Again I use my card to summons the car, and when the door slides open, I punch the button for my flat and use the card to activate the lift. My card is the only one, except for the security guard's, that allows the car to reach the foyer of my flat. I have a control panel in the foyer that I can use to send the car down for guests when the guard calls up to announce them.

The lift starts so fast he looks a bit green. "You're not going to be sick, are you?" I ask in alarm.

"N n n o, sir. It goes so fast it makes my belly feel funny." He says as the car comes to a smooth halt and the door slides open.

I open the door and motion him out. "This is it. Follow me."

I lead him into my living room and suddenly realize he's not with me. He's standing just inside the door from the vestibule looking back and forth from my three-manual electronic organ to the ten-foot Christmas tree by wall of glass looking over the city as if he can't decide which is most enticing. I go back and urge him to come with me to the guest bath.

"Take off your clothes and I'll wash them for you. There's a robe behind the door you may wear after you've had a good bath. Shampoo your hair also. When you're done, we'll eat."

He stands behind the bathroom door and hands his filthy clothing around it to me, then closes it modestly. I hear the shower start as I enter the utility room conveniently placed next to the bath and near all the bedrooms. Because I knew that the water pressure would hardly register with being this high up, pressure pumps were installed in the basement and a gas water heater placed with the other mechanicals on the roof. Never running out is worth far more than the small additional cost. The pumps ensure there are no screams of anguish from a shower if a toilet is flushed or the washer is started.

As I throw his stuff in the washer, I can see that each piece is of highest quality and had been expensive. Once I start the washer, I go look in fridge for something to feed him. My general cleaning woman, a motherly type, can't resist cooking things she finds in the freezer. I have no complaints, but often I have a late on-campus lesson and prefer then to eat at the faculty club with colleagues for convenience. Opening the fridge door, I see she has left me a small pot roast surrounded by potatoes and carrots with some onion for flavor. There is also a bowl of sugar snaps. I haul it all out and begin to slice the meat, adding some of the veggies in the gravy to heat. I heat the sugar snaps separately. There's ice cream in the freezer for his dessert.

I am distracted from the cooking when I look up and see his robe-clad figure standing in the doorway to the hall. He would be a beauty with ample good food, some rest, and decent clothing.

"Come in and have a seat at the table." I point to the glass-top table set near the window overlooking the nearby countryside and, in the distance, the Interstate.

"Do you wish milk or coffee?"

"Milk, please." I admire the manners he has displayed so far, the cultured way he speaks. I pour a glass and hand it to him then set out what I have prepared.

"You have yet to tell me your name," I say sitting down at the table. "Mine is Piers Bradfield." My old man thought the name was classic, but I hate it.

He looks up through the fringe of hair hanging over his forehead, his eyes dark blue. "Kenny, sir." With that, he resumes shoveling his food in.

He eats his ice cream more slowly. "You play that big organ, sir?"

"Yes, I do. That's primarily my practice instrument, but I play it for relaxation as well."

"I hope you'll play it some for me."

"If you like. I will be practicing some tomorrow." His smile is sweet.

"How old are you, son?"

"Twelve, sir."

"Mind telling me your full name?" His eyes search mine for a moment, then he nods. "I owe you that for being so kind. I'm Kevin Kenneth Kerry Kinport the fifth."

Whoa! That name is constantly in the business news and society news. His father is a hard, unyielding, implacable man, who in business practices skates very close to the edge of ethics, occasionally crossing the border thereof. He has tried several times to buy the business conglomerate my grandparents founded and has been passed down to me, as if he had the money. I leave the operation to the board and CEO, looking only at the semi-annual reports they send me. And, yes, my major is music but I also have an MBA, so I understand the reports thoroughly and don't hesitate to demand explanations and make changes if I'm unhappy.

I have to grin at the thought of the covert looks of anguish if I attend a board meeting, for they know I'm unhappy about something. But now I wish to know what caused the son of such a well-known businessman to be in such condition.

I frown and shake my head. Why would the son of so wealthy a man be on the street as an obvious throwaway? "Son, why are you out like this?"

The child looked up and tears began to trickle down his cheeks, making cleaner runnels on the grubby cheeks. "Because," he sobbed, "my daddy got mad at me and threw me out. He said he didn't want a little cripple like me around. He didn't even let me get any of my clothes. He said he paid for them so they were his."

I am filled with anger, knowing that what it would take to support this child in even a modest way would be less than pocket change to his father. I look down at the child again. "He doesn't want you to come home?"

"No."

I pat the boy on the back. "That's okay, son, this is my home and you can stay here if you like."

"You mean you really want me to stay here with you?"

I pull him to me in a light hug. "Yes, if that's what you want."

There is no way I can explain the feeling that came over me when I first saw the child, nor had it lessened. "Now, let's get you settled for the evening. I have a few things to do."

While the boy is mesmerized by a movie on my plasma display, I punch in my attorney's number and inform him of my situation regarding Kerry. He immediately advises me to inform old Kinport that Kenny is with me, that I had rescued him from the cold on a freezing night.

To make certain that my ass is covered, for it would be just like old Kinport to accuse me of kidnapping, child molestation, and any number of other things when he finds out Kenny is living with me, I pick up the phone and call his home. After a sharp exchange with his butler or whoever, the old bastard finally gets on the line.

"Bradfield here."

"…"

"No, I'm not about to sell any part of my corporation. I'm calling in regard to your son Kenny."

"…"

"What do you mean you have no son?"

"…"

"Well and good, if that's the way you wish it, but I will have my lawyer contact you with regard to certain documents I will need in order to fully care for his medical and educational needs."

"…"

"I would advise you to consult your own attorney and follow his suggestions in this matter. Good day to you, sir."

As it would turn out later, it is fortunate that I recorded Kinport's conversation with me. My lawyers made good use of it.

Kenny is shy, but after I fixed us a breakfast of pancakes and breakfast sausage links and shown him the phone and how to reach me in my office, I get him settled in with the TV and go down the stairway. I'm sitting at my desk reading year-end reports when the intercom buzzes. "Yes, Mike?"

"There's a man asking to see you privately, Dr. Bradfield. He says he's an engineer with our Crown division. I know it's unusual, sir, but he's most insistent about the importance of what he has to tell you."

I sigh, for I stay out of routine business matters, letting divisional executives handle matters of importance, which keeps smooth working relationships in place. "Refer him to the COO of Crown."

"I did, sir, but he says it's too important and sensitive to be handled in-division."

"Oh, well, bring him in and bring your pad to take notes if it's as important as he believes."

The door opens and Mike ushers in a neatly attired middle-aged man. "This is Mr. Warren, sir," Mike says.

Warren looks at Mike. "I asked to see the CEO."

In no mood to waste time, I say, "You're looking at him, sir. Have a seat and tell me the necessity of my having this important information?"

"I'm sure you are aware of the little pocket-pro digital projector we placed on the market last fall for the Christmas market."

I nod, for I'm fully aware that this little item, expensive though it is, has been responsible for over half of this past year's profits in the Crown Division. In fact, it was their annual report I had been reading when Mike buzzed me.

"Well, sir, I was doing some Christmas shopping last weekend and stopped in an electronics discounter to get some CD's for my son. I saw this." He holds out an item that looks almost exactly like our Pocket-Pro.

"I have had this in my lab for the past three days, sir, and I know for a fact that it uses components patented by Crown Electronics. They are counterfeit copies and of doubtful quality."

He definitely has my undivided attention now. "Can you show me?"

"Of course." He takes one of our Pocket-Pro projectors from his other coat pocket and opening it, places it next to the imitation he brought in. Taking the back off the unit, he points to the main chip, the powerful, but tiny, projection tube, and the series of highly polished little lenses. "If you looked closely at the pictures from ours and this one, you could immediately see the quality difference in clarity, sharpness, and detail in our unit. This copy also has inadequate cooling, so it will likely burn up in less than fifty hours."

I'm so astounded I can only stare at him and shake my head. "Mike, get us coffee and I am no longer available today."

I think a bit more then ask, "And who is responsible for this violation of our patents and this piece of junk?"

"I tried to find out, sir, but the store manager could only refer me to his supplier."

"What store was this?"

"Price Advantage, sir."

"Mike, get me the CEO on the phone."

While Mike is on the phone, I have Warren at my computer bringing up the patents he says have been violated.

Mike calls me to the phone and whispers, It's Mr. Roberts."

"Mr. Roberts, Piers Bradfield here. I regret disturbing you, however a matter has arisen over an item your stores are selling. Could you please inform me of your supplier of Pro-Ject?"

After a few moments on hold, he returns and answers.

"Eclipse Components, you say? I've never heard of them."

"…"

"You say they approached you to be their vendor? Most interesting. I thank you for your time and the information, sir."

After I've replaced the phone, I say, "Mr. Warren please print out the pages you have shown me. Also print out a picture of this piece of junk with the back off as it is now, marking the items they've used on which we hold patents. Mike get on the phone to the state registrar of business and industry and see if they have any information on Eclipse."

With Warren and Mike momentarily occupied, I start thinking of how to best handle this. A few moments later, Mike stands up and grins at me.

"Well?"

"You are in luck. Eclipse is registered in this state. It's your old buddy Kinports. Eclipse is one of their minor companies so far down the organizational list it's virtually lost."

My grin grows exponentially. I've got the old bastard where I want him, and revenge for the sake of young Kenny will be all the sweeter.

After he's printed out the information I've requested and handed the sheets to me, I stand and shake Mr. Warren's hand. "Sir, I can't thank you enough for persisting in seeing me and insisting that I should be the one to have this information. You will speak of this to no one other than to me, or to Mike. Even then it will be in one of these two offices which I am certain are secure. I believe you may look for a handsome bonus if you honor our confidentiality."

"You may be sure, sir."

Among our in-house attorneys are three specialists on patents. With them writing the applications, we've always gotten swift patent grants with no questions.

"Mike, get Richards and crew up here on the double and ask Mr. Warren if he will be good enough to advise Richards and the others as to what extent our patents have been infringed. Lawyers know diddly about technology."

By time for lunch, everything is running smoothly thanks to Mike's usual efficiency. I go back up to my flat and find young Kenny, still in the heavy terry-cloth robe, on the sofa sleeping, the stereo playing one of my favorite CD's of Christmas music.

I shake Kenny gently. "Wake up, son and get dressed. It's time for lunch, then you and I have some shopping to do."

He jumps up with a look of fear that vanishes as he recognizes me. "Oh, I'm sorry."

"For what? I woke you and you are in a place that's strange as yet. Go wash your face and I'll bring your clothes to you. I left them on top of the drier after I folded them."

I decide we should lunch at a reasonably nice restaurant I occasionally frequent and choose because I'm thinking a young kid would prefer a burger which they have on the menu. True to form, Kenny does order the classic burger which I know contains a thick slice of tomato, a goodly amount of lettuce, in addition to the three-quarter pound beef patty and various condiments. He smiles at me when he picks it up for the first bite. My broiled scallops are a delight as always.

"No dessert," I tell the waiter, and ask for the cheque.

Kenny looks disappointed, though how he could manage to eat anything more after polishing off the burger, fries, and side salad. "There's a nice ice cream shop in the mall. We'll stop there after we've gotten you some things to wear, if you want."

I'm rewarded with a broad smile. "Please. My dad wouldn't ever let me eat anything from the places in the mall. He said they aren't clean."

From the few things he's said, I am beginning to understand that Kenny has had an unhappy life, except for friend or two at the exclusive private academy he attended, even so, he was not allowed to see them outside the school. As far as fast food, I think it more likely the cantankerous old bastard did it just to disappoint Kenny. Surely he knows the health department inspects all food purveyors and eating establishments.

I'm lucky enough to see a car pulling out of a parking slot almost directly in front of the side door to the mall. I grab it and hold a hand ready to grab Kenny if his crutches slip on an icy place on the walkway.

We're hardly inside the mall when a nicely dressed young man near Kenny's age yells, "Kenny," and runs up to us, hugging Kenny. "Where you been, Man? You haven't been in school for almost two weeks now."

Kenny returns the hug and pulls back a little. "Mr. Bradfield, this is Mike, one of my friends from school."

"I'm pleased to meet you, Mike." I look at Kenny. "Would you like Mike to help you pick out clothes that are 'in'?"

Kenny grins. "Yeah. Let's go, Mike."

I follow along, enjoying the happy expression on Kenny's face as Mike tells him everything that has taken place at school since Kenny was there. They turn into a well above average clothiers and without hesitation head for the young mens section pausing to look at various garments.

"These will look great on you, Kenny," Mike says holding up a pair of woolen trousers against a beautiful blazer. I must agree. Mike apparently has an eye for color and style, and Kenny will need something 'dressy'. Kerry finds some cords he likes while Mike selects two heavy sweaters that blend with the cords nicely.

A dozen or so shirts, casual and dress, loafers and a pair of dress shoes, pair of engineer style boots for wear in the snow, and the boys motion to a clerk who has been watching, but not intruding. A rule of the store, I suppose. My credit card cringes a little as I hand it to the clerk, though it is actually 'pocket change' for me.

"Can we get some ice cream now, Mr. Bradfield?" Kenny asks.

"May we," I correct. "I did promise, didn't I? Will you join us, Mike? Your excellent help should be rewarded."

Mike's grin grows broader as we are seated and I tell them to order what they want. I need a decent cup of coffee, but the boys both order a jumbo banana split. My eyes must have bulged at the sight of the mountainous creations set in front of the boys. Each certainly would be capable of amply feeding four, if not six, people.

I have two leisurely cups of coffee while the boys are shoveling in the ice cream and toppings. It comes as a surprise when both Kenny and Mike virtually lick the dishes clean.

We are about to leave when a smiling manager comes to our table and presents both boys a certificate for another creation for free as seldom does anyone manage to completely ingest a whole one. The boys thank him and he remarks to me, "You certainly have two ice cream lovers there."

"I was quite unaware of their capacity until now. You will be certain to see them again when they come to claim their reward. I must compliment you on the quality of your coffee."

He smiles broadly. "I like good coffee so I use a much better quality than chain shops. It will be my pleasure to offer you a cup from my private stock when you bring the boys back. A Merry Christmas to you all."

"Okay, Kenny, time to head home. May we drop you some place, Mike?"

"Can Mike come with us?"

I'm about to agree when Mike says, "I wish I could, but I have to be at dad's office in forty-five minutes to ride home with him.

"Perhaps some other time, then," I tell Mike.

Kenny tells me that he likes Chinese, so on the way home, I stop by my favorite hole-in-the-wall restaurant and pick up chicken chow mein for our dinner, though Lord knows how Kenny could eat any after that mountain of ice cream.

I help him take the tags from his new clothing and give everything a light wash. By the time we have his things put away, he says he's ready for dinner.

As we are eating, I ask, "What would you like for Christmas, son?"

He looks at me sadly. "The one thing I want is what my daddy would never get me."

"And that is?"

He pulls up his pant leg displaying a tiny shrunken foot at the end of a 6-inch-long calf. "The doctor told him if he cut off the part of my leg that's useless, I could get a new leg and do all the things other guys get to do." Tears begin to trickle down his cheeks.

"I wish I could get that for you, son, but I have no authority to make such decisions regarding you. How old are you, Kenny?"

"Twelve."

"Ah. Then I will see what I can do. Would you be happy living here with me?"

He nods vigorously. "You're nice, and I got nowhere else to go."

When I open my arms, he hops over and into my embrace. "We have to get you ready for school on Monday. I'll take you and pick you up after school is over." I also resolve to get my attorneys on the ball and put me in a position to squeeze old Kinport.

"All my school stuff is at school. We only have three more days until Christmas vacation."

"Very good. You may watch TV if you wish. I am going to practice some music for Christmas Eve Mass."

"Can I just sit here and watch you?"

I shake my finger at him. "It's may I, remember? But, yes, you may if you don't interrupt my concentration. Part of the music is tricky to play."

"I won't. I love music."

He sits quietly as I practice. It may be his presence, but I find myself playing as I would for an audience. To my amazement, I render each piece with only one minor error in fingering that I correct unobtrusively.

When I finish and turn on the bench, he says, "That was wonderful, sir. I wish there was more."

"Thank you, Kenny. I expect you will be tired of hearing me by Christmas Eve."

"You make the music sound different from what I usually hear."

"Some of it is improvisations, and some is of my own devising. I like to make old music sound new in form." I slide off the organ bench and put my hand on his shoulder. "Ready for some ice cream?"

"Oh, yes, sir!"

I find he misses his Gameboy, so I ask Mike to pick up an X-Box and several games he thinks Kenny will like.

Immediately after lunch, Mike enters my office and shows me the hardware and the games, Superman, Cars, NHL, and three or four others. "You think he'll like these?" I ask.

"I'm almost certain, because my little brother is begging for three of these for Christmas." He shrugs. "He may get one, but they're so darned expensive, like fifty bucks each."

"If you will come up with me and connect this thing so Kenny can use it, I'll make sure your brother isn't disappointed."

"But, sir…"

"In fact, how old is your brother?"

"He will be twelve in February. Why?"

"He and Kenny are about the same age. Why don't you have your brother come here after he gets out of school? He can play games with Kenny."

"Cody would like that, but I'll have to pick him up from school. He's not allowed to use city transportation alone."

"Use my Jeep." I toss him the keys.

Kenny is bouncing up and down with excitement as Mike sets up the game system and shows Kenny how to turn it all on and set the channel on the TV for games. It's a delighted youngster we leave so involved in his game that he doesn't even notice us going down the stairway.

Mike's message light is flashing rapidly, indicating he has several messages waiting. He picks up the phone as I close my office door. A moment later he's opening it. "I think you'd best get the lawyers in for a meeting soonest. I'll go to pick up Cody as soon as possible."

I nod. "The small conference room in fifteen minutes."

At five, I open my office door and look at Mike. "Been a great day, Mike. Let's go up and see what the boys are up to."

"Knowing Cody, they'll be right where we left them. I'm glad the guys from legal came through so quickly. Maybe you can avoid all that paperwork and crap social services will pile on if you try to keep Kenny."

I smile. "It's already in the works, that's why I wanted the guys to get right on our case against Kinport. If he's half as smart as I think he is, he'll sign most anything our guys set before him." I give Mike an evil grin. "What will hurt him most is parting with the money we'll likely get for damages as a violation of our patents. What I'm offering him is asking no punitive damages in exchange for his signing over Kenny completely to me. I hope it can be completed before Christmas, which gives us eleven days."

Mike shakes his head. "I didn't know courts could move so fast."

I smile. "Friendly judge."

The boys are absolutely riveted to the game they're playing. Both begin to complain loudly when Mike tells Cody they have to go. He looks at me and shakes his head.

"This is Friday. Let Cody stay over with Kenny, if they don't mind sleeping together. I'll see he gets fed properly."

"Yeah! Please, Mike," Cody says.

"That'll be fun," Kenny chimes in.

Mike looks at me. I nod. "Cody is about the same size as Kenny, so I think he can wear a pair of Kenny's PJ's."

Mike hugs Cody. "Behave yourself and pay attention to what Dr. Bradfield tells you, or you won't be allowed to come back."

"I will, I promise. Thanks, Mike."

I take the boys to a small restaurant I frequent and after they are finally full, we go back to the flat where they immediately pick up the game they were playing before we left. With them so fully occupied, I get in a good two hours of relaxed practice before the boys come in to watch. I finish the piece I was playing and call them into the dining area for ice cream, amazed that they could even find room for it after what they consumed at the buffet.

"Okay, guys, you're old enough to get your baths. Kenny, get Cody a pair of your PJ's. I'll be in shortly to tuck you in."

When I hear the shower stop, I walk down to Kenny's room. The boys are putting on their pajamas. I pull back the covers and they crawl into bed. I bend and kiss each of them on the forehead. "Sleep tight."

The weekend flies by. Mike picks up Cody Sunday evening, having brought over clothing for him Saturday morning after Kenny begged me to let him stay another night. Even so, I get in more practice than I probably would have otherwise.

Kenny has made himself right at home, calling me Dad and begging me to let Cody stay the next weekend. He's so good all week, I'm perfectly happy to grant his wish. I'm happy Cody is his own age and a friend from school.

Thursday afternoon, my legal wizards meet with me and inform me that old Kinport caved without our even having been near the court. One of them hands me the paperwork transferring custody of Kenny to me, along with all the documentation, birth certificate, passport, school records, medical records, and so on.

I call a major orthopedic surgeon for an appointment only to find that he has previously examined the boy and that the undeveloped portion of the boy's leg could easily be removed so that he could be fitted with a modern prosthetic. I make an appointment with him for Kenny and place the appointment card I'm sent in a small Christmas card to be put in Kenny's stocking Christmas Eve.

Filled with a joy I've not known for a long time, I excel at the music at Christmas Midnight Mass. Kenny sits in a chair beside the console as I play, handing me music as I reach for it.

It is snowing lightly when we leave the church. As soon as we're home, he begs to open one present. I take down his filled stocking. After taking out a large tangerine, some Christmas candy, he pulls out a watch and glows with pleasure. Last is the card. He looks at it then me. "Is this to get my leg fixed?"

I hug him. "Yes. It can be done just after the first of the year."

Kenny has tears streaming down his sweet face as he almost strangles me with his hug. "Then I can run and play like other guys. This is the best Christmas ever."

"I love you, Kenny. Santa must have brought you to me early so I wouldn't be alone at Christmas."


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