A Christmas for Joey 2016 by Kewl Dad
The following is a work of fiction. Any resemblance to persons living or dead unless otherwise indicated is a coincidence. This story contains sexual situations between an adult male and a teenage male though no explicit sex. This story is the property of the author Kewl Dad and should not be reproduced or reposted without his permission.
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Snow was falling like a mother all around me that day and I was frozen to the bone. Because of the weather I had taken the bus that day an I'd just gotten off at Scott Street, three blocks from my downtown apartment when I saw him.
He was standing just outside Dad's Hardware, a little mom and pop store where I sometimes shopped, and holding something up as he talked to a lady on her way in. As I got closer I could hear his soft little boy voice as he tried to convince the lady that she needed whatever it was he was selling.
"It's only one dollar," the little guy said as the lady shifted impatiently, obviously anxious to get inside and out of the snow.
"Here hon," she finally said pulling a dollar bill out of her handbag, "Have a Merry Christmas dear," She said grabbing her purchase and hurrying inside.
"Thank you ma'am," the kid said smiling, "God bless you and Merry Christmas."
Now it was my turn. "Hello sir," the boy said as I approached, "Mistletoe sir, I have mistletoe and it's only one dollar. Will you please buy some so I can have a Merry Christmas?"
Well only Scrooge could turn town a cute little boy selling mistletoe on a snowy day two days before Christmas, "I'll take two I said grinning, never know when you'll need some mistletoe."
The kid smiled and my heart was his. He was maybe 9 or 10 with pale blue eyes and a button nose that was red from the cold. His little mouth was stretched wide in a smile and I saw he was missing a tooth near the front on one side. A lock of blond hair escaped from beneath his stocking cap and he pushed it back before handing me two little plastic bags containing a wisp of mistletoe in each.
I handed him two singles and took the little bags and stuck them in my coat pocket as I looked him over more closely. He was shivering in his worn jacket and I noticed he wasn't wearing gloves. His shoes were worn looking and soggy from the snow and I could just imagine how cold his feet were.
"What's your name buddy?"
"Uh...Joey," he said sweetly, "What's yours?"
I laughed, "I guess that's only fair, I'm Phoenix. Yeah, I know it's a silly name. My mom thought it was cool though."
"I like it," Joey said smiling.
"I like your name too," I said stalling as long as possible. I couldn't explain it but I didn't want to leave this little guy standing here in the cold as he tried to make a buck....so he could have a Merry Christmas.
"Do you live nearby?" I asked curious about him.
"Yes sir, I live with my granny in an apartment since my momma died," he said looking sad.
I had the suddenly urge to scoop him up and hug him, but I figured that might not go over too well with him or anyone passing by. Instead I knelt down a little till I was at eye level with him.
"I'm sorry Joey, was she sick or did she have an accident?"
He shrugged, "Grandma says she took some pills, that she didn't care about me and took the cowards way out."
Ouch, granny sounded about as sensitive as a bee sting. "I'm sure she loved you, she probably just had some problems she couldn't work out on her own."
"Yeah, that's what I think too," he said smiling sadly, "Anyway grandma doesn't have much money so I'm trying to sell this mistletoe so I can buy us a Christmas."
Damn, either he was the saddest and neediest little guy I'd ever met or the smallest con artist.
"How much have you sold so far?"
"Ummm...five counting the two you bought. That's five whole dollars," he said proudly.
"And how much do you have left?"
"He pulled the remaining bags from his pocket and counted them slowly, "Ten....I have ten left."
"I'll take them all," I said making a decision I would not regret.
"Really? Awww..you don't have to do that. I can sell them if I stay long enough."
I doubted that especially in this weather but I understood it was a matter of pride.
"I know but I need them. You see I have some friends I'd like to give them to and I was wondering where'd I'd find some this late in the season."
"Really?" he said wide eyed and looking so cute.
"Cross my heart," I lied hoping I didn't die.
"Well....okay, but since you're buying all ten I could let you have them for only 9 dollars," he said grinning.
"Okay, nine dollars then," I said giving him that little victory. I pulled out a ten spot and handed it to him and he handed me back one of the dollars I'd given him earlier and the deal was done.
"Thanks Phoenix," he said smiling as he pocketed the money, "Have a Merry Christmas."
"You too Joey," I said offering my hand to shake. We shook and his hand was like ice, "So are you heading home now buddy?"
"Yeah, I guess so. I don't have any more mistletoe to sell. I'll have to get some more for tomorrow."
I wondered where a person got mistletoe, I knew it grew on trees and was actually a fungus, but I didn't think for a moment Joey or his granny were going to shinny up a tree and grab a fresh batch. Maybe there was a wholesale mistletoe supplier....heck anything was possible.
"Which way you headed?"
"That way," he said pointing in the direction of my own apartment.
"Okay if I walk with you Joey, I'm headed that way too."
"Sure, that'd be okay I guess."
And so we started off not quite hand in hand, but so close our hands brushed together at times. We chatted as we walked and I learned more about him. He was nine and had lived with his granny since he was six in a tiny little apartment one street over from my own.
"Do you got a wife?" He asked looking up at me with serious eyes.
"No, there's just me."
"Do you have a girlfriend then?"
"No, no girlfriend either."
"How come? Don't you like girls?"
I laughed, "Sure, I like girls all right, but I guess I just haven't met the right one yet. Why do you have a girl friend?"
He giggled, "No silly, I'm only nine. I don't like girls all that much....yet."
"Well, you have a lot to look forward to."
We were quiet for a while and then Joey looked up at me and frowned, "I wish I didn't have to go home yet."
Was he hinting? I chuckled, "Where would you rather go?"
He shrugged, "I dunno....some place where they have toys and neat stuff to look at."
"Are you hungry buddy?"
He looked at me and grinned and I could practically hear his little tummy growl. "Yeah, a little."
"Well, how about we stop in here and get a burger and warm up? My treat." Here was a little cafe where I often ate. They had decent food and the prices were reasonable.
"Really...you mean it?"
"Sure, I gotta eat anyway and it'll be nice to have some company. Since you sold all your mistletoe you have time...right?"
"Yeah, I got lots of time. Granny don't care when I get home. She takes her medicine and falls asleep a lot," he said sounding sad. "Sometimes she don't wake up all night and I hafta fix my own supper."
I was beginning to think granny was a boozer and maybe no better than his mom had been. The poor kid was obviously neglected and hungry for attention. He was too cute for his own good and I was suddenly afraid for him. If the wrong person showed him the least bit of attention his picture might wind up on a milk carton. I couldn't let that happen.
We slipped into a corner booth and the first thing I noticed was Joey's little boy smell. Out in the open I hadn't been able to smell him, but now in the warm confines of the diner it was obvious his hygiene was also lacking. It wasn't a horrible odor, but I would have bet that he hadn't bathed in a few days.
"Well, what will it be....hamburger or chicken?"
"Do they have soup?"
"Uh....yeah...I think so."
"I like soup cause it's warm in my tummy and fills me up real good."
God he was killing me. Poor little guy. I ordered him soup and a chicken sandwich and fries and a big glass of milk. I guess I hadn't thought things out too well, after all he was just a little kid and that was a lot of food and of course he couldn't eat it all.
"Can I take the rest home sos I'll have sumtin to eat tomorrow?"
Well, I just about started crying when he asked that and all I could do was nod. He's finished the soup so I had the waitress bring us a styrofoam container and loaded the rest of his burger and fries up in it.
"Too full for dessert?" I asked when I had his doggy bag ready to go.
"What's dessert?" he asked looking at me with wonder.
"You know...sweet stuff, pie, cake, ice cream, that kind of stuff."
"Oh, well....I don't eat much of that stuff. I had some cookies one time...."
God he was really killing me now. The poor kid didn't even know what sweets were.
"Tell you what, let's split a brownie sundae, how about that?" I said praying he wasn't diabetic or something.
"Okay, if you wanna," he said looking a little excited at the idea of trying something new.
When the waitress came back and I ordered the sundae she smiled at Joey and asked him if he wanted a refill on the milk.
"Yes ma'am," he said smiling at her, "I like milk, it feels good in my tummy."
"Well, aren't you the sweetest thing. Is this your big brother or your daddy?" she asked casually.
I was terrified Joey would tell her the truth, that I was a stranger get us both in trouble, but he surprised me by saying just the right thing.
"No ma'am he's my uncle Phoenix and he's nice."
She chuckled as she walked away and when she brought the sundae it was obvious she had loaded down the dish. Joey took a cautious first bite and the look on his face was priceless. His face lit up with a big smile and he smacked his lips comically.
"Yummy, it's good uncle Phoenix."
I wasn't sure where the uncle thing came in, but I sort of liked being his uncle, even if it was only make believe.
"Taste the brownie, it's even better," I said helping him cut off a piece with his spoon.
He popped it in his mouth and began to chew it and his eyes few open wide, "This is the best thing I ever ate."
I let him eat his fill, taking only a few bites myself but there was no way my new little nephew could finish it all. The ice cream wouldn't keep but I pulled the rest of the brownie out and added it to the doggie bag for him to eat later. I paid the check and Joey said he needed to use the bathroom.
I showed him where it was and waited for him outside the door. He was in there a long time and I figured he had to poop or something and I didn't want to rush him. When he came out still drying his hands with a paper towel I saw that he had washed his face as well.
"Ready to go buddy?"
"Yep, all better now," he said grinning, then in a whisper he said, "I hadda go poop."
I smiled, kids were so cute and this one was adorable. I'd only known him an hour or so and I think I was starting to fall in love with him. We walked back out into the snow and this time he did take my hand. His hand was soft and so small, and it felt so wonderful in mine.
"Where do you live at?" he asked as we stumbled along in the snow which was really starting to pile up now.
"Just up there...in an apartment over that little antique store."
"Oh cool, you live downtown too then. Me and granny live over that way....I think. It's hard to tell with all that snow. I might get lost...." he said looking worried.
"Maybe I should walk you home then," I said frowning.
"Can we stop at your place first and warm up?" he practically begged.
I smiled, "Well, maybe for a little while."
In my apartment Joey eyes went wide as he looked around checking things out.
"Wow, you got some neat stuff," he said picking up one of my kinetic metal sculptures I collected. This one was of an oil derrick and it actually worked when you wound it up.
"I collect those," I said taking it from the kid and winding it up before setting it back down.
He dropped to his knees and watched it with wonder as it pumped up and down and I watched him with wonder. Kids were so much fun to watch and this one was priceless. There were other sculptures that had music boxes or that performed some sort of action and before lone we had them all wound up and going at the same time.
It was so wonderful to watch his eyes light up and for a brief time I saw the wonder of my collection through the eyes of a child. When he tired of the sculptured he climbed up on the couch and sat down and I noticed I could see his white sock peeking through a hole in one of his tennis shoes. His poor little feet must be frozen and I couldn't stand the thought of that sweet kid running around in holey tennies. No sir I'd have to do something about that.
"It's warm in here," Joey said sounding drowsy, "it cold at granny's place all the time cause she don't want the gas bill to get too high."
"Are you too warm, do you want to take off your jacket?"
"Uh huh," he said unzipping the flimsy jacket he was wearing. I added a new coat and gloves to the list of things I was going to buy this kid if I got the chance.
As soon as his jacket was off he snuggled into the couch and looked even more sleepy than before. I smiled at him and he smiled back.
"Wanna take off your shoes and let your feet dry out?"
"Uh huh," he said reaching down and pulling off a shoe without bothering to unlace it. It hit the floor with a wet thump then the second one joined it.
His socks were as bad as his shoes and his big toe stuck out of the end of one while the heel was out on the other. How could anyone let this happen to such a sweet kid? I mean even if granny didn't have money for these things, there were charitable organizations that would help. And thrift stores, what about thrift stores? A person could surely find gently used clothing for a boy Joey's size there.
"Your feet look really cold," I said pulling them into my lap and rubbing them.
"Hey," he said then relaxed as he realized my intentions were good.
After a few minutes he was purring softly as I rubbed his feet and when I started removing his sock he didn't utter a peep. His feet were like ice, but soft and perfect just like I knew they'd be.
I rubbed them for a long time enjoying the feel of his soft flesh beneath my hands and when I looked over at it him he was sleeping like a little angel. I smiled. He was even cuter as he slept and my heart really went out to him. He was so young and so innocent and he'd suffered so much and all he wanted was a Merry Christmas. Well by golly, I decided right then and there that he was going to have the best Christmas ever if I had anything to say about it.
Eventually I gently laid his feet on the couch and covered him with a comforter. He never roused once as I tucked the warm soft cover around him and I had this sudden urge to kiss his forehead. As my lips met his warm soft skin he smiled and sighed contentedly. I hoped his sleep was filled with pleasant dreams.
I sat at his feet watching him sleep while I made my plans. I had to be careful in many ways. Not because my intentions were dishonorable, but because the world is a very mistrusting place eager to turn any act of kindness into something evil. Many would question why a single man would bring a young boy home with him and buy him things, assuming I was grooming him for molestation, but that was how the world works and I knew it. Heck I even understood it to some degree. I worried that a sweet cute boy like Joey might fall into the hands of a predator and that was partly why I wanted to help him...to save him from those who would abuse his trust.
He mumbled something in his sleep and kicked his legs as if he were running. His small foot hit my thigh and I took it in my hand and held it, rubbing it gently and trying to soothe him even in his slumber. He quieted down immediately and a smile crossed his cute face.
I raised his feet and scooted closer and laid them in my lap and continued to rub them gently as he slept on. I was beginning to feel drowsy myself but somehow I managed to stay awake and after about an hour my little friend stirred and slowly opened his baby blue eyes.
"Oh....hi," he said yawning, "I was soooo tired, but now I feel good."
He was a baby and babies need naps, it was that simple, and I thought it was the sweetest thing in the world that he'd napped on my couch while I held his small soft feet. They were warm now and he flexed his toes and looked at me with a great big smile.
"My piggies are all warm now," he giggled.
"Joey, can I ask you a question about your granny?"
He shrugged, "I guess....what's wrong?"
"Oh, nothing," I lied, "just wondering. Does she get money from the state to help take care of you?"
He frowned, "She gets a check each month, but she says it aint enough to buy all the stuff I need."
I nodded, "And does she get a check for herself too...like Social Security or retirement or something like that?"
"Yeah, she's old, really old, so she gets an old age check," he said suppressing a giggle.
So the old gal got two checks and she still couldn't buy the kid a pair of new socks or a decent pair of tennis shoes? I wondered if the money all went for booze and cigarettes and that infuriated me.
"She says she does the best she can," he sighed, "but before my mom died it was even worse."
Worse than running around half naked and starved? God what an awful life this kid must've lived so far. Well, all that had just changed if I had a say in it.
"Joey, do you trust me?"
He locked his pale blue eyes with my brown ones and he seemed to like what he saw. He smiled and nodded, "You're nice and I trust you. You're not one of those bad guys that my mom used to bring home. The ones that would be nice to me then make me do stuff," he finished sadly and my blood ran cold.
What kind of things? I wanted to scream, but I decided it was best not to go there for both our sakes.
"I would never ask you to do anything you didn't want to," I reassured him, "I'm your friend and friends don't hurt one another, got that?"
He nodded, "I wish you were really my uncle Phoenix."
I smiled, "Me too buddy, but we can pretend and I promise I'll treat you just like you're really my nephew."
"Okay," he said sighing. "Do I have to go home now?"
"I...well, no not till you're ready. Do you need to go now?"
He shook his head, "I don't wanna go home...ever, but I know I have to...but can I stay a little longer?"
"Come here buddy," I said holding our my arms and he swarmed into my lap and I hugged him to me and kissed his dirty hair, "You can stay as long as you like and I'll walk you home when you have to go and make sure you get inside before I leave, how's that?"
"Fine...just fine," he said leaning into me and popping his thumb into his mouth.
He sighed as I rubbed his tummy and held him against me and for a time it was just us two in the world, at peace and content. Eventually my little visitor had to scamper off to pee pee and when he returned he opened the box we'd brought from the restaurant and plucked out a cold fry and ate it.
"Want me to warm that up buddy, or I can fix you some hot soup. I keep lots of canned soup on hand in the winter."
"Yummy...do you have damator soup?" he said cutely.
"I think so, one bowl of damator soup coming up," I said scooping him up and whisking him off to the kitchen as he giggled. I sat him on the counter across from the stove where he'd be safe and we could talk while I fixed his soup.
"How come you don't got no Christmas tree?"
"Well...there's just me and it seemed kind of silly to decorate for Christmas....."
"But now you got me," he said happily.
"That's true, so what do you think we should do about that then?"
"Can you buy a Christmas tree? Are they spensive?"
I laughed at his misuse of the word, "Well, actually I already have one. It's a small one with lights built in, but I just haven't put it up in a few years. I could drag it out and fluff it up if you want."
"Really, could we?" he said excitedly.
"Yeah, we can....but first the soup."
"I'm not so hungry anymore," he said fidgeting on the counter.
"How about while you eat your soup I'll go dig the tree out and when you finish your soup we'll put the tree up and decorate it?"
"Okay, okay!" he said bubbling over with joy.
I poured the soup and laid out some crackers to go with it and went into the spare bedroom that I used for storage and dug out the box holding the little tree. When I lifted it I discovered another box I'd forgotten about. Inside was a small box of ornaments for the tree as well as garland, and some stings of light and other decorations. I smiled as I gathered up the boxes and when I returned to the living room Joey jumped down from the table and ran into check things out.
"Did you eat all your soup?"
"Most of it, I'm full...." he said grinning, "What's in that box?"
"Open it up an see for yourself," I said as I worked the tree out of it's box.
"Oooooo....pretty...oh, and lights and stuff....this is so cool."
I unfolded the branches of the little tree and attached the legs and sat it down on the floor and grabbed an extension cord and plugged it in to make sure the lights still worked and Joey's eyes lit up as brightly as the tree when the twinkling lights came to life.
"Ooooo...pretty," he said again clapping his hands excitedly.
"Where shall we put it? I asked looking around, "how about on the end table? There's a plug right there and if the drapes are open you can see it from outside."
I wrapped the tiny foil garland around the small tree then handed Joey that box of tiny ornaments and let him do the rest. It made me happy to see him so excited by such a simple thing and he took his time and made sure no colors were repeated and that they were space evenly. He did a really good job and I told him so and he hugged me excitedly.
"What are we gonna do with the rest?" he asked pawing through the box.
"Well, we could put these lights around the window and some garland over here and maybe hang these bells in the doorway here."
"And don't forget the mistletoe. You should hang some on the tree and over the door in case you wanna kiss somebody," he giggled.
I scooped him up and raised him to the ceiling as he giggled and then I threw him over my shoulder and carried him around for a few minutes as he continued to laugh. When I sat him down he latched onto me and held on tight burying his face in my tummy and kissing me noisily.
"I love you uncle Phoenix," he said melting my heart.
"I love you too buddy, now what say you help me string these lights up."
We spent about an hour putting up the decorations and lights and in the meantime it had gotten dark outside. The snow had started up too and I decided that maybe it was time I got Joey home before it got any later.
He fussed a little but I think he understood. I promised him he could come back tomorrow if he wanted and he made me promise that I meant it.
"Hey, I did all this for you," I said opening my arms to take it all in, "so yeah, I want you to come back."
He smiled, "Okay, just checkin."
The thought of him putting those wet holey socks back on really got to me so I went into my room and pulled out a new pair of tube socks for him. Sure they were too long, but that's the beauty of tube socks, they don't have a heel so they will fit anyone, sort of. Sure they were twice as much too long, but I just folded then down some and I figured that would keep his little legs warm.
He seemed so happy and proud of his new socks and he hugged my neck to thank me. Tomorrow I'd go shopping and when and if he showed up again he'd have more than new socks, cause not only did I make a mental note of his shoe size, I was a pretty good judge of boys sizes and I was confident I could buy him pants and shirts and a jacket that fit. The tricky part was how to give him all these new things without arousing any suspicions from granny.
Once we had Joey's shoes back on and his jacket zipped up he pulled on his stocking cap and I grabbed my coat and hat and we were ready to go. He slipped his hand into mine as soon as we reached the sidewalk and chattered like a little monkey the whole way to his apartment building.
Fortunately it wasn't far and the snow seemed to have let up for a while but still by the time we got there we were both quite cold. We stopped at the doorway leading inside to the stairwell and he stared at his feet for a moment before looking up into my eyes and smiling.
"I had a really good time Phoenix. Thank you for dinner and for everything."
"You're welcome buddy, I'm glad you had a good time cause so did I."
"You mean it?" he said smiling then throwing himself into me and hugging me tight.
I patted him gently then picked him up and he wrapped his legs around me and buried his head in my neck, "I wish I lived with you uncle Phoenix."
"So do I buddy, but we can still be friends and see each other lots..okay?"
He nodded, but I could tell he wasn't convinced that was for the best. He sighed deeply and then raised up and looked me in the eyes, "I love you," he said giving me a butterfly kiss on the cheek, "but I gotta go now."
"I love you too buddy," I said sitting him down. He turned to the door and never looked back.
I watched as he opened it and went inside and I stood there for a long time hoping he'd come back, then I walked back home. My life would never be the same and I knew it. I'd loved many times in my life, but never had I loved anyone this deeply or as purely as I loved this little boy I'd met selling mistletoe.
Sometimes I wondered what my life would have been like if I had been straight and gotten married and had kids. I'd always loved kids and even had a couple of nieces and nephews that I seldom saw, but loved from afar, but nothing could have ever prepared me for this.
As soon as I got home I began to have regrets about getting involved with this poor little kid. What if his granny went bonkers and had me arrested or something? I was old enough to know better, but what do you tell your heart when it's saying you need to let go and just love someone for who they are and forget everything else?
I took a long hot shower to warm me up and slipped on boxers and a tee and piled into bed. Tomorrow was Christmas Eve and I had a lot to do tomorrow and that boosted my spirits some. Still there was the nagging fear that it would all be in vain, and either Joey wouldn't show up again, or that police would, but I'm a bit of an optimist and I pushed all those fears away and hoped for the best. I knew my intentions were good and that was all that mattered at the moment.
I awoke to find another inch of snow had fallen and despite the inconvenience of it all, I had to admit it was beautiful outside. Twinkling lights reflecting off the satiny surface of the snow made the usually dull and drab city look new and exciting and I couldn't wait to get out there and see it up close.
I scarfed down a bowl of oatmeal and took care of my morning business and quickly dressed and headed out to the street. It took me a few minuets to clear the snow and ice from my car and then I headed to a nearby Kmart.
I'd worked there as a kid in high school and knew they had good quality clothes and shoes at reasonable prices and sometimes if you hit the sales just right there were even better deals.
I lucked out that day, they were running a buy one get one at half price sale on shoes and I bought Joey a cool looking pair of tennies and some chukka boots for the snow. In the boyswear department I bought him two pair of jeans and two shirts, a pack of sock and a pack of undies and a warm coat, gloves and a new stocking cap.
But those were only the things he needed, what came next were the things his little heart desired most....toys.
I had to admit I had a blast that day picking out toys for my faux nephew and it bought back many happy memories of my childhood. I'd always been a sort of nerd as a kid and loved my Erector set and Lincoln Logs and Tinker Toys most of all, but I loved cars and games and puzzles as well and I got some of those too.
I even bought wrapping paper and bows and Christmas cookies and candy and some more decorations to fill up the blank places in the living room.
Next door to the Kmart was a I grocery store and after loading the stuff form Kmart in my trunk headed to there. I bought a small turkey and all the trimming and a pumpkin and pecan pie and whipped cream. I had planned on eating out on Christmas day, but now I had a reason to stay home and cook and I was as happy as Scrooge had been that day when he woke up and discovered he had a second chance at life.
By the time I got home it was noon and I was starved. As soon as I got the stuff inside and safely put away I started thinking about what to fix for lunch. I was digging through the cabinets when I heard a soft knock on the door and I practically ran all the way hoping it was Joey.
As I swung open the door I came fact to face with a wrinkled old woman and standing beside her was Joey smiling nervously.
"Hi Phoenix," he said sweetly, "this is my granny."
"Hello, I said offering my hand...Mrs...."
"Just call me Mary young man," the old lady said curtly.
"All right...Mary and Joey would you like to come inside?"
She nodded and followed me inside looking around almost comically but I couldn't tell if she approved or disapproved of my decorating. I offered them a seat on the couch and drinks. Joey gratefully accepted and I got him a soda, but Mary politely refused.
I guess I should have been more worried than I was, but I was actually glad Joey's granny cared enough to come see what was going on in his life.
"Joey tells me he spent most of last evening here..with you," she said stiffly, "I would like to know exactly what is going on with you and my grandson."
I relaxed even more. I had nothing to hide and my intentions were good and I prayed that she had been around long enough to separate the bullshit from the truth.
"Well, it's quite simple. I met Joey selling mistletoe outside the little hardware store up the street and we got to talking and I wound up buying all his mistletoe," I said smiling, "and I offered to walk him home. I hadn't eaten so I treated Joey to lunch then he asked if he could come up to my place and warm up before he headed home and I agreed.
We had a good talk, and Joey took a little nap," I chuckled, "when he woke up we talked some more and well.....somewhere along the way..Mary, we became friends. I know that may sound weird, a 30 year old man and a 9 year old being friends, but really are we ever too young or too old to make a new friend?"
"You're not one of those child molesters you read about on the news are you?...You don't look like a pervert, " she said squinting her eyes as if to look into my soul.
"Feel free to ask Joey if I did anything inappropriate. No, I am not a child molester or pervert. I am pretty much a normal guy who just happens to care about kids and I just wanted to help, that's all."
"Well..that's a relief, but I'll be watching you and if anything weird happens..."
I laughed, I actually laughed, "I'm sorry I'm not trying to be a smart ass, but you don't have anything to worry about. I wonder though if we might talk alone," I said darting my eyes to Joey who was taking everything in like a sponge.
"Well...I guess.....where can he go?"
"I have a TV in my bedroom, how would you like to watch some TV while your grandmother and I talk?"
"Okay, will it be long?" Joyed asked sounding worried.
"Not long, come on I'll show you where it is."
I got Joey settled in my bedroom watching cartoons and went back to the living room. I offered Mary a drink again and this time she accepted a glass of iced tea.
"Good tea, you can't be all bad," she laughed.
"I like to think I'm mostly good," I said smiling, "I'm no saint, but I know wrong from right."
She nodded, "I suppose you want to talk to me about Joey's mother and how he came to live with me...."
"No, not really....he pretty much explained that...what I'd like to talk to you about is how I can help Joey. I know you are doing the best you can, but I know it takes a lot to feed and clothe a young boy like Joey and I'd like to help if you'll will let me."
She looked shocked at first, then touched, and lastly very emotional. Was that a tear in her eye?
"I do the best I can, but after I pay the rent and the electric bill and the gas and the water and the phone and buy food there aint much left," she sighed.
I nodded, "That's what I thought." I certainly wasn't going to question her drinking habits or anything else at this point. I had her eating out of the palm of my hand and I didn't want to get bitten.
"So...what would you do...to help the boy I mean?"
"Well, for starters buy him some new clothes, shoes, a coat that sort of thing."
She nodded, "That would be very nice..but can you afford all that?"
"Well, I'm not rich, but I live alone and I have a good job so....yeah, I could afford it if I skimp here and there." Actually I could afford it without any skimping but I didn't want granny to think I was a bottomless well.
"And what do you get out of this?" she asked looking me in the eye.
I shrugged, "The satisfaction of doing the right thing and hopefully I'd be allowed to see Joey occasionally and spend some time with him, especially tomorrow....Christmas day." I'd suddenly discovered what was missing from my Christmas spirit and it was a child's point of view.
She smiled for the first time since her arrival, "You are either the sweetest young man I've ever met or the devil himself, but either way I'll figure it out eventually."
"While we're on the subject of Christmas...do you have any plans?"
She sniggered, "Only if baking a chicken and watching Christmas movies on TV counts."
"Well...what would you say to spending the day with me...you and Joey? I have a turkey and all the trimmings and dessert and well....I've already bought those things I mentioned for Joey plus some toys....."
She looked thoughtful for a moment then chuckled, "You were going to see Joey even if I hadn't showed up...weren't you?"
"Well, he said he'd come back today...so I just thought I'd surprise him, but this would be so much better. I can wrap them and mark them from Santa and no one's the wiser," I said grinning.
"I'm beginning to think you are a sweet young man and not so much a devil."
"So..what do you say? It would be nice to have company and I know Joey would love it...."
"I'll think about it." She didn't fool me for a moment though, I was sure she would say yes before she left that day.
"Okay, that's fair, but will you at least Joey come down long enough to get his presents?"
"What kind of grandmother would I be if I said no?" she said giving me the stink eye.
"I'm not trying to undermine you or turn Joey against you. I just want to help. Joey has touched my heart like no one ever has," I said opening up to her and hoping for the best. I think it might have been the tears in my eyes that finally swayed her.
"I suppose we could come tomorrow, but I want to do my share. Why don't I take the turkey home with me and bake it?"
"That would be great. I can come get you and Joey in my car and you won't have to walk."
"What time do you plan on eating?"
"I was thinking one o'clock, but I could come and get you and Joey say around 11..."
"That sounds fine."
"Great, shall I got get Joey now or is there anything we need to discuss?"
"He won't sleep a wink all night if I know him," she sighed, "but I guess we can't keep this from him."
I smiled, "I'll go get him."
When I returned with Joey he looked at his granny with serious eyes and said in a small voice, "Am I in trouble?"
I stifled a giggle and granny just smiled, "No sweetie, you're not in trouble, but from now on...don't go home with strangers."
Joey smiled, "I won't granny, but I just knew Phoenix was nice."
"Well, apparently he is and he has invited us to come spend Christmas dinner with him. What do you think?"
"Yes! Yes! Yes!" he cried excitedly as he hugged me almost knocking me down.
"Whoa, take it easy," I laughed.
Then he hugged his grandma and kissed her old wrinkled face. She patted him gently and I began to think I'd been wrong about her not caring. Maybe she really did try her best. Maybe she didn't know what to do to help Joey. Well, now she had me and I knew exactly what to do.
I talked her into staying for dinner that night and we had grilled cheese sandwiches and damator soup, as Joey called it. She seemed to loosen up more and more as the evening went on and I realized that she was actually a pretty nice old lady. After dinner she helped me clean up while Joey watched TV in the living room.
I learned that Joey's mom had been her only child, but they had been astranged for a long time, and when Joey came along, she had kept him a secret until he was five.
"By the time I found out about Joey, my daughter was already on the road to destruction. I finally let her and Joey move in with me, but she was gone more than she was home and God only knows what she did with her so called friends."
"She was into drugs and she drank up what little money she had and ran up a lot of debt with the wrong people. I tried to help her out, but it didn't take long to use up all my savings. One day she went out with some of her friends and never came home. I found out later she overdosed on Heroin or some such and she was dead two days before I found out," she said looking sad. "She wasn't the best daughter in the world, but she was the only one I had."
I risked putting my hand on her shoulder, "I'm sorry for your loss, but you have a second chance with Joey. He's such a sweet kid and so smart," I said smiling, "and together we can make his life a good one."
"I still don't understand why you care so much, but I pray to God that you really do and you're not gonna hurt that boy."
"I would never hurt Joey or any child for that matter. Joey has captured my heart. I can't explain it but I knew from the moment I met him that he was something special and we were destined to be friends."
"I don't know what to say."
"Just say you'll give me a chance, that's all I ask."
"I suppose that can't hurt. Until I say different you can see Joey."
"Thank you, you won't regret it. Now then if you have no objection I'd like to give Joey one of his gifts tonight. It was a family tradition when I was a kid. We always got to open one of our presents Christmas Eve."
"It's your tradition so who am I to change it?" she said smiling, "I just hope you know what you're doing."
"I think I do. I have a pretty good head for this sort of thing."
"Doing okay sport?" I asked as we joined him in the living room.
"Uh huh, I was watching The Grinch. He's mean."
I laughed, "But in the end he turns good...right?"
"Yeah, he does cause his heart grows real big," he said holding his arms out to show how big it grew.
"Well, maybe you and your grandmother can watch some TV while I go take care of some business."
"Okay, but don't be too long," Joey said giving me a sweet smile.
"I won't. I promise."
I debated which gift to give Joey. I was torn between giving him the warm coat to wear or one of the toys and I couldn't make up my mind so I decided to wrap the coat with one of the toys."
I slipped the toy into the coat and buttoned it up and folded it neatly and squeezed it into a box I had laying around and did an expert gift wrap job on it. I didn't want to make it too hard for him to open so I skipped the ribbon and stuck a bow on it and then filled out a to and from card. To Joey...From Santa.
I smiled as I thought about how much fun it was going to be to wrap the other gifts and best of all how he would react when he saw them under the tree the next day. I grabbed the gift and hid it behind my back as I headed back to the living room and at first Joey didn't notice me.
"Anything good on?" I said and his little head swung around and he eyed me questioningly trying to see what was behind my back.
"It's Frosty the no man," Joey said still trying to figure out what I was hiding, "Hey....what is that?"
"Oh this?" I said grinning as I brought the brightly wrapped package into view.
His mouth fell open and his face lit up like a Christmas tree. This was what Christmas was all about, and only then did I realize what I'd been missing out on for so long. Suddenly I remembered what it was like when I was a kid and the magic returned to my life.
"Well, Santa had to drop this off early cause his sleigh was full," I said smiling, "And he said you could go ahead and open this one tonight."
"Huh uh, not really....he did?" he asked grinning.
"Sure, go ahead...open it." I said as he took the package into his trembling hands.
He looked at his granny and she nodded as she smiled and gave me a wink, "Well, don't just sit there son, open it up."
At first Joey tried to neatly remove the paper, then as his excitement built he tore into it like a madman. When he had the paper off he looked at the box then at me.
"Go ahead open the box, see what's inside....."
I had only taped the ends and it didn't take him long to get the flaps loose and when he peered inside his eyes flew open wide and he squealed with joy, "It's a new coat granny. Santa brought me a new coat cause he knows I'm cold."
He pulled the brightly colored ski jacket out of the box and when he did the toy fell out and he had yet another surprise. He picked it up and the look on his little face was priceless.
"It's a truck....a tow truck...look Phoenix, it even has a tow hook and a car to tow."
"That's so cool. Let me see," I said pretending it was the first time I'd see it, "Let me get it loose from the box and you can play with it."
"Okay, but first can I try on my new coat?"
"Well sure, it's yours now."
He was so proud of that coat that it almost made me cry to think that something so basic and so simple could bring him such joy. He wore the coat the rest of the evening as he zoomed his tow truck around the floor rescuing the stranded motorists in his pretend world.
Around nine he began to look sleepy and I drove them and the turkey to their apartment and when we got there Joey lingered for a long time hugging my neck as his grandmother stood outside waiting for him.
He kissed my cheek and whispered, "I know the coat and the toy are really from you. Thank you so much. I love you uncle Phoenix."
"Well, we'll talk about that tomorrow. Goodnight buddy, your granny is freezing out there. You better scoot."
He gave me one last hug then bounced out and joined his granny on the sidewalk.
"I'll pick you guys up around 11 tomorrow," I said as she walked over to shut the door.
"All right, we'll have the bird ready to go," she laughed.
"And I'll have everything ready at my end. Goodnight, and Joey, go to sleep okay buddy? And don't stay up all night playing," I chuckled.
"I will Phoenix. I'm pretty tired."
When I got home I went about wrapping the rest of the gifts and suddenly I realized I had nothing to give Joey's grandma. It was almost ten o'clock on Christmas Eve and not even Walmart was open this late so there was nowhere I could go to buy a gift. I decided at last to give her a greeting card with ten dollars in it. It wasn't much, but I wanted her to have something and that was the best I could do. Next Christmas if things went well I'd do better.
I arranged the gifts under the tree and sat back and took it all in. I'd come a long way in the last two days. I was once lonely and dreading the Holiday and now I was bubbling over with peace and goodwill for my fellow man and child. I loved Christmas again and I had a nine year old boy to thank for that.
I poured myself a glass of wine and listened to the all Christmas music radio station as I sat on the couch and watched the snow fall outside the window and the tiny lights on my tree twinkle as if saying Merry Christmas.
As I slipped into bed that night I imagined Joey snuggled up in his own bed with his coat nearby or wearing it and his little truck beside him. He was really going to go crazy tomorrow, I thought smiling, and his life, like mine, would never be the same.
I slept better than I had in weeks, maybe months, and woke feeling refreshed and full of energy. I took care of my morning regimen and got dressed and went in to see if it had all been a dream. There was the little tree and all the gifts beneath it, but something was different now.
Going over to the tree I started going through the gifts one by one and got quite a surprise. Before there had been only the gifts I'd wrapped for Joey but now there were four more gifts. Two of them for me and two for Joey's grandma. I studied the little gift card and felt my heart skip a beat as I read the name of the giver. S.Claus. I laughed like a madman. Was I losing my mind? Had this all been a dream and I was still slumbering in my bed in my lonely apartment with no hope in sight?
I pinched myself and it hurt. No, I was awake and alive and the only rational answer was...it was a miracle and there really was a Santa Clause. I felt like a little kid again as I wondered what Santa had brought me this year. Shaking my head I backed away from the tree resisting the urge to rip into my gifts and went into the kitchen to begin prepping for the dinner.
I forgot about the gifts after a while, but when I checked later they were still there, a mystery that I knew I would never be able to solve. I simply accepted them for what they were and that only added to the magic I'd already discovered since meeting Joey.
At 10:45 I started the car and cleared the snow off and drove the short distance to Joey's apartment. He must've been watching for me because he was down the stairs and on the curb by the time I skidded to a stop. He was wearing his new coat and grinning like he'd won the lottery.
"Granny says can you come carry the turkey so she don't drop it."
I left the car idling and went upstairs. Mary was just slipping on her worn coat and she pointed toward a huge granite roaster on top of a stove that looked like it had seen better days. "I made my famous corn bread and biscuit stuffing with sausage and apples," she said smiling. "It bought all the stuff for the hen, but it wouldn't have fit in there anyway," she laughed, "but it fit just fine in that turkey."
"Are you ready to go?"
"Yes, all ready. I was afraid I'd drop that big old turkey if I tried to carry it myself."
I grabbed the roaster and I understood. The fifteen pound turkey, plus the stuffing and pan were pushing twenty pounds and it smelled heavenly. I loaded the turkey in the back floor board to keep it from spilling and Joey scooted into the middle of the bench seat and his grandma on the outside. For once I was glad I didn't have bucket seats.
The short drive was pleasant and once we were upstairs and the door closed we stripped off our coats and I hung them on the rack by the front door. Suddenly Joey noticed the gifts under the tree and he rushed over and began checking the tags on them. His mouth fell open and he squealed as he read his name on the first one.
"I can't believe it...Santa really did come, but how did he know I'd be here?"
"What, well...Santa knows everything. He knows if you're good or bad, and it looks like you were really good this year," I said grinning.
"Oh......look granny, there's two for you and two for Phoenix, cause you both been good too," he said excitedly.
I gave Mary a shrug and she just shook her head and laughed.
"When can I open them?" Joey asked looking at both of us hopefully.
"Well, when I was a kid we always opened our gifts when we first got up, but since we all slept in...it's up to you kiddo."
"Why don't we wait till after dinner," Mary said looking at me for support, "otherwise you won't eat a bite."
"That sounds like a good idea. Maybe you can help me and your grandma get things ready."
I showed Mary what I'd accomplished so far and she took over immediately. I was a decent cook, but she was poetry in motion and by 12:30 we had dinner on the table. I carved the turkey and filled a serving plate with it and we sat down. Mary said grace and then we dug in and didn't stop till we were stuffed.
There was the moist tender turkey and Mary's delicious stuffing. Gravy and mashed potatoes, candied yams, fresh cranberry sauce, green bean casserole and biscuits. By the time we were done we were too full for dessert but there would have been no way to hold Joey back from his gifts any longer anyway. We covered most of the food, but clean up would have to wait and went into the living room.
I suggested Joey be "Santa" and pass out the gifts and I think that was as exciting for him as actually opening them. When he laid the two gifts that had magically appeared overnight at my feet I swear I felt a tingle go through me. Mary seemed as perplexed as I was but I didn't know how I'd explain the suddenly appearance of the gifts to her anymore than I could explain it to myself.
When all the gifts were passed out Joey looked at us for permission to begin. I gave him an enthusiastic thumbs up and the ripping began. He opened the pants and shirts first and his excitement over something so basic humbled me.
"Look granny, new jeans and shirts. Thank you Santa," he giggled looking straight into my eyes.
I shrugged, "Let's see what else he brought you."
"Open one of yours first Phoenix and you too granny."
"Okay, let's see what we got here," I said picking up one of the packages. I had no clue what I'd find inside, but I had a feeling whatever it was it would be good.
I fumbled with the paper which seemed to be seamless and finally got it unwrapped to reveal a candy cane printed box beneath. As I opened the box I noticed my hands were trembling and as the lid came away I let out a little gasp when I saw what was inside. It was a picture of my mom and me when I was about Joey's age in a lovely silver frame.
I took the picture out of the box with care and held it and traced a finger across my mother's face. She had always looked beautiful to me, but when she was younger she was especially so. I vaguely remembered having taken this picture with her and having seen it around our house while I was growing up, but when her house burned ten years ago with her inside all of our pictures had been lost.
"What is it Phoenix?" Joey asked moving closer and laying his small warm hand on my leg.
"It's a picture," I said trying to keep it together.
"Is that you?" he asked smiling as he tilted his head to get a good look, "It is, isn't it and that's your mom...right?"
I nodded, unable to speak and wiped a tear from my eye.
Suddenly Joey hugged me close and whispered, "It's okay, Santa knew you needed this."
I smiled, I didn't know how this was possible, but no gift I had ever received had ever meant this much to me. Mary seemed to be confused, but when I showed her the photo she too smiled.
"What a lovely woman your mother is and you...you were an angel," she said warmly.
"She was always beautiful to me," I said softly, "right up to the end...."
"I'm sorry," she said looking sad, "I know what it's like to lose someone you love."
I nodded, "Enough of my sadness, this is a time of happiness," I said wiping at my eyes again. "Why don't you open one of yours?"
She picked up a small flat box and smoothed out the ribbon before beginning to open it. She didn't rush but it was a small package and when she had it opened she stared inside the box as if she had just seen the second coming. Then reaching inside she removed a gold chain with a locket on it.
"This is just like the one I had when I was 16," she said wistfully. Then opening it her face lit up with wonder, "Why it's the very locket I had," she said softly, "and Richard's picture is still inside," she said touching the picture inside fondly, "he was 17 and my father didn't want us to date, but we did anyway, then he went off to the army and never came back. I kept that locket for a long time but one day I lost it while I was walking in the woods near our home. I looked for it for months but I finally gave up. How could it possibly wind up here....now?"
I shrugged, "I wish I new Mary. That picture of my mother and me was destroyed in the same fire she died in."
"Santa did it," Joey said suddenly, "I just know it. He is real and he knew just what to give you guys."
I sighed, "I have no better explanation," I laughed, "but now I'm afraid to open the other package."
Mary looked a bit nervous too, but we finally got up the nerve to open them and despite our fears the last gift weren't scary at all. Mary's held a stock certificate for 1,000 shares of General Motors. I didn't know what the current value of GM stock was, but I was guessing the certificate was worth in excess of 30,000 dollars.
My second gift was a new wallet and when I opened it there were five crisp one hundred dollar bills inside. I had no doubt they were authentic and to have believed otherwise would have destroyed the magic that these gifts from Santa had brought.
"I remember my late husband saying something about having some shares of GM a long time ago, but I assumed he sold them. These couldn't be them could they?"
I shrugged, "I would believe anything at this point," I said showing her what was inside the wallet. I can't explain any of it. I think maybe Joey has the right answer. And speaking of Santa...Joey...you better get at that stack of presents," I said glancing his way. Was the stack bigger now? Well, why not? Santa had been here so who knew what surprises were in store for Joey.
In addition to the things I had bought Joey there were toys I'd never seen before. But of all the things he received that Christmas morning, he seemed to be most grateful for the clothes and shoes. He insisted on trying them on and he looked like a new kid all dressed up in his new things.
He fell asleep beneath the tree that wonderful Christmas afternoon and Mary I talked quietly about what the future held for him...and for us. When he awoke we ate leftovers and the dessert we'd passed up before and afterward we finally cleaned up the mess and stowed the leftovers.
We watched Christmas movies on TV while Joey played with his toys perched on the couch between us. Eventually he tired out and stretched out with his head in his granny's lap and his small soft warm feet in mine. He purred as I rubbed his feet and soon he was asleep.
"You love this boy...don't ya?" Mary said softly.
"I do. I never knew I could love anyone this way Mary and it's scary. Is this what parents feel for their children?"
She smiled wistfully, "When they are small they are on your mind day and night and then when they get older and go off on their own there's a hole in your heart. I loved my daughter but I didn't understand her..not once she grew up. Yes, I think what you feel is the same. If you don't mind me askin, how come you never got married and had one of your own?"
I blushed, "It's a long story....." I stammered.
She nodded, "I see, but you don't see him that way...do you?"
"Oh God no," I said repulsing in horror, "I love him in a way I've never loved anyone before....except maybe for my mom."
She nodded once again, "And he's safe with you." It was more of a statement than a question. "I trust you. Some people would say I was crazy, but I know what's in a man's heart and yours is pure. I see it in your eyes when you look at him," she said smoothing back his hair and smiling.
I wiped a tear from my eye, "Now that you have....all that money what will you do, will you move away?" I asked with concern.
"I don't know yet. It would be nice if Joey had a yard to play in instead of concrete."
I nodded, "Will...will you let me visit him?"
She laughed, "He'd run away for sure if I didn't, but there's no question in my mind that he needs you as much as you need him."
I relaxed a little, "There's nothing holding me here, maybe I'll move too. Since I've met Joey things have changed. I don't see the world the same way I used to."
"A child can do that, well....if you don't mind taking a tired old lady home I think I'm ready to get some rest now."
"Oh, sure I'll get Joey's coat...."
"Oh, he won't need it. I thought since he's already asleep maybe he could just sleep here. It's warmer than our apartment and he'll be just fine on this soft couch."
"Are you sure?" I said smiling.
"Sure as I can be."
I handed her a throw pillow and she placed it under Joey's head and I placed his feet on the couch as I stood up. He was still sleeping soundly as we got our coats on and when it was time to go I had second thoughts about leaving him there alone. What if he woke up and found us gone? So I wrote a quick note and pinned it the front door.
I was back in a flash however and from the looks of it he hadn't stirred. I hung my coat up and sat down across from him and watched him sleep for a long time. He was so beautiful and so peaceful when he slept, just like an angel, and I had never loved anyone as much as I did that little angel.
I picked up the picture of me and mom and gazed at it for a long time. I could almost feel my mother's loving presence in the room and I knew she would approve of what I had done for Joey and would continue to do as he got older.
As I sat there watching the little angel named Joey sleep I felt as if I had been transformed from the old hopeless me to a new and better person full of love and hope. Oh sure, I'd make mistakes and I'd have my battles, but somehow none of that seemed to matter any more. I had found the missing piece of the puzzle and it was the love of a child and nothing would ever be the same again.
Mary's stock certificate turned out to be authentic and I helped her sell the shares and after fees she made a cool 32,00 dollars. She put a down payment on a little house in a quiet neighborhood and I moved into an apartment building only a mile or so away. These days Joey spends almost as much time with me as he does at home and at least once a week we all have dinner together at Mary's house. She is a wonderful cook and I always look froward to it.
We often talked about that night and the mysterious gifts, but we still have no answers. I guess some things you just have to take on faith. The picture of me and my mom sits proudly on the dresser in my room and sometimes when I'm feeling down I pick it up and gaze upon her beautiful face and it's as if she's saying "Phoenix, everything is all right, just suck it up and remember..you've got that boy counting on you." and then everything is okay again.
Speaking of that boy, tonight is meatloaf night at Mary's and I wouldn't miss it for the world, or seeing my "nephew" Joey.
Be sure to check out all my stories In the Prolific Authors Section of Nifty under the Kewl Dad nick. I welcome all comments please email me at:
Pray for the US
Remember Love trumps hate
I have updated my story list if you see any missing please let me know.
Other stories by Kewl Dad
* Denotes Series, rest are short stories