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MIRACLE AT COFFEEVILLE

And Other Legends of Christmas – By Darrell Case

Carol’s heart sagged with sorrow. “Like I said, sweetheart, sometimes Santa gets lost.” The lie wasn’t a good one. It left a bad taste in her mouth. Julie was undeterred by her mother’s apparent lack of faith. “Oh no, Mommy. I asked God to have the angels guide Santa to our house. I even put angel’s dust on the letter!” “Go to sleep, honey.” “Merry almost Christmas, Mommy,” Julie murmured. “Merry almost Christmas,” Carol said, barely able to hold back the tears. At the kitchen table, she sat staring at the balance in her checkbook. It hadn’t changed in the last hour. If only the factory had kept her on until after the holidays. Tomorrow morning other little girls would delight to open gift after gift, but all she had was a second-hand doll she bought at Goodwill. “Oh well, Julie will be happy with it.” But Carol wasn’t. They couldn’t even afford a real Christmas tree, just one they fashioned from construction paper and taped to the living room wall. Turning the temperature down a few more degrees, she pulled her robe tighter. Yet it wasn’t the cold house that made her shiver. Outside, the snow fogged as it had the night David’s car flipped on the interstate. That night she had put the turkey back in the oven to keep it warm. David was over an hour late. It wasn’t like him not to call. A worm of worry tugged at her mind. She quieted it. She smiled when she heard the hesitant knock on the door. He liked to surprise them with a last- minute gift. The sight of the two police officers standing on her front step nearly caused Carol to faint. She knew before they said a word. She collapsed to the floor as her world crumbled. “At least he didn’t suffer,” became the catchphrase at David’s funeral. The words brought more pain than comfort, and Carol closed her ears to them. Now, for the first time in the three years since her husband’s death, Carol gave up. Burying her face in her hands, she quietly sobbed.

The letter lay on the floor beside the sorter. Jeff switched off the machine. The silence filled his head like cotton batting.

Picking up the letter, he groaned. Scribbled across the envelope in black crayon were the words, Santa Claus, North Pole. The practice of giving letters addressed to Santa Claus to volunteers began years ago. Those wonderful people took it upon themselves to grant the wishes of needy children. However, the last letter was given out days ago. It was too late to fulfill this child’s wish. Jeff stared at the letter for a long time. He slid his fingers carefully under the flap. It opened easily. As he pulled out the sheet of paper, a bit of gold glitter fell into his palm. He brushed it back into the envelope. Unfolding the letter, he read,

Dear Mr. Santa Claus,

Hi, my name is Julie. I’m eight years old. I live in Indianapolis, Indiana. But you know that. Mommy says sometimes you get lost, so I asked God to send his angels to show you where we live. I don’t want any presents. My daddy went to heaven three years ago. I cried for a long time. I’m better now, but Mommy is so sad. I was wondering, since you go all over the world, could you bring me another daddy? He doesn’t have to be handsome or rich. Just as long as he loves me and Mommy. I promise I’ll love him forever. I put some angel’s dust on the bottom of my letter.

Thank you, Santa Julie

P.S. Please wake me up when you bring him.

Underneath the writing was a thumb print stamped in gold glitter. Jeff ran his thumb over it and quickly regretted the action as some of the glitter flaked off and scattered to the floor. He read the letter again. An incredible thought formed in the back of his mind. He shook his head. What a crazy idea!

No doubt it would get him locked up in a mental institution or jail. Crazy or not, he pictured himself knocking on Julie’s mother’s door. “Hi, I’m Jeff. You don’t know me, but I read your little girl’s letter to Santa. I’ve come to be your new husband and Julie’s father.” He would be lucky if the woman didn’t call the police. The least she would do is slam the door in his face. No. Becoming a father took more than a letter to Santa. He couldn’t be her daddy anyway. The only little girl he wanted to be daddy to was his Joy, and Barbie was the only woman he would ever love. But maybe he could do something. For the first time in two years, he thought of the people on his old route. Alex Pierce owned a wonderful toy store. The IGA always had several turkeys left over, and it was open late on Christmas Eve. His mind wandered back to Joy’s last Christmas. She had run down the stairs bubbling with laughter. Her face lit up with excitement as she pulled her gifts from under the tree and tore off the wrappings. Jeff felt sorry for Barbie. It had taken a lot of time to wrap those presents and she labored to make each one special. He said something about it to her, but she just laughed, glad for the happiness in her child’s face. Later that night as they cuddled on the couch, Jeff thought his heart would burst with love. He sighed. All of that was gone now. Six years ago, his heart died. Tonight his body would. He started to put the letter in the lost letter box, but he couldn’t let it go. Somewhere out there was a little girl so lonely she asked Santa for a daddy. He laid the letter on the table by the sorter. He couldn’t help her. Maybe someone else could.

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