A Christmas Tree for Santa
Daniel 'Chip' Ciammaichella
During the Christmas Season the usually stoic lobby of First State Bank of Raton was transformed into a Christmas wonderland, and this Christmas Eve was no different. Wreaths and garlands graced the walls, and centerpieces made from pinecones were at each teller station. The female tellers and bank officers all wore cute little elf outfits, though the men still wore their usual suits and ties. Only the younger ones were bold enough to don a bright Christmas tie.
At the far end of the lobby three eight-foot tables were crammed with cakes, cookies, snacks, eggnog, and punch in a huge crystal punch bowl. A ten-foot tall Christmas tree, decorated with multi-colored ornaments, garlands, twinkling lights, and tinsel dominated the center of the lobby. Under the tree were brightly wrapped packages of all shapes and sizes, merely empty boxes of course, but what Christmas tree wouldn't have presents stuffed beneath it?
Sitting next to the tree in a great stuffed armchair sat Santa Claus...AKA Charlie Wagner. Charlie was uncomfortable in the hot Santa suit and the itchy white beard, but he loved playing Santa Claus. He had never played Santa for the bank's annual Christmas open house before, but his friend Shannon, who was the Public Relations Manager of the bank, had asked him if he could...and Shannon Smith was a woman he could NEVER say no to.
Charlie simply adored Shannon. To him she was probably the most beautiful and sweet woman in the world, though he never dared to let her know he felt that way. Charlie didn't feel he was worthy of a woman like Shannon, let alone think she was attracted to him at all. She was a bright and beautiful woman, climbing the ladder to success, the best part of her life still ahead of her. On the other hand Charlie thought of himself as a washed-up old has-been who had fallen off that ladder years ago. He had once been an ambitious and successful community leader and businessman. Then his wife divorced him, he lost his home, his business fell on lean times, and he lost all confidence in himself...he burned out.
As Charlie sat in his place as Santa Claus, he watched Shannon move around the lobby performing her duties as hostess of the event. He never ceased to marvel at her grace, beauty, and especially her smile that seemed to not only brighten the room, but his heart as well. He remembered how she had offered to pay him to play Santa for the bank and the look of disappointment on her face when he declined. Broke as he was, he couldn't accept any money, even from a bank. He knew she was just trying to help him out, as a lot of his good friends had done after he fell on hard times, but taking money to play Santa on Christmas Eve just didn't seem right.
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