Christmas Contemporary Fiction

Deborah strode into the park like she owned it, as per her mother's long-ago advice. She wished she'd worn a thicker coat instead of this little thin sweater. She might have known; the ads for the winter carnival had run for weeks, right through the autumn days of Indian summer, and now it was genuine winter weather. Crud. She'd just have to move quickly and try to keep herself warm that way.

She sped past the game booths, stopped at the coffee hut and picked up a large black. Sipping it, she sped to the main tent where the international winter displays were. The tickets cost five dollars, but it all went to charity. She tried not to feel upset.

The displays were good. Nothing remarkable, but fun. Besides it was warm enough in the tent, what with all the other people in there sharing their body heat.

Displays featuring Santa Claus, Father Christmas, Black Thomas – a few dozen cultures' Christmas figures, plus a number of displays from places where they didn't celebrate Christmas. Deborah learned a few things. That was the whole point, really. First year at college in a new town. When she saw the ad for this carnival, she'd figure she might learn a few things and maybe even make some new friends. No new friends so far, but then she'd only been there for about forty-five minutes. Maybe outside was a better place to find people to talk to.

She walked out of the tent, and immediately realized this wasn't the way she'd come in. Nothing looked familiar. She looked around for the park's entrance, but couldn't see it – must be on the opposite side of the tent. She started around the tent, keeping an eye out for something familiar.

She came to the stack of equipment that blew warm air into the tent. Going around it got her all turned around somehow. She couldn't quite tell which way she'd been going. Besides, there were temporary shelters all over the place back here. Deborah followed along the line of shelters until she came to what looked like the end, just short of a group of trees that she couldn't see through, so she walked around the top of the row of shelters. Beyond them was a huge collection of booths, but where was the main tent she'd been using for directions before?

At least the booths included food for sale. She bought a roasted corn on the cob and a slice of watermelon and gnawed on them as she continued to walk around, looking for something recognizable.

It got to be about 11:30am. The winter sun didn't provide much heat, but it was still pretty bright. Deborah turned into another row so she wasn't walking directly into the sun, but it still didn't help her find her way. The booths were too tall for her to see anything over them, and they stood touching each other on both sides, so she couldn't see between them either. The crowd was fairly thick, though not enough to jostle her. She decided to be patient and just keep walking.

She came to a bouncy house in the shape of a snowman, with about five kids inside leaping and screeching, and a line of about twenty or thirty other kids waiting their turn, also leaping and screeching. The noise was practically a solid smack in the face. Deborah squeezed her eyelids shut, as if that would help block her ears too. Of course it didn't. She opened her eyes, tossed her corncob and watermelon rind into the nearest trashcan, and got away from there as fast as she could. She still didn't see anything she recognized. Between the worry and the noise, her head began to pound.

In front of her stood a big golden throne with red cushions on it. A red rope stretched across it leaving about a foot or so between itself and the throne, with a sign saying “Santa will be here at noon”. Another line of kids with their parents stretched away, a lot longer and somewhat quieter than the line for the bouncy house – a few of the kids jumped up and down with excitement, but surprisingly no screeching to speak of.

Santa. Deborah found herself wondering if it would do any good to wait and ask jolly old Santa where the damn exit was. She realized that she hadn't even seen any staff since leaving the display tent. She realized she hadn't even asked for directions from the food vendor she'd bought from. What was with her, anyway?

What the heck. Her feet were aching, and there wasn't long to wait anyway. She moved to a bench and took a seat. Such a relief after all that walking around. Her hands were kind of sticky from the watermelon juice, but other than that she felt a lot better.

She looked around at the people passing by. Everybody looked pretty happy. Even the kids remained calm holding their parents' hands and walking at a good pace, looking all around at the booths and displays. Some of them ate cotton candy or pretzels, and their parents sipped on drinks or crunched sno-cones. No tantrums in sight.

Deborah took a deep breath. Maybe the fussing would start in the afternoon, maybe not – right now it was a good day.

Santa came around the throne, and behind him – there was the big display tent pushing up into the sky.

How about that. She sat and stared at it. Then she started to laugh.

An elf looked up from arranging the kids into line while Santa tucked himself into the golden throne. The elf walked over. “Are you okay, miss?”

Deborah gulped and got hold of herself. “Yeah, I'm fine. I've just been looking for that big tent for a couple of hours, and there it is when I wasn't even looking.”

The elf turned and had a look. “Oh yeah. Happens like that a lot, doesn't it?” He turned back and smiled down at Deborah. “Well, is there anything you need from us?”

Deborah thought about it for a second. Actually, there wasn't. She smiled back and shook her head.

“Great,” said the elf. “I'll get back to work then. Have a good rest of the day.”

“You too.”

Nice town, really. Deborah thought she was going to enjoy school here.

She rested for another fifteen minutes or so, then stood up and headed for the exit.

May 15, 2021 01:17

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