With Christmas just days away, the streets were decorated
with colorful lights, and the department stores brimmed to overflowing
with every item imaginable. There were new gadgets for the technology
enthusiast, and household items which guaranteed to lighten the overburdened
work load of those who could afford them. There was jewelry especially
designed for the new millennium, endless racks of clothing in every size,
color, and style, and scores and scores of toy cars and trucks and baby
dolls that seemed more real than they ought. Every direction your
eyes could travel carried the busy shopper to yet another dimension of
what life could be. Surely, this Christmas would be like none other.
This particular weekend was typical for the height of the Christmas season.
Every store was crowded with pushy people, grabbing up armloads of items
they neither needed nor could afford. As people took advantage of
the "bargains," they grumbled as they stood in long lines, waiting
to get checked out. Children, already overtired of the endless routine
were crying, and some threw tantrums when they were told they could not
have the toy that their little eyes fixated upon immediately after having
entered the toy department.
Santas, some of whom looked very real, and others who looked and smelled
like they had been through an unbelievably tough year, were strategically
positioned in the center of every store. And parents, determined that
this year they would have a picture of their toddlers perched atop of
Santa's lap, lost patience with those in the endless sea of tiny tots
who stood crying and fussing, and sometimes frightened at the mere appearance
of the strange man in the red suit.
By mid-afternoon on this particular day, one of the large department stores
had already broken its all time record for seasonal sales. No doubt
about it, this year would set record sales for the Christmas holiday.
Since opening early that morning, the endless ringing of the many cash
registers came close to drowning out the sound of Christmas carolers,
as they sang their old familiar Christmas carols outside. The crowds,
now exceeding those of any previous day this season, pushed and shoved,
grabbed and shouted at one another, as they fought over the limited supply
of this year's hottest items.
In the midst of it all, a tired looking little old man with a long white
beard and somewhat tattered clothing entered the store through the side
entrance. Nothing about him seemed very remarkable, except for his
penetrating deep brown eyes, and the almost contagious smile of his tiny
little mouth. As he proceeded through the store, it appeared as
though he was looking for something that he could not find. Almost
unnoticed, he continued in his endless pursuit for something which, undoubtedly,
would not be found there.
A short while later, an announcement came over the store's speaker system
that they had just received a new shipment of this season's perfect Christmas
gift, and people everywhere flocked to the area of the store where this
item was to be made available to those who could get there first. Shoppers,
concerned only how having this sought after item was going to make their
Christmas the best ever, literally began trampling one another in the
The little old man with the long white beard just happened to be in that
area at the time of the announcement. Uninterested in the product,
but unable to move quickly enough to get away from the impending stampede,
he was first pushed from side to side. Then he was shoved up against the
counters, and finally knocked to the floor and stepped on by the many
who, caught up in their greed, failed to even notice.
At first, tears came to his deep eyes, as he felt the pain
inflicted upon him by an uncaring crowd. Then, he finally succumbed to
the trampling of the angry mass. There he lie, no one even noticing,
much less caring, as they continued with their shopping frenzy.
Several hours passed, and finally the store closed for the night.
By comparison to the day's hustle, a sense of quietude now overtook the
store. The noisy crowds had left, and by now, most were deeply involved
in their parties, which they considered so critical to their celebration
of the holiday season. Those who were wearied from attending to
the cash registers throughout this busiest of shopping days were at home
by now, resting their feet for another long day tomorrow.
Children were now safely tucked into their beds, lulled
to sleep by threats that Santa would not bring them any presents this
year if they were anything but good. And Santa. well he was sitting
on a stool in the neighborhood pub, enjoying some seasonal libations.
Only the janitor remained at the store. It was his job to clean
up all the mess, and have the store ready for the next day's activity.
Like every night this holiday season, the store janitor began his duties,
repositioning the remaining racks of clothing, and sweeping under the
many counters strategically positioned throughout the store. About
halfway through his duties, his eyes were suddenly drawn to something
he thought quite strange. He spotted something lying there beneath
a table, mostly hidden by the table skirt adorning it. At first
he thought it was just a pile of clothing which had been dropped to the
floor, but when he bowed down for a closer look, he bolted backwards with
fear. He had discovered the little man in the long white beard,
lying face down. There was no longer any sign of life in him.
After a moment, the janitor decided he must try to find
out who he was. He pulled the table skirt away, and began searching
the man's tattered clothing to see if he could find a wallet or something
else which might contain a clue to his identity. There was nothing
to be found. There were some bruises and abrasions on the little
man's head, but even that gave no clue as to who he might be.
Alarmed and frightened by his finding, he feverishly began
to do the only thing he thought might help. He rolled the little man over
to attempt some means of resuscitation. Upon doing so, he noted
something very disconcerting. In each of his hands was a deep puncture
wound, and there was a large stab wound in his side. Who, he wondered,
could this have been, and what could have happened to him?