“So you’re saying they weren’t even there?” Bob asked.
“Scripturally speaking, no,” Woodruff replied.
“And the camels?”
“I’m afraid not, they are most likely representations that the men came from foreign lands to the east.”
“I feel so betrayed.”
“The nativity is really a combination of the New Testament account in chapters two of Luke and Mathew, but the shepherds are the only ones that we know who were actually there on that night.”
“What about the donkey?”
“There were most likely livestock, as the manger that the baby was laid in was for feeding them.”
“You’re blowing my mind.”
Woodruff and Bob continued to walk down the snow covered street, between the snow banks from the road and the recently shoveled driveways. Bob fidgeted with one of the bags in his hands and Woodruff looked up at the starry sky.
“We don’t actually know how long it took for the wise men to find Jesus, after they saw the new star,” Woodruff continued.
“So Jesus didn’t actually get any gifts on His birthday?” Bob asked.
“After the angels left the field, the shepherds came and found the baby and worshipped him,” Woodruff said. “The gold, frankincense, and myrrh came later with the wise men.”
“When we get home I’m going to put those three kings in the bathroom.”
“Why the bathroom?”
“I can’t think of a more foreign land than the bathroom.”
The homes on the street were adorned with bright, multi-colored lights, wreaths, and snowmen. Woodruff and Bob stopped in front of the only house on the street with no decorations at all.
“This is the place?” Bob asked.
“Yep, this is him.”
“Let’s do this.”
Woodruff and Bob crouched down and snuck up the walkway to the darkened doorway. Bob placed the bags on the porch next to the doormat. Woodruff and Bob reached in together and pulled out a box, wrapped in bright red paper. Woodruff nodded to Bob as they set the box gently in front of the door. Bob checked to the darkened windows to the right and left of the door, and rang the doorbell.
“Run!” Bob whisper-yelled.
Bob ran back down the walkway and across the street, without looking back. Woodruff scooped up the bag and followed quickly behind him. When they were safely on the other side of the street they slid behind the snow banks and peeked back toward the old house.
“Do you think he’s home?” Bob asked.
“He’s home,” Woodruff said. “He almost never leaves.”
A faint light from a lamp switched on inside the house, beyond the curtains.
“See,” Woodruff said. “This is it.”
The front door opened and a skinny gray-haired man pushed open the screen door and looked down at the bright red box.
“This is usually where they try and stomp out the flaming bag,” Bob whispered.
The skinny gray-haired man bent down and picked up the box. He looked out toward the snowy street and scanned from one end to the other. The box began to shake and the skinny gray-haired man placed it back down on his porch. He tore off the wrapping paper and pulled open the box. Out popped a brown and white puppy, which jumped into the skinny arms of the gray-haired man. The puppy licked the skinny old face of the gray-haired man, as he gently caressed its brown and white head and scratched behind its ears.
“This is what it’s all about, Bob.”
“Yeah, this is way better than a flaming bag of poo.”
Woodruff and Bob lay in the snow, behind the cover of snow, until the skinny gray-haired man took the puppy and the box into his home and closed the door.
“Now he won’t be lonely anymore,” Woodruff said.
“How do you know he was lonely?”
“For all the years I’ve lived across from him, I’ve never seen him have a visitor.”
“I’ve invited him to dinners, and parties, and game nights, but he’s never come.”
“Maybe he doesn’t like you, or maybe it’s that shampoo that makes your hair smell like walnuts,” Bob said. “It’s confusing and unsettling.”
“I know,” Woodruff replied. “But I don’t think that’s it.”
Woodruff stood up from behind the snow bank and Bob joined him. Woodruff led the way up his brightly lit walkway to his front porch, which was ablaze with blinking multi-colored lights.
“Do you think it’s because you’re so tall and he got a look up your nose?” Bob said. “That happened to me once and I’ve never been able to look at you the same.”
“No, that’s not it,” Woodruff said. “I think he’s agoraphobic.”
“He’s afraid of acorns?”
“No, he doesn’t like open spaces or big groups.”
They turned and looked back at the house across the street. The silhouette of a skinny gray-haired man and a prancing puppy could be seen through the lamp-lit curtains. Woodruff reached into the bag and pulled out a box, covered in shiny green paper with a red bow. He handed it to Bob with a big smile.
“Happy Christmas, Bob.”
With a twinkle in his eye, Bob pulled the top off the box and pulled out a glimmering glass snow globe.
“Hey,” Bob said, looking inside the glass ball. “It’s us. Is that?”
“Yep,” Woodruff said. “That’s us, standing on top of Devils Tower. I had it made.”
“Cool,” Bob said. “I love it.”
“I know you were disappointed we didn’t have a close encounter.”
“If I’m gonna climb to a laccolithic butte, carrying a keyboard, I expect to see some aliens.”
“I know,” Woodruff said. “But it was a pretty epic day, anyway. Like every day since we met.”
Bob smiled and they nodded at one another. Suddenly, there was a prancing and pawing sound on the rooftop.
“A clatter,” Bob whispered as they both looked up at the ceiling of the porch. They followed the sound of boots clomping across the roof, toward the chimney. There was a whooshing sound down the chimney to the fireplace and a loud crash.
“Ho, oh, ow!” a cry came from inside the house.
“What was that?”
“Remember on your list, where you wrote you wanted to meet Santa?”
“Bob, what did you do?”
Woodruff threw open the door and turned on the lamp,
To find a stranger flailing, and dangling, with his foot in a clamp.
His world upside down, he looked jolly and weird,
From his chubby old ankles to his snowy white beard.
The blood rushed to his face, which was red as a cherry,
And he squirmed when he yelped, like a dog on the prairie.
His sack had exploded and burst on the floor,
As two friends stood gawking, by the chilly front door.
“Woodruff, meet Santa,” Bob boldly declared.
As Woodruff’s mouth fell open, half delighted, half scared.