Zakku zakku zakku.
Little boots left a trail of dotted footprints on the unbroken expanse of snow.
The boots were shiny bright red.
The snow was glistening pure white.
'Unnfh!' The boy shifted the heavy sack on his back, his breath puffing out like cotton candy. He looked about him. Big flakes of snow like soft feathers danced above yellow hair soft as a little bird's down.
Zakku zakku zakku.
Little boots left a trail of dotted footprints on the unbroken expanse of snow.
"Anhh- right around here, wasn't it... Oh yeah, there it is!"
Usually this Chinese-type town was a busy place, but now covered in snowy powder its silence fell peacefully on the ear. Still, from a window in the building where the boy had come to a stop came a warm glow and the sound of cheerful voices...
"OK, we gotta fight for this!!"
"Ahh, I guess so."
"Hey Sanzou, you're in on this too!"
...voices of a bunch of slightly disreputable young men...
The boy stood up tall and peeked in the window of the room.
...playing stone-scissors-paper, very very seriously.
"---YAY! You lose, Gojou!"
"No way!! You waited till I was finished!"
"Sore loser, aren't you?"
"Here you go, Gojou, there's your cloak. Do be careful on the way."
"... 'scuse me..." The boy opened the window and called out, and they all turned to look at him
"A kid? How come you're out this late?" the shortest of them said, looking stunned.
"Uhh-- good evening! I'm Santa Claus!" The boy rushed to introduce himself, giving a big smile but the young men only sat motionless as if time had stopped in its tracks.
"...umm. True, today's what that other religion calls Christmas."
"How do you do, Santa-san. Forgive my surprise. You're a little younger than I'd have thought."
"Huh? Santa?? **Really**??! Hi there Santa, howja do!?"
"...Wait a sec, you guys. Five seconds and you believe everything he says?" The red-haired man sounded a bit dubious still but he seemed persuadable. The little boy smiled in relief.
"Actually I'm here instead of Santa. He caught a cold and couldn't come himself."
"I see. It must be hard work with all this snow."
"Hey, can I ask-- what were you guys jan-kenning for?"
"Anh, y'see-- with that snow out there, right, it's really cold and all. And we were having a little disagreement about who'd go do the shopping. Cause there were a buncha things we forgot to buy, see."
Oh. Then they *hadn't* been fighting. Well, good.
"But if I might ask a question," the man with the glasses said, "why have you come /here/? You couldn't say these people have been exactly 'good' this year. Santa-san shouldn't have anything for them."
"...speak for yourself." That was the blond man, with an expression like he was biting on a lemon.
"Yeah but, I'm supposed to bring you all presents. It's written here in this note from God."
"God? That isn't that bousatsu with the tits 'n all?"
"Hmmm. I'd have said hir religion was a little different from theirs."
"Hey you mean we're getting *presents*!! Yay!! Go us!!"
"Calm *down* and act your age!"
With a thump the little boy put the big bag down on the snow and announced with total seriousness, "Now everyone say what's the one thing they want. Whatever you wish for I'll take it out of this bag!"
"Anyone get the feeling we've got a 'shazam' on our hands?"
"Kiddy magicians are very popular this year."
"And laugh shows."
"No, no, it's the Korea boom. People keep telling me I look like Yon-sama."
"You have glasses and you smile a lot. That's it."
"What're you guys talking about!?? Huh? Huh?"
As the four men got farther and farther from the point, the little boy took a deep breath and said, "LOOK. Make up your minds. I've got a LOT of places to go to yet," and he pounded on the bag to make them hurry up.
The four stopped talking and looked at each other-- 'What about it?'
"Well then, if I may presume..."
Zakku zakku zakku. The little boy walked along the snowy night road to the next town.
Well, they'd been a cheerful bunch, those guys. But with only one thing to ask for, imagine them asking for... that. The red-haired one wanted 'Highlights'-- that seemed to be some kind of cigarette. The blond one wanted hot sake, and had nearly been scalded when it came out of the bag. The little guy'd said "Anything as long as it's good to eat!" which was a little undefined. And the one with glasses asked for 'chrysanthemum buds' because he said he was going to make boiled tofu for dinner.
Honestly, they really should have thought a bit before asking, because they'd all made their wishes right away. If someone asked me what was the one thing I wanted, man I'd have a tough time deciding. But hey, they'd seemed really happy that no one had to go shopping now, so I suppose it's alright.
Smiling, the little boy shifted the bag on his shoulder and heard a metallic sound from inside.
Hm? What's that? There was something hard inside the bag. He looked and found a squarish thing with a screen like a small TV. He'd never seen one of those 'car navigators' but that's what it looked like. And come to think of it, behind the four men there'd been a little kid dragon, staring at the bag with a longing expression.
It was the very middle of the night. Almost no cars came along the road now and the signal lights winked yellow. The snow wasn't very deep here and the boy had to walk carefully so as not to slip and fall.
"Now, next one is... here, maybe?" The little boy's nosetip had gone red, and he stood looking up at the big square building looming over him in the night. Unnh, was this what they called a 'manshon'?
"Good evening! I'm Santa Claus!" The little boy threw open the door of what was clearly the bathroom. A tall young man with narrow eyes lay in the tub leafing through a magazine.
"Ah, took me by surprise," he replied, sounding not specially surprised at all. "How'd you get in?" he asked, putting the magazine roof-like on top of his head.
"The ordinary way, through the front door."
"Tokitoh forgot to lock up again when he went out," the man muttered to himself.
"Hey-- I'm /Santa Claus/, OK!?"
The little boy cocked his head in perplexity and the young man did the same as if imitating him.
"I- I've come to give you a present! Say what it is you want, any one thing, and I'll take it out of this bag, whatever it is!"
"Really? How interesting."
The young man looked a bit more intrigued. He put an elbow on the edge of the bath and rested his cheek on his hand. The pretty green-gold water made a splashing sound.
"Anything I want?" The little boy nodded confidently in reply, and the young man turned his slitted eyes up for a moment to look at the tiles in the ceiling. "Mh, but I can't think of something just off the bat like that. No, I know. What they did to me in the interrogation room made the lens in my glasses come out. It'll cost a lot to get them fixed..."
The little boy wasn't sure what an interrogation room was but felt he shouldn't ask.
"Oh yeah- and the cel phone's broken too. Mhh... Hey, look."
"The heat's making me dizzy here. Mind if I get out?"
"-----Agh it's COLD---!!!"
The young guy had been flipping through the books in this store with the 7 written on its sign. He grabbed his shoulders as he came outside, shivering. He looked up but the snow showed no signs of stopping. Instead it came down harder from the pitch-black sky. He set out at a trot, and the little boy ran to overtake him, calling out, "Good evening! I'm Santa Claus!"
"Huh?" The man turned around, wiping his runny nose. Down-turning almond-shaped eyes looked doubtfully back from between strands of black hair.
"Umm, I mean, I'm *Santa*, and I've come to give you a present!"
This one didn't look ready to be convinced so the little boy had to explain it all in detail with a bunch of gestures as well. It was only when he took what the young man asked for out of the bag that he was finally believed.
"Hey this is great! You're pretty good with the magic tricks!"
...well, maybe not *fully* believed.
"Can I really keep this?"
"I keep telling you, it's a *present.* You asked for it and so you've got it. Really, that's how it *is*."
"Right, right. Nh, thanks," and the young man put it into his coat pocket. "But look, kid- you better get along home or someone'll be worrying about you, right?" and with a grin he thumped the little boy lightly on the head. His hand wore a beat-up black leather glove that occasionally flapped loose.
--oh! Right! Now he understood why that tall guy back there had chosen, of all things, 'a sturdy black leather glove' as his present. And now this guy had picked 'a sturdy pair of glasses frames in the latest style.'
"Hn? What're you laughing at?"
"Nothing at all! Merry Christmas!" Feeling totally happy for some reason the little boy waved his hand at the guy and broke into a run.
Even on a night as cold as this, his heart felt so warm he was sure it would melt the snow.
"I'm hooome!" The little boy opened the door of his house still smiling all over his face.
"Anh. Welcome back." The real Uncle Santa, who'd had to stay home, was sitting up in bed drinking coffee. He smiled back at the little boy with the snowflakes falling from his soft yellow hair, and gave a little cough.
"No no! You gotta lie *down* or your cold'll never get better!" The little boy's red cheeks puffed up as he scolded the man.
"OK, OK, I got you. Thanks for doing my errands for me. Lot of work, was it?"
"Uh-uh! It was fun! I met all kindsa people." He took off his red coat and hung it on the wall. Santa saw from his expression that he really was happy and felt mildly relieved.
"Oh really. That's nice."
"The last place I went to there was a guy with an eyepatch and this old guy with a beard and not much hair."
"They said they had to work, even on Christmas Eve. Even though they aren't Santa. Must be tough for them. 'N then when I asked what they wanted, what came out of the bag was two hot tins of canned coffee. You think that was really OK?"
"But they were happy with it?"
"Un-hunh. They drank the coffee and said 'Ohh-KAY! Ready to go!?' kind of together like that"
"Then it's OK, right? Those two must be the kind that think what happens right now is more important than some far-off future they can't see yet."
"Mhh. I see. Yeah I guess so." The little boy nodded his head. Santa's mouth relaxed under its moustache. Then he gave another cough.
"...hey. I worked really hard today. Can I get a present too?" the little boy asked, and his big eyes shone
"Yes of course you can. Say what it is you want."
The little boy closed his eyes and folded his hands as if praying and then hesitantly stuck his little hand inside the bag.
"---I got it! I got it!"
"Great. What did you ask for?"
The little boy's hand held nothing but a folded piece of thin white paper that he'd drawn out of the sack. He gave a huge smile and thrust it at Santa.
"This is for you!"
"Hnh?" Coughing, Santa took the paper from him.
In small letters was written Herbal Remedy.
"This-- it's for me?" The little boy's smile reflected in Santa's glasses looked a touch self-conscious but proud nonetheless.
"Next year we're gonna go delivering presents together. Promise!"
No matter how cold the winter gets, there's still this kind of warmth waiting...
...because our hearts are too close together to let us freeze.
"Merry Christmas, Stork!"
"Merry Christmas, Tit."
A warm and happy Christmas Eve to everyone everywhere in whatever world they may be.