Successor

Originally published online December 6, 2014

Every ending brings a new beginning.


“I’m so happy you came, son,” the bearded old man wheezed from the large bed to the young man who had just entered the room.  The old man was heavyset and his wrinkled face and white hair served to make him appear even older than he actually was.

“I came as quickly as I could,” the handsome young man who had entered the room replied. He walked across the large bedroom towards the bed.  A large chair sat by its side.  The young man sat down and inched the chair as close to the bed as he could.  He leaned in so that he could more clearly hear the old man talk.

“You did well to come quickly.  My life is nearly at its end,” the occupant of the bed struggled to say, before breaking into a coughing fit.  After noisily clearing his throat, he continued: “Before I can leave this world and enter the next one, I must pass on my responsibilities, as my predecessor did to me.”

“I understand,” the young man said, “It’s a shame I’ve just come to learn of your existence. You could have been a great ally…”

The old man wrinkled his nose and shook his head, repulsed at the thought.  “No,” he interrupted, “Our sole duty is to bring joy to the world.  Nothing else.”

“Fair enough.” The man said.  He paused to think for a moment and sighed before continuing.  “But why me? Surely there are other people better suited for this job,” he questioned.

The old man took a deep breath before speaking: “The world has become a bigger place since I took on this responsibility.  I do not expect it to rest solely on your shoulders.  Instead, you will be the keystone, the linchpin, upon which this endeavor will be organized when I am gone.”

The young man placed a hand on his chin and thought.  “You understand that I’ll have to do things my way.”

The figure on the bed nodded his head and replied, “Of course, son.  I said the very same thing so many years ago.  Change is the one constant of life, but some things will have to remain, of course.”

The young man looked uncomfortable at the thought: “I’m not going to have to, you know…wear…”

Despite his infirmity, the old man let out a hearty laugh.  “Of course not, but somebody will!”

Relieved, the young man laughed and wiped some imagined sweat from his brow before answering:  “Right! I think I know someone that can handle that duty. He has a thing for the color red.”

“I know he does!” The old man smiled. “I know in the same way I know you have the resources, the knowledge, and the companions to assist you in continuing our work here. The only thing remaining is the desire. Are you willing to take over for me?” he asked.

The young man grew quiet. He briefly placed his hands on his lap before putting them together while pondering over the question.  He stared down at nothing in particular for a few moments, then looked the old man in the eyes, nodded his head, and simply said: “Yes.”

The old man closed his eyes and took a deep breath. He then slowly opened his eyes and turned towards the young man before speaking his final words: “Thank you, and God bless you, Bruce.  You always were…a good boy.”

“And God bless you, Santa Claus.”

THE END


POSTSCRIPT

I was loath to label this as a Christmas story in the story list or write a full preface, because doing either would give away the surprise.  Granted, the result probably doesn’t come as much of a surprise to those of you who know the characters well enough.  But think about it:  he can monitor everyone on the planet, sneak into anywhere unnoticed and may even be rich enough to buy gifts for all the good kids, so why the heck not?

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