And then, reaching the parking lot, he realized he had a dead battery. On top of that, he had brought his other wallet--the one without his credit cards, and with only a couple of dollars in cash. How stupid of him! He had no alternative but hoof it home; but it was only four or five blocks. Hardly worth trying to find a taxi on a night like this, so he started walking.
He turned down his street, realizing it was Christmas night. Well, what the heck? He'd never gone in for things like that. He hadn't even believed in getting gifts on Christmas morning even when he was a young kid. His dad thought it was all a lot of bunk--and that's the way he felt about the holiday, too!
Suddenly a man appeared out of nowhere, bumping into him. The man was large, round-bellied, with a snowy beard and wearing a red suit trimmed in white. It was as though he had dropped out of nowhere, right into Craver's arms, so to speak.
The man carried a large bag slung over his shoulder, one evidently stuffed with--something. A lot of somethings. He looked like the pictures Craver had seen so many times, especially that ancient one advertising a soft drink. Good Lord, could it be? Had he been wrong, after all, after all these years. Could this actually be--?
Then the man grinned and said, "Sorry 'bout that, friend. I'm kinda near-sighted, and I had a couple at a bar after I finished my shift at the Mall. Playing Santa for money is a real bummer!"
Craver felt an instant let-down. "It's all right," he said sharply. The other man, the fake Santa, turned on his heel and ambled on down the street toward home, his footsteps none too steady.
Craver continued on his way, turning into his walkway. Almost home, and what a relief. It had been one heck of a day--and night!
As he slipped the key into the lock Craver heard a sound; a far-away sound. It was a voice, a faint, jolly voice. It said, "Ho, ho, ho! And a Merry Christmas to you, too!"
Was it the fake Santa he had met? Or was the man a fake after all? Was it just some drunk from up the street, or was it really--?
Well, he could believe anything he wanted to believe, couldn't he? And if he wanted to believe in--in something or someone he had never believed in before . . . well, that was all right, too, wasn't it?
And so Craver pushed open the front door, walked into his house, turned on the living room lights, raised his arms and said, to no one in particular:
"A Very Merry Christmas--and God bless us, one and all!"