A Christmas Encounter
Johnny walked through the forest, plumes of smoke coming out of his mouth on this crisp, December afternoon. He was on a mission to unearth the truth about the old man in the cabin.
Everyone, from kids to shopkeepers, had an opinion about Mr. Deveraux, an opinion that his friends in Atlanta would find laughable. But here, in these intoxicating mountains, one could almost believe magic existed.
Well, whatever the case, he had to do some sleuthing. It’s not like he had anything else going on, he mused as he rounded a corner and emerged from the group of pines.
Seeing a small cabin up ahead, he walked onward, the smell of burning hickory wafting through the air.
He crept closer, his boots crunching over the frozen ground. When he was in front of the cabin, he scanned the area. Seeing nobody around, he slowly made his way up to the large porch. As his foot touched the last step, a loud creak split the air.
Johnny froze, his heart pumping furiously. After turning his head slowly, he expelled a breath of air. He was still alone. It’s now or never, he told himself as he approached the window.
The sight before his eyes made him gasp out loud. A Christmas tree, its twinkling lights seeming to beckon him, was near a fireplace filled with burning logs. A work desk and bench were nearby, and on the desk was a porcelain doll, its face half painted. A paintbrush in a cup and several tubes of paint were next to it. On the floor near the tree was a stack of presents and...
“Do you know you’re trespassing?” came the sound of a gruff voice from behind.
Johnny hadn’t heard anyone approaching. Clenching his shaking hands tightly, he turned and had his second surprise. A man with twinkling blue eyes and upturned lips looked down at him.
“You’re not mad?” he asked, his eyes going to the man’s long white beard.
“No, young’un.” The man’s mouth opened wide, laughter spilling out, and his large belly began to shake under his long, red coat.
Before he could finish the question, the man cut in with, “You never can tell, kid.” He began chuckling again. “I’d invite you in, but I’m kind of busy.”
Johnny started to open his mouth, to beg the old man to let him come in, but something he couldn’t explain overtook him. He knew he should be on his way.
So he nodded and said, “I understand. Merry Christmas.”
“You too, Johnny.”
His eyes narrowing, the young boy asked, “How’d you know my na…”
“Ssh,” the old man responded, his finger going to his lips. “No more questions.” He reached out and tousled Johnny’s unruly, curly brown hair. Then he gave him a slight push.
Johnny looked up at the man one more time, and then, exhilaration filling him, raced down the porch steps and over the snow-packed ground. Here, in the mystical mountains of Appalachia, he’d found magic!