Straggled hair touched with slivers of silver and unshaven for a week, he sat before his tiny blaze of kindling. He gnawed on the crust of yesterday’s fragrant loaf, and sipped pinot wine from a discarded Campbell’s can. Driblets of snow scattered down from a frowning sky looking to pile itself deeper by morning.
The stately man who approached our friend was no stranger. In great coat, widely belted and lapelled, he obviously was well to do. “Wilfred,” he said addressing the seated object of our attention, “I have a task for you this evening. You shall give away five fifty dollar bills as I instruct.”
Thomas was a fine baker in a lesser part of town, whose loaves were deeply admired in his neighborhood. His display case burst with the light and dark magic of bread, rolls, croissants, and baguettes. When Wilfred entered his shop, sweet-scented with caraway and sesame, Thomas greeted him warmly with season’s greetings. “Thank you, in kind,” responded the tousled man, “I have a proposition: You have a large clientele, many of whom are needy. If someone comes in with just enough to buy a roll, give him or her one of your fine loaves as well. In exchange I have a fifty dollar bill for you.” “Done and done,” responded Thomas.
In a similar fashion, Wilfred went to a tiny pastry shop filled with cinnamon smells of cookies, cakes, pies of a dozen sorts, elephant ears, marzipan, donuts and crullers. Then he visited an independent grocer, replete with the odors of cloves, sweet orange and roasted coffee. Next came a local florist selling poinsettias, roses, wreaths, and trees: balsam and Douglas fir, Frazer, Norway and blue spruce, and Scotch pine, but no daffodils yet, all causing clouds of aromatic joy. Last he stopped at a seller of toys, whose mountains of dolls with carriages and shingled houses, blue belled bicycles, tooting, star-blessed electric trains, and balls of ever shape and hew. For the purchase of a small gift, another of greater value was to be added free of charge.
The sheening moon swaddling through a cloud-tossed sky of wannabe snowflakes, and Wilfred was back before his tiny Yule log. “You have done well,” said the stately man, “You’ll join the wife and me for dinner this evening?”
“Of course, Santa.”