This content of this post originally appeared in the “JNL” section of the Janesville Gazette.
Editor’s note: “Here are the winners in JNL’s annual holiday fiction contest. Each winner received in cash and a JNL T-shirt and hat. Thanks to those who entered, and happy holidays to all.”
By Chris Finke, 12
St. Paul’s Lutheran School
The best Christmas that Joe could remember was the year he turned 6 years old. His father had been at war, and his mother was pregnant with his younger sister, Julie. His mother had been explaining to him that Dad might not be home for Christmas. She told him that there was ï¬ghting in a country far, far away, across a big ocean, and that his Daddy was helping America ï¬ght.
Joe wasn’t completely sure what she was talking-about except that he hadn’t seen his Dad in a long time and that he wanted him to come home so he could play with him again.
Joe was busy making out his Christmas list one Saturday afternoon. He had thought long and hard about it, and all that he put down on his list was for his Dad to come home safe. He stuck it to the refrigerator with a magnet and told his Mom that he had finished his list and was going out to play in the snow.
When he got outside to the local sledding place, he met up with his older neighbor, Brad. Brad was 10 and thought he knew everything there was to know. Joe saw him running around with a pretend gun in his hands. He ran up to Joe and shot hum in the chest while making sound of explosions.
“Bang! You’re dead!” shouted Brad.
“I’m not dead,” Joe reported to Brad. “I’m going sledding.”
“I’m playing war, and you have to be dead. I shot you,” Brad said to Joe.
“My mom said that my Dad is at war,” Joe said slowly. “Is he going to die?”
Joe whimpered, his bottom lip trembling. Joe then ran off down the street all the way home.
Joe ran up the stairs to his room and leaped onto his bed, pushing his face into his pillow, and cried himself to sleep.
Joe walked downstairs. looking for his mother. When she saw his tear-stained face. she asked him what had happened.
“Is Dad going to die?” Joe asked quickly.
“Of course not. Who told you that?” his mother asked.
“Well, Brad was playing war and he shot me and he told me I was dead because he was playing war,” Joe quickly poured out to his mother.
“Brad was just pretending, honey,” Joe’s mother told him.
“So Dad’s not going to die?” Joe asked his mother.
“Of course not, sweetie,” his mother said to Joe. But to herself, she was even wondering about it.”
Joe woke up and heard voices downstairs. One was a man’s, one was a woman’s.
“Dad!” he thought to himself, and ran downstairs, skipping steps two at a time. But when he got there, he was disappointed to only see their neighbor, Mr. Arneson. Joe slowly walked to his room to get ready for his school’s Christmas Eve program that day.
Joe’s mother came home that night, carrying Joe in her arms, Joe already being fast asleep. She walked in the door, turned into the kitchen and saw that the lights were on. Her first thoughts were that she was being robbed, but when she took a look into the dining room, she couldn’t believe her eyes.
“Who are you?” she asked the man in red.
Joe slowly opened his eyes and stared up at the bearded man.
“Santa? he asked him.
“Hello there. little boy,” the man answered.
Joe had seen this man before. He wasn’t Santa.
“Dad!” Joe shot out of his mother’s arms and up into his father’s. “I knew you would make it!” Joe started crying
“Oh, Daniel,” Joe’s mother joined in on the hug and their whole family was back together again.
Joe remembered this well. It had been the best Christmas present and the best Christmas wish he had ever had.