Why don’t I ever use my brain? Brian sat berating himself in his car. Anti-freeze streaked through the ice on his windshield. He could barely see the tree embedded in the radiator due to the driving snow and darkness. At least his airbag had not hurt him. Although he was sore from the impact. Brian lost himself inside his head again while he searched for answers to his dilemma. Mom told me to fly home. She said she’d be there to pick me up. Did I listen? No! It’s only a five-hour drive, how was I to know there would be a blizzard at 4 am in the morning. I should call her. Brian looked at his watch and cringed. Its digital display read 5 am. She is going to kill me, but she’ll kill me more if I wait.
Brian heard his mother’s voice on the other end of his phone. “You better be in trouble. Calling me at five in the morning, what is wrong with you?”
Brian cleared his stuffy throat. “Sorry, Mom. I’m in trouble. I had a small accident driving home.”
Her voice immediately resonated with concern. “Are you okay?”
At least she isn’t angry. “Yeah, Mom, I’m okay. I just hit a tree and need to know what to do.”
He quickly pulled the phone from his ear when she responded. “Hit a tree! Hit a tree! What were you doing, driving like a maniac? Boy, don’t you know it’s a blizzard out there? Didn’t I tell you to fly home? I even said I’d pay for your ticket, but no, not you. You have to be a big man. Well mister big shot, whatcha gonna do now?”
At least mom is taking this well. Brian thought, and then answered. “Mom, it will be okay. I just need to know what to do. The blizzard is bad. Should I stay with my car or try to find a house?”
Her voice on the other end of the phone was foreboding. “Don’t you dare leave that car, unless you want to freeze to death. Have you called the Highway Patrol or AAA?”
Brian pulled the emergency blanket from the back seat over his body and head. The car was getting colder. He gave his mom the unwelcome news. “Mom, they said nobody is coming out in this storm and that I should just hunker down. I have my emergency gear, but I’m worried I won’t make it home in time for Christmas today.” Brian held back his tears. It was not the time to cry.
He could hear his mother’s voice crack and knew she had started to cry. “Don’t worry, son. You stay safe. Turn off your phone and save your battery. God will provide a way. Don’t ever forget that. Now hang up and call me back in a couple of hours so I know you’re okay. Do not leave your car unless help shows up.”
Brian said his goodbyes and hung up. He turned off his phone and huddled under the blanket. At first, he was afraid to close his eyes. He knew the fastest why to die was to let the cold take over and simply give up living. However, boredom and exhaustion soon took their toll and Brian began to snore.
A knock on the driver’s window woke him from his slumber. Brian peeked over the blanked but could only see the shadowy outline of a man through the foggy and icy glass. He turned on the accessory switch and attempted to open the window. Unfortunately, it sat frozen in place. Assuming it had to be a rescue worker in the storm Brian unlocked the car door and tried to open it, but that too was frozen. From the other side he heard a man’s voice say. “Let me try!”
The ice gave way with a loud crack and pop. The door moaned and screeched in protest. The gray morning sky sat partially hidden behind the white powder pouring down. In front of Brian stood a large man in a green fleece coat and red beanie. His thick white beard flowed down to his waist. Brian thought he looked like a lumberjack. The stranger smiled and said, “Hi, my name is Chris. I saw your car against the tree and thought there might be somebody inside. Do you need some help?”
Brian looked the man over, he seemed harmless enough. “I sure do. My name is Brian.”
Chris cocked his head for a moment and said. “Oh yes, Brian.”
Brian got a chill inside, and not from the weather. It was like this guy knew who he was. Maybe, I should just wait in the car. He thought to himself. “Hey, any chance you can find me a truck or the police?” He asked.
Chris gave a loud low laugh. “Don’t be ridiculous young man. You’ll freeze to death. Look, I have a sleigh right here?”
Before he could stop himself, Brian responded. “A sleigh? Does it have eight tiny reindeer?”
Chris let out another belly laugh. “Oh no. Just five large ones. They love this weather and are easier to train than most people think. I live just north of here and come out in my sleigh when the weather turns. I’ve owned that old sleigh for years. When these storms act up it’s the only way to move around. Sometimes I come across strangers like you needing help.”
Brian felt a little more at ease. He picked up his phone, and grabbed his bag from the back seat. He turned around and asked Chris, “How far can you take me?”
Chris pointed up ahead. “The next town is about ten miles. Once the storm lets up the mechanic there can tow your vehicle. They even have a car rental place. The Hotel clerk’s brother runs it. If you need a rental car, he can arrange it. Are you in a hurry?”
Brian grabbed his keys and got out of the car. “I sure am. I would like to get home today before Christmas is over. Darn, I bet that trunk is frozen. All my gifts are in there.”
“Allow me to try.” Brian dropped the keys into Chris’s gloved hand. Chris walked over and unlocked the trunk. The trunk door made a horrible racket and surrendered. He put Brian’s gifts in the sleigh. Both men got in and headed up the road.
Chris threw a thick red velvet blanket over them to stay warm. Although the air was cold, the ride was pleasant. The reindeer followed the road with no effort from Chris. Brian looked up at the sky and caught some snow on his tongue. It was fresh, almost sweet. He turned to Chris, “Have you heard how long this storm will last?”
Chris turned and smiled. “Don’t worry, Brian. From what I hear, by the time we reach the town it will be only flurries. You should be able to reach your home today. No problem.”
Brian relaxed and enjoyed the ride. He knew he had a lot to do once he got to town. There was the tow truck, and getting them to store his wrecked car on Christmas. He would probably have to offer the hotel clerk some extra cash to arrange that car rental. Then it dawned on him. Christmas, it’s Christmas! I’ve only given Chris wants and demands. Where are manners? Brain looked at Chris. “Merry Christmas. Thank you for the ride.”
“Merry Christmas!” Chris bellowed and then gave and even hardier laugh. “I love this time of year.”
The town came into view on the next turn. Chris stopped in front of the hotel and helped Brian unload. Chris’s beanie slipped sideways when he put Brian’s bag on the curb. Brian noticed, but wasn’t’ sure what to say. Still, he should tell him his hat now sat crooked on his head. “Chris, your beanie slipped. I couldn’t help but notice your ear, is that a birth defect? Are you able to hear okay?”
Chris laughed and removed his beanie. Two pointed ears stood even with the top of his head. Brian thought he looked like a Vulcan. Chris smiled and said. “It’s a family trait. You would be surprised, I can hear better than most. In fact, I can hear for miles.”
“Cool.” Was all Brian managed to get out. “What do I owe you for the ride?”
Chris laughed again, put his beanie back on, and got in his sleigh. “It’s Christmas, you don’t owe me anything. Next time though, do yourself a favor and listen to your mother. Take the plane.” With that Chris slapped the reigns and the sleigh took off like a shot and disappeared down the road.