—  Ken and Vesta  —

Wedding and Portrait Photography

541 773-3373

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Santa was a little leery about the new Slovakian suit his taylor elves had made for him. The coat and sweater were perfect and he loved them. But the leather pants. Santa in leather, who ever heard of such a thing?

“My, dear,” Mrs. Claus said, it’s 2016 almost 2017, don’t you think it’s about time you stepped into the present.” She laughed. “You know, be a little hip, for a change.”

“Motorcycle riders wear leather pants. I ride a sleigh, pulled by reindeer.”

“Give it a go, old boy,” she laughed louder, “because I think you look smashing in it. You’re the bee’s knees, that’s what you are in that suit.”

And, of course, Santa decided to wear the suit to Slovakia, because Mrs. C knew just the buttons to push to make him puff up and preen. Maybe telling him he was the bee’s knees was a bit over the top, but it did the trick.

So he was off to Bratislava, on a mission just to have fun, meeting people and basking in compliments about his Slovakian Santa suit, leather pants and all.

And not long afterward, he was looking down on Bratislava’s Christmas Market and he could hardly wait to get down there and celebrate his nineteenth day of Christmas.

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Rudy put them down in a church parking lot. It was dark and Santa figured his sleigh wouldn’t be disturbed. Actually, he knew it wouldn’t be, because any one of his nine reindeer could make short work of any vandals.

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With Rudy and Crew safely out of sight, he was free to roam the city, maybe find a pub and maybe have a beer. Not Guinness, certainly not that, but something. Sadly, he didn’t think he’d be finding a Corona in Bratislava.

Well, he could pub crawl. Maybe he’d get lucky. And so he set out. And straightaway, he spied a pub with some hardy folks braving the cold, drinking beer at outside tables, like in France. A good place to have a beer, he thought.

But then, wouldn’t you know it, his Santa sense went off. It wasn’t a life or death thing. Somebody wasn’t about to take their life. A child wasn’t in danger. Nobody had cancer. But, still he couldn’t ignore it, so he followed two young men who were on their way to get a fix.

Santa didn’t like junk, it was a bad thing, heroin was. Many thought it was the product of the Devil, but Lucy had no use for it either. He liked his evil clients to be bad, rotten and sinister of their own volition. Junkies were no use to him. Not much use to God either, but the Big Guy usually made room for them.

He could have ignored these young men. After all, they weren’t going to die tonight and not tomorrow either. But instead, he followed. 

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And it wasn’t long before the young men led him to their dealer. Ah well, he could mind his own business and walk on by, or he could intervene. He sighed, he was Santa Claus and more than that, he was meddler in people’s affairs. He just couldn’t help it, like Superman, Flash, Green Lantern, Batman and Wonder Woman, he liked to right wrongs and, to his way of thinking, heroin was plenty wrong.

“Excuse me,” he said as he walked up to the group of young men, “I’ll take that.” He held his hand out and to the youth’s surprise, who was holding the bag, he handed it over.

“I don’t know why I did that,” he said.

“Don’t worry about it, you’ll forget all about it in a few minutes.” Then he waved his arm and all of a sudden the four young men had no desire to use. In fact, they’d get sick, just thinking about it. They wouldn’t be able to use ever again. Beer, yes, but nothing stronger. Fine wine okay, but that was it, okay marijuana, but nothing else. Vodka, speed, rum, downers, all were forbidden to these young men till their dying day.

Instead of a horrible life, he predicted all four would marry and find happiness. And in not to distant a future, he’d be delivering toys to their children on Christmas Eve.

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His good deed done, he went back to his sleigh and got a small creche, because he had a future flash of a little girl he was going to meet, who was going to invite him home to meet her parents. And you couldn’t go to someone’s home without a gift. Not if you were Santa Claus.

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Santa didn’t go around with future flashes. Usually he only got them when someone was in extreme danger or when he was about to meet a believer. The little girl he was going to meet was a believer. And he had a special place in his heart for believers.

He was walking along the Danube, with the Apollo Bridge at his back when he met her.

“It’s you,” she said, “It’s really you.”

“It’s me, Anika,” Santa said, “It’s really me.” And because he’s Santa, he talked to her for a few minutes with his conversation leading to the inevitable question, “And what would you like for Christmas?”

And, because he’s Santa, he knew she was going to say, “I’d like you to come home with me and help me make my mom and dad believe in you. And, because he’s Santa, he went.

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At her home, he met her parents, Jolana and Jozef and her Uncle Ján. Their first inclination was to be upset with Anika for bringing a stranger in a Santa suit home. But Santa did his thing, where he looks into someone’s eyes with that special Santa look of his that removes all doubt. It almost always works and work it did.

He spent a few hours with them, regaling them with stories of Christmases past and of the North Pole and the mischief his elves were always getting into and of how much he relied on Rudolf and yes, he really did have a red nose.

And he even had a beer with them. It wasn’t a Corona, but it was pretty, gosh darned good. He hated to say goodbye, because they were wonderful people, but he didn’t want to overstay his welcome. And besides, the night was still young and these good people didn’t need him.

However, he promised to come back next year and it was a promise he intended to keep.

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Back on the street again, he enjoy walking and seeing the sights.

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Window shopping, he saw a beautiful display of three Christmas ornaments and he immediately thought of the three wisemen. It was cleaver, he thought, because he knew that’s what the hanger of the ornaments had in mind when she hung them. She’d wondered if anybody would get it. She couldn’t know it, but Santa Claus got it.

And in a few minutes, he was going to meet her, because she was just down the street with her sister. She had lung cancer. Her sister did too. They were old and they’d smoked their whole lives and this was going to be their last Christmas.

Well, not if he could help it.

He smiled to himself, because they were believers. And that was rare, someone their age, believing.

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“Natalia, Nina,” he said as he approached as they were buying coffee, “Please allow me to introduce myself, I’m Santa Claus.”

“You certainly are.” Natalia presented her cheek and Santa kissed it.

“Now me.” Nina presented hers and he kissed hers too.

“I enjoyed your ornaments,” he said to Nina.

“Thank you.”

“I would like to stay and chat, but I think I’ll surprise Mrs. Claus and get home early.”

“It was a pleasure meeting you,” Nina said.

“I’ll see you wonderful ladies next year.” He smiled.

Nina’s face went sad, “But, Santa—”

“I never lie,” Santa interrupted. “I’ll see you next year and the year after, just to be sure you’re being good.”

And then they understood.

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On his way back to his sleigh, he smelled heaven. So he wandered into a restaurant, where he was overcome with joy.

“You look hungry,” a young man said.

“You can’t begin to know.” He sighed. Mrs Claus had him on this diet of fish and vegetables and he didn’t like fish and vegetables. He liked meat. But it wasn’t allowed. “I just came in for the smell.”

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“Take a look. My wife’s the best cook in Bratislava.” The man pointed to the kitchen. “We’re hosting a wedding reception tonight. It’ll be quite a party, but you’re welcome to sample the fare. On the house.”

He was sorely tempted. Food was his drug. He needed it, wanted it, like those young men earlier needed and wanted heroin. He closed his eyes and sighed, like he’d never sighed before. He wished there was someone who could wave their hand and make him not want to eat so much.

But there wasn’t.

“Sorry,” Santa said. “I’m going to have to pass.”

“You’re a better man than me,” the man said.

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“Hey, Santa!”

He was on his way back to his sleigh, but her voice stopped him cold. “Julie,” he said, “It’s always a pleasure.” She was one of God’s most trusted angels.

“You should come back tomorrow.”

“To Bratislava?”

“No, to Jupiter! Of course to Bratislava.”

“He could’ve just told me.”

“He works in mysterious ways.”

“That He does,” Santa agreed. “Do you have anything else for me?”

“No, He said you’ll know what to do and when to do it.”

“Ah,” he said, but he said it to no one, because Julie wasn’t there anymore. “I hate it when they do that,” he mumbled under his breath.

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And not long after he looked down at the Apollo Bridge as Rudy and Crew took him home, wondering just what tomorrow was going to have in store for him.

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