~ CHAPTER 1 ~
It was late Christmas Eve. Josiah sat and watched over the orphaned children at the church as they slept. His mind wandered over the past two days. It seemed a lot burned down than the orphanage. Josiah began to feel as though no one in Four Corners really understood Christmas. His gaze left the sleeping children, and he refocused on the altar.
"Lord," Josiah began," I am sorry for the way Four Corners has lost its Christmas spirit. I know I probably should have done something. I have failed, and I am sorry. I wish I could do something for these children…"
Josiah's gaze on the altar became more hypnotic as he stopped speaking. Before his eyes, he witnessed the most brilliant light descend upon the altar. Josiah blinked a couple times and rubbed his eyes with his fists. When he reopened his eyes, he was even more astonished…or startled. Standing there before him, in front of the altar, was an angel lit completely in the Glory of God.
"Wh…Who are you?" Josiah stuttered.
"I am the Spirit of Christmas," the angel sang out.
"What do you want?"
"Well, why are you here?"
"To help you understand a few things."
"Me? Understand a few things?" Josiah asked.
"Yes. It seems you feel a need to apologize to our Lord for failing Him. Josiah, you have not failed. You, too, are one of God's children just as much as any of these children," the spirit told him.
"But, I couldn't get anyone to think of anyone else but themselves. Everyone seems to have gotten wrapped up in his or her own world. They have their own problems and don't care about anyone or anything else," Josiah told the Spirit of Christmas.
"You are mistaken, Josiah. You need to see the events of these two days from a different perspective."
"What do you mean?"
"Josiah, you have been so busy yourself tending to these children that you have not left this church but for mere moments where you interacted with the people of this town."
"Are you saying that I am the one who has lost the Christmas spirit?" Josiah asked.
The angel smiled, "No, Josiah, it's there. You've just been blinded by your expectations of others. These folks are all different; they are individuals. That is the way they were made. You can not expect them to do as you would. Their priorities are not yours and vice versa. Some of them have reasons for the way they are acting, and they need to deal with those issues before they can help anyone else. They need guidance. Guidance they will and have been given, but you mustn't judge them on the acts you witness. You must open your mind to the possibility they will come through their own dark time and see the light. It may take some longer than others, but you must have faith. The people of this town are good people. The men you have befriended are good men…all of them. You need to learn to trust them rather than doubt them," the Spirit of Christmas explained.
Josiah approached the altar and the spirit.
"How can I have faith and trust in them? Some of them have refused to help these children; others only seem to care about their own pain at this time of year or of their possessions. I have hardly seen anyone in this church to see these orphans except Buck and JD. Even at that, they are here for a short while and then they leave."
"Josiah…" the angel began.
"I am sorry," Josiah interrupted, "but I am going to try to give these children a decent Christmas. I don't need anyone from Four Corners to bother with them. I'll stay here all of Christmas Day, and I'll do my best to provide these children with a good Christmas."
"Josiah Sanchez, you have a good heart, but you've already been in this church too long. You need to step outside just for a moment…long enough to see what has been going on around you while you have been hiding here," the spirit told him.
"Hiding? I have not been hiding!" Josiah snapped.
"Haven't you? You have no idea how to turn the events of the past two days around; so, you stay here. Ever since Ezra turned you down for help, you have hidden in here; so, you would not have to deal with him or anyone else. You have heard only bits and pieces of what is going on outside those doors. Before Christmas Day can come, you must understand what has transpired before hand."
"What exactly do you mean?" Josiah questioned.
"I will show you what these people have been doing while you were here sheltered by these walls."
The Spirit of Christmas ushered Josiah to a window in the church overlooking Main Street.
"What do you see?" the spirit asked.
"Darkness, stillness…there's few people up," Josiah answered.
"You see only what is immediately visible to you eyes."
"Well, I'm sorry, I do not have the ability to see through the walls of these buildings," Josiah responded slightly sarcastic, yet never raising his voice above a whisper.
"You need to open your mind, as well as your eyes, Josiah. These people look up to you. They have not lost their spirit, Josiah. It is you who have closed your eyes and mind and become a little misguided yourself. Look again."
Josiah slowly turned back towards the window. The sun shone bright, as he shielded his eyes from the glare. The street was no longer empty, but full of people busily preparing for Christmas Day.
"You see, Josiah, you needed to just open your mind and your eyes."
Josiah was speechless. He reached for his pocket watch; it was still late Christmas Eve. How could this be? The children were still all asleep.
"Come, Josiah, I will show you the Spirit of Christmas in Four Corners," the spirit told him.
~ CHAPTER 2 ~
Josiah and the angel, the Spirit of Christmas, walked out of the church. It was once again two days before Christmas. The spirit took Josiah to where he had become misguided - St. Nicholas' Orphan Ranch.
"This is where it happened," the spirit told him.
"What happened?" Josiah asked.
"You became misguided. You see, there? The look in your face. You thought all was lost because the orphanage burned as well as the gifts."
"And it wasn't?"
"No, Josiah; it helped others get through difficult times."
"How?" Josiah asked.
"See how Buck and JD help you rescue all the children and bring them to town?"
"Yeah, but they really were the only ones. Mary brought some food, but…"
"But what? Come along," the angel guided Josiah back to town where Ezra refused to help.
"You call that Christmas spirit?" Josiah said referring to Ezra denying his monetary help.
"Ezra was misguided. He will see the spirit. Come."
The Spirit of Christmas led Josiah to Ezra's bedroom. They watched as Ezra was visited by his ghosts. With each hour that passed, a new ghost appeared. Josiah and the Spirit of Christmas walked with each ghost and Ezra witnessing all that they saw. When they returned to Ezra's bedroom for the last time, Josiah watched as Buck and Vin came to the gambler as he awoke screaming. Buck left Vin and Ezra alone. Ezra confided in Vin as to what happened to him and requested his help in making things right. Vin agreed to help. Josiah and the angel spirit traveled with Vin and Ezra as they purchased gifts for the orphans. Josiah felt a smile come to his face when he watched Ezra dress in a Santa Claus suit.
"That is enough here," the spirit announced as they left the shop.
The spirit, next, brought Josiah to see Chris. Chris was sitting in a chair outside the jail. Josiah wondered why the look across his face was so melancholy.
"What's wrong with him?" Josiah asked.
"He's remembering his wife and son. He's also feeling a sense of worthlessness."
"Yes, look around…no one has spoken to him, and no one appears to know he's here."
"That's why he left, isn't it?" Josiah asked.
"Yes, it is. Now, I'll show you why he came back."
The Spirit of Christmas took Josiah's horse and one more. They both mounted and followed Chris. Josiah watched as Chris fell from his horse in the dry creek bed and was rescued by Francis. He traveled back to Four Corners following closely behind Chris and Francis. Josiah saw what Francis showed Chris. He watched quietly as Francis explained how Buck had died…how Billy, Vin and Nathan all had died. He visited, with them, the jail where Ezra sat. He watched Chris talk to JD in the saloon. Josiah, along with Chris, witnessed an unruly town that had no signs of Christmas. Mary was a bitter woman, who had lost her son and husband. Then, there was he. Josiah watched Chris talk to his image - a scruffy, vagabond-type, uncaring and arrogant. Josiah and the Spirit of Christmas also rode out of this Four Corners with Chris. They returned to where he fell. When he fell again, Chris awoke alone. He rose to his feet and rode to town hollering. Josiah had been one of those that greeted Chris when he had come back. He wondered what had happened.
When Nathan had disappeared, Josiah couldn't believe Nathan would run out on them. He figured Nathan to be one to hang around and help. Josiah knew Nathan was delivering a baby only after Nathan had come back to tell them.
"Would you like to see what Nathan was doing?" the spirit asked.
"He says he was delivering a baby," Josiah answered.
"Yes, he was. Come, I will show you."
The Spirit of Christmas took Josiah out to Nettie Wells' homestead. He watched the couple ride up. He watched them sleep in the stable. When Nettie awoke and found the couple in the stable, she awoke Casey and sent her after Nathan. Nathan and Casey returned to the stable a short time later. Nathan examined the pregnant woman. He then informed Nettie the woman had some time left before the baby would be born. He left for a short time to tell folks back in Four Corners where he was and what he was up to. While there, he greeted Chris and tended to the wound in Chris' forehead. Josiah and the spirit returned to the stable with Nathan after the Four Corners visit. Josiah watched as Nathan, Casey and Nettie tended to the woman and her husband. He witnessed the difficult birth of the newborn. He saw Vin, Chris and Buck ride up with their gifts for the infant and his parents.
"Are you ready to find out what Buck was up to?" the spirit angel asked Josiah.
"I suppose I am," Josiah answered.
The two went back to Four Corners where Buck was having a conversation with little Jenny at the church. She told him the story of her mother and the harmonica. Josiah had thought it nice of Buck to get her the harmonica, but he didn’t know what was involved with getting the harmonica. The Spirit of Christmas walked him through Buck's trek through different towns trying to locate a harmonica. Josiah saw Buck take the harmonica from Vin's wagon leaving an IOU note in its place. He remembered how happy Jenny was when Buck gave it to her. She began to play the instrument like it was a part of her. She played perfectly…what talent her remembered thinking as he thanked Buck for making her Christmas. What he didn't know was that Buck had in a sense stolen the harmonica from Vin. The spirit showed how Vin had become upset at the IOU note forcing Buck to sell his prized possession - his mother's locket. Buck then visited one of the towns he had found a harmonica at but couldn't afford. Josiah and the angel watched as Buck purchased the harmonica and rode back to Four Corners. He wrote a new note and left the note and the harmonica for Vin.
"You see, Josiah, so far you are wrong. They have Christmas in their hearts; they were just going about it in a misguided way," the spirit told him.
"What about JD? He found Walt's family, who also adopted three more children. I know he did good." Josiah replied.
"Yes, he did."
The spirit showed Josiah how JD went about searching for the family. How he had Mary help him by wiring her friends in other towns. How he had ridden to those towns Mary had no contacts. Josiah saw the extent JD and Mary had gone to. JD rode most of the day to locate the family just so a little boy could spend Christmas with his family. Much to JD's surprise and everyone else's, Walt's family was still intact. His parents, once thought to be dead, were still alive. Those same parents believed him to be dead; imagine their surprise when they learned their son was still alive. Josiah smiled when he saw how JD talked to the family and brought them back to Four Corners to reunite them with Walt. In addition, another boy and two little girls also found a home with Walt's family.
The Spirit of Christmas took Josiah back to Four Corners.
"What about Vin?" Josiah asked.
"What about him?"
"What has he been up to?"
"Vin has been working a great deal with Ezra, as you remember Ezra asked him to help guide him to a different future," the spirit told him.
"Yes, but what else has he been doing?" Josiah asked.
"Well, come see for yourself."
They walked down Main Street where Vin was talking to Virginia and Santa. Josiah watched as they talked. Virginia told Santa what she wanted, and her mother came to scold Virginia, Vin and Santa. He listened as Santa told Vin why the Madisons were in town.
"They are in financial troubles?" Josiah asked the angel spirit.
"Yes," the spirit answered.
Josiah watched as Vin and Santa spoke to Ezra about paying the mortgage on the Madison homestead.
"So, Ezra isn't helping the orphans, now?" Josiah asked.
"Just watch," the Spirit of Christmas told him.
He did as he was told and watched. Kris a.k.a. Santa told Ezra he would take care of the orphans if Ezra would pay the mortgage. When agreed, Santa took Ezra's money into the bank; so, Ezra would not be recognized. He returned with the deed marked "paid in full". Virginia approached the threesome only to have her mother call Judge Travis to have Santa arrested for preying on young children. Josiah watched, as Vin had to do his duty and arrest Santa. Next, the angel had Josiah attend the hearing where Mary and Vin had to convince the judge and townspeople not to prosecute Kris Kringle. They succeeded and Kris and Vin left the meetinghouse. Josiah and the spirit again followed them down Main Street. They entered the Standish Tavern and met up with Ezra. Josiah watched as Santa thanked Ezra and gave both Ezra and Vin advice for Christmas Day. He, then, watched as Santa left Four Corners.
The Spirit of Christmas took Josiah back to the church.
"Vin helped a man who claimed he was Santa; So?" Josiah said
"So, he did not just help Santa; he also helped save that family from losing their home. If Santa stayed in jail, he would not have been able to give the family their deed. You see that is what they will find tomorrow under their Christmas tree. You hear that?" the spirit asked Josiah.
"Sounds like someone wishing people Merry Christmas…must be someone coming out of the tavern drunk," Josiah replied.
"You think so? Go look out the window."
Josiah did as he was told. When he looked outside, he saw a small red glow in the dark sky. He heard the voice of the jolly old man dressed in red that Vin had helped.
Josiah turned around to face the Spirit of Christmas once more; however, the spirit was gone. Josiah decided to turn in for the night. As he lay down and closed his eyes, a smile spread across his face. He hadn’t failed at all. His friends and the town of Four Corners had not lost sight of the Christmas spirit.
~ CHAPTER 3 ~
Christmas morning came early at Josiah's little church. The children awoke nearly at the break of dawn. Josiah peeked out the window where the Spirit of Christmas had shown him what Four Corners had been doing the past couple days. To his surprise, he found a new blanket of freshly fallen Christmas snow covering Main Street.
Before the orphanage had burned, Josiah had made plans to have Christmas dinner at Nettie Wells' place. Now, he had to stay with the children, at least he thought so until Mrs. Potter arrived with several members of the community.
"Mrs. Potter, Merry Christmas!" exclaimed Josiah.
"Merry Christmas, Josiah," she answered.
"What brings you here?"
"Well, I know you had plans to go to the Wells' home for Christmas dinner. A few of us talked about how good of you it was to take these children in and care for them the way you did after the orphanage burned. We decided that we would relieve you of the duty you bestowed upon yourself. Several of us here in town will take turns tending to the children while you are celebrating Christmas at Nettie's."
"That's very nice of y'all; thank you," Josiah offered his gratitude.
"Merry Christmas, Josiah," Mrs. Potter wished again.
"Merry Christmas, Josiah," a few of the townspeople also wished him as they walked away.
A man in a Santa Claus suit appeared seemingly out of nowhere as the previous crowd dispersed.
"Ho, ho, ho…Merry Christmas!" Santa exclaimed as he entered the church with a large sack.
"Merry Christmas…uh…Santa," Josiah responded drawing the attention of all the children.
The children ran to the spot where Santa was standing.
They screamed and chanted, "Santa!"
"To what do we owe this special visit?" Josiah asked with a smile.
"Santa has been informed of the disastrous misfortune that has deprived these youngsters of a joyous and memorable Christmas," Santa replied as his emerald green eyes twinkled.
Josiah recognized the mysterious Santa's vocabulary, the brilliant green in his twinkling eyes and his unmistakable voice; although, he did attempt to disguise it.
"OK, children, please, go gather around the tree we put up," Josiah told them.
Josiah ushered Santa over to the Christmas tree. On the way, he confronted the green-eyed, smooth-talking Santa Claus.
"So, Ezra, what changed your mind?"
"My desire to bring these underprivileged children joy and happiness."
"Do not question my motives further."
Josiah smiled and placed a chair down beside the Christmas tree for Santa/Ezra to sit. Santa sat in the chair and invited the children up to him one by one as he took gifts from his sack. The children took the package handed them, and thanked Santa. Their eyes filled with awe as they unwrapped the gifts. Each child received exactly the gift they had requested of Vin. When the sack emptied, Santa rose from his chair. Josiah walked him to the door.
"I guess we'll see you next year," Josiah said.
"We will see. As for the orphanage, do not fret, Mr. Sanchez. It shall be rebuilt." Santa replied.
"Merry Christmas to all! Ho, ho, ho!" Santa again exclaimed as he exited the church.
When the time had come, Mrs. Potter returned to the church.
"Are you ready to go?" she asked Josiah.
"Yes, thank you, again. Merry Christmas," Josiah responded as he left the children to Mrs. Potter's care.
Josiah joined Chris, Vin, Ezra, Buck, JD and Nathan. The seven men mounted their horses and rode out to Nettie Wells' homestead. Upon arrival, they met Judge Travis, Mary and Billy. Ezra, JD, Josiah, Mary, Billy and the judge also finally met the Christiansons, who were staying with Nettie until Maria and Jesus were able to travel.
All seven men, Mary and Billy, Judge Travis, Nettie and Casey, Paul and Maria Christianson sat down for their Christmas dinner. The little infant, Jesus, lay beside his mother, Maria, in the cradle Buck, Vin and Chris brought.
The Spirit of Christmas was present all about Four Corners. The day after Christmas, Ezra put forth the funds to rebuild the orphanage at St. Nicholas' Orphan Ranch. Everyone from Four Corners helped in some way. The womenfolk prepared and cooked meals for the men, who were busy sawing, hammering and putting together the new and hopefully temporary home for the orphaned children. The older children themselves even offered a hand in the rebuilding.
Comments to: Vin n Ezra@aol.com