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This week’s WordPress Photo Challenge is “surprise”. While I am trying to think of something (and shopping) I am re-posting this story “…And A Surprise” from last year. I am justifying this to myself with the thought that Christmas is the season for repeats. Just have a look at the TV schedules, not to mention the effect that sprouts have upon your digestion…

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He knew not to expect it.

He had always been told that when he was seven Santa would bring him a Playstation. His seventh birthday had been six weeks earlier and it was now early on Christmas Morning, but he knew that the Playstation would not be coming.

He knew this because he knew that there was no Santa, that it was just his Mum and Dad, and he knew that there were problems about money, because the company Dad worked for had closed down during the summer. He knew because had noticed that they hadn‘t repaired the dishwasher when it broke, and that they did the washing-up by hand, that Dad never went to the pub anymore, that Mum had given up smoking. He knew because Mum had taken to cutting his hair, leaving him looking like Tintin at the front and like an old tennis-ball at the back.

He knew because when he was in bed at night he had sometimes heard them arguing about money.

So when he had had to write his letter to Santa (he had never told them he didn’t believe anymore, he felt that it was important to them that he still did) he had taken a deep breath, then had written “Dear Santa, I would like a book, a selection box and a surprise”. Mum had stared at the list.

“A book?” she’d said. “I thought you wanted a Playstation?”

“Nah, Playstations are for girls,” he’d replied, then realised even as he said it how ludicrous that sounded. His mum had looked thoughtfully at him for a moment or two. “I’m sure you’re probably right,” she’d said softly, eventually.

Now, as his clock showed that it was an acceptable time (5.04) to be getting up on Christmas morning, he swung his little legs out onto the floor and began to go through the pile of presents at the end of his bed. The red stocking with his name on it was on top, and he emptied it of its mandarin orange, its 2-euro coin, its strange walking-stick candies that appear at Christmas and at no other time of the year and of course its pair of socks, because a male always receives socks at Christmas, no matter what age he is.

He turned then to the other presents. There was the book. (Never Let Me Go, his parents weren’t experts on the reading habits of seven-year olds). There was the selection box. And then he turned to the surprise.

It was a Playstation.

He gave a quick squeak of astonishment and delight, heard a chuckle and looked up. His Mum and Dad stood framed in the doorway of his bedroom.

“I guess Santa thought you might like a Playstation after all,” said Dad.

He said nothing, he didn’t know how to begin. He knew Santa didn’t exist, couldn’t exist, it just made no sense. Reindeer don’t fly, let alone have red noses, most people don’t have chimneys , he’d have to beam in and out like in Star Trek, and no sack could carry all the toys, it’d have to be like Mary Poppins’ carpet-bag.

And yet, his parents couldn‘t possibly have afforded it …..

He was a very-logically-minded little boy, but there were times when logic just didn’t seem to know everything.

An hour later, it was all set up and he sat furiously working his thumbs to enable one set of computer-generated creatures to marmelise another. Downstairs his parents listened to the roars, yells and explosions (and they were just from him) and smiled at each other sheepishly, guiltily and yet a little defiantly.

Two days earlier they had walked into their local DVD store, Dad had asked the sales assistant whether it was necessary to have seen a Night at the Opera before watching Night at the Museum and while the assistant was patiently explaining that the two films were in no way related Mum had stuck a Playstation into the huge coat that she used to wear when she’d been pregnant with their son, their wonderful son who had asked Santa for a book to spare them embarrassment.

Just because a story contains three lovely people, you can’t always expect them to be perfect.

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