It was last year, in the middle of the night, when something woke me up. I got out of bed and went to the living room.
He was sitting in my recliner reading the paper. He must have heard me because he looked up.
I sat down on the sofa and asked, “What you doing?”
“Minding my own business. I recommend it highly.”
Jolly ol’ Saint Nick.
“I ask because you’re wearing my hat,” I said. That’s what I say when someone sits in my chair. I like to be oblique.
“Won’t be here long. Busy night.”
“Haven’t seen you in a while, Cool Kid.”
“Really? I thought you sees me when I’m sleeping and, you know, knows when I’m awake.”
“Meh. Anyway, got something for you.” He reached into the big bag beside him, pulled out a present and tossed it across the room.
I caught it.
“Wow,” I said. “Speaking of a while.”
“Yeah. I don’t usually do grown-ups. But you never did really grow up, did you Cool Kid?”
“Old age,” I said. “It’s the only disease you don’t want to be cured of.” Part of my obliqueness is quoting movies in the middle of a conversation. That one’s from “Citizen Kane.”
I ran my hands over the present. I squeezed it through the gift wrapping. It felt like a book.
“A book?” I asked. I’m not always oblique.
“Not just any book. That book has every other book in it.”
“Man, Claus. That riddle is older than Nebuchadnezzar. It’s a dictionary, then?”
He smiled again.
Belly swaying, he got up, walked over and patted me on the shoulder. “Good seeing you again, Cool Kid. But I gotta run. Prancer gets fidgety.”
And for my lack of a chimney, he walked out the door.
I held the present for a few moments, savoring the mystery. Then I ripped off the wrapping.
He was right. It was a book that had every other book in it.
You probably have one like it. Similar, but not the same.
The thing is, the book that has every other book in it is a different book for everyone. It’s that book you read when you were young that turned you into a lifelong reader.
For me, it’s “Farmer in the Sky” by Robert Heinlein.
I hadn’t owned a copy in many, many years.
Good ol’ Claus. He’s a bit of a snoop and, technically, a serial trespasser ... still, he knows. He really knows.
I wanted to thank him, but I knew I was too late. Because I heard him exclaim as he drove out of sight ...
“Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night!”
To contact writer Randy Waters, call 744-4240.