Ken tried one more time to get the car out of the ditch, but the snow was almost up to the hubs, and he didn't have chains on, and it wasn't going to happen.
Great, he thought. Try to do something nice for somebody and get stuck in a snowdrift in a blizzard. The kids wanted to see Santa the night before Christmas, got all the stuff on, got in the car, headed for the hospital, and spun out and stuck.
In the middle of nowhere. And the snow's getting deeper all the time.
No cell service in the middle of nowhere.
So not only are the kids not going to get to see Santa, they're probably going to find him frozen in the car in a day or two. What a way to go.
A couple of hours later, the car's out of gas now, the heater's off, and it's getting really, really cold. The Santa suit doesn't hold quite enough heat. Funny how that is, because every time he'd put it on before, he'd been sweating like a pig under it.
He started to nod off. Bad idea but it's getting comfortable, and dying in your sleep isn't the worst way to-
and a POW from overhead out of the snowstorm slammed him back awake. Funny, he thought, they don't fly jets in this weather, and certainly not that low to the ground at Mach 1-
When beside him through the snow covered windows a shape settled to the ground. A big shape. From his near-comatose state it looked to him like a sleigh. With eight reindeer.
And from behind it walked a human shape up to the window, which leaned over, knocked, and said "Hey, Ken, sorry we're late. You okay?"
And Ken, smiling because clearly he was having a near-death hallucination, rolled down the window and stuck his hand out, saying, "hi, Kris, thanks for rescuing-"
And he stopped and stared.
It wasn't Santa.
Tall guy, dark hair, steel jaw, red...
Yellow and red ....S? on the front???
"It's okay," he said. "You're not dying or hallucinating." He was busily uncapping a five gallon gas can, popping the lid, and pouring the contents in his tank.
"Are you sure?" said Ken. This was just a little confusing. "You're... not...."
And from the sleigh came a loud, bass ho-ho-ho ...
"I'm just as real as he is."
The man in the cape pointed to the sleigh. "How do you think he could possibly get all those gifts delivered otherwise?" And laughing, he said "everybody knows reindeer can't fly."
And then the man stopped and pointed at him and said "well, actually, it's mostly you guys.
All of you.
We're all part of the same team."
And with a smile, a wave, and a "Merry Christmas", the sleigh, the reindeer, and the man in the cape, were gone. His car had somehow moved itself back onto the road, with four brand new snow tires, and a gas tank that would never, ever read anything but F, ever again.
An hour later he was at the hospital, walking in with a big bag over his shoulder. The kids were already entranced, standing outside in the snow, talking to a...
...man in a blue outfit with a yellow and red S on the chest, in a red cape.
And as he walked up, the man looked up, smiled, said "see? I told you he'd be here."
And waved at Ken, and then at the kids,
And rose into the sky.
Like a bird. Or a plane.
Ken looked at the kids, and with a wink of his eye, put his finger to his lips, and said, "Shhh."
"It's a secret."