By John-Paul Marciano
Peter was distracted by a streak of light across the sky followed by the sound of metal scraping asphalt. He had been busy rolling a giant snowball he planned on using as a base for his snowman. The proximity of what he saw and heard piqued his curiosity and distracted him.
Peter was trudging to the fence in the backyard through a foot of snow when he heard a deep throated “Hah-ah-ah” followed by another streak of light. Now the five-year-old stumbled his way to the front yard as fast as his feet would take him. When he finally reached the fence he looked to his left. A well-dressed man with a neatly trimmed beard and long jet black shoulder-length hair was rounding the corner whistling an unrecognizable tune.
“Hey there, young fellow,” the man called out in a baritone voice. “Hello,” Peter replied hesitantly. He turned to see if his father was looking out the front window. Fortunately, his father was busy baking ginger snap cookies and wasn’t watching. His father constantly stressed that he not talk to strangers.
He turned back to face the grinning stranger. “Parents teach you not to talk to strangers?” the man asked. Peter nodded his reply. The stranger’s grin turned to a smile. “Pretty sound advice if you ask me,” he said conspiratorially. “I’m in a quandary, though. I’m looking for Peachtree Lane but it’s not on my map. Think you can help me out?”
Again, Peter nodded but initially said nothing. The man looked at Peter questioningly and said, “Well?” Peter hesitated for a beat before speaking. He pointed to his right and said, “Two blocks that way then take a left. Go to the third light and turn right. Follow the road until you see the house with the huge snow globe in the front yard. The next street on the left is Peachtree Lane.”
“That sounds simple enough. Thank you very much.”
“Are you going to walk there?” Peter asked. The man shook his head and let out a summoning whistle. “I have a ride.”
A flash of light to his left caught Peter’s attention. The gentleman began walking away. Peter watched as the man stood on the runners of a sled behind eight reindeer in the middle of the street. As Peter looked on the man’s hair and beard turned snow white and his clothing morphed to red. Peter’s new friend grabbed the reins and took his seat in the sled.
The reindeer pulled the sled slowly until the sled was directly in front of Peter. Peter gazed in awe as the man gave him a wink and a nod. He snapped the reins and, in the blink of an eye, disappeared down the street.
“There you are,” Peter’s father said as he came up beside him. “Were you just talking to someone?” Peter nodded and said, “Some old guy was looking for Peachtree Lane.”
“How many times do I have to tell you not to talk to strangers?”