The sky shimmered as I blistered the day with my angry heat but that was yesterday and tonight I stand on a lonely one tree hill trembling beneath the stars sister moon reflecting in my watering eyesÖ

I lifted him {old man with no name solitary existence down the street grumbling whenever I called out and wavedÖ} from the gutter once - he asked if I wanted some tea. I shook my head no, then he asked if he could bum a smoke "and maybe a taste of your rum." I laughed as I brushed him off, handed him a cigarette and my flask, then helped him back into his house.

"Have you ever noticed the beauty of simplicity?" He inquired as he opened the door, and not bothering to wait for my reply, headed into the house and disappeared down a hall. "Donít ask me, Iím just improvising" was my usual smart ass reply but that thought disappeared as my eyes adjusted to the dim light and the details of my surroundings slowly emerged. I was amazed - the house was filled with all kinds of knick knacks, toys, photos, and mementos from the better than-ish times. Memories were triggered off as I recognized one item, and then another and then, oh yes, that one... {running through the fields if we ran any faster surely we would disappear into the clouds mouth frozen from screaming our joy the warmth of the summer sun rushing to gently turn our skin to golden brown} "So, how do you like your tea?" I shook my head to regain my senses, and mumbled "sugar and cream, please" before remembering that I really didnít drink tea. He appeared with a tray and entreated me to sit with him. The chairs were old and comfortable, like the ones in my grandmotherís house, but without the plastic. I took a cup and continued to gaze, sipping quietly as my mind coped with a jumble of thoughts and feelings. I, the man of many words and quick smart ass remarks, simply said "Wow, this is so cool" He chuckled and asked me if I was enjoying my tea. "Yes, well, actually, yes. Where did you get all this stuff? You must have been collecting for quite some time" "Yes, well, actually, yes", he chuckled again. I wondered if I had just been smart assed. I reminded myself that I am way too sensitive, and that I really should follow the Buddhist way of answering - think three times about what you are going to say, then only say it one time out of ten. It would probably save me a lot of grief. Just as I finished this tangent he picked up a wonderful figurine of a snowman (I have a particular affinity for snowmen) and he began telling a story. I started to fidget - Iím not one to sit still for long - but soon he had my undivided attention. I totally forgot about the cup of tea in my hands. It was quite a wonderful story. I wonít bother you with the details, youíll just have to believe me. I would most likely mess it up anyway. He put the figurine down and asked if I wanted any more tea. "Um, what? Oh, well, no thanks. I probably should be going, I donít want to bother you" I replied politely and reluctantly, much to my amusement,. "No bother at all. Come by any time." he said, standing up. I put my cup down and also stood up. "By the way, whatís your name?" He looked off in the distance. "Well, I donít really know. My memory isnít what is used to be, if it ever was. But Nick seems to have a comfortable sound to it." "Please to meet you Nick, Iím Tony". We shook hands and he showed me to the door. I turned around on the porch to say good-bye, but instead I said "No, I have never noticed the beauty of simplicity". As he smiled at my reply, I remarked "You know, you remind me of someone I know, but Iím not sure who." "I get that a lot", he said, looking off into the distance again. We said our good-byes and I headed home, finding myself in a pretty good mood. And I was whistling. Well, attempting to, I canít whistle. Oh well.

I dropped by irregularly at first, but then it became daily. He would always tell a different story about the past. I mean the past past, the stuff in history books. But there were a lot of details that I never remembered reading about, almost like he was there when it happened. We became pretty good friends, even though he would forget my name occasionally, and I actually started to like tea. And whistling.

Christmas Eve came and I had picked him up a figurine of a snowman I had found in an antique store. I knew he had one already but one can never have too many snowmen. As his house came into view, I noticed a black sedan parked out front. "Thatís odd. Well, maybe heís got family visiting" I knocked on the door and a well dressed man (Iím talking 3-piece Italian suit) holding a clipboard answered the door. I stared. "Well, yes, what can I do for you?" he asked impatiently, tapping his pen on the clipboard. "Um, well , yes, well, I was looking for Nick" I replied. "Heís rather busy right now, perhaps you should come back tomorrow." Still tapping that pen. "Oh, well, um, I kind of wanted to give him a Christmas present." Was I sweating? His tapping paused for a moment. "Really?" He said it slowly and as if he thought I was lying. "Well, come in then." He stepped aside and I entered with some hesitation. "Iíll go get Nick. Please wait here." Then he disappeared down the hall. As many times as I had been in the house, I had never been down that hall. I wondered why this was the first time I had ever noticed. Nick came around the corner and I almost dropped the little Frosty. He was dressed in a bright red suitÖand well, he was dressed like Santa. I had no ready reply. "MERRY CHRISTMAS, TONY!" he roared deeply. Yes, I was sweating. "Um, well, yes, uh, well, I didnít mean to bother you but I brought you a present." I said meekly, handing him the figurine. He paused, and the house seem to grow quite as he examined the figurine. "Well, isnít this wonderful. Itís been quite some time since Iíve received a present, especially a Christmas present. A long time indeed. Thank you. Thank you very much." He said it in way that made me feel very warm and satisfied. The well dressed man reappeared and he was tapping that pen again. "Ahem. Boss, we really need to get going. Your ride will be here any minute." He didnít say anything for a moment, still gazing at the figurine. Slowly, he turned and placed it on the fireplace mantle, where there were hardly any items at all. Thatís amazing, I thought. How come I never noticed that either? "Yes, your right." He headed for the door, pausing to grab a wonderful red hat. "Come along, Tony." And then he was out the door, clipboard man in tow. I had no ready reply. My mind was burning again. I sighed and followed.

The Tapping Pen man was reading from his clipboard and Nick was nodding his head, looking up into the night sky. The reading stopped and the assistant took out a beautiful gold stopwatch and glanced at the time. He was quite irritable but man, did he know how to dress!. As I was contemplating on asking him where he shopped when I heard bells in the distance. How cool, and how fitting, I thought. It was Christmas eve after all.

I found my courage and walked over to the pair. "Um, well, yes, well, I was wondering if you wouldnít mind telling me what was going on?". Three piece suit man blankly stared at me. I started to think "maybe I should have kept quiet, and I really got to try that Buddhist thing" when he smiled. "You donít get it, do you?" he asked. Did I detect patience? "Well, um, no, I guess I donít. Um, get what?" "Donít you know who Nick is?" "Um, well, heís a forgetful old man that lives down the street from me in a rather cluttered house. He used to grumble a lot but now heís pretty cool. And heís a great storyteller. Is that what you mean?" "No. Who does he look like?" "Well, right now he looks like a great Santa. He could make a lot of money down at the mall." He laughed. Puzzled, I looked over at Nick. He had his hands on his hips and he was still looking into the night sky. The source of the bells seemed to be coming closer. And what was that moving red light? Awfully low for an airplane. I looked back at Mister Suave. "No my naÔve friend, he is THE Santa Klaus." Shah! Yeah, right! When monkeys fly out of my butt! Now who was being naÔve? But for once I tried the Buddhist thing and kept quiet.

Armani man said "You might want to move over here with me." I kept quiet and did what he said. The bells were really close now. And that airplane sure looked like it was going to crash into Nickís house. I hope he had insurance. Suddenly, a flying sleigh with reindeer appeared and glided to a smooth landing on Nickís lawn. This was pretty cool. I started to look around for the crane. Italian suit man left my side and headed for the sleigh. He reached into his pocket and offered something to each reindeer. They ate whatever it was and seemed to really appreciate it. Not only does this guy know how to dress, he is one prepared dude. I decided I liked him despite that pen and clipboard thing. Nick was all smiles. He whispered softly to the reindeer, calling them each by name as he patted and rubbed their heads. I heard "Rudolph" and then I saw a brilliant red flash. I had to get one of those. Probably went through batteries like crazy, though.

My new buddy went back to looking through his clipboard, flipping through the pages and checking things off. Twice. How anal. Oh well, friends canít be perfect. He then pulled out his watch again, clucked his tongue, and went over to say something to Nick. Nick nodded his head and headed for the sleigh. I was still looking for the crane. Nick paused and turned to face me. "Well, donít just stand there, wish me a Merry Christmas!" His voice seemed to have changed. "Um, well, yes, of course, Merry Christmas", I replied half heartedly. Nick approached me. The reindeer seemed to turn and watch. He stopped and his face came close to mine. I suddenly smelled pine trees and cinnamon and egg nog andÖ {We gathered around the tree groggy parents in tow smiling at our excitement and our oohs and ahs We paused for the briefest moment to admire the glittering of the waiting presentsÖ} "Have you been a good boy, Tony?" He smiled a wonderful smile. "Of course you have" he said, not waiting for my reply. Then, "What would you like for Christmas, friend?" I could not think, could not find my tongue, could notÖ "I knowÖ" and with that he placed his hand on my chest. Suddenly, my heart was bursting with the warmness of a loving embrace and my mind was filled with the bright stuff of dreams. I had no reply. But now I knew who the naÔve one was. Santa Claus had just called me "friend". Was I crying? He chuckled and turned toward his sleigh. With a leap and bound he was aboard. His assistant, already seated and waiting, waved at me. Nick then looked at me and asked, "Have you ever noticed the beauty of simplicity?" With that he twisted his nose and whistled, loudly calling out all the reindeers names. There was another brilliant red flash and they were off, heading off into the night. I didnít bother to look for the crane.

As I lost sight of them, I heard "Merry Christmas to all, and to all a Good Night!" "Merry Christmas!", I replied, this time with a little more feeling. Then I whispered to no one in particular "Why, yes, I have noticed the beauty of simplicity. Itís the pride you felt when you first tied your shoes, the joy you felt when you first touched the bottom of the deep end of the pool, the happiness you felt when you first got to stay up late. Yes, I have noticed." Yes, I was crying. And man, could I whistle!