Buzz Scanlan, the ten-year-old terror of Titusville, Florida, slammed down the lid of the white metal mailbox on the front of his house. Then he kicked the white siding below it so hard that he left a dent in the vinyl. And he kicked it twice more after that. Each time, the dent got deeper and his angry cries got louder. "Not there!" He scrubbed his fingers in his jet black rat's nest of hair, then smacked the mailbox with the flat of his hand. "It's not there!" He might have been the nastiest kid in the neighborhood, but he was right. Buzz had dug his dirty paw through every square inch of that mailbox and found nothing. The thing he should have found, the thing he'd been expecting, wasn't there. It was a good thing Buzz didn't have a grenade launcher just then. He was mad enough to use it. Because for the first time in five years, he hadn't gotten his special "present" on Christmas Eve. "Where is it?" Buzz clenched his teeth and kicked the siding one more time for bad measure. He thought about pulling the mailbox off the house and stomping it flat. But his mom flung open the front door before he could do it. "Buzz! What's going on out here?" Buzz spun to face her. "Did you take it? Did you?" Mom, who was a good two feet taller than Buzz, frowned down at him. "Take what?" "My present," snarled Buzz. "It's Christmas Eve, and it isn't here!" Mom nodded, and the frown melted away on her pretty, oval face...only to suddenly return, deeper than ever. "That's why you're mad? Because you didn't get it?" Buzz glared at his mom as a fresh wave of anger rolled through him. "If you didn't take it, who did? You know, don't you?" "I have no idea, Buzz." Mom rolled her eyes and crossed her arms. "Even if I did, why would it matter?" Buzz felt the urge to drive another kick into the siding, but he held back. "Because I need to know, that's why! I need to know why it didn't come this year." Mom raised her eyebrows and shook her head. "You mean to tell me you want a lump of coal for Christmas?" Buzz wrinkled up his face in his second-favorite expression—a demonic scowl that had been known to send pit bulls running away with their tails between their legs. "You don't understand." Mom shrugged. "We can put one in your stocking, if it'll make you feel better." "It wouldn't be the same." Buzz glared down at his sneakers, the ones with the orange flames printed on the sides and the holes in both big toes. Everything he wore had holes—not because his family was poor, but because he beat the living daylights out of all of his clothes. "You're right, I don't understand." Mom sighed. "You've been getting a lump of coal in the mailbox every Christmas Eve, with a note attached that says what a naughty kid you are. I'd think you'd be glad it didn't happen this year." Buzz snorted and scuffed his sneaker on the brown boards of the porch. "But why? Why would Santa stop giving me a lump?" Mom leaned down and smiled at him. "Well, Buzz, did you ever stop and think..." She reached out and ruffled the black rat's nest on his head. "...maybe you finally did something nice this year?" Buzz couldn't stop the look of pure horror from clawing its way onto his face. Him? Do something good? The thought of it made his stomach churn and his heart burn. It went against everything he lived for and cared about and believed in. It wasn't possible, no way, no how. Or was it?
Robert T. Jeschonek (Author)