I have been very good this year. I don't want anything for me, but if you could help my dad get a job that would make us very happy.
Dear Santa Claus-
Please help my mommy get off drugs. She smokes rocks all the time and me and my sister don't have a lot of food to eat. My mommy is a good mommy but she is sad all the time.
I love you and all the reindeer.
My name is Connor. I have been very good this year. Please bring my little brother Michael the new Hess truck with the race car, bring my sister Mary a baby doll, and please bring my mom a new boyfriend who won't hit her.
Jack threw the letter down in disgust. Who's bright idea was it to answer letters to Santa? He thought he'd be reading requests for toys and puppies, not pleas for help. He lit a cigarette and took a long drag, trying to calm down. This was the most depressing thing he'd ever done. He looked over at the last letter; the return address was a few streets over from his apartment. He picked it up and read it again; he could probably pick up toys at the local Target, maybe get some food and hats and mittens to throw in a bag or something. Jack pulled on a rumpled jacket and shoved the letter deep into his pocket as he headed out the door.
An hour later he was standing outside a small house bare of any decorations, a lone outsider to all its festive neighbors. He was just going to leave the bags of presents at the door and take off when the sound of something crashing made him shift into full alert. He was trying to assess the situation when he heard the back door slam, then an engine start. He slid behind the porch baluster and saw a pick up truck shoot out of the drive way, tires screeching as the tail lights faded into the distance. Jack watched them disappear, then realized he was being watched. He spun around, coming face to face with a little boy about five. The two of them stared at each other. Jack felt stupid. He moved closer to the door, crouching down to look the kid in the eye.
The kid nodded his head, then gave a quick glance over his shoulder. He bit his lip, trying to decide if this stranger could be trusted.
A cold anger ran down Jack's spine. He took in a couple of breaths to steady himself again.
"Where's your mom?"
The kid hesitated for a minute, then opened the door for Jack to enter. Jack did so cautiously, looking around to see who else was in the house. He heard some sounds coming from the kitchen; slowly he walked in and stood in the door way. A woman was putting ice cubes into a baggie. She whirled around, fresh bruises all ready blossoming on her face. Anger and embarrassment pushed the fear from her eyes.
"Who the fuck are you?"
Jack took a step back.
"Nobody. I was at the door and I heard some noise. Your boy let me in. Are you ok?"
She quickly brushed past him, making her way to the front door. She violently pulled it open.
"Get out. And mind your own fucking business."
Jack shook his head and started towards the door. He saw two more kids cowering on the couch. He stopped and turned back towards her.
"You don't deserve this. They don't deserve this."
Tears began to well in her eyes again as her body began to shake.
"Please go. I can handle this."
Jack walked into the cold night as the front door slammed behind him. He heard her start screaming at the kids to go to bed and leave her alone. The bags of Christmas stuff lay abandoned at the front door.
"Merry fucking Christmas" he muttered to no one as he got into his car. He gave the house one last look as he turned on the engine. The front door opened; the little boy who let him in was bent down over the bags, checking their contents before he brought them into the house. He and Jack locked eyes for a minute; he thought he heard the kid say something before he closed the door. For one more year, he was gonna hold on to his belief in Christmas magic.