The white-haired man with the white beard and big belly that had an abnormal affinity for red suits was once again spotted around the park. He was looking at all the young children playing carefree on the swings and in the playground and appeared to be checking a list that he drew out of his side pocket and seemed to have no end. What on earth was he doing? This could take a very ugly turn.
And it did.
Marissa was an old lady who couldn’t hear very well. She couldn’t see very well either, despite the fact that she wore glasses with lenses as thick a piece of gammon at Christmas lunch. She also used a cane to walk, which she would also occasionally use as a weapon lest any “young rascal” would try to steal her bag. She would take her young grandson to the park every afternoon and sit at the bench watching him (or at least someone who looked like him from afar) enjoy himself in the playground. She had become acquainted with the other children and parents who spent their time there too. Therefore, whenever a “newbie” arrived, everyone would notice. They were as easy to recognize as a fly drowning in milk.
The past few days, however, ever since the beginning of December, Marissa noticed the frequent presence of a rather fat and peculiar old man. He was oddly jolly with everyone and was very fond of children. Perhaps too fond, according to Marissa. And he was always there. From the moment she and little Everett arrived, to the moment they left, that old man was sitting on the adjacent bench taking notes.
A week later, after Marissa had ran through her mind all the possible things this man might be noting – all of which were remarkably anomalous, no matter how you looked at it – she decided it was time to take action. She did consider walking over there and whacking him on the head with her cane, then grabbing his list and running to the police to file a report against him as a pedophile. But there were two problems with that: she couldn’t see very well and due to the holiday season more and more people began to draw a liking to red clothing and she might thus end up hitting someone else; and then she couldn’t run very fast, so by the time she had made her way out of the park, he might regain consciousness and chase after her. So, Marissa decided to do the only proper and responsible thing she knew: she would call the police.
Her report said that an old man with white hair and beard, dressed in a red suit that was unflattering for his age, was constantly roaming around the park, observing the kids and making notes. Just to be sure that the police wouldn’t make fun of her, she did send an instant message from her tablet (that had a big enough screen for her to be sure she had captured at least part of the man in question).
It didn’t take long for the police to arrive. The German Shepherd dog accompanying them was already growling, but for some strange reason it stopped the minute its eyes located the old man. And surprisingly it sat down and refused to go near or attack, no matter how much the policemen were yelling. The old man did not even budge.
Yet, all of a sudden, chaos broke out. Seeing that the dog had no intention of chasing or attacking the suspect, the police officers decided to take matters into their own hands. They began to scream, whistle and shout – if there was the appropriate music, it would even seem that they were trying to do the Twist.
And then began the run.
The old man, seeing a handful of unusually frightening young men in police attire racing like raging bulls towards him, got up and began to run too. The kids, thinking this was some sort of festive game, thought it would be fun to join in. And the German Shepherd dog decided it was time to get a move on too. The parents, afraid the dog might attack the children or the police might fire a shot that may reach an unintentional target, raced like mad and white as ghosts, behind the mob. It was complete havoc. And on the side, Marissa was taking photos on her tablet – you know, for evidence.
The old man ran into the forest-y area of the park where a wooden shed was located, he rushed in before the police closed up – the dog was for some reason being intentionally slow at catching up.
Police, dog, children, parents, the kiosk-owner who had approached out of curiosity, the candyman who was looking for kids to sell his produce to, and Marissa (who was still taking photos), all looked up at the sky, rubbing their eyes. They could not believe what they saw. A sleigh. Yes, a sleigh, a red one with a small turbo engine at the back and a dozen reindeer – yes, those horned animals that look like deer – pulling it along. It all disappeared before the bedazzled crowd managed to take a second blink.
The police stormed the wooden shed, with the dog barking happily beside them. There was nothing in there apart from some hay – most of which appeared to have been consumed – and some firewood. Nothing else.
So where did the old man dressed in red go? And did they really see what they thought they saw?
When the police questioned Marissa, she told them she had photo evidence. But when they confiscated her tablet to see for themselves, all they found was funny-looking selfies of a befuddled old lady in the park.