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One "Horse" Sleigh by Barb Miller

    Randy Pelzer tramped through the snow to his barn and greeted the inhabitants.  “I suppose you want to be fed.”  Of course they did.  Then he milked Dorothy, his one cow, collected his one egg from his one hen and went to the house to make breakfast.  As he scrambled and cooked the egg, he tried not to think about his life.  He was 70, he’d had no orders for furniture in months, and, worst of all, his only horse had died.
    He was waiting for his toast to pop when his old dog whined.  “I put milk on your food, Jasper. It should be soft now.”
    Jasper laid his head back down.  If he lost Jasper too, there’d be no celebrating Christmas. He got up and fed the egg to the dog, then ate the toast dry.  He looked out the window to the corral and pulled the blind.   You get to a certain age, you don’t care about riding anymore, but it sure had been nice watching Lightning and having him pull the sleigh.
    He put the box of marionettes on the table, but his heart wasn’t in Christmas this year.  He’d always hitched up the sleigh and carried toys up to the Frye children.  There had been years those were the only toys they got.  How could he face little Tony, Mabel and Cassie with almost nothing?
    He could make them some cookies, but that took eggs, or did it?  He got out his grandmother’s recipes.  Ok, so he could make them gingerbread men, but he’d have to hike the three miles on foot.  It wouldn’t seem the same.
    He was about to get back to work when a flock of geese passed over, honking.  Suddenly there was a crash and a goose plummeted through the window.
    Jasper got so excited he almost stood up.  Randy checked the goose to make sure the impact had been fatal.  Then he got a piece of board to close up the hole.
    Well, it might be an old dry goose, but it had given its life for a good cause.  The Fryes would have a Christmas Eve dinner.  As he scalded and plucked, he thought, "how odd to be planning a celebration when an hour ago I had decided not to visit the neighbors."  By five o’clock he had everything done except taking the goose out of the oven and milking Dorothy.

    Rupert Frye watched Cassie peering out the window against the blinding snow.  Tony and Mabel were busy making popcorn chains and his wife, Amanda, was stirring the stew.  He went to the window and put his hand on Cassie’s shoulder.  “You know Randy lost his horse.  I don’t see how he can come.”
    “Oh, he’ll think of something.  He never misses.”
    “Times are hard, Cassie.  Don’t expect presents from him, even if he walks up here.”
    “I don’t.  I just hope he comes for his sake.  And his stories are almost as good as yours.”
    Just then something appeared out of the flurry of snow.  Rupert blinked and laughed.  “Leave it to Randy to find a way.”
    “It’s him.  He’s coming,” Cassie yelled and ran for her coat.
    They all went out on the porch then.  The sleigh pulled up at the door dragged by an excited Guernsey wearing a Santa cap.  She shook her head and the sleigh bells jingled just like they always did.
    “Randy, you made it!” exclaimed Cassie.
    “Well, I got held up.  Some city folk stopped by and bought all my furniture.  Come on now, kids, help unload.  Amanda, you take the goose.”
    “Goose?” she asked.
    “I’ll explain about that later.  I better get Dorothy to the barn.  I still have to milk her.  Thought it would be easier to bring the milk this way.”
    “You are amazing,” Rupert said.
    The sled skidded onto the dry barn floor and halted.  Jasper barked and leapt from the sleigh.
    Rupert laughed again as he helped unhitch the cow.  “You’ve made Christmas again, Randy.”
    “Dorothy is your present.  I can never use all the milk anyway.”
    “I — don’t know what to say.  You do so much for us.”
    “Rupe, I do this for me.”