Santa and Birds` Language

(Christmas short story)

Once upon a time, right on the eve of Christmas, a little and snub-nose girl called Ann went to seek a true Santa. She passed through all supermarkets with cheery Santas in shop windows; she circled around all funny Santas on city squares inviting children to take photos with them…At last she found one six feet high Santa with a sturdy body and steadfast face who winked at her while bringing a fir-tree on his shoulder to the nearest apartment block.

“Good evening! I see that you are a real Santa! Can you carry out my wish?” Ann took the sleeve of the smiling Santa trying to stop him.

“Why not?” Santa put the fir-tree on the ground and wiped his sweaty forehead. “What do you want, kiddo?”

“I want to understand the language of birds and animals!” Ann said firmly.

“Your parents don`t permit you to bring a kitty or a puppy to your house, right?” Santa smiled looking at a pug-nosed girl.

“My parents got in a car crash. We buried them a year ago. So I live with my Granny in a small one-room apartment, and she does not permit to keep cats and dogs,” Ann was ready to start sniveling.

“Oh, I am sorry for your loss, Sunnie. Take my deepest sympathy, Ann.” Santa pulled out of his red fur coat a small chocolate bar and stretched out it to the bewildered girl.

She took the chocolate bar cautiously and asked with a note of surprise in her voice, “How do you know my name?”

Cheery Santa pointed at her knitted hat, “Your Granny looped ‘Ann’ here. Well, dear girl, I don`t have any time now, a lot of children are waiting for me with this fir tree…As for your wish, it will come true if you help asylum shelter workers as a volunteer to take care of their animals, at least once a week, for the whole year…And now, a blessed Christmas to you, Ann!” Santa put the fir-tree on his shoulder and set off.

“Will I see you again?” Ann followed the friendly looking Santa.

“I`ll be waiting for you right here at the same time… See you in a year…Merry Christmas…” Santa entered the doors of the nearest apartment block and left Ann plunged in deep thoughts,
“The whole year…as a volunteer…at an animal shelter… ”

The whole year, on Saturday mornings, together with Granny, Ann went to the nearest animal asylum shelter. She befriended with all young and old, mongrel and thoroughbred cats and dogs living there. She helped the workers to feed, brush and heal all of them. She even saved a wounded raven she found dying in the nearest park. A drunken man shot at this wise bird just for entertainment… As usual, policemen came too late…However, this time her Granny permitted to take this bleeding bird to their house, to call it Crooky, and to listen to snappy Croak and Crow sounds day in and night out…

After all, the long-awaited Christmas Eve came. Ann ran to the street and stood impatiently not far from the entrance of the nearest apartment block…Her Santa did not appear for two hours; it disappointed Ann a lot. While looking around the square for the last time, being ready to burst into tears, she noticed him with a big fir-tree on his shoulder, “Hallelujah!” Ann shrieked out happily.

“Hello! I am Ann! I met you here one year ago and, as you said, I fed cats and dogs in the asylum shelter for the whole year! Do you remember me?”

Craggy Santa, looking a bit busier than a year ago, put his fir tree on the sidewalk and frowned trying to remember the girl, “Oh! Ann! You are in the same knitted hat made by your Granny! Sure! I remember you,” Santa scratched his nape and pulled a toy pipe out of his pocket. “Take it, Ann, play it three times on Christmas Day, and your wish will come true.” After that he put a fir tree on his shoulder ready to disappear in the nearest apartment block doors once again.

“Stop! I`ve been waiting for you the whole year! Why do you go away? Will I understand the language of animals and birds? Do you remember, you promised?” Ann started sobbing.

Santa stopped and put his fir-tree on the sidewalk once again. After that he approached the girl and patted her blushed cheek. “Sure. You will catch the meaning of words and sounds they say. After Christmas, take you Granny and go to the nearest forest. There you will see some birds and animals. Don`t forget to be kind and to feed them all… They will croak and bark, meow and howl at you…You should not be afraid; just be open-hearted, and you will understand everything. Besides,” Santa raised his wrinkly index finger, “who knows, maybe, they will help you to find something interesting. They like to help kids with kind hearts.”

Ann stopped sobbing and tried to hug huge looking Santa, “Thank you, I see…a lot of children are waiting for you and your fir tree. You are in a hurry. I will do what you said. Where can I find you?”

Snappy Santa bent over a bit and smiled cheerily, “I`ll be waiting for you right here at the same time… See you in a year…Merry Christmas, Ann!”

For the whole week Ann convinced her Granny to go to the nearest forest to speak to birds and animals living there. At long last the old woman gave in, “But just for two or three hours, not more! Wildwood is not a good place for small girls, especially in winter. And don`t forget to take your wounded raven…Crooky…He got better and looks fine now.”

Ann was in the seventh heaven, while going to the sparkling forest in the shabby car of her Granny. All way long, she sand hilariously, “Jingle bells, jingle bells, jingle all the way!” All lofty spruce trees covered with a shiny blanket of heavy snow greeted her waving their twigs…Tweeting birds peeped out of the snowy branches ready to salute her and to take wheat grains right out of her tender hands… Crooky flapped his wings asking for the permission to fly off…

“Fly my dear, fly, I know that you like liberty…” Ann did several steps away from the car and threw her raven up. The bird, feeling freedom, soared up and started circling above their heads…Ann made soft snowballs and started throwing them in her laughing Grandmother…She had never been so happy…Suddenly her Crooky noticed something unusual and nosedived in the depth of the woodland…

“We are to seek him! You see he keeps croaking, calling us!” Ann pulled the hand of her slightly surprised Granny and went in the direction of her crowing bird.

As it turned out Croaky was not far from them. He sat on a high snowdrift placed right at the roots of an old oak trying to peck some bright object lying under his clingy paws.

Ann approached this object the first and dug out a heavy leather bag with a silvery snap covered with a snow layer, “Oh My God! This bag is full of old coins looking like those I saw in our history museum!”

“Really?” Granny raised her eyebrows not knowing what to say. She took a seat on the nearest snowdrift trying to concentrate, “The day before yesterday there was news on TV that the apartment of an acclaimed art connoisseur was robbed. Maybe, these coins belong to him! We should go to police!”

Time flies fast and nobody can stop it. Next Christmas Eve Ann put on the same knitted hat and ran to the street to meet her stern face Santa at the entrance of the nearest apartment block…This time he came on time, bringing a dense pine tree on his shoulder, and noticing Ann the first, “Merry Christmas, Ann!”

“Merry Christmas!” Ann yelled out hilariously.

“How are you doing? I see you grew up a bit. Is everything OK?” Santa took a large candy out of his pocket giving it to a happy girl.

“I am fine. Thank you Santa! A year ago, as you said, my Granny and I went to the forest and found a leather bag stuffed with old coins. Our Crooky gave me a signal and I got what he meant. That was a coin collection of a famous man in our city. Police officers helped us to find him and give it back. As a reward he helped us to sell our small one-room apartment and to buy a new one. It is airy and classy. Now I live in the apartment block which is over there! Do you see it?”

“Yeah!” Santa put a pine tree on a sidewalk and looked at a fashionably looking multistory house located not far from them.

Ann pulled out a golden coin and gave it to surprised Santa. “Thank you, Santa, this coin was gifted to me by that art collector. Now I want to present it to you!”

Santa took a coin and patted the shoulder of a smiling girl, “Thank you, girlie, I have never thought that some child will give me a Christmas present…” His eyes got sad for a while and in a sec they sparkled with Christmas joy once again, “Where can I find you, Ann?”

“I`ll be waiting for you right here at the same time… See you in a year…Merry Christmas, Santa!”

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