Zach shoved one more shopping cart left in the middle of the parking lot into the long row of other carts. The cheerful laughter of people added to his vexation. Anger flared in him and he blew another hot breath. Damn it all, he was a son of a Roman Centurion, destined for greatness. He’d proved his worth in many wars, winning countless battles.
It was the heart of a woman he couldn’t win.
A chance to see Julie was the reason enough to get sucked into taking a shift, filling in for someone who was nursing a hangover. Maybe on his last day in human form he would muster enough courage to live up his fantasy. He should be in bed, bringing Julie to Heaven and not just imagine he was making love to her. Then again, not every story ended on a happy note.
On the sidewalk of the large department store, the hired Santa rang his bell. “Ho, ho, ho, Merry Christmas.”
Coins clinked, filling the tin can in Santa’s hand. The perpetual darkness of early winter didn’t seem to dampen human’s giving or shopping mood. Zach tilted his head toward the dusk sky and squinted against the wet snowflakes. The low hovering, gray clouds almost scraped the tops of the buildings, bringing cold winds.
At his shove, the carts rumbled and coasters screeched on the cement. The shift manager would have a fit if he saw him pushing this many carts at once. Not that Zach cared. He’d made the employee of the month for three months in a row despite the nasty boss.
Another step and he’d cross the long driveway of the parking lot, get out of the frigid air and into a heated store foyer. A pickup drove through a puddle. Splashes of dirty, freezing water soaked his worn jeans. Goose flesh raced up his bare legs underneath with icy bite. The black truck’s engine roared and the vehicle peeled out of the parking lot, leaving wet tire tracks on the pavement. He glared at the taillights disappearing in the large snowflakes. The bobbing tip of the Douglas fir, hanging from the edge of the truck’s bed, reminded Zach of dead deer antlers. Strange tradition to chop down a tree, bring it indoors, prop it upright, decorate it, praise it, only to toss it onto the curb a week or so later.
At the store entrance the scruffy guy playing Christmas carols on his guitar shrugged and flashed him a sorrowful look. A patron threw a handful of coins in the open case. He doffed his baseball cap and changed the tune for yet another melody that was supposed to spread holiday cheer.
Peace and joy, goodwill towards people, my ass.