Christmas Shopping


“Daddy, can I have that?”


“But, daddy, I really like it.” The hazel eyes of the little boy looked up into the very similar eyes of his father. He used his best puppy dog look that usually worked.

“Gus,” Brian said sternly, “you have already picked out all these toys.” Brian held up his hand, the one that didn’t have a firm grip on Gus’ little hand. It held three shopping bags full of the toys that Gus had already chosen. Brian nodded to Justin who held Gus’ other hand. Justin raised his hand which gripped two more shopping bags filled with toys. “I think you have plenty of toys for Christmas,” Brian stated.

Brian had been roped into taking Gus to the mall in Toronto. He had brought some gifts for Gus when he and Justin had arrived in the Canadian city to spend some time with Gus over Christmas. However, Gus seemed to want much more. Lindsay had asked Brian to take the boy shopping since she and Melanie had only enough money for the Santa presents they had already bought. Seeing his son so occasionally, as Brian did, he had agreed to brave the mall packed with last minute shoppers. He wanted Gus to have a great Christmas, and Brian certainly had the money to buy the boy anything he wanted. However, Brian’s last nerve was now jangling, and he wanted nothing more than to get the fuck out of the damn mall. Gus being petulant and greedy wasn’t putting him in the so-called spirit of the season. Christmas was for the fucking birds, and this shopping expedition had only reaffirmed that feeling.

“Daddy, it’s a really neat car,” Gus whined. He really wanted the shiny red radio operated car.

“I don’t like whining, Gus,” Brian informed his son in no uncertain terms.

“Um, Gus, maybe we could buy a gift and add it to the Toy Mountain over there,” Justin suggested. He saw a big box with one of Santa’s elves standing beside it. It was labeled Toy Mountain, and the sign said they were collecting toys for less fortunate children that Gus.

“What’s a toy mountain?” Gus asked.

“See that big box,” Justin explained. “It looks like they’re collecting toys for children who might not get anything for Christmas otherwise.”

“But why wouldn’t they get toys?” Gus asked. “Doesn’t Santa bring them stuff?”

“Sometimes Santa misses some little ones.”

Gus shook his head. “That’s no good. What about their mommies and daddies?”

“They might not have a mommy or a daddy,” Justin continued.

“But … everybody has a mommy and daddy,” Gus protested.

Justin looked at Brian who merely shrugged. Justin had started this, so he could finish it. “Sometimes things happen and a daddy or mommy might live far away.” Justin didn’t want to talk about someone dying. “The parent who is left might be very poor.”

“Mama says we’re poor sometimes,” Gus said.

“Does she now?” Brian asked. He didn’t like that his son thought he was poor.

“But they still get me stuff, and so do you, Daddy.”

“Not everyone has such a nice daddy as you, Gus,” Justin said with a wink at Brian. “So, do you think we can put one of your toys in the Toy Mountain?”

“No! Let’s get them something else,” Gus suggested. He didn’t want to part with any of his carefully selected toys.

Brian frowned and looked at Justin. This was a selfish side of Gus that he hadn’t seen before. He didn’t like it very much. “Hm,” Brian said, “maybe a child would like that red car.”

“No!” Gus almost shouted. “That’s my car.”

“No, Gus, I’m afraid it’s not,” Brian stated firmly.

“You’re no fun, Daddy,” Gus said with a scowl.

Brian prayed his refusal wouldn’t set off a major temper tantrum or a meltdown. “I think it’s time to go home,” he said turning and heading for the doors of the mall. He saw Gus looking back over his shoulder. Brian hoped he was looking at the Toy Mountain, but more likely he was looking at that stupid car.



“Do you think this will work?” Justin asked as they walked up to the front door of the Munchers’ small house.

“It better,” Brian replied. “I refuse to have a selfish little snot for a son.”

“Brian! He’s not that bad.”


Brian rang the bell.

Gus opened the door almost immediately. “Daddy!” he shrieked. “What’s my surprise?”

“Justin and I are going to take you somewhere special.”

“Oh? Where?”

“Get your coat. You’ll find out soon.”

Gus quickly got his coat and boots. Lindsay wanted to know where they were taking her son, but Brian fended off her questions and managed to get them out the door without revealing what they were doing. They had asked the taxi to wait and were quickly transported to their destination.

“Where are we?” Gus asked as they got out of the taxi.

“You’ll see in a minute,” Brian replied as he paid the driver. He took Gus’ hand and they entered the old building.

In the foyer was a big poster saying Community Christmas Party with an arrow pointing to an open doorway. There was a buzz inside and lots of excited young voices.

“Does that say Christmas party?” Gus asked. Gus was in first grade but he already knew how to read. Brian couldn’t fault his mothers on that front. They made sure he got every educational experience.

“Yes it does,” Justin replied. “And I think Santa may even be here.”

“Really?” Gus asked.

“Let’s see,” Brian said as they reached the doorway.

One of Santa’s elves met them at the door. Brian could see the short, middle aged man sizing him up. “Would you be Mr. Kinney?” he asked.

“Yes I would,” Brian responded.

“We’re very happy to have you and your family here. I’m Steve. I believe we talked on the phone.” Brian nodded. “Please follow me,” Steve said. They trailed after the man who took them to three seats that were conspicuously bare compared to the rest of the packed room. “You can see Santa from here. He’s already giving out gifts.”

Gus was staring at Santa as they sat down. “Do I get a gift?” Gus asked.

“I’m sure Santa doesn’t discriminate.”

“I didn’t know Santa came to parties,” Gus whispered. “I thought he only came in the middle of the night.”

“Apparently he does parties too,” Brian said trying not to chuckle out loud.

“Hi,” a little boy sitting in the chair next to them said. “I’m Peter.”

“I’m Gus. Did you get a present yet?”

“Nope,” Peter said. “I’m seven. How old are you?”

“Six,” Gus replied. “Everybody says I’m tall for my age.”

Brian nodded approvingly.

“I really want Santa to give me a car, but…” Peter’s voice trailed off.

“But what?”

“I don’t think Santa will give me the kind of car I want.”

“I saw a really neat red car at the mall,” Gus explained. “But my daddy wouldn’t buy it for me.” Gus looked accusingly at Brian who merely ignored him.

Peter studied the two men with Gus. “I don’t have a daddy,” Peter said. The woman seated next to Peter gently touched his hand.

“Oh?” Gus said. He looked at Justin who apparently knew about these things.

“Santa’s starting on this row. I hope I get something good,” Peter said hopefully.

“Yeah,” Gus agreed.

After a couple of other kids, Peter was called up. He came back with a brightly wrapped box. It didn’t look like it was the right shape to be a car. It was Gus’ turn next. He walked confidently up to Santa who presented him with a big box. When he returned to his seat, Peter had opened his gift which contained a Connect 4 game. Peter didn’t look too happy with his gift. It wasn’t a car.

“That’s a good game,” Gus observed.

“Yeah, it’s okay,” Peter agreed. “Are you going to open your gift?” Peter asked as Gus sat down.

“Yeah, I guess so,” Gus said. He wished that Peter had got a car. He could tell that’s what Peter really wanted. Gus ripped off the wrapping paper on his gift. His eyes grew very large. It was the red radio controlled car that he had seen at the mall. “Wow!” he said.

Peter stared at the car. “You’re really lucky, Gus,” Peter said sadly. He was never lucky like that.

“Yeah,” Gus agreed. He looked from Peter to the car and back again. Then he glanced at his father and Justin. They seemed to be waiting for something. “Peter,” Gus said, “I really wanted a Connect 4 game too. Do you want to trade?”

“You mean it?” Peter asked his eyes lighting up.

Gus nodded and handed Peter the car. Peter gave Gus the Connect 4. “Thanks,” Gus said with little enthusiasm.

“I can’t believe it. This is the best gift ever,” Peter gushed.

“Are you sure about this?” Peter’s mother asked. Gus nodded. “Thanks so much,” she added with a big smile for the little boy who had just made her son very happy.

“That’s a pretty great car,” Gus said. He studied Peter’s face and the happiness he saw there. Gus’ mouth curled into a little smile. He looked at his father who smiled back at him and tousled his hair. Gus suddenly felt a warm spot deep inside him. He knew he had done something good.

“I think it’s time we got going,” Brian said standing up. “Merry Christmas,” he said to Peter and his mother.

“Thanks, Gus,” Peter said again. “I love my car.”

Gus gave him a genuine smile. “I’m glad you like it. Merry Christmas, Peter.”

The Kinney entourage headed for the door. Steve the elf hustled over to intercept them before they left.

“Just wanted to thank you for your generous donation, Mr. Kinney,” Steve said. “Did things work out the way you hoped?”

“Yes,” Brian said. “Perfectly.”

Steve smiled. “That’s great. Merry Christmas to you all.”

“And to you too,” Justin said.

Brian was on his cell calling a taxi.

While they waited, Gus looked up at his father. “Daddy, did I do a good thing by trading the car with Peter.”

Brian looked at his son whose eyes begged for his approval. “You did a wonderful thing, Gus. I was very proud of you for recognizing that Peter really wanted a car, and he wasn’t going to get one if you didn’t give him yours.”

“He needed it more than me, didn’t he, Daddy?”

“Yes he did.”

“I wish Peter had a daddy.”

“I’m afraid that’s something we can’t change, Gus.”

“But you understood that the real meaning of Christmas is in giving, not in receiving,” Justin said. He thought that Gus needed to hear that.

The taxi pulled up.

As they got in, Gus had something else he was thinking about. “Daddy, can we go to the mall?”

Brian felt his stomach drop. Maybe Gus didn’t get it after all. Did he expect Brian to buy him another car, since he had given the one that Brian had had delivered to the Christmas party to Peter? “Why, Gus?” Brian asked. He dreaded the answer.

“I already have a Connect 4 game. Can we put this one in the Toy Mountain for some other kid?”

Brian smiled. “Yes, yes we can, Gus. Driver, take us to Square One Mall. I love you, Gus, and I’m so proud of you.”

“I’m glad you’re here, Daddy, and you too, Justin.”

“That’s the other important thing about the holidays, Gus,” Justin said softly. “It’s a time to spend with family, with the ones you love.”

“I’m lucky to have two mommies and two daddies,” Gus stated. He slipped each of his hands into one of his fathers’.

Brian and Justin looked at each other and smiled. It was going to be a wonderful Christmas this year.

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