A light snow fell as Charlie Brown trudged down the street, pulling a sled piled high with most of his worldly goods. He tugged the cap his grandmother had knitted for him over his ears and kept his eyes on the ground, so he wouldn’t have to see the crass commercialism that had taken over the neighborhood. His own dog had turned traitor; not content with covering his doghouse with hundreds of colored lights, Snoopy had it surrounded with more Christmas inflatables than the Macy’s parade.
Enough was enough. He was running away until the new year.
“Where are you going, Charlie Brown? Do you need a consultation today? The psychiatrist is in–a bargain for only a nickel.”
Lucy’s voice was falsely sweet, trying to coerce him into being her fall guy again. He promised himself he wasn’t going to let her get him this time.
“I don’t need your services, Lucy. I’m perfectly fine. Just going for a walk.”
“You don’t look perfectly fine to me, Charlie Brown. And what is all that stuff you’ve got on your sled?”
“Supplies,” he said flatly and kept walking. Lucy fell into step beside him. “I’m taking a vacation from Christmas.”
“A vacation from Christmas? That’s crazy. You really do need a psychiatrist, Charlie Brown. Tell you what. In the spirit of Christmas and all, I’ll give you a free consultation.”
Charlie Brown stopped, nonplussed. Lucy offering him something for free? Nah, it had to be another one of her tricks. He shook his head and started off again.
“But where are you going?” she called after him. “How will Santa find you?”
“He won’t even miss me. I’ll be just one less kid who’s looking for presents.”
“Your parents will miss you.”
“I left a note. I’ll be back when Christmas is over.”
Charlie Brown sat under the bridge at the outside of town, warming himself near a fire that a few homeless guys had made. There were three of them making camp for the night: Kaz, Mel, and Balthazar. They huddled close, wrapped in the extra blankets Charlie Brown had thought to bring with him.
“Got anything to eat?” Kaz asked.
Charlie pulled a big square tin from his sled and opened the lid. “My mother made these cookies.”
“Whoa! I haven’t seen cookies like those since I was a kid,” Mel said, reaching for one of the twisted candy cane cookies sprinkled with crushed peppermint. He groaned his pleasure as he ate the cookie in three bites.
Balthazar bit the head off a gingerbread man and sighed. “Man, what I wouldn’t give for a cup of hot chocolate right now…”
“I’ve got some in my thermos,” Charlie Brown said.
Balthazar shook his head. “Nah, there’s not enough to go ’round. It wouldn’t be right…”
“Good Grief! I want you to have it.”
“Thanks, kid, but I can’t…”
They turned suddenly to the sound of children’s voices singing Christmas carols. They were coming closer. Linus and Snoopy leading the way, Lucy, Schroeder, and Peppermint Patty following close behind.
“What are you doing here?”
“Good Grief, Charlie Brown. You’re our friend. We couldn’t let you skip Christmas.”
Elise Skidmore ©2008/revised ©2015