The shopping mall was crowded and the line to see Santa doubled back along the rear wall.  "Mom, I want to see Santa," the child whined.
          "But the line's so long and I worked all day.  Let's just come back in the morning when the mall opens.  Then it won't be so crowded," the mother coaxed.
          "I want to see Santa NOW!" Harry yelled as he ran over to stand in line.  "There's so many people here now, I'll probably never get what I want anyway!"
          "Harry, come on.  Mommy's tired.  It'll take a good hour to get up there and I'm not in the mood for any nonsense tonight," Monica said as she reached for Harry's arm.
          Harry twisted out of her grasp and ran up front.  "Then I'll just see Santa first!" he yelled, pushing a little girl to the side.           "Harry, please!  Don't do this today!" Monica pleaded as she grabbed his arm to get him to move with her.
          Harry let himself go limp and became dead weight as his mother struggled with him.  Then he started kicking and screaming so loudly that a security officer came over.  After much ruckus, Santa came down from the stage to calm the child himself.  It seemed that the only way to do that was to let Harry sit on his lap next.

          "So Harry," said Santa.  "Do you feel better now?"
          "Sure.  I always feel better when I get my way."
          "I suppose you do.  What was all that noise about anyway?" Santa inquired.
          "I just wanted to be sure I told you what I want before all the other kids get the stuff.  I was afraid there wouldn't be much left for me if I had to wait in that stupid line," Harry answered, scowling.  "They'd probably get everything."
          "Don't you know that Santa's workshop is full?" laughed Santa.  "I never run out of toys and surprises for good little boys and girls.  Why, my elves are busy working right now to make sure I have enough good things for everyone."
          "Yeah, well..." said Harry.  "I still just wanna make sure I get my share."
          "Hummm. Harry, you're not a greedy little boy, are you?" Santa asked.
          "No...  I just want a few things.  If I was greedy, I'd want EVERYthing."
          "Well, I'm glad to hear that.  Now suppose you tell me what you Do want."
          "I want a train set, and a new bike...  a hydrolic powered boat...  and how about a stereo with a CD player and recorder?" requested Harry.  "Oh, and a set of drums...  not the cheap kind, but real ones like bands use."
          "Harry, do you really expect to get all that?" questioned Santa frowning.
          "Sure!  That's not so much.  I only want a few more things...  I know!  A puppy!  A puppy would be real nice.  And maybe a watch...  And if you're REALLY Santa, then get me a pair of roller blades and a tv too."
          "What do you mean, if I'm really Santa?"
          "Well, you're probably just an old fake...  Everyone knows there ain't really no Santa.  You're just a old man in a suit!"
          "Well, if you believe that, then why are you up here sitting on my lap?" asked Santa.
          "I just don't wanna take no chances.  If you are real, then I wanna get my stuff," reasoned Harry.
          "Harry, you ARE a greedy boy!  If you want all those things then you only care about yourself.  You should ask for less.  Then you'd probably get more.  Don't you see that?"
          "You're just a stupid old man!  And I don't like sitting here no more!" Harry yelled as he jumped off Santa's lap.  "I told you, you're not real!"  Harry ran over to his mother and demanded that they leave.

          Harry awoke early Christmas morning and scurried to the livingroom to look under the big tree.  His stocking was hung on the fireplace mantle, but it was empty...  and there were no presents under the tree!  Harry wailed and threw himself down on the floor.

          His mother came running in and stood there, not quite knowing what to do.
          "Look ma!  I told you he was a fake!  Now what am I gonna do?  I don't have even ONE present!  Why didn't YOU buy me something?" screamed Harry.
          "Honey, I was going to, but Santa called me and asked me not to.  He said HE would bring your presents because he wanted to show you he was real.  Oh baby, I'm SO sorry...  I promise we'll go shopping tomorrow as soon as the stores open..."
          "I WANT MY STUFF NOW!"

          Harry was interrupted by a sound coming from the chimney.  As he turned his head to look, Santa appeared.
          "What's wrong, Harry?  I'll bet you thought I'd forgotten you, didn't you?" Santa laughed and his eyes twinkled.  "I had a lot to do and I wanted to give you your presents myself."  Santa opened the big red pack he had brought with him.  From it, he pulled two presents.  One was big and had a bright green ribbon.  The other was smaller and plainly wrapped.  "Well, Harry.  Which one do you want?"
          "You mean, I only get One?" Harry asked frowning.
          "One at a time Harry, one at a time."  Santa shook his head.
          "Well...  I'll take the big one then," said Harry as he grabbed the package from Santa.
          "Are you sure, Harry?  Sometimes it's better to choose the smaller one.  Lots of good things come in small packages, you know."
          "Nope.  I want this one," Harry said stubbornly.
          "Alright.  You may open it up," Santa said.  But his words were wasted because Harry had already started.
          When he opened the present, he found a little plastic fly and a mouse trap inside.  "What do I want these for?" Harry asked.
          "Because that's what you picked.  They represent disease and pain Harry, and that is what you will no doubt have because of your greediness."
          "But I'm not greedy!  And that was a nasty thing to do to a kid!  What was in the little one?"
          "Open it yourself and see."
          "Oh!  A cute little puppy!  Just what I wanted!  Can I keep it, Santa?" pleaded Harry.
          "Harry, the puppy represents affection and altruism.  But you picked the big box.  No, you can't keep it."  Santa took the wriggling pup and put it back in his pack.  Then he withdrew two more presents, another big one and a smaller package.  "Which one do you want this time?"
          "Hummmm...  I'll take the big one.  There's gotta be something good in that one."
          "Are you sure?  Remember what I told you," Santa cautioned as he handed the present to Harry.
          Harry ripped open the wrappings and the box, only to discover a single penny inside.  "What's this?  I can't even buy a stick of gum with this..."
          "That Harry, represents poverty which is also what you'll have if you don't mend your ways.  Is that what you really want?" asked Santa once again.
          "Let me see what was in the other one," Harry said as he tore at the paper.  Looking inside, he discovered that the box was filled with silver dollars!
          "You see, this represents riches.  There are enough silver dollars in there to buy all the things you told me you wanted.  Again you were greedy and chose wrong," Santa said as he put the box back in his sack.  Santa extracted two more gifts and held them out to Harry once again.  "Harry, think carefully.  These are the last two gifts I have.  Which will you choose this time?"
          "That's all?  Well, I guess I'll take the big one again."  Harry chose the gift that was wrapped in shiny red foil paper and tied with the biggest white and silver ribbon he had ever seen!  "You wouldn't be mean and trick me again..."  Harry hesitated.  "No, I'm sure you wouldn't.  There has to be something good in there."
          "Have it your way then."  Santa nodded his head and his eyes teared.  "Here it is."
          Harry opened the gift more slowly this time.  He wasn't quite sure what to expect.  When he lifted the top off of the box, it was empty!  "Santa...  There's nothing here!"
          "That's right Harry.  Nothing.  That's all you'll end up with for the rest of your life, because you are greedy.  That day at the mall, I tried to tell you but no, you thought you knew.  Today I tried to show you, but three times you chose the biggest because you thought it would contain more.  Inside the last package was a watch."  Santa took it out of the box and held it up for Harry to see.  "Not only was it something that you asked for, it also represents time.  Time for you to grow and become someone worthwhile.  Time to learn the true meaning of life.  Now, Harry...  I'm afraid you're running out of time."  Santa shook his head sadly and turned toward the chimney.  He looked back at Harry once and then with tears in his eyes, he was gone.

          "Mom?  I don't feel very good," Harry said softly.
          Monica looked at the rash that was starting to spread on Harry's skin.  She felt his forehead.  He was burning with fever.

Story 1978
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