The two old cowboys were sitting at their favorite booth in the Santo diner finishing off large plates of biscuits and gravy. As Mike reached for the third time for the bottle of Tabasco (or what he referred to as ‘Texas Ketchup’) his friend Kent complained.
“I don’t see how you can do that to good biscuits. All I can smell is the vinegar.”
“Wakes me up,” Mike answered. “I was out early this morning looking for deer signs along the Brazos. Still got one week left in the deer season, and I decided I wanted some venison this year after all. All I saw was a lot of tracks left by hogs.”
“I thought you quit hunting deer years ago.”
“I did. I took Matt hunting when he was young, and after I bagged a buck he cried for an hour, claiming I had killed one of Santa’s reindeer. By the time I got him calmed down, I had promised him I wouldn’t do it anymore.”
Kent pushed his empty plate away from him and signaled to the waitress for more coffee. “Matt’s grown and got kids of his own, now. Why did you wait so long to start hunting again.”
“Oh, I just got out of the habit somewhere. Deer hunting was never as much fun as dove hunting anyway. Too much trouble and cost nowadays. But, I got to thinking about deer sausage and decided to take advantage of the season. With any luck, might have venison for Christmas dinner.”
Sharon filled the coffee cups for both men. “We just pulled a fresh apple pie out of the oven. Care for a slice? I can add a slice of cheddar to the top while it's still warm enough to melt it.”
The two men looked at each other and answered together, “Yes ma’am.”
By the time Sharon returned with the pie, Kent was still teasing Mike about the deer hunting. “What will your grandkids say when Matt tells them you are still killing Santa’s reindeer?”
Sharon laughed as she put a plate in front of each of the old cowboys. “Even worse, one of them will write Santa and tell on you.”
“They can’t. None of them speak the right language,” Mike answered, carefully ignoring Kent as he offered the bottle of Tabasco.
“Why not?” asked Sharon. “Doesn’t Santa speak English?”
“Nope. Everyone at Santa’s workshop speaks the same language. North Polish.”
“Ugh,” Kent groaned. “You sleigh me.”
“Besides,” Mike continued. “Santa doesn’t use the reindeer anymore. Now, he rides a Holly Davidson.”
As she once again filled the coffee cups, Sharon asked, “Don’t you know any good Christmas stories? Somethin’ devotional or uplifting?”
As Mike pulled his plate of pie closer to him, he looked up and answered, “Sure. I’ve got just the tale for you.”
Sharon and Kent both looked at the old cowboy, waiting patiently while he sampled his apple pie. Finally, he smiled and slowly waggled his head, obviously enjoying his dessert.
“Well, Saint Peter had been working the Pearly Gates for a most a millennium and wanted to take a small break and grab a cup of coffee and maybe a piece of heavenly pie as good as this one.”
Sharon smiled at the compliment and leaned against the booth while Mike took another quick bite of pie. Reinforced, he began telling the rest of the story.
“Now, Saint Peter didn’t have a union rep or even a shop steward to help secure him a work break, but finally he saw Jesus walking by and he stopped him.”
“Excuse me, Jesus, but would you mind watching the store for a few minutes while I go grab a cup of coffee? I just need someone to watch the gate and keep out the politicians. Jesus accepted and Saint Peter hurried off for a quick cup of coffee.”
“Well, Jesus had been standing at the gate for a few minutes when he saw an old man slowly walking toward him. As the old man made his way towards the gates, he paused frequently, looking to the side, obviously searching for something.” Mike paused from telling the story for a minute and took a quick sip of coffee before continuing.
“When the old man was close enough, Jesus asked, ‘Can I help you with something?’ The old man stopped and looking at Jesus, answered. ‘I’m looking for my son.’”
“‘What does he look like?’”
“‘Well, the old man answered, he has a hole here, and another hole here.’ As the old man talked, he pointed at the palm of his hand, then switched hands and pointed at the other hand. Then he pointed at his feet and said, ‘and he has a hole in each foot.’”
“Jesus was startled and stared at the old man, clearly surprised. The old man saw the look and each of them suddenly had the same thought, speaking at the same time.”
“‘Father?’ asked Jesus, as he held out his hands to embrace the old man.”
“The old man raised his arms, too, and simultaneously cried, ‘Pinocchio?’”