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Christmas time in New York is everyone’s favorite time of the year. The tourists flock to the brightly lit city to witness the amazing sight of lights and decorations that completely cover Times Square. As the snow swirls around above head, the people walking along the streets huddle even deeper within their layers of scarves, sweatshirts, and jackets. Many pass by the carefully arranged storefronts looking for that perfect last-minute gift, and a few are lucky enough to find themselves peering through the glass of Johnson’s World of Toys.
Thomas Johnson, everyone’s favorite local toymaker, loves seeing the children’s faces light up when they pick out their favorite toys. For this reason, Christmas is his favorite time of the year. Unfortunately, this Christmas is to be his final year making toys for the children before his oldest son William will take over the booming family business. Thomas is now getting too old to make the toys as extravagant as they once were. Deep down, he feels sadness knowing that he is not going to be the one bringing joy and happiness to all of the little children.
Knowing that he will soon be done creating toys, Thomas decides to take it upon himself to create one last toy to place in his toyshop. The doll that Thomas makes, which he named Tommy after himself, doesn’t look as good as the other appealing toys. This certain doll has a crooked smile and slanted eyes that made him look different compared to the other flawless dolls already sitting upon the oak shelves of Johnson’s World of Toys.
After putting his chisel and paintbrushes back into their place in the bright-red toolbox, Thomas sweeps the store to make sure the floors are free of any sawdust left over from the creation process. Thomas then carefully places Tommy on the plain, brown shelf next to his other masterpieces. After shutting off his fluorescent lights and closing the giant, brown door, Thomas goes home to be with his family.
As soon as the lights are down and everyone is out of the store, the toys rumble to life within the enormous, present-filled toyshop. Furry, plush Teddy bears, dolls, and wartime figurines jump down from the shelves and begin to visit with the others that are unlike themselves, but Tommy, not knowing anyone, stays exactly where he had been placed. Jack flips the switch positioned directly above the light switch, and music begins to ring through the old, wooden speakers hanging on the wall. The toys cheer because Christmas music is their favorite! Jack, who notices Tommy sitting alone, decides to show Tommy who the favorite doll is.
“Look at his slanty eyes, you guys,” Jack snickers, pointing towards Tommy.
Slumping his peach-colored porcelain head, Tommy tries to ignore the taunting cackles of the other dolls and toys moving around next to him. Many of them begin to laugh and whisper as they stare over at Tommy’s imperfections. Tommy knows that he is slightly different than the others, but he had thought that wouldn’t matter. Tommy, being easily hurt, believes whatever others had to say about him.
Before Thomas comes to work the next morning, every single toy has made its way back the shelves where they had been the night before because they wants to make sure that Thomas has no idea of what had gone on behind closed doors. Stiff as a board, the toys don’t move a muscle when Thomas enters the store.
Decorating the store is the next thing on Thomas’s Christmas list. Making the store presentable for the children is one of his favorite things to do. Dark evergreen wreaths, with their deep-red berries, are hung near every corner of the store. He even sprinkles white, fluffy, fake snow all over the creased, wooden floor to create a more wintry appeal inside the warmth of his small shop. In the corner is one of the biggest, greenest Christmas trees anyone could ever have imagined. Standing over seven feet tall, the branches reach outward as though they are trying to reach the opposite wall. Ornaments from all over the world are hanging from its perfect branches. Memories of Thomas’s life are on the tree: an ornament from his trip to California, an ornament from China, an ornament from little Molly Brown who visits the store every Christmas, and every single ornament his young children had made him during their years in elementary school. A red garland and tiny white lights are carefully laid on the branches spiraling up the tree from the base. On the very top, Thomas places his favorite piece of the tree, the angel. Its golden dress and satin white wings make it the most elegant decoration on the entire Christmas tree!
The next day Thomas, wearing his red Christmas sweater, waters the base of the evergreen to make sure it will keep its shape and color for the entire season. Then, he double checks that every toy is perfectly placed on the dust-free shelves before opening his doors to the children waiting eagerly outside the white, frosted, glass doors. Little boys and girls, bundled in their warmest down jackets and gloves, come and go all day, picking out their favorite dolls, trains, and toy cars. Not even one of the boys or girls looks at Tommy. He sits lifeless on the shelf as the other dolls around him are taken home with the giggling children. At the end of day, Tommy is still sitting on the wooden shelf.
“No one is going to buy you, Tommy! You just don’t look as good as the rest of us,” Jack says laughing.
“Jack, will you stop that already? Who says you will even go to a warm, friendly home? You are still sitting on the shelf with the rest of us, too,” snaps Susie, giving Jack a look of irritation.
“Thanks,” whispers Tommy in his soft-spoken voice.
“Oh, don’t worry about it. I’m Susie by the way! If you ever need some help with dealing with Jack, just let me know. I know exactly what to say to him that will shut him up,” Susie replies with a wink on her beautiful face.
“I’m Tommy,” Tommy mumbles back, “and thanks again, Susie.”
From that point on, Susie and Tommy are the best of friends. Sitting side by side on the shelf, the two learn everything about each other and are considered one another’s best friend. With the toy store opening and closing everyday until Christmas, they have a lot of time to get to know each other. They always have so much fun laughing and playing. Jack always sits in the corner, jealous of Tommy for getting to spend so much time with Susie. He has always had a crush on her, but she has never given him a second look because he is so mean to all of the other toys.
The night before Christmas, Thomas locks up all of the valuables in his store so that he can enjoy the last few days of the holiday season with his own family. As he is about to go out into the blizzard of white-powdered snow, he sees a young boy standing bundled in his dark blue, puffy winter jacket, wanting to buy one last toy.
“Well, hello there, young man. How can I help you?”
“I need to buy a doll for my little sister. My mommy gave me money so that I could buy her a special gift for Christmas, and I know she would love a new doll,” Johnny says with a lot of excitement.
“Well, come on in then, son. I hope you can find her something that she will enjoy playing with.”
Looking around the dimly-lit store, Johnny is immediately drawn to two dolls sitting right next to each other on a shelf near the back of the shop. Walking briskly to them, he knows right away that they are the ones he wants to take home. Susie, with her flawless beauty, and Tommy, with his slight imperfection, are his favorites. Johnny’s little sister Molly had been adopted as a baby from China, so, like Tommy, she has slightly slanted eyes.
“Which one do you think I should get?” Johnny asks Thomas. “My sister looks like the doll with slanted eyes, but the other one is just so pretty.” Johnny has a confused look on his face as he tries to decide which one she would like better.
“Well, how about this?” Thomas says with happiness in his voice, “You can take both dolls home for her, but I will only make you pay for one.”
Johnny’s eyes light up as he realizes that his sister will now have both dolls for Christmas. Tommy, knowing that he will be sold before Jack, moves his eyes towards the spot where Jack is still waiting on the shelf. Tommy gives him a smile, knowing that looks don’t matter anymore. He is the one who has been chosen to go home to play with a little girl. He felt all the happiness in the world. Whatever Jack had said to him before means nothing now! Nothing would be able to wipe the oversized smile off his face.
Johnny hands Thomas his money and thanks him for the extra special gift. Thomas carefully wraps the two dolls in paper and secures a bright, pink bow to the top. With the gift in hand, Johnny bolts out the door so that he can get home to his sister very quickly. He wants to see the look on her face as she opens her Christmas gifts.
Thomas smiles to himself, knowing that he had touched a final child’s heart. Those were the moments he had always lived for. For the last time, Thomas closes the doors of his shop and goes home to be with his family.
Jack’s thin, black lips make their way into a frown of unhappiness. He can not understand why Tommy has been sold before him. He does not want to be the one to spend his Christmas alone on the shelf while Susie and Tommy are in the comforts of a young child at their new home.
Click, Clack, Click, Clack . . . Jack hears the sounds of paws above his head.
“Hello?” Jack asks of the emptiness. He hears no response, only the thump, thump, thump of what sounded like human feet. Out of the darkness, a magical flash brightens the shop. Santa hops out from underneath the black-sooted chimney.
“Hello there, Jack. I understand you have been a bad toy this year,” says Santa with his deep, booming voice.
“Umm . . . Well, I haven’t been that bad,” replies Jack, his voice shaking with noticeable fear.
“You are not worthy of a good gift this year, Jack. You made the naughty list, and I’m rather disappointed with you. Did you really have to make fun of Tommy? He wasn’t that much different than you. I remember when the other toys made fun of you when you were introduced to the shelf. It wouldn’t have hurt to have been friendly towards him.”
“I’m sorry, Santa; I hated how Susie treated him! I liked her since the moment I saw her, but she never paid attention to me!”
“That is never an excuse to be mean to someone. Treat others the way you want to be treated. Jack, I have many other places to visit tonight. Hopefully I will be seeing you on the nice list next year. Your gift is in the stocking hanging by the fireplace.”
With that, Santa slips back up the chimney, and the paws of the reindeer are heard scurrying around above head as they take off from the rooftop.
Jack hops up to see what Santa has left him in his dark red stocking hanging upon the fireplace. His eyes wide with excitement, Jack peers over the white fur brim of the stocking. Inside the stocking is a dark black, lumpy piece of coal. Jack’s face droops with unhappiness. In the very bottom of the stocking, Jack sees a note with his name on the top. He quickly grabs it and begins to read . .
I hope this teaches you a lesson. You
need to be a good toy if you want any
chance of making it on the nice list
next year! Remember, I’ll always be
Jack is left to spend his Christmas all alone, with that note and lump of hard coal from Santa. He spends that blessed day, sitting on that same shelf where he has spent the entire last month, while the other good toys relish in the warmth and comfort of the arms of their new children owners.