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Project I: Gone Forever

Project 1: Gone Forever (491 words)

On that dark December day, the heavy snow did not relent, and the icy air struck all it hit with a fury, stabbing us right to the bone. Still, the children of this little Rockwellian town, me included, braved that treacherous weather, waiting outside for what we knew would come.

We waited along the streets, on the red brick stoops, on those old wooden porches, and, as for the more adventurous among us, atop those cold, frozen banks of snow that grew a little larger with every morning plow. It was worth it though. After all, none of us wanted to miss it -- no one wanted to miss him.

Every year, on this very same winter day, the man came. Well, he didn't so much come as he passed through. No one knew who he was, where he came from, or what he was doing. No, all we knew was that he would come. He never bothered to say a word or even make a glance, but he would come. He always came.

And he did come.

Just as he always had before, the mysterious man skid across that long, icy, mountainside road and right into our tiny Christmastime town. He didn't drive a car though, no. As he always had, he rode atop that same big, red, horse-drawn sleigh. Driving that sleigh, those four big, gray, galloping horses leading his charge, the tall, heavyset man was like something right out of a a child's picture book. We were in awe of him; in awe that such a person really existed.

As we watched, he zoomed right through our peaceful town and onto my snowbound street, the tail of the long red scarf that covered his face trailing behind him. The children on the snow bank yelled and applauded as he raced by, hoping that, just this once, the stranger would turn and wave. But, without the slightest acknowledgment or nod, he sped right past the children, keeping his stern, concentrated eyes -- the type of eyes that make a portrait worth seeing -- focused straight ahead the entire time. Even if we didn't know where he was going, there was no doubt that he knew, and that he wanted to get there fast.

Then, like every other year, he was gone with a blink, and, as they say, "that was that."

We had always wanted to stop him and ask him questions, but we never did get the courage. To this day, I look back and wish one of us had, even if it would have ruined the mystery and the fun. You see, that mysterious man broke his unspoken promise and never did come back.

For the next few years, we waited, as we always had, but he never showed. With each disappointment, fewer and fewer of us bothered to come, until I was the last. Soon, even I stopped waiting.

Sixty straight years, and he was just gone.

Gone forever.

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