The Little Red Truck

models of truck and trees

( Intermediate Level )

Nadine and her son, Vince, had been window shopping all day. Vince spotted a little red truck in the window of the toy shop in the town square. He would love to have it but Vince knew he couldn’t ask his mom. Christmas was just around the corner and would definitely ask Santa for this truck. At his tender young age, he knew things were a little tough this year for them.

Last year Nadine and her husband went through a divorce. She tried to keep things normal for Vince’s sake but it was too make ends meet as a single parent. The two ended up moving back to her hometown where she grew up.

Clarksville hadn’t changed much since she was a little girl. Only one thing was missing, her mom. She had passed away two months ago leaving her dad at a loss. Moving back was a no-brainer for all involved. She hoped it would be temporary. She just needs to save enough time to save enough money and get a place of their own.

The first thing was getting a part-time job. She hadn’t worked since she gave birth to Vince. She was determined and talented so she didn’t worry too much. Small towns didn’t offer much in the way of great opportunities. Nadine wasn’t looking for anything special. She just wanted to provide for her son to the best of her abilities.

Her father could watch Vince while she worked and her son would be great company for her father. The loss he had just suffered would soften.

“Did you have fun today in town, Vince?” Grandpa asked as they arrived home. “Yes Grandpa. Mommy and I walked by the toy store and they had many decorations up. There was a sign that said Santa would visit on Sunday. I am going to ask Santa for the red truck I saw in their window. Grandpa, it was the brightest red truck I ever seen!” Little Vince couldn’t contain his excitement.

His grandfather chuckled. “Well maybe you can show it to me someday. I’d love to see this special red truck of yours. Now go upstairs and wash your hands. I heated up some soup for dinner, and I got you those animal shaped saltine crackers you like so much.” Vincent smiled and hurried upstairs to wash up.

Nadine looked at her dad. “I don’t want to disappoint him. I need to find a job dad. At this time of the year it will be difficult to find one. Try not to encourage him. I don’t have the extra money.”

“Santa hears all little boys and little girls wishes, Nadine. You never know.” Her dad smiled, turned and headed to the kitchen. Nadine stood there and shook her head in dismay. He obviously didn’t understand.

Vince talked to his grandfather about the red truck he saw then became preoccupied with the animal saltines in his soup. Nadine ate in silence. She enjoyed hearing her son’s excitement finally. He had taken the break up between her and her husband hard and didn’t quite understand why daddy wasn’t going to be around any longer.

As Nadine tucked her son in bed that night he asked mom if they were going to see Santa on Sunday. “Mom, we are going to see Santa on Sunday right? I want to ask him for that little red truck.”

“Of course we will go but Vince asking Santa for that truck now, so close to Christmas it may be impossible for him to fill the order. His elves work all year to make enough toys for everyone. So don’t get your hopes up ok?”

Vince smiled , “I love you mom.” He turned over and pulled the covers up over his shoulder. “Love you too.” She turned off the lamp by the bedside and headed out the door, closing it quietly behind her.

Nadine’s father was sitting in his favorite chair when she arrived downstairs. He had busied himself reading one of his favorite books, again. “Don’t you ever get tired of reading those books over and over again?”

Her father glanced up and shook his head. “Of course not. Classic books are meant to be read again and again.” He smiled and went back to reading. Nadine spent the remaining part of the evening quietly watching the television.

Today was going to be a big day. Vince and his grandson would head into town to pick out the perfect Christmas tree. Vince had woken up earlier than usual and dressed. He bounded downstairs wanting to get an early start.” You ready Grandpa?”

“It’s way too early . We will leave in a few hours. Maybe you can show me that special red truck today.” Vince took off his coat and mittens to sit down to a bowl of oatmeal his grandfather made for him. The sweet smell of brown sugar made Vince’s mouth water. His mom didn’t like him eating so much sugar but what she didn’t know wouldn’t hurt.

Finally, Vince and his grandfather headed into town. For Vince it seemed an eternity but it was actually an hour and a half. Vince grabbed his grandfather’s hand and hurried him to the toy store. There in the window sat the infamous red truck. It sat amongst a tiny village and Christmas tree lot.

“See Grandpa, there it is.” Vince’s nose was pressed against the store’s window. “One day, when I grow up, I will own my own red truck. I want it to look just like this one!” Vince’s Grandfather looked down at his grandson. He saw how important this truck was to him. He would need to talk to the shop’s owner before Christmas.

From the toy store the two headed to the tree lot on the edge of town. “I want the tallest and fattest tree ever! “ They both laughed. After running up and down the aisles of trees to choose, Vince picked out the perfect blue spruce. Its needles shimmered the perfect blue green in the morning’s sunlight. It stood nearly ten feet tall.

“I hope we have room for this tree. I think you’ve picked the tallest tree they had here.” Vince was smiling from ear to ear. He couldn’t wait for his mom to see his tree.

After dinner the three decorated the tree. Topping it with Grandma’s favorite angel that grandpa had given her on their first Christmas together. Vince had fallen asleep on the sofa. His day was filled with excitement from the start to the end. Tomorrow will also be an eventful day. Vince would finally get to ask Santa for that little red truck.

Vince and Nadine stood in line to see Santa. Grandpa had told them he couldn’t make it. He had a prior engagement to go to. Of course, Vince was a little upset but he soon forgot as he stood in line with all the other boys and girls.

As they moved closer and closer to the front of the line Vince’s excitement grew. He could hear all the others ask for trains , dolls or a ball. There was something in Santa’s voice that sounded familiar to Vince but he shrugged it off.

He was finally there at the front of the line. He climbed up on Santa’s lap and was asked, “So, what do you want for Christmas, Vince.” Vince looked at Santa in amazement. He knew his name.

Vince looked out at his mom who stood in front with her cell phone recording every moment then at Santa again. ” I want a few things Santa. I want my mom to find a job. I know she worries about this and for my grandpa, I want him not to be so sad anymore. Grandma passed away and he has been very sad. And for me Santa, I want the little red truck I saw in the window at the toy store. Ever since I saw it I have wanted it.

Santa looked out at Vince’s mom and saw tears in her eyes. He thought, what a special young man she raised. “Well Vince, let me see what I can do for you. Merry Christmas.” He hugged Vince and gave him a candy cane as he climbed off of Santa’s lap.

Christmas was in a few days. Vince helped his mom bake sugar cookies and assemble a gingerbread house. The days flew by. Nadine had shown the video to her father of Vince meeting Santa.

“I thought there was something very familiar about this Santa and it wasn’t until I watched it for the second time that I realized you were Santa. I could see it in your eyes. Vince has your eyes.”

Her father looked at her. He smiled and winked. “I have been Santa’s helper for the past six years. It gives me something to do. This year I almost declined until you two came to stay with me.”

Nadine hugged her dad. This Christmas was turning out to be special and surprising. Her own son is selfless, wanting her and grandpa to be happy before him.

Christmas morning Vince had woken early running downstairs to see what Santa had left for him. To his surprise, there on the coffee table sat his little red truck with a tiny Christmas tree wrapped and sitting in its bed.

It wasn’t until years later when Vince headed off to college that he was told his grandfather was Santa that year and that truck signified more to his grandfather then he realized.

His mom told him that he brightened up his grandfather’s life when he most needed it. That one day when he was shown the truck and he picked out the biggest and fattest tree from the lot had given him the will to live on.

To this day, Vince still has that little red truck. Hoping to pass it on to his own son and telling him the story of his own grandfather being Santa’s helper that year.

Written By: Angel

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Thoughts From Angel:

Sometimes, the smallest of treasures can hold the most memories.

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tender young age – idiom:  a time in your life when you are still young and lack experience

sake – noun: out of consideration for or in order to help someone

make ends meet – idiom: earn enough money to live without getting into debt

no-brainer -noun: something that requires or involves little or no mental effort

dismay – noun: surprise

preoccupied – adjective: preoccupied

classic – noun: recognized and established value

bounded – verb: walk or run with leaping strides

what (she) didn’t know wouldn’t hurt -idiom: if someone does not know about something, he or she cannot be damaged by it, blamed for it, etc.

eternity – noun: infinite or unending time

infamous – adjective: well known for some bad quality or deed

amongst – preposition: surrounded by; in the company of

shimmered – verb: shine with a soft tremulous light

shrugged it off – phrasal verb: ignore it or treat it as if it is not really important or serious

declined – verb: politely refuse 

selfless – adjective: concerned more with the needs and wishes of others than with one’s own; unselfish

Question ( s ):

Do you have any holiday memories that you will share with generations to come?

Second Chance

( Advanced Level )

Joshua sits, waiting for his parole officer, reflecting on his choices as a youth. How the choices he made went terribly wrong. Ended up being incarcerated at the young age of fourteen.

Now he has the opportunity, to not undo the past, but to keep others from making the same choices as he did.

His release came a little earlier than expected. He had made a deal with the powers that be. Two and a half years shaved off his sentence if he agreed to be a mentor or a big brother figure for young adolescents in his neighborhood.

John, who has been a parole officer for over sixteen years, was on his way to pick up Joshua. He is all too familiar with the troubled youth of his city. Most came from single parent homes or born into families of crime.

He always told himself it was a vicious circle you cannot get out of. You need money and opportunities to succeed. Not many were given chances so they resorted to a life of crime. From petty theft to sale of drugs.

Upon arriving, John saw a very scared young man now. Not the cocky overconfident teenager who sat before him years ago. Something changes when you are sent to jail. You go into survival mode.

“Are you ready?” Joshua looked up. “Yeah I guess. I don’t know what they expect from me or what I should do.”

“Just be yourself and be honest. If the kids ask questions, be truthful. Let them know it is not worth it. Be their friend. Be their big brother. Some don’t have people who care about them.

The car ride to the city youth center was quiet. Both Joshua and John lost in their thoughts. John was familiar with Joshua’s plight. His father left his mom, Evelyn, when he was seven.

She struggled with raising him alone. She wanted to leave the neighborhood to raise her son in a better environment but it never worked out.

Unfortunately, Joshua got caught up in life on the streets. Initially he wanted to earn extra money so his mother didn’t have to work so hard. He hated seeing his mom work twelve to fourteen hours a day to come home exhausted.

Selling drugs was the easiest answer for quick money. He was told to go to certain locations each time he took a job and the customers came to him. In the end he was apprehended and incarcerated.

Nearly forty-five minutes passed and the two pulled into a parking lot stopping in front of a small building where plywood covered openings, what were once windows. “Okay. We’re here.”

It had been awhile since Joshua had seen the old neighborhood. He was shocked to see how much more run down it looked. He let out a tremendous sigh and got out of the car.

John stood waiting for Joshua and ushered him to go ahead of him. As the two approached the door a group of younger kids ran out and gave him a hug. “Hi, Officer John,” they chanted one by one.

Whenever John had spare time he spent at this makeshift youth center. He played basketball and other activities with the kids. It gave the kids a chance to get off the streets and the temptations in the area that may lead to a life of crime.

The building didn’t have much inside. Whatever sports equipment or supplies they had were from John. He would set aside money each month to buy something new.

Sometimes the building was broken into and everything was taken. This never discouraged him from continuing on with what he did.

“Guys, I brought a friend with me today. He will be helping me here for a while. Everyone say hi to Joshua.”

“Hi, Joshua.” The oldest and tallest kid of the group, Seth, grabbed his hand. “Let’s go play basketball. I’ve been practicing my shots. I hope one day to play for the high school team, like my brother did.”

“He died before he graduated. My mom doesn’t want me to be stupid like my brother so I come here everyday after school and on weekends.”

Joshua thought to himself how matter-of-fact Seth said this. He could have ended up like Seth’s brother. It was a good thing he was caught. It was hard enough knowing what he put his mom through. She had raised him better.

“Sure, but let’s involve everyone. You be one captain and I will be the other. We will pick teams. Officer John will play too.”

John soaked in everything that he saw and heard. This was a great choice he suggested to the judge. He knew he saw something deep inside that tough guy exterior of Joshua’s.

He pleaded with the judge, “This kid deserves a chance. His mother raised him alone for years by herself. He was young and dumb. I see something in him that I hadn’t seen in others. Let him out on early release .”

“I will mentor him and keep an eye on him. He can, also, help me at the youth center. It seems I am getting more and more kids and it is difficult somedays to manage all of them.”

He was pleasantly surprised when the judge agreed. “I believe you know him better than me John. He will be under your supervision for two and a half years. It will be his parole stipulations.

As the months passed by, Joshua found himself enjoying going to the center. Sometimes catching an earlier bus so John didn’t have to go out of his way to pick him up at his house.

He spoke to the kids quite openly about what he did and how he was arrested. He hoped this would keep others from making the same mistakes he made.

“There isn’t any reason to disrespect your mother or father, most of all yourself. If you want something, earn it don’t steal it. If it seems too easy then you are doing it the wrong way and it is probably against the law.”

Learn from me guys. I thought I was tough. I was on top of the world. Well guess what? I was scared. I cried many nights in jail.”

” How could I have let my mom down the way I did. I needed to survive so I could see her again. She never stopped loving me. She was just disappointed in my choices. I am always here to talk to if you want,” as he looked around at all the kids’ faces.

John, eventually, retired from the police force and would, occasionally, show up at the youth center. It is now, Joshua, who looks after the neighborhood kids. Giving them a safe place to hang out.

The youth center was unofficially named John’s Center for Kids. After all, it was he who started it. Maybe, sometime in the future, they would be able to have a new youth center with all the equipment needed.

One day, he too, could give someone a second chance as John gave him. John’s legacy would live on through all the kids who were given a safe place to play and not worry about temptations of the streets.

Written By: Angel

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Twitter: AngelOfTheMorn5

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reflecting – verb: think deeply or carefully 

incarcerated – verb: imprison or confine

powers that be – noun: the authorities

shaved – verb: to cut off or crop

mentor – verb: advise or train 

parole officer – noun : officials appointed to supervise the conduct of convicted offenders on probation

vicious – adjective: brutal, non ending

resorted – verb: turn to

petty theft – noun: non violent crime

cocky – adjective: arrogant

plight – noun: a difficult or unfortunate situation

struggled – verb: forceful effort

exhausted – adjective: very tired

apprehended – verb: arrest

run down – phrasal verb: in bad shape, old

tremendous – adjective: huge

ushered – verb: show or guide

makeshift – adjective: temporary

discouraged – adjective: lost confidence or enthusiasm

matter-of-fact – adjective: unemotional

exterior – adjective: outside of something

stipulations – noun: condition or requirement

disappointed – adjective: sad or unhappy

retired – adjective: stopped working

unofficially – adverb: not official or confirmed

legacy – noun: heritage, gift

Question ( s ):

Have you ever given anyone a second chance? Why?

Obviously, Joshua learned from his mistakes as a youth. Do you know anyone who made a mistake and learned from their mistake?