It was late afternoon when Josiah walked into the jail. Vin was there, quietly blowing into his harmonica.
"Glad to find you here, Vin. I need to ask a favor, but I just don't know how to make it sound good to you."
"Might as well just spill it."
"I need a Santa tonight. For the kids."
"Sorry," Vin replied quickly. "Ask one of the others."
"Now hold on. I can't do it; the children all know me. Buck has disappeared with some lady friend. You *know* Chris won't do it. JD's too young. Nathan's got the clinic…"
"Ezra had a sudden and very prosperous winning streak. He's been having a little whiskey-soaked celebration ever since."
Vin shrugged. "He'll be sober later."
"And hung over, no doubt. No, Vin, I need someone I can trust to do a good job of it. I'm asking you as a friend."
"And I said 'no.'"
Josiah shrugged and started to leave, obviously disappointed.
"Josiah! I'm sorry…I can't…this Christmas thing… I just ain't…" Vin sighed and shook his head.
"What? You don' like Christmas?"
"Look, when my ma died, I was five. She was sick for awhile and she died the day after Christmas. At the time, I thought maybe that I'd been bad all year and now Santa was punishin' me by takin' my ma."
"'Course I know better. But…that was my last memory of a 'family' type Christmas, y'know? After that was the orphanage and… I'm sorry, Josiah. You're just gonna have to find somebody else."
Josiah nodded and left. Vin watched him go. He hated to disappoint Josiah but he just couldn't find much joy in the holiday. He got on his horse and rode out to the edge of town, towards the open desert.
Vin sat out there a long time, thinking. He remembered very little of that Christmas as a five-year-old. He remembered wearing a very uncomfortable suit and people crying. After that was the orphanage. Christmas there wasn't much. Someone would come in as St. Nick and each kid would get a tiny package. It might contain a comb or toothbrush, maybe a piece of fruit or a few pieces of candy. And that was it for another year.
And he remembered how mean some of older kids could be, delighting in telling the littler ones how there was no Santa Claus. Little kids like Michael, a quiet, skinny, little thing. He could still remember his face. Vin had been about nine or so. Michael had looked like his last hope in the world had been snatched away by the older kids. Vin had watched him start to cry. Then, for reasons he didn't understand then, Vin had turned and punched Michael's tormentor. Instead of a Christmas present, Vin had received a licking, but he didn't care.
The desert sky was turning a pink-tinged indigo with the twilight. Vin looked up. There was one star out there, brighter than all the others. It sparkled like a silver diamond on a curtain of velvet. He studied it awhile, trying to figure out which one it was.
"Funny I never noticed that one before," he thought. It reminded him of a Bible story he'd heard once about a star. He watched it a little longer before riding back to the church.
It was full of kids. Kids like Michael. Vin found Josiah in his room, trying to squeeze into the Santa costume.
Vin coughed and Josiah turned in surprise.
"I'll fit that better'n you will," Vin observed in a soft voice.
Josiah nodded. "I'm glad to see you, but what made ya change your mind?"
"Somethin' you said to me once."
Josiah looked at him questioningly as he handed the suit to Vin.
Vin smiled. "Everyone's gotta believe in somethin', if only for a little while."