Drip. Drip. Drip.
It was a misty, cold morning with a slight drizzle. Rain water dripped through the holes in the roof into the buckets Amara placed on some spots in the house to collect the water.
"Mommy, it's almost Christmas and we do not have a tree yet. Do you know if Daddy will bring one when coming?" Laura, buried in a thick sweater up to her chin, her hair hidden in a beanie that covered her ears, asked her mother.
Amara, looking tired even though it was early in the morning, glanced at her eight-year-old daughter. It was days like these that she wished she had some magic powers to give Laura anything she asked for. She was not sure how she would tell her daughter that their next meal was dependent on her father's arrival from his journey to the city.
"I don't know dear but we must believe that Daddy will come back with a Christmas tree and some food."
Laura stared at her mother for a second then nodded. "Yes, mommy. I believe."
The cold was biting into his bones but Gary did not care. He pulled up the collar of his coat to cover his ears, stood by the roadside and waved as a pickup van drove closer. The driver slowed down.
"A lift to the next town, please?" Gary said quickly when the side glass wound down a bit. The driver, a middle-aged, bearded, fat man eyed him up and down then nodded.
"Get in. It's cold out here."
And that was how they both drove until they came upon an accident scene —a collision between a saloon car and a tricycle. The fender of the car was badly crushed, the tricycle was upside down. A short man in a red sweater and green trousers curled up by the roadside.
"Stop!" Gary exclaimed.
The bearded driver looked at him incredulously. "Why should we stop? I doubt if anyone survived that."
It was Gary's turn to look bewildered. "Surely there must be something we can do to help them," he suggested.
The driver shook his head. "I have to be home with my family. You looked like you needed the ride, that's the reason I stopped. If I stop now, I won't wait. Make your choice," the driver grumbled.
"Fine. Stop and I'll get down."
Gary got out of the van and ran towards the curled up man while the bearded driver drove away fast, his tyres screeching.
"Mister, are you alright?" Gary lightly touched the man's shoulder. A groan alerted him that the man was awake. Gary gently turned him on his back. The short man was very pale, his lips white but he blinked his eyes open to stare at Gary.
Then he smiled, some colour returning to his face and croaked, "th-that was a close call. Thank you for stopping to check on me."
"Just lie still. Are you in pain? How did the accident happen?" Gary asked quickly just in case he fainted and help arrived.
The short man chuckled. "I'll be fine in a bit. Was driving the tricycle and did not see that the car was parked there. Hehe. Silly me, right?"
Gary stared at him trying to comprehend all the man just divulged. "Come on. Help me up and take me home with you. I am so hungry. You would not mind sharing a meal?"
Then Gary remembered he had to get home to his wife and daughter with the little food he bought on his way with the last money on him. Maybe when the short man sees what they would eat, he would change his mind and leave.
"Sure. My name is Gary. Can you walk?"
"I am Bama. Yes, yes. Let's go. I am famished!"
After a meal of cornbread, cheese and some hot tea, Bama thanked Gary's family —Amara and Laura— for their hospitality.
"It's almost Christmas. Will you stay and spend Christmas with us?" Laura asked, her eyes wide and innocently staring at Bama.
"Laura, shh!" Amara whispered and smiled at Bama. "Sorry about that, Mr Bama. I'm sure your family would expect you for the holidays."
Bama chuckled. "It's alright. Your daughter longs for Christmas and let's see how I can help her wish come true." He went out of the house, only to return about ten minutes later from the wind and cold with a Christmas tree on his shoulder and some decorations in a box.
"A Christmas tree! Look, mommy!" Laura couldn't stop jumping, her eyes alight with happiness.
Amara could not contain her joy either. "Oh, Mr Bama you shouldn't have gone through the trouble."
"It's nothing. Your husband stopped and saved me when no one else would. He has a good heart." Gary flushed a little from the commendation.
As Gary's family waved goodbye to Bama, the weather got colder but it did not deter Bama from trudging down the road to an unknown location. When he was clearly out of sight, he pulled off his beanie to reveal small ears with pointy tips. He smiled, feeling good that he could spread at least one more season cheer before he returned home.