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The Stand-in
by Jackie Macintosh

That afternoon there was the village Christmas party and Steve’s girls were very excited. All their friends would be there and Father Christmas was coming to visit. Christmas was always a really big event in their family and the girls’ excitement was building. They rushed out to greet him.

“Daddy, Daddy, its nearly time to go,” they shrieked, “we need to get into our party clothes.”

“Okay, okay, calm down,” said Steve, laughing.

His mother came out smiling. “Right you two, inside to change.” As they dashed into the house, she turned to Steve. “We’ve got a problem; Gordon, who was going to be Father Christmas, is ill. We need you to take his place so the children won’t be disappointed.”

“No,” said Steve, emphatically, “I’m not dressing up and parading through the village.”

“You must,” said his mother, “there is no-one else available who will fit the costume.”

Steve sighed. “What about the girls? They will see me change.”

“No, I’ll take them to their cousin’s and they can go with them.”

“All organised then, I see,” said Steve, admitting defeat.

He struggled into the outfit; the jacket was rather tight, the trousers short and the boots were two sizes too small so he had to leave his own shoes on.

A corner of the room in village hall was curtained off and decorated as his grotto, and he had a box of wrapped presents beside him. He enjoyed the children’s delight as they came forward for their gift. He sat them on his knee in turn and asked each what they wanted for Christmas. He felt he was giving a convincing performance and was overjoyed by his success so far.

Then it was the turn of his younger daughter.

“Ho! Ho! Ho!” he said.

She leant towards his ear and whispered, “It’s alright, Dad, I recognised your shoes.”