“One Ticket, Please”

By Ed Odeven

FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. (Christmas Eve 2004) ー An advertisement appears in dozens of newspapers around the world, in dozens of languages, Icelandic and Italian, Swahili and Russian, Navajo and Vietnamese, and is plastered for all to see at neighborhood kiosks and schools, cafes and office buildings, laundromats and mini-marts.

The ad proclaims the promotion of a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity: a one-way train ticket from Santa Claus’s North Pole headquarters to anywhere in the world. But, wait, there’s more: This special locomotive, actually, only travels back in time to any place, any day you desire.

There’s just one rule: One visit per winner.

Entries arrive by the thousands as the deadline approaches.

Finally, the seven winners are selected.

One by one, they receive “The Call” from Santa Claus.

The winners can’t believe it. They jump for joy, laugh, hug their spouses, best friends, children, neighbors … anyone who’s within hiking distance.

After their euphoric celebrations, they ponder how to spend their special days.

An aging Syrian sculptor hopes to teach Palestinian youth to use their hands to create beautiful works of art with their Israeli neighbors, giving them something to do, he prays, instead of becoming suicide bombers, or throwing homemade bombs and stones at Israeli soldiers.

A skinny Brazilian boy, who some say possesses the best bicycle kick since Pele, thinks of nothing but suiting up for his native country in the 1970 World Cup and scoring the winning goal on, of course, a jaw-dropping pass from Pele.

A blind Navajo lady, who lost her sight due to diabetes and now lives in a nursing home in Phoenix, dreams to see the sunset at Monument Valley – the ones she remembers from her youth – one last time.

A billionaire carpentry distribution proprietor from Mississippi, who secretly owns the world’s largest collection of European paintings, imagines visiting the Vienna, Austria, art school Adolf Hitler wanted to attend in his younger days and giving the school’s principal the world’s best pep talk, one to convince him to allow young Adolf to enter the school and stick to painting rather than pursue his ill-conceived vision of world domination.

Hinault, a Haitian heart transplant recipient, yearns to visit Germany the day of The Fall Of The Berlin Wall and share in the blessed experienced with Hilda of Hamburg, who prolonged his life by becoming an organ donor.

Amani, a dignified diplomat from Sudan’s Dinka tribe and an aspiring connoisseur of fine cuisine, wants to watch the Great Guillaume perform his culinary magic at New Orleans’ Galatoire’s during a busy holiday evening. (Remember, Amani excitedly tells anyone who’ll listen, it’s been said, “Going to a [New Orleans] restaurant isn’t something you do before you go out. It’s why you go out.”)

A little Iraqi girl named Latifah, who’s always delighted by the sights and sounds coming from her satellite TV on Saturday nights when she watches “It’s Showtime At The Apollo” with her aunties, dreams of singing a duet with Alicia Keys at the famous Harlem theater.

The winners are transported to the North Pole, where they gather for a special dinner with Santa.

Then they’re issued their tickets.

A tall fellow in a red hat greets them at the train station, smiles and says, “All aboard!”

The rest is simply magical. Just close your eyes and imagine the rest.