Jennifer walked in. "Santa Clause is dead," she told the room flatly. That wasn't a joke or a bit of irony. Santa Clause was a homeless man who lived in her neighborhood. She had talked about him many times, how he was a fat, white man w/ a tummy like Santa Clause. How he fixed his abandomium up nice and everybody liked him. How children liked to hug him and call him Santa and how he cried one day because, she thought, he wasn't used to being hugged and loved by children or anyone else. How eventually he came to trust her well enough to knock on her door at night if he was hungry and know that she would always give him food.
Santa Clause was in intensive care from the beating someone in the neighborhood gave him. Jennifer worried about him. She tried to visit, but didn't know his real name. This morning, she heard that he died. She said that this weekend she would buy some balloons, say a prayer, and release them in his name. Jennifer loves her neighborhood, all however many blocks of poverty, drug abuse, violence, early death, neglected children and battered women. She absolutely loves it. And when you love a group of people you invent -- or perhaps simply recognize -- all kinds of small beauties, kindly characters, funny moments within their midst. Jennifer's own neighborhood had just killed one of hers.