The only time anyone ever saw him was on Mondays, when he would drive to town and park in front of the grocery store for his weekly shopping spree. He would enter the store with the normal scowl on his face and mutter under his breath, while ramming his cart through the crowded aisles. No one felt comfortable around Mr. Krump, especially around the holidays. It was common knowledge that Mr. Krump hated Christmas and the idea of giving.
With only two more days before Christmas, the store was busy. Mr. Krump had managed to plow his way through the people, knocking carts over as he passed by. He stood in the supermarket checkout with a scowl on his face. He had his arms crossed over a rather large belly-complaining under his breath, when a light tug on his coat suddenly caught his attention. He turned around and saw a thin pale-faced boy with a mop of curly red hair looking up at him.
"Can I help you?" Mr. Krump frowned.
"Are you Santa Claus?" the little boy asked politely.
"Santa Claus," he replied. "You look like an angry Santa Claus."
Mr. Krump ignored him. He did not like children, they were annoying, especially this one. He continued to wait impatiently for the line to move, when another tug on his coat made him jump.
"What do you want?" he yelled.
The boy cowered for a moment then said, "I think Santa is having a bad day."
Mr. Krump shrugged his massive shoulders and turned away, staring irritably at his watch. The line began to move slowly. Then the little boy tugged on his pants.
It was all Mr. Krump could do not to blow up.
"What?" he snapped.
"I was wondering where Mrs. Claus is?" the boy asked teary-eyed.
"There is no Mrs. Claus. I like to live alone. I'm happy living alone!"
The young boy stared up at him in wonder. "You don't seem happy. I'll be your friend."
Mr. Krump scowled again, moving his cart slowly towards the register.
"Santa please cheer up," the voice said softly.
Mr. Krump puzzled over this for a moment before he knelt down to the little boy's level.
"Well, I suppose I do look a bit like him," he said rubbing his fingers through a thick gray beard. "My name's Mr. Krump. What's yours?"
"I'm Cody, and I'm this old," he replied holding up three fingers.
"Wow. You're practically a man," Mr. Krump whistled. "So what's that you've got in your hand?"
"It's a Hot Wheels car. You want to see? It drives like this."
Cody took the shiny blue car and scooted it across the supermarket floor, weaving it through the passing feet. Mr. Krump still did not smile.
"That's a mighty nice car you've got there," Mr. Krump replied. "I used to have one just like that when I was a kid."
"You were a kid?" Cody asked in surprise.
"Of course. I was once your age many years ago."
"Wow. How many years old are you now?" Cody asked with wide-eyed curiosity.
"Oh, I'm too old to count on my fingers," Mr. Krump said. "Let's just say I'm a little older than you. So where did you get such a fancy automobile?"
"My mommy," Cody said, pointing towards a well-dressed woman in the checkout. "She bought it for my birthday."
"Well that was mighty nice of her," Mr. Krump replied.
"This is my favorite car in the whole world. I have another one just like it, but it broke," Cody said swinging from the silver handrail. "I can swing like a monkey. Want to see?"
"Sure," Mr. Krump said.
He watched as Cody dangled from the handrail, his freckled face glowing with delight.
"Do you want to try?" Cody asked.
"Oh no! I'm afraid I would break the handrail. I might just break my back too!"
"I forgot. You're old," Cody giggled.
Then a soft voice called out across the lane. "Cody, it's time to go."
Cody turned to Mr. Krump and looked at him with love in his eyes. Then his tiny fingers opened up to reveal the shiny blue automobile hidden in the palm of his hand.
"This is for you," he said.
Mr. Krump stared at Cody in silence. "I can't take this. It's your favorite car in the whole world."
"I think you need it more than me," Cody smiled, wrapping his arms tightly around the old mans neck.
Mr. Krump choked back the tears, wiping his face with the sleeve of his coat. "Thank you son," he whispered.
All of a sudden, Mr. Krump didn't feel so angry anymore. He felt happy. And for the first time in years, he smiled.
"It looks like your mommy's ready to go," Mr. Krump said, straightening to his full height. "It was nice meeting you, Cody. You have a Merry Christmas! And thanks," he said holding the blue car tight against his chest.
"Bye Santa! Bring me lots of toys!" Cody said, as he disappeared through the sliding glass doors.
Mr. Krump was an elderly man with a long shaggy beard and hooked nose. The townspeople stayed clear of him and called him Mr. Grump, instead. That was his rightful name in the eyes of community. Mr. Krump lived on top of a hill overlooking the valley, and on many cold winter nights, you could see the smoke rising from his chimney, but no one dared to go near.