Free Fiction Thursday!
It’s December and I’ve already been binging on Christmas music, so I figured, in keeping with the holiday spirit, I’d post a Christmas story.
Santa Claus gets a heart-wrenching letter from a little boy: ALL I WANT FOR CHRISTMAS IS FOR MY STEPDADDY TO STOP HITTING ME.
What does the old guy do? Read on and find out…
Despite what you might have heard, Santa isn’t always holly-jolly. Take it from me, he has a dark side. I’ve been his right hand man for thirty-six years now, and I’ve seen it plenty. There was the time he bitch-slapped Bono in ’87 for calling him a fat fascist for not staging some kind of Arctic-Aid show or something. And then there was the time he kicked the Easter Bunny’s ass for making a pass at Mrs. Klaus (pass meaning he grabbed her tits and tried to stick his tongue down her throat). That was a bad scene. He and the Easter Bunny were real close. They used to play poker all the time, every Thursday night, in fact. But after that…
It was bad, like I said. He really hurt the Easter Bunny. But that was nothing compared to what he did back in 2002. That was heavy.
It was a few days before Christmas, and we were swamped with orders. I’d been on the factory floor all day, overseeing the elves as they hammered, painted, and crafted. I was exhausted when quitting time came around and I trekked across the compound to his office. I was looking forward to a hot chocolate by the fire (a nightly ritual I have with the big guy) and then bed, but when I got there, Santa was waiting at the door, his arms crossed and a nasty glower on his face. He didn’t look pissed. No. He looked like he was ready to rip someone’s head off and shit down their neck. I’ve never been afraid of him, but at that moment, my heart sank so far into my stomach it was in danger of slipping out my ass hole.
Oh, God, someone fucked up big time, I thought. Screw-ups weren’t uncommon, but big ones were rare. The last time something big happened, the guy who had my job before me wound up banished from Santa’s Village.
“Randal,” Santa said, his voice tight, “we’re going to America.”
His words caught me off guard. “What?”
“I’ll tell you in the sleigh,” he replied. He pulled on his coat and hat and shut the door behind him. Cookies and hot chocolate were out of the question. I followed him to the airfield (running to keep up) and asked him again what was up, but he didn’t reply.
The sleigh was ready for us when we got there, the reindeer looking agitated and a bit perplexed. A couple of workelves milled around, dressed in orange vests and smoking cigarettes.
When they saw us coming, they threw them down and stomped on them. Santa’s a huge anti-smoker. Me…I really don’t care one way or the other.
“Sir,” they greeted in unison, and nodded to me.
Santa muttered something and climbed in. I followed suit. “We’ll be back before dawn,” he said, “I can’t say when. Keep the tower up and running until we return.”
“Yes, sir,” they harmonized.
With a savage snap of the wrist, Santa brought the reindeer to attention, and we were off. I usually accompany Santa on his midnight rides (except for the time in ’79 I had pneumonia and the time in ’01 I broke my leg), so the airsickness I felt was very slight.
Once we were high above the clouds, soaring south toward Canada and the States, Santa finally spoke. “Randal, reach into my left pocket here. There’s a piece of construction paper there.”
I did as he asked, removing a stiff piece of paper that had been sloppily folded. I opened it. Blocky white script covered the page:
SANTA MY NAME IS BILLY HODGEKINS AND I AM 6 YEERS OLD ALL I WANT FOR CRISMIS IS 4 MY STEPDADDY TO STOP HITTING ME.
Below was a drawing. Two stick figures. One tall and angry, his teeth sharp and his eyes big. The other a small boy with a frowny face and thick hair, tears streaming down his face.
I looked at Santa; his face was grimly set, red from the wind. “Sir,” I said, “this is heartbreaking, but shouldn’t we…I dunno, call social services or something? What can we do?”
“I’m going to fuck him up, Randal.”
I opened my mouth to reply, to argue, but he fixed me with a menacing eye, and I snapped it back shut again. For what seemed like an hour, we rode in silence. Finally, I spoke.
“Where does this Billy kid live?”
“Dahlgren,” Santa said, “Virginia.”
I knew the area enough to form a mental picture of it; small, bland, perched on the banks of the Potomac, a sprawling naval complex the biggest thing for miles. I checked the GPS. We were currently passing over south Jersey. The sun was setting in the west and the air was getting colder.
Two hours later, we began our descent over southern Maryland. The sky was clear and the moon full, sparkling whitely on the surface of the liquid black river. Clusters of lights twinkled brilliantly.
We landed in a clearing about three miles north of Dahlgren. We left the sleigh and reindeer and trekked overland through the woods. I tried to engage the big guy in conversation, but he wouldn’t bite. After maybe fifteen minutes, we came upon Billy’s house, a small ranch sitting in a grove of dead trees along a back street. The paint was peeling, the screendoor hung askew, and trash and toys littered the overgrown yard. The big guy walked boldly up to a side window and peered in. Heart clutching, dreading the coming confrontation, I went after him. I couldn’t see what was going on (sometimes, I fucking hate being three feet tall), but Santa’s expression changed for the first time all night: from rage to tenderness.
“She’s putting him to bed,” he said. He looked down at me and smiled. “Here.” He gave me a boost. We were obviously looking into the bedroom of a small boy. A mother sat smilingly on the edge of a bed, reading something from a large book, making faces and, presumably, voices to go along with the tale. The one thing that didn’t change: the nasty black shiner on her left eye.
“Dickbreath did that,” Santa said, “I’d bet my firstborn.”
Almost as if on cue, a pair of headlights washed over us. My heart leapt into my throat. Santa calmly ducked, dragging me down with him.
A Ford Super-Duty with a ladder rack and STANLY’S SIDING on the side pulled into the driveway. It idled for a moment, as if the guy inside was lighting a smoke, and then the lights and motor died.
Santa watched with a predatory gleam in his eye as the driver door shrieked open and a dark form emerged. I saw the orange, pinprick glow of a cigarette cherry brighten and dim as the asshole slammed the door and made his way across the lawn. Out of sight, the front door opened and slammed.
“What now?” I asked.
“We wait,” Santa said tightly. “When they’re in bed, we’ll strike.”
The boy was already asleep. The man and woman, however, were up for six hours, yelling, fighting, shouting. We moved from the side to the back porch. Through the sliding glass door, we saw the man, tall, chubby, a beard-and-mustache, slug her and then chug a Natural Ice. It took everything Santa had to keep from storming in there like Rambo on coke. He shook, and when he spoke, his voice was strained. Finally, all of the lights went out (except for the ones on the Christmas tree in the living room and the ones around the living room ceiling) and the house quieted down.
“Just a little longer,” Santa said. My hands and face were numb. It was far warmer down here than it was in the North Pole, but it was still fucking frigid.
It was three in the morning before we finally went in. Santa walked through the sliding glass door like the ghost of Christmas ire, and I squeezed through a crack in the wall. The house was tidy, warm, and dim, the only light the soft glow from the Christmas tree. Dishes sat piled in the sink, uneaten food lie on the counter, and beer cans were thick on the floor. The man was asleep on the couch, snoring loud enough to bring the walls down.
Tiptoeing, Santa crossed the kitchen and living room. At the couch, he stood over the bastard, his broad back rising and falling, rising and falling.
Then, so quickly I missed it, he snatched up by his dirty work shirt.
“The fuck?” he yelped. Before I knew it, Santa had him in a headlock, squeezing so hard it looked like the S.O.B’s eyes were going to pop out of his head. Santa was sneering; he looked like a demon. I said earlier that I’ve never been afraid of my boss, but in that moment I was.
Seeming to have had enough, Santa pushed the asshole onto the coffee table, smashing glasses and upsetting half-full beer cans. With an umph, the D-Bag rolled onto the floor, where he lay prone for a stunned moment. When he tried to get back up, Santa kicked him in the side and then sat on him. “Merry Christmas, asshole,” he whispered into the guy’s ear.
Santa was true to his word. He rocked that guy’s world. He stomped his balls in, broke a few of his fingers, knocked some of his teeth out, broke his nose, and left him with two black eyes. To top it all off, he took a huge crap in the toilet while the guy was semi-conscious and then gave him a swirly. I couldn’t help but feel sorry for him. Santa really messed him up.
Finally, as dawn crept into the eastern sky, Santa got serious. He wrapped one of his massive hands around his throat and stared into his dazed eyes. “If you ever hit another woman or child, I’m going to come back and rip your dick off.”
The guy seemed to comprehend.
“I know when you’ve been naughty or nice, remember?”
The guy nodded.
“Now you behave yourself, Robbie Lymon, or I’ll come back here and kill your sorry ass. Got it?”
“Good,” Santa cooed, and then choked him unconscious.