When my wife was having a root canal a few years ago, I sat in the waiting room and wrote this. It’s silly, but it was fun. Hopefully, it’ll make you smile.
The Santa Clause
I’d been awake longer than I wanted or meant to. I was being stupid, childish. Everything looked like a blur and my eyes itched. No amount of rubbing them cleared my vision and I couldn’t keep from yawning.
I wasn’t going to make it.
I told myself, stay up a little while, what could it hurt? Just until midnight. Beth shook her head when I told her my plan, and she went to bed without me. If I were her, I would have done the same thing. But midnight came and went. Going to bed then seemed too much like giving up, even though it was ridiculous. Another hour, so what? So I gave it until one, thinking about Beth in there, hogging the sheets, like she doesn’t do it every nigh anyway. I sat on the couch in front of the fireplace, non-operational, picking at cookies and getting sleepy.
Hell, may as well give it until, two, right? But I swore to myself, that’s the limit, that’s the absolute limit.
At 2:36 I felt a little ill from the cookies the boy put out for Santa. Danish butter cookies–you know, the ones in the giant blue tin with the little white papers that rustle so everyone knows your business? One or two would’ve been okay, but I must have eaten two or three dozen, first the ones on the plate, then directly out of the can.
Since Beth went to sleep, the only sounds in the house have the tin popping, paper rustling, and me crunching.
My mouth became so dry, I even drained the glass of milk. Whole milk, no less. Elias insisted on whole milk. “Santa’s fat,” he said, like that explained it. The glass, the biggest one Elias could find in the cupboard, had been sitting out since the kid went to sleep at eight, and had warmed up.
I yawned, not feeling so great, and stretched.
I was too old to wait up for Santa, but I had my reasons.
But my reasons weren’t good enough to keep my eyes from drooping. I felt them close. Okay, that’s a lie. I know one minute I was awake, and the next I was dreaming.
I hate dreaming. I hate it so much that one time I even tried that lucid dreaming stuff. Just to get control of it, you know? I figured it couldn’t hurt. But all that happened was that my dead grandmother kept showing up–alive, not a zombie or anything weird–and she was shoving naturalist resort pamphlets are me. I took that book in to a white elephant party.
But the dream I had when I fell asleep was more of a memory, like a watching a video, only I could see myself like an actor instead looking out through my own head.
It’s last Christmas. Elias is opening his presents. There’s a ton of paper every place–red, gold, silver, green. A technicolor explosion. And every present is exciting, even the clothes. What does he know? He’s six. But every single box is quickly put aside as he goes searching among the remaining candidates for the ONE, the game-changer, the present every kid in the tri-state area is going to envy him for. The Krusher.
The manufacturer underestimated how popular it was going to be after a one minute appearance on a morning talk show, so no one has it. A late, save-the-day shipment from China had even been hijacked by pirates. Every single store was out of the Krusher before the Thanksgiving turkey had a chance to get cold.
And Elias is certain that he’s going to get it. I give Beth a look and a shrug, and she volleys it back like a tennis pro. We both know what’s going to happen when the last box is opened and there’s no Krusher. All we can do now is hope to be the first parent to get the questioning look so we can blame the other parent for dragging their heels.
Dream over, my eyes snap open. A red blob by the fireplace resolves itself into a man shape, still red and still blobby.
That’s Santa, not me.
I don’t waste any time being amazed. “Last year. The Krusher. That was you, right?”
There’s nothing blurry about my vision now. I see every wrinkle on his craggy old face. He looks pissed.
“Why don’t you just close your eyes and go back to sleep,” he hisses.
I don’t have a problem picking up on the menace. “I want an answer,” I say.
“Tex,” he growls, “you vex me. Tight schedule. Chop. Chop.” He actually makes a chopping motion with his hand, like with an axe.
I stare, not daring to look away or close my eyes. Or blink. I know if I stop looking at him, he’ll disappear.
“Look. Noah Tuttle. You were seven, you wrote a letter to Santa and asked for a remote control car you knew your parents weren’t getting you. You figured if even though your folks were orthodox, maybe Santa could pull it off. You didn’t get it. I’m sorry, okay? But I got places to be…”
My mouth opens and closes. “How do you–” I have to wave my hands as it settles in. It is Santa. He’s real.
“Not going to close your eyes and let St. Nick get back to work, eh?”
I shake my head.
“Quantum entanglement. Heisenberg. Ring any bells?”
“I watched something on Nova about string theory, once.”
“Christ in a manager. You did, did you? The ten cent version. On Christmas Eve, every particle of my being is in every house where there’s enough Christmas spirit to generate a field to attract it.”
“Call it a Santa particle.”
“So long as no one directly observes me, I can be everywhere I need to be at the same time. Filling stockings. Eating cookies.” He jerks and angry thumb at the empty plate. “My gig, right? But every once in a while one of you Clements catches me in the act and the waveform collapses. That means I’m stuck until the yahoo, you in this case, goes nightie-night.”
I cross my arms. “So, as long as I’m looking at you, you can’t go anywhere.”
“Don’t even think about it, Tuttle.”
“How’d you do it? Get the Krusher, I mean. I have a cousin who’s pretty high up at FAO and he couldn’t get near it.”
He grins, his eyes twinkling. “Ever hear about my pal Krampus?”
“What’s a Krampus?”
“Hairy guy. Horns. Red tongue. Looks like the devil if the devil had a hygiene problem. Beats the hell out of naughty boys and girls with birch rods. If you’re lucky, he won’t throw you in a river.”
I shake my head. My eyes are watering with the effort of not looking away.
Santa grins. “You can’t see him sneaking up on you if you’re looking at me, Tex.”
He looks at something over my shoulder. The hair on my neck gets prickly, like when I eat horseradish. I knows he’s trying to trick me. I know it. But I can’t keep from twisting my head around.
Nothing. No one.
“Sucker.” It sounds like the wind sighing, the shoosh of wet snow around your galoshes.
He’s gone and I’m so tired, I think I fall asleep standing up.
I wake up the next morning and the stockings bulge with things I had never before laid eyes on. In my stocking there’s a little remote control car carved out of coal. Terrific. Everyone’s a comedian.