SATIREPlaying Santa not all fun and games

Amber Garcia

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Editor’s note: The following story is a ficitional satire of the perils faced by volunteer mall Santas.

Crowded shopping malls, crying children, an empty wallet and being forced to see family members and treat them like family. ‘Tis the season to be jolly my ass.

Although I’m still recovering from the Thanksgiving tragedy at my house— the tragedy being having to wear a plastic smile while listening to my dear old aunt (let’s call her Aunt Bee) speak of family love, her 15-year-old son’s latest accomplishments and her lying, cheating, scumbag of a husband who recently left her for someone half her age and twice her bra size. Somebody pass the gravy please.

My favorite holiday is Halloween. What could be better than answering the front door in a stained wife-beater with a BB gun in my hand, yelling, “Can’t you see the damn porch light is OFF?” to a group of trick-or-treaters, and then spitting out tobacco?

Still, I was interested to see if I too could find joy in the granddaddy holiday of them all: Christmas. I figure if all of mediocre suburbia can enjoy turning their homes into potential fire hazards with strings of tangled Christmas lights, candy canes that attract ants, sharp ornaments that could cause you to lose an eye, and a massacred evergreen tree, why should I be the party pooper?

My quest was to find out if whether or not the true spirit of Christmas was still alive, or if it really has turned into a commercial strategy for the Valley Plaza. So, I decided to turn to our future: children. I decided to become a volunteer mall Santa.

Now granted, the trick-or-treaters incident seems like it would be a bad idea for me to work with kids, but that’s not true. I happen to think children can be bright, shiny and adorable, something you want to show off. I feel the very same way about my houseplant.

I got my suit from a Santa who had volunteered for 20 years and was now retiring, leaving me to fill his jolly boots. The man was about 50, but looked 70, with a scraggly beard and bloodshot eyes. I asked if it was hard being Santa Claus.

“You’ll probably need something to get you through it,” he told me. “Like lots of coffee, and shock therapy.”

Suddenly, I was starting to get nervous.

“Ah, don’t sweat it,” he said. “It’s not as bad as it looks. In time, all of the stains and scars fade.”

He smiled as he showed me the scar on his hand, a chunk of which seemed to be missing from a bite mark. “Good luck, you’ll need it. Oh, and one more thing, be careful with toddlers, they drop real easily.”

Laying a finger aside his nose, he blew a snot rocket. With a wink of eye and a pronounced limp, he walked away, leaving me with an ancient Santa Claus suit that smelled like smoke, mothballs and Old Spice. In one of the pockets I found a small flask filled with Jack Daniels. Who needs coffee?

Showtime started at 10 a.m. sharp; damn these little kids get up early. I sat on my decaying aluminum Santa throne, hoping none of the little dwarves would realize I was a chick. I was adjusting my fake fur trim when the first kid walked up and poked me in my chest.

“Ow!” I said. The kid, a bratty-looking boy, grabbed my snoz.

“You have a big nose,” the kid said. “It sure doesn’t look like a cherry to me.” And with that, he promptly bit my nose. Hey, that guy wasn’t kidding.

“What the hell is wrong with you, you midget?” I said. “Does it look like I’m made out of chocolate? I’m Santa Claus for Christ’s sake, not the freakin’ Easter Bunny.”

“You say bad things,” the boy said. “Are you sure you’re really Santa Claus?” He was probably 8 years old, such a young age to have all of his dreams/total credibility of his parents crushed. But hey, a job’s a job.

“Why, yes I am, sonny,” I said in my best Bing Crosby impersonation (the only person of Christmas status I know), and invited him to sit on my lap.

“If you’re really Santa Claus,” the kid said, “how can you be in two places at once?”

“Uh, what do you mean?” I asked, stammering. This kid was catching on, and it felt like I would shit bricks at any moment.

“I just saw you on a street corner with a bell,” said the boy.

“Look here, kid,” I said. “I’m Santa Claus, remember? I can do a lot of things.”

“But that’s physically impossible,” he said.

“I’m magical, OK?” I said.

“There’s no such thing as magic,” he said. “Harry Potter is full of dog poo and that guy David Crapperfield is a big phony.”

“Wait a minute, kid,” I said. “You don’t believe in magic, but you do believe in a big fat guy shoving his fat ass down a chimney to give presents to all the children in the world in a sleigh being pulled by a flying reindeer whose nose lights up?”

At this point the boy started to cry and was whisked away by his mother, who gave me the evil eye. I was impressed, he lasted longer than I thought he would.

I promised myself the next time would go better. A small 5-year-old girl walked up and said her name was Suzie. She shyly sat on my lap and listened with huge brown eyes as I asked what she wanted for Christmas.

“A doll,” she said.

That’s all she wanted, a doll. I was getting a weird fuzzy feeling in my chest that I believe is associated with being a sucker.

“Is that all, Suzie?” I asked. “Well of course old Santa can give you a doll. Tell me, what kind of doll would you like?”

Her eyes lit up as she responded, “A Britney Spears doll!”

The warm fuzzy feeling quickly disappeared. For a brief moment I had believed Suzie was unlike the greedy mall mongrels — all she wanted was a doll. Bit I realized her poor little mind had been twisted and contaminated by the filth we call crappy pop music.

“Look Suzie,” I said. “Santa is fresh out of Britney dolls, but I have plenty of Barbie dolls. How ’bout one of those? I promise you won’t notice the difference, considering the fact that Barbie and the real Britney are made up of the same amount of plastic.”

Suzie burst into tears and ran away. What a shame, I had seen real potential in her.

So the score so far was two down, one flask of Jack Daniels to go. The next little boy, Michael, had freckles, a tooth missing and a strange Christmas wish list.

“I want you to kill Osama bin Laden,” he said. “You can do it, I know you can ’cause you’re Santa Claus.”

I was both equally touched by the boy’s faith and horrified that the faith was in me. All I could envision in my head was a bowling ball getting another strike.

“Look Michael,” I said. “Santa cannot possibly kill Mr. bin Laden.”

“Why not?” he demanded. “You don’t like him do you?”

“No of course not,” I said. “Mr. bin Laden is a terrible person, but I can’t kill him.”

“Sure you can,” Michael chirped. “Look, I have a plan.”

He pulled out a piece of paper with X’s and O’s on it that looked like a football strategy.

“You’re a good guy and he’s a bad guy,” he said. “Good guys always win, Santa.”

My heart was breaking. What was I doing here in this stupid suit? It may not seem like a big deal, but here was a kid whose faith I knew I would ultimately destroy. How much eggnog did I have to make me think I could play God?

“I’m sorry, Michael,” I said. “Santa’s elves have a very strong opinion about foreign policy. They believe you should speak softly and carry a big candy cane. Isn’t there anything else Santa could give you?”

“No!” Michael yelled. “This present is for everyone, not just me.” He thought for a minute. “But … if you possibly can’t kill him, my second wish is for a Little Miss Pretty Makeup Kit, complete with multicolored lipsticks, glitter and peel-away nail polish.”

“What?” I said. “Your first wish is for me to rip off bin Laden’s head and then roll around in his blood, and your second wish is for a ‘Make Me a Mini-Me Drag Queen’ get-up?”

“Whatever,” Michael said. “Plus it comes in this great case that matches my ruby red slippers, just like Dorothy’s.”

I couldn’t believe it. How do you tell someone’s mother that somewhere over the rainbow lies her future son, Marilyn Manson. Nevertheless, I figure life is nothing without surprises, or irony, and promise him a kit. I even tell him he can look forward to that Powderpuff Tea Set he was looking forward to so he could have parties while wearing his mommy’s feather boa and pearls. Ho, ho, ho.

My next victim was April, a 10-year-old with braids, braces and buck teeth, who sounded like she said “th” a lot and ended up spitting at you whenever she talked. She jumped on my lap.

“You don’t have to athsk, I already know what I wanth,” she said.

“All right, tell Santa then,” I said.

“Firsth, I want an Eathy Bake Oven,” she said. “And seconth I want a Bedathler.”

“Well April,” I said. “You know, old Santa here always wanted an Easy Bake Oven himself. `Course I never got one, so unfortunately I missed out on the childhood experience of getting food poisoning from a brownie cooked with a lightbulb.”

“Bon apetith!” April said.

“I wanted a Bedazzler, too,” I said. “`Course knowing me, it would end up like the incident with Grandfather Corleone’s cigar cutter and I’ll lose another fingertip. Here, want to see?” I started to remove to remove my glove.

“EEEWWW MOMMTHY!!!” April screamed and ran off.

Damn, I thought, why does that keep happening?

I was drained, and it was only noon. I closed my eyes and out of my Catholic guilt habit, began reciting Hail Marys. I was interrupted by a tug on my trim. I opened my eyes and saw a tiny little girl who looked like little Cindy Lou Who. But it wasn’t her doing the tugging, it was her mother, Mrs. Bates diguised as Mrs. Cleaver.

“Excuse me!” she said. “My precious petunia here wants to talk to Mr. Claus!” She forcibly picked up her small flower bed and dropped her on my lap.

“Go ahead, Mary Jane,” Mrs. Bates/Cleaver said. “Tell Santy Claus what you want for Christmas!”

Mary Jane remained silent.

“Go on, sweetheart,” the Good Witch urged, fixing the girl’s bangs and collar, who was obviously embarrassed. “Tell the nice man what you want.”

She stood watching her daughter, blinking through fake eyelashes and adjusting her pearl necklace.

“She’s really shy,” Mother said. “She hasn’t said much since her daddy went to live with his pretty new air stewardess friend, and then her cat Fluffy was squished on the road and went to kitty heaven.” She stroked her daughter’s head. “Don’t worry sweetie, that bad truck-driver man will someday burn in H-E-L-L.”

I didn’t know whether to throw up, or attempt to run away with Mary Jane and save her from the medication she would be on someday.

“What she really wants,” said Mommie Dearest, “is another collectible clown. She just adores them, they’re all over her room.”

At this point, Mary Jane looked completely terrified. I’m sure I did too, imaging having to sleep in a room full of Zeebos, Bozos and Chuckles. Looking at Mary Jane’s hairbow, lacy dress and black patent leather shoes, a thought came to me suddenly: “Whatever happened to Baby Jane anyway?”

“I can’t sleep at night, Santa,” Mary Jane squeaked. “Clowns scare me! Clowns scare me a lot!” And with that she proceeded to pee on my lap.

Mrs. Cleaver/Bates’ eyes bulged out, and she snatched Mary Jane up before any more dirty little secrets escaped.

“Well, young lady,” she said, walking away, “now Santa Claus knows just who has been naughty.”

Little Mary Jane turned back to look at me, mouthing, “Help me!”

I felt terrible, more of the Catholic guilt kicking in. Besides, I know how much damage a dominating mother with a flyswatter can do. But I’m sure she’ll be fine. Hey, I turned out great, didn’t I?

After Mary Jane left, I decided to turn in the old felt cap. There are many things I’m not suited to be — like a good person — and being a mall Santa is one of them.

What was the point of that incredibly stupid story, you ask ? Well you cretin, I wanted to see if Christmas really is about the giving spirit and the birth of Christ, like so many people would want you to believe, or presents and greed. I discovered that while it’s mostly about Hot Wheels and Backstreet Boys posters, there is still the family element involved, however dysfunctional they may be. Still, I’m sticking to Halloween.

But what the hell. Merry Christmas, damn it.

Now pass the friggin’ eggnog.

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