I had never actually caught up with Santa Claus before, though I’d tried many times. Somehow, jumping in bed and covering my head because Santa Claus comes tonight was never able to work for me. I’d quickly fall asleep with visions of sugar plums dancing in my head. Or, in my case, a new bike, new skates, a new baseball glove, a new electric train.
This year, however, has been amazingly different. Last week, in the middle of my afternoon nap, the doorbell rang. I sprang from my La-Z-Boy to see who was there. Away to the doorway I flew like a flash, tore open the door, and what to my wondering (and sleepy) eyes should appear, but a small, round person with a white beard, dressed in a Santa Claus suit!
“This the Johnson and Hulse residence?”
“Uh, yes,” I stammered. “But, but…”
“Got a delivery for you. Can I bring it in this door?”
I was totally lost. “Well sure, I guess… but what delivery? And where’s your truck?”
He forced his way past me. “Where’s your kitchen?”
“Right around the corner there,” I replied, a thousand questions rushing through my foggy mind.
“Good. Just stand here and hold this door open for me.”
I stood there, holding the door, with no clue as to what was happening here. Some strange little dude in a Santa suit telling me to hold my own door open for a delivery?! Too Weird. But before my sleepy brain had a chance to clear and begin connecting the dots, the little guy came back in, with the guy behind him rolling a hand truck with a large, new gas stove on it. “Just roll it over here and set it down,” the “Santa” told his helper, who was all decked out in Carhartts. The Santa guy walked quickly through our kitchen, then, “And get these old appliances out of here.”
Now he had gone too far, whoever the hell he was. “Now wait a minute,” I objected. “What are you doing to our kitchen, and who the hell are you, anyway?”
“Ho ho ho!” He laughed, and I swear i’d heard that laugh before. “What a maroon,” he chuckled. “You really don’t know…?”
Now I was getting pissed. “No, I don’t know! I don’t know why you’re here and I don’t know what the hell you think you’re doing. All I know is, I’m standing here holding the door for some chubby little shit who is ransacking my kitchen appliances!”
“Hohoho!” That weird laugh again. “You insufferable twit! You know what season this is, right? But you don’t know who I am??”
“Okay. I know you look like Santa Claus. But really…”
Betty, now standing beside me, smiled at the guy. “Well, Dear, he is chubby and plump… let’s at least give him a chance.”
I looked at him. I thought I detected a slight sneer under that white mustache. “Yeah, but he isn’t jolly. Isn’t he supposed to be jolly?”
To that, the Santa wannabe gave out with a loud “Ho Ho Ho!” Then, mumbled under his breath, “Jesus, the things I have to do….”
My head was finally clearing, and I was feeling a scam of some kind coming on. “Wait a minute, buddy. Okay, let’s say for the moment that you are Santa Claus. Where’s your sleigh? Where are the reindeer? Up on the roof, I suppose…?” Heh heh.
He shook his little head and the tassel on his cap swung wildly about. “You Americans kill me. You don’t believe what’s real, yet you hold on to things that can’t possibly be true. Well, let me tell you what’s real, pal. I’m really Santa, and I’m really delivering your Christmas gifts! Think you can deal with that myth?”
Suddenly I wasn’t quite sure anymore., Frankly, I wasn’t sure of anything right then, especially since a huge new fridge was rumbling past the door on the handcart. “But I didn’t order any of this stuff!”
The Santa guy snorted. “The hell you didn’t! You asked for this stuff in your letter. Remember the letter, Maestro?”
“No! No, I don’t remember any letter. And even if I had asked for this stuff, why would you give it to us, and deliver it to us?”
“Oh, the usual, pal. You’ve been good.”
This couldn’t be happening. We’ve been ‘good??’ What is happening here, anyway? I had to somehow get to the bottom of all this, whatever it was. “Look man,” I started, trying to sound a little calmer. “If you’re really Santa, I’ve got some questions for you, questions you need to answer honestly. And if you don’t, I’m gonna have to run your fur-lined butt right outa here!”
“Hohoho! You people… you ask for shit, then don’t want it when you get it. I tell you, this world just keeps getting weirder and weirder.” Then, “Here, Harry,” he said to his ‘elf.’ “Slide that dishwasher in there next to the sink.”
This had gone way too far. “Now stop for a minute, you, you Santa, you. You’re going to tell me what this is all about, and why you’re here on December 16th. If you’re a really Santa, what ever happened to delivering on Christmas Eve, and why not down the chimney?”
“Are you crazy?” He growled. “I stopped that shit 100 years or so ago. “Used to be easy when you wanted little stuff, and everyone had a fireplace. You didn’t think about that, did you?”
“Okay, but why not Christmas Eve?” I wasn’t going to let him off the hook that easily.
“You don’t quit, do you?” His droll little mouth turned up like a bow. “If I didn’t start now, I’d never get this stuff delivered by Christmas Eve. Do the math, Einstein!”
I didn’t need to do the math, I knew what he was supposed to do was totally impossible. “You’re delivering gifts like this to all the people on your list? C’mon, man…”
He chuckled again. “You wouldn’t know this, but my list is much, much shorter than it used to be. Do you have any idea how many good kids have gone bad? Long story short, much bigger gifts, much shorter list. The way of the world, I guess. Probably I should have seen it coming, knowing human nature as I do. Or at least as I did…”
A wink of his eye and a twist of his head convinced me he was being honest about all this, even if it turned out to be a scam of some sort, which I was still fairly sure it would. Harry the elf plugged the fridge in and it lit up, The Santa smiled, then turned to me. “Now throw the first few trays of ice out, and let the water filter settle in before you use the water or ice.”
“How do you know all this?”
He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work, stopping to smile again. “If you’d had a stocking or two hung up on your mantle, I would have filled them. I still do that, you know…”
I had to smile back at him. “’As if three new appliances weren’t enough, right?”
His eyes, how they twinkled! His dimples, how merry! His little round belly shook when he laughed like a bowlful of jelly. “Hohoho! That’s right. I think maybe you’re starting to figure it out, pal.”
I was still standing there by the door, while the elf checked the stove and the dishwasher to make sure they were working. I reached over and patted “Santa” on the back, to assure him I was friendly and to assure myself that he was real. He turned with a jerk, then gave me a big grin. “Merry Christmas, man!”
And with that, he and his elf were out the door. But I heard him exclaim, as he walked off our deck, “Happy Christmas to all, and remember to empty the ice tray twice before you use it!”