She said she didn’t want anything for Christmas and got pearls. From Santa, it said. Son of a bitch, I thought. He’d been coming around, even in hot weather. To see him in shorts would make you sick.
Everyone thought it was so great, especially for the kids. Hell, I even got some stuff I really liked. “Looks good on you chief,” he’d say. The decorations never came down at our place.
She was happiest of all. It was her favorite time of the year. She was excited and couldn’t sleep, just like a little kid. She kept two lists all year long: one of things she wanted, the other of naughty things she had done. Honestly they were both pretty ludicrous. She had the sweetest pair of eyes you ever saw under a stocking cap. I loved her so.
I don’t know why he picked on her when the whole world loved him. At first she wouldn’t do it on Christmas Eve, then the week before. Pretty soon all December was dry. Thing was, when she finally went downstairs that morning, she’d be soaking wet.
“You’ve been a good little boy, haven’t you?”
I tried to smile, but it smarted to have him call me that in front of my son.
“Well, look what Santa brung for you!”
It was a jet ski. Huge and purple with yellow lightning bolts.
My wife squealed and jumped up and down like she had won on a fucking game show.
We could never afford one of these, not after a million paychecks. I wanted to pick it up and crush him with it.
There was a pause. Santa clearly wanted to give my wife his gift.
“Why don’ you and the kids try on your helmets an’ life jackets?”
The kids thought it was a great idea. I glared at him.
“They gonna need some help, opening the packages, son.”
This was true. There were so many packages. I picked up a box cutter and went with the kids.
In the corner of my eye, my wife beamed at Santa, curled on his breast. She was so trusting. She glittered like an ornament on his branch.
Sometimes Santa tells me, “Your wife is very special. You have no idea. I know these things. It’s my job. She has a pure heart, as pure as when she was a little girl.”
Fucker. “And how’s Mrs. Claus?” I ask him.
Things I came to hate about Santa:
1. His fame, obviously
2. His power
3. The fact that everybody loves him and nobody questions him
4. His exotic looks
5. His easy laugh
6. The way my kids thinks he knows everything
7. His fancy private education
8. His private jet
9. His private train
10. His wearing Paco Rabanne
“I’m not trying to ruin Christmas, I’m just saying that this year it could be just a family thing”
“What are you talking about?”
“I mean, it could, just be me and you and the kids”
“But what about the presents? Who will bring the presents?”
“I’ll take care of the presents”
“What? Are you going to buy them in a store?”
“I could totally do that, I get a bonus at the end of the year. I could buy you something nice, whatever you wanted”
“But that’s just like you buying me something. I’d know what it was”
“You wouldn’t have to know. I could hide it.”
“Where? In the house? That’s completely crazy. I don’t want something you bought me from a store that’s been hiding in our house for over a month. I want a Christmas gift.”
“Listen to me: Christmas is a time for families to be together. I’m the father. I can provide for this family. We don’t need…”
“What are we going to tell the kids?”
“I don’t know. We could tell them not to come out until he’s gone. Or I could dress up…”
“That’s insane, you’re insane! You’re so crazy! Why are you doing this?! It’s Christmas! Why are you doing this to Christmas?! It’s so wrong!”
She would not stop crying and crying.
I had hoped to compromise, but I had hurt her in a way I could not have imagined.
The kids took it better. They had known something was up. I know they felt responsible somehow. “Should we put decorations up?” they asked. “Of course,” I said, “it’s still Christmas.” “Oh right,” they said. “Help your mother,” I suggested. Their mother was just sitting there. I had never seen her so unhappy in my entire life. She seemed appalled every time she looked at an ornament or a piece of mistletoe. She went back to the bedroom a lot, to cry and sulk.
On the big day it took a lot of coaxing to get her out. She looked dazed and ill. My son did the best he could to act excited with his gift. I think I may have gotten the wrong size for him. My little girl tore the wrapper off hers noted what it was and sort of excused herself from it without saying a word. I put on some Christmas music. “Don’t,” my wife said. I turned it off. I went and got her gift. She did not react. I put it in her hands. She looked at me, dazed. Very mechanically she began to unwrap it. I had wrapped it myself. She removed the duct tape with difficulty.
It was the most money I had ever spent on one thing. Fortunately, it was also practical. She looked at me. Her lips trembled with effort. “Thank you,” she said. She hugged me. The hug felt like an apology. She asked if it was okay if she rested a little. I said, of course. She padded away. I tried to watch football but just stared at the screen.
The whole house was quiet, in quiet sort of way that eats at your ears. I had to get out of there, so I took my car. It was icy, but there were no cars anywhere. The whole world was quiet. I looked at all the houses with the cars out front and the chimney lit. I thought of all the other fathers and their kids, putting toy trains and home entertainment systems together, moms looking on, their eyes as soft as their sweaters. I drove a long way, out to the highway, without meaning to.
When I got back home, Christmas had awoken. Warm air and music hit my face. Clattering sounds and the smell of melting butter came from the kitchen: my daughter was helping my wife, asking little questions: is it ready? Not yet, honey. I just stood there in the doorway, warming up. My wife sashayed out to see me. She gave me the most tender, most moist loving look that transcended all apology. She wrapped herself around me, curved into me. As one, we walked into the kitchen. My little girl hugged my legs. This was Christmas, I thought. I had never been so grateful for everything, everything I had. Everything that was or could be. I held her a long time, while pots steamed. She had to tear herself away for the sake of the chestnuts. Our hands stayed linked, as though in a dance.
My son flew into the other room. In his hand, he piloted a new brilliant sleek starship: it’s engines roared and glowed. Near him, my little girl played hide and seek with a little tan stuffed bear. She made the bear peek-a-boo with me, too. He was a cute little fellow with dark considerate eyes. He was wearing a wristwatch. That was odd, I thought. It was a nice, if conservative wristwatch. She made the bear check the time. “Where did he come from?” I asked. “Santa brought him,” she said.
I felt cold, then hot. I walked into the kitchen. My wife flew among the pans with alacrity. When she turned she had a cute little bit of flour on her cheek and hair. I loved her so. Around her beautiful neck, nestling between her collarbones, I saw it. It was then I realized that she had gotten changed.
I did not get drunk at the strip club, that is, I did not feel a single drink go in me. I didn’t feel anything for the girls, so it’s surprising that they threw me out. I slept in my car, which is good, I guess, or not so good, because I threw up more than once.
My wife was very gentle, and tender. Some this, I am sorry to say, was fear. She took the vomit stained clothes without a word. She had cleaned up all the wreckage at home. She put me to bed and kissed me on the forehead. “Get some rest,” she said. Tenderly. And then: “I love you.” Sadly.
I didn’t do anything but lie there for the next couple of days. Reconciliation was easy, everyone was concerned for me. My wife held on to me like she had held on to our son when he had broken his leg. That night, she got on top of me, deliberately. I came softly. She kissed my neck and told me how much she loved me. She talked and talked and cried and apologized, over and over. I said I was sorry too. I said not to worry, that next year Christmas would be like it always was. A pealing note of joy rang out of her. She grinned with her whole body. She ran over me, over and over with little kisses everywhere, each kiss saying: thankyou thankyou. I loved her so. I loved my family. It was my family. I was not going to let them be taken from me by anyone.
I counted the days to this Christmas. I made a list. My enthusiasm was genuine. I loved shopping. I got everything we needed: a new set of lights, a real wreath, milk, cookies, candy canes, duct tape, egg nog, rum, cloves, cable ties, figgy pudding, a yule log, cheese ball, chestnuts, stuffing, fresh cranberries, melon baller, wire cutters, wire.
When I leveled the 12 gauge at Santa, I realized it was not the first time for him. He was very cool about it. He was right. I didn’t want to do this. He was Santa. He was Christmas. I, too, had loved him as a child. I had written him letters. I had sat in his lap. My will and the sights wavered for a second. This was crazy. Then I remembered what Santa had done to me, done to my family, to my wife. I held that in focus. This made me able to do what was necessary.
As my cock slid out of Santa’s mouth, I was amazed I was still hard. I had shot several times into Santa’s face and mouth, but I was still so hard it hurt. I had wanted my wife to watch, but she wasn’t watching. She just cried, and cried and begged and said the same thing, over and over. I looked down at Santa. He was still trying to play this whole thing out as a jolly old elf. I had to admire that, but he had no idea what was coming. I felt drunk, but I knew it could not be the eggnog, because I hadn’t drunk much. Santa’s breath felt hot against my balls. The air felt hot like the house was on fire. I wanted this moment to go on forever. I mean, I had Santa. I had all the fucking toys in the world sitting on top of my house. Flying reindeer pawed impatiently on shingles I had bought from Home Depot. I had what I wanted; I wasn’t going to stop until I was finished.
Afterwards, I wanted to let the kids out of their rooms, but I knew that was a bad idea. I wanted to say goodbye. More importantly, I wanted them to see what their father had become. I glittered, I glowed: like a Christmas tree. I felt cool and wet all over. I crawled over to my wife. I lifted her damp head and kissed her so tenderly. I loved her, but I loved everyone now. I told her this. What I said was: “I am Christmas. I am Christmas, now.” Her breathing was shallow and irregular. I cut her free and tried to make her comfortable.
The fur felt good over my naked wet skin. It smelled like him. The sack was heavy but the burden was mine. It was late. I had places to go. So many houses, so many homes and families waiting this night, their faces bright on their pillows.
“Merry Christmas to all” I cried, “and all a good night!”