Friday, October 24, 2014

Chapter 7 Real Santa (A Chapter a Day Until XMAS)

GEORGE GRUNTED AND picked at his beard, tapping on his

computer, his calculator, scribbling notes to himself, balling up the

paper, and littering the floor with snowballs. He ate Hershey’s Kisses

as he worked. He had started with the glass bowl, then he just

grabbed the bag from the pantry. Snow blew outside the kitchen

window, showing a man under a yellow light with a grey beard and

spectacles low on his nose. Some would say he looked like Santa

Claus doing his taxes.

George sat back in his chair and stared at the screen of his laptop.

He chewed the inside of his mouth. It might all work without too

much alteration, depending on where the roof joists were reinforced.

He could get up in the attic and check on that. The load-bearing wall

should handle the weight, which he put at about three thousand

pounds, give or take a little. Now of course—

“George?”

He turned and looked at his wife, clutching her robe. “Oh, hi.”

Mary frowned.

“What are you doing up? It’s nearly four in the morning.”

“Is it?” George looked at his watch. “I guess time got away from

me.”

His wife walked up and stared at the paper all over the table.

“What are you working on?”

George paused. Mary was already fingering his drawings, trying

to understand the pictures of reindeer and sleds next to calculations

of payload and stress, with the blueprints of the house showing joist

locations, the exact run of the roof, the pitch—the critical data for a

man trying to place nine reindeer and a sled.

Mary picked up one of the drawings, her eyes bunching. “What

are you doing, George?”

He breathed heavily and set his pencil down. “Megan doesn’t

believe in Santa unless she can see proof that he exists.”

“Okay.”

“She is going to stay up all night to videotape him when he comes.

If he doesn’t come, then she’ll know he isn’t for real.”

Mary waved him away. “Kids say things like that all the time.”

He paused. “I lied to you when I told you how Jeremy found out

there wasn’t a Santa. I told you it was my wife who told him, but it

wasn’t. He came to me and asked me how Santa Claus could do it.

He asked how Santa could deliver all those presents in one night to
kids all over the world. And I said, let’s figure it out.

Mary nodded slowly. “Okay.”

“So I took out my calculator and started figuring out miles per

hour and payload, and basically I came up with a sled weighing three

hundred and fifty-three thousand tons, traveling at six hundred and

fifty miles per second, creates an enormous amount of air resistance

in the form of friction. So I explained that with this heat, the reindeer

will be much the same as a spacecraft re-entering the earth’s atmosphere.

The lead reindeer would have to absorb fourteen quintillion

joules of energy. Per second. Each!”

Mary shook her head. “George, you’re losing me.”

He breathed heavy, shaking his head.

“Then I told my son that in short, the first pair of flying reindeer

would burst into flames almost instantaneously, exposing the next

pair of flying reindeer. This would create a deafening sonic boom in

their wake, and the entire reindeer team would be vaporized in less

than five seconds. Santa meanwhile would be subjected to g-forces

equivalent to seventeen thousand times greater than the force

of earth’s gravity. A two-hundred-and-fifty-pound Santa would be

pinned to the back of the sled by more than four million pounds of

force and would spontaneously combust. In short, he would be fried

beyond all recognition.”

Mary stared at him. “You told your son that?”

George nodded. “He was nine.”

“Oh, George!”

“I know. I thought in the name of science and deductive reasoning

it was better to work it out with him.” He looked at Mary. “You know

what’s worse? I almost did it again with Megan.”

Mary stared down for a moment.

“I’m sure Jeremy didn’t follow all those calculations.”

“No, but he remembered that I told him that Santa would spontaneously

combust. It was horrible. He has held that against me ever

since.” George nodded to the table. “I’m fifty years old. I probably just

destroyed my career, and I have two kids who hate me and one who

still believes in me.”

“They don’t hate you.”

“Oh, yes they do,” he replied, nodding. “I don’t blame them. I

was always working when they were growing up. I was always lost

in my own world.”

Mary took his hand. “You were a good father.”

“That’s not what they would say. Anyway, I determined I wasn’t

going to let the same thing happen to Megan. I want her to have

dreams. I want her to have a great childhood. I want her to believe

in Santa until she’s ready to give it up. I don’t want the world to take

it from her. Not yet.”

Mary stared at her husband. “So what are you saying?”

George looked at his computer and the pages of calculations. “I’m
saying I’m going to be the Real Santa. She said she wants to see Santa

land on the roof, go up the chimney and down it, deliver the presents,

and go back up the chimney and fly away on his sled. That’s what

she wants to see, and I’m going to make sure she sees a real Santa.”

Mary didn’t move. She stared at the man with his arms crossed.

“But how will you do that?”

“Well, I’ve worked out a lot of it. I was thinking Dean could help

me with the special effects. Obviously, the only real way to pull it off

would be a relativity cloud, but since we don’t have the technology

to produce that, I will have to settle for smoke and mirrors.”

George spun around his laptop. “I initially thought getting the
reindeer on the roof would be the hardest part. But it really is just a

matter of preparation. I’ll have a ramp built here. The reindeer can

be herded up onto the roof and put into line. Fortunately the pitch of

the roof is so slight the reindeer will be able to stand. It is a question

of how much the roof can take. I’m thinking three thousand pounds

at a minimum with the sled and payload. Obviously the sled will have

to be custom, and I’m thinking it will run on rails much the same

way a train does and—”
“George!”
He looked at his wife, who was now standing.
“Tell me you aren’t really thinking of being the Real Santa!”

He shrugged. “Who else? There will be a certain amount of risk,

and I couldn’t ask anyone else to do it. Scaling a chimney in the middle

of the night could be considered hazardous work by some, but with

proper precautions, I think the risk will be minimal.”

Mary felt her face growing warm. “You are kidding.”

“No.” George picked at his beard. “No. I’m going to do this. I want

to keep my little girl’s dreams intact, and this is the only way. For one

night I will be the Real Santa, and Megan will be able to videotape it,

and if she puts it out on the net, who knows, maybe other kids who

have doubts will see it.”

“But kids just stop believing, George … it’s inevitable.”

He looked at up at his wife.

“I’ve been an engineer who has built bridges and screwed up his

family. That’s all I can say for my life so far. Here is my chance to do

something good. I want to do something I can believe in, Mary. I

want to do this for Megan. I don’t want her to be knocked down by

the Mrs. Worthingtons of the world.”

His wife sat back down at the table.

“But … won’t this be expensive?”

George shifted in his chair.

“There will be costs. But it shouldn’t be too bad. Basically I’m

going to rent some reindeer for a night and hopefully a sled, and then

I’m going to put them on the roof and go up the chimney and down

it. There will be alterations to the chimney and ramps will have to

be built to get the reindeer up and down, but after that I don’t see a

lot of costs.”
 
Mary looked at her husband.

“There are only eleven days to Christmas.”

He nodded grimly and looked at her. “I need to talk to Dean for

the technical problems. Can you call him for me?”

Mary sat quiet at the table. She remembered the night she walked

home from the library and saw an old woman walking alone with

a cane. At that moment, Mary had seen herself, and she wondered

what would she have to show for her life. She had registered on three

dating sites the next day and ended up marrying into a family of eccentric

Swiss men who engineered cannons for armies and bridges

spanning rivers all over the world.

She looked at her husband and nodded.

“I’ll call him tomorrow.”

Real Santa...Starred Review Booklist

The author marries the everyday dramas found in the novels of Tom Perrotta and Nick Hornby to the high camp of Carl Hiaasen or Dave Barry. Adults looking for a funny holiday-themed tale that doesn't lose its sense of wonder in the face of realism will find a treat here. A lovingly crafted comedy about the madness that fatherhood inspires."
                                                                                              Kirkus Reviews



Best-selling author Hazelgrove (e.g., Ripples; Tobacco Sticks) captures the human need to believe in something good.  This book will satisfy readers looking for a happy Christmas story.-- Library Journal


"Hazelgrove's lively improbable narrative will appeal to the readers in the mood for holiday fiction."
                                                                                              Publishers Weekly



 
 
 


Pity the Ebola

Just got here. Wow. America. New York City! Just like I pictured. Skyscrapers and everything. And I have a great host. A doctor. Sooo...lets check out the city. Eight million people. Eight million. Smorgasboard. Whooh. Beats Africa and those crappy villages. So...lets go for a cab ride. Very cool. Handling money and credit cards. Maybe I'll just leave my mark on the seat here while I see the sites. Man this is so urban! Just like television.

Ok that cab was cool. Now what doctor? Ah...the subway! Man. This is cool. Underground. Dark. Moist. Ebola weather. And all these people! Wow. In a tube shooting under the city. Amazing. Just amazing. And the doctor is bumping up against all these people. Easy jump here. Just a little brush up against someone. Maybe a good cough. A sneeze. Wow. The subway is just so New York!

Alright back up and what is this? Bowling? This is cool. So you roll this ball and it hits these pins and guess what the doctor tried out like ten balls. Yeah baby. Sweat. Residue. Ebloa cha cha cha. Yeah...man the doctor is burning it down. How about another game? What...the hospital? No. No. NO. Not the dudes in the funky suits. Ah crap.

Boring. Stuck in this plastic tent. Come on. We still have to see the Statue of Liberty and the Empire State Building. What about Central Park? Lets go catch a football game. Doc. You really are being a party pooper here. Literally. Alright. Alright. Guess I'll just hang out...and multiply. What a drag.

www.williamhazelgrove.com
Real Santa...how far would you go for your kids?

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Dad Days

Occasionally going past the ball fields I'll think back on those Dad Days with my son. Maybe it is that old line from Risky Business. "Time of your life huh kid." And when you are going to all those games and being assistant coach or just watching you are having the time of your life. You really need someone to sneak up on you and go Hey...cherish these because they slip by quickly.

I remember once a very long time ago my son and I were drinking pop and eating potato chips in front of the hardware store and a man walked by and smiled and said just that: "cherish these moments they slip by quickly." He was right.  Suddenly your son is at college or working and you just wonder where all that time went.  My last three novels Rocket Man, The Pitcher, and Real Santa are really all about the Dad Days. I see that now.

And I have two daughters and so my Dad Days are far from over but those days of going to a dusty field with other dads and yelling at our sons to hit and catch and run and then going to McDonalds or Dairy Queen afterward and having the satisfaction of taking just about all life has to offer at that moment in time...that is over.

So it is just those old ball fields now...silent reminders of something that passed.

www.williamhazelgrove.com
The Pitcher
Real Santa
 

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Chapter Six of Real Santa (A chapter a day until Christmas)

 
                                Santa’s Relativity Cloud
GEORGE CLIMBED THE stairs to his daughter’s room and stood

outside, listening to her hum Rudolf the Red-Nosed Reindeer. He felt

the day lift from his shoulders again. Just the sound of Megan’s voice

had the power to cure ills, aches, and pains.

“Hi, Daddy!”

“Hey there, pumpkin.”

She was in her bed behind a fortress of stuffed animals. He walked

over and hugged her, breathing in the faint scent of soap and feeling

her wet hair. “How was your day, Daddy?”

“Oh, fair to middling,” he replied, sitting on the bed and looking

around her room. There was a Hannah Montana poster along with

several posters of Cinderella, one of puppies, and an old Gone with

the Wind poster he had rescued from a video store. There was also

a bulletin board of softball pictures, Girl Scouts pictures, drawings

from school, and a pair of tickets from Wrigley Field when they saw

the Cubs last summer.

“I heard you lost your job,” she whispered, setting down her DSi.

George stared at his daughter, with her spreading blond hair.

Megan had Janis Joplin hair. Where did such a thicket come from?

No one on his side had the wild curly hair of his daughter and her

saucer-size brown eyes.

“Really? How did you know?”

“I heard Mom on the phone. Don’t worry, you’ll get another one,

Dad. You always do.”

“I’m not worried, pumpkin.”

“I’m not either, Daddy,” she continued, putting down her DSi and

picking up a book.

“What are you reading?”
“Ramona Feeds Her Puppy.”

“Hmm, is it good?”

“I just started.”

George nodded, staring outside at the snow piled up on her windows.

Farther on he could see the large double chimney of the old

house. The fireplace hearth was so large, a man could climb into it.

“So I heard you were playing with Jackie today.”

“Uh huh.”

George stroked his beard and shifted on the bed.

“I heard you gave your mother a letter.”

Megan put down her book and stared at her father.

“She wasn’t supposed to show you that.”

“Why not?”
“Because it was private.

“Oh.” George shrugged. “I think questioning the existence of Santa

Claus is something you need two parents involved in.”

Megan put down her book and sat up next to a large stuffed

giraffe. “I’m sorry, Daddy. I just don’t see the data to support Santa

Claus.”

“Just because Jackie says there isn’t a Santa Claus doesn’t mean

it is so, Megan.”

She shook her head. “It’s not Jackie. I frankly don’t see how parents

could afford all those presents.”

“Exactly!”

Her brow furrowed. “But I have done research on the Web, and I

know all about the history of Santa Claus. How he started as a Dutch

legend of Sinterklaas, which was brought by settlers to New York in

the seventeenth century.”

“Okay.”

“And how he started to appear in the American press as St. Claus,

but it was really the popular author Washington Irving who gave

Americans information about the Dutch version of St. Nicholas and
 
then the more Americanized version appeared around 1823 in the
poem ’Twas the Night Before Christmas by writer Clement Moore,

which included details about elves and the names of his reindeer and

the method of going down the chimney and all that.”

George stared at his daughter. “You really did your research.”

“And, it was the American illustrator Thomas Nast who gave
us a fat Santa Claus when he drew his picture in Harper’s and the

whole thing of good children and bad children came about and the

workshop at the North Pole, which as Mrs. Worthington points out

is a very hostile environment.”

“Let’s hear it for Mrs. Worthington,”George murmured.

“But it was really the Coca-Cola Company in the 1930s that gave

us the red-suited Santa we know today.”

“That is quite a history.”

Megan frowned and scrunched up her brow. “Yes, but really,

Daddy, I just don’t see the proof. I have gone all over the Internet

looking for actual footage of Santa landing on the roof with his sled,

climbing up to the chimney.” Megan gestured out to the darkness.

“Going down the chimney and delivering the gifts, then going back

up the chimney, getting into his sled, and then flying off into the sky.”

George squinted at his daughter.

“There is no YouTube video of that, huh?” he asked.
“No. Just some guy in his backyard going HO HO HO. It was really

pathetic.” Megan formed a small fist. “I want empirical evidence, Dad.

And to be honest, I really just don’t see how the physics makes sense.”

“You don’t, huh?”

“No. Reindeer, Daddy, cannot fly.”

George nodded slowly. “Hmm … well I see how you arrived at

your hypothesis, but I must point out there are three hundred thousand

species of living organisms we have yet to discover, and we can’t

rule out the existence of flying reindeer.”

Megan scrunched up her mouth, her eyes narrowing. “Then how

can he get to all the children of the world?”

“Speed of sound,” he replied, shrugging. “There are probably two

billion children, and that gives him thirty-one hours.” George pulled

out his BlackBerry. “So maybe … mmm, 822.6 visits per second,

maybe a total trip of 75,500,00 miles around the world, 650 miles
per second, speed of light. It’s doable.”

“What about payload? How can he carry all those toys?”

George punched the calculator on his phone.

“Well, let’s give it two pounds for each kid, two billion kids, then

the sled is carrying three hundred tons of cargo, not including Santa.

Yes, it’s doable.”

“Daddy!”

“What?”

“We are talking here about a man in a sled!”

George put away his phone.
“Megan, Santa is magic, and he does exist. You just have to believe

it.”

“Then how does he know what I’m thinking?”

“Elaborate underground antenna collects electromagnetic waves

from the thought waves of children.”

“Uh huh … what about the elves? What proof is there of that?”

George leaned over. “You know those tiny screws in your DS

there?”

“Yes.”

“You know that tiny Phillips head screwdriver we have to use to

get them out?”

“Yes”

“Well, that’s an elf screwdriver.”

Megan squinted at him. “I think you are fibbing.”

George crossed his chest. “It’s true.”

“How can he make it to every house, and why don’t I ever see

him?”

“Relativity cloud. That allows him to control space, time, and

distance. The relativity cloud moves so fast, you can’t see him—a lot

like the way a bee buzzes by.”

Megan pointed out the window. “And the chimney?”

“Same relativity cloud. He can shrink and expand the cloud.”

“What about finding his way?”

“GPS,” he answered.

Megan sat back and stared at her father, one eyebrow raised.

“Really? I need hard evidence, Daddy,” she stated flatly. “That is why

I am going to stay up with a video camera if you guys let me use ours,
 
per second, speed of light. It’s doable.”

“What about payload? How can he carry all those toys?”

George punched the calculator on his phone.

“Well, let’s give it two pounds for each kid, two billion kids, then

the sled is carrying three hundred tons of cargo, not including Santa.

Yes, it’s doable.”

“Daddy!”

“What?”

“We are talking here about a man in a sled!”

George put away his phone.
“Megan, Santa is magic, and he does exist. You just have to believe

it.”

“Then how does he know what I’m thinking?”

“Elaborate underground antenna collects electromagnetic waves

from the thought waves of children.”

“Uh huh … what about the elves? What proof is there of that?”

George leaned over. “You know those tiny screws in your DS

there?”

“Yes.”

“You know that tiny Phillips head screwdriver we have to use to

get them out?”

“Yes”

“Well, that’s an elf screwdriver.”

Megan squinted at him. “I think you are fibbing.”

George crossed his chest. “It’s true.”

“How can he make it to every house, and why don’t I ever see

him?”

“Relativity cloud. That allows him to control space, time, and

distance. The relativity cloud moves so fast, you can’t see him—a lot

like the way a bee buzzes by.”

Megan pointed out the window. “And the chimney?”

“Same relativity cloud. He can shrink and expand the cloud.”

“What about finding his way?”

“GPS,” he answered.

Megan sat back and stared at her father, one eyebrow raised.

“Really? I need hard evidence, Daddy,” she stated flatly. “That is why

I am going to stay up with a video camera if you guys let me use ours,
ney. “How many reindeer are there?’’

“Daddy, there’s nine including Rudolf—Dasher, Dancer, Prancer,

Vixen, Comet, Cupid, Donner, and Blitzen.”

“Nine,” he muttered staring at the roof. “And do you know how

much a reindeer weighs?”

“Between two hundred and six hundred pounds.”

“Hmmmm.”

George picked at his beard as he took out his phone and did

some quick calculations.

“What are you doing, Daddy?”

“Hmm … nothing.”

He turned around and smiled. “I think you have a good plan.”

Megan’s eyebrows went up. “You do?”

“Yes. And you can use our video camera.”

Megan threw her hands up.

“Thank you, Daddy!”

He walked over and gave her a kiss.

“Now, let’s get some sleep, little girl.”

“Alright.”

George turned out her light and walked toward the door.

“Daddy?”

“Yes, pumpkin.”

She had snuggled down among her animals, her hair fanning

out over the pillow.

“I hope I’m wrong. I hope Santa Claus comes.”

“Trust me. You are wrong. And Santa Claus will come. Now get

some sleep, precious.”

“Good night, Daddy.”

George slowly walked down the stairs, grappling his beard. He

paused at the bottom then went to get his laptop.

Real Santa

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

You Are As Old As You Feel

A study in the New York Times has confirmed what I suspected. You are as young as you feel. Researchers took a bunch of men in their seventies and eighties and put them back in an environment where they felt young again. The entire world was turned back to their time when they were young men. And when they came out after a week they were more spry, sharper, more with it in every way. Hmmm...

When I was in college I knew a guy who came back after a divorce and a bad job. He looked at that time like he was in his thirties when in fact he was probably just twenty seven. After two years of college he looked to be in his early twenties. Living the college life again had turned back the clock for him. Certainly we see this time and time again. People who look and act old are old. Whereas people who see themselves as young, feel young and a lot of times look younger.

They are now doing a study with cancer patients. The mind body connection is a lot more powerful than medical science has let on. The patients are all being turned back to a time when they were cancer free and are being surrounded by shows and movies of that era. It all begs a really interesting question. How much of aging is our mind telling out bodies how old we are?

It makes you wonder.

www.williamhazelgrove.com
 

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Chapter 5 of Real Santa ( A chapter a day until Xmas)

THE HOT FUDGE sundae was perfect. The cherry tip sat on the

hardened chocolate like a beacon and the chopped nuts littered the

landscape. The vanilla ice cream was two concave half-moons perched

in the silver dish. The whipped cream swirled like fluffy snow setting

off the lighthouse cherry. George ate his warmed chicken and stared at

the sundae. The kitchen was littered with dishes of ice cream with five

different bottles of hot fudge, five cans of whipped cream, three jars of

cherries, a glazing spray, and four jars of assorted crushed peanuts.

“I think it is your best yet, Mary.”

His wife pulled her Christmas sweater closer together. “I don’t

know. I think the ice cream is a little off … the scooper just didn’t

melt it correctly.”

George gnawed on a chicken wing. Since they had moved, Mary’s

profession as a food preparer had become very part time. People just

weren’t spending much on ad budgets anymore.

George sighed, staring at the sundae.

“I’m now one of these marginalized old white males you read about

in the paper. I have been thrown into the dust heap of failed white men.”

Mary looked at him, her eyes hard behind the rounded lenses.

“Nonsense. People move around with jobs all the time. You are a very

good engineer, George. Your work speaks for you.”

“We should have never moved,” he moaned. “ Now we have this

big house. We should have stayed in your townhome with the small

mortgage.”
“Don’t be ridiculous. The best thing we did was move. This is a

lovely house, and we will manage. You are a resourceful man.”

George looked at his wife. That’s what he loved about her. She

was practical. Yes, she looked like a librarian. That’s what his dad had

called her when George first brought her over. “Where did you get

that damn librarian,” he had asked.

George had met his wife online at Match.com.

“Online? Online? What the hell kind of a way is that to meet a


woman?”

“Maybe you should try it, Dad. Mom’s been gone five years.”

“I would never go on a computer to find a woman. You don’t

know what kind of disease you could get. Are you wearing a goddamn

condom?”

But he had gone online and found Mary, who had lived in Park

Ridge all her life and never married. She did wear button-up sweaters,

hard, flat shoes, granny glasses, and Mary Tyler Moore hair, but

what his father didn’t know was that Mary was great in bed. They

had become engaged within six months.

“That Mike Soros is a real prick. Telling me how lucky I was to

be getting fired.”

Mary listened while George finished his wine.

“I’m going to tell that Shanti that I don’t want his Panzer turret

pointed at my house.”

“I’m sure he will reposition his tank if you ask him,” Mary said
brightly.

George chewed on this then swung back to Mike Soros. “I’m not
 
a team player?! I’m the biggest team player there is!”

“I know you are, dear.”

“I’m not a cyber-man? I have a BlackBerry!”
“Of course you do, dear.”

“I may not use it for everything … but I have one.”

“I’m sure he didn’t mean it,” Mary murmured, raising her camera

and flashing five quick shots of the melting sundae.

“And he criticized my bike bridge, saying other engineers laugh

at it!”

“I’m sure no one laughs at your bridge, dear.”
“Asshole,” he grumbled. “He’s just jealous because I built that

bridge to last for the next hundred years!”

“Of course he is,” she continued, shooting five more from the

top down.

George finished his meal and looked at his reflection in the

kitchen window. His flat grey hair and beard were not familiar to

him. This other older man without a job had snuck in and eaten his

dinner and drunk his wine. What this other man really wanted to
know was, Now what?

“Where’s Megan?”

“She’s in her room.” Mary put down her camera and slid the

sundae to George.

“You sure?”

“Go ahead. I’m done with it.”
Joy to the World floated down the stairs. Megan was singing in

her bedroom. Mary glanced toward the stairs then motioned George

into the laundry room. He followed his wife into the room, which

smelled like detergent. She shut the door and pulled a piece of paper

from her pocket.

“Megan gave me this right before you came home.”

George looked at his wife and began to read the perfectly typed note.
 
Mom,

I have doubts about the existence of Santa Claus. Mrs.

Worthington pointed out in class today that conditions in the

North Pole are very harsh (thirty below) and that Santa Claus

really could not survive up there. Also, she seemed to doubt that

elves were capable of building the facility needed to build toys

and provide shelter to the big man. When I questioned her, she

seemed to contradict herself and violated Dad’s basic rule: Data

should prove to be a coherent thesis. Also, several of my friends

(Jackie) have told me that there is no Santa Claus and that parents

actually purchase the presents. I have some doubts about

this, as I don’t see parents being able to pay for all those presents!

Finally, I have surfed on the Internet in search of eyewitness

accounts of Santa and found none. The few I did find

were amateur videos of some man dressed up like Santa. Dad

always said empirical data is needed to verify any thesis. I
have thought it over, and I don’t physically see how Santa

could pull off landing his sled on our roof, climbing down

the chimney, distributing multiple gifts, then going back up

the chimney and taking off again. Also, a minor point: How

do all the letters get to him with no zip code if they are just

addressed to Santa in the North Pole? Does he have a special

arrangement with the post office?

So I have decided to use a video camera (if you’ll let me) and

wait for Santa on Christmas Eve, setting my alarm to go off every

hour, and then if I do catch him on video, I will post it on YouTube

and settle it once and for all. I promise I won’t be tired the next

day. By the way, can I sleep over at Jackie’s tomorrow night? And

can you get some more milk that is not skim?

Sincerely,

Megan

Love you. Love you. Love you.

Kisses XXXX

“That Jackie!” George fumed. “I always knew she was a bad influence.

She’ll be getting high and giving her pot next!”

Mary raised her eyebrows. “How about Mrs. Worthington telling

her Santa couldn’t make it in the North Pole?”

“She should be fired!” George fumed. “I’m going to call the principal

tomorrow morning!”

Mary shrugged. “It won’t do any good. She’s retiring. I guess she

just figured she’d let that little grenade roll before she left.”

George stared at the letter again and shook his head.

“Great. I lose my job, and now my daughter doesn’t believe in

Santa Claus anymore.”

Mary crossed her arms, glancing toward the closed door.

“I think she still believes. But she is your child and wants proof

that he exists. She is nine. She’s getting to the age where they stop

believing.”

George leaned back against the washer, deflated. Megan had been

his second chance at fatherhood. He had screwed up with Jeremy

and Jamie. He had put too much time into his career and probably

brought on the divorce, although he really believed Cynthia was chemically

unbalanced. But Megan was the daughter where he would do

everything right. They were very close, and he went to every school

function, every Girl Scouts function, everything! And now he had

blinked, and she was growing up.

George looked at his wife. “She should still believe in Santa. I

remember the best moments of my life were when my mom and

dad tucked me into bed on Christmas Eve and I had those electric

candles in my window. I was just so excited, and the room was in a

dull-yellow glow from the candle, and I was just waiting for Santa

…” He shook his head. “I can’t have her lose that.”

Mary pursed up her mouth, the small wrinkles appearing on her

upper lip. “She believes in logic, facts, proof. I have been doing magic

elves with her for the last week, having them mess up her room, and

I think she believes in them, but …” Mary paused, looking down.

“But kids talk and text and check out everything online. It’s harder

to keep secrets. I remember when I realized there was no Santa. I

was probably Megan’s age. And I cried and cried.’”

Mary put her hands on the dryer and moved some folded clothes.

“It is sad when they stop believing, but they grow up.”

“It was even worse with my other kids,” George muttered. “Jeremy

asked Cynthia if there was a Santa Claus. She told him, and I quote,

‘There is no stupid Santa Claus. We buy all the gifts.’ ”

“That is so sad.”

“I think they blame me for that too. I ruined their life, and I told

them there was no Santa Claus. They forget it was their mother who

wanted to go to Florida for Christmas and swim at a hotel pool on

Christmas day. No tree … nothing. I tried to give the kids gifts, and

she was lying out by the pool.”

George held up the letter. “So what do we do about this?”

“I’m going to leave that to you, George. She respects your opinion,

but you have to explain to her how Santa delivers the gifts.” Mary

looked at her husband sadly. “After that, we just have to accept that

our little girl is growing up.”

Order Real Santa...1.99 Kindle 

STARRED REVIEW BOOKLIST

"If somebody doesn't make a movie out of this book, there's something wrong with the world. This could have been played as an out-and-out slapstick comedy, but instead the author approaches the story like a character study: a portrait of a man with the best intentions in the world watching those intentions collide with reality. It's a steamroller of a story, starting small, with George's idea, and getting bigger and bigger as George tries to put the elements together, as his obsession takes him further and further away from reality. Beautifully done."                                                                                                 
                                                                                                 David Pitts Booklist


"The author marries the everyday dramas found in the novels of Tom Perrotta and Nick Hornby to the high camp of Carl Hiaasen or Dave Barry.It's not as frenetic as Christopher Moore's The Stupidest Angel or as maudlin as all those holiday staples (read: A Christmas Story), but adults looking for a funny holiday-themed tale that doesn't lose its sense of wonder in the face of realism will find a treat here. A lovingly crafted comedy about the madness that fatherhood inspires."
                                                                                              Kirkus Reviews


"Hazelgrove's lively improbable narrative will appeal to the readers in the mood for holiday fiction."
                                                                                              Publishers Weekly


"Charming...Hazelgrove has real compassion for his characters." Chicago Tribune







 


 

 




Monday, October 20, 2014

Chapter Four of Real Santa ( A Chapter a Day Until Christmas)

 
                                     A Christmas Panzer
 
GEORGE TURNED INTO his neighborhood, with the box of

his belongings on the seat next to him. He drove past inflated Christmas

globes that looked like incubators. There was a giant Frosty the

Snowman, St. Nick, and a few penguins. George didn’t care for the

inflatables with the pneumatic pumps and the flaccid plastic on the

snow like giant rubbers.

He had come to accept the smiling pumpkins lolling on their

tethers and even a few turkeys during Thanksgiving after they had

moved out of the neighborhood bordering the city five years ago. His

country home with the wraparound porch swung into view. It was a

Victorian built around the turn of the century, and the Realtor had

almost not shown it to him. It’s too old, she had told him. George

reminded her they were moving from Park Ridge, a community of

old homes, and she had stubbed her cigarette and shrugged. “It’s

your nickel.”

George slowed to look at his lights. Two weeks ago he had lined

the entire roofline with fat Christmas bulbs like his dad used to do

when he was a kid. Most people in the neighborhood had their homes

professionally decorated, but George took pride in the multicolored

lights running up to the peak, the icicle lights bordering his porch, the

swirled twinkles around his pines. He put a wreath on every window
and an electric candle in the center. His house was Christmas, and

he felt the hurt of the day subside.

George breathed deeply. He loved the Christmas rituals. They

had to buy their tree right after Thanksgiving and decorate it that

weekend, complete with the old G-Gauge Lionel train from when he

was kid. Then over the next three weeks they would go downtown to

Chicago and see the windows at Macy’s and then Santa. After that

they went ice skating on Michigan Avenue or had lunch at the Walnut

Room on the top of Macy’s. At some point they would go see the big
tree at the State of Illinois Center and catch Scrooge at the Goodman

Theatre or watch It’s a Wonderful Life on the big screen at the Music

Box Theatre on the North side with the sing-along Santa Claus.

Then they would catch the lights at the Lincoln Park Zoo and

have a Christmas Eve dinner of fondue with chocolate. During all

of this, George made sure they watched the prerequisite Christmas
movies, Miracle on 34th Street (old version, noncolorized), White

Christmas, Holiday Inn, Christmas in Connecticut, Scrooge (1941

version with Alastair Sim), then the newer additions—Elf, National

Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation and then the final movie, his all-time

favorite: A Christmas Story. George loved Christmas because it was

the only time he felt like a kid again. The rest of the year he felt like

an overburdened adult getting older with each passing year. But at

Christmas, he was young again.

George turned from his house to find a Panzer cannon pointed

at him. The cannon wobbled slightly in the wind and bobbed up and

down, then continued its sweep of the neighborhood. He watched

George Shanti’s inflatable warn all comers that Christmas would be

brought in with a Panzer. It was the inflatable that made you wonder

about the man. Why would anyone purchase a tank with a turret that
rotated and flashed Merry Christmas when it shot you?


He and George were neighbors in the classic Midwestern sense.

They waved and talked occasionally. They had found little to connect

on after mowers and rakes and grass seed. The inflatable Christmas

tank made its debut the year before, and George had vowed to take

it down. He had purchased a Daisy BB gun,( the same kind in the
movie A Christmas Story) and one night, after Mary and Megan were

snug in their bed, he had slipped out the back door and snuck down

to the three pines in his front yard.

From there George could see the tank very clearly. The night
 

was bitter cold and the electric pump worked to keep the tank inflated

and turning on its axis. The turret wobbled and jolted along

as George lay down in the snow like a GI in the Battle of the Bulge

and extended his BB gun out of the pines. He watched as the turret

rotated around and pointed directly at his house. Sometimes it got
stuck and bumped up and down as if taunting George.

George cocked his gun and lowered his eye to the site. He aimed

dead center on the tank and squeezed the trigger and heard the soft

thunk of the BB. The tank continued on its merry rotation, flashing
Merry Christmas with each shot. George listened and heard no hiss

of pressurized air. He cocked his rifle again and aimed at the center

of the tank . The soft thud of the BB hitting the polyethylene reached

him like a defeat. He then stood, like John Wayne with a Winchester,

and began to unload a volley of BBs, trying to find a weak spot where

the inflatable might give way. But the cold had turned the plastic
into a tank, rendering the BBs as harmless as summer gnats. George


emptied his gun and contemplated attacking the tank like a crazed

soldier who has run out of bullets, but realized Shanti would press

charges if he caught him. So the tank remained.

George sighed and pulled into his driveway, feeling his phone

vibrating in his chest. He glanced at the number and considered not

answering.
 
“Yeah, Dad.”

“You’re a hard guy to get hold of.”

George put his Prius in park and settled back into his parka.

“Yeah, well, a job and kids and Christmas will do that.”

“Kids! I thought you only had one kid.”

“Well, I do have another family.”

“Oh, well I don’t count them.”

“That’s great, Dad.”

“How’s the job?”

George paused. “Not so good … I got fired today.”
“Jesus! Fired! You got fired before Christmas! How the hell did

you manage that?!”

George shut his eyes and rubbed his brow. Leave it to his father
to put getting canned into the category of a choice. You opted to get

fired before Christmas? “I didn’t manage anything, Dad, but yes I got fired before Christmas.”
 
“How the hell did that happen?”

“They just pulled me in and told me I was fired.”

“But what happened? Were you drinking on the job? Were you

banging some broad in the office?”

George stared out of his fogged up windows. In his father’s world,

people only got canned for being a drunk or banging Betty the floozy

secretary. No one ever got canned for a bad economy, performance,

or because they just didn’t like you anymore.

“There’s a depression on, Dad.”

“This ain’t no depression! Let me tell you, I was a kid when there

was a depression and this ain’t no depression. You still got your house,

don’t you?”

“Yes, I still have my house, Dad,” George said dully.

“Then it ain’t no depression, but seriously, son, what the hell

happened? This is your third job in six years!”

“Fourth in six years, Dad.”

“Fourth or fifth, does it matter?”

George really didn’t want to go down this road again. He felt kind

of stupid and silly for waving his ass in the air and barking. He had

to clean out his desk and office, with his coworkers staring at him.

He should have just flipped Mike Soros the bird and walked out.

“There were some political issues, Dad.”
“Political? What, they fired you because you were a Democrat?”

“Yeah, Dad. They fired me because I was a Democrat. Jesus!”

“Those dirty bastards!”

“There were performance issues, Dad.”

“Performance issues? What do you mean? When I worked for the
railroad, you just did the work. There was no performance involved.


When I was in that caboose testing the bridges after WWII, Floyd

Habersham and I were out there in the middle of nowhere and—”

George sighed. The story of his father going all over the country

in a railroad car with Floyd Habersham was legend. He had heard
many times how he tested every bridge in the country and big steam

locomotives backed onto the bridges to see if the steel would give

way. He was glad to hear the familiar beep in his ear of another call.

“And Floyd and I went all over the damn country—”

“Hold on, Dad. Hold on. I have another call.”
 
“Dad?”

“Yes, hello, Jeremy,” George said, feeling the good tidings of his

only son.

“Dad! Everyone at college has a new car, and I just have that old

clunker you gave me.”

“I see. Is that a problem?”

His twenty-year-old son made a sound in his throat. “Yes, it’s a

problem, Dad. My car sucks! And Mom says it’s your fault that I don’t

have a good car because you won’t let her sell the house!”

George rubbed his eyes behind his glasses. “Now, that’s not true,

son. We can’t sell the house until the economy comes back.”

“Mom says you are a liar. That you live in a big house in the

country while we are in this shitbox!”

“She shouldn’t say that—”

“Hold on. Jamie wants to talk to you.”
“Dad! Dad!”
George sat up in the car.

“Hello, sweetie.”

“Dad, I want an iPhone!”

George breathed heavily in his fogged over Prius. “Well, now,

you have a phone. I gave you my old BlackBerry and—”

“I don’t want your shitty old-man BlackBerry! I want an iPhone!”

“Now, Jamie—”

“Mom says you have to get me one because you don’t pay her

child support!”

“Well now, you are eighteen, and by law, I don’t have to pay that

anymore, but I do and your mother—”

“Dad, I’m a senior in high school!”

“I know honey, but—”

“It’s embarrassing not to have an iPhone and be a senior!”

George breathed heavily. His Prius was a steamed up capsule, and

he really wanted to forget about this day. “I’ll see what I can do—”

“Mom wants to talk to you.”

“George!”

“Yes, Cynthia,” he said wearily.

“I didn’t get the check! It’s Christmas. I need money!”

“I sent it to you. You should have it today or tomorrow,” he re
 
plied calmly.

“It better be here or so help me we are going back to court. It’s
bad enough you won’t let me get out of this shithole, but now you

stiff me on support!”

“Shithole,” George murmured. “So, that’s where Jeremy gets that.”

“He knows a shithole when he sees one. I could move on with

my life if you would let me sell this shithole!”

George rubbed his forehead.

“Cynthia, if you sold now you couldn’t pay off the note.”

“That’s your opinion! And I got a kid driving a beater and a daughter

who needs a phone while you’re out there in your perfect home

with your perfect family while we get screwed!”

George drew a small circle on his fogged over windshield.

“I’ll see what I can do for the kids.”

“That check better be here tomorrow, George, or I’m going to

file again!”

The phone went dead and George paused, remembering his dad

was on the line still. He sighed and clicked over.

“What the hell? Did you forget about me? I would think you need

family now that you got canned.”

“Dad, I’ll call you later.”

“But—”

George turned off his phone and got out of his car into the clear,

cold night. He stood in the drive, staring at the lights winking in his

pines. He felt some of the stress leaving. It was Christmas again. He

heard a slight whirr, a sliding of cold plastic, and turned. The Panzer

pointed at him and fired.

Order Real Santa 1.99

STARRED REVIEW BOOKLIST

"If somebody doesn't make a movie out of this book, there's something wrong with the world. This could have been played as an out-and-out slapstick comedy, but instead the author approaches the story like a character study: a portrait of a man with the best intentions in the world watching those intentions collide with reality. It's a steamroller of a story, starting small, with George's idea, and getting bigger and bigger as George tries to put the elements together, as his obsession takes him further and further away from reality. Beautifully done."                                                                                                 
                                                                                                 David Pitts Booklist


"The author marries the everyday dramas found in the novels of Tom Perrotta and Nick Hornby to the high camp of Carl Hiaasen or Dave Barry.It's not as frenetic as Christopher Moore's The Stupidest Angel or as maudlin as all those holiday staples (read: A Christmas Story), but adults looking for a funny holiday-themed tale that doesn't lose its sense of wonder in the face of realism will find a treat here. A lovingly crafted comedy about the madness that fatherhood inspires."
                                                                                              Kirkus Reviews


"Hazelgrove's lively improbable narrative will appeal to the readers in the mood for holiday fiction."
                                                                                              Publishers Weekly


"Charming...Hazelgrove has real compassion for his characters." Chicago Tribune




 
 
 
 

Books by William Hazelgrove