Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Real Santa Chatper 28 (28 Days Until XMAS)

GEORGE STARED UP at the grey sky floating wisps of snow like

the ashes he had seen coming out of the school incinerator on the

day before Christmas when he was twelve and had climbed to the top

of a train trestle and contemplated falling off. George saw that same

world below him now—chimneys belching smoke, families huddled

in for the holiday, the dabbing of a white Christmas sprinkled onto

the pines—and for a moment, he felt that same excitement as that

boy on the trestle. Then his phone rang.

He carefully pulled up his phone, making sure he had one hand

on the chimney.

“Ya this is Yergen the climber. You want me at your house what

time?”

“Ah, why don’t you come around ten.”

“This will cost you extra you know.”

George nodded his head tiredly. “I know. Just bring everything

we will need.”

“And you want to go down what—a chimney?”

“Yes.”
Yergen the German climber of mountainexpeditions.com was

silent. Then he said, “That sounds crazy you know. Are you Santa?

Ha Ha.”

“Yeah, I’m Santa. I’ll see you tonight.”
Ya vol.
George put the phone in his pocket and looked at Joe.

“I think you have enough room now to go down her.”

George leaned over, breathing creosote and the dry scent of busted

bricks and cement. The enlarged opening did look large enough,

and far down the dark hole he could see the light of his living room. It

made him want to crap. The thought he could fall to his death down

the chimney never occurred to him. But now, looking down into the

black chasm, he saw himself clearly falling to his death.

“You really going to do this thing?”

George looked up Joe’s rodent eyes.

“Is it hard going down a chimney?”

Joe spat off to the side, relieving his swollen lip.

“No, you just have to make damn sure you don’t lose your grip

or look down.”

George looked back down the hole. Mary was right—he had lost

his mind.

“Yeah, well, I put some footholds in there for you. I put a halfbrick

about every ten feet. Figured you could use that to balance

yourself going down.”

“Thanks .”

Joe leaned over and spat down the chimney. The glob of tobacco

sounded like a rifle crack when it hit the hearth. They both stared

down the long black tunnel he would descend into in less than twenty-

four hours.

“Long way down,” Joe muttered.

Real Santa

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. 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
 
 

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Chapter27 (29 Days Until XMAS)

MARY POSTED GEORGE’S bond. Mrs. Worthington had said

he assaulted her. “What a crock of crap,’’ he said to the cops, who said

they had to book him. Mrs. Worthington said he had deliberately

pushed her over the desk. Only Megan saved his bacon by saying

that Mrs. Worthington had tried to take his phone. Still, his mugshot

was taken, he was fingerprinted, underwent a cavity search, and was

then given a nice clean cell. George’s one phone call brought his wife,

who posted the five hundred dollars bond with a court date the next

month and a banishment of five hundred feet from school property.

Mary said nothing to him on the ride home then nothing to him that

evening, but at the kitchen table the silence ended.

“I’m leaving, George, after Christmas and taking Megan with me.”

Just like that. She tossed the grenade into his lap with the pin out

and good luck getting it back in. The grenade of loneliness, unemployment,

and divorce would detonate on December 26th. Until then,

George could juggle the grenade, play with it, do what he wanted,

but the resolution in his wife’s voice let him know there was no way

to get the pin back in.

“But why?”

Mary ticked off his transgressions like a judge.

“You have put us into bankruptcy after losing your job. You have

made Megan a pariah at her school, assaulted her teacher, and you

have destroyed out home.”
 
George frowned, sitting in his BVDs and T-shirt. A man really

should have pants on when his wife says she is leaving. But he didn’t

want to get up from the table. For one thing, incredibly, he had a

hard-on. For another thing, he felt if he left he would lose all leverage

and Mary would go through with her plan. So he sat with his hands

between his legs, hunched against the setback temperature on the

thermostat of sixty-five. “The house isn’t destroyed,” he said, looking

into the living room covered in dust from the chimney.

Mary stared straight ahead, not really looking at him but through

him. That’s what scared him most. She had already left.

“I asked you to stop this nonsense, but you have persisted. I am

afraid to see what is going to happen tomorrow night. I will ask you

one more time to stop this. Do not continue down this road of ruin.”

Even to George it sounded melodramatic, but Mary did that often.

She spoke in the humorless voice of the prairie schoolmarm—she

had taught first grade for ten years. A bar had to be set for errant

children, and he was now in that category.

“All the work has been done. Tomorrow night will be the easy

part,” he pointed out weakly.

Mary blinked, taking off her glasses like a man drawing a gun.

“Then you will not stop this crazy plan even though it has resulted

in you going to jail and breaking our family financially and

destroying our home.”

“This had nothing to do with what happened with Mrs. Worthington!

That crazy bitch tried to take my phone!”

Mary sniffed, putting her glasses back on.

“I have to believe the stress of everything, George, is the reason

for your assault on Megan’s teacher.”
“I didn’t assault her. She assaulted me!”

But Mary had a point. The barrage of phone calls, the problems,

the money—it had all played a part, and when Mrs. Worthington

demanded he give up his phone, well, he just went off the rails.

“Whatever happened, Megan has been scarred,” Mary continued.

George waved away his wife’s words. “Oh, she’s fine.”

“Then you are going through with your plan?”

George felt his spine stiffen. It was the same with Mrs. Worthington,

his boss, and now his wife. People wanted him to conform
to their way of thinking, to their world.

“Absolutely.”

“Then I will leave with Megan.”

“No you won’t,” George said, standing up in his BVDs. “Megan

stays, but you can feel free to go anytime you want.”

Mary stood up and faced him.

“Don’t friggin’ mess with me, George.”

And that was how they left it.

Real Santa
 



Monday, November 24, 2014

Real Santa Chapter 26 (30 Days Until XMAS)

MRS. WORTHINGTON’S MOUTH turned down like the sun

going into total eclipse when she saw George, and she would have

banished him, but Megan held firmly to his hand.

“My dad has come to help with the party,” she declared.

“I think we have enough helpers today, Megan,” Mrs. Worthington

said like a ventriloquist, sending hate while commanding her mouth

to speak. The effect was like two people speaking out of both sides of
their mouth. One side said your father is an asshole while the other

side said I think we have enough helpers today. That was when Megan

teared up, and that was when George knew he had Mrs. Worthington.
“Alright, your father can read ’Twas the Night Before Christmas,

Megan, but I hope he reads it properly.

Daggers. Icepicks. Fileting weapons. That’s what her eyes said as

she moved off to command the other two mothers.

“I’m so happy you are going to help, Daddy,” Megan whispered,

then she ran off with her classmates to make reindeer.

George made himself useful helping the kids cut out their hands

on brown paper for antlers. He found it interesting the way girls

zipped through cutting out their hands and pasting on the antlers

while the boys sat around unable to cut out their hands and some

of them ate their glue sticks. His phone began ringing in the middle

of the reindeer project and carried over to musical chairs. They had

three days, and like all projects, the problems were coming to the
surface. McGruff was not used to anything more complicated than

having the kids touch his reindeer.

“One of the reindeer has started shitting blood. My question is,

do yer need all nine reindeer?”

This was said while George helped a boy who couldn’t trace his

hand.

“We need all nine. Can you get a replacement?”

“Aye, I can try. But three days before Christmas, it’s going to be

tough. We might just have to bring him along and hope he doesn’t

shit all over the place or croak.”

“Do what you can,” George murmured, feeling the flamethrowing

eyes of Worthington as she marched across the classroom.
“We don’t allow cell phones in the classroom, Mr. Kronenfeldt!”

George put it back in his pocket, but he couldn’t turn it off. His

father was having trouble with the union carpenters, who said they

built the two ramps to spec but his father said they had screwed it

up. And since Dean hired them, there was an issue of who had the

authority to fire them.

“It’s useable though … right, Dad?”

“That’s not the point, son! They did not follow the specs, and I

can’t vouch for the job.”

George hunched over, trying to hide his phone, whispering, “This

isn’t the railroad, Dad. We don’t have time to rebuild the ramps. If

they work, then we have to go with them.”

“I can’t vouch for the work.”

Mrs. Worthington glared across the room.

“Dad, I don’t care if you vouch for it or not. Are the ramps usable?”
His father grumbled the words assholes, morons, unions, then

grumbled he would call back. Mrs. Worthington swept across the

classroom again.

“What did I tell you about using your cell phone in class?”

“I’m sorry,” George muttered. “Business call.”

Mrs. Worthington raised her eyebrows.

“What is so important that you could not answer it later?”

“It was a Santa call,” he muttered.
“Either give me the phone or leave.”

George stared at her outstretched hand, the imperious shelf of
bust, the brooch, the hard grey eyes, the silver bowl of hair. What a

bitch almost came out of his mouth.

“I won’t use it again. Sorry.”

Mrs. Worthington stepped closer, her outstretched hand in his

face.
I want your phone … now!”

The Black Sabbath ringtone started again. I AM THE GOD OF HELLFIRE AND I BRING YOU … FIRE!
It was Dean. George had to pick up the call.

“Hey, mate, Dean here. Listen, everything is going according

to plan. Had to hire a few more blokes to help with the snow machines

and smoke machines, and we’re going to need some trucks

to transport so yer better get in a little more in the kitty there so we

can finish the job.”

Mrs. Worthington breathed like a bull, eyes burning, nostrils

flaring, veins pulsing at her temples.

George nodded slowly. “Okay, fine. Let me call you back with a

credit card number,” he murmured.

“STUPENDOUS, MATE. This is going to be a stupendous shoot!”

George pushed the call off and looked at the seething, blood-filled

face of Mrs. Worthington.

“Sorry. Business call,” he mumbled.
 
“Give me that phone … NOW!”
All the kids were watching. Somebody was going against Mrs.

Worthington. George stared at this teacher, this master bull of every

matriarch the Midwest had ever produced. He shook his head. “No,

I’m not going to give you my phone.”

That’s when Barbara Worthington made her move. Tired of the

years and years of taking shit from men and boys, she lunged for

George’s BlackBerry. He held firm, and they started to dance. Mrs.

Worthington had half of his phone in her hand, and they looked like a

couple tangoing across the room. The class watched in rapt awe as the

phone went back toward George and then toward Mrs. Worthington.

“Give me your phone,” Mrs. Worthington demanded.

“Let go of my phone!” George shouted, feeling the outrage of the

boy who always felt wronged by detentions after school, trips to the

principal, and always for the same thing: asking inappropriate ques
 
tions. And yes, one of them had been, How could Santa survive in

the North Pole in Arctic conditions? Here was the woman who would

have sent him down to the principal for that one. Worthington was

gritting her teeth, pumping coffee breath into George’s face as her

color deepened to a raging purple. Like the old bull she was, Mrs.

Worthington yanked the phone free with all her might, but broken

free from his grasp, the old teacher of seventy-years-plus, due to retire

in the spring, fell back with the force of her effort, tumbling over

Charlie Blunkenfeldt’s desk in a back flip of support hose and a Playtex

girdle that hadn’t seen the light of day since 1965, and, like a mighty

tree falling in a forest, flipped backward with her floral print dress

rolling up over her shoulders and crashing among chairs, crayons,

rulers, calculators, and all the odds and ends Charlie Blunkenfeldt

had stashed in his desk.

Mrs. Worthington rolled on the floor with George’s BlackBerry

still clutched in her hand like a baton ready for the final dash to

victory. A mighty tree had fallen and the fourth grade class stared in

shocked silence as their teacher lay on the floor with her dress up,

girdle up, support hose over girdle, and George’s phone by her head,

like someone bent on making a final desperate call.

Then the Black Sabbath ringtone screamed out for all the fourth

grade to hear.
 
 
I AM THE GOD OF HELLFIRE! AND I BRING YOU … FIRE!
 
 
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. 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


Sunday, November 23, 2014

Chapter 25 Real Santa (32 Days to XMAS)

THE APARTMENT BELL had been built in the last century

sometime after the Wright Brothers flew. The bell buzzed up through

the tenement like an angry bee with a faint echo. George waited in

the musty alcove of chipped tile, breathing old smoke, hearing the

crotchety voice again.

“Oh … another wannabe Santa?”

He leaned close to the brass speaker and pressed the button.

“Not exactly.”

“Then what the hell are you?”

George paused. The man he had found under KRIS KRINGGLE

did not sound friendly. In fact, he sounded downright hostile. George

pressed the button again.

“The Macy’s Santa told me I should contact you if I have questions

about being Santa.”

“Jerry doesn’t know his ass from a hole in the ground as far as

being Santa goes,” the old voice grumbled. “Just goes to show you

how hard up Macy’s is.”

“Well, I’d appreciate if you could just give me a few minutes. I’m

not really a Santa by trade. I’m doing it for my daughter who is nine

and doubting the existence of Santa Claus.”

The voice on the speaker grunted. “It’s that Internet and the

Xboxes and DSis and cell phones and the rest of the shit kids waste

their time on. Of course she doesn’t believe in Santa with all the crap
that’s out there now!”

George stared at the rolled newspapers piled up by the heavy

lacquered door. He pressed the button again. “That’s true. That’s why I

wanted to be Santa for her and try and bring back some of the magic.”

“Well good luck with that,” the speaker blared back.

George paused then pressed the bell again.

“Jerry at Macy’s said you were one of the best Santa’s he knew!”
“What an asshole. I am Santa!”

George chuckled and pressed the button again.

“Aren’t we all.”

“No … I … AM … SANTA, YOU MORON!”

George swallowed and considered that going into the dark tenement

wasn’t such a good idea after all. He pressed the bell again.

“You’re kidding.”

“Why should I kid about something like that?”

George rolled his shoulders and pressed once more.

“I just didn’t think Santa cursed as much as you do.”

“You try getting all these goddamn gifts together and getting behind

a bunch of smelly reindeer who shit all over you and fly through

the air with the shit freezing so fast it feels like a cannonball when it

hits you, and you’ll be cursing too.”

George nodded slowly and held the button.

“You have a point there. Reindeer do seem to defecate quite a bit.”
“Defecate! They shit is what they do!”

George paused and breathed deeply, leaning close to the scorched

speaker. “So do you mind if I come up and have a few words with you?”

“Your nickel.”

The electric latch buzzed angrily as George pulled back the heavy

door. He slipped up the musty stairs that smelled slightly like piss and

continued down a long, dimly lit hallway that led to the door with a
single piece of garland stapled to the center. Kris Kringgle was posted

on a four-by-six notecard. George paused then knocked.

“It’s open!”

He pushed on the door and thought of his grandmother’s house

up in Wisconsin. The smell of butter combined with cigarettes and a

faint scent of dust and musty clothes. The long bowling alley hallway

was dark, with a light bleeding from a room at the far end.
 
“Hello?”

“I’m back here,” a voice called down the narrow passage.

George walked along the hallway that became an organ of creaking

floorboards following him into a living room where a man with a

white beard and long hair sat wearing a blue sweatsuit in La-Z-Boy
with thick woolen socks and White Christmas playing on a black and

white television. Newspapers were stacked level to his arm along with

pizza boxes. He didn’t bother slapping the paper closed nor did he

remove the spectacles on the tip of his nose.

“The Bears need a damn quarterback. That man cannot have a

game without an interception!”

George stared at the newspaper.

“What can I do for you?” he asked, keeping the paper high.

George sat down on a couch that poofed up dust. The man in

the chair snapped the paper to another page. George stared at the

man behind the paper.

“Well… you certainly look like Santa Claus.”

He snapped the paper shut and looked at George.
“What are you, some kind of L.L. Bean moron? I don’t look like

Santa Claus. I am Santa Claus, you idiot! Jesus!”

He opened the paper again. George looked at his coat. He had

never heard his parka summed up quite that way.

“Well … I’m sorry.”

“You have some questions for me. I have a lot of work ahead of me

as I’m sure you can imagine,” he murmured, looking over his glasses.

“Busy, huh?”

He snorted. “You think?”

“Well … I assume so.”

“I’m due to leave for the Pole tonight, as if it is any of your business.”

“Ah …” George paused. “Well, I guess I was wondering if there is

any … ah … secret to being Santa.”

The paper snapped again.
“Say HO HO HO, and give out a lot of gifts, and don’t get stuck

in the chimney, and wear goggles so you don’t get reindeer shit in

your eyes.” He looked over the paper. “ How’s that?” He slapped the

paper to another page.
 
“That comes from experience, I suppose.”

“Yes.”

“I’m sorry … I don’t really know your name.”

The paper crackled again. “Kris Kringgle! Can’t you even read?”

“I saw the name on the Internet. How did you get yours changed?”

The man dropped the paper onto the stack and looked over his

glasses, leaning slightly forward.

“Let me ask you a question.”

“Sure.”

“Are you retarded? Did you escape from some institution?”

George smiled slowly. “Me? No, I’m an engineer. I build bridges

mostly, or I design them. Well, I used to before I got laid off.”

Kris Kringgle leaned back and stared at him.

“Can you give me a list of bridges you designed so I never go

over them.”

George laughed lightly.

“They are safe, I can assure you.”

“Uh huh. Well, what else do you want to know?”

“Just if there is any secret I should know. You know, tricks of the

trade to being Santa.”

“I told you—wear goggles.”

George pursed his mouth up and nodded.

“Well, I guess if there’s no real secret to being a good Santa Claus,

then I appreciate your time.”

Kringgle put his paper on the stack and flipped out a lighter and

lit a Marlboro. He clapped the lighter shut and studied George with

the cigarette by his cheek.

“Why are you doing this?” He motioned the cigarette. ”I mean

this thing with your daughter?”

George rolled his shoulders.

“I want my daughter to believe in Santa. She’s only nine. She

wants to videotape Santa and prove to the world there is one. So I’m

going to be the Real Santa for her.”

Kringgle waved his hand.

“They all try and do that, and I catch them every time. Never get

me on YouTube.”

“Well, I want her to video me. It’s the only way I can give her the
 
magic back.”

Kringgle flicked ash from his cigarette.

“Yeah, giving the magic back. That’s where most parents screw

up. They are so intent on their careers and their iPhones and their

iPads and iPods, they forget about their kids. They forget the magic

they had when they were kids.”

George nodded. “That’s right. That’s what I want to give her. I

lost my job, and I don’t know, I think I’ve missed a lot. I screwed up

my other family, and I don’t want to do it again.
 
Kringgle picked up his remote and switched the television to It’s

a Wonderful Life.
“You going down the chimney?”

“Yes … I had it all hollowed out so I could fit.”

Kringgle shook his head. “Don’t fall down the bastard. That first

step is a doozy.”

“I hope not to.”

“Relativity cloud is a lot easier you know. Just zoom, and you are

there. No creosote or getting stuck halfway down. ”

George chuckled. “Well, I don’t have one of those.”

Kringgle tipped his cigarette toward him.

“What about getting the sled to fly?”

“Digital projectors and smoke machines,” he replied. “I will have

the reindeer on the roof with ramps at both ends.”

Kringgle watched George Bailey with the cigarette fuming in his

mouth. “Lot of trouble. Relativity clouds are a snap, like I say. You

just move faster than the speed of light and pop down the chimney.”

“That’s pretty good.”

Kringgle looked over his glasses. “Just get done with your bullshit

before I get there. I don’t like people screwing up my landing zone.”

“No problem.”

Kringgle put down his remote and looked over his glasses. The

cigarette whisked by his cheek.

“Anything else?”

George shrugged. “I guess not …” He paused. “But … well … you

really believe you are Santa?”

Kringgle rolled his eyes, puffing perfect smoke rings.

“But … well, how did you know?”
“What do you mean, how did I know?”

“Santa Claus. How did you know you were Santa Claus?

Kringgle opened a box and took out a piece of pizza.

“I just knew. Same way you knew you were an engineer.”

George stared at him.

“I never told you that. How did you know?”

“Santa knows everything, you moron.” He bit the pizza.

“Huh!”

“Anything else?”

George looked around. “How did you end up in this apartment?

Isn’t Santa supposed to be at the North Pole?”

Kringgle shrugged. “Mrs. Kringgle and I separated about a year

ago, and I let her stay at the Pole. She said she was tired of being alone

every Christmas Eve and that all I do on the off-season is watch football,

smoke, and eat pizza and read the paper. I told her everybody

deserves their downtime. Anyway, she found some old boyfriend

on Facebook.” Kringgle raised his fingers in quotes. “Said he had a

normal nine to five.”

“That happened to me too,” George cried out.

“Yeah … she married me for excitement, and now she wants this

boring guy. So I got the bachelor pad, and she kept the Pole. Did the

divorcee bars for a while, but they’re brutal. And I’m not going to cut

my beard just to look younger.”

“I never would have thought Santa had marital problems,” George

murmured.

“Hey, I am who I am.” Kringgle stubbed his cigarette. “She knew

she was marrying a fat guy who smoked and has to work the graveyard

shift.”

George nodded. “Yeah, my wife isn’t too crazy about the money

I’ve spent so far on being Real Santa.”

Kringgle waved his hand. “Don’t get me started … she shops until

she drops, and I give her anything she wants. But I drink a little beer

and watch a little football, and it’s a problem.”

“I guess everyone has the same problems”

“Maybe.” Kringle lifted the paper. “Well, if you don’t mind.”

“Oh, yes.” George stood up.
“Get the door on the way out will you?”

“No problem.” He turned and walked toward the hallway.

“George!”

“How did you know my name?”

Kringgle’s mouth flattened.

“Please! I knew you when you thought I had been incinerated in
the ionosphere. Your dad … now there is a real moron. He should

read up on relativity clouds.” Kringgle paused. “So, you really going

to do this? This Real Santa thing?”

“Yes.”

“This is going to cost you a lot of money.”

“I have already spent forty thousand.”

“And it’s dangerous being on a roof, and your wife thinks you

have lost your mind.”

“We might split up over it.”

Kringgle looked up. “So … why are you doing it?”

“I told you—I want my daughter to believe in Santa.”
Kringgle waved his answer away. “I know that. But why?

George hesitated.

“Look … you want to know the secret to being Santa?”

“I do.

Kringgle gestured with the newspaper. “Then tell me why you

are doing it.”

George paused and looked down, then back up. “Because I love

my daughter.”

Kringgle snapped the paper open.

“Shut the door on your way out will you, and give my best to

Megan. Tell her I’m working on the guitar.”

“Sure …” George paused. “Wait a minute. I didn’t tell you my

daughter wanted a guitar.”

Kringgle snapped the newspaper to another page and shook his

head.

“Morons … I’m surrounded by morons.”

Real Santa

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. 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


 
 
 
 
 
 
 


Friday, November 21, 2014

Chapter 24 Real Santa (33 Days to XMAS)

 
THE WHITE, MOTTLED stucco bungalows with city yards and

a porch were built in the twenties. The porches were for people to sit

and nod to neighbors. It takes a village. That’s what Hillary Clinton

was saying when George bought the three-bedroom bungalow for

one hundred and seventy thousand. He would live in a village, and

his kids would ride their bikes, and he would sit on the porch and

inhale the last scent of the American dream in the American century.

But of course his kids didn’t ride their bikes. And George never

really sat on the porch in the evening and nodded to neighbors. There

were no neighbors, and the people didn’t seem too interested in a man

on a porch swing. Even the nights where he did sit out on his porch,

he felt weird. Most people came home from work and went inside. A

man sitting on his porch in the dark was a little suspect if not crazy.

Park Ridge was a village with parking problems, high taxes, and

stressed middle-class people with homes hammered in the crash.

And then his marriage went south, and his equity swirled down the

drain along with his 401(k), and George was stuck with his home.

That was why the stucco was falling off it and the garage leaned at a

forty-five degree angle. His ex-wife was under the illusion their equity

would reflate and there would be money left over. George knew they

would be lucky if they didn’t owe the bank after they sold the house.

He rang the doorbell and hoped Julie wasn’t home. He had really

come to see Jeremy and Jamie under the guise of dropping off his
support check. He had sat in the tub a long time and thought about

what Mary had said. There was an ache in his heart over the way

things had turned out with his kids.

“Mom’s not here,” Jeremy said, opening the door.

George smiled. “I don’t want to see your mother.”

His son stared at him like he just woke up.

“I came to see you and your sister. Can I come in?”

Jeremy shrugged. George followed his son into the kitchen, where

a mountain bike was flipped upside down with one tire off.

“Jamie’s been working on her bike,” he said as his father examined

it.

“I can see that,” George murmured. “Mom doesn’t care that she

works on it in the middle of the kitchen?”

Jeremy shrugged again. “She’s never here. She doesn’t give a shit

what we do.”

“I see,” George said, glancing into the living room, where an artificial

tree stood with no ornaments. “Does she even decorate the tree?”

Jeremy shook his head. “Not unless we do it. Sometimes she and

Dirk will drink a bottle of wine and decorate some of it Christmas

Eve before they pass out or go upstairs to screw.”

George winced, looking at his son.

“That’s just terrible.”

“Yeah … I’m going to have a cigarette, Dad, on the deck.”

“You mind if I join you?”

“Suit yourself.”

They walked outside onto the deck George had built fifteen years

before. He had designed the deck, had the wood delivered, then

worked on it every weekend. But the Wolmanized lumber didn’t

fare very well. It had turned a dirty grey, and then individual boards

started to give. George thought he had worked out the load factors,

but building a deck was different from building a bridge. Soon they

were all walking across the deck like pogo men.

Jeremy leaned on the railing and lit up a Marlboro. George walked

carefully to the banister, taking in the leaning garage and the old grill

covered in snow. He listened to the leaking gutters and the slow plop

of snow falling between the cracks in the deck.

“I’m amazed that garage is still standing.”
Jeremy puffed on his cigarette. “Dirk says he’s going to knock

it down and build a new one in the spring. Nobody is holding their

breath.”

With a Facebook suggestion they go to Vegas, Dirk had taken

Julie there to see if their high school romance was still real. A lot of

screwing apparently transcended the years, and his wife moved into

Dirk’s apartment, and then Dirk moved into George’s house. The

word he got from the kids was Dirk watched a lot of NASCAR and

adult Netflix until he blew through his case of beer.

“It’s not a small job,” George said, staring at the garage. “She do

anything about the sewer?”

Jeremy frowned. “Are you kidding? You can’t take a crap without

it backing up.”

George had given her the money for the main sewer line. Where

the five grand went he could guess with the trips to Vegas. He was

sure Dirk had lost it at blackjack and craps. George turned around

and looked at his son in his army coat and jeans.

“Jeremy, I want you to consider coming to my house for Christmas.

I’d like you and your sister to come out and spend the holidays

with me.”

He threw the cigarette over the railing.

“That’s why you came out here, Dad?”

“Well … yes, that and to give your mother a check.”

“Not a chance Jamie’s going to miss Florida. I think she likes

having Christmas on a beach.”

George nodded slowly. “How about you?”

“I don’t know, Dad. It seems a little late for all that now. You didn’t

seem to give a shit until now if I came out or not. You have your new

family.” He frowned. “I guess I just don’t give a shit either.”

George nodded slowly. “You’re right, Jeremy. I want to apologize

for that. I wanted to get away from … from the pain. And in the process

I lost you and your sister.”

“Dad, it started before that. Even when you were here, you seemed

like you wanted to be somewhere else.”

“That’s not true. I wanted to be here.”

Jeremy leaned forward on the banister, flipping ash into the snow.

“Maybe, but you know the last time I remember you doing some


thing with me, Dad? Do you remember sleeping in the Field Museum

with the Cub Scouts with all the dinosaurs?”

George nodded slowly. “Yes, we slept on the floor in our sleeping

bags.”

“And remember how we got up at one AM, and the McDonald’s

was still open, and we bought burgers and ate it and walked around

the museum?”

“I do.”

Jeremy turned around and held his cigarette low.

“That’s my last memory, Dad. After that, I don’t remember you

and I doing anything together.”

George felt his heart grown heavy again.

“I’m sorry, son. I really am. I screwed up, and … and I’m sorry.”

“That’s alright,” he said, shrugging. “It’s over.”

George jammed his hands down in his parka and stared at the

falling garage.

“Would you at least consider coming out for Christmas? I could

really use your help with this Santa thing, and I just want to spend

time with you.”

“I don’t know, Dad.”

George turned to his son. “Do you think you could give your old

man another chance?”

Jeremy looked down. “I’ll think about it.”

“Okay.”

“You better give me the check, Dad, and split. Mom was really

steamed when she heard about you being Santa and all. She said she

was going to take you back to court.”

He raised his eyebrows. “How surprising.”

“Yeah.”

They grinned, and George felt himself grow a little lighter. He

handed his son the check and walked to the edge of the deck.

“Think about it … okay?”

Jeremy flicked his cigarette into the snow. “Okay.”

“Take it easy, son.”

“Thanks for stopping by … Dad.”

George tried to speak but could only hold up his hand.

Real Santa

 


 
 
 


Californication

Maybe you have seen Californication. It is on Netflix and concerns a novelist who has a lot of sex and does a lot of drugs and drives a Porche. Wow. Not only that he is able to tell everyone how he feels and confronts people in movie theatres because they are talking on their phone and faces off with very tough husbands whose wives he is having sex with but he has no real worries and comes out smelling like a rose as he jets off in his Porche.

But the novelist has problems. He cannot write. He is not happy with the movie version of his movie. Poor baby. Still he has the Porche and a great apartment and lives in San Francisco and basically jets around doing a lot of nothing except for bumping into women at bookstores who are reading his book and then he goes to bed with them.

Now he does have an ex wife and a daughter whom he is trying kind of to be a better dad. I have to laugh or cry at Hollywood's depiction of the working novelist. His good fortune is so glossed over that it hurts the fantasy,. I really want to believe that this novelist life is out there. It is so full of sex and drugs and good times that it is really more of the rock star. It really would be something to strive for and it supposes that people still care about writers and the books they write.

Very cool. Too bad we live on earth.

www.williamhazelgrove.com
Real Santa..."If someone doesn't make a movie out of this book then there is something wrong with the world."

 

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Chapter 23 Real Santa (34 Days to XMAS... Can you believe it?)

GEORGE COULDN’T SLEEP and watched the Christmas movie
Holiday Inn with the sound on low. The Christmas tree winked silently

beside the television as Bing Crosby and Fred Astaire laughed,

danced, and sang while they fought over girls. These movies were

supposed to get him in the mood for Christmas, but he was facing

divorce while going into the poorhouse.

George ate several bowls of Cap’n Crunch and walked into his

living room. He stared at a Panzer taking aim at him. Shanti’s house

of inflatables beamed like it was Jack Frost’s palace. George could

hear the pumps of Santa and the reindeer sled that glowed weirdly

in pneumatic glory. Shanti’s Christmas tank flashed a red MERRY

CHRISTMAS. Then the Panzer continued its rotation, looking for

other sport to flash away its fiery message.

George held his bowl down and muttered, “enough is enough.”

He went back into his kitchen and slipped out a carving knife. Then

he slipped on his blue parka and stepped into his snow boots. His

back felt pretty good after three ibuprofen and the hot tub. George

slipped out of the side door into the bracing northern air. He listened,

clutching the kitchen knife. There was nothing but an airy hint of

snow and woodsmoke. The pump for Shanti’s pneumatic menagerie

hummed like a small factory.

George moved stealthily to the snow, running across his yard to

the clump of pines directly across from the Shanti palace. He could
 
hear the plastic on plastic sliding of the turret. He pushed the pine

needles aside and stared at the rotating Panzer. The turret was taking

aim at his house again. George stared at the dark windows of the

Shanti fortress.

George took a breath. It was like his plan to be Santa Claus. A man
had to say enough is enough. I will not have a Christmas tank taking

aim at my house anymore! He examined the darkened windows one

more time then broke from the pines like the GIs in the Battle of the

Bulge he had watched on The History Channel. George ran low and

approached the Christmas tank as it turned toward him.

  He raised up with the knife and charged the tank, not unlike

those maniacal soldiers who charged up the beaches of Omaha. He

plunged the blade into the turret. The hardened rubber plastic gave

way but the knife slid off. George couldn’t believe the knife hadn’t

penetrated the tank. He raised the knife again and plunged it into

the turret. Again the rubberized cover gave way and the knife slid off.

He hacked and hacked, but to no avail. The turret rotated and nearly

knocked him over. George glanced up at the windows and then like

a GI fighting in hand-to-hand combat, he brought the knife in low,

thrusting as hard as he could into the base.

The explosion of air was a pop as the tank began to wilt in front
 
of him. The turret sank like that famous scene in The Wizard of Oz,

melting away from the lack of pressure with the pump working furiously

to reinflate the moribund Panzer. George felt an orgasmic

glory as the tank sank in front of him. He had just taken revenge on

his boss for firing him, his wife for doubting him, and the world for

forcing his daughter to grow up too fast. He raised his knife over the

dead tank and shouted in the winter night.

Real Santa...Holiday Special

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. 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



Books by William Hazelgrove