GEORGE WAS HAPPY to feel the warmth of his coffee cup
after the warehouse he met the carpenters in. They had assured him
they could build the ramps to his father’s specifications and would
transport them to his home on December 24th. Dean had found the
carpenters and said he used them for many “shoots,” but George had
to write another five thousand dollar check. He felt like a man who
had been on a binge only to wake up and feel the hammerhead of
remorse banging away.
Mary drew a finger through the sheen of dust on the kitchen table.
Everything was coated with the fine grit of cement. The day had
been filled with the sound of giant guns firing down from the roof.
Joe had started with jackhammers, and the cement rained down into
the hearth and rolled out into the house in a dust cloud. They had
sealed the fireplace with plastic, but somehow this dust seeped out,
and now the house was coasted with the fine ash of grey particles.
“I hope your project is going well because we now need a Real
Santa for Megan to videotape,” Mary said wearily.
George felt heat rising up from his neck. He had driven home
totaling up the costs, and he figured he had spent thirty grand and
Dean told him the digital projectors were now three grand to rent.
Three thousand! That was when he considered shutting the whole
thing down. Maybe he was having a midlife crisis.
The mornings in the mirror examining his teeth, his skin, his very
thin grey hair, had taken on another dimension. He had lived a lot of
years, and he didn’t have a lot to show for it. His savings were meager
after the divorce. His kids were not stellar examples of parenting. He
and his ex-wife traded insults for Jeremy being a pothead and Jamie
becoming a Goth chick covered with tattoos and piercings.
But more than that, George had lately questioned his profession.
All he had done was design bridges for thirty years! Sure, there had
been other projects, but he was a bridge man and that just seemed
trivial in the cosmological scheme of human endeavor. When he
kicked the bucket there would be no plaques, no books, no paintings,
no buildings to mark his passage. Even the bridges he designed
were usually named for some dead president or senator. The George
Kronenfeldt Bridge simply would not exist.
Maybe that was why he had gone crazy on the bike bridge. He
knew it was overkill with the single girder across the highway, but
dammit, he wanted something to stand for all time that would have
his mark, and that bicycle bridge surely did. So it had come down to
Megan. He wanted her to become his legacy. He wanted his daughter
to tell everyone one day that her dad had kept her belief in Santa
Claus alive. He was going to be the Real Santa if it put him right in
the poorhouse. And it looked like he was heading there quickly.
“George …” Mary was looking down at her hands. They were
chapped and red from the dishes she insisted on washing by hand.
“It is your business what you spend, but how much have you given
Dean to help you?”
“Five thousand so far,” he muttered.
Mary adjusted her glasses, pulling her sweater together. “It’s not
that I don’t trust, Dean, it’s just he is a bit of a dreamer and has some
very crazy ideas sometimes.”
George stared down at his coffee and nodded.
“Yeah, I picked that up. He wants to film this himself, and I think
he is trying to create a movie set.”
“Just don’t let him put you in the poorhouse, George.”
Mary paused again, looking across the table.
“How much have you spent so far?”
“You don’t want to know.”
She blinked, her arms creating a trail in the dusty covered table.
“You’re right. I don’t want to know. Do you really think this is something
we should be taking on right around Christmas?”
“No.” George stared at the taped up plastic over the fireplace.
“But I can’t let Megan down. She promised her class she will bring
in a video of the Real Santa.”
Mary clasped his hand. “Just promise me you won’t lose the
George shook his head. “I may be nuts, but I’m not crazy.”
She held his hand and nodded. “I trust you.”
He felt a strange ripple of fear inside. He always thought of himself
as being in control, but lately a madman had taken over who could
do just about anything.
“By the way, Mrs. Worthington requested that I go to the Christmas
party,” Mary continued.
George looked up.
“Apparently you two had some words before the conference.”
“All I did was tell her that we were trying to protect Megan and
keep her belief in Santa alive.”
“She said you threatened her, George.”
“I got a little worked up when she said she wouldn’t perpetuate
“Well … maybe I should go to the party instead.”
“No, no. I promised Megan I would be at the Christmas party,
and I’m going to be there.”
Mary stared at him.
“I’ll be good. I promise I won’t say anything else to the bitch … I
mean, Mrs. Worthington,” George muttered.
His wife stared at him.
“ ‘Don’t friggin’ mess with Santa?’ Really, George?”
Real Santa....Holiday Sale 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. 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."
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."