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Sunday, November 30, 2014

Chapter 31 Real Santa

GEORGE PUT ON long underwear first and wondered if Santa

made this precaution against the elements. Did Kris Kringgle wear

long underwear under his suit? He lifted up the pullover shirt with

white ribbing that still smelled like cat piss. The shirt had some room

for extra padding. George shoved in two small pillows, moving them

around to both sides of his own stomach. He then slipped on the

pants and realized he had forgotten about the suspenders. He had

to start over.

“Dammit,” he muttered, yanking the shirt over his head then

slipping on the trousers, looping the suspenders, slipping back on

the shirt, and stuffing in the pillows.

He looped the fat belt and pulled it tight, snugging it around the

pillows. George looked in the bathroom mirror, punching up the

pillow on the right side. He then pulled on thick woolen socks and

stepped into the knee-high shiny boots that pinched his toes. He sat

down on a stool and had to yank hard to get them over his thick socks.

The right boot stuck then broke free and slipped on. George

stood, clunking around on the tile, trying to get feeling back in his

pinched toes. He approached the mirror and picked up a can of hair

color. George lifted his chin, spraying white paint all over his beard

and the fringes of his grey hair. He coughed the hazy paint away and

stared at himself. He looked like a man who had just sprayed white

paint on his beard and hair. He put down the can of paint and picked
up his hat, positioning it carefully on his head. He took off his glasses

then paused.

“Yeah,” he muttered.

The man staring back at him did not look like Santa. He looked

like a fat, middle-aged engineer in a tight-fitting faded-to-pink Santa

suit with two pillows pushing out like prenatal twins from a bad

movie, with road paint on his beard and hair. George took off his

glasses and couldn’t see a thing. He stepped back from the mirror

and came into clearer focus. He put his hands on his hips and tried to

look jolly. “HO! HO! HO!” The man staring back at him looked even

more ridiculous. “Shit,” he muttered, walking into the living room.

Mary looked up from the couch and stared at him.

“What do you think?”

His wife had her legs folded up under her, with presents already

arranged under the tree. George would place several strategic presents

for Megan to watch, but the majority were already there. He and his

wife had not spoken much beyond logistics for the last twenty-four

hours. George kept looking for a thaw, but her pressed lips let him

know the deep freeze would continue until she walked out the door.

Mary tilted her head and nodded slowly.

“You look like Santa Claus.”

George nodded, moving the pillows again.

“I had to add some padding, but I don’t think she will notice.”

“No, I don’t think she will.”

He walked over to the couch and saw himself in the mirror—a
Santa with marital problems. Kris Kringgle had marital problems too.

The guy was gone for twenty-four hours probably every Christmas.

He probably was MIA for the whole month of December getting

ready. Maybe even from November on he was doing the late at the

office thing, barely seeing his kids, supervising the elves. George was

sure Kringgle’s apartment was waiting for him too now.

“I know things haven’t been good between us,” he began, brushing

some paint from his fingers.

Mary raised her eyebrows. “You think?”

“But I want you to know my heart has always been in the right

place.”

Mary frowned.
“I don’t worry about your heart, George. It’s your brain that concerns

me. We have people running all over the yard, a semi parked

on our street, cables, lights, machines, cameras, reindeer, ramps, and

a concession truck in the back of our yard.” She looked up at him.

“Don’t you find that a bit odd for Christmas Eve?”

“I told Dean to get rid of the concession truck.”

Mary picked up her magazine.

“Well, you better go. They are all waiting for you.”

George lingered, hoping he could straighten out his marriage on

the way out the door. Mary stood up.

“I’m going to bed. I guess I will see you in the morning then.”

“You won’t hear a thing … but by morning you’ll have a daughter

who believes in Santa Claus again!”

His wife stared at him.

“Is that what this is all about?”

“Of course it is.”

“Maybe you should ask yourself who you are really being Santa

for.”

“I don’t understand.”

Mary turned at the bottom of the stairs.

“It’s not Megan.”

“Who then, if I may ask?”

She smiled faintly. “It’s for a little boy who found out too early

there really was no Santa Claus.”

“And?”

“And he turned fifty, and he’s still trying to believe.”

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Books by William Hazelgrove