THE FONDUE SMOKED in the middle of the table, and George
felt like a boy waiting for Santa except he was waiting for a semi loaded
with two three-hundred-foot ramps, lighting equipment, snow
machines, digital projectors, a sled, smoke machines, tracks, grips,
handlers, cameras, closed circuit television, a boom, a film crane,
walkie-talkies, union carpenters in case there were any last minute
changes, pyrotechnics, a director, a director’s latest girlfriend and
first assistant, two German mountain climbers with rappelling gear,
and finally nine reindeer and Bill McGruff.
Dean had arranged to have everyone follow the semi and assured
George he would handle the setup and breakdown. “The director,
mate, is the general. I’m in charge, and these blokes will have to do
as I say and we should have a STUPENDOUS film!”
George understood there had to be a project manager or otherwise
the bridge would not get built. Dean had taken on the role of
project manager and interceded between his father and the union
carpenters, navigated problems with McGruff, who couldn’t get a
trailer big enough to haul the nine reindeer, and arranged for the
semi with a sectioned off part for the reindeer. All McGruff had to
do was get them to a parking lot, and Dean would transport them
the rest of the way.
George heard the roar of a diesel engine and the hiss of pneumatic
breaks. He looked up from the table as his father nudged him. They
both looked out the window at a tractor trailer rolling to a stop in
front of the house followed by three dark SUVs, McGruff’s truck,
three older cars, and a concession truck.
“You have to feed the crew, mate,” Dean told him later.
George stared out the window and saw the hundred thousand
dollars he had spent. So his kid wouldn’t go to college. So he had no
retirement savings left. Megan would believe in Santa Claus.
“Shit!” his father muttered.
“Don’t say a word, Dad.”
“I just lost another shrimp, Daddy,” Megan announced.
“I’ll get if for you,” George said, watching his wife stare out the
window at the lights on the sixteen-wheeler and the people congregating
in front of the house.
“Why don’t you pull the drapes together. It will keep the house
warmer,” Mary suggested, staring at him icily, raising her eyebrows.
“Yes, it is cold in here,” George replied.
“You can say that again,” his father muttered.
But it was too late. Megan was already staring at the semi and
the cars and the people standing around the lit concession truck.
“What is that truck doing in front of our house, Daddy?”
George whisked the drapes together, facing his wife and father
and his daughter, who was already out of her chair. Kronenfeldt Sr.
crossed his arms and looked at the ceiling.
“Now let’s get back into our seat, Megan. It is just the Shantis
getting some furniture delivered.”
“Lots of furniture,” his father mused.
“Why would they have furniture delivered on Christmas Eve,
Daddy?” Megan asked as he continued pulling curtains and shades
in the living room, dining room, and kitchen.
“Oh … that’s normal. A lot of people do that. They are giving it
as a gift. People give pool tables and couches and dining room sets
as gifts, and that’s what the Shantis are doing.”
“Oh.” She shrugged. “Seems weird to me.”
“You have no idea,” Kronenfeldt Sr. said, looking at his son.
George made sure Megan was safely in front of the television
watching Elf for the tenth time with Mary and his father. He then
slipped out the door and ran across his lawn to where Dean was
standing with a group of men with LOCAL TEAMSTERS U35 pinned
to their hats and several young women with clipboards and walkie-
“’Ello, mate! Are we all ready for the shoot?”
“It’s not a shoot, Dean, and what are all these people doing here?”
Dean shrugged. “Gaffers, grips, electricians, digital technicians,
Teamsters, assistants first and second, cinematographers, crane operators,
handlers, pyro technicians—all necessary, mate, to give your
little daughter the STUPENDOUS show she deserves!”
“We don’t need all these people, Dean,” he whispered fiercely.
“This is not about your movie!”
Dean sipped his latte and took George by the shoulder. He carried
his riding crop under one arm and cocked his beret forward.
“Look, mate, you hired me to do a job. What you basically asked
me to do is create a world, create a character, an illusion, mate.”
He stopped and stomped his riding boot. “That’s what I’m doing !”
Dean tapped his chest. “I’m an artist, mate, and I am a perfectionist,
which is a good thing for you. What if I didn’t bring the necessary
equipment and blokes who know how to operate snow machines
and smoke machines and digital projectors? And yer ass is on yer
sled, and your little daughter there sees that it is daddy and not Santy
Claus coming down the chimney? Then you would say, Listen, Dean,
I hired you to do a job and you didn’t do it, and you would have every
right to fire me, mate.”
George rubbed his forehead, seeing two bearded men with rappelling
equipment walking toward him in the darkness.
“Alright, but did you need all the film equipment too?”
Dean held up the leather-riding crop.
“Remember our deal, mate. I’ll create the visual of Santa Claus
for your little mite there, but you’ll allow me to film for my STUPENDOUS
upcoming feature-length movie!”
The two men with rappelling ropes over their shoulders and
spiked boots clicking on the street walked up.
said, shaking his hand.
George nodded, glancing toward his home. “Nice to meet you.”
“We came early to get you down the chimney, ya?”
“Uh … yeah. Yes. We are going down the chimney and back up.”
“Hello, mates! I’m Dean, and I’m the director of this shoot,” Dean
announced, shaking their hands. “Why don’t you speak with my first
assistant Leslie there, and she will get you all set up.”
“Ya …Ya …”
Dean adjusted his beret and looked at George.
“You see. All under control, mate.”
George watched people getting coffee and donuts from the concession
truck. Already, several neighbors were looking out their windows.
He realized then his father and his wife were correct—he had
lost his grip on reality and had created a monster.
“Just give me a jingle on the cell phone and let me know when
we should start getting set up. Then when you are ready to suit up,
mate, I’ll give you your cues and spots, and she should all go like
clockwork,” Dean assured him.
George stared at the short, swarthy man who had taken sixty
grand of his money. He wondered if he had just built another bicycle
bridge people would laugh at again. He looked over the people
milling about with the low thrum of the diesel engine coming back
from the houses across the street. He didn’t have many neighbors,
but the Shantis were nosy enough to blow the whole thing with a
bunch of questions.
“Alright, I’ll give you a call within the hour,” George said, turning
to Dean. ”I have all the shades down around the house, so you can
start setting up. Then I need you to get these trucks and cars away
from the house. Spread them out or whatever, but I can’t have it
looking like a movie set around my house!”
Dean clapped him on the shoulder.
“Don’t worry about a thing, mate!”
A blonde with a clipboard and a walkie-talkie set up a folding
chair with DIRECTOR on the back. The assistant turned around with
a logo on her jacket: REAL SANTA.
George walked back to his house as his father met him at the door.
“What’s going on?”
“You don’t want to know.”
George shut the door and looked around his shoulder.
“Megan still watching Elf?”
“Yeah. What’s going on out there? Is everything here?”
George pulled off his parka and shrugged.
“It looks like the whole world is out there, including a concession
His father stared at him. “A concession truck?!”
“Shhh, keep it down. I have to keep Megan away from the windows.
She already is talking about a white Christmas and wants to
look out the windows.”
His father frowned. “How are you going to keep her away from
“How the hell do I know? But I have to get Dean and his guys
going, because it doesn’t look right having a tractor trailer in front
of the house.”
His father frowned. “The ramps are in the truck?”
“Yes. So are the reindeer.”
Kronenfeldt Sr. whistled. “I’ll bet that truck is full of shit!” He
shook his head. “Are you sure it’s worth all of this, son?”
He stared at his father.
“Do you really think I need to hear that, Dad, when I’ve spent
close to a hundred grand and it’s Christmas Eve?”
He reached past George for his coat on the hall tree.
“Where are you going?”
“I’m going out there to check on those ramps and see if these
knuckleheads screwed up my specifications.”
“Where do I say you went if Megan asks?”
“Tell her I went to get some milk.”
Kronenfeldt Sr. went out the door, and George realized then
he might not have milk for Santa. The details were mind numbing.
Santa gifts had to be hidden in a special place then loaded into the
“payload bag,” and they all had to be a certain diameter to fit down
the chimney. Even though Joe had given him room, there was no way
he could go down carrying the gifts. The gifts would go down ahead
of him or behind him.
George rubbed his head. A million things could go wrong. He
might get stuck in the chimney. He might fall to his death. The reindeer
might bolt. The reindeer might not move. The digital projector
and smoke machine wouldn’t give the proper illusion. He could fall
off the roof. The reindeer could fall off the roof. He might not be able
to get back up the chimney. The sled and reindeer could tumble down
the ramp. Megan might not buy any of it.
He jumped and turned in the hallway to his wife.
“What’s going on?” Mary asked.
“Nothing. Just half the world is in front of our house.”
Mary opened the door a crack, and she saw cars, lights, an idling
truck, and people milling around. She shut the door and turned, her
“Oh, my Lord!”
“I know. It won’t be as bad once they are set up in the backyard.
But I think I really screwed up.”
George’s cell phone rang. “Yeah.”
“Hey, mate, listen. We have to let these reindeer out of the truck.
They have to go you know, nature’s call and all that.”
“Alright. Start setting up in the backyard. I’ll keep Megan away
from the windows.” He paused. “We probably should start.”
George held down his phone and looked at his wife. “It’s begun.”
“Oh, shit,” she murmured.
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."
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."