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
“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?”
Yergen the German climber of mountainexpeditions.com was
silent. Then he said, “That sounds crazy you know. Are you Santa?
“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
“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.”
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-
“Long way down,” Joe muttered.
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."