JEREMY HAD SEEN Santa Claus and stopped. His suit was a
reddish pink, his belt black and shiny, his beard a cotton-candy white.
He was sitting in a sled behind nine reindeer getting covered in snow
with lights crisscrossing their backs, breathing smoke, chewing, defecating.
People were walking around with laptops and on the roof
where green diodes lit the darkness and snow funneled in front of a
window. A camera crane floated overhead with a man wearing riding
boots and a beret. His father was filming a movie in his backyard,
and that really blew Jeremy away.
He still remembered the days when his dad was the coach for his
baseball team. He knew nothing about baseball, and the other coaches
treated him like a college freshman. Jeremy noticed his dad had to always
collect the balls and couldn’t throw straight and dropped the ball when
playing catch and couldn’t even hit the ball in the fielding drills. But he
kept showing up with his thick glasses and pens in his shirt.
The other boys’ fathers all had played little league and most of them
had played high school baseball. Even then Jeremy knew his father was
making an ass of himself for his benefit. When the coaches couldn’t
make it to one game, his dad had ended up coaching. His father sent kids
into disaster with steals from third and gave kids the take sign when the
pitcher was nailing the strike zone. When the coaches returned, they
apologized to the boys for Coach George’s lack of knowledge. But his
father kept coming to practices and that was how Jeremy saw his father
now—a man who would keep coming even if it meant disaster.
After seeing his mother and sister off to the airport his cell rang.
“Jeremy, pick me up.’’
It was his sister and she was crying.
“I just dropped you off. Is something wrong?’’
“That bastard Dirk … he’s drunk, the filthy pig. Just pick me up!”
Jeremy spun the car around and headed back to the airport.
He found out later Dirk had drunk margaritas while waiting for the
flight, declaring it the drink of Florida. When Jamie’s mother went to
the ladies room, he had leaned over, his old man breath mixed with the
foul airport swill, and whispered, “Next time, sugar pie, it will be you
and me on the beach as long as you bring your bikini. You know I love
your mom, but you know a man gets urges. In high school we did it
all the time but you slow down, but I wouldn’t slow down with you …”
When her mother returned, Jamie had run down the terminal
hallway. Jeremy picked her up by baggage claim. They drove toward
their father’s home, and Jeremy reasoned that he didn’t really blame
his father for starting a new family. This whole Santa Claus thing had
echoes of disaster written all over it, but he wanted some closure
with his dad. There had been the property in Michigan that would
supposedly be worth a fortune that turned out to be inaccessible.
There had been the legendary sailing boat disaster, where his father
tore a gash in the side of the boat. There had been the famed bicycle
bridge turned into a railroad trestle. And now there was this scheme
to become Santa, complete with chimney descent.
“I just want to make sure Dad doesn’t kill himself,” he explained
to his sister as they drove out.
They parked on George’s street lined with cars.
“I’ll wait in the car,’’ Jamie said.
Jeremy frowned. “Come on, sis.’’
“No, it’s freezin’ out, and I don’t have a coat. I’ll watch from here.’’
So he had left his sister, and now Jeremy was walking up to his
father, and the churning emotions gripped him by the throat and he
was having a hard time with that one central question: Why didn’t
he do this for me? “Hey, Dad,” he called out.
His father turned with his horn-rimmed glasses under the bushy
He jammed his hands down in his pocket and nodded.
“You look pretty good, Dad. You should lose the glasses though.”
George nodded sheepishly. “Yes, I just wanted to keep them
around if I get in a tight spot. But when I head up the ramp, I will
take them off.”
“Cool,” Jeremy murmured. “So, this is all pretty wild. When is
the big moment?”
George glanced at his watch.
“Ah … just about in fifteen minutes.”
“Wow, just like a movie.”
George sighed. “Yes. It’s gotten a little out of control.”
“You could say that.”
His father lowered his voice. “I think Mary is going to dump me
after it’s all over.”
Jeremy looked at his father. This didn’t surprise him. Women
could only take so much of the Kronenfeldt antics, and then they headed
for the hills, though his mother had hung in there right through the
cat toilet that allowed a cat to shit and then flush. The misses really
stunk up the house, and the cat had more than once fallen into the
whirling blue water. The Facebook flame from high school was more
of a symptom than a reason.
Jeremy looked at the people all over the yard.
“So, is it all worth it, Dad?”
“I think so,” he replied. “Megan can believe in Santa Claus a little
longer.” He looked at his son. “But you know how it is—once I get
rolling on a project, it’s hard for me get off the train.”
“Yeah … I know.”
George leaned back. “So … you didn’t go to Florida.”
Jeremy shrugged. “Yeah, I wanted to see some snow I guess. Dirk
is a pretty strange dude, and I think we would have killed each other
by the end of the week. We almost did last year. Jamie’s in the car.”
George stared at his son. “She is? What is she doing there?”
“She didn’t have a coat, but I think she is unsure of all of this.”
“Well, you are going to spend Christmas with us, and that’s an order!”
“Sure. Guess that’s why I’m here.”
George held up the reins. “Want to command nine reindeer?”
“I don’t think so, Dad.”
“C’mon. How many times do you have the opportunity to sit in
Santa’s sleigh?” George held out the reins. “Take them.”
Jeremy shrugged and climbed in the other side of the sled and
sat next to his father. George handed him the reins, and he looked
over the snowy backs of the smoking animals.
“Pretty cool, Dad,” he whispered.
“You know what? Why don’t you accompany me on my sled tonight?”
“But, Dad … there can only be one Santa Claus.”
“Nonsense. You are Santa’s helper! We can get you dressed up
like an elf. We have a wardrobe person that has three Santa outfits.”
“I don’t know … this is between you and Megan.”
“Bullshit! This is for all of us. You are coming with me.”
Jeremy looked at his father. “You really want me to, Dad?”
“Damn right I do. You are going with me tonight. Besides, I’ll
need all the help I can get climbing up that chimney.”
Jeremy held the reins in his lap. “Okay then.”
“Alright, mate! We are all set, and it is time for all nonessential
people to clear the sled!”
Dean was out of breath and staring at George’s son. George nodded
“We better get a costume for my son here. He is going to assist
Dean shook his head. “Sorry, mate. The script only calls for one
“I don’t need to go, Dad,” Jeremy murmured, starting to get out.
George grabbed his son’s arm. “You are going with your father.”
He turned to Dean. “The script now calls for Santa and his helper.
My son goes or Santa doesn’t fly.”
Dean turned red, sputtering, whipping up his walkie-talkie.
“Wardrobe, get the hell over to the sled!”
Jeremy looked at his father, and George leaned over and whispered,
“You gotta be tough with these Hollywood types.”
MOVIE RIGHTS SOLD!
Vicki Rocco of Modern Family optioned the movie rights of William Hazelgrove's Real Santa for her production company Small But Mighty Productions with an eye to a feature or a made for television movie. Ms. Rocco has to her credits, Modern Family, Arrested Development, Stand and Deliver, U23D, Empire Dreams, Heather, Britany Spears Live, and sees Real Santa as a classic that will pull in people hungry for a new take on the Christmas movie. "No one has done this. No one has taken on the physics of being Santa Claus. It is funny and heartwarming and has all the things we look for in any great Christmas movie."
STARRED REVIEW BOOKLIST
"If somebody doesn't make a movie out of this book, there's something wrong with the world.
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