GEORGE HELD THE reins and watched the nine reindeer relieve
themselves in unison. It was as if they were playing musical crap with
the plop, plop, plop hitting the frozen ground while the man with the
green fifty-five-gallon tote swore at the beasts who calmly chewed the
hay McGruff had thrown down. George looked up the ramp leading
to his roof like a runway and felt his stomach churn. It had begun to
snow, and the plywood looked slick.
Lights illuminated the runway like something out of a science
fiction movie. His whole yard had been turned into something out
of Hollywood. Lights and men with laptops were all over the place.
George looked up to the yellow window of Megan’s room. He could
actually see her sleeping. Dean had a monitor installed in the sled,
and George stared at his daughter clutching a stuffed panda bear,
her hands folded under her cheek. The snow still flowed outside her
window under a solitary light with a scrim strung up behind. This was
just in case she woke and wanted to check on the weather. George
breathed deeply and stared at his daughter.
“Alright, Megan,” he murmured.
George turned to a man in a long overcoat, fedora, and glasses.
“Quite a setup you have here … Phil Stanton, Chicago Tribune.
Do you mind if I ask you a few questions?”
“What type of questions?”
“Well, I understand you are doing all this to prove to your daughter
there is a Santa Claus.”
George looked at the man with the pad in his hand. He had already
noticed a crowd of people along the street behind a barricade
Dean had set up.
“People always want to watch a movie being made, mate. It’s
George had pointed out he didn’t want any publicity.
“I understand, mate, but this won’t affect the little tyke. Believe
me, she will never see any of this. There’s a bloke from the newspaper
who wants to ask you a few questions. Just be nice to him. It will help
the buzz on my movie, mate.”
“Yes … I am doing this for my daughter,” he replied.
The reporter looked at the reindeer and the lights and the men
tromping all over the roof.
“It looks like you are filming a Hollywood movie.”
“Yes, ” George acknowledged tiredly.
“It must have cost you a pretty penny.”
“Yes, it did.”
The man took off his fedora and smoothed back his hair, laughing
lightly. “Excuse me for asking, but couldn’t you have done something
simpler to prove there is a Santa Claus to your daughter … or just
told her the truth?”
“And what is the truth, Mr. Stanton?’’
The man stared at him through his round accountant glasses.
“Well, that there really is no Santa Claus.”
“Are you a Christian?”
“Well, yes …”
“And you believe in God?”
“But you have never seen him and yet you believe in something
a lot of people say is nuts. Why is that?”
The reporter opened his mouth. “Well, I have faith.”
“Exactly. It is no different than your belief in God. You believe,
and therefore it must be true. Well, children have faith too, and they
believe there must be a Santa Claus, and for them there is one. Their
belief makes him true the way your belief in God makes Him true.”
The reporter scribbled something on his pad, murmuring, “Interesting.”
He looked up and nodded to the roof. “Could you walk me
through how this is all going to come together?”
George looked up the runway. “The reindeer and I will go up this
runway and make a turn on the roof there. You can see the pitch of the
roof has been corrected with plywood. My daughter will wake up,” he
explained, motioning to the monitor, “and she will come to the window.
I will be behind a black scrim with snow coming down in front of it, and
she will see a digital projection of Santa Claus in the air beamed against
smoke, which will fold into the scrim, and then I will advance the sled
and stop in front of the window.”
“So she will see Santa … fly?”
George nodded. “That’s right. And then I will go up to the chimney
and descend with gifts,” he continued, motioning to the bright red bag
behind him. “My daughter will then go down to watch me emerge from
“Hold on, hold on.” The reporter looked up from his pad. “You
are going down the chimney?”
“Yes.” George nodded solemnly. “I have two mountain climbers
who will lower me down, and when I get to the bottom I’ll eat the
cookies, drink the milk, put some gifts around, then ascend in the
chimney with the mountain climbers assisting.”
The reporter shook his head, writing furiously. “This is going to
be awesome,” he muttered.
“Then I will come back down and get in the sled and go down the
ramp on the far side of the roof, but my daughter will see a digital
projection in the sky again showing Santa flying away.”
The reporter looked up. “What if something goes wrong?”
“We have some backup plans.”
“I see.” He put his pad away and stared at the ramp and the roof
lit dramatically from several different angles. Smoke and snow were
spouting out from the corners, and the digital projector shot George
flying through the darkness behind his sled.
“Amazing,” the reporter murmured, shaking his head. “This is
“You do what you have to do for your kids.”
“I have a daughter, but I don’t know if I would do all this.”
George looked at the man a good fifteen years younger than himself.
“Wait until you only have a few chances left to make things right.”
The reporter stared at George then put out his hand.
“Good luck, Mr. Kronenfeldt.”
“Thank you,” George replied, shaking his hand, watching him
tramp off through the light snow on the ground. George looked up
the long ramp and watched a man fall on the slick roof, catching
himself just before he fell to the ground. “I’m going to need it,” George
George’s father slogged up through the snow and ice. Already the
back lawn was turning into a muddy, snowy trough. Too many people
and machines and reindeer had pummeled the dead grass into wet
earth. A slushing sound began to fill in the hubbub of people trying
to orchestrate a movie. Dean floated over on the camera boom, rising
above the roof and then coming back to earth.
Kronenfeldt Sr. watched him levitate past and shook his head.
“That guy should be in a movie.”
George leaned back in the sled. It was eleven thirty, and he was
to start up toward the roof at midnight when the bell outside Megan’s
window started ringing. His father turned with his floppy fedora
pulled low over his face and his puffy down coat pushing his arms out.
“So, you ready for this?”
George shrugged. “Ready as I’ll ever be.”
His father stared at the crowd gathered on the far side of the lawn.
“How do you think all those people got there?”
“Like Dean said, everyone wants to be in the movies.”
“So you think it’s all worth this, son?”
George felt the picture in his pocket and fished it out.
“You remember this, Dad?”
He squinted at the faded picture.
“What the hell is that?”
“That’s you, Dad.”
“I can see that! But where the hell did you get that?”
“Don’t you remember the night I snuck down on Christmas Eve
and snapped this picture?”
“Oh, yeah. You scared the shit out of me that night.”
“That’s right. And then you yelled at me to go back to my room.
You didn’t even try and cover up that I had just discovered you were
“I thought you knew already.”
“Because you said he would spontaneously combust in the atmosphere?”
“Well … yeah.”
George shook his head. “I didn’t believe you, Dad, because I didn’t
want to accept that Santa Claus could be explained away with science.”
He paused. “But when I saw you there, putting that bike together, I
knew then—there was no Santa. And you were the guy who put all
the presents under the tree.”
“How the hell should I have known you’d come down? You were
supposed to stay the hell in bed until I finished!”
“I know. It wasn’t your fault. I did the same thing to Jeremy and
just about in the same way. So I guess the apple doesn’t fall far from
the tree.” George looked at his father. “But maybe I can get it right
Kronenfeldt Sr. stared at the men on the roof.
“In my time it was easier,” he said. “You weren’t expected to be
such a great parent. Now you got to be Mother Theresa for God’s sake.”
George crossed his arms over a large black belt.
“That’s probably true.”
“I wouldn’t have done all this for you.”
“I wouldn’t have expected you to do it, Dad.”
George saw Dean floating toward him.
“Well, I guess it’s getting close to showtime,” he murmured, sitting up.
His father turned. “It’s a crappy world, son, but I am proud that
you would do this for your daughter, if that makes any damn sense.”
George picked up the reins and smiled.
“It does to me.”
Real Santa...Holiday Special