The Man in the Santa Claus Suit
Ms. Eckles, the personnel director, has
scarlet fingernails the length of corn holders and lipstick to match. She
stares at me through the severe horn-rim glasses of the ultra rich like
I'm a suspected child molester.
"Have you had any experience playing
Santa Claus, Mr. Grabowski?"
"I was an elf in the sixth grade Christmas
pageant." I say. Well, it's only a small lie. I was actually a stand-in
for Wilbur Donnely who was playing Blitzen, but was subject to unexpected
vomiting attacks whenever he had to prance in public.
"I see, and what led you seek this position?
Are you fond of children?"
Oh, oh, trick question. Fond of children?
There she goes on the child molester theme again. "Oh yes, I'm very good
with children." What and tell her the truth that my therapist thinks getting
a part-time job will alleviate my depression? Besides I've never actually
murdered a child.
"That's excellent. Now you do understand
our position relative to law suits?"
If Ms. Eckles thinks I'll flinch on
that one, she's got another think coming. I nod my head. I'm not planning
on any law suits.
"In that case I think you'll do fine,
Mr. Grabowski. You'll find your costume in closet C. Here's the key. You'll
"And there's one more thing, Mr. Grabowski.
I hate to bring this up, but there's no drinking on the job. We've had
some problems with our past Santa Clauses."
"Of course, Ms. Eckles, no drinking
on the job."
With my cake-stained whiskers there's
no need for the strip of tacky cotton fuzz, the company's provided as a
beard. However, the boots are too tight, the red pants four sizes too big,
and the pillows for my belly have sprung a leak and threaten to spill foam
rubber out the openings in my Santa's cloak.
A few minutes later, accompanied by
the strains of "Jingle Bell Rock," I make my way down the hallway of the
mall. I just make it in front of the Designer Loft when I'm surrounded
by a gaggle of junior high school girls.
"There he is," a sweet young thing with
a ring in her eyebrow cries.
"God, he's a geek. I mean really a geek,"
Another with circles of blue makeup surrounding her eyes with raccoon chic
giggles and tweaks my beard.
"Ho, ho, ho, are you girls being good?"
I say, not adding--like staying out of the funny cigarettes and keeping
your panties on
"We are so good, Santa. That's why I
want you to bring me a Corvette." Their leader, in a black sweater with
up-thrust boobies that equal Britney Spears', says.
"You'll have to do your homework first,"
"Oooh," they groan like I'm being a
big, bad Santa.
I give them some taffy out of my sack
and amble down the mall to my chair near the main entrance. The job is
to sit in the chair, go "ho, ho, ho," and not catch some strange childhood
disease while the company photographer takes a picture of me and some vicious
tyke trying to rip off my beard.
I'm hardly settled onto my perch when
a mocha-colored six year old with a head full of frizzy ringlets bounds
onto my lap.
"And what's your name, little boy?"
God, where do they find these names?
"And do you have a last name?"
"Johnson." Darnell has his head twisted
under my beard examining my neck.
"And what would you like me to bring
you for Christmas this year, Darnell?"
Darnell begins to giggle like he's found
a bug in my beard.
"Quit yo giggling, boy, and answer Santa
Claus question!" Mrs. Darnell is a fierce-looking woman the size of a Green
Bay Packer nose tackle. Darnell must be insane to risk having her mad at
He wriggles around and puts his head
over my shoulder.
"You're not sure what you want for Christmas
"A cookie," he says, stabbing me in
the back with a pencil he's concealed in his palm.
"Ouch!" I squawk as his mother tears
him off me with a teeth-rattling jerk and flings him to the tile floor.
"Boy, I'm mo knock yo eyes out you don't
straighten up. You hear me, boy?"
Darnell has suddenly gone into spasms
of wailing as mall security stares our direction with suspicious eyes,
and I try to look as innocent as a Santa Claus can with a good sized gouge
in the meat of his upper back.
Before I can hand Darnell a piece of
taffy to calm him down, Mrs. Darnell had dragged him off in the direction
of the exit, presumably to execute him in the privacy of her car.
My next two tormentors are a Caucasian
two-year old who screams bloody murder as her father tries to seat her
on my lap and a Hispanic one year old whom I frighten so badly he pees
down my crotch.
After a quick retreat to the restroom
where a maintenance man stares at me like I'm a freak as I try to towel
away the wet spot on my Santa trousers, I return to my workshop.
A little nervous by now, I begin to
twitch as I notice Junior stomping my way from the direction of the cinema.
Approximately seven years old, as wide and squat as a Humvee, he rumbles
along with the spread-legs of a rodeo cowboy. Weighing close to 200 pounds
and wearing a white cowboy hat and boots, he's dragging his shell-shocked
mother, a woman the size of Texas, along by one hand.
"Mom, he ain't no real Santa Claus,"
he says, putting his hands on his hips and staring at me like I'm a bank
he's about to knock off.
"Shush, Junior, he is too a real Santa
Claus." His mother gives his arm a jerk.
"Ain't neither!" Junior cries, striding
up to me and giving me a swift kick in the ankle with his pointed-toe boots.
Restraining the impulse to cuff him
on one of his huge, jug ears, I say, "And what would you like Santa Claus
to bring you this year, Junior?"
"A horse, a home movie theater, twenty
Captain Blackie pirate action figures, a sword, a beebee gun, and fifty
packs of Pokemon cards."
"That's a tall order, son."
Junior's lower lips suddenly protrudes
like an iguana. "You ain't no real Santa Claus. You're a cheap skate!"
he cries as a crowd suddenly begins to develop around my Santa kingdom.
"Junior, lean over here, and I'll tell
you a secret," I whisper into his fat, red ear.
"What kind of secret?" Junior leans
closer, eyeing me like I'm some sort of childhood-monster-eating predator.
"Little closer, Junior. That's it. Now
listen," I whisper, "I'm going to put a rattle snake in your bed tonight,
and it’s going to suck out your eyeballs." His pupils enlarge to the size
of silver dollars.
"Mom," Junior bellows, "he says he's
going to put a snake in my bed!"
Suddenly his mother is in my face as
Junior rips at my beard. "What kind of pervert are you?" she cries. "You
ought to be hung up by your coochies for talking to a little boy that way."
"Say what?" I say, leaping out of my
cotton-covered Santa chair as the junior high girls begin to chant. "Deck
her, Santa! Deck her!"
That's when I realize Junior has a hold
of my oversize Santa trousers and is ripping them down to expose my size
42 boxer shorts.
"Yo, check out Santa's shorts," Britney
Spears cries as Junior's mother tries to get me in a headlock while I struggle
with Junior to keep my pants on and "Little Town of Bethlehem" plays in
The next thing I know Junior's mother
and I are wrestling in the artificial snow surrounding my chair as Junior
topples the nearby Christmas tree onto us. There is a kind of insanity
that grips a fake Santa as he wrestles with his constituents and realizes
he is about to be choked to death, but I managed not to bite off the woman's
Of course, none of that cut any ice
with Ms. Eckles. Her hand is out, those scarlet fingernails pointing towards
"The key, Mr. Grabowski, and you'll
be turning in your Santa Claus suit, you understand."
I sit there like a schoolboy in the
principal's office. My neck is burning from the headlock applied by Junior's
"It wasn't really my fault," I mumble.
"I'm afraid that's irrelevant. You are,
you understand, liable for any punitive actions that your clients might
bring against you. We will not be assuming any responsibility for your
"Gotcha, Ms. Eckles," I say, rising
in defeat and handing in my Santa Claus hat on my way to get a mid-morning
double. Then turning with an Italian salute, I cry, "Merry Christmas, Ms.
Eckles, and to all a good night."