The Year They Lost Santa (Part 2 of 3)

White wig and beard lay next to bottle and bread. Nick rubbed a slice against his face, the stubble on his chin scratching it like sandpaper, bread crumbs falling onto the straps of his suspenders and the collar of his red thermal shirt, settling onto the countertop.

She always caressed his face to calm him when he was hot with anger. He remembered her slender hand, her smooth skin, the coolness of her wedding band against his cheek, how her fingers melted onto his lips as he kissed them.

He tore off the crust. Rolled the bread between his palms, dropped the ball into the shot glass overflowing with whiskey. He patted the nine millimeter tucked in his waistband, watched the clock as the bread swelled. His shift started in fifteen minutes, enough time for one, maybe two more. He plopped the ball into his mouth, refilled the glass, and took another slice of bread from the bag.

* * *

The child, dressed like an elf, round as a snowman, couldn’t sit straight. His head bobbed as he tried to look up.

“And what is it that you want for Christmas, little boy?” Nick feigned jolly, belched between words.

The child made spit bubbles and wiggled further down between Nick’s knees.

“His father was deployed to Afghanistan.” The mother stepped in, pulled her son up by his collar. “We’d feel much safer if he were home.”

Behind her, Nick saw a man running from the food court. He shook his arm as the object inside his jacket sleeve slid into his hand.

—Nortina

Part One

Day 5 of 31 Days of Holiday Hooligans

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