Frankie’s gift sat in his lap unopened. He plucked at the bow, ran his fingers underneath the creased flap of the wrapping paper, thumped the sticker on the box— “To: Frankie From: Mr. Claus”
His mother had her head under the Christmas tree, checking for overlooked presents obscured by low-hanging branches pulled down by overweight ornaments. Finding none, she drew back. An ornament hook caught a Styrofoam roller in her hair. Cocking her head to the side to undo the roller, she looked at her son, his face downcast.
“Why won’t you open your present, honey?” she asked.
“Mom, we don’t have a chimney.”
She frowned and turned to her husband, sitting on the couch, for clarity. He shrugged and leaned over Frankie to help detach her from the tree.
Frankie sighed. “How does Santa get in?”
“Oh, that’s easy, son,” his father said, slapping his back as he returned to the couch. “He comes through the front door.”
Frankie scratched his head. There was a gun hidden inside a shoebox in the hallway closet because of all the burglaries in their neighborhood, but Santa was allowed to come through the front door, eat all of Mom’s mouth-watering oatmeal raisin cookies, steal the last of the milk so that Frankie would have none to put in his cereal for breakfast Christmas morning, and leave behind every present except the one Frankie asked for? He was forbidden to talk to strangers, even the ones who drove to his bus stop and offered Krispy Kreme donuts from the backseat of their cars, but every year he was forced to sit on Santa’s lap, take a candy cane, and tell him what he wanted for Christmas? The last one wore so much cologne, Frankie nearly choked. He saw from the news reports that his parents watched every day, that it was against the law to follow children around, yet Santa kept a list of every little boy and girl in the world and knew if they’d been naughty or nice. Imagine! Kids all over the world, afraid to be normal kids—put gum in girls’ hair, pants the new kid in the hallway so everyone can see his Spiderman underwear, talk back to the teacher and get detention at least once a week—all so they won’t find a lump of coal in their stockings on that fateful Christmas morning!
Santa’s reign of terror had to end.
Frankie never opened his present that Christmas. He lied to his parents, said he wanted to wait as long as possible, prolong the anticipation to make the surprise that much sweeter, savor the moment of opening the last gift of the year. Instead, he hid it on his toy shelf behind previous presents he now realized were given to him by Santa to keep him trapped.
On New Years, he made his resolution to himself—that he would kill Santa. All that year, he planned how he would take out the fat man, drawing up his strategy with a stick in the dirt so that he could easily wipe it away if anyone came near.
When Christmas Eve finally arrived, he stayed up past his bedtime, waited until he heard his father’s walrus-like snoring from the other room. He snuck out of bed and tiptoed to the hall closet where he found the Christian Louboutin box at the very back. His mother had weak ankles and never wore high heels. Only one thing could be inside. He pulled back the lid, flipped the box over, and felt the cool metal of the revolver as it landed in his hand. He wrapped his fingers around the bullet chamber. He knew it was loaded. “When there’s a break-in, you don’t have time to remember where you hid the bullets,” he remembered his father saying the day he taught him how to shoot soda cans off the back porch. If only his father had known that he was training him for a future confrontation with the big man in red.
Frankie unlocked the front door first. How Santa broke in all these years without waking him, he didn’t know. Maybe Santa had some magical sound-proofing device that he used. Maybe he repaired the broken lock after he had delivered the presents. Whatever the case, Frankie couldn’t risk making too much noise and waking his parents before he could off Santa.
He sat in front of the door and aimed the gun, waited patiently as the artificial tree slowly leaned to the side, dipping into his periphery vision, until finally, the door knob turned.
Day 11 of 31 Days of Holiday Hooligans