The Wal-Mart parking lot was empty save for a few cars. Santa pulled into the handicap space closest to the door. He turned off the engine and leaned over the armrest.
“I don’t imagine I’ll be able to convince you to leave that gun of yours in the glove compartment, huh?” he whispered.
“Not a chance,” Frankie said.
“You see, the thing is, carrying a gun on public property is sort of against the law. Add you being a kid on top of that and I’m sure to go to jail.”
“Breaking and entering is against the law too, Santa.”
He sucked his teeth. “Touché.”
“C’mon. Let’s make this quick.” Frankie opened the door and jumped from the front seat. He pulled his sweater down past his knees to conceal the revolver tucked in his back pocket.
Santa put his hand on Frankie’s shoulder and guided him through the sliding door. His grip tightened when he saw the security guard, and he pulled the strings on his hoodie to further obscure his face.
“Buying a last minute Christmas gift for Junior here,” he said quickly as they passed.
“And he’s with you?” The security guard frowned. Santa’s eyes immediately went to the gun at his side.
“I’m making sure he gets the right one,” Frankie said, then turning to Santa, “He gets it wrong every year.”
Santa forced himself to smile.
“Ha! I’ve been there with my kid myself.” The security guard laughed. “Store closes in ten minutes.”
They went straight for the electronics section. “Please, please, please,” Santa begged under his breath. They turned the corner, and Frankie dashed for the green and white boxes on the shelf.
“You’re in luck, Santa. Now where’s my game?”
“Is it not enough that you got the Xbox?”
“What am I supposed to do with it if I don’t got a game to play on it? You promised me Grand Theft Auto. I want my monster truck!”
One of the store attendants approached them, hands folded in front of his belt, and with a wide grin, he said, “Happy Holidays! Is there anything I can help you with tonight?”
Santa looked over his shoulder as if about to tell a secret. “Hey, uh…” he glanced down at the man’s name tag. “Brian. You don’t by chance have GTA, do you?”
“Uh, sure, but..” Brian hesitated. “Don’t you think that game’s kind of old for him?”
“I’m eight and a half!” Frankie said stomping his foot.
“Shhh, pipe down,” Santa said then turned to Brian. “Look, man, you don’t want to be the reason this little kid’s Christmas gets ruined. It’s not like he’s buying it, right?”
“I guess.” Brian looked down at Frankie, who wiggled in his ninja turtle slippers, struggling to hold the heavy box above his knees. “I’ll take that,” Brian said, relieving Frankie of his burden. “Follow me. The games are this way.”
At the register, Santa laid five credit cards on the counter. “One of them’s bound to work,” he said as the computer beeped, and “Declined” flash across the screen each time he swiped a card.
Frankie held his hands behind his back, whistled toward the ceiling as he waited.
“Don’t mock me, kid.”
“I just hope you can pay for it.” He pointed his fingers to Santa as if they were a pistol, then flicked them back as if firing. “Or else.”
On the last card, Santa pulled back his hood, revealing hair, the same rusted yellow color as his beard, tied into a low pony tail. Beads of sweat formed at his hairline. He slowly slid the card across the reader, drummed his fingers. He breathed a sigh of relief when the receipt printer came to life. Brian yanked the paper from the machine and put it in the bag with the Xbox and game. “Enjoy,” he said as he handed it to Santa.
As Santa slowed to a stop back in front of Frankie’s house, Frankie removed the gun from his back pocket and placed it in his lap.
“You know, I didn’t come here to buy you an Xbox,” Santa said.
“I know,” Frankie said.
“You won’t tell your folks about me, will you?”
“I think it’ll be more fun to watch them guess how I got it.” Suddenly he took the gun in his hand and pressed it against Santa’s temple. “But next time, you better knock. We got a lot of burglaries in this neighborhood.” Santa shook his head, held onto the steering wheel until his knuckles turned white.
“Ho, ho, ho!” Frankie winked and jumped out of the truck.
Day 13 of 31 Days of Holiday Hooligans