“Daddy, is there such thing as Santa Claus?”
Shit. Bryan knew one day he would have to answer this question, but he hoped Renee would be here to do most of the talking. She’s always been better at explaining make-believe crap like this to the kids. She complains that he can be a little too blunt sometimes.
OK, he admits, maybe saying “Mommy’s cooch,” in response to the “Where do babies come from?” question was a little inappropriate. And Renee’s answer, “the hospital,” made much more sense in hindsight, since technically speaking, from a kid’s point of view, when Mommy and Daddy leave for the hospital, they don’t have a little bundle of joy, and when they return, they do.
Still, he probably could’ve just stuck with another more logical answer—at least for a kid—“Mommy’s stomach,” since Renee was at the time pregnant with the twins when Melody asked. But Melody is one of those kids who can’t settle for just one question and just one answer. She’s forever curious, wanting to fit the entire universe into her small, still developing mind, always asking “why” this, and “why” that. “Mommy’s stomach” wouldn’t have satisfied her. She would’ve follow up with, “How did they get there?” and if by some miracle of God, he had an answer that didn’t make Renee faint, or make the girl run off to the library at school to Google that word, he would then have to deal with her next question: “How do they come out?” A question he surely wouldn’t have had a G-rated answer for.
This is his problem—one Renee is determined to fix before the year is out—His mouth has no filter, not even around the kids. Some things just slip out. If she’d ever met his grandpa, she would understand why. His grandpa was an honest man and an honest drinker. He couldn’t go twenty minutes without saying something rude, whether it was telling Bryan to stop being stupid for getting stuck on a homework question, or calling his Mom a fat ass, all while holding a bottle of Old Crow in his right hand.
Bryan was never taught the lesson: think before you speak. He was taught to say what’s on your mind, more specifically, the first thing that comes to your mind. “That usually turns out to be the truth,” his grandpa often told him.
“No,” Bryan finally answers. “There’s no such thing as Santa Claus.”
“But Mrs. Wilkinson said he has a list, and he checks it twice, and it tells whether I been naughty or nice,” Melody says.
“So do I.”
What the hell are these teachers teaching in school, anyway? What happened to the three R’s: reading, writing, and ‘rithmetic? Maybe he’ll join Renee at the next parent-teacher conference, ask Mrs. Wilkinson what the hell she’s getting at lying to his kid when she should be teaching her something that would eventually get her into a good college. The education system is enough of a mess without the added stories of Santa Claus and tooth fairies and fucking Easter bunnies.
“But he gives kids everything they ever wanted for Christmas!” Melody whines.
“Do you really want some fat-ass old white man breaking into your house in the middle of the night to give you crap you’re only gonna play with once?” Bryan says. It builds character to give a kid the opposite of what they asked for. Teach them early that they don’t always get what they want.
The donation bins at Bryan’s job are full of bikes. Because apparently a bike is the ultimate Christmas gift to a kid. Sure, make yourself feel good about turning someone else’s kid into an entitled little twerp. Why not get them something they’ll actually need, like a coat, hat, scarf, or gloves. It is winter after all. These are donations to children in need. When he was ten, he thought he needed a monster truck for Christmas. A real one, at least three stories tall, so he could run over his fifth-grade teacher’s car for giving him a C, and crush the school building while he was at it.
His mom bought him Hot-wheels.
Teach them while they’re young.
That’s was wrong with the spoiled kids today. Parents only want to appease them. They don’t train them, they don’t discipline them. He can’t count the number of times his grandpa knocked him upside his head with his cane. Today, they’d call that child abuse, but it kept Bryan from talking back, it kept him from throwing a tantrum and pouting when he didn’t get his way.
Christmas is the worst when it comes to spoiling kids rotten. It’s so commercialized now. It’s all about presents, presents, presents. “Come to our store! Buy this!” the commercials shout. Half of that shit ain’t even on sale. Even though she can be a little Christmas obsessed sometimes, at least Renee knows the true reason for the season, forcing them to dress up every year and go to the Christmas cantata at church, coming home to have their own encore of the carols and hymns, rereading the Nativity story from Matthew and Luke. No one has more CHRIST-mas spirit than Renee.
“Ooooh, you said a bad word! I’m telling Mommy!”
Shit— crap. What did he say?
“You said the A-word, Daddy.”
Dammit, that’s right. He called Santa a fat-ass. Bryan rolls his eyes, curses Renee under his breath. He can’t keep up with this shit! How can he not curse when Melody is asking him a million and one different questions? That kid doesn’t even pause to catch her breath! His head is spinning. He hears one of the twins crying upstairs over the baby monitor. “Why don’t we keep this between the two of us?” he pleads with Melody.
“What do I get out of it?”
“You’re conning your own Daddy? They teach you that in school too?”
“The last time you cooked dinner, you burnt the chicken nuggets, Daddy.”
Bryan bolts from the couch, remembering he has a pot pie in the oven. He opens the door and quickly shuts it before the rushing smoke can set off the detector. He turns to Melody, who stands by the kitchen door, her lips twisted in that half-smirk, half-grin her mother always has right before she says, “I told you so.” You should’ve know this wouldn’t go well, he says to an imaginary Renee.
“So what do I get?” Melody repeats.
“Fine. I’ll order pizza.” So much for not appeasing the kids, Bryan thinks, but his ego won’t let Melody win this battle, so he adds as he dials the number to Pizza Hut, “Santa still ain’t real.”