Criminal Santa (Part 3 of 3)

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.

  —Nortina

Part One
Part Two

Day 13 of 31 Days of Holiday Hooligans

Criminal Santa (Part 2 of 3)

He didn’t look anything like the Santa Frankie was expecting. He was skinny. So skinny that Frankie thought to toss him a cookie, had he not already eaten them all while waiting. His beard was only partially white down the middle. The rest of it was the color of burnt straw. He wore are gray hoodie pulled down over his eyes. Even his sack wasn’t its classic velvet red, but a black plastic trash bag.

Frankie put both hands on the revolver. “Where’s your red suit?”

Startled, the man backed into the door. “Whoa, kid. What the hell are you doing up?”

“I said, where’s your red suit?”

“Do you even know how to use that?” He pointed at the revolver.

Frankie cocked the hammer with his thumb. “Do you wanna find out?”

“Ok, ok.” He waved his hands to get Frankie to lower the gun. “Let’s not get trigger happy here.” He scratched at his beard. “My suit, well.” He shrugged his shoulders and weakly laughed. “Santa forgot to do his laundry.”

“And why are you so skinny? And why do you have a trash bag?”

“Economy, kid. Even Santa has to cut back.”

“So you come to my house with no presents?” He closed one eye and aimed the gun at Santa’s head.

Santa stumbled back and crossed his arms over his face. “Easy there, kid! Did you forget Santa has magic?”

“I’m listening.”

Nervously, Santa stepped to the side to avoid the path of the gun. “See, it wouldn’t make sense for me to lug around a big, heavy bag filled with all the presents of the world.” He nodded to make sure Frankie was following along. Frankie only stared. “You see, the bag…the bag,” Santa stuttered, “the bag is like, like a portal. Yea, a portal back to my shop. I wave my hand in front of it and poof!” He snapped his fingers. “Presents under the tree.”

Frankie turned to the tree. Sure enough there were boxes stacked on top of each other, star-shaped bows stuck to the sides, shiny gift bags reflecting the bright lights from the tree, colorful tissue paper spilling over the tops. Frankie shook off his astonishment and raised the gun to Santa’s head again.

“How do I know they weren’t already there?”

“Did you see them already there?” Santa asked hesitantly.

Frankie squinted his eyes. He remembered looking at the tree, but not the presents. He was so focused on the door, shooting Santa the minute he walked it. He bared his teeth, angry at himself for not sticking to the plan. He pointed the gun, pressed his finger against the trigger. “Where’s my present?”

“Well…I’m sure it’s there,” Santa stammered.

“No, it’s not.”

“You didn’t even check.”

“Don’t have to. My present’s too big to go under the tree.”

“What on earth could be too big to go under the tree?”

“A monster truck.”

“A monster truck?” Santa bent over and laughed. “How old are you? Seven?”

“Eight and a half!”

“You’re not even tall enough to drive a monster truck.”

“Doesn’t matter. I still want it.”

“And a Hotweels toy won’t do?”

“That’s for babies. Now give me my monster truck or I’ll shoot!”

“Look, kid. Santa doesn’t have a monster truck.” He began to talk fast as Frankie came closer with the gun. “How about an Xbox. And a game? Grand Theft Auto! That’s like driving a monster truck.”

“Let’s see it.” Frankie held out his hand.

“I-I don’t have it.”

Rolling his eyes, Frankie again pointed the gun at Santa’s head. “Ok, you die in three seconds.”

“No, no, no! What I meant to say was that I had just delivered my last one to the previous house.”

“Sucks for you. Two!”

“Wait!” He was pressing his back against the door now, as if doing so would flatten his body and make it harder for Frankie to aim and fire. “How bout we go to the store and buy one. I bet Wal-Mart’s still open. What do you say?”

Frankie pondered the idea then dropped his arms and put the gun in his back pocket. “Ok. Your sleigh on the roof?”

“I have a pick-up.”

“Are you kidding me?”

“Don’t believe the fairytales, kid. Eight reindeer pulling a sleigh screams animal cruelty to the cops every time.”

—Nortina

Part One

Day 12 of 31 Days of Holiday Hooligans

Criminal Santa (Part 1 of 3)

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.

—Nortina

Day 11 of 31 Days of Holiday Hooligans