Christmas Spirit (Part Two)

31 Days of Holiday Hooligans is at its end. I hope you thoroughly enjoyed all the holiday shenanigans. Click here to revisit some of your favorite posts. Day 31 will end with the conclusion to “Christmas Spirit.” If you missed it, read Part One here. Don’t forget to come back tomorrow to read the first installment of the equally haunting Buried Series!

Christmas Spirit (conclusion)

I was still in the parking lot of the First Presbyterian Church thirty minutes after the funeral service was set to begin. I twisted the bottom corner of my blazer around my index finger, brushed away lent from my pants, checked my reflection in the rearview mirror, adjusted my lipstick, fluffed my hair. While I had attended funerals before, this was my first one for someone I met after death. How was I supposed to introduce myself? The church was no bigger than a small house in the suburbs, and I only counted eleven cars in the parking lot. Someone was bound to ask me who I was, how I knew the family.

I was cranking the engine when the doors to the church opened and four men in gray suits carrying the casket stepped down the stairs one by one, in sync with one another. Parked at the curb in front of the church was a black hearse. They pushed the casket into the back of the vehicle and returned to the bottom of the steps to assist people down the stairs. The first to exit was the family: the mother, the three sisters, and an older man who might have been the grandfather. They stood in front of the hearse as those headed to their cars stopped to pay their final respects. The mother could barely hold herself together. Every few minutes, she was pulling tissue from her purse to wipe her nose. Her head was red and swollen from all of the crying. After the sixth or seventh person walked up to her to squeeze her hands and reassure her that everything would be ok, she collapsed into her father’s arms in a fit of shudders. I didn’t have to roll my windows down to hear her wailing, “My boy! My Jason!” The girls stood off to the side, hugging themselves.

I turned off the engine and got out of the car. I wasn’t sure what I would say, but watching this woman break down over the death of her son, her only son, hurt my heart. Would she believe me if I told her I had seen Jason’s ghost?

“I just want to say that your son will truly be missed.” I spat out the first generic, unemotional words I could think of. I was so disgusted with myself, I started back to my car before letting her respond.

“How did you know my son?” she called after me in a weak, shaky voice.

I slowly turned around; praying that I could think of an acceptable lie before my mouth opened and regurgitated another classic funeral line I’d learned over the years. “Excuse me?” I asked.

“I don’t think we’ve met. How did you know Jason?” the woman asked again, dabbing her nose.

“I, uh—”

“Are you one of the teachers at his school?”

“No.” A reflex answer, but I wished I had said “yes” to end the interrogation.

“Then how?” she asked. The pallbearers, the grandfather, the lingering friends waiting on the steps for their turned to give their condolences, or by their cars to head to the cemetery for the burial were all staring.

“I don’t remember seeing you in the service,” the grandfather said.

“She was in the car the whole time,” the youngest of the sisters said, pointing behind me to my car, the driver’s side door wide open. Had she been watching me?

“Who are you?” the mother demanded.

“I—I,” I couldn’t think of anything, so I told the truth. “I was there.”

“You were where?” she asked.

“When he died.” I didn’t want to say too much. I knew the circumstances were hard enough for them to bear. They didn’t deserve the reminder of how they had gotten there. However, when the only responses I received were confused faces, I began to wonder if I made the right decision in coming. “When he hung himself?” I added, hopeful.

“What are you talking about? My son was killed by a drunk driver!” the woman screamed. She fell over the side mirror of the hearse, heaved up air and released a series of loud sobs.

“Alright, you need to leave,” the grandfather said in a deep, commanding voice. That was when I noticed the program in his hand. Underneath the words: “In Loving Memory of Jason Wilkins,” was a picture of a teenage boy with olive skin, a full face, and full, pink lips. He had brown freckles only on his nose. His hair was black and cut short, and his eyes were a dark brown. He was not my ghost.

I tried to speak, apologize for the trouble I’d just caused, but the grandfather glared at me and pointed towards the parking lot. “Get,” he said slowly.

I left humiliated, unable to hold back the tears. I drove straight home and stormed through my front door.

“Jason! Or whoever the hell you are because you’re not him!” I said, slamming the door behind me. “You made me look like a fool out there!”

I went to my room, looked behind the door, underneath the bed. “Come out!” I said. I snatched open my closet doors; they rattled against the wall. I pushed aside the clothes on the hangers, pounded on the back wall. I moved down to the floor of the closet, digging through piles of shoes I never wore and wrinkled dresses I never bothered to hang. I tossed everything behind me trying to reach the bottom.

“Where are you, Casper?” I shouted. Then I paused. “Oh, that’s right. You only show when I’m drunk!” I left the mess in my room and headed for the kitchen to get a Heineken from the refrigerator, but when I walked through the living room, I froze. All of my Christmas decorations were out of their boxes and on the coffee table. Not just the ones I’d bought, but also the ones that had been in the attic for over a year collecting dust: the glass ornaments, the candy canes, the red and green ribbons, even the angel.

He stood with his back to me looking at the Christmas tree.

“Hey!” I called.

He turned around. The wide grin on his face took me by surprise so much, I forgot my anger.

“Did you do this?” I asked.

He nodded his head.

“Why?”

He picked up an ornament with dancing elves painted all around it. He put a hook through the loop and hung the ornament on the tree. He looked at me, and with a grin spread from ear to ear, he clapped his hands vigorously without making a sound. He took a second ornament and held it out for me. I stepped toward him, confused. Then I looked down at the coffee table.

“You know,” I said with a wink. “Traditionally, we put the lights on first.” I ripped open one of the boxes and pulled out the string of white lights. I handed him one end, and together we circled the tree, wrapping the lights around each branch. When we finished, I plugged in the lights, and both the tree and the boy lit up. He went for the second box of lights and tossed me one end. Again, we went around the tree, making sure to light every dark space. When we finished, we hung the rest of the ornaments. Although I originally wanted a winter wonderland theme, I let him hang whatever he wanted; candy canes, reindeer, Peanuts characters, basketball ornaments, even a one-legged Santa I thought I threw out years ago. The tree appeared weighed down for all the ornaments, the branches dipping to the floor. He wasn’t bothered, however. His face was void of all hints of sadness. I could barely see the purple bruise around his neck.

Last to go up was the angel.

“I always wondered why we put angels at the top of Christmas trees,” I said. “I mean, Christmas is about Jesus being born. Why don’t we put him on top?”

I picked up the angel and examined it. She held a candle stick in each hand. A string of lights hung around the hem of her robe. I went to the kitchen, took a paper towel sheet from the ring above the sink, balled it up, and stuffed it under the angel’s robe. I returned to the living room, plugged the angel into the lights, and sat it on the top branch of the tree. All of the lights seemed to collect at her womb.

“See, it’s Mary. And that,” I said, pointing to the protruding stomach created by the paper towel, “is baby Jesus.”

He stared up at the angel. His smile was gone but he wasn’t somber. He looked content. The depression and ghostly melancholy that came with his death no longer existed. Watching him, my anger receded. He was just a boy, a lonely boy. I felt a tear glide down my face, but my hand went for his cheek. He clasped my hand in both of his. He was surprisingly warm. He laid his cheek on my hand and closed his eyes. I closed my eyes with him, and when I opened them, he was gone.

—Nortina

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Christmas Spirit

For my final two days of 31 Days of Holiday Hooligans, I’m turning left, in a rather bleak direction. The Buried Series, a suspenseful serial short story, is coming in January, and I’d like to prepare you for it with a Nortina original, “Christmas Spirit,” a yuletide ghost story. No, Buried is not a ghost story, but it will definitely haunt you. So sit back, relax, and let the Christmas spirit, guide you into the eerie realm of Buried…

Christmas Spirit (Part One)

I was drunk. The shaggy man with the body order and sweaty armpits had been grinding behind me all night and probably slipped something into my drink. I might have hallucinated the whole thing. But could I have imaged the wailing siren, the flashing red lights from the ambulance? Could I have imaged giving my statement to the police? Could I have imaged those cold, mud-crusted feet looming from above, grazing my face as I stumbled into my neighbor’s yard trying to find my way home?

They zipped the body up in a large black bag and pushed it into the back of a van destined for the morgue. The police could have arrested me, charged me for being heavily intoxicated outside, but the trauma of seeing a young child hang himself saved me. I slurred my address, pointed to the dark house across the street. They carried me home, laid me down on my stomach on the living room couch. There, I awoke the next morning and realized the boy wasn’t dead.

His clouded, gray eyes peered at me through stringy, blonde hair. He wore a wrinkled white t-shirt and basketball shorts. His skin was so pale, it blended with his clothing. What stood out was the purple ring around his neck, created by the shoestring that strangled him underneath the ice covered tree branch. He could barely hold up his head, similar to the struggle of an infant trying to sit. He looked so short and frail, but when I asked him his age, he mouthed, “Sixteen.”

I thought I was dreaming. Maybe that was why I didn’t immediately scream and flee out of the front door. Instead, I rose from the couch and tried to touch him, confirm that he was real, but he drew back, dodged my questioning fingers, and disappeared behind the naked Christmas tree in front of the window facing the scene of his attempted suicide. I tried to follow him, but all of the alcohol from the night before rushed to my head in search of an exit through my ears or eyes. The red and beige zigzags in the carpet twisted my stomach into knots. I toppled over to the burn of the carpet’s fibers against my nose and cheek.

***

The office lights were too bright. The white cells of the spreadsheet absorbed the numbers I’d just entered and glared into my brain. I could taste my breakfast, a hazelnut latte, at the back of my throat. I pulled the trashcan from underneath my desk, laid my head down on the edge, and leaned over the trashcan, prepared to heave up the rest of my stomach.

“So how about that Christmas party, huh?” I heard my co-worker say.

I raised my head to see Charlette standing over me. She was a petite blonde, who was as skinny as my pinky finger. A temp five years out of college, but she had the voice of a three-year-old.

“Hey, Charlette,” I said.

“You look like you’re still hung over!” Her shrill voice vibrated against my skull.

“It’s been a long weekend.” I messaged my eyebrows.

“You were dancing with Danny from finance most of the night.” She nudged my shoulder and winked.

“Not by choice.” I rolled my eyes, searched the office for a way to escape the conversation. The cubicles were quiet. Other than an occasional “Southland Rentals?” in response a ringing phone, I would have believed that Charlette and I were the only ones there. Most were already off for the holiday. The rest of us had to work up to Christmas Eve. Customer service—so sure there would be last minute orders placed.

We weren’t the only souls in the office. Every sudden chill, every attack of goose bumps, every time the hairs on my neck and arms stood on end as a current of static electricity surfed amongst them, I knew he was there with me.

I wasn’t ready to admit that I had a ghost following me. The only spirit I believed in was the Holy One, and I had no confirmation that the boy was even dead. I had woken up early that morning, five o’clock, just to watch the news, hoping the reporters would reveal information about the boy hanging from Mrs. Nash’s tree. I didn’t have the convenience of asking her. She was spending the holidays in Georgia with her daughter. Any other neighbors were busy, working parents who barely had enough time to worry about their own children, more less come to the door to talk about someone else’s dead child. Unfortunately, the news was of no avail either. Maybe that segment came on while I was in the shower, or down on my hands and knees, searching underneath my bed for my other pump.

“Well I saw you two leave together—”

“Did you hear about the kid who killed himself Saturday night?” I interrupted.

“No! That’s horrible! Where did you hear that?”

“I just…I heard,” I said. The evidence, or lack thereof, pointed to my encounters Saturday night and Sunday morning being nothing more than dreams.

***

The bar after work was a mistake, but I needed the whiskey. I needed the burn in my throat to kill the haunting feeling that I was being watched. Unfortunately, I gained another pair of eyes. They were green and belonged to a dark skin man with one dimple that made his smile look like a mischievous smirk. He was disgusting. The way he ran his tongue along his front teeth and bit his bottom lip whenever he made a suggestive comment about what other hard things, besides brown liquor, my throat could take. He put his arm around my chair and breathed words of encouragement into my ear, so confident that his one-liners would hike my skirt. I wanted to retch my response all over his face, show him how lattes and take-out Chinese food tasted after festering at the bottom of the stomach for seven hours.

The whiskey had other plans. It invited him back to my house, challenged him to test the limits of my strong throat. The whiskey took complete possession of my body. I could see myself in the mirror biting on his neck and shoulder as he nearly ripped the zipper off my pencil skirt. He threw me onto the bed and fumbled to unbutton his belt. I looked at his reflection in the mirror, hypnotized by his mahogany skin, and the gyrations of the muscles in his back as he moved. When he bent over to drop his pants, I saw in the mirror, standing directly behind me, another person in the room with us. Immediately, I screamed.

“He’s big isn’t he?” he said, looking down in adoration of himself.

“You …you have to go!” I scooped his pants off the floor and shoved them into his chest.

“Intimidated?” he asked laughing.

“Now!” I threw him out of my house with his pants still in his arms. He wasn’t the least bit embarrassed about being naked from the waist down. He proudly strutted to his car, proclaiming to the world a false victory. I slammed the door behind him and stomped back to my room. The boy was sitting on my bed, his chin in his chest.

“So you only show up when I’m drunk? Is that it?” I asked him. I shifted all of my weight onto my left foot and place my hands on my hips.

He slowly lifted head and stared at me with wide eyes. He looked heartbroken.

“I’m sorry.” I sighed and dropped my arms. “You just…please, you look so sad. Are you depressed? Of course you’re depressed. You killed yourself. I mean—” I was rambling.

He slowly stood to his feet. I rushed to the bed and knelt in front of him, almost touching him.

“Why did you do it?” I asked.

He walked around me.

“Did your parents divorce? Do you blame yourself?” I continued.

He paused at the doorway but didn’t turn around.

“Are you homeless?” I asked.

He started down the hallway towards the living room. I followed behind him on my toes. He was so silent, I felt like I was disturbing him.

“Are you gay? Did kids tease you at school?”

He stopped in front of the Christmas tree, which still had not been decorated. He looked it over from top to bottom and reached up to pinch the top branch.

“It’s not real,” I said. I’d bought the tree at Wal-Mart on Black Friday along with blue and white lights to go around it. The tips of the branches were white to give the allusion of a dusting of snow. I was on my way to the checkout when I’d spotted silver-glittered snowflake and icicle ornaments and bought four boxes each. They were a perfect addition to the winter wonderland theme I had planned for my Christmas decorations. I was going to prove my mother wrong. She often joked that people could tell I was single and without children because my house always stood dark during the Christmas season.

Unfortunately, in the time between exiting the store, and entering my house, I’d lost my motivation. Instead, the decorations adorned the coffee table for four weeks. The only reason I put the Christmas tree up was because I was sick of seeing the bulky box on my couch.

“I know it’s late. It’ll probably be next year before I get it decorated. But what does a Christmas tree mean, anyway? It’s not in the Bible,” I said with a weak laugh.

He looked translucent, his skin the color of glassine paper. I could see my brown curtains through him and feared he was about to fade away before my eyes.

“At least tell me who you are,” I begged. “Who you were?”

Without looking, he pointed to the coffee table where I had tossed the morning’s newspaper on top of the unopened Christmas decorations.

“The obituaries! Of course!” I shouted. I snatched the paper from the plastic bag and flipped to the obituary section, hunting for any name that didn’t sound like it originated in the 1920s. This was my final hope to prove I wasn’t imagining my haunting. I read throw the Beatrices, the Henriettas, the Homers, and the Kermits, until fell upon a Jason. Sixteen, first baseman on his high school varsity team.

I looked up at him. “Jason?” I asked.

He turned around, but the melancholy didn’t leave his face, a sad recognition of the life he once had. I continued reading. He left behind a grieving mother and three younger sisters.

“It doesn’t say that you killed yourself,” I said.

He curled his lips, as if to say, “Why would it?”

“Yea, I guess you’re right. The funeral’s tomorrow. That seems pretty quick,” I said, still reading. I considered going. Maybe that was what he wanted, why he latched onto me. Though our connection bore from a tragic event, maybe all he needed was a stranger to care about him after the world was rid of him.

“I’ll go,” I said to an empty room.

Nortina

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

Holiday Shoppers Anonymous

She twisted the sleeve of her Frosty the Snowman sweater and stood before the semi circle of people. “Hi, my name is Sharon, and I’m a holiday shopaholic.”

“Hi Sharon,” the group recited back, their voices echoing of the walls of the empty high school gymnasium.

“Last Chris– I mean holiday,” she stuttered.

“No, no,” counselor Higgins interrupted. “Say its name. You must remember the holiday you are celebrating. Recognizing Christmas and what it represents…” he waved his hand for the others to repeat after him. “Love.”

“Love.”

“Peace.”

“Peace.”

“The birth of Christ.”

“The birth of Christ.”

“Salvation.”

“Salvation.”

Dr. Higgins raised one hand in the air, curled his fingers into a fist to silence everyone as if he were conducting a choir. “This will lead you to recovery.”

Sharon looked down at her sleeve. The thread had loosened above her thumb, creating a hole, which she poked her nail through, widening it further. “You see, the thing is… I’m not even Christian. Growing up, my family celebrated Hanukkah—”

“Ah, we have another Jew!” Dr. Higgins clapped his hands, motioning toward a man three chairs to the left of him wearing a red, grey, and white striped sweater. His hair fell over his face as he bowed his head and waved to Sharon.

Sharon returned a quick smile and continued. “I spent $200 on a mountain bike for my son. It was on sale at Wal-Mart… If you could’ve seen how his face lit up when he saw the commercial…” She turned away, rubbed the rough wool of her sweater against the bags, purple like bruises, under her eyes.

“Yes, yes. Go on,” Dr. Higgins said.

“He can’t even ride a bike. He’s still on training wheels. I’ve been trying to teach him for the past three weeks. I’m here because he’s finally given up. $200! Wasted!” She fell into her chair and it slid back, leaving a black streak on the floor and making a scraping noise like tennis shoes skidding across the basketball court.

Dr. Higgins stood at the center of the circle and clapped. The group followed in applause. “That’s good! Let it out! I want to feel your disappointment, your frustration, your anger even,” he said, turning to look at each person. “This is what happens when you allow commercialism and political correctness to turn your Christmas, or in Sharon’s case, your Hanukkah, or in Tanisha’s case, your Kwanzaa, into a generic holiday for everyone to spend, spend, spend money they don’t have on things they don’t need, running through stores like chickens with their heads cut off! We must take back our religion, our ethnicity! These holidays make us who we are, but they mean nothing if we don’t know them.”

“Amen!” shouted an older black, as if in church. She stood, her purse slung over her shoulder, and clapped more vigorously. The others followed, all clapping, shouting, whistling, closing in around Dr. Higgins.

Dr. Higgins again raised his hand to silence everyone. “Your assignment for next week is to bring in an item you think represents your holiday. Sharon…” he took her hand and held it against his chest. “You can bring in your family’s menorah if you still have it.” He then turned and spread his arms toward everyone. “I want to see you all next Tuesday, ready to learn the true meaning of your holiday! You’re dismissed!”

—Nortina

Day 8 of 31 Days of Holiday Hooligans

He Knows If You’ve Been Bad…

Maury released the weight of the candy he had collected into his mother’s purse. Santa’s float was next, and he needed to be light on his feet if he was  to race the other kids to the parade’s final treats. Santa always had the best candy.

The children emerged into the street, waving to Santa, standing on their toes to get a better look. Maury stepped out further—so close, he could almost touch the float. “Over here!” he called when he saw the brown paper of the snickers wrapper in Santa’s white glove.

Santa winked and threw it over Maury’s head. All the children dove for the candy, but Maury was quicker. He snatched up three snickers minis bars and a jolly rancher hard candy and stuffed them all in the front of his pants.

“No fair!” a girl wearing a Queen Elsa winter coat whined. “You can only get one!”

Maury stuck out his tongue. “I bet you won’t put your hands in my pants and take it!” he teased.

“Ho! Ho! Ho!” Santa was standing now. He turned around as the float passed and pointed to Maury. “Your greed just put you on my naughty list!”

—Nortina


Day 7 of 31 Days of Holiday Hooligans

31 Days of Holiday Hooligans

Only 25 more days ’till Christmas! And only 31 more days ’till New Year’s… Or is it technically 32 days?

Ahh, what does it matter? I’m just ecstatic that it’s finally the holiday season! The most cheerful time of the year!… Usually. A time for gingerbread houses, decorative lights illuminating the neighborhoods, and presents under the tree… Usually.

Although our intentions are good, sometimes our idea of the perfect family Christmas doesn’t always go according to plan. Sure, we have the cheesy  ABC Family, Lifetime, and Hallmark original movie kind of Christmas get-togethers, but every once in a while, there comes a Grinch, a Home Alone, or a Krampus.

That’s where I come in. For the entire month of December, I will post short-short stories of classic holiday shenanigans that could only happen in… well, everyone’s wacked-out family. I hope you’ll join me for the ride!

Click here to read all 31 holiday hooligan tales!