Countdown to 31 Days of Holiday Hooligans: There’s No Such Thing as Santa Claus

“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.”

—Nortina


Part of Countdown to 31 Days of Holiday Hooligans
——
Previous: Booze Induced
Next: Sober Reluctance

Too Many Santas

“Alright children, don’t forget that Santa will be visiting our class tomorrow. Make sure to bring your Christmas wish lists!” Mrs. Benson announced.

***

At home, Lulu wrote My Little Pony, Princess Tiana doll, and Easy-Bake Oven on green construction paper. She folded it into two halves and sealed it inside a red envelope. She wrote For Santa’s Eyes Only on the front of the envelope and decorated it with drawings of candy canes, gift boxes, bows, and stars.

“You know Santa Claus isn’t real,” her older brother said, looking at the envelope over her shoulder.

“Yes he is!”

“Then why are there so many of them? At stores, on street corners. And how can one man deliver presents to kids all over the world in one night?” He crossed his arms over his chest, cocked his head to the side, believing he’d had her beat.

Lulu covered her ears and shook her head. “Just because you’re naughty doesn’t mean you have to make stuff up!”

***

At school the next morning, Lulu was the first in line to sit on Santa’s lap.

“Ho! Ho! Ho! And what would you like for Christmas, little girl?”

Lulu took the envelope out of her back pocket and stuffed it inside of Santa’s jacket. “Don’t open it until you get back to your shop,” she said, patting his chest.

“Ho . . . ho . . . . ho?” Santa looked about nervously. “Usually I get these in the mail, but I guess mail does get mis-delivered sometimes,” he finally said.

“I know how you do it. Deliver all the presents. I admit, it never made sense to me before, but my brother made it all clear last night when he said that there’s a Santa Claus on every block!” Lulu winked.

Again, Santa was taken aback. “We have a very clever girl here.” He laughed and waved his arm, signaling for Mrs. Benson to move the line along.

“Lulu, Santa’s only here for a short while. He’s a very busy man. Is there something you’d like to ask him?” Mrs. Benson asked, bending over in her too tight pencil skirt, hands on knees.

“I know you’re real, Santa,” Lulu said, and the jolly man sigh audibly. “And I know your secret.” His breath caught. Lulu leaned forward, cupped her hand over his ear, and whispered, “You cloned yourself.” Then she hopped off his lap, as he relaxed again, and proudly marched to her desk.

—Nortina


santaThis piece of flash fiction makes Day 21 of 31 Days of Holiday Hooligans. It is also in response to this week’s photo prompt for Sunday Photo Fiction. Click the froggy icon to read other stories inspired by the photo and add your own.

 

Lumpy Stocking

Tim’s mother peered into the gift bag on her lap and retrieved a box with Zales printed on the cover.

“Merry Christmas, Rita,” her husband said.

Rita laid the diamond tennis bracelet on her wrist. “It’s beautiful,” she said, hand on chest, gently clearing her throat. She turned to Tim, and the wrinkles at the corners of her mouth and eyes strained as she feigned a smile. “Timmy, honey, do you want to see what Santa left for you?”

“I know Santa ain’t real, so you can stop with the bullshit.”

Timmy’s father slammed his fist down on the coffee table. Startled, Rita flinched and flicked the bracelet off her wrist. It disappeared behind the crisp, browning branches of the Christmas tree.

Tim rolled his eyes and snatched the stocking hanging from the fireplace. He turned it over and dumped charcoal and ash onto the carpet.

“Santa knows you stole Mr. Swanson’s bike,” his father said glaring.

“Then Santa should’ve given me one,” Tim shot back. He stomped to his room and slammed the door.

word count: 175

—Nortina


photo-20151214095129364This piece is a combination of Day 15 of 31 Days of Holiday Hooligans & Flash Fiction for Aspiring Writers (a weekly challenge where you write a story in 100-175 using the provided photo prompt as inspiration).

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

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

The Year They Lost Santa (Part 3 of 3)

Nick temporarily lost his hearing after the first shot. Tiny, high-pitched bells rang in his ears. He closed his eyes and saw his wife running toward him, the shooter close behind, bearing his teeth, biting down on his bottom lip, aiming the .22 at her head.

After the second shot, the young mother fell to his feet. Blood puddled around his boots. The baby wailed, reached down for the dying woman, pulling Nick down with him.

The third shot slowed time. Nick saw the flash of light each time the man fired at anyone too close— man, woman, child. His wrist violently flicked back when he pulled the trigger. He twisted his wide open mouth— bottom lip pulling left, upper lip pulling right— as if he’d been punched in the jaw. He stopped and pointed to Nick, laughing at the child in his arms.

“There’s no such thing as Santa!”

Nick laid the baby in the chair, reached into his waistband for his weapon. He swung his arm around, his finger slipping, firing twice before he could aim at the perpetrator. The little girl who stood next in line to sit on his lap crumpled to the floor— in the line of fire.

“Freeze! Put down your weapon!”

The uniforms surrounded both men. Helmets down, shields up.

The man raised his hands, dropped the gun onto the green and red carpet. He was still smiling at Nick, that same straight-line grin his wife’s killer gave as officers handcuffed him. With one hand holding his wrist in place, Nick aimed the gun at his chest and pulled the trigger.

The bullet shattered his heart.

* * *

On the evening news, police named two suspects. Both dead. One, a drunken department store Santa Claus, shot by officers on the scene. Motive yet to be determined.

—Nortina

Part One
Part Two

Day 6 of 31 Days of Holiday Hooligans

The Year They Lost Santa (Part 2 of 3)

White wig and beard lay next to bottle and bread. Nick rubbed a slice against his face, the stubble on his chin scratching it like sandpaper, bread crumbs falling onto the straps of his suspenders and the collar of his red thermal shirt, settling onto the countertop.

She always caressed his face to calm him when he was hot with anger. He remembered her slender hand, her smooth skin, the coolness of her wedding band against his cheek, how her fingers melted onto his lips as he kissed them.

He tore off the crust. Rolled the bread between his palms, dropped the ball into the shot glass overflowing with whiskey. He patted the nine millimeter tucked in his waistband, watched the clock as the bread swelled. His shift started in fifteen minutes, enough time for one, maybe two more. He plopped the ball into his mouth, refilled the glass, and took another slice of bread from the bag.

* * *

The child, dressed like an elf, round as a snowman, couldn’t sit straight. His head bobbed as he tried to look up.

“And what is it that you want for Christmas, little boy?” Nick feigned jolly, belched between words.

The child made spit bubbles and wiggled further down between Nick’s knees.

“His father was deployed to Afghanistan.” The mother stepped in, pulled her son up by his collar. “We’d feel much safer if he were home.”

Behind her, Nick saw a man running from the food court. He shook his arm as the object inside his jacket sleeve slid into his hand.

—Nortina

Part One

Day 5 of 31 Days of Holiday Hooligans

The Year They Lost Santa (Part 1 of 3)

The bread felt soft in Nick’s hands, as if the dough had been filled with air— an edible cumulus cloud. He imagined a bakery at the back of the grocery store, where they sliced and packaged loaves of bread fresh from the oven and stacked them on the shelves.

In the checkout line, the cashier winked at him. “Shouldn’t you be in your toy shop?” he said with a smirk. “Only three more weeks.”

Nick grunted, walked through the sliding doors without taking his change. The paper sign taped to one of the doors flapped in the wind as they moved. He turned to read it: “Protect yourselves and your loved ones.” Below was an image of a pistol circled in green. He’d seen a similar sign on the front doors of Mercy Street Mall, where he worked. Stores across the country had been changing their policies against weapons on store grounds since the latest mass shooting. The number rising to more than one a day; the death toll even higher.

“Too little, too late,” he muddled.

—Nortina

Day 4 of 31 Days of Holiday Hooligans