I got big plans for revenge for this new year. I’m not talking 2003 resolutions here. This plot is much more base and primal. This year I am going to kill off Santa Claus. Exterminate him like one of the old gods of the Roman Empire.
There’s a back story to this rage. Two weeks before Christmas my wife became ill. She needed an operation and she would be in the hospital for at least a week. Apart from the worry about her health, our world was turned upside down trying to care for our five-year-old twin girls. I decided to play it like everything was all right: like I lied to the girls about Santa Claus, the Tooth Fairy and the Mets having a chance at winning a pennant, I lied to them about their mother. All they knew was that Mama had a boo-boo and would be home soon. You have five-year-olds, you feel the preciousness of life and how it all goes by so fast. I want to keep my progeny innocent for as long as I can. If they have a problem with that, they can take it up with me when they get older. If you have a problem with lying to children, mind your own business and do what you need to do with your own.
So on the Monday before Christmas I decided to take the kids to see Santa Claus at the Cross County Shopping Center in Yonkers. Cross County is one of the country’s oldest malls. It was opened after World War II and spawned the ruination of small stores everywhere.
Now, I really dislike malls. But Cross County has an actual outdoor mall where you can stroll. It’s as bucolic as a shopping center can be. And they have a small booth at the end of the mall where you can see Santa Claus.
So far so good. The kids are happy as we walk along, then they squeal with excitement when they see the little hut that is Santa’s hangout. I spied the Santa and had a good feeling. He was perfect: old—but not too old, fat—but not too fat. He had a real white beard and bushy white eyebrows. As I looked at him I would have bet that his belly moved like jelly. After a few minutes the kids and I were led into a hut by one of Santa’s huckster elves—he looked like he could be an extra on The Sopranos.
The elf showed me some frames for the picture he would take of my girls with Santa. He winked at me and said, "Hey, you got some cute kids there, Chief. So right here we got our Santa Special."
That frame cost $25. I asked about one that had kid-like crayon drawings on it saying: "We Love You Mommy!" The elf told me that was a mere $15, so I gave him the gelt and he led my kids to Santa’s lap.
"Come on, kids, don’t be afraid. Santa doesn’t bite," Santa said.
Something bad clicked in my head. It was Santa’s voice that threw me. Everything else about the guy was great, but that voice. He sounded like the crabby old man on the block who was always yelling at kids and making their lives miserable.
But I’d come this far so I went with it. Once I give my kids the nod—the one that lets them know that all is cool and Big Daddy is watching—they have no fear of strangers. They both jumped up on Santa’s lap.
Santa rocked back and said, "This is quite a load for Santa."
Now this guy’s voice was starting to really piss me off. My kids are of normal weight, and anyway, this fat bastard had invited them to jump up. You tell a kid to do something and then they do it, you got to deal with it.
Santa got his balance and the kids looked at the elf as he focused the camera. They gave a big smile and the elf got the shot. Then I heard Santa say, "So, girls, why don’t you tell me what you want me to bring you for Christmas."
My kids are not spoiled. They have simple wants. "I want a bugle," my one daughter said.
Santa got a sour look on his face and said, "Oh, no, Santa doesn’t bring any toys that make noise. No noisy toys. No no. Just like Santa never brings anyone a puppy. Someone else will have to get you that bugle. Now what else do you want?"
My daughter sat in Santa’s lap with her mouth open. She had written this guy a letter to get a bugle. Her daddy had sent that letter to the North Pole and promised that Santa would bring it to her. Her eyes looked like her five-year-old world was crashing down on her.
I shot a look at Santa and told my child, "Don’t worry, sweetheart, Santa’s just kidding."
"Oh no I’m not. I don’t bring toys that make noise. How about a doll?"
The only reason I didn’t throttle this guy was I didn’t want my daughters to suffer the trauma of seeing their father kill Santa Claus.
"She’ll get the bugle," I said.
Santa seemed to get the message and turned his attention to my other girl. With forced glee he asked, "And what would you like for Christmas?"
My daughter looked at her twin with apprehension, and then quietly said, "A drum."
"I didn’t hear you," Santa said.
"I want a drum."
"Didn’t you hear what I just told your sister? Santa doesn’t bring toys that make noise. So how about a doll?"
"She’ll get the drum from you, Santa. She knows you’re just kidding, right?"
This lunatic stared at me like I had just cursed his mother. He looked like he was about to yell out, There will be no noisy toys!, which might have led to violence, but the elf saved the day. He told me the frame was ready, so I grabbed my kids’ hands, snatched the photo and got out of that booth of evil.
As we walked into the cold air my daughter asked, "Daddy, why did Santa say he won’t bring me a drum?"
One of the dirty jobs of being a parent is explaining other people’s stupidity. "Ah, he was just kidding. He wants you to be surprised is all."
Soon my wife got out of the hospital and began feeling better. My daughters got their drum and bugle, and we had a great Christmas listening to wonderful but badly played music. It was loud, and I loved every minute of it. Later, as I drank a cognac toasting Christmas, I began plotting my plan of evil.
When the weather warms up I’m going to find out just where that Santa lives. I’m going to take my kids with their drum and bugle and drive to his house. Then we’re going to have a parade up and down his street, playing as loud and as long as we can. And come next Christmas I’m going to kill the fat bastard off. I’m telling them there ain’t no such thing as Santa Claus.