I’ve gotten used to Christmas away from home. Normally I spend it alone, unwrapping sips from a bottle. Instead I am here. In this Preschool’s Christmas party, pretending to be an elf. Ten minutes ago, someone put a basket of candy in my hand. I roam about with it. Occasionally a child will wander up and say:
“Give me candy.”
I walk in circles, occasionally exchanging coy smiles with the young woman in the blue dress. I look over at her. A small child is tugging at her dress trying to get her attention. But, she is paying attention to me. She slips her index finger between her lips, deep. She pulls it out slowly, nipping the end with her teeth.
I walk directly into the red-nosed reindeer.
“What is your problem!”
I turn. Santa Claus glares at me, red faced.
“I’m so sorry, uh, do you want some candy?” I try. Santa pushes me out of the way. He looks at the reindeer.
“Crap!” he says. I look at the reindeer, it seems fine.
“No, no, no,” Santa continues.
“What’s wrong? He’s fine.”
“No, it’s not that.”
Santa looks like he might cry. He is staring at the reindeer’s nose. I notice it now. The red nose is now only half red.
“That Babushka said I needed to bring Rudolph. He’s not exactly speaking to me right now. Oh, no! She won’t be happy. She won’t pay me! I need this money.”
His voice is shaky. He spits in his hand and tries to smear the remaining red paint to cover the rest of the nose.
I get an idea.
“I’ve an idea. Come with me.” I tell Santa.
I grab the reindeer by one of its horns and begin leading it from the room. Santa trails behind us looking around furtively for The Babushka. We make it out into the hall without trouble. I open the door a few down from the one we left. Success.
“In here,” I whisper. I lead the reindeer in. Santa follows.
I find the teacher’s desk and riffle through the top drawer. It doesn’t take long. When I turn around, Santa has stuffed himself into a small desk. He uncaps a bottle of something brown. I hold up the red board marker.
“Problem solved.” I walk over to the reindeer.
“Will he bite me or anything?”
Santa shakes his head. “I gave him a bunch of tranquilizers.”
He digs into his bottle.
I open my mouth to say something, decide better of it. I color the rest of the nose in with the marker.
“Good as new,” I say. Santa isn’t looking at me. He is staring straight ahead, glazed eyes.
“Look,” I say, proud of my ingenuity. Santa glances over.
“Mm, right,” he says.
I sigh. I walk over to the desk next to his. He passes me the bottle automatically. I take a swig and pass it back.
“I wouldn’t’ve pegged you for a drunk,” I say, chuckling. Santa turns to me. His eyes go dark.
“Oh, yeah!” he begins, taking a dangerous gulp of the brown stuff, “you wouldn’t peg me as a drunk? Do you know what it’s like to only have children that believe in you? It sucks; they give no support at all.” He kicks back another swig.
“I get chased by dogs, shot at by hillbillies. Do you think it’s easy trying to learn every language on earth just to be able to talk my way out of getting arrested every ten minutes? Which by the way, is only a millisecond to you. My one night takes over a hundred years! You people ever think about that, do you? No. And how do you pay me? With cookies!?”
He shudders, then spits on the ground.
“Who wouldn’t be drunk with my job!”
He is standing by the time he’s finished. He looks like he might hit me. Instead he downs the rest of his bottle and grabs the reindeer by the horn.
“I’m sorry,” I manage to say before he reaches the door.
“Go fuck yourself.” He says, and leaves.
to be continued…
Click image below for the first party of the story: