The final guest for the preschool Christmas party is a magician. What a magician has anything to do with Christmas, I am not sure. Why he is dressed like a pirate? I can’t figure that out either. I am only happy that no attention is being paid to me.
The Pirate-Magician is charismatic and loud. All eyes become drawn to him. I lean against the wall in the back and watch. He does many typical tricks. A rope gets pulls through him, a red scarf gets turned blue, a rabbit gets pulled from a hat; it sings a lullaby. The children are impressed.
DEATH comes and stands next to me.
“This guy sucks,” she whispers. I shrug.
“At least it means we don’t have to do anything.”
She nods. “True.”
The Magician calls for a volunteer. All the children raise their hands. One, in a blue argyle sweater is chosen. He goes up. The Magician goes through a whole act with him. The children seem to find it funny. The boys nose was full of coins. His ears, string. And a whole bushel of apples had been hiding behind his cheeks.
As the show goes on a rude boy, who was not chosen, begins to complain. His complaining becomes more and more obvious. The Magician talks over him, annoyed.
“Brat,” DEATH mutters.
“Right?” I say.
The Magician finally calls for another volunteer. The rude boy is the first with his hand up. He is chosen. On the way, he sticks his tongue out at the rest of the children. He stands on stage next to The Magician, smirking. The Magician circles the boy three times.
He takes a large silk handkerchief from his pocket. He places it on the rude boy’s head. He taps the boy three times. There is a little popping sound.
The boy vanishes.
The handkerchief floats slowly to the ground. The whole room cheers. The Magician bows. He steps off the stage. Everyone continues to applaud while he exits the room.
I stare at the spot where the boy had been, confused.
“So, that’s who you’re here for?” I ask DEATH.
“No, the boy.”
“What? No, he’ll be back in a couple years.”
I look around the room and notice that no one else seems too bothered by the boy’s disappearance. I look up at the clock. Fifteen minutes and I am free. I start feeling that weekend-feeling. I’m less tired. My toes are lighter on my feet.
The room falls silent. The bells stop jingling. The air is still.
“What was that?” I turn, but DEATH is gone. People are rushing out of the room. I follow. Down the hall they flood, children first.
The scream rings out again. A room down the hall. I walk to it. I shove my way into the room as teachers come swarming out, carrying children.
DEATH stands in the center of the room, desks tossed aside. On the floor, I see Santa Clause. He is face down, pants around his ankles; two rosy butt cheeks in the air. Beneath him, Elsa is gasping for air. DEATH turns and sees me. She chuckles.
“You wouldn’t believe how long I’ve been waiting for this scum-bag,” she says. She bends down and places a hand on one of Santa’s butt-cheeks. She winks at me. They vanish.
Elsa heaves a deep breath. She pulls up her underwear and sits, shaking. Someone shoves me aside.
“No, please no!” Elsa cries as The Babushka advances on her. But, it’s no use. The Babushka touches her with something I can’t see and she’s gone. The Babushka turns and glares at me. I want to look at anything else. I look down.
A child is standing next to me, trembling. A small boy, maybe five; mouth and eyes wide open. Tears run down his face. He makes no sound.
The Babushka advances on me. She grabs my arm and drags me from the room. She points to the door at the end of the hall, the exit.
I open my mouth to protest. But, I lack the courage. I walk to the door. I pull on my boots, hat and jacket.
Before leaving I turn. The hallway is empty. The air is humid with tears.
Outside, the tranquilized reindeer is waiting. I sigh. I grab it by one of the horns and we walk off together, into the cold.
THE END. Merry Christmas.
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