Simon pictured shiny black boots carefully stepping across the living room floor past the decorated tree. He was so excited that he wanted to leap from his bed and run down the stairs, but Santa had made him promise to stay in his room…
Lloyd was alone in the employee locker room at Baxter’s Department Store a day earlier putting on the red suit. He buttoned the pants, a difficult task with his badly shaking hands, and looked both ways before pulling the bottle out of his locker and chugging it down. The cheap vodka burned and made him shudder, like it always did first thing in the morning.
He clapped his hand over his mouth and held it in. The booze rose up his esophagus, but he clenched with all of his might and swallowed it back down. The sacred gods of Russian potatoes smiled upon him and Lloyd caught the wave of serenity they blessed him with.
“I’m Santa, bitch!” He said, putting the bottle back and closing the locker door.
His boss, Ted appeared at just that moment.
“You…piece of shit,” Ted said.
Lloyd frowned and resumed dressing himself with his booze calmed hands.
“Fuck you very much, Ted.”
“Drinking…at eight fifteen in the morning? I should fire your ass right now.”
“Go ahead. It’s the day before Christmas Eve. You gonna do this yourself?” Lloyd held out the red hat and beard.
Ted stared bullets.
“If I hear one…” he pointed a stiff finger in the air, “one complaint…I’ll call the cops and have you thrown in jail.”
Lloyd contemplated head butting the asshole and throwing him into an empty locker. Instead, he put the hat and beard on and walked past him to the adoring children that were eagerly awaiting his arrival.
By eleven thirty, Santa Lloyd was fidgeting and checking his watch. He needed to recharge the booze battery and he didn’t think he could make it to the break.
“Stall the next kid. I gotta hit the bathroom,” he told Brenda, the college girl elf in shapely green stockings.
“I know. I want a cigarette so bad I could kill one of these little brats. But we only have a half hour till lunch.”
“Don’t worry, Ted won’t fire us two days before Christmas. The customers would file out of here in a heartbeat with no Santa.”
Brenda shook her head and walked over to the velvet rope to cordon off the North Pole Trail. But a kid bolted under her arm and climbed up on Lloyd’s lap before anybody could stop him.
“Santa’s going on break, kid. You have to wait,” Brenda scolded.
Lloyd shifted in his seat and heard the crinkle of the piece of paper that was in his pocket. The words on the paper flashed in his head…Doctor’s Report…Liver Cancer…End Stage…Treatment Options: Comfort Care…
“It’s all right,” he told Brenda.
The boy was small and skinny with black circles under his eyes. But he wore decent clothes and didn’t smell, so Lloyd knew that he wasn’t homeless.
“Well little boy, what would you like Santa to bring you for Christmas?”
The boy trembled and tears welled. He bit down on his lip and the tears spilled down his face.
“I…want Daddy to stop hurting me,” he said, burying his head in Lloyd’s shoulder and weeping.
Lloyd felt a pain deep inside that was worse than the cancer and that could not be numbed by booze.
“You…should tell your mommy,” he said.
“I did. She called me a liar. But you know the truth, Santa. You know everything.”
Simon pulled the covers up under his chin. Santa made him promise to stay in his room no matter what he heard, until the police came and opened his bedroom door.
Ten feet down the hall, Lloyd paused in front of an open door. He pulled the Santa beard down far enough to take a drink from his flask. Then he tucked the bottle away and gripped the double edged axe in both hands.
Simon heard the first of many screams and pulled the covers up over his head.
Dana C. Kabel’s stories have appeared in A Twist of Noir, The Flash Fiction Offensive, Muzzleflash, Mysterical-E, Out of the Gutter, Powder Flash Burn, and Yellow Mama. Dana blogs at www.thenonstopbullet.blogspot.com.