Claus washed down the little red pill with a shot of Kentucky
Bourbon, 100-Proof. He rubbed his left thigh, still a little
wet with urine from the snot-nosed kid who peed on him as
his mother yanked the child up by its pudgy arms and carried
him down the street. Damn kid, thought Santa, pulling a crumb
from his thick white beard, still damp with sweat from the
Houston heat. “I’m gonna shave this thing off
next year,” he said aloud.
He sat alone at the bar, still wearing the piss-stained Santa
suit, unwilling or unable to quick-change into his own rags--a
tight-fitting work shirt he’d worn the last four days,
and an old pair of Levi jeans he’d picked up at a Salvation
Army for just $5.50. Don’t want them to smell like piss,
He’d frequented the bar
four nights in a row, since the Santa business was pretty
good this year, people having heavy consciences and all, and
since they kept filling his pot with loose change, a dime
here, a quarter there, even sometimes a wadded buck. His sign
didn’t actually say Salvation Army. It said Feed the
Hungry. Since folks assumed “the hungry” meant
faceless children in the netherworld and not he himself, who
was, in fact, actually very hungry most of the time, they
were more than willing to clunk some change into his big,
He’d collected $128.32 this afternoon, all of which
he kept in the Santa Pot next to him on the bar. Well, all
of it except the $50.00 he’d blown to get the little
red pills. But the rest of it was still there, mostly in quarters.
Bartender better not mistake this for his tip jar, he thought.
It was pretty good money for a day’s work. And the other
guys stand on corner with Will Work for Food, and Hungry,
God Bless signs. Look where it got them. All begging took
was a Santa suit and a little ingenuity.
“Gimme another drink,”
told the bartender.
“You think you could change
out of that?” the bartender asked.
“That shitty suit. You’re
driving the customers away.”
“People like Santa Claus,”
“The hell they do. You
smell like a latrine.”
“Just shut up and give
The bartender raised his eyebrow but poured him another bourbon.
Santa felt his ears humming a little. Damn, these pills were
It was a woman--not even a woman--a
girl. Sixteen. Seventeen. Her tits peeked out of her top and
her skirt worked hard to stretch a half inch below the crotch.
She brushed her ashen hair from her face and winked.
“What about it?”
“I’m alone, too,”
How about that, thought Santa.
Sit out on the freaking sidewalk to drink and nobody ever
says shit to me. He waltzed in here dressed like a costume
party and gotten all the ladies.
He’d have to do this more
“What do you want?”
said Santa Claus.
said the girl. “I was about to ask you the same question.”
“Yeah,” she said.
“I don’t want shit.”
“Surely you want something.”
He felt the touch of her hand against his arm. “Everybody
has needs,” she whispered. “Don’t you need
Damn, I got a live one here,
thought Santa Claus.
“What did you have in
mind?” he asked.
“Oh,” said the
girl. “Something to make you feel good. You do like
to feel good, don’t you?”
Santa had read about this. How whores came into bars and offered
their services to the patrons. It never actually happened
to him. Nobody offered their services much, him living on
the streets now and all, except for old Mabel, who gave him
hand jobs for free from time to time, and Louisa, who he’d
fucked a lot, but everybody fucked Louisa, it was as natural
as breathing, and she wasn’t around now anyway, not
since July or so, when somebody smacked her across the face
a few times and Santa saw her lying in a ditch bleeding and
tried to help her up but she told him to fuck off, she’d
be just fine, and he did, and that was the last time he’d
seen or heard from her and who needed the bitch, anyway.
But now? What was happening
“What’s your name?”
“Jade,” she said.
“Are you really Santa?”
“Then you must want to
know if I’ve been naughty or nice.”
“I’ve been naughty.
Very, very naughty.”
Santa smirked. Okay, bitch,
he thought. “How naughty?”
“What have you done?”
“I don’t think
I can put it into words,” said Jade.
“No. Maybe I should just
Santa’s eyes fell on
Jade’s tits. I deserve a Christmas gift, he thought.
Then, swigging the last of his whiskey, he looked back at
her face. “How much?”
“That depends on the
degree of naughtiness,” said Jade.
“Uh huh. How about just
a little naughty?”
Santa twisted his mouth into
a half-smile. “Do you take change?”
get that fag disease,” Mabel told him as they sat under
the bridge where Highway 59 crossed Westheimer. She stood
by the feeder road and held a sign that said, Hungry. God
It was unusually hot for December,
and the Santa suit made him itch. The beard made him itch.
Hell, just breathing made him itch. He wanted to strip buck-naked
and jump in the fountain at the Med Center, so he’d
get a bath and then a couple of nights in the pokey and a
free meal. But he didn’t do it. He wore the Santa suit.
He had to make the bucks while he could, and he didn’t
get to wear the suit when it wasn’t Christmas, and it
was Christmas, for God’s sake, even though it was so
“You gonna wash that
thing?” Mabel asked, sniffing.
“What fag disease?”
“You know. The one all
the fags get.”
“That’s not a fag
disease. Everyone gets AIDS.”
“Everyone that puts their
choo choos down stranger’s tunnels,” said Mabel.
“She wasn’t a stranger.”
“You met her before?”
“So she’s a stranger.”
“She was a kid.”
“A kid can still be a
added. “I didn’t stick it down her tunnel.”
“I don’t want to
hear the details,” said Mabel
“I didn’t ask.
I just said you’d get the fag disease.”
He sneered. It had better fucking
cool down, he thought.
K-mart customers stared at Santa Claus as he trudged through
the store to the men’s room.
“Look, Dad,” said
a little boy as Santa stood in front of a washbasin. “It’s
“Yes, son,” said
“Can I sit in your lap?”
the little boy asked.
Santa didn’t answer.
Instead, he unzipped his piss-stained pants and let them fall
to the ground.
“Get out of here, buddy,”
said the security guard when he arrived. Santa scrubbed his
pants around in the basin full of water.
“I’ll be done in
a minute,” he said
“I said now.”
“You want me to walk
out in my boxers?”
“I could run you in,”
the security guard said.
“Was I in the store?”
“Did the kid see anything
except a pair of boxers?”
“Then bite me. Everybody
pulls down their pants in here. It’s a pisser.”
The security guard walked behind
him as Santa Claus, his pants soaking wet, trumped back through
the K-mart, hissing at any child who glanced his way.
again?” asked Jade. “I always wondered what Santa
Claus did in the days leading up to Christmas.”
“Is that right?”
“Is it true Santa only
comes once a year, and when he does, it’s down a chimney?”
Santa grinned. “You’ll
have to ask him.”
“I’m asking him.”
“I don’t know,
“Guess we’d better
He liked her, Santa decided. Liked the way she felt against
his skin when she touched him. Liked her touching him without
complaining, the way Mabel always complained. “You want
it again,” Mabel would say. “Is that all you ever
think about?” He especially liked the way she looked
at him when they were talking in the bar. Like a little girl.
Like his little girl, if he’d had a little girl, and
God knows there was probably one out there somewhere. He’d
done a few women besides Mabel and Louisa during his fifty-three
years. Back when he worked as a handyman and traveled.
“Your pot looks full
again,” said Jade.
“I’m not complaining,”
“So you want something
different this time? Something better?”
“What could possibly
be better than what you did?”
“I’ll show you,”
comes more than once a year.
He hadn’t quite been
sure, though, when Jade asked.
He watched her after he’d
finished, the way she leaned against the brick wall in the
alley and breathed--wheezed--then smiled at him. He actually
felt a shimmer of something. She’d pulled down her skirt
and stuffed her tits back in her dress when the words came
out of his mouth, almost surprising him.
“Think you’d like
to walk around a few minutes or something?”
Do I really mean that, he thought? Sure. What the hell?
Jade paused. “Well,”
she said. “There’s still a lot of night left.
I’ve got to earn a living.”
“Oh,” said Santa.
“But. Um. I wouldn’t
mind talking to you when I get off work,” she said.
Jade joined him under the support
beams of the 59 Bridge, just before the sun’s first
rays. She squeezed under his arm and was asleep before he
spoke. Santa enjoyed the warmth of her head against his shoulder
as he listened to her breath. And for a moment he wondered
if he heard her cry.
gonna get it.”
“The fag disease.”
Mabel pitched a tin can into
her shopping cart. She’d found the can last night, still
half full of beans. The cart was filled with rags and newspapers,
metal cans and blankets, a box of Premium Crackers. Mabel
pushed the cart wherever she went. Sometimes she even slept
“So where is the little
tramp?” Mabel asked.
“She ain’t no tramp.”
“Where is she?”
“Dunno,” said Santa. “Maybe she went home.”
He scratched at his upper torso.
The Santa suit felt like wool this morning, even though it
was actually polyester and cotton. That’s what the label
said. But it was fucking wool today. He sweated like a pig.
“How long you gonna wear
that thing?” asked Mabel.
“Maybe I’ll wear
it all year round.”
“Like hell you will.
You’ll be lucky to get to Christmas in that thing.”
Five more days, thought Santa.
Five more days and then the Christmas season is over. No use
in wearing this fucking suit after that. People don’t
give handouts for the Salvation Army after Christmas day.
That’s when they forget the Salvation Army’s even
Maybe he’d find an Easter
Bunny suit for early April.
you really Santa Claus?” giggled Jade, after they’d
washed the little red pills down with Kentucky Bourbon.
“What do you think?”
“I think you are,”
said Jade. “I think you’re Santa Claus, and you’ve
been waiting all these years for me.”
“That’s right,” said Santa, feeling the
room swim around him. He put his hand on the bar to steady
“Take me to the North
Pole with you,” said Jade.
“I don’t live in
the North Pole.”
“Where do you live?”
“Under the 59 Bridge
“You don’t live
“Yes, I do.”
“You live in the North
Pole. You’re only staying there until Christmas, and
then you’ll go back to the North Pole.” She leaned
over and kissed him on the forehead. “Take me to the
North Pole,” she whispered.
“Why you wanna go there?”
“Cuz it’s not here,”
long have you been on the streets?” asked Santa Claus.
“None of your business.”
“The street’s no
place for a girl like you. How old are you? Sixteen? Seventeen?
Where’s your old man and old lady?”
She didn’t answer. Instead,
she yanked down the front of her dress and exposed a tit.
“Do you want to talk or do you want to fuck?”
Jade entertained a rich kid later that night. Santa watched
from the shadows as she went down on him in the alley where
she and Santa had made love. She wasn’t all eager and
excited now, the way she had been with Santa. She was only
doing it now for the cash. Santa saw tension in the way she
held her back, stiff, straight. The kid dripped with money—his
gold watch, his brandy loafers, the gold chain around his
neck. It looked solid gold, too—could draw three hundred,
the rich kid. “Look what you did, you little bitch!”
“I’ll show you
Santa found himself standing
over the rich kid. He couldn’t remember what he’d
done, didn’t recall snatching the beer bottle from the
street and slamming it over the kid’s head. Didn’t
recall kicking the kid in the ribs a couple of times before
Jade could stop him. Couldn’t remember the curses flying
from his lips. All he knew was standing over the kid and Jade
“Did you kill him?”
“I dunno,” said
“We gotta get out of
“Wait.” He’d been eying the gold chain all
night. If the kid was out or dead (for God’s sake, he
wasn’t dead. He’d been conked over the head with
a beer bottle—they did that in cowboy movies all the
time, didn’t they?), then anybody could take the chain.
Anybody who came along. So why not me, Santa thought.
“What are you doing?”
“Here,” Santa handed
her the chain. “Let’s see if he’s got any
“You’re gonna rob
“It’s not moral,
that’s why not.”
“He ain’t awake,
is he? And since he ain’t awake, anybody that comes
along is gonna rob him. So I’ll do it first.”
He snatched the kid’s wallet. Bingo. Three crisp hundred
“Holy shit,” said
“And just think,”
said Santa. “You don’t gotta share them with your
They made $1,500 that week.
Jade had two clients with less than fifty, but they made up
for it later when Jade picked up three young businessmen one
by one and Santa smacked them neatly across the heads.
She didn’t mean to pick
up the burley construction worker in the bar that night at
2:15 AM, but he kept eyeballing her. Santa watched them slip
out the back. He found them in the alley with the guy’s
pants pulled down to his ankles and Jade kneeling in front
of him, as if in prayer. She’d carefully arranged it
so they guy faced the other way. Santa chose his weapon carefully—a
stray glass bottle of Miller Light.
“Son of a bitch,”
the guy stammered after Santa hit him. Blood trickled down
his neck and onto his blue maroon and black patterned work
shirt as he staggered forward a bit, refusing to hit the ground.
“Hit him again,”
The bottle had shattered in
Santa’s hand. He tossed it away and looked for another
“What the fuck?”
growled the burley guy at Santa. “Who the hell are you?”
“I’m Santa Claus,”
Santa said. “Ho, ho, ho.” He smacked the guy in
the face with a board this time, and cracked the bridge of
his nose. The guy swung his iron fist and cracked Santa across
“Think you’re funny,
huh?” The burley guy advanced on Santa, and snatched
the jagged beer bottle from the ground. “I’ll
kill you, you son of a bitch.”
Santa waved at the beer bottle
with his board, then stumbled and fell in the mud. Oh, shit,
he thought. Oh, shit. The ground shifted and his ears hummed
with the force of the little red pills.
He waited for death to snatch him as he watched the jagged
beer bottle advance, whispering what he could remember of
the prayers he’d learned as a little boy in Sunday School.
God heard the prayers and sent an angel—Jade—still
on her knees as she snatched a new beer bottle from the ground
and plunged it right into the burley guy’s groin. He
“Hit him with the board!”
she shouted to Santa Claus. He stood and smacked the guy once
in the forehead, knocking him, his bleeding crotch still exposed,
backward into the mud.
“Son of a bitch,”
groaned Santa Claus.
“Damn,” Jade groaned
as she shuffled through his wallet. “He didn’t
even have the cash to pay for the blow job.”
Santa peered inside. There
were four crumpled dollar bills. Bastard deserved to get cracked
in the skull.
“Are you alright,”
she asked him once they’d gotten around the corner.
“Yeah,” said Santa.
“Need me to kiss it and
make it better?”
It hurt when she kissed him,
but Santa closed his eyes and delighted in the pain.
“I think I need some
more,” said Santa.
“Yeah. But not on the
“Why don’t you
start kissing different places and I’ll tell you when
looking for a guy in a Santa Claus suit,” Mabel told
Santa the next morning when he crawled out of his secret home
under the 59 bridge. Jade remained behind, asleep.
“Who?” asked Santa.
“The cops,” said
Mabel. “Said there was a mugging last night. Guy in
a Santa suit. You wouldn’t know anything about that,
He’d chosen not to wake
Jade. Instead, he shoved the Santa suit into a cardboard box
and replaced it with his old work shirt and blue jeans. He
walked across the feeder to the K-mart to shave. Not even
the security guard recognized him.
asked Jade, her eyes wide with terror.
“The guy woke up,”
said Santa. “He could identify me.”
She reached up and touched
the side of his clean-shaven face. “You’re not
Santa Claus,” she said, her smile disappearing.
he said. “I’m still me.”
“You told me you were
Santa Claus,” she whispered.
and Jade gripped the sides of the table as the room spun.
She didn’t giggle this time--she’d hardly made
a sound all day, except when she cried herself back to sleep
after seeing Santa without his beard. He’d tried to
make her talk when they went to the bar but she refused, staring
straight into her Kentucky Bourbon, then taking the red pill
like a good little girl and waiting quietly for their effect.
Santa stopped talking, too.
Hell, there were only two more
days to Christmas. Maybe he should’ve waited to change
the duds. Cops be damned.
“Excuse me, sir,”
said a voice. “Would you come with me, please?”
Santa opened his eyes and tried
to make the room stop spinning. He thought he saw someone
in front of him but couldn’t be sure since the shadows
wouldn’t stay still.
“We’d like to take
you downtown and ask you a few questions, sir,” said
“Look, you want to do
this civilized, or do we have to get rough?”
Santa found himself on the
floor, his hands cuffed behind him.
“Be careful with the
girl,” he heard a voice say.
put him in a Santa Claus suit and stood him in a lineup. Fake
beard and everything. He stared into a dark widow and snickered
at the men lined up next to him.
“Number four. Would you
step forward please?”
He stepped forward, glared
into the dark window, then pulled down his fake beard and
gave his captors a raspberry.
He stepped back in line and
didn’t say a word. They’d sat in the cell for
hours--Santa in a cell with men, Jade in a separate cell across
from him with women. She kept tugging at the straps of her
dress, trying to pull the top over her tits.
Santa lay half asleep when the
guard opened the door to Jade’s cell. “Michelle
Lewis,” he barked. Jade sat for a moment, glaring at
the guard, then stood slowly and walked toward the door. Santa
Claus opened his eyes and sat up.
said the guard. “All the way from Nacogdoches.”
Santa saw a tear escape
Jade’s left eye. She sniffled and then quickly wiped
Her eyes darted to his,
then she lowered them to the floor and did not look up again.
Santa stood by the cell door and watched Jade walk into the
Santa suit was gone when he returned home. All his things
were gone, and he had to chase a bum with a Hungry, God Bless
sign out of his secret home under the 59 Bridge.
“I told you that bitch
was no good,” said Mabel.
“She wasn’t a bitch,”
said Santa Claus. “She was just a girl.”
“You’re not getting
nookie off me no more,” Mabel continued. “You
could have the fag disease. Going around screwing a whore
like that. You could have the fag disease for sure. Don’t
you know nothing? Nothing at all?”
Santa Claus crawled into his
home and ripped up the sign the intruder had left behind.
Time for a new gig, he thought. Fuck the Santa suit. It was
too hot anyway. He’d check the dumpsters around the
costume shop next to K-mart throughout the spring. Somebody
was bound to throw out something else. The bunny suit would
look stupid. To hell with that. But a Zorro costume. That
might bring in some money. Or a military uniform. That’s
good. Dress up in the military uniform and use a sign that
says Vietnam Vet. Need Food. He’d seen that done. That’s
what he’d do. He could go to a military surplus store
one day. Hell, all it took was a military jacket or shirt.
He wouldn’t even have to buy anything else. Or maybe
a hat. Yes, he’d try that. A great big Air Force hat,
like the one his father had worn years ago, in the pictures
Santa stored in his mind. That’s all he remembered about
his father was that big Air Force hat, with the eagle spread
over the front. That would make him some money for sure. More
money than he’d made with Jade--if they hadn’t
taken it all, those damned bastards. He didn’t need
the girl as baggage anyway. She was no better than Louisa,
and he’d lived without Louisa, God knows, so he could
live without Jade. To hell with her. Go back with her old
man to wherever the hell she’d come from. He didn’t
care. And Mabel would come around eventually. She’d
threatened to become a virgin when he screwed Louisa, and
look how long that lasted. She’d come around.
He closed his eyes and imagined
Jade’s soft breathing next to him before he fell into
a deep, sorrowful sleep.