Louis Glock does not consider himself a lucky man by most standards. Yet he does believe that when opportunity meets preparedness, a man can make his own luck. That might explain the state-of-the-art, Kevlar-woven, Mother Lode 3-person tent. In his fantasies, Louis imagines there might one day be a special someone to share the tent with. For now, he is content to share the ample space with his power generator, flat-screen TV and PS2 video game platform, not to mention his heater, micro-fridge and Winchester air rifle. Yes, Louis Glock is armed. Only three nights earlier, the PowerStation 3 encampment outside the Prime Purchase in Princeton was assaulted by a drive-by pellet shooting. Louis was sure it was rival gamers caught in a desperate attempt to scare off the competition steadfast in their vigil for the release of the glorious game box. It just so happens that that night was only Louis’s second night outside the Prime Purchase in East Brunswick. Louis had already proved his resolve to be the first gamer to obtain a PS3 from the East Brunswick branch of Prime Purchase. On his very first night, moments after completing the arduous set-up process of his tent and all of its gear, several brigands waited for Louis to dose off. They then proceeded to hook a cable from their pickup truck to Louis’s tent. When Louis woke up he was in the Middle State bowling alley parking lot. Since then he has endured countless jeers from teenagers and fended off more than a few failed line jumpers. Several times, they had managed to move his entire tent several places back in the line. Still, fast forward to Christmas Eve, Louis remains the head of countless similar lines stretched out in front of toy and game stores nationwide. Just when Louis concluded that he had fended off the last of the attempts to supersede him in line, a blinding light washed the dank and dark twilight sky in a dazzling array of bright reds and greens, on a backdrop of pure snow white.
“I’ll be darned,” thought Louis. “Fireworks.”
It was a nice thought but one couldn’t help but wonder how anyone conjured up the means to set off such a top-shelf display of fireworks at three o’clock in the morning. The store is closed. Unless, it was a distraction. Just as the thought entered Louis’ mind, the lights seemed to fuse together into one fiery ball that began to rocket straight toward the front entrance of Prime Purchase. Showing an all new level of lack of concern for his own well-being, Louis jumped in front of the entrance doors as if he was going to succeed in blocking the veritable comet bearing straight down on him. Just a nanosecond before contact, Louis dove into his Mother Lode tent. As shards of glass and flaming signage rained down on the tent, Louis was already pumping himself up for his impending charge into the electronics retail giant. No one was going to come between Louis and the latest batch of PS3’s certainly stored in that East Brunswick location.
Sure enough, as the dust settled, Louis jumped into a crouched position and sprung like a mountain lion out of his tent, colliding quite forcefully with a gargantuan, lazy-eyed behemoth from South River named Roland. It seemed a stampede with the collective brain power of Louis had come to the same conclusion: someone is trying to steal the store’s stash of PS3s!! Though it may seem as if the crowd is ignoring the extraordinary set of events preceding the crash…..well, they are. Nothing will come between these people and the delivery of PS3’s they all knew were emergency shipped to the store for sale on Christmas day. Several of the maniacs charging through the gaping hole now smoking and sparking have actually pre-ordered their systems but after their customary 15 hours of television viewing, they accrued an overload of advertisement anxiety and made a beeline for the East Brunswick store.
The gaggle of goofy consumers and erstwhile “outdoorsmen” did not glance for a second at what pieces of the store or merchandise they were trampling over on their way to the stockroom in the rear. Quite amazingly, the nine reindeer lying stunned in the home theater section went overlooked, presumed to be rather life-like decorations. Nor did the bearded fat man garner a single backward glance as he grunted and moaned as each obese video game freak jumped on and off his rather smashed sleigh en route to their destination. Alas, not even red-nosed Rudolph was immune to the narrow-minded fixation as he is jostled and rudely shoved out of the way. The tiny Elves accompanying Santa this night are fortunately quite adept at hiding. The mad dash of manic consumers would come nowhere near the giant refrigerators they had packed themselves into.
Colliding with the well-locked doors to the stockroom did not subdue the crowd. Rather, its members turned its ire and mania inward on each other. In the middle of the night, on Christmas Eve, men and women, boys and children were beginning to wrestle and assault one another. The sheer ugliness of it, thankfully, was only to be witnessed by an individual who is more than a mere man. From his earliest days leaving pies on windowsills, to his centuries of toy making expertise to the modern era of technology, Santa Claus has endured. No longer able to compete on the toy front, Santa’s role has been a bit more flexible, if you will. As an employee of God, Santa’s job is never really in jeopardy. Besides, God believes in Santa Claus just as the children who still carry God in their little hearts harbor a belief in the jolly old man.
Unfortunately, this does not stop Santa from having bad days. Each year, come Christmas, ole’ Kris Kringle can’t quit the bad habit of deliberating over his Naughty and Nice list. Should he adjust its criteria? Does anyone even care about his list? All too often, this train of thought leads to egg nog and egg nog leads to some uncoordinated sleigh riding. It doesn’t help that the leader of this pack of reindeer is the son of an old drinking buddy of Santa’s. Yes, that’s right, Rudolph inherited that red nose for reasons a tad different than the fairy tales and Christmas carols let on. And while the other eight reindeer are loved plenty by Santa, they are still reindeer-for-hire and loyal to the union. Rudolph has been Santa’s wingman since that one “foggy” Christmas Eve. This particular Christmas Eve was equally “foggy” as both Rudolph and Santa were sobering up via Gingerbread lattes while flying aimlessly about. They had delivered what homemade toys were still in demand. The remainder of the night consisted of whatever God felt like doing. It was His birthday, after all. Oddly enough, neither Rudolph nor Santa could see just yet how this crash landing played into God’s plans but they never did see how anything played into God’s plans. So, with a touch of egg nog still lingering in his veins, Santa let out a hoot and a holler as he burst out from underneath his sorry sleigh.
Before him, a miniature riot had broken out for reasons unknown to its participants. Barely distracted by the looming presence of a 6-foot-plus rotund man covered in white hair and gloriously topless, Louis had doubled back to his tent to get his hands on his Winchester BB gun. A sixth degree black belt in Aikido, Santa was doing quite a good job of defusing the ruckus with minimum damage when Louis turned up, pointing the barrel of his Winchester at Santa. Having judged the potential disaster accordingly, Santa abandoned his martial arts prowess and opted instead for his magical powers. In an instant, every single adult in sight was suspended in mid-air, frozen like department store mannequins. Santa’s melancholy seeped back into his heart even more so than before. Two fathers at each others throat. An elderly lady in a wheelchair, knocked to the ground. A mother in the midst of pushing a small child out of the way. Each person, still a child in Santa’s eyes, is a disappointment to ole’ St. Nick. As if it weren’t enough to witness their current behavior, a being with Santa’s scope of power must bear the memories of their innocence. Finally, on the left, a pair of young parents is stuck in the middle of an ear-piercing screaming match. Unbeknownst to them, the McFaydens were to be the centerpiece of Santa’s assignment this evening.
If it weren’t for Mrs. Claus’ fear of flying, Santa might not count a red-nosed reindeer as his best friend. Yet, in his heart, Santa knows there is no comparison between the kind of best friend a wife makes and the kind a reindeer makes. Nonetheless, a sweaty and still slightly tipsy Santa is now stumbling over wreckage in search of his coat and hat. At the same time, a rather sober yet still very red-nosed reindeer saunters over to Santa with both articles of clothing hung from antlers. Falling in line directly behind Rudolph are Santa’s three elf assistants for the night: Gabriel, Denzel and Chang. Each carried two cups of coffee and shouted in unison:
“Hide, we did in the land of appliances. Abound with coffee makers it was, but not a single bean was to be found. One magic fart from Denzell and bags of grinds did surround”
Denzell was a stand-up elf and of the African-American persuasion. Gabriel was Hispanic and held the distinction of the first outwardly gay elf. Lastly, there was the North Pole’s premier sleigh designer, Chang, a female Asian elf. Admittedly, this crew is left over from the heyday of the PC movement. But they also happened to be the elf crew Santa has the most fun with, hands down.
Within minutes, the North Poleans have brushed aside debris and found seats for themselves as Rudolph and Santa down their coffee. The reindeer crews have come to and are stretching their aching muscles. More than a few choice obscenities are being worked out of their systems in the process. Not surprisingly, the sleigh-pulling union is mentioned on several occasions. It is at this precise moment of calm, that Santa spots movement out of his peripheral vision. Immediately, he sends his elves in the direction of the flurry of movement. In moments, the three elves have escorted a red-haired and freckled boy, no older than eight years of age, to Santa’s perch.
“What is your name, boy?”
“What, you don’t have any wisecracks to make about the old man? It’s OK. Go ahead. I meet jaded five year olds these days.”
“No, sir. Anything’s better than the fighting.”
“Oh, that. I’ll have you know, I used all of my martial arts mastery to defuse the situation without harm. But in the end, it was the magic that calmed the commotion-“
“Not that fighting. That fighting.”
The boy pointed a plump but tiny little finger in the direction of the raging parents.
“Ah yes, that. My magic is limited, Travis. More than ever, I rely on the Boss for my orders.”
“Y-you mean you’re not in charge? Of the North Pole and all that?”
“Oh sure. But this isn’t about all that.”
“Y’see, the first few years after being human …God loved being the center of attention. He loved having a birthday. You could say the humanity took a while to wash off. Then, in true God fashion, it became more about giving to others than receiving. That’s where I came in. I thought I was just a silly old man who liked to carve toys and share pastries, cookies and other goodies with all my friends. That’s when I started hanging out with Randolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. And hey, he was red-nosed for a reason. When I got the job, God hooked me up with the premier reindeer crew in the whole universe. They flew, which was good. It began as a working relationship but we bonded. So, it hurt them a bit when Randolph had a kid, Rudolph, and I eventually became his legal guardian when Randolph went to the Reindeer Stable in the Sky. One foggy Christmas Eve later and Rudolph is leading the crew. They’re used to it by now. All the other reindeer, they’re old friends. Rudolph is family. And he didn’t just inherit that red nose. He earned it just like his old man. “
“So, you don’t bring us toys, anymore?”
“Sure I do, Travis. But I’ve recently started to realize my full potential. Sure, kids love presents and sure, they need love. But God needs help. And out of all the ways he’s been represented, I just happen to be the best looking-“
“Harrumph!!” A collective scoffing sounds out from the direction of the reindeer crew.
“OK, not best looking in terms of being handsome. But I was certainly the friendliest, jolliest, most welcoming avatar to date. It just so happens that the toy game no longer takes up all of my time. So I have this free time. I’m still working it out. And you know God and the whole mysterious ways routine.
“Did God send you?”
“If I was lacking in the wisdom department, I might be inclined to tell you a few pints of egg nog sent me. But I know better-“
“Fix my parents”
“Umm….you’re sure you don’t just want one of these PP3’S?”
“It’s PS3 and I know Id have a lot of fun if I had one. Some kids would play with me just because I had one. But, it’s just—“
In the middle of the child’s sentence, the sounds of the real world outside come blaring through the decimated window front of the store. Sirens and flashing lights are suddenly apparent to Santa and his new friend but nowhere near as pressing or alarming as the eight policemen storming the store entrance with pistols drawn.
“You first.” With a tired wave of his hand, Santa renders the officers in the same condition as the would-be rioters.
“This time manipulation stuff is cool but it takes a lot out of you”
“It’s awesome,” declared Travis.
“Well, Travis, you can hang out with us as you want. Chang is going to work on the sleigh while Gabriel redecorates and renovates. And Denzel, uhm….”
“Hey Travis, what goes ‘Ho, ho, ho, SWOOSH! Ho, ho, ho, SWOOSH!’?” said the stand-up elf.
“I don’t know what?”
Leaning forward in a conspiratorial manner, the elf whispered “Santa Claus caught in a revolving door”
“I heard that!” boomed Santa as he starts to study the faces of all the men and women he has frozen over the course of the night. Denzel and Travis just giggle.
As Santa finishes his rounds, he thoughtfully stroked his beard and declares: “Tonight is a night of unfinished Christmas stories…and I’m going to finish ‘em”
“When I was his age, we had Christmas every other year!”
“That’s because your father was a gambling addict!”
“That’s right! One year he’d slap a wad of hundreds in my hand, a little extra if I saw him with another woman. He’d slip even more to Mom, especially if she saw him with another woman.”
“Right, right. And your mom would blow the money on a new car, and then renege on the payments because Dad was dipping in for the old habit.”
“That’s right! And next Christmas, Id get an expired coupon to Toys R Us or some other fantastic present!”
“I know, I know. You’d think you would want the best for Trav after having such losers for parents.”
“Don’t show disrespect for Mom and Dad in front of the kid, I'm warning you Julie!!”
“Listen, I just don’t want my son to feel left out. Everybody’s too afraid these days.”
“Yeah, why’s that, I wonder?! Could it be drive-by pellet shootings?!”
“They caught those guys, Roger. Now stop yelling, you’re ruining Trav’s Christmas”
“I’m ruining his Christmas. I’ve got to sleep in my car so he doesn’t “feel left out”!”
“Oh you’re not sleeping in here the whole night! You’ve got to do your stint in the tent!
Roger McFayden’s father, Julius McFayden, was “the last of the big-time spenders”, to coin a phrase. As a small boy, Roger learned right away the power of money. His father was the owner of a jewelry shop and earned a meager sum each year, barely able to cover his overhead. Yet, this did not stop him from betting on everything from horses to sporting events to the weather. It was the year that the McFaydens went from living in a four bedroom house on Long Island to a one bedroom apartment in Bedford Stuyvesant that Roger began to learn the true nature of his parents’ relationship. His mother Sophie did not love his father. Their happiness as a couple fluctuated with Roger’s financial luck. Sophie would spend Julius’ winnings faster than he could count them. And Roger? He was a debit, a drain and a loss. At least, that’s how his mother saw him. His father would do his best to slip Roger a little extra but all too often, Sophie would snatch any such extra cash. It was this lack of stability and the misery caused by his parents’ financial failings that eventually would lead to a great deal of tension and obsessive controlling on Roger’s part when it came to he and Julie’s finances.
Julie McFayden, formerly Julie Hill, enjoyed a posh and luxurious upper middle class upbringing. Daddy was a lawyer and Mommy was a shrewd investor. Never wanting for anything, Christmas was always a joyous occasion filled with family and presents. It was an experience Julie could never fully explain to her husband Roger. His formative years resulted in an all too typical need to teach his son a lesson. Travis would always be happy, as much so as Roger and Julie could muster, but said happiness would never hinge on money or material belongings. At the same time, Julie saw no reason to not continue the Hill tradition of lavish spending and, as Roger saw it, spoiling the child. With this at the core of the McFayden family of Roger, Julie and Travis, the tension and all-too-often out bursts caused by money were so very much a repeat of history. Only Santa could see through the shackles of the mundane that could destroy a beautiful little family such as the McFaydens. What was lacking in Roger’s upbringing and merely measured by possession of the latest and greatest in retail goods over at the Hill residence, was pure, unadulterated and immeasurable. The genuine love of Roger and Julie superseded their own personal histories and resulted in a sublime marriage and ultimately the conception and birth of Travis. The most common tragedy of human experience is the inability to see love and place all of one’s faith in it. In recent years, with Travis no longer an infant, Roger and Julie have lost sight of the love they have been gifted with. Fortunately, a mythical fat man interrupted their latest round of bickering when he and his sleigh hurtled into Prime Purchase.
“Yup, these two are do-able” bellowed Santa. “Oh my Boss, I am hungry!”
“Does that mean you can fix ‘em?” cried Travis.
“Kid, I don’t fix anything. Only people can fix themselves. Here, here’s twenty bucks. Go get Santa some KFC.”
At the mention of those last three letters, a loud commotion signaled the sudden attention of all ten reindeer and the three elves at work.
“OK, here’s a hundred. Get as many buckets as that’ll get you.”
“Go! As far as the answer to your question, I’m in control. But there’s this matter of a big fat jolly employer of elves and reindeer that loses control when he gets hungry!”
As Travis sprints off in the direction of the shopping center’s KFC, he passes Louis Glock and his Winchester air rifle poised to fire at the frozen rioters. As he begins to sprint across the parking lot, he looks back just as he passes through an invisible, jelly-like substance. Once on the other side of the jelly, Travis trips over himself in astonishment as the façade of Prime Purchase appears to be untouched.
On the other side of the façade, Santa is pure baffled as he sizes up Louis Glock.
Turning towards his reindeer, Santa sounds it out loud to see if it makes any more sense: “This man has armed himself with an air rifle due to an earlier event where several individuals instituted their own drive-by pellet shooting at another one of these here establishments?”
“That’s correct, sir,” responded Blitzen.
“And that Kevlar-woven, Mother Lode 3-person tent at the head of the line is his? The one with a power generator, a TV and all that?”
“That would be his,” replied Comet.
“And he’s been there for three days?”
“Three days and four hours,” offered Vixen.
“I’ve got an idea”
“Gabriel, remove Louis’ air rifle. Denzel, knock over that stack of boxes. Chang, arrange it to look as if those boxes landed on that fine young lady I froze by the restrooms over there. Apparently, she wasn’t part of the riot. She just took advantage of the entrance I created to take care of an emergency. Make sure you don’t get a scratch on her. I’ll go ahead and place Louis right near by. Perfect. So how are we doing?”
“The Sleigh is fully operational,” declared Chang as she put the finishing touches on the “damsel-in-distress” scenario.
“Nothing can put that old girl out of commission, baby!” shouted Rudolph.
“But I’m not done, yet!” yelled Gabriel, as he festooned Prime Purchase with more garlands and glitter and gift boxes than it has copies of the latest American Idol winner’s CD.
“Apparently, neither am I,” stated Santa in an uncharacteristic grim tone of voice.
Shoving his way through the fleet of frozen police officers was a man in worse fitness condition than Santa himself. Wearing his Prime Purchase polo shirt and khaki shorts, Orson Winkelmeyer bore the keys to paradise in his fanny pack. His eyes may well have been from the other end of a magnifying glass, or so they appeared from behind his ultra-thick glasses. Orson Winkelmeyer was the store manager of this particular Prime Purchase and, in his mind, HE was Santa Claus. He stood by as adults young and old overran their credit limits to make the yuletide voices in their brains cease their cacophony of Christmas carols and voices that cried out for this year’s must-have material object. Only he can satiate the ravenous need possessing the minds of so many. This year it is the PS#. Next year, the PS4, and so on.
With all his science and math skills, Winkelmeyer long ago decided Santa was a chump, defeated and no longer able to deliver the voracious appetites of Earth dwellers. Somehow, he knew the day would come when he could challenge the Claus directly and lo and behold, the jolly old relic had crash landed into his store.
Santa was befuddled. His freezing power, the time manipulation ability had exhibited twice before, was not working on Winkelmeyer.
“Who may you be?” asked Santa.
“I am Orson Winkelmeyer. Store # 235’s very own Santa Claus, if you will.”
“If I had a cookie for every fat guy who lost his mind and thought he was me….See, bub, it’s in my genes. I’m in terrific shape but I’ll always be fat. You got the way you are because, well, you do share the same lifestyle as many of your customers. I’ll give you that much if you want to claim some sort of kinship with them.”
“Huh?” replied Winkelmeyer.
“That’s right. Plasma flat screen TV with Surround Sound and only the best DVD player hooked up right next to the latest gaming console. Your apartment in the basement of your mother’s long-paid-for suburban home with a phone and mini-fridge all in arm’s reach. It’s a miracle you drive yourself to get here everyday. Surely, you’d prefer a chauffeur or at least a bus that stops in front of your house…”
“Oh that’s enough, tubby!”, Orson burst out, “You think you’re so physically fit? You still think you’ve got what the kids love? I hereby challenge you to……DANCE, DANCE REVOLUTION!!”
“You’re joking,” replied Santa.
Tearing open a box underneath one of the sample-showing TV screens, Orson yanks out the mat necessary for the game. Competitors in the game must step on whatever part of the mat the screen dictates as loud club music blares from the television. This is supposed to simulate dancing. For Orson, it’s as close as he will ever get to socializing. For Santa, it’s a sad, sad replacement for break dancing, jazz dancing and other favorite pastimes.
Orson’s choice of song, interestingly enough, is Flashdance(What a Feeling). As Winkelmeyer proceeds to flaunt his Winkelmeyerness, velcroed low-tops pounding the mat sloppily and instantaneous globules of sweat appearing everywhere, Santa can’t help but stifle a chuckle and accept that, however unlikely, this boy-man’s appearance is still a part of God’s plan for him.
By the time it is Santa’s turn, Winkelmeyer has stumbled to the Men’s Room in order to pay the porcelain his due for the exertion he forced upon his pathetic physique. Granting Winkelmeyer a few moments, Santa finally mounts the platform in time for El Ritmo Tropical to start its South American pulsations. Orson is dumbfounded as Santa once again bares his rose red chest and snow white chest hair in order to deliver Latin gyration after :Latin gyration. “How did a North Pole boy learn such equatorial dance moves?” you might ask. Santa’s reply?
“Rio.” “De.” “Janeiro”.
Hey, no one said Santa isn’t entitled to a vacation.
“OK, I win. So what am I supposed to get out of this?” asked Santa.
In the midst of a tearful tantrum, Orson cried out “NOTHING! You’re not supposed to get anything! You BIG FAT JERK!” hollered Orson as he stamped his feet like a little boy.
At that moment, a small figure carrying a sack full of buckets of chicken comes trudging through the wall of frozen cops and onto the main floor of the store.
“Food’s here!!” declares Travis.
“THAT’S IT!!” bellows Santa.
“W-what?” responds a rather stunned and unstable Winkelmeyer.
“Chicken?” said a puzzled Chang.
“I couldn’t freeze you!” realized Santa.
“So?” replied Orson
“Only those who believe in me can manage to resist my time manipulation powers”
“Oh that’s so cheesy” muttered Orson.
“How old are you?”
“Thirty three” Orson managed to let slip under his breath
“How long have you been holding onto this, son?”
“Just SHUT UP!! I H-HATE YOU” stammered Orson.
“That’s fine, my boy. To hate me, you must believe in me.”
“You’re thirty three and you still believe in Santa?” interjected Travis, as the reindeer and elves lined up for their fried chicken.
“Shush, Travis” said Santa. “Orson, when did it start?”
“You know. You’re Santa, aren’t you?”
“Yes, but I want you to take me there in your mind”
Christmas Morning, 1986
“FER CRYIN OUT LOUD, WANDA, ARE YA DEAF? TURN THAT GODFORSAKEN CHRISTMAS CRAP DOWN!!”
“NATHANIEL WINKELMEYER!! IT IS CHRISTMAS MORNING AND THIS IS NOT CHRISTMAS CRAP. THEY’RE SINGING ABOUT FEEDING THE WORLD!! Darn it, I missed Bono’s part. AND BESIDES, YOU BE A MISERABLE CYNIC ALL YOU WANT BUT THERES NO NEED TO SPREAD IT TO OUR SON, ORSON!”
“YOU ASK ME, THE KID’S RETARDED! WHAT KID AT THIRTEEN STILL BELIEVES IN SANTA CLAUS!”
“THAT DON’T MATTER. BLESS HIS HEART FOR STILL BELIEVING IN SANTA CLAUS AND DON’T YOU EVEN THINK ABOUT TRYING TO RUIN THAT FOR HIM!”
As Santa and Orson materialized in the middle of this shouting match, both large men began to well up. For Orson, this was what he listened to almost every Christmas. It was only his belief in Santa that granted him the confidence that each year would leave what he wanted underneath that tree. For Santa, it was simply the result of the overabundance of empathy God had empowered him with. In his millennia of service, Santa Claus always knew there were children who loved him for what he gave. Often times, that toy or other object of obsession was transformed into some cosmic confirmation or pay-off. At this point in time, Santa and Orson are about to witness a Christmas morning, twenty years ago, when Orson was a young teen. This year, the cost of Orson’s love would be the delivery of one Atari 2600.
“I remember, Orson. Back then, I could actually make those game systems myself. But God and your Mom had other plans that year.”
“Oh yeah, what? Ruin my parents’ marriage”
“I’m sorry, Orson. The purchase of that game was left up to your father. I was under strict instructions to leave this gift up to him. As meaningless as such an object is in the long run, this point in time represents the last straw. Your mom had repeatedly reminded your dad about this all too important present. But for the last year and a half, Nathaniel had become more and more despondent, detaching himself emotionally and physically from his family.”
“And there was nothing you can do?”
“Orson, I have a way with love. It is my gift, granted me by God. I can pour love into the very molecules of each and every present I make. Only I can leave behind such an intoxicating residue of love that Christmas Morning can be such an intangible source of joy blanketing all of the day’s festivities. But where do you think I find this love?”
“Are you saying Mom and Dad didn’t love each other?”
“There simply wasn’t enough. Your Dad simply had not planned on being a husband and father so early in life.”
“But Mama loved me, and now she’s gone and I don’t know what to do” sobbed Orson as he collapsed into Santa’s arms. “I had this feeling in my gut that I had to get to the store at all costs tonight.”
Still weeping, Orson looked into Santa’s eyes with tears streaming down his face and whispered “Take me back. I’ve done something…..I-I’ve done something.”
Re-materializing in front of the charging police officers, Orson immediately fell to his knees.
“LET THEM TAKE ME AWAY!!” screamed Orson, in agony. “I took them all. Every one of them.”
“Oh, Orson” muttered Santa, holding his head and shaking it.
“The camping out, the selling on E-bay…THESE KIDS!” Orson pointed out Travis in mid-rant “who take it for granted that their parents are setting up camp so they can get the latest fetish object, the latest video game console.”
“So you stole the PS3s?
“Yeah, I know. There’s no excuse. I thought you’d at least understand the lesson.”
“No one appointed you to teach lessons, Orson. Not even I have the authority to teach lessons. People just tend to derive them from love. Me, I’m just a love dealer.”
“I understand, Unfreeze them so they can take me away.”
“I don’t like that as an ending to the story. Chang, is my ride ready?”
“Yeah, but make it quick. If we have to hear one more joke from Denzel, there’s going to be regurgitated chicken by the bucket all over the joint.”
“She’s right, Santa. I’m not cleaning that in the morning” said Orson. “Let’s go!”
“What is it, Denzel?”
“Listen to this one. ‘What do you get if you deep fry Santa Claus?’”
”I give up.”
In the blink of Travis’ left eye, the sleigh and its contents disappeared in a cloud of glitter. In the blink of his other eye, the sleigh had returned and both Orson and Santa hefted sacks full of boxes, boxes with highly coveted game systems inside.
“See, Orson, I may look out of shape but as you can see, not only do I dance, but I’ve been responsible for some heavy lifting in my time. If you want to be like Santa, you have to work out the body and the soul.”
“Does this mean we’ll be seeing a fitness video from you soon?”
“Hmmph” The sound came suspiciously in the direction of a certain stand-up elf.
“Christmas cheer wouldn’t be the same without some sense of humor. That goes for elves, too.”
Denzell beamed widely at the nod from the Big Man.
“Santa, Santa, Santa.” Gabriel came striding out of the music aisle with both hands in the air, both carrying CDs. “Now that we’ve eaten and now that I’ve endured the most tasteless belching contest to date(they even involved the boy), us Pole creatures thought you might want to have a little going away party, seeing as how we’ve spent more time here than we’ve spent just about anywhere these past few Christmases.”
“My store…what have you done to my store?” whimpered Winkelmeyer.
“It’s been Gabrielized. Retail is so fluorescent and ‘blech’. I’ve made it shine.”
To this, Chang chimed in, “Hey Gabe babe pass me the sounds. I tricked the sleigh out with one killer sound system.”
As Santa smiled warmly as his friends always made him feel inclined, Travis shuffled over and tugged on Santa’s sleeve.
“Is everything going to go back to normal now?”
“Normal? That’s a loaded word, Travis. When I first started this gig, ages ago, I thought it was the absence of love that made people behave like the bunch that stampeded through here earlier tonight. But there is no absence of love. Love is EVERYWHERE! It just gets harder to see it. It gets harder to feel it. Sometimes it gets misplaced. Like this silly video game. An object, like any other object, is given status through love. Ideally, people hope that these objects will do more than their designed purpose. They pray that each gift will pass love on to their cherished friends and family. So how does it become this? Two fathers at each others throat. An elderly lady in a wheelchair, knocked to the ground. A mother in the midst of pushing a small child out of the way. It’s been twisted, ya see, Travis? Sure, plenty of people covet this machine for the noblest of reasons. But they forget that that power, that Godliness, rests in their own hearts—“
“I’m eight years old. And I live in the real world. And I know that grown-ups are the way they are because they don’t know all that stuff anymore. They use so little of their imagination and so little of their minds, that’s probably why it’s so easy to freeze them like you do. But when I asked you to fix them, I asked because I know that when this dream of a night comes to an end, you’ll hit ‘Play’ again and it will all go back to normal.”
“Touché, kid. No one’s ever called me out on one of my heartwarming monologues. But you’re right. When my work here is done, time will carry on from where it left off.”
“So what do you do?”
“I’ve a light touch for a big man, my boy. I leave a reminder here. Point a heart over there. Whisper in some ears. I set the record straight. Sometimes it’s as easy as arranging the players in the right position.”
That said, Santa spun and re-animated Louis Glock and the pretty young lady buried in boxes. It was the classic damsel-in-distress scenario as Louis lifted the girl to her feet and she fell into his embrace.
“What about my Mom and Dad, then?
“Your Mom and Dad have oodles of love to work with. Dad just lets some old fears about money get in the way. And Mom just spoils you a bit. But in you, in that little heart, they have given you so much love. And I happen to know just what they really want for Christmas. Don’t you worry.”
Christmas Day, Present Time
Travis McFayden is standing on the sidewalk in front of Prime Purchase and shaking his head. The day is unseasonably bright and the previous week’s snow was starting to melt. To his right, the line of tents and folding chairs stretched again. Louis and his new girlfriend practically skipped out of Prime Purchase, leaving Louis’ tent and belongings behind. The man in front of him in line is the same man that been frozen executing a choke hold on the man in front of him. That man’s daughter was the child pushed out of the way by the mother in front of them. Alas, the tension and animosity was gone. Each consumer seemed to have been outfitted with brand new tents and camping gear. Rather than behaving as if they were gladiators in the Coliseum, these men and women were jovially passing the time as if at a barbecue.
Seeking out his own tent, Travis was flabbergasted at the sight before him. Both his Mom and his Dad lie asleep in each other’s arms. Without a moment’s hesitation, Travis managed to squeeze himself into the middle of a parent sandwich. Bliss had erupted in the unlikeliest of places.
In that instance, another rather tickled individual strode out of the entrance of his store, in full Santa regalia.
“Seasons’ Greetings, shoppers. I am Orson Winkelmeyer, store manager here at Prime Purchase #235. While I am inclined to close this establishment due to it being Christmas, there are a few matters to attend to, I understand. To all employees reporting for duty this morning, go home. It’s Christmas. A bonus will await you all when you return. Please contact your co-workers not scheduled for today and notify them. Finally, my queue of video game fanatics and/or parents of said maniacs. My two little elves have some pieces of paper you might be interested in”
With that said, Gabriel and Denzel stepped out from behind Winkelmeyer. Simultaneously, Roger and Julie McFayden awoke with their beautiful son in their arms. As contented as he was in that position, his parents were under the assumption that this moment was all he’d been waiting for.
By the time, the two elves arrived at the entrance to the McFayden tent.
“Let’s go! Only those with the tickets get the PS3”
At that, Travis poked his head out from the tent flap.
“What are you guys still doing here?”
“Winkelmeyer got all inspired and wanted elves. Considering how hard it would be to hire a pair of midget on such short notice, we agreed to stay.”
Wondering what all the conversation was about, Roger and Julie joined their son and poked their heads out as well.
“Travis, do you know these elves?”
“Oh no, Mom. This one was about to tell a joke.”
Gabriel’s eyes rolled while Denzel’s lit up like Rudolph’s nose.
“Why is Christmas just like a day at the office?”
“I give up” said Travis.
“You do all the work and the fat guy with the suit gets all the credit.”
“I like that one,” laughed Roger.
“I heard that” yelled Winkelmyer. “Carry on, elves”
“He’s even bossier than the real deal” exclaimed Gabriel.
By now, Travis had come out of the tent all together and his parents weren’t far behind. As he started down at the ticket that his elfin friends had given him, he couldn’t help but get giddy feeling in his stomach. The PS3 was going to be so much fun! While his imagination tried to conjure all the different types of games he would get his parents to buy, his peripheral vision was drawn to the wheelchair-bound middle-aged lady who had been knocked over in the riots from the night before. Slowly, with a sigh, she had begun to wheel away.
“Where ya going?” Travis gently asked.
“They were one short on the tickets, I’m afraid.”
“You play video games?”
That gave the lady a hearty gut laugh.
“No, but my grandson does. But his parents don’t have the constitution that your parents have and that I have. I said, sure, it’s just a toy and it’ll be obsolete next year. But I heard about these lines and it sounded like an adventure. Y’know I waited on line for every one of the Star Wars prequels. I even liked Jar Jar Binks. I thought he got a bad break….”
As the lady rambled a bit further, Travis took one look at both his parents in that tent and then another look at his ticket. The PS3 would be back on the market in a couple of weeks. And so, after a night unlike any night he’d ever experienced and his parents holding hands for the first time in his young memory, Travis McFayden passed his ticket onto the outspoken Grandma.
Travis’s parents, quite taken aback, were left speechless.
“Cmon guys, lets pack up and go home. It’s Christmas.”
As the McFaydens took down their tent, Travis looked over at Orson Winkelmeyer and gave him a mini-salute which Winkelmeyer returned. As for Gabriel and Denzel, Travis had to ask:
“Are you guys going to duck behind the building and disappear into magic glitter?”
“No, we’re taking a bus to Hackensack. We have some family up there,” replied Denzel.
As the McFaydens filed through their front door, Roger McFayden lifted his son up and squeezed him as hard as he could.
“Well, kid, what you did back there just took our breath away, your Mom and I. But unfortunately, it really took your Christmas present away.”
“Very funny, dad!”
With much jubilation, Travis dropped from his father’s grip and made it to the base of the tree in leaps and bounds. Under the tree, there was but one box with a folded up letter attached. Tearing the letter off, Travis began to read:
“Dear Travis, I had to split before I got to the grandma. But I knew you had it covered. Enjoy the PS3. Maybe next year we can go head-to-head on Street Fighting Massacre. Love, S.C.”
Rather than dwell on the juicy mystery, Roger and Julie went to work on something Julie had wanted since having Travis and Roger had been afraid of for just as long. Could we provide for two? Are we spoiling the one we have? Can we pay for both to go college? All these questions and more created massive tension in the old Roger, a tension he shared freely with his small family. On this Christmas Day, the McFaydens had somehow been reminded of why Travis really existed and the reason for their marriage.
One Year Later.
What sounded like heated battle in the form of barely contained fits of whispering started to make its way upstairs in the McFayden household. Julie awoke first, but barely. Groggily, she nudged Roger.
“I think your son is flirting with disaster. He’s going to wake Trisha while he’s snooping around the tree.”
Downstairs, in the living room, Travis is merely engaged in mortal combat with none other than Santa Claus, himself. By now, Street Fighting Massacre had spawned a sequel and it was supposed to be one of many presents to open in a few hours on Christmas Morning proper. Yet, as promised, Santa did pay a visit as promised and took up the Player 2 controller with great zeal. Right in the middle of an unstoppable flurry of tornado kicks, Santa was distracted by a sound. The sound was an infant crying for her Mama.
“Ha! It worked!”
“What worked?” said Travis.
“Never mind. You win. I’ve got to split.
“But it’s best 3 out of 5”
“That’s super, kid. Really. But right now, your mom is telling your dad to come check on the baby and I can’t be here. Maybe next year.”
“If it means you taking a trip to my place, we’ll do it. But I got to warn ya, it’s not too fancy a place. An old girlfriend of mine used to say, ‘Love don’t pay the bills.”
“What does Mrs. Claus say?”
“All you need is love, kid. All you need is love.”
Merry Christmas & happy new year from john
Love, love, love, love, love, love, love, love, love.
There's nothing you can do that can't be done.
Nothing you can sing that can't be sung.
Nothing you can say but you can learn how to play the game
There's nothing you can make that can't be made.
No one you can save that can't be saved.
Nothing you can do but you can learn how to be in time
All you need is love, all you need is love,
All you need is love, love, love is all you need.
Love, love, love, love, love, love, love, love, love.
All you need is love, all you need is love,
All you need is love, love, love is all you need.
There's nothing you can know that isn't known.
Nothing you can see that isn't shown.
Nowhere you can be that isn't where you're meant to be.
All you need is love, all you need is love,
All you need is love, love, love is all you need.
All you need is love (all together now)
All you need is love (everybody)
All you need is love, love, love is all you need.