Not your usual Christmas story
JOEY VERSUS SANTA
Not Your Usual Christmas Story
Joey lay in bed with his eyes wide open, staring at the ceiling. Outside the night was moonless, and the only noise was the sound of the willow tree's long wispy branches brushing against his bedroom window. He knew he should be asleep, that his parents thought he was asleep, but that wasn't going to happen on this night.
He had other things on his agenda.
He was thinking about what he had done this last year. He was fairly sure he'd been a good boy, but a whole year was a long time to remember, no matter how old you were. There were a lot of good things that he remembered, or at least he thought he did, but unfortunately, there were a few bad things that seemed to stand out even more. The time-outs in the corner worried him. But he'd been caught for those infractions, so did they really count? Didn't that punishment cancel those out? And what about the times he didn't get caught? Did that jolly old fellow up there at the North Pole know about the times when he fed his carrots to the dog under the dinner table? Or when he threw that rock through old Mrs. Hansen's window and then ran away? Or when he killed that dumb little girl Jenny down the block and then dragged her lifeless body down to the river because she'd called him a 'Butt Head'?
She had that coming, didn't she?
Ah, the vivid imagination of a six-year-old is a wonderful thing.
Actually, he sort of liked Jenny. He thought she was pretty with her curly blonde pigtails and that cute little laugh. But calling him a 'Butt Head' in front of his friends was more than he could take.
Therefore, she had to suffer the consequences.
Problem was, did Santa know? Surely he couldn't be watching all the boys and girls all the time.
Well, there was only one real way to find out; tonight he would wait up for Santa and confront him on the spot, because he was going to get his presents one way or the other.
Even if it meant eliminating the jolly old man.
Joey reached under his pillow and gripped the handle of the 16 inch carving knife he'd snuck out of his mother's kitchen earlier that night. It felt good in his hand. He figured one good swipe at the red suited guy's throat would do it, and then he would take his sack and run away, having more than enough toys than he could play with in his entire lifetime.
Downstairs, the silence was suddenly broken by the grandfather clock banging out its bells. He counted them on his fingers, and when he thought he'd counted twelve he slowly climbed out of bed. He didn't know exactly when Santa would arrive, but he didn't want to miss his grand entrance. Santa was sneaky, sly, and clever, the way he could just come and go. But Joey was sneakier, slyer, and cleverer.
With his weapon in hand, he cautiously crept down the stairs, being ever so careful not to wake Mom and Pop. If they foiled his plans, he might not get any presents ever again. Knowing the third stair from the bottom squeaked, he stealthily stepped over it and entered the capacious living room.
His eyes first went to the Christmas tree, its limbs festively adorned with colorful lights and bulbs of all sizes and shapes. But there were no presents underneath, which meant that Santa had not yet arrived.
Then he looked at the fireplace. On the hearth was a glass of milk and a plate of chocolate chip cookies he and his Mom had made earlier in the day for their nocturnal visitor. Of course there was no fire, which just strengthened his belief that Santa did indeed have weaknesses. If he was vulnerable to fire, then he most likely would be vulnerable to a severed jugular vein.
Taking the plate of cookies, Joey climbed into his Pop's overstuffed recliner and waited for the bearded intruder to make his appearance.
The time was 12:05, and Joey helped himself to a cookie.
There was only five left.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Almost two hours later, a heavy snow had begun to fall as Santa pulled his sleigh to a stop on the roof of 471 Darvin Street. He wasn't as jolly as he knew he should have been. It had already been a very long night, and there were still two billion people awaiting their gifts. Pulling a list from an inside pocket of his thick red suit, he checked the names and status of the occupants of the house.
"Hmm. The Quizzlewinkers, eh? Mom, Pop and Joey. What an interesting name, wouldn't you say, Comet?"
Comet turned his head back to his elderly owner. "I've got a bad feeling about this place, Santa."
Santa went back to his list. "You could be right, Comet. Says here he thinks he killed a little girl. Oh, and he also fed his carrots to his dog under the table and threw a rock through some lady's window."
"This kid sounds like trouble, Santa," Vixen chimed in. "You better be careful."
Santa scratched his beard and put the list back in his pocket. He'd dealt with kids of this nature before, ever since he took the job so many, many years ago. A lot of them thought they could get away with their misdeeds, regardless of how insubstantial they were. And that was true not too long ago, before the advancement of technology brought satellites, computers and global positioning devices into the realm of human civilization. But these days all of the children's naughty and nice records were automatically delivered and recorded instantly into the new Dell megagooglehertz, gigagooglebyte PC he'd given himself as a Christmas present a few years back.
So there was no hiding anything from Santa anymore.
"I don't think he'll be too much trouble," he said, patting the small bulge on his hip. "After all, he only thinks he killed that little girl."
"Are you sure we shouldn't call for backup?" asked a voice from further up the line. It was Donner, the oldest of the bunch.
Santa brushed the snow off of his suit. "No, no," he said with a sly smile. "I'm sure I can take care of this myself."
And with three quick winks of his eyes the chubby old man disappeared, leaving Vixen to comment, "He forgot his sack again."
"I don't think he's going to need it for this kid," replied Prancer.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Joey was sound asleep in his Pop's chair, his innocent young mind dreaming of the inevitable confrontation he and this purported 'St.' Nick would soon have. But there were other elements to the dream as well; sugar plums, a melting witch, and a desperate angel trying to earn his wings were all somehow intertwined with his murderous intentions.
He didn't even wake up when Santa suddenly appeared in the living room surrounded by a glittering golden glow. In his hand was a fully loaded, Glock semi-automatic 9 millimeter pistol.
"Hello, Joey," the white haired man said. He was a good ten feet away, but he kept the gun aimed in Joey's general vicinity just in case.
Joey stirred for a moment, then sat up and rubbed his eyes, wondering where he was. At first he thought he was still dreaming, but then he saw the gun in the old man's hand. His eyes widened, not so much from the sight of the pistol, but from the reality of actually seeing Santa Claus. It wasn't because he didn't believe in him, but in the back of his mind he just didn't think he'd ever come face to face with the legend.
A few seconds of uncomfortable silence passed until Santa said in a rhetorical voice: "What's that on your lap there, Joey?"
Joey looked down and saw the plate of cookies, of which there was only one left. From the corner of his eye he could also see the well-honed blade on the table beside his pop's chair.
Does he know? he asked himself. His mind was racing. Does he know I killed Jenny?
Without waiting for his own answer, Santa took three steps forward and stopped. He wasn't as big and fat as Joey had pictured him, but he was still a towering figure, even from this distance. "Is that cookie for me?" he asked, gesturing the pistol torward Joey's lap.
Joey didn't know if Santa had seen the knife, and now he wasn't even sure if he wanted to use it. Then he remembered his commitment to himself, about having all the toys he would ever want for the rest of his life. But he'd lost the upper hand in this game, and he sensed that Santa was about to pounce. He had to think of a new plan, and fast. But just as his thoughts started to formulate an idea, they were interrupted.
"Are you going to answer any of my questions, young man?" Santa asked. It was obvious he was becoming irritated; his two bushy eyebrows were creased into one by the furl of his brow.
Joey knew he had to say something. Anything. He felt like a mouse caught in a corner by some ferocious feline, namely a lion.
"I'm sorry, sir," he said, trying to sound as apologetic as he possibly could. In reality, his plan was starting to come together. "I'm just so surprised to actually see you. A lot of people don't think you exist."
Santa seemed to relax a little at that, which in turn relaxed Joey. If it weren't for all that hair on his face, Joey thought he might have been able to see a grin under there.
He held out the plate with the one remaining cookie for old Kris, Black Peter, Kanakaloka, or whatever he was called, and the rotund giant approached, lowering his weapon, as well as his guard.
That's right, old fella. Come get the cookie. Just a little bit closer, a little bit closer...
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Up on the rooftop the reindeer were playing their usual reindeer games. But they were also getting a little worried.
Dasher: "Is it bigger than a bread box?"
Cupid: "How many legs does it have?"
Blitzen: "Four. I wonder what's taking him so long?"
Dancer: " I don't know, but I wish he'd hurry up. I really need to take a leak!"
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
As Santa bent down to take the plate from Joey's left hand, Joey's right hand went immediately for the knife, while at the same time his foot kicked out in an attempt to dislodge the gun from Santa's old wrinkled fingers. He managed to secure the knife, but his leg was too short and Santa was too quick, and the geezer was far out of reach before Joey had a chance to swing the cold steel.
For a few seconds they just stared at each other, until the larger one said, "What's wrong with you, boy?"
"What's wrong with me?" the smaller one asked. "What's wrong with you? You're the one who broke in here with a gun!" He waved the knife around threateningly, as though it were any match for the speed of a bullet. "You know, don't you? You know about Jenny!"
Santa shook his head pitifully. The plate with the cookie on it had fallen to the floor at the foot of the chair. Now it looked like he wouldn't have his sugary treat after all.
"Yes, Joey," the merry man said with a touch of remorse. "I do know. I know that you think you killed Jenny."
A puzzled expression came across the younger one's face. What's this old fart trying to do? he thought. Play mind games with me?
"What do you mean I 'think' I killed Jenny? I was there! I watched me do it!"
Santa lowered his gun. Of all the youngsters he'd encountered in his time, this little urchin was probably the worst, including that Bonaparte kid. This boy obviously had problems, and Santa decided it would be best if they were nipped in the bud before he grew up and began acting on his irrational thoughts.
"Son, I know you don't understand this at this young of an age, but you're delusional. You need help. Professional help."
"You think I'm on drugs, don't you?"
" No, no. I just think — I know — you think you killed Jenny. But this is a rough time of year for all of us right now. Especially for children with overactive imaginations. Jenny is fine. In fact, I just dropped off her presents right before I got here."
"You lie!" Joey screamed as he climbed out of the chair. "I killed her, and now I'm going to kill you!" He made a running dash at the costumed invader, but once again the old man was too fast. When the lad was almost upon him, he reached into his pocket and tossed a handful of glittering, golden Christmas dust into the child's face, stopping him in his tracks.
"What the—" Joey said, dropping the knife. The room started spinning around...
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
When Joey regained consciousness, he heard voices—strange, high-pitched voices. They seemed to be everywhere, and when he opened his eyes he saw that he was surrounded by a small crowd of dwarfs dressed in red and green vesture. They were all staring at him curiously and whispering to each other.
"What...what happened?" he asked as he tried to sit up.
One of the dwarfs put a hand on his shoulder and gently pushed him back down on his elbows. "Whoa there, Joey. Take it easy."
"That's me," said the dwarf with a twinkle in his eye. "You took a pretty good bump on the head."
Joey ran his fingers through his scalp. "Ouch," he cried as he found the small lump.
"How are you feeling?" asked another of the dwarfs.
Joey immediately recognized the voice. It belonged to Sparkle. As he surveyed the room, he saw the rest of his co-workers: Sassafras, Mistletoe, Feldspar, Bell, Holly, and the twins, Jingle and Jangle. Even Pepper Minstix was there.
"I'm alright, I guess. How long was I out?"
"Only for a," Jingle said.
"Few minutes," finished Jangle.
Mistletoe came over and gave him a kiss on the forehead.
"I just had the strangest dream..." Joey said.
Feldspar crossed his arms and gave him a big smile. "Well, the good news is that we finished loading Santa's sleigh and he just took off, so we're all done for the year."
Joey almost started to tell his friends about the dream, but then he thought better of it. If they heard it, they might tell Santa and he could be suspended.
Later that night as he lay in his bed, Joey felt one of his teeth coming loose.
Which reminded him of something:
He was going to have to have a little talk with that cheapskate Tooth Fairy.