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Printed from https://www.writing.com/main/view_item/item_id/2239349-The-Gift-of-the-Start
Rated: 18+ · Short Story · Contest Entry · #2239349
My submission for What A Character 2020 WDC
[Google Docs word count: 2000]

“Excuse me,” said Santa. “What are you doing here?”
A man in a black jacket and dark auburn turtleneck sweater turned to him and pointed to himself.
“Me?” said the man.
“Yes, you,” said Santa. “You’re the only one standing there. You. What are you doing here?”
“Well, why do you ask?” said the man.
“You’re awfully close to my station and you’re looking suspicious,” said Santa. “I’m thinking you may flip out and kill a soccer mom.”
“You don’t have to worry about that,” said the man, turning towards Santa penitently.
“Why’s that?” said Santa.
“Because I’m here to kill a child,” said the man.
“What?” said Santa.
Santa’s whole body contorted at those words. It was as if this meek, strange man had, in a single sentence, reversed every deeply-held belief that had ever occurred to him. Sitting there, Santa looked like he was at odds with himself and the world around him.
“What do you mean ‘What?’” said the man. “Did you not hear? The customers are all safe. It’s the kid I want to kill.”
Just then, Santa was out of breath. Vacillating between extremes, he seemed to be looking for a way to escape this situation even-handedly.
“Look, did you just say that you were here to kill a child?” said Santa, adjusting his glasses. “Is that what I just heard you say?”
The man looked at him puzzled, as if he didn’t think it would be taken in quite such a way. Santa pointed to the floor as he spoke, leaving no doubt that he was laying down the law.
“Not a full adult,” said the man. “Only half one - a quarter, really.”
“A quarter?” said Santa. “Have you gone completely stark raving mad? What is this? Is this some kind of joke?”
Just then, the man opened the side of his jacket and revealed a Tek-9 hidden underneath. Santa gasped in anger.
“You’ve got a bloody Tek-9 in Santa’s playhouse?” said Santa. “Ooh, what is wrong with you? Are you okay? I assure you that this is not a joke. You do know you’re serious?”
“I know, but the kid doesn’t,” said the man, replacing his jacket.
“Oh, the kid doesn’t,” said Santa. “You sound like Scarface the Musical.”
“That kid’s going to look like Scarface when I find him,” said the man.
“Who on earth would possibly need a Tek-9 to take out a bloody toddler?”, said Santa. “Is he in the Matrix or something?”
“I swear it’s not what you think it is,” said the man, looking over his shoulder at the door to the department store.
“You just said you were here to kill a toddler!” said Santa. “Are you sure you know what language you’re speaking?”
“Yes, I’m sure,” said the man. “That’s the point.”
“Well what - what about the boy’s parents?” said Santa.
“Parents?” said the man.
“Yes, every boy has parents,” said Santa. “Don’t you know that?”
“Yes, I do,” said the man. “But the thing you don’t understand is that the boy - this boy - he doesn’t have any.”
“What?” said Santa, incredulous.
“Yes, you see, his parents left him three years ago,” said the man. “They didn’t even want him. So, as far as I can see, it’s good riddance.”
Santa erupted at the thought of this. He lifted his arms as if to give up on life.
“Good riddance!” said Santa. “What on earth are you talking about? Good riddance?”
“Yes,” said the man. “Good riddance.”
“Well what?” said Santa. “Tell me, what has this boy done?”
“What?” said the man, looking behind him again.
“I said, what has he done?” said Santa.
“Quiet, he’s here,” said the man.
“Oh, for the love of,” said Santa. “What are you doing?”
“Make it look like I don’t know you,” said the man.
“I don’t know you,” said Santa. “That’s the problem. Now what are you really doing here?”
“I came to kill a child and he’s here,” said the man. “Don’t tip him off.”
“Well if you came to kill him, then what are you waiting for?” said Santa. “And put me out of my misery while you’re at it.”
“I need context,” said the man. “This act must not be taken out of context.”
“What context?” said Santa.
Just then, two middle-aged white men in black trench coats approached them from an oblique angle, hidden by merchandisers. One of them was speaking into his lapel as he moved. Both looked dangerous.
“Oh, why thank you,” said Santa. “It is the authorities. I am so happy to see you.”
“Are you Santa?” one of the men said, completely bypassing the prospective murderer.
“Do I not look like a Santa?” said Santa. “I’m certainly not blushing through my clothes, if that’s what you mean.”
“Santa, we’re with the FBI,” said one man, holding up a badge. “I’m agent Freeny and this is agent Johnson. Would you please come with us?”
“Me?” said Santa. “Me? Why me?”
“Mr. Santa, we got a tipoff on a private line that someone was planning on murdering an orphan at Santa’s workshop,” said one of the agents. “You fit the description of the killer.”
“I can’t believe this, not for one minute,” said Santa. “Might I ask what this description was that I supposedly fit?”
The two agents looked at each other for a moment, then back at Santa. The prospective murderer tried to look busy.
“Five-foot-six, rotund and jolly,” said the agent.
“Jolly?” said Santa. “He actually said Jolly and you believed him?”
“It certainly fits,” said the agent.
“This is ridiculous,” said Santa. “I want my lawyer.”
“I’m sorry, Santa,” said the agent, “but citizens of the North Pole don’t have the same legal rights as the usual murderer.”
“I have murdered no one,” said Santa. “This is preposterous.”
“That’s exactly why we’re here,” said the second agent. “Now you’re going to come with us into the break room and we’re going to investigate you. If you don’t check out…”
The second agent made a certain gesture that portended the young man’s doom. All around, families gathered, trying to see what Santa had done. It was a pity to see such a good man go. With a smile and a nod, Santa followed the men into the break room, which left the prospective murderer alone to complete his true objective. He looked around, trying to see if they were gone. Had it worked? Was he truly in control?
Just then, he looked around and saw that a small boy was standing behind him, looking like he wanted candy.
“Go away, kid,” said the man. “I’m busy.”
“Are you Santa?” said the boy, hugging his teddy bear.
“Do I look like a Santa?” said the man. “Now go back to your family. That’s right, you don’t have a family. Now, go back to your...test tubes or whatever.”
“You are Santa!” said the boy, gasping initially. “You probably got my fax.”
“No, no, no,” said the man. “I didn’t get your fax, I got this.”
The man then showed the side of his Tek-9 under his jacket. The boy looked in amazement at its shiny surface.
“Now…”
By the time the man had uttered his words, the boy was already wrapping him in his own embrace.
“What!” said the man, regaining his balance. “Why are you hugging me?”
“You knew!” said the boy. “You knew that I wanted a jet black nerf gun for Christmas. You - you were there. But I won’t accept it unless you climb down my chimney.”
“You should show some respect, young man,” said the man. “I’ve got a lot of children to visit this holiday season and I don’t prioritize little boys who sneak little chocolates from the cupboard at night.”
The boy looked on in shock.
Meanwhile, Santa sat in his interrogation, looking meaner than ever. The sweat made streaks in his holy makeup, creating a sense of urgency and longing for an earlier time. As Santa sat there, rocking back and forth in his seat, he looked as if this suffering was just another sign that life was always changing and making a new start. Just then, there was a knock at the door.
The stern interrogator looked up and went to open it. As he opened it, a woman in a bright red - and white uniform walked in, carrying a red picnic basket in her left hand.
“Who are you?” said the interrogator.
“I’m his wife,” said the woman.
“What are you doing here?” said the interrogator, pointing his finger.
“Anticipating marital bliss, as always,” said the woman.
“Well anticipate no more,” said the man. “Do as I say or you take the fall.”
Mrs. Claus walked into the room, holding her basket between her two hands as if she were in the countryside looking for a horse.
“What?” said Santa. “Have you come to accuse me also?”
“Oh, don’t bother your smiling,” said Mrs. Claus. “I’ve only come to ask you where we’ve parked.”
“I’d use my GPS, but it gets terrible reception in this store,” said Santa. “I’ve brought it up to the manager.”
“Why are you holding him?” said Mrs. Claus, looking up at the interrogator.
“He’s a murderer,” said the interrogator. “Caught him just in the nick of time.”
“But he hasn’t done anything yet,” said Mrs. Clause.
“I know,” said the interrogator. “A diplomatic issue, then.”
“I tell you he’s innocent!” said Mrs. Claus. “You must let him go. Mustn’t you?”
“What are you really?” said the interrogator. “Are you his prisoner? His slave? Are you his dirty maid?”
Mrs. Claus looked at her husband tersely. As she did, Santa shook his head harriedly, indicating that now was not the time for humor.
Out in Santa's workshop, there was a line of 20 children standing in front of the prospective murderer. One by one, the boys stepped forward as the man listened to the pleas with his arms folded, head cocked to one side.
“Did you get a new style coach?” said one boy. “A new trainer?”
“They all come to me,” said the man. “Next!”
At the end of the show, a group of soccer moms forced him into a group conversation next to a stack of presents while their children ripped up the store. The woman chatted as the man stood there, his head cocked to the side. Suddenly, one of the mothers grabbed his shoulder in a reassuring fashion.
In the interrogation room, Santa was having a playdate with ultimate destruction.
“Look, I’ve told you,” said Santa. “I left my murdering pants in the car and I can’t find the car. What is my motive?”
“You seem mighty confident for someone who walks around in blood-red clothing and hides his face under a beard,” said the interrogator.
“Don’t pull the beard,” said Santa. “It is real. I am not hiding my face. It is biological. These things and more you shall know. What are my rights?”
“You get top bunk,” said the interrogator. “In come presents, out come cookies. You know the drill.”
“Well, what if Santa isn’t real?” said Santa. “What if Santa is just a fake idea created for my own pleasure and for the ease of parents.”
“No way,” said the interrogator. “You’re not getting off that easy.”
“Well, then,” said Santa. “You’ve got me. I’ve tried to live an upright life. Tried to be successful where I could. But sometimes you just have to face the music and fess up.”
“You’re going to make a confession?” said the interrogator. “Right here? Right now?”
“Yes, I will,” said Santa. “My confession is that you are both incredibly immature and mildly annoying. Your hair is too slick, your shoes too rough. I’ve known people in the North Pole like you. Never liked their attitudes.”
“Santa,” said the man. “I’m not going to ask you-”
“For your gift?” siad Santa. “The one you’ve been wanting?”
The interrogator was dumbfounded.

© Copyright 2020 John Andrew Jenkins (johnjenkins at Writing.Com). All rights reserved.
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