Sometimes I like to slide down the chimney if they have one. All dolled up in the fuckin suit. You know – do it up big like Christmas morning. Pop out, full of fuckin soot, coughin like a motherfucker. Not that they ever notice. Johnny sittin on the couch, workin on his fourteenth beer. Sees me there while he’s watchin the news or watchin the Late Show. Sometimes they think they’re dreamin. Other times they think they’re bein robbed. This one time, this real rat-lookin fucker actually came out of the bedroom, saw me standin there, and he said – I swear to Christ he actually said – “But it’s only August.” And me coughin soot and coughin smoker’s cough, standin there with my big bag of presents slung over my shoulder. Nothin in it but a shotgun.
I can’t help but think I’m gettin too old for this shit. Always runnin from cops and whatnot. Freezin my balls off in the winter up at the north pole, listenin to that old cunt wife of mine bitch about how I never do anything around the house. Knees all shot to shit. Man my age should be retired and he should be sippin whiskey all fuckin day in one of them big-ass lawn chairs. Some beach in Tahiti. Should have a drink in my hand at all times. Blowjobs performed by the natives upon request.
Instead I’m still doin this shit. Make the toys in the fall and winter, deliver them by Christmas, clean up the shop and restart the lists in spring. In the summer I murder people.
Always had a special place in my heart for Rollin Falls. I caught the clap from this girl named Mary-Anne here, bout thirty years back, in a whorehouse right across the street from a place called Diamonds. Bitch made me wear a condom too. Then right when I was in the middle of fuckin her, right when I was in a delicate state of mind, she told me for an extra fifty I could take it off and fuck her raw, the way God intended. Couldn’t say no. Money well spent, I figured. Always wanted to put a hole in that bitch’s head. But she wasn’t on the list.
Billy was on the list. Been on it for a while, but I never got around to him. Wish I’d gotten to him sooner, but it’s a long list.
I found Billy in a bar in late September, around midnight, sittin on the closest stool to the wall all by his lonesome. And me with the shotgun, sawed-off, strapped to my leg under a trench coat. I pulled up a stool next to him and ordered whiskey and water.
“Too early to be cold as it is,” I said to Billy and to no one.
He looked over at me and nodded from behind his beer, and then he turned away again, looked up at the television.
Ain’t much else to tell about Billy. I talked to him for a while and soon enough I showed him the shotgun. Said I aimed to kill him with it. All he said to that was, “Is that so?” Almost like he didn’t believe me, or maybe like he believed me but didn’t care a hell of a lot. I pulled out my list and put on my glasses – scanned the list for his name, and there it was: William Victor Conway, Rollin Falls. Wonder if he cared when I levelled the shotgun to his temple and blew spaghetti brains out the opposite side of his face.
Sometimes I like to say “Merry Christmas” or some shit like that, right before the end. Keeps it entertainin for me. Gives the witnesses somethin to talk to the reporters about.
Billy’s family took his death hard, the way families have a habit of doin. Can’t say I relate – my old lady’s a cunt bitch and I wouldn’t much mind if someone put an ounce or two of lead in her fat ass. Just bein honest. Thought about doin it myself a time or two. But she was never on the list.
I went to Billy’s house a week after the I blew his head off. Maybe it was longer than that. Long enough that the rest of the family and friends weren’t really hangin around anymore. Not overnight, anyway. There was a chimney on the roof but I opted for the front door. Had my bag slung over my shoulder. Dolled up in the suit.
It was dead of night and the place was dark. I turned on a light and helped myself to the refrigerator. Still plenty of funeral food left over, even all this time later. I picked out a few sandwiches and poured me a glass of milk and went over to the table. I waited there. I ate.
Before long I heard footsteps creaking down the stairs in the next room. I finished the last sandwich and dusted the crumbs off the front of my suit. Pulled my hat down over what was left of my hair to hide that I hadn’t showered since before the night I found Billy.
“Mom?” Cody’s tiny voice came from the living room. I remained silent and I waited. Soon enough Cody came through the doorway, immediately shieldin his eyes from the light. “I had a bad dream,” he said. I already knew that of course.
But I wasn’t his mother.
I said, “It’s alright.”
Slowly, the boy pulled his arm down and squinted. When his eyes adjusted, when he recognized me, his face lit up. For a time he was too shocked to say anything, so he just stood there with his father’s eyes and a wide open smile, shakin like he might piss all over his jammies.
“Santa?” he said.
I let out a small chuckle. Waved him over.
“Why are you here?” he asked. He climbed up on my lap without care, like I was just another shopping mall impostor.
“I was in the neighborhood,” I said. “Heard you been havin a tough lately.”
His smile faded.
I said, “I know.” Sighed. “I know all about it. But I got somethin for you.”
“But it’s not Christmas.”
“It don’t have to be Christmas.”
First things first. I reached inside my suit and pulled out my list and ran a finger down it until I found Cody’s name. Cody Nathanial Conway, Rollins Falls. And then with another sigh I put it back inside my suit. I reached for the bag.
Cody’s bright eyes watched my every movement. His body shook. Couldn’t believe Santa was right here in his kitchen this time of year. Can’t say I blame him. I don’t generally do house calls.
From the bag I produced a snowglobe and I held it up for him. It wasn’t the kind of thing a child of this new millennium finds appealing. Cody’s face turned perplexed. But he stared at it all the same.
“What is it?” he said.
“It’s the north pole. Here.”
He took it from my hands and shook it, and together we watched the snow scatter and float down over the tiny town within. He wished it could do more, I knew – but then, Cody’d wished for a lot of things.
“You know, Cody, I can see you when you’re sleeping.”
He stared at the globe.
“And I know when you’re awake.” I waited to see if he’d respond, but he didn’t. I put my hand on his arm and leaned around to see his face.
In another life Cody’s old man, Billy, he might not have been such a bad guy. Might have just been regular. But when he was a boy he had this uncle that stayed over with the family every now and again, and some nights, after Billy’s parents fell asleep, he’d pay Billy visits. Climbed into bed with him and called it a camp out. You see, the thing about diddlers is they inherit that shit. It’s like a fuckin disease. Billy’s uncle passed it on to Billy like someone had passed it on to him. I found Billy’s uncle in ’78 at a place called Diamonds that was situated right across the street from a whorehouse that still makes my dick burn to think about. Part of me always wished I’d gone lookin for Billy sooner. Before he had a chance to pass it on to someone else.
“I know,” I said to Cody. “I know. And I know you don’t feel as sad as you think you should right now. I know you’re pretendin. But that’s okay, Cody. You don’t have to feel sad. You don’t have to feel anythin.”
Finally, he turned those blue eyes up at me – his father’s eyes.
I said, “Just look at the way the snow falls.”
He cried noiselessly, wordlessly. I’d seen it before. I’d seen it a million times. There are things you can’t really comprehend till you’re older, till your emotions grow filters. When you’re six it’s hard to understand how sometimes you can’t trust the people you’re supposed to trust the most, and how the people you do the most damage to (and vice versa) are the people you love, and how sometimes you can love and hate the same person at the same time.
“Look at the Snow, Cody,” I whispered, and then I leaned down to reach back inside my bag. Just one thing left in there. “Now you hold still.”
– – – – –
Bio: D. Frederick Cook is an aspiring novelist living a nomadic gypsy lifestyle in various parts of Eastern Canada. Currently based in Summerside, Prince Edward Island, by night Cook plays online poker professionally, which allows him to devote his days entirely to the construction of his first novel. Cook is also the author of several short stories he hopes to publish soon, the first of which appears above.