I am trying to catch up with my story a week. Five weeks in January, so I should have five stories posted after tomorrows. Sadly this is not the case. So you get two really bad stories today. This one I am five kinds of uncomfortable with, but oh well.
A Shopping Mall Santa
Discovers a conspiracy
An Old Coat
The little girl on his lap shifted her weight as she described the LOLZ doll of her dreams. Danny sighed as she went on about the importance of the right hair color in the doll. His plush red pants began to feel a bit warm on his thigh, but just in one spot. Shit.
He waved to Carolyn, the elf who was corralling parents and taking the expensive polaroids for those who were not tech-savvy enough to take a photo with their overpriced phones. Carolyn nodded and turned around the sign. On one side it said “A Visit with Santa.” while on the other, it said, “Santa is feeding the reindeer.” Underneath there were clock hands and she moved the hands to reflect that Santa would be back in fifteen minutes.
“What? He just got here?” the woman at the front of the line said. “There are only four children left in line. Why can’t the damn reindeer wait fifteen minutes instead of these children?” She turned and waved at the other mothers in the line, who all nodded their agreement.
The little girl on Danny’s lap got up and he inspected the dark circle on his thigh. This was the third time this week someone peed on him. Maybe it wasn’t worth the twenty dollars an hour. The woman in front of the line was speaking with an ever-increasing volume. “This isn’t fair. We’ve been waiting for ten minutes.” She waved to Danny. He pointed to the wet spot on his pants. Surely she did not want her precious child to sit on that. But as he started walking toward the mall office suite where the Santa Locker room was, the woman was now yelling at Carolyn and calling the little girl with the weak bladder a “stupid n****r.” Maybe he should turn around and help Carolyn? Nah, the call of dry pants was louder than an upset mother. He picked up his pace so he could get to the locker room before the woman followed him.
A piece of paper was taped to the door, “Santa’s Locker Room.” Danny opened the door and walked into a large janitor’s closet with a metal cabinet where his street clothes hung next to the other, older Santa suit. After changing, he stepped back into the hall and nearly ran over his boss, the mall manager. “Sorry Greg, was in a hurry to get back…”
“And save your elf friend?” Greg laughed. “Those moms are vicious. She is the fourth elf I have hired this week.”
Danny stopped. “Did she quit?” His heart skipped a beat, she was the cutest elf he had worked with. Hell, she was the cutest girl who ever talked to him, period.
“No, she is a tough one. But I had to talk to her about calling customers racists while they are waiting to give us money.”
Danny started to say that the woman did say some things, but Greg cut him off.
“Always wait until you have their money in your till before you call them names, right?” He winked at Danny. “Anyway, when you are done tonight, you should come over to the old 5-7-9 store. We’ve kind of taken it over. Women have the women’s club and their little leagues. So we started our own men’s club.”
Danny nodded. An invitation? To go hang out with real men, not the frat boys from the stupid junior college? Hell yes. “The 5-7-9?”
“It’s a few doors down from Macy’s. The door will be ajar, just come on in, after you change, of course. Can’t have anyone sneaking pics of Santa drinking whiskey, can we?” Greg slapped Danny on the back.
The night was looking up. This would make up for the wet blotch on his pants. He went back to his throne and spend the next two hours listening to a few children try to convince him that he just had to bring them the latest PS5 system while their mothers mouthed “no!” But he wasn’t really paying attention to either.
“You need to snap out of it,” Carolyn said after a child crawled off his lap and scampered of. “You just told a child he needed to get better grades if he wanted an Xbox.”
Danny shrugged. “Every kid needs better grades. It’s not hurting anything.” He looked at his watch. 8:45. “Hey, there is no one in line, let’s shut down early. Little kids shouldn’t be out this late anyway.”
Carolyn looked at him and arched her eyebrow. “What, you got a hot date after work?” She was kind of cute when she did that. KInd of cute? Who was he kidding. She was the hottest girl who ever talked to Danny.
“Just meeting up with some friends.” No need to tell her that he hadn’t really met any of them yet. He was sure they would all be great friends, mostly because they weren’t those stuck up frat boys. The ones who didn’t give him the time of day in classes or in the dorm. They were probably just like the kids in high school, who only spoke to him when calling him Willie and asking if he needed to be freed. So done with them.
The door to the old 5-7-9 store was slightly ajar when Danny got there. He opened it wider and peeked in. It wasn’t a store he would ever dream of entering when it was open. His sister used to call it the tiny slut store and he wished it was literally true. That would be a terrific product and a service to boys like him who were too afraid of rejection to ask out real girls.
The clothing was gone, but the racks remained, the bones of the store sticking out along the sides of the space. In the center, there were three card tables. Greg sat at one of them. He held up and clear plastic cup of amber fluid, “Bar is over there at the sales counter. Help yourself.” He turned back to the intricate design of dominos in front of him. Danny walked over to the sales counter and it’s three half-empty bottles. He picked up a clear plastic cup. What would he like? Jack Daniels? Wild Turkey? Makers? His Baptist family believed alcohol was of the devil, so he had no idea. The Jack Daniels label looked familiar, maybe from a friend’s house? What a loser he was, never drinking in high school. He poured a half a cup of the Jack Daniels.
“Rough night there, Santa?” A man came up next to him and refilled his cup with an inch or so of Wild Turkey.
Damn, he didn’t do it right. “Had a kid pee all over me again.”
The man laughed. “One of those welfare kids, right? They don’t get taught how to act in public.”
Danny wasn’t sure what he meant by welfare kids but was afraid to ask. “Yeah, my mom would say some people just had a poor home life.”
“That’s no excuse. I grew up poor and I knew to not pee on Santa. Entitled, that’s what these goddam people are. Just down the mall from your little Santa’s workshop, there’s the damn Angel Tree. Presents for kids whose parents are in prison. If they want their kids to have Christmas presents, maybe they shouldn’t sell drugs and go to jail.” The man held out his huge hand. “Bubba Smith.”
Danny was a big guy, but his hand felt dwarfed as he shook hands. “Danny Johnson.”
“You’re Keith Johnson’s boy, right?”
“I’ve been trying to get your dad to come join us. It looks like we are just a bunch of no-names sitting around shooting the bull, but we are doing good work here. We are getting ready to save America.”
“Save America?” Danny asked, “from what?”
“Not what, son, who! Those goddam communists. They want to give everyone free shit. Free medicine, free college, free food. My daddy always said there was no such thing as a free lunch. They rope you in with free shit, then they take away guns, they take away freedom. Shit, they stole the election from our man, Trump.”
Danny was taking a poly sci class about the federal government this semester. He heard enough about the election there, he wasn’t sure he wanted to talk about it outside of school. But skinny Professor Chavez didn’t say anything about a stolen election. Just that it was close. “Stole the election?”
Another man jumped up from the domino game. “Don’t they teach you nothin’ at the fancy college of yours?”
“Now Junior, give the boy some space. He’s here, learning.” Bubba turned back to Danny, “The news isn’t covering it, but they were harvesting ballots, letting dead people vote, and throwing decent people’s votes out in the trash. Trump’s people are taking it all to court. No way Biden won.”
“Yeah! And they made up that whole COVID hoax so they could justify people not voting in person. Ain’t nothing but the flu. But those scaredy-cats have to vote by mail, because covid. Americans vote in person.” Spittle flew out of Junior’s mouth as he spoke, baptizing Danny into the club.
Danny wiped his face. Bubba and Junior were so sure of what they thought, what they knew. But Professor Chavez was also sure about what he said, and none of it matched what the men here were preaching. Because it was preaching, they were evangelizing Danny as if he were a stranger at a Baptist church.
“Anyway,” Bubba said, “We already heard from National leadership. They want us all to come to DC on January 6th, to come support President Trump. Because no way in hell will Biden be sworn in. He will not steal this from us.”
“Three more days, can you make it Santa?” Carolyn adjusted her elf suit and started tapping computer keys.
There was no one in line yet. “Three more days, yeah, we can do it.” Danny sat down on the throne. “Although, I will kind of miss this.”
“I guess it’s nice to be the star of the holiday,” Carolyn said.
“More than that, there’s like this men’s club that meets in one of the shut stores. Just guys playing cards, drinking, shooting the bull.” Danny watched for Carolyn’s reaction. There was none. “There are things that they don’t say on the news, that Professor Chavez didn’t say in class. The election was stolen. Trump really won.”
Carolyn laughed. “Oh, Danny, they are playing with you. The election was fair and square. Trump is just throwing a little fit because he lost.”
“It’s President Trump, Carolyn, you should be more respectful of the president of the United States.” It felt good to come to the president’s defense.
“Danny, you can’t be serious. You were in class, Professor Chavez went through the whole process. It was a fair election.”
Danny stood up. “It was stolen. The whole world will know the truth. It will be exposed to all on January 6th. We are going to Washington DC to make sure that the votes are counted correctly. We are going to stop the steal.”
Carolyn’s face lost its color. “We? Who is We, Danny?”
“Me and my friends in the men’s club. We are just gonna sit around and mope about it. We are going to do something. We are going to take advantage of the rights we have, the rights Professor talked about. The right to assembly. The right to bear arms.”
Carolyn was even paler. “You can’t do that, Danny, you can’t attack the capitol.”
“It’s a legitimate protest. We’ll just be armed in case the Antifa gangs give us any trouble.” Antifa was one of Danny’s biggest fears. And to think he just heard about them a few weeks ago. He was learning more from Junior than he ever learned from Professor wetback.