Sunday, September 15, 2013

Mall Santa by James Croal Jackson

Beware James Croal Jackson's extremely creepy mall Santa.

All the bright, hanging lights above me make me shiver, especially around this time of year. The holiday season. Everyone and her mother comes to the mall. Often to see me. Right?

Swarms of people buzz by my little station beside the small train ride. I'm on my red chair, with a red suit and a red hat on. My fake white beard looks so out of place. They know I'm not Santa. Don't they? There isn't a line now. Maybe parents don't talk about Santa like they used to. Maybe it's because I'm not fat, and not yet in my fifties, so they don't trust me. Maybe I don't have that twinkle in the eye they're looking for.

A mother and her black-haired boy, about six-ish, come to my station. He's a little gremlin: ears falling out of his curly brown hair and a smile that twists around his nose. His mother waves her hand at me. Not a hello, but a "get over there, you brat" sort of gesture.

"Ho, ho, ho," I joylessly recite.

The kid plops on my leg, smelling of old sweat.

"Tell Santa what you want for Christmas," I say.

"I want a firetruck!" he shouts before hopping off my lap.

He makes "vroom, vroom" sounds with his mouth and runs around my station, arms in the air.

His mother walks to him and takes his arm.

"Carsten Michael Pepper!" she scolds. "Santa won't bring you any presents if you act like this."

She turns her head up to me. "Sorry about him."

I shake my head to deliver a smooth, "No problem," further telling them to have a great Christmas. Of course, I'm supposed to say holiday. What if I get a Jewish kid? She won't care. No one will, except my boss, but she's out at another mall. The only person who might be watching me is an elderly Rent-A-Cop, stationed near the gift wrapping booth to the right of my station.

A young girl emerges from the crowd. Maybe ten, maybe eleven years old. I don't care. Her legs are what strike me first, the slender things. They must look really nice in the summer time with short-shorts. I'm sure they would glisten under all these lights. I almost don't notice her mother, who is on the phone and walking slowly behind her. I smile too, but not at her.

My eyes lock with the girl's brown eyes.

"Ho, ho, ho! Come to Santa!" I say, exaggeratedly patting my leg.

Her big lips part and smile. She drops her bags by her mother, skips to my leg and sits down on it. I almost wish I had that Santa fat on me, so that my stomach would rub against more of her body, and breathe in and out with hers.

"Hi," I say. "What's your name?"

"Katie," she says.

"Okay, Katie. Have you been naughty or nice this year?"

She looks out to the crowd at the mall. A blur of people. Then looks back to me.

"Well, at school, the teachers never yell at me. I got A's in math and spelling and social studies and gym, but I got a C in science and I don't -"

She keeps talking so I watch the inside of her mouth fondled by her tongue. It moves like a snake, subtle and tempting. And her mouth closes.

"Oh, that all sounds -" I start, realizing I have no idea what she just said. "Great job with your grades, Katie. I know when I was your age - you're not eighteen, are you?"

I chuckle but she crunches her face up.

"No," she whines. "I'm ten!"

"Oh, Santa was just joking. You're very smart for a ten-year-old."

"Thank you." She rubs the space beneath her left eye with her pointer finger.

Just me and her. Alone. Together.

And her mom on a cell phone. I look up. The worn-out brunette, probably in her early thirties, paces in short steps, back and forth. Still chatting on her phone, thank God. People still walk past, behind her and all around the mall, in and out of the food court straight ahead in the distance.

The lights around me feel very hot. My arms shake. I'm short of breath. Katie bounces a bit and falls to her feet off my leg.

As soon as she does, my body stops acting up.

"Santa, are you all right?" she asks.

I look at her body. Thin as a stick. Long, defined face. She'll drive the boys crazy.

"Yeah," I say, quietly and with heavy breath. "But I'll be much better if you just get on my lap. Sit on my lap and tell me anything that you want. For Christmas, or - anything I can give you."

She's so close to me. I just want to snatch her and keep her. But she comes to me on her own, and sits back down on my leg.

"Are you going to get sick again?"

I try not to think of the bright, burning lights. Impossible. So I look at her and focus on her blonde hair, so shiny that it reflects the lights back into my eyes; well, if I think hard enough about it. Her hair isn't slick. It reaches down to her shoulders, streaks of brown and all.

"No. We'll be just fine. Here, tell me what you want."

"Well, I asked my mom and dad to buy me -"

"Shh, shh, shh! Not so loud. You have to whisper it in my ear, or else it won't be a secret."

Her brown eyes light up, and she puts her hand on my upper arm and leans in, close to my ear.

She cups her hand to my ear. Her hand presses against my cheek. I close my eyes, and feel her soft pressure, sinking through my skin right down to the corners of my teeth, tightly-clenched.

There's a moist warmth in her breath. It fills up my ear and spills onto my cheek, where it will stay.

7 comments:

  1. i like this, it is creepy, but for a reason? i´m wondering, is it a form of warning that we can never be too vigilant where our children are concerned?

    Michael McCarthy

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  2. Enjoyed your dark story. Really liked the description of the little boy with ears falling out of his curly brown hair, but I really wanted to yell, "Beware! Beware!" when you introduced the little girl and the Santa's reaction to her. Well done.

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  3. i like this story..so make more

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  4. i like ur story....so if u have i time...make more stories coz even this story is but i like it so..much......

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  5. This was well written, perfect description, I worried that it might creepier but it stopped at the right time.

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