Perhaps wanting to continue the wet-and-wild theme, Sam announced he was going to ask Santa for this enormous inflatable waterslide that’s about as big as our house – he saw one on “America’s Funniest Home Videos” on Sunday night. Careful not to spoil any illusions he may still be holding onto, I told him that I was reasonably sure Santa would not be bringing such an item to our house this or any other year. It’s not so much the cost – I’m looking out for Santa’s logistical constraints with so many stops and such limited space in his sleigh.
A momentary silence fell over the car as the suburban landscape rushed by our windows. Sam’s not one to let such a mood remain too long, and coupling that with his constant concern for his fellow man, he felt constrained to make public those inner thoughts that were ruminating about his head at that very moment: “You know, I feel kind of sorry for Santa having to go all over the world to deliver toys.” A quick glance over at Sam revealed he was really worried about the big guy making his rounds on that one magical night each year.
At that very moment, it was as if I could see what was taking place before his mind’s eye:
The scene: a squalid jail cell with inadequate lighting and a musty smell from a dripping faucet in the corner. In walks a skinny, pugnacious stub of a man wearing a khaki uniform, a belt hanging just below his armpits, and a silver badge that says “The Man.” Santa’s sleeping fitfully in the corner of the cell on a bench that needs a good varnishing.
The Man: “Wake up, fat boy! It’s time.”
Santa’s jarred awake, his eyes are bloodshot and worry is painted on his face.
Santa: “But I don’t want to go. It’s too cold outside, the reindeer have really bad gas because someone always seems to feed them a beef log and/or a can of Slim Jims just before we take off, and my Sciatica always acts up about two hours into the trip – that beaded seat cover some of those New York cabbies use doesn’t do squat for me.”
The Man: “A deal’s a deal, chump. Every year you make the same bet with the Easter Bunny, and he always wins and gets to vacation down in Boca while you have to stay at the North Pole and fly around the world delivering toys. He hides eggs – that’s what he does, and he’s good at it. You’ll never be able to find them all in a half an hour. I don’t care if you have your elves on the lookout when he’s hiding them – that’s cheating by the way, which’ll get you on your own naughty list. What irony! Now get up, and get dressed!”
Dejected, Santa stands up and walks to the door of the cell. The Man shoves the key home and turns the lock, swinging the door open and taking a step back to size up his ward.
Santa: “Alright. But have you ever been downwind when Rudolph gets a sinus infection? How do you think he gets a red nose? Ugh! Fine, tell the elves to get everything ready. We’ll be leaving in ten minutes. But first, I need to use the john and take a Percocet.”
Looking to snap Sam out of his reverie, I turned the radio on and heard the final seconds of “Comfortably Numb” by Pink Floyd. Which is funny because that’s exactly how Santa’s going to feel if he mixes that Percocet with a little bit of spiked eggnog.