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It’s the Real Thing

dark fantasy by Michael Alexander

The stockings were hung by the chimney with care.

A plate of cookies and a glass of cola sat on the coffee table. Over on the old Bang & Olufsen, Burl Ives was singing Have a Holly, Jolly Christmas.  The television, volume down low, was playing a tape of It’s a Wonderful Life.

The taser was on my side table next to a glass of scotch and soda. I picked up the glass and took a sip, all iodine and peat, then idly played with the big black button sewn to my shirt. All in all, I was ready for the appearance of that Haddon Sundblom fat red jolly freak.

It was half past twelve and (what do you think) the bastard appeared in front of the fireplace, sparkling in like some Star Trek transporter vampire, red-faced and panting. “Ho, ho, ho!” he bellowed, looking around. Catching my eye, he gave a lopsided smile and placed his index finger next to his nose. Then he straightened up and boomed “Merrrrrry Chrrrrrristmas!” He rolled the r’s like a drunken Scotsman.

“If you say so,” I replied.

“Ho, ho, of course I do, my good man!” he said, all italics and exclamation points in his speech. He winked. “You have been a good boy this year, haven’t you?” Then he narrowed his eyes. “Or have you been a bad boy?”

“Pretty good, so far.” I got up and walked over to the stereo, taking off the Ives platter and putting on Gene Autry Sings Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer.

“I’m so happy to find a grown-up who still believes in me!” He waddled over to the coffee table and picked up a cookie. “Ah! Chocolate chip, my favorite!” Biting in, he chewed happily, crumbs falling down into his beard. “And what would you like for Christmas?” he bubbled, unslinging the sack over his shoulder.

“A case of eighteen year old Macallan would be nice, but I’d settle for a bottle.”

“Now, now,” he said, waggling a finger at me, “I’m the only spirit in the sleigh on Christmas Eve, ho, ho!”

“Well, then,” and I cocked my head toward the stereo, “Could I at least see Rudolph?”

“Why, certainly!” he said and waved his hand. A moment later there was that sparkling between us and a smallish quadruped appeared. It was only about three feet at the shoulder and looked more like Bambi than an actual reindeer.

Rudolph looked at me. “C’mere, little fellow,” I said, holding out my hand as if I was getting a strange dog to come over to get its chin scratched.  It hesitated, then took a slow series of clicky steps toward me until it was sniffing my fingers.

I lightly scratched under its chin, then behind the left ear. Then I grabbed it by the antlers and twisted its neck as hard as I could. There was a choked squeal and a muffled popping sound. Its legs splayed out and I let it fall to the floor, blood leaking out of its bulbous red nose. I looked at Claus. “Ever have venison jerky?”

Santa stared in horror. I saw him reaching for his sack so I picked up and fired the taser. The wires hit him in that bulging midriff and he began to shake, slumping to the floor in uncontrolled convulsions. I walked up next to him and gave him a second jolt, just to make sure. I gave him a third taste and picked up the sack.

A moment’s rummaging and I found it, an M1911A1 .45 ACP automatic. At least the old fart knew a good weapon when he saw one. I knelt down next to him and put the muzzle to his temple. “Now, my jolly old, you’re not going to do anything dumb, are you?”

He was still making little twitching moves while I reached in my pocket and pulled out a zip restraint, yanking his hands behind his back and pulling them together. I put another set on his feet and sat back down next to him.

“Wha-what are you doing?” he finally gasped out.

“Eliminating excrescences.”

“But-but —  I’m the very spirit of the holidays!”

“No, you are the incarnation of a business model.” I held up the gun. “A gift for a collector? Or a little insurance for the tough neighborhoods?”

He pulled at the restraints. “I’m the very spirit of giving!”

“No, you’re not. You’re the spirit of selling. You’re the creation of a cola company that wanted to increase soda sales in the winter. You’re the pitch man for consumerism, the uncoupling of gifts and giving. Love fungible as dollars.”

“No! I bring presents to all the good little children!”

“Of course you do. Train them to fearful obedience when they’re still too young to understand good or bad.” Sales jingles a half-century old ran through my mind. “They took the most wonderful, intimate thing in the world, a parent giving a gift to a child out of love, and corporatized it. Look at you. Mammon in a red suit. Mommy and Daddy don’t give gifts, Wal Mart does. They hollowed out the core of good will to men and replaced it with an Early Bird special. Honest wonder looking up at the stars on a cold winter night crowded out by asshole weathermen on the eleven o’ clock news tracking your path through the sky.” I popped the magazine, checked it, slid it back in.

He was staring at my chest. “That button.  I know that button.  It’s Frosty’s nose!”

“Good eye. I trapped him in the garage with a hundred thousand BTU heater.”

“You’re a monster!”

“Nope. You are the monster, one tentacle of a thing that has replaced real sentiment with bourgeois sentimentality, true charity with a checkbook.” I cocked the gun and set it against his temple.

“You can’t kill an idea,” he said.

“Call me an optimist, but I can damned well try.”

“Think of the children!”

“I am. Give my regards to Frosty,” I said and pulled the trigger.

Three down. I walked over to the stereo and put on my old LP of the Harry Simeone Chorale’s Sing We Now of Christmas and sipped my scotch. I thought of Anatole France’s juggler while waiting for The Little Drummer Boy.

Copyright January 2011 by Michael Alexander

Michael Alexander lives in southern Oregon.  He is a graduate of the Clarion West writers’ workshop.  His fiction has appeared in Fantasy & Science Fiction magazine and will be appearing in the upcoming anthology, Welcome to the Greenhouse from O/R Books.

[return to the January 2011 main page]

2 Responses

  1. Absolutely amazing! Loved it!

  2. One word. Awesome.

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