tagSci-Fi & FantasySanta, Jesus, Rachel & Me

Santa, Jesus, Rachel & Me

bydr_mabeuse©

The snow's coming down like in a Christmas card; like a white blessing from heaven, soft, still; falling on the crooked barber pole that marks the North Pole, on Santa's house and workshop and on the big sleigh waiting outside

Santa carries two sacks back there. There's his working sack, the one he carries over his shoulder when he comes into your house, which is just a normal, cloth, run-of-the-mill sack, a little grimy on the bottom. And then there's his master sack, which is magical. The master sack is where the toys and gifts magically appear when he lands on your roof or in front of your apartment or condo, as the case may be.

The Master Sack used to be tied in with the infamous List he kept, the one that says whether you've been good or bad, but now it's all hooked together in some magical wireless way, and all the information is carried in the great karmic/telluric ether web that circles the globe and surrounds all the sentient creatures that live on it, so Santa just has to pull up outside someone's house and the appropriate gifts just appear in the sack. He hasn't used the list in years.

"No, no," he says, shaking his head with a laugh, "Don't have a list anymore. Santa keeps up with people's imagination you know, and all that hard copy stuff is passé. Besides, it never was about being good or bad, it was about who's hurting, who's lonely, who needs love. That's what the presents are all about anyhow: symbols of love. I never did need a list for that. I can just feel who needs what."

I'm up at Santa's North Pole headquarters tonight, because it's Christmas eve and that's where I want to be. I'm a writer and I work with my imagination so I can do pretty much whatever I want, at least in my stories, and on this night I want to ride in Santa's sleigh with Santa Claus and Jesus Christ and see if I can learn something new about Christmas, or maybe remember something about it that I've forgotten. We writers don't have much besides our imaginations and our feelings, so we've got to make the most of what we've got. Besides, Christmas is all about magic isn't it? So why not?

So we're standing outside Santa's house watching the elves load his sleigh. It's snowing to beat the band and the only light spills from the windows of Santa's house and falls on the big red sleigh standing there in the falling snow. The two sacks are already in the back of the sled standing amidst all these presents and Christmas decorations, and there's a crowd of elves running out of the workshop with armloads of more toys and presents that they throw into a pile in the back, gabbling away in their high little elf voices like a bunch of turkeys.

"What do you need those toys for if everything comes out of your master sack?" I ask Santa.

He looks at me from over his rimless spectacles and says, "For the same reason I don't drive an SUV: I still want to look like Santa! People expect to see presents in my sleigh."

You can't argue with the big guy. I'm lucky to be there at all so I just shrug. I guess if he wanted, he could ride a surfboard or a hang glider. It's all magic anyhow.

This is a very special night, though, because, as I said, Jesus is going along with Santa tonight too, riding in the sleigh. I'm not sure why He's doing this. I think He's finally decided to put Himself where the attention is, as they say in the advertising trade. He's just trying to put the Christ back into Christmas, and you can't blame Him for that.

Santa goes over to the window of his house and knocks on the glass.

"Hey Jesus!" he calls, "You ready? It's almost time!"

The door opens and Jesus walks out, zipping up his parka. He looks pretty much the way you'd expect, except instead of a robe and sandals, He's wearing jeans and work boots and beneath his parka he's wearing a turtleneck and a big wool shirt. It's a nice shirt: very heavy, black and yellow checked. He's wearing earmuffs too.

"Oh Christ!" I say, "Earmuffs?"

He gives me a look and says, "Oh Mabeuse! Yes, earmuffs! What, is it too much?"

He knows as well as we do that He can wear whatever He wants, the cold's not going to bother Him, but He's got this thing about wanting to blend in with the natives and experience things exactly the way we poor suffering mortals do. I guess that's why He chose to wear earmuffs.

Santa kind of makes a face and shrugs, but he's not the one to talk. He's wearing some heavy-duty suspenders underneath his coat to keep those red pants up, so I don't know what he needs that big-ass black belt for.

But Jesus cares about appearances, so the next time I look at him, the earmuffs are gone.

"Okay," Santa says, "We ready?"

He climbs up onto his sleigh, making it sink a good six inches into the snow, and Jesus climbs up into shotgun. The elves are all jumping around and yelling in their little elf voices, waving goodbye and good luck. I have a little trouble getting into the back because of the high sides, so a couple of elves come over and get on their hands and knees in the snow so I can use their backs for steps and I manage to get myself up over the side and flop into the back. I fall in amidst the pile of toys and candy and Christmas decorations and push the stuff aside so the wrapped presents aren't poking me in the kidneys.

I thought there'd be a big ceremony of checking the list twice and elves with clipboards and stuff, but no. Not even a count down.

"We all set?" Santa asks. He looks at Jesus then back at me. There's a little clear drop of cold-snot hanging from the tip of his red nose.

"Let 'er rip!" Jesus says.

"Ready when you." I say, holding onto the sides of the sleigh.

Santa jerks the reins and makes a clicking sound and we take off. I mean, there's no taxiing, no building up speed, the reindeer just take a leap all together and we shoot into the dark and snowy sky. It's like riding bareback on top of a 747.

Jesus laughs with delight and grabs onto the handle in front but the jolt of the take-off knocks me back into the pile of presents and I end up on my back with my legs in the air. Santa looks back and laughs and Jesus, once he sees I'm okay, laughs too. As dumb as it sounds to say, I know he's laughing with me, not at me. He gives me his hand and helps me get to my knees.

Santa's in his element now, and his face is glowing with joy and excitement.

"You want to see what she'll do?" he calls back to me.

Before I can answer he takes us through a couple of loops and a vertical climb that just about makes me wet my pants.

"Easy! Easy!" I shout, "I don't like heights!"

Jesus looks back at me and smiles, "Funny, they don't bother me at all!"

That makes Santa laugh too, and even I had to join in. Santa slows the sleigh and takes us into a long, graceful turn. I don't know where we're going but it's a pretty safe bet to say that we're headed south. It's too dark and snowy to see anything beyond the sleigh except the Northern Lights which are like huge curtains of cold blue and purple flame going from just over the horizon to as far up as I can see, like the curtains of heaven.

"Hey!" I say, "Where's Rudolph?"

"Rudolph?" Santa asks. "You want Rudolph?"

I shrug. "Well, I don't know. I just thought…"

"It's your story," Santa says, and suddenly there's a red light out ahead of us where before there was nothing. I can see the other reindeer by its glow.

"Cool!" Jesus says.

We're really flying now. I couldn't say how fast we're going, but I know we're really moving. It's weird, because as fast as we're going, I'm not cold at all now.

"Where we going first?" I ask.

Santa laughs. "You tell me," he said, "It's your fantasy."

~ ~ ~

I get up from the computer and take my cup into the kitchen. There's a little bit of coffee still in the pot, so I pour it into my cup and turn coffee maker off. The coffee's kind of thick; it's been sitting there since after dinner, and it's bitter, but at least it's warm.

It's 11:30 PM on Christmas Eve and everyone's asleep but me. I'd finished putting the last of the toys together an hour ago, and they're all under the tree except for a few things that I'd hidden in the garage to keep them away from the kids. I'm not sleepy, so I've been working on this story. It's not going well.

I always have trouble getting to sleep on Christmas Eve, and it has nothing to do with being too excited about the presents and all that. It's not excitement; it's more like a kind of wistful sadness. I'm not even a believer, but Christmas Eve has always had a particular kind of sad and sober feel to it for me, a time to reflect and take stock. It's almost like I can feel everyone asleep in their beds waiting for the morning to come. The whole world feels like it's waiting.

I stand in the darkened kitchen drinking my coffee and looking out the window at the garage. It's dark and cold outside and snowless, going to be a bleak Christmas weatherwise. I figure I'd might as well go out and bring the rest of the stuff in and be done with it.

It's an old house and pretty drafty downstairs and cold by the computer, so I'm wearing a sweater over my shirt. No sense in putting on a coat, there's only a few things I have to bring inside and it'll only take a minute.

Outside it's bitter cold and my feet crunch on the frozen leaves we never got raked up before the first frost. I shoulder the garage door open and switch on the light. I can see my breath in the air, even in the garage, and the sight of the summer lawn furniture hanging from the rafters and covered with frost makes me even colder. The presents are up on a shelf under a cloth, and I drag a box over to stand on, but as I pull the box over it reveals a mess of torn newspaper and dead leaves: a mouse nest. It's sad to think of the mice out here freezing in this weather. They've been into the grass seed, climbing up onto this plastic shelf to eat a hole in the bag.

I reach into the bag and grab a handful of seed and pour it next to the nest. Hell, it's Christmas, and I hate to think of any creature being cold and alone on a night like this. I get the presents down and push the box back to where it was.

It's terribly cold outside, and absolutely still, and I make myself stop in the yard and listen to the silence, trying to put a name to what I feel. Lonely? Forlorn? The air is absolutely clear; the smoke from a few chimneys rises straight up into the air. It's so cold that the stars don't even twinkle.

I stand there and think of all the people I've loved and where they are now, what they're probably doing. I think of the women I've loved and the women who've loved me, and I can't help the feelings of remorse and sadness that come to me. Joy and sadness, and a final feeling of things having gone wrong, of failures of one sort or another. We never mean to hurt people, but hurting people just seems inevitable, a part of this life, whether you want to or not.

I think about these women and I wonder what they're doing now, whether life has turned out to be good for them or not, and whether they ever think of me. There's relationships that ended angrily, some that just fizzled away, even a few that ended rationally, where we both knew it just wouldn't work out. There's probably nothing I could have done differently, I suppose, given what I know about myself and know about them, but still it seems sad somehow, as if all that affection and love were wasted. Some of these women I know about. I hear about them from friends, from various sources. Some I still stay in touch with. I know that the holidays can be very hard for people. I hope they're not hard for any of my old lovers.

But I'm cold now. The air's so cold in my nose that it prickles, and I hold my arms away from my body as I walk back to the house carrying the presents so I won't have to touch the cold insides of my shirt. I walk carefully so as not to slip on that stubborn patch of ice near the back door.

Inside I put the cold presents beneath the tree and find my coffee, wrap my hands around the mug. It's still warm.

I sit down at the computer, still thinking about these women.

~ ~ ~

"So you tell me," Santa says, "It's your story. Where do you want to go?"

We're over civilization now, and below is are all the lights of the city, the streetlights, the homes and apartments with their Christmas lights as we speed along. Jesus is looking at me with that calm look of his, wondering where I want to go.

I want to take all the women I've known, all the women I've ever loved, and I want to see them all tonight. I'm not sure what I want to do with them. I'd just like to see them and tell them that I'm thinking about them, that I'm sorry if I hurt them, that they mean a lot to me.

I think of rolling them all into one woman. One woman who'd be a kind of a combination of all the women I'd loved and who'd loved me. Her name would be Rachel, because I've never been with a woman named Rachel, and she would be one of those people for whom the holidays are hard. Life wouldn't have turned out well for her, not because of anything I'd done or anything she'd done, but simply because life doesn't always turn out well for a lot of us. She would be someone who needed some cheering this Christmas, who was lonely and who felt like she was sinking.

"I want to go to Rachel's house," I say.

Santa purses his lips thoughtfully, and Jesus looks back at me with a slight smile on his lips. "That would be nice," he says.

"Where does she live?" Santa asks.

"1234 Maple Lane"

Santa laughs. "It's always 1234 maple Lane! I've been there before."

Rachel has two kids, ten and eight, a girl and a boy. She was divorced a few years ago, and her ex has a new girlfriend so she doesn't see him much. Her family lives at the other end of the country so she doesn't see them much either, which is just as well, because she hasn't gotten along with her folks since I knew her in college.

Rachel took time off to raise her kids, but after the divorce she had to go to work, which broke her heart. She's used to it now, and so are her kids, but no one's happy about it. The job she has is way below her capabilities. She was an artist when I knew her, now she works as an office manager. She's smarter than her boss, but she hides it, like she hides a lot of about herself.

Santa pulls the sleigh around and sets it down like a snowflake in her yard. I hop out.

"You'll wait for me, right?" I ask. "You're not going anywhere? I mean, I know you've got a lot to do."

"We'll wait," Jesus says. "We've got time for this."

I start towards the house, then I stop and come back.

"You know," I say, "I've always wondered how you had time to go to all those houses. If you take, say, twelve hours, and divide that by the number of houses…"

Santa laughs, "The hell with all that." he says. "This is all magic. Santa works on magic time."

"Go ahead," Jesus says, "We'll wait. We've got all the time you need."

I cross the yard, bleak and cold with no snow, and I go up to the back door.

The kitchen's dark, but I can see the light's on in the living room. I'm kind of afraid to knock, it's almost midnight, but I remember about the magic, so I figure Rachel won't be scared. I knock on the glass.

She comes into the kitchen and turns on the light.

She looks just like I remember her, but a little older, and a little more tired. She's wearing a housecoat, and her hair is pinned up on her head. She looks great.

"Oh my God!" she says as she opens the door. "Oh my God I don't believe this! What are you doing here? How in the world did you find me? And on Christmas eve too! You know, I was just thinking of you!"

"You were?" I ask. It's the nicest thing she could have said just then. "I was thinking about you too."

She tells me to take off my coat so she can look at me. I know she's surprised to see me, and I'm surprised to see her too, but it feels really good. There's all these things I want to tell her, things I want to ask her.

She offers me wine and beer, coffee. I finally have some coffee with a shot of whisky in it and she pours a glass of wine. We sit in the living room in the light of her Christmas tree with all the presents around it and we talk as she finishes wrapping her kids' presents. There's something I want to ask her, but I'm kind of afraid, because I'm not sure I want to know the answer. But it seems so easy sitting there with her, watching her wrapping the presents, the kids asleep in their bedroom, the stereo on low with playing Christmas carols. It's almost like I can't stop myself.

"Do you think that I used you?" I ask her. "I mean, do you think that I was unfair to you, or that I just took advantage of you?"

She hears me and understands. She cocks her head and looks at me. "'Took advantage'? How? You mean sexually?"

"Well, yeah," I say. "That's how people usually take advantage, isn't it?"

Rachel laughs, "Oh God no!" she says. "There are worse ways to take advantage of someone besides for sex."

She finishes with the last present and puts it under the tree, then comes back and sits on the sofa. She pulls her feet up under her and reaches for her wine.

"I used to feel that way," she says, "that it was using people. When I was younger I used to feel that a lot of people were taking advantage of me. But now I realize that sex us one of the simpler parts of a relationship. You mean, do I feel like you used me?"

"Well, yeah." I say. I myself really don't know. I just know how I always wanted to take her to bed, how crazy she always made me.

She gives me a funny look from under her lashes and says, "What makes you so sure I wasn't using you, too? A little too much ego?"

I blush a little. "Well, no. But, girls don't do that kind of thing, do they? I mean, guys are always the ones who want to…you know."

She laughs out loud now. "Is that right?" she asks. "Well, if you ask me now, I'd say we used each other. That's what people do: use each other."

I think about Jesus sitting out by the sleigh and wonder what he would say to that. I realize that I could just ask him if I wanted to, just by asking the question in my mind, but I think I know what he'd say. He'd answer just like a shrink: "I don't know. What do you think?" I decide to leave him out of this.

I look at Rachel and try to think about her as a mom, living alone, with her kids sleeping in the other room, how she must get lonely at times.

"Sure," she says, reading my mind. Her voice is smoky now, and more intimate "I get lonely. I miss having a man around. But I do all right. I don't want pity, if that's what you're thinking."

Actually, that is what I'm thinking, and I realize now how conceited that is. Rachel's had other loves in her life too. I wasn't the be-all and end-all of her love life.

Even though this is my story, Rachel seems to be reading my mind. She's looking at me and her eyes are very clear, very knowing.

"So what did you come for?" she asks me.

She's sitting on the sofa with her feet up, her knees to the side, looking calm and just a little expectant. The wine has put a little flush in her cheeks, and she looks lovely; very motherly and beautiful.

This is only a story I'm writing but I still don't know how she's going to react when I get up and go over to the sofa, take the wine from her hand and put it on the table, and then kiss her.

Her lips are warm and soft and accepting, and she tilts her head back and closes her eyes, letting me kiss her. The hand that held the glass of wine lies palm up in her lap, her fingers curled gracefully, and after a while the hand reaches up and caresses the side of my head, her fingers running through my hair.

I break the kiss and sit down on the sofa next to her. She rests her forehead against mine.

"Is it all right?" I ask her.

"Of course it's all right." she says. "I'm a big girl now. I need things too."

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bydr_mabeuse© 6 comments/ 39016 views/ 1 favorites

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