The Spirit of Christmas By Ramblin' Gamblin' Willie

Copyright 1985, 1986 by Gregory S. Swann. All Rights Reserved.
Direct inquiries to CIS I.D. 75115,1341.

The Spirit of Christmas

By Ramblin' Gamblin' Willie

        I saw Santa the other day. No kidding, the =real= Santa Claus.
Walking along Eighth Avenue with a young girl.
        =Really= the real Santa Claus? He had the clothes and the build and
the beard and the bag. He didn't have the hat, but his flowing white hair
draped against his broad shoulders and framed his beatific face. There was a
strange fire in his eyes: whether it was the flame of merriment or the smolder
of madness I leave for the reader to decide.
        The young girl was angry. She was about eleven, with long plaits of
flaming red hair. Her eyes were ablaze with hostility. "Dad," she
scream-whispered, seething. "=Da=ad! =Listen= to me!" She hustled along
beside him, half-backwards, hurrying to keep up with his long strides and at
the same time using the whole of her scrawny body to defend her case. "Dad,
we go through this every year!"
        "Yes," said Santa in a rich booming voice. "You don't know how to
profit by experience."
        "=You= don't know how to profit by experience!," she steamed. "Every
year you come out here with your bag of goodies, ready to save the world. And
every year something rotten happens. Did you ever think that maybe the world
doesn't want to be saved?"
        "Oh, Jenny! How can you say such things?! It's Christmas! Surely every
rougue deserves the warmth of a kindly smile, every thrall the depth of a
compassionate understanding. And what about the children?! How can the
children do without toys?!?"
        "They don't deserve the spit they're unfit to wipe up!"
        "They're scum, dad. Rotten to the core. When're you going to learn
        "Never, my darling daughter. Never!"
        Jenny took a breath. "You're an idiot."
        "And you're a brat. But you'll see! I'll find the Spirit of Christmas
and so much--" he snapped his fingers "--for your opinion!"
        Jenny spun around and walked off in the opposite direction. He said:
"Where are you going?"
        "Home! You're going to do it anyway, but I don't have to watch!"
        "No... No, you don't." If he could have seen the sadness in his
own eyes, he might have understood his daughter's expression. They stared at
each other across a gulf of blindness, a rend of vision no family bond could
mend. She spun away again and was gone. He centered the weighty bag on his
back and marched off, hohohoing and smiling gaily at the hurried passersby.
        I tagged along, just within earshot, as he trundled down the
twilit strip of the world's largest human trashcan, Eighth Avenue near
the bus terminal. The street was busy with Jersey commuters rushing for their
buses, along with the regular population of permanent transients: urchins,
shopping bag things and crafty young men in new sneakers.
        Santa stopped in front of the blaring lights of a peep academy. A
businessman and a flashily dressed woman came outside, arm in arm.
        "Ah, young lovers!," Santa enthused. "How touching! Happy
        The businessman looked startled: "What'd you say, bud?"
        "Happy Christmas!"
        " I know you? Who sent you, anyway? ...oh, Christ!," he moaned.
"You're not from a [umph]ing detective agency are you?!?"
        "Why no," said Santa, surprised. "I just stopped to wish you a Merry
        "Oh, Christ!," the businessman groaned. "Oh, Holy [umph]ing Christ!
You don't have a camera do you? Oh, shit! That truck over there! They're
making films from the [umph]ing truck!" He said to the woman: "Hide your face!
We gotta get out of here!"
        "Glad tidings to all men!," Santa called as the couple scurried
        A gaggle of young punks had been drawn by the commotion. Now they began
to taunt him, mocking his gait and posture, hohohoing themselves into
a sidesplit frenzy. One danced around behind him, weaving in an out,
teasing the air with the entended blade of a knife. He stabbed out at the bag,
tearing the fabric. "What's in the bag, man?"
        "Toys!," Santa replied beatifically. "Toys for the children!"
        "Toys for me!," said the Knife Wielder"
        "Oh, but they wouldn't interest =you=! They're for little kiddies."
        "They're for us," said one of the other toughs.
        "Yeah," agreed the Blade Brandisher. He slashed out at the bag,
leaving a long tear. Joyously wrapped packages spilled out on the pavement.
They were swept up instantly by greedy hands, fought over, then spirited off
into the anonymous mob. A pack of tiny kids swept past in a blinding rush
grabbing the toys on the ground and those still in Santa's bag. In a moment
he was alone, the bag hanging limply over his shoulder. I thought I saw
something of sadness in his eyes, but then he said, "Hohoho!," and marched
forward again.
        In front of the bus terminal he stopped an attractive young woman.
"Merry Christmas!"
        She said nothing, but a look of fear leapt to her face.
        "Oh, how jolly I get this time of year! Young lady, my only regret is
that I have no gift to give you!"
        "Are you some kind of pervert?"
        "Why no! I just stopped to wish you a Happy Holiday."
        She backed away from him fearfully, grasping for something in
her collar. She pulled forth a police whistle and gave it three long bursts.
        Without stopping to reflect, Santa raced off around the corner,
into the dark depths of West Fortieth Street.
        When next I caught sight of him, a minute or two later, he was being
pummelled by a gang of kid muggers, the kind who attack five or six at a time.
He was swarmed by them. There was nothing I could do: by the time I got
near them, they were scattering. Santa was bloody lump, bruised and babbling.
        "Peace on Earth!," he called to the retreating muggers. "Good Will
Toward Men!"
        "Huh..?!" A lurching wino was stopped short by the sound.
"Whatwuzat?" He caught sight of the oozing Santa. "Sheeit! Somebody done
give it to him!"
        I stared stupidly: it was the truth. "...he was looking for the
Spirit of Christmas..."
        "Then he shoulda ax me!," the Wino said, thumbing his chest. "I
=been= knowin' where that is!"
        "Where!?," Santa burst, wheezing. "Where is it? I must know!"
        "Haw!," the Wino guffawed, holding up his pint flask. "Right in
here! That's the only place it's ever been!"
        "No!," Santa cried. "There =is= a Spirit of Christmas! I believe, I
believe, I believe!!"
        "Urk," the Wino said, Night Train trickling down his chin.
"'re an idiot."

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