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The Incomplete Worlds Of Billy Shakespeare | BillyShakespeare.com: It's like Shakespeare...only in English.

Who’s Gonna Read This, B.S.?

short short stories

"He's Making A List"
a story by Billy Shakespeare

Christmas: the most magical time of the year. Snow was drifting down like fairies from the sky. Of course, it was always snowing here; this was the North Pole, and the residence of perhaps the most famous man known and loved by children all over the world. No, not Michael Jackson.

Santa Claus!

This legendary figure was rising slowly from his bed, crippled slightly by the ravages of gout and extreme old age. He scratched his large abdominal expanse and smacked his lips, tasting the aftereffects of last night’s eggnog binge. The after­effects of the rum kicked in only when he tried to stand up too quickly. He soon righted himself by leaning an outstretched arm against his bedpost, then looked around drowsily for his slippers. He found them at the foot of the bed, and how handsome they looked in the morning sun – resplendent in ruby red velvet with a green plaid bow on top and a jingle bell dangling from the toes. Santa slipped his feet into them carefully and slowly so he wouldn’t lose his balance. It seemed to him that he could hear the fabric rubbing against the dry, flaking bottoms of his feet, and the noise was irritating to his hangover.

Santa walked towards the adjoining bathroom for his morning urination ritual. He had taken three steps when he suddenly stopped, bent over as far as he could, ripped the golden jingle bells from his slippers, then sent them on a fast trajectory through his bedroom window. He was immediately sorry for doing this, as the window glass broke and shattered; the jingle bell bombs exploding their way to the snow-covered world outside.

The noise was deafening to Santa, and he was tempted to look outside for a mush­room cloud. Santa sighed, then continued on his way to the bathroom. As he entered he fumbled with the buttons on his tattered red cloth long johns, popping several of them, and positioned himself at the front of the bowl. As he loosed his kidneys, he caught his reflection in his shaving mirror. He lifted the mirror closer to his face with one hand, stuck his tongue out at his reflection, noted the puffiness in his eyes, then lifted the other hand to help with his inspection of nostril hairs and proceeded to urinate all over the floor and the seat of the toilet.

“Shit,” said the fabled jolly fat man. “Shitshitshit.”

Oh well, he thought. He would catch hell from the ball-and-chain about it, but he was just too tired to care. He finished his business, then left. Forgetting, as he always did these days, to flush the bowl. And also to bathe.

He walked over to his closet to dress himself in the outfit he wore only one day of the year, that day being Christmas Eve, as this day was. As he was donning his gay, slightly moth-ravaged apparel, an elf was suddenly at his side. “Mornin’, Santa!” it screeched in what Santa thought an altogether too high-pitched a shrill.

“Yes, I know. It’s been morning for the past six months. What do you want?” Santa lifted his arms to pull his coat sleeves over them.

“I just came to – phew! What is that smell? Puke! Check your coat pockets, Santa...I think one of the elves might have died in there.” The elf pinched his nose hard and tried to wave the smell away from him.

“Ho-fucking-ho. Say, that’s a good one. Chortle chortle. Yesirree, a real thigh-slapper.” Santa finished dressing. “Be a dear and go tell Mrs. Claus to cook me an elf for breakfast.”

“Shall I tell her to expect you after you’ve drawn your bath?” the elf asked hopefully.

Santa stared at the elf, snorted, and then moved past the elf to make his way down the stairs. In the process, he crushed one of the elf’s pointed feet. “OUCH!” the miniature man screamed.

“So clumsy,” Santa muttered while making his way out of the room. “So sorry.” Jolly ol’ Saint Nick trudged down the stairs, trying to step around the reindeer shit on the carpeted stairway. “Filthy beasts,” he said. As he spoke, a reindeer was making its way up the stairs, moving past Santa without giving any recognition of Santa’s presence. The animal walked onto the second floor and Santa watched it as it headed straight for Santa’s bedroom and, more specifically, Santa’s bed.

“Hey!” Santa yelled from the stairs. “Blitzen, you fleabag! Get outta my bed!” Still no recognition from the reindeer, and Santa could see from his vantage point that Blitzen was now pulling his bedcover over his furry body with his teeth.

Santa stared incredulously, his mouth agape, soundlessly forming the words: you bastard. “That...is...it!” He said finally. “I mean: THAT...IS...IT! Those beasts are spoiled rotten and I have had it with them! I’m going to get myself a team of huskies,” he said stomping the rest of the way downstairs. “Momma! Gather everyone around the table...we’re having venison for breakfast!”

Santa continued stomping through the house until he reached his wife in the kitchen. “Momma,” he addressed his wife, “did you see that? Did you see what that...that...Blitzen did? He’s in my bed, Momma! My bed!”

“There, there,” his wife said. “Calm down. Remember what the doctor said.” She moved past him with a skillet in her hand. “Mind your blood pressure!” Sausages rolled back and forth in their grease, still sizzling with the pan’s warmth.

“Doctor! Hmmph,” snorted Santa Claus. “He’s an Eskimo, for cryin’ out loud. What does he know?” Santa smelled the sausages, eggs and toast that his wife had cooked, and immediately started to salivate. “Mmm, Momma...that smells so good. Be a dear and give Daddy double portions, please.”

Claus reached into a kitchen cabinet drawer and pulled out a cloth napkin, which he tucked into his collar with one hand, while reaching with the other into the drawer containing cutlery. He sat himself down at the small breakfast table in the kitchen with his fork in one meaty fist and his knife in the other. It was when he had scooted his chair in closer to the table that he noticed he was now alone in the kitchen.

“Momma,” said Santa quietly. Then, “MOMMA!”

The old woman poked her head through the kitchen door. “Whatwhatwhat? What in the hell do you want?”

Santa spread his arms open wide, stuck his chest out to indicate his napkin. “Breakfast,” he said simply. “It smells delicious. Hand it over with all speed, and don’t scrimp on the sausages.”

“What are you talking about?” she said, walking towards him. “You know as well as I do you’re not allowed to eat sausages. Those weren’t meant for you. For you there’s a grapefruit-half in the refrigerator.” She headed out the door again, leaving Santa alone with his cutlery. Suddenly, her head was in the doorway again. “And no sugar on that, do you understand me, Mister?” And then again, Santa was alone.

After a moment of quiet reflection and counting silently to ten, Santa put his fork down carefully on the table, then pulled his napkin from his collar and placed it next to the fork. The knife he held onto.

He rose from his seat and headed towards the kitchen door his wife of umpteen decades had just disappeared from. As he opened the swinging door, a smorgasbord of smells and a cacophony of sound greeted his senses. Gathered around the large dining room and table were every elf and reindeer (except Blitzen, of course) in Santa’s employment. And they were all dining on eggs, sausages and toast dripping with butter. Not a grapefruit-half in sight.

Santa’s grip on his knife tightened.

Words escaped him. It was Christmas Eve morning, he was hung-over, he was starving, there was a sweaty quadruped sleeping in his sheets, he had a wife who refused to cook for him, and his entire staff was stuffing and gorging themselves with what was by all rights Santa’s breakfast. He finally managed to speak up.

“Hey!” he yelled. Suddenly, everything stopped. The reindeer all lifted their heads from various colorful bowls of cereal, the Chipmunks Christmas Album came off the stereo with an audible scratch, the elves all stopped laughing. Santa caught one of them trying to quickly hide a hip flask of bourbon under the table. All eyes were on Santa.

And words failed Santa again. He lifted his hands as a gesture of his profound confusion and disillusion; but all everyone saw was, not the hopelessness in Santa’s eyes, but the knife in Santa’s hand.

“Santa’s freaked!” screeched one of the elves. And then there was life in the room again as the elves practically stomped themselves to death trying to run for the nearest exit. Reindeers took flight in the dining room, one of them catching his antlers on the crystal chandelier and ripped it from the ceiling. Someone, elf or rein­deer, went out the window without bothering himself with opening it first. Snow began to pile up on the carpet and on the over-turned table.

Santa’s view of the mayhem was now obscured by his wife’s reddened face. Santa’s view of his wife was then obscured by his wife’s open palm. Slap! A perfect imprint of her hand was left on Santa’s cheek. Slap! As well as a matching one on the other cheek.

“What do you think you’re doing?” she shrieked. “Look at this mess! Who do you think has to clean up in here?! Honestly! I don’t know what’s gotten into you this morning.” She reached into his hand saying: “And give me that knife!”

Santa entertained the thought, but then his wife wrenched it from his grip, then sped into the kitchen. Santa was alone in the debris that used to be his dining room. Alone, that is, except for the elf who was searching through the rubble for his hip flask. He caught Santa’s glare, grinned sheepishly, then sauntered away casually with his tiny fingers trying to hide his bottle.

Santa looked around the room. He closed his puffy red eyes and thought of the days when he and his elves would gather for their traditional Christmas Eve breakfast. Oh, what merriment! Every elf hung on the young Santa’s every word. How they adored him. His beautiful young bride was there next to him, cooing like a dove, and every time they kissed the elves would turn away and let out a collective: “Oooh!”

It was a magical time, thought Santa. What had happened?

Time had happened, he supposed. Old age had got the best of them. It had turned them all cranky and cynical. Those happy days were long gone, lost to cabin fever and boredom. Christmas was just a job to all of them. Just a paycheck – punch in, punch out. They had taken the Christ out of Christmas, and put the emphasis on mass...as in mass production. They were too busy competing with Japanese electronics to remember trivialities like the “spirit of Christmas.”

Nintendo, thought Santa bitterly. Bah humbug.

Santa kicked one of the bowls by his feet and stomped heavily towards his private study. He had one thought on his mind: I quit.

He opened his door that unlocked with a key to which only he had a copy. He slammed the door behind him and made his way to his writing desk. He pulled a fresh piece of parchment paper out of a desk drawer, dipped his quill in an open ink bottle, and began writing in large flowing script at the top: Conditions Of My Continued Employment. Then he wrote on the next line: 1) Reindeers submit to senility tests. Then: 2) Any elf reporting for duty intoxicated will be terminated. Also fired.

Santa kept busy scribbling furiously with his quill. He began to work up a sweat around number 43 (no grapefruits) and was running out of room on the page as he finished up number 73 (reindeers must pitch in for new chandelier) when he glanced down at a pile of letters he had received only the day before.

The letter on top of the pile was written in a childlike scrawl, big ugly letters written by someone who appeared to be a proud dyslexic. Santa put down his quill to read the letter. It read:

Deer Santa,

4 crissmas I wood like to have another hit single on the billboard charts. Could U pleeze mak it a crissmas song so peeple will by it evry year 4 years and years. Also could U pleeze mak it topical...little kids starving and dying durring crissmas. Also could I have a nu geetar.

Signd,

a fammus rock singer

Santa reached across his desk for his pipe and matches. He left the pipe and took the matchbook. He struck one and held it for a moment to the letter he had just read, because a nice fire always made Santa feel happy.

Santa stamped out the ashes on his wooden floor and then began writing on another piece of paper the rest of his list. Condition number 74 was that Santa would no longer be receiving requests...everybody would get what they got, like it or not.

He paused to take a deep breath and his eyes wandered to the stack of letters again. The letter that now lay at the top was also written in a childlike scrawl. Santa took a closer look at it, though, because unlike the previous letter it was not written on fine Tiffany stationery. Also, the author of the newest letter was able to sign their own name, unlike the rock star. Santa held the letter closer to his eyes.

Dear Santa Claus,

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year! I’m sorry this letter is so dirty. But I guess I’m kinda dirty, too. I’m sorry.

I’m writing you cause Mommy said it was okay. She said we might be able to buy a stamp to mail it. I hope so, ‘cause I have to ask you for something.

Santa, don’t send me any toys this year. You didn’t send any last year, but Mom said you did. She said you just got confused ‘cause you didn’t know the landlord kicked us out. Do you still have my toys from last year? Save them. I’d like to have them but we don’t have anywhere to put them.

All I want this year is somewhere to live, Santa. Maybe you could give my little brother a toy, but just one ‘cause they don’t let us keep much stuff at the shelter we go to sometimes. Also, can you give my Mommy a job? She makes neat toys for us out of stuff we find on the street. She comes from New York, so she’s used to snow.

I love you, Santa!

Sincerely,

Virginia Small

Santa reached across his desk again, but not for his matches. His hand rested on a box of tissues. He blew his nose softly, then looked again at the letter, noticing a postscript on the bottom. It read: P.S. But if you do happen to have an extra Beatstreet Boys doll lying around that you don’t know what to do with, I’ll be happy to take it off your hands and taken out of your way.

Then below that, another postscript:

P.P.S. Nick’s my favorite!

Just as Santa finished reading the postscripts, there came a soft knocking at his door. Santa lifted himself up, brushing the moisture away from his eyes, and went to open his study door; he paused only long enough to throw away his list of demands.

When he opened his door, Santa looked down to see the elf that had been trying so hard earlier to find his whiskey flask. Only now he was holding a breakfast tray with plates of scrambled eggs, sausages, and toast dripping with butter.

“Um,” said the elf, then cleared his throat. “Um, I brought this, uh...that is...um, here’s your breakfast, Santa.”

Santa Claus knelt down in front of the elf, took the tray from him and placed it on the floor, then scooped the little elf into his arms holding him tight. Santa hugged harder than he had in years, laughing with delight because holding the elf was the nearest he could come at that moment to hugging Virginia Small.

Beatstreet Boys doll, thought Santa with a chuckle. Hell, I’ll give her the whole band!

Santa was hugging the elf so hard that the hipflask fell to the floor, nearly shattering. A small bunch of elves spying from around the corner recoiled in horror. “My God,” screeched one. “He’s killing him!”

Santa got up at last and let out his first “ho ho ho” in years. He bent down to eye-level with the elf that was trying to kick the whiskey flask under a rug. “Did you know,” said Santa, “that you are my very favorite elf?” Santa reached behind the elf to grab the flask. “Come on,” he said gently pushing the elf into his study. “Let’s have a drink and plan tonight’s route, shall we? What is your name, by the way?”

The door closed with a soft click.

Then opened again with a hefty “ho ho ho” as Santa bent down to pick up his breakfast tray from the floor outside. The door closed with another soft click.

After a pause, the small band of elves that had been spying screwed their courage up to venture into the open. They stood outside Santa’s study listening through the door.

One elf stood with his hands on his hips, shaking his head slowly back-and-forth.

“Fuckin’ brown-noser,” he said.