Written for Ruth Long’s Bad Santa Blog Hop 2012
The bearded stranger in Smythe’s Bar wanted to run a tab.
Smythe, a phone-booth shaped man with one eyebrow and a handlebar moustache, asked, “Why should I let you?”
“Because I’m Santa fucking Claus, that’s why.”
“You ain’t Santa,” sneered the young barfly on the next stool.
The guy in the red suit half slid and half fell off his stool and stood in front of the unbeliever.
“You’re gonna have to repeat that, son.”
The words died in his mouth. Up close, the older man’s beard looked a lot less white and a lot less fake. And there was something about his face…
“Yo!” called out Smythe. “Father Christmas! Park it or take your ass out of my bar!”
The young barfly continued to stare in silence.
The bearded man nodded and smacked the kid on the back of the head.
“That’s what I thought.” He climbed back up onto his stool and signaled for another round.
The kid stared some more.
“But… Santa’s a fat guy. You’re not that big.”
“Thanks for noticing, kid!” He laughed. “Two words. Slim. Fast. You seen the places I have to get into these days? Not one in ten houses has a goddam chimney! It’s mail slots and doggie doors.”
Smythe walked down to the end of the bar.
“Okey, Father Christmas,” he said, “if you’re the real deal what’re you doin’ in my bar on Christmas Eve? Where’s the sleigh?”
The bearded stranger looked straight down into his beer.
“It’s gone,” he said. “It’s fucking gone. I was in the house five minutes, long enough to drop the gifts and have one cookie.” He looked up. “Okey, four. Home-baked, what can I say? When I got outside… nothing but deer shit where I parked the sleigh.”
Smythe and the young barfly looked at each other.
“I been through this town, what, hundreds of times? Used to be a nice neighborhood.”
He drained his beer and slid the empty to Smythe.
“So now I got half the night to go and I still gotta get back to the Pole and no fucking team and sleigh! I can’t believe those antlered morons would just go with some stranger.”
“You call the cops?” asked the kid.
“And tell ’em what? I’m Santa and some Grinchy motherfucker boosted my ride?”
He dropped his head back down.
“Fuck it,” he growled.
The kid thought about it and hopped off his stool.
“I can give you a lift,” he said. “That’s my El Camino outside.”
The kid fired up the engine while the bearded stranger got settled in the passenger seat.
“You got enough magic left to get us to the Pole?” he asked.
“Yeah… but the elves are gonna bitch about having to pull my spare sleigh.” He laughed. “Fuck ’em. That’s what I pay ’em for, right?”
500 words (501 with title)