It’s that time of the year again or haven’t you noticed? Scrooge is rampant, the retailers are trying to suck us in – since September would you believe? – and the radio is playing endless reels of “Christmas songs”.
Dominating the adverts I have seen in the press and on the Net, in my inbox and all the shops is the Big Red Clobbered Fat Man selling everything from merry radioactive Robins to a complete suite of dining room furniture. Try getting a sofa down my chimney Fat Boy! So, what of it? We get suckered in every year forgetting that many people celebrate Christ’s birth at Christmas having hi-jacked the end of year feast for the purpose, and others simply get p… Inebriated.
Anyway, for your entertainment here is a lovely Christmas Story.
Santa’s Grotto by James Apps
Danny Morris hated being Santa.
“It’s because I’m fat they choose me,” he complained to the new boy.
“They say you have the deep kindly voice the children like,” the new boy replied. “You know, the ho, ho, ho and the jolly laugh.”
“Nah, I’m the only fat old bloke they’ve got,” Danny said, and with a dismissive gesture of his fat hand he indicated the row of Santa suits hanging on the rack. “And on Monday I have to get into one of those and act the fool for a few hours.”
The new boy shook his head. “Well, it is Christmas, and the store does a nice Grotto. I will be one of the Elves, sort of helping you out,” the boy said enthusiastically.
Danny glowered at him. “You cheeky sod.” He said.
On Monday morning Danny had a last fag outside in the yard and walked reluctantly back into the store. Donning the Santa Suit, with a fat sigh he waddled into the Grotto using the rear door and took his place on the Santa seat flanked by the helpers, the bloody elves, who were there to give out the gifts and make sure the brats moved on. It was a Santa conveyor belt.
“Oh well, here we go,” he said with a groan a few moments before the doors opened.
“Should be fun,” said the new boy cheerfully and pushed the switch to start the music.
“Oh no! Not ruddy Jingle Bells!” cried Danny glowering at the new boy who grinned at him and mouthed the words in time to the song. Danny clenched his fists wanting to smack the silly grin from the new boy’s face but already the first children were coming in.
From the first HO, HO, HO that launched him into the mind boggling realm of snotty noses, suspicious mothers, endless questions about bloody reindeer and greedy kids who wanted too much he was embroiled in the beginning of the worst three weeks of his employment. That he managed the first week without taking to drink or throttling one of the kids was a minor miracle.
The second week the elves started to get on his nerves, especially the new boy who was cheerful, helpful and sickenly enthusiastic. It was week three, on the Monday after a weekend of drinking trying to deaden the run up to Christmas that it all went pear shaped.
A small boy waddled up to him, wiped his nose with his sleeve, picked the gum from his mouth and stuck it on Rudolph’s pulsating red nose.
Danny had no chance to remonstrate with him because the far from angelic face looked up at him and said: “All right fatty, what am I gonna get fer Christmas then?”
He wanted to say: ‘Your legs slapped hard, for a start and your ugly mother given a walloping for birthing a horrible kid like you and your father hung, drawn and quartered for possibly being a moron.’ Instead he gave the little horror a smile and a meaningful Ho, Ho, Ho and said: “I cannot say what Father Christmas will bring you, sonny.”
“Who you callin’ sonny, fatty?” said the kid whose mother waddled up close behind clutching a mobile to her ear declaring that she was “In effing Santa’s effing grotto, and it’s effing crap,” virtually ignoring what her offspring was doing.
“‘Ere mum, fatty called me sonny!” the boy wailed and ran forward, stopped and kicked Danny’s leg hard.
“Ow! You little sod!” Danny yelled and clutching his leg, bent forward in the seat, his eyes watering from the pain, and without thinking he whacked the kid with his fat hand and knocked him, as he liked to say, base over apex.
There followed a confused cacophony of female indignation, small boy yelling and crying, Elves rushing to sort out the incident. Samantha, the chief Elf fussing around calling the supervisor. The new boy trying to comfort the child and the mother demanding action.
Danny eased his leg and swore one long string of unrepeatable oaths and, overcome by the previous night’s drinking, and the pain in his leg he attempted to rise from the seat to leave the grotto by the back door.
He needed a fag.
Instead he staggered and dropped to the floor to the same level as the small boy who sat staring at him with his mouth wide open, no tears but eyes wide in wonder as he gazed at Danny whose beard and whiskers had shifted to reveal his fat face mapped with small, broken veins and his tobacco stained moustache.
“You said rude words and hit me,” the boy said. “Cor!”
“Cor?” said Danny, “What do you mean by Cor?”
“You said more rude words than me Dad,” the boy said, his face aglow with admiration.
“Do you mean you think that’s good?” said Danny struggling to raise his fat, weary body to its knees and succeeding.
“I didn’t fink Santa was real, mister, cor!”
Danny, aware of the noise surrounding him and the boy’s sudden hero worship he had an inspiration: “What do you want from Santa, sonny?”
As quick as a flash the boy pointed out into the shop and said: “One of them!”
And before the men from Security grasped him and hauled him off to the staff room Danny replied. “Then that’s what you will get.”
What Danny Morris got was a dressing down by his employer, his status as the stores Santa taken away from him and given to the new boy. Penitent and promising to behave, he changed out of the Santa suit into his normal working clothes and settled down to carry on as usual in the store. He was surprised and pleased that nobody pressed charges, and even more pleased when he was informed that he would ‘never again be trusted to work in the Grotto’, and that he also kept his job.
“You are lucky that we were not charged with assault,” said the Manager. “The child’s mother gave him a whacking on her own account referring to him as, and I paraphrase, ‘akin to an awkward, illegitimate, fundamental orifice’ adding a string of epithets that I will not repeat.”
Danny walked off happy with his lot and happy that somebody else was lumbered with being the store’s Santa.
He was still very happy on Christmas Day, drunk maybe, but happy.
And so was little Robert Walker.
His ‘one of them’ stood on the carpet in all its glory. His father, Denis and his mother, Sylvia, were surprised when the courier delivered the large parcel late on Christmas Eve addressed to their four year old son. They were puzzled too. The label on the box inside the parcel had written on it ‘To Robert from Santa’ and the moment the boy saw it his grubby little face lit up and he said: “Coo, bleedin’ ‘eck, ‘e give it me, didn’t ‘e?”
“What’s the effing little bugger on abaht?” said Denis.
“I don’t effing know do I?” said Sylvia. “You ask him.”
And Robert’s reply when his father spoke rudely to him as he sat on his new collapsible trike was: “‘E couldn’t ‘alf bleedin’ swear!”
His father’s face was a picture of puzzled confusion.