A SEASONAL SHORT STORY
BY PAUL HOPKINS
I had thought about it for, I guess, the best part of a day, mulled over it, slept on it, my baby brother rabbiting the head off himself in his bed opposite me. My plan was to burrow my way to the back of the huge stand-alone wardrobe in my parents’ bedroom. The planning needed skillful setting up, exact execution, perfect timing and precise action. Fierce, in fact. But, I figured, now that I was going on 11 years old and all, that I had the wherewithal to make my mission a success and find out if my suspicions were, after all, and sadly, correct. The truth about Santa Claus.
If I was right, and my mission a success, there would be huge ramifications ( I had to look that word up) for the whole world and, most importantly, for all the world’s children. Trillions of them, most like.
My father was away working, on the trains; sorting out the letters and cards for people from other people all over the world. Mostly their relations, sometimes old neighbours or childhood friends. Letters written once or twice a year, my father had told me, or for special occasions or when bad news happened like someone had died or someone’s cow had fallen down a bog or whatever. But there were lots and lots of letters, lots too at Christmas time were ‘registered’, with money orders in them, from places in England like Birmingham and Coventry or America and Boston and California. Sometimes Sydney or Toronto or sometimes from a sister who had became a nun and had gone off to teach the Black babies in far-away Africa.
Anyways, my father would be working away on the trains, sorting out the mail to make sure the letters for Galway got to Galway and the ones for Sligo got to Sligo. My mother said he was very good at his job, so I guess he was.
The day of my massive mission my mother had to go into town on the bus to buy more stuff for Christmas. It was the only time she had, she told me. She took my little sister with her — she was only four — but left my little brother with me. I was in charge. That was a given, as I was nearly 11 and all. It was easy too. If he didn’t behave I just gave him a thump, and that was that.
I had warned my little brother to stay downstairs, with the cat, “or else”, and I headed off on my mission, armed with my flashlight and a a packet of Chew-its in case I got hungry while on the job.
I climbed the stairs and my heart was heavy. Heavy, because I suspected my mission deep into the back of my parents’ wardrobe would only prove my suspicions right. It had been about a week before that my mother was returning from yet another visit to town with my little sister in tow, steady on her baby reins.I heard them come up the garden path, and I quickly replaced the cushions on the good couch in the good room where my brother and I had been playing the Lone Ranger, he was Tonto and I had tied him up with the chord from my father’s dressing gown.
My brother and I collapsed at the front door as my mother put the key in, saying, Come on boys move, let us get in…
She was laden down with bags from Clery’s and Guiney’s and other places and it was then that I saw it. At least I thought I saw it. Peeking out of the top of the Clery’s bag. The X-Air Space Gun SR2 I had asked Santa to bring me.
What was going on, my head wondered and I was about to say something but something stopped me in my tracks and I just kept shtum. I looked again but there nothing there.
Let me just put away some things, my mother said, and then we’ll get the tea. And she scurried upstairs, and there was a lot of commotion and doors banging, doors of the big stand-alone wardrobe in my parents’ room. And then she came back down, her face all flushed, her big coat still on.
A banana or boiled egg, she said.
Crisps, we said.
I opened the large doors of my parents stand-alone wardrobe, and one of them swung too far and hit me on the forehead. Ouch, I muttered, as I switched on my sturdy flashlight and made my way along the short distance to the back of the musky recess which wasn’t easy as I was now lanky — and awkward, my mother said — because I was nearly 11 and all and their were shoes and and old handbag and some coat hangers that had fallen down and a tattered cardboard box. On my way to the back of the wardrobe I came upon my old and only teddy, Michael, lying there, forlorn, inert and no longer loved nor needed. Hmm, I said, what a naft kid, and looked at Michael, one of his glass eyes now missing, and tossed him back on top of an old patent leather slingback shoe that once was my mother’s.
But there was no Treasure Island! No haha me hardies, as my sturdy flashlight shone on just a large empty bag in which stood nothing. Santa better bring me my X-Air Space. He just better .There would be slaughter everywhere on Christmas Day. Everywhere. No one would escape. Not even my little brother. It would definitely be oxo for him. He’d see.
So, I thought, leaning back on my hunkers and looked at a bruised knee, Vincent Osbourne was wrong all along. There is a Santa Claus. A fat guy in a red suit speeding around the world like a maniac, like the Six Billion Dollar gobshite, giving mad presents to mad kids he doesn’t even know. Great stuff, I cried.
Hey Chubbs, I shouted at my bother as I galloped Hi-Ho Silver down the stairs. Santa is for real, I yelled. It was the best news. I mean what would Christmas be like if, silly-billy, there was no Santa Clause, no fat guy in a red suit going around the world like a mad eejit given snotty-nosed kids a load of geezer gifts like my Air Space Gun SR2 or dolls called Sylvia? I mean, it didn’t bear thinking about, the global fall-out from such a disclosure. The stock markets plummeting. Those Cuban missiles going berserk. Or even the introduction of some daft thing called social distancing. The ramifications were unimaginable, if there were no Santa Claus.
So, there was a Santa. That figured. Besides, I reckoned that day that I had at least another two years of believing in the fat guy and that, my young heart reasoned, was definitely to my advantage.
Christmas Day that year, there wasn’t a body left standing when Santa brought me my gun. Not even my brother. And I loved him. Though I’d never let on.