The afternoon heat made my little two-bedroom off the Cahuenga overpass feel more like Labor Day than the holidays. My new client preferred the cold, so I cranked my window unit air conditioner to high and hoped it’d be enough. It was the kind of seasonal confusion that made one question everything, like whether or not I should take the meet. Then came a knock at the door, and there she was, all shimmery and bright. I almost bowed.
“Nobody calls me that south of the Pole.”
She walked right in. I guess the Queen of Christmas didn’t need an invitation.
“Who else would I be, honey?”
“I’ll take a poll.”
She undid her black belt, took off her velvet overcoat and threw it at me. Then she opened her glittered clutch purse, fished out a smoke, and took it in her candy-apple lips.
“Nobody has manners down where the sun shines all the time?”
I whipped out my torch, made it hot, and pointed her to my sofa.
“I imagine the Pixie told you about me?”
“She told me you like bourbon.”
“She say I like it straight up, like my conversation?”
I walked in my kitchenette, grabbed a couple of glasses, and poured us both two fingers. When I got back with our drinks, I saw she had pulled up her red velvet skirt to show me a little leg. Her getaway sticks were glorious. Crossfit, pilates, whatever they did up there at the North Pole, was workin’.
“Gotta say, you’re lookin’ pretty good for someone over three hundred years old.”
“All that Christmas Magic, I guess.”
She took off her horned-rim glasses and untied her silver hair. It fell into the perfect frame for her beautiful face.
“So, you know why I’m here?”
“Yeah,” I said. “You want me to push a button on a guy.”
“The guy,” she said, as she lifted her glass to her lips. “Or is that too big a button?”
I was struck cold. Yeah, I had a grudge. What kid from my side of the tracks didn’t? I hadn’t been on the Fat Man’s route since 1977, when I got caught cheating on my States and Capitals test. St. Nick was a hard screw, but layin’ him down for the dirt nap? That’d bring down the whole system, and I ain’t Hindu.
“Want a hanky?” she said. “You’re developin’ a bit of a pallor.”
“So, you want to put Santa in the ground, and all of Christmas with him. You’re a piece of work, honey.”
“Don’t I know it. So, you in, or are you all wet?”
“Ya know, you could just leave him.”
“Signed a prenup,” she said. “I dangle, and I get bupkis. Besides, he probably knows I’m here.”
I jumped up from my seat and grabbed her arm.
“Have a good yule, sister.”
“C’mon, Devon! You know the songs! He makes that list. He checks it twice. He’s gonna find out I’ve been naughty, and then it’s curtains. You gotta help me!”
“You’re beyond help, baby. This is Big Red we’re talkin’ about.”
“You don’t know what it’s like! Sure, I bake the cookies, sing the carols, babysit the elves, but what do I get?”
I pulled away from her and stepped back three feet.
“And you’ve seen what he’s done to the holiday. Black Friday. Small Business Saturday. Cyber Monday. It’s all him. He’s a monster. Even Jesus wants him dead.”
“Shall I call you a cab, or did you bring reindeer?”
“Listen, Devon…once he’s gone, I get the whole megilla. He’s insured at Lloyd’s. I can take care of you.”
“No deal, toots. I don’t need another lump of coal,” I said, as I opened the door.
“I’ve seen your letters.”
I froze. Her words hit like fists.
“Buck Rogers action figures. Hot Wheels sets.”
She pulled me toward her and teased me with feigned kisses.
“That little red wagon. Red. Just like my lips.”
My stomach sank as I realized the old broad had my number. All I ever wanted was that wagon. It stayed in my dreams. Haunted me. Maybe I was from the wrong zip code, or the Fat Bastard had a problem with my father being Jewish. Still, I kept my nose clean. I stayed out of trouble, played the good boy. And all it got me was a stocking full of heartache. I wanted that wagon. I needed it. Maybe my life would have been different had I gotten it. The thoughts swam around in my brain like alphabet soup, spelling out ‘schmuck,’ over and over.
“Everything that puritanical hypocrite denied you. You can have it all, Devon. And you can have me.”
“But…the North Pole is a fortress.”
“I’ve got an Elf on the inside. He can get you there. All you have to do is pull the trigger. After that, it’s just the two of us, dashing through the snow.”
She pulled me to the floor and showed me all her Christmas magic. We did the ho-ho-ho, all night long. Screwin’ Mrs. Kringle, just before killin’ Santa Claus. Aw man, was I naughty. The naughtiest I’d ever been. I resolved to tell him, just before I pull the trigger. Look him square in his eyes and tell him I shtupped with his old lady.
And that he really should’ve brought me that goddamned wagon.