Everyone at the Christmas party was too drunk to recognize him. He walked from the front door to the stairs without so much as a head-turn, just another man in a Santa suit in a house full of drunks in Santa suits. He went upstairs and walked down the hall, opened the door. Frank was sitting in a rocking chair, wearing a red and green knit sweater. The girl on her knees in front of him was wearing an elf costume.
“How ya doing, Frank? Who’s the Ho Ho Ho?”
Frank looked up from his lap, eyes widening, and reached for his zipper as the girl stumbled to her feet.
“Jesus. Vince? What the hell are you doing here?”
Vince eyed the girl. She didn’t look a day over 19, clearly embarrassed, as drunk as she was.
“Go downstairs, honey,” Vince said. “Santa wants to discuss something with Frank.”
The girl gave a sheepish grin and walked out the door. Vince closed it and took a seat on the couch across from the rocker.
He reached into his pocket. “You want a candy cane?”
Frank shook his head.
Vince pulled one out. He hooked it around his finger and started to twirl it, waiting for him to ask.
After a minute, Frank cleared his throat. “So…uh…what did you want to discuss?”
Frank frowned. “We already went over this a year ago, Vince. There’s nothing more to say about it.”
“Sure there is. I’ve had some time to think. There are some things I didn’t get to say.”
Frank glanced at his watch. “Can you make it fast? I’m supposed to be downstairs hosting charades in twenty minutes.”
Vince smiled. “No problem. Sure you don’t want a candy cane?”
“Yeah, I’m sure.”
“Okay. I thought maybe you’d start.”
Frank shrugged. “What am I supposed to say?”
“I thought maybe you’d admit it.”
Frank shook his head. “Admit what? I told you before. It’s nothing personal. It’s a seasonal job. A lot of guys come and go. I don’t think I know anybody who wanted to be Santa more than two or three years in a row. Not six years.”
“Six happy years.”
“Okay, six happy years. But it isn’t a career. Just because I hire Santas and Elves for five different malls doesn’t mean I’m making enough to retire on. Eleven months out of the year I’m selling houses. That’s my real job. And, like I told you before, you’ve gotta focus on your real job. You’re still selling cars, right?”
Vince shook his head. “They fired me.”
For a moment, something like genuine sympathy spread across Frank’s face.
“I’m sorry to hear that. Really. If there’s anything––”
“Want a candy cane?”
Frank wrinkled his forehead. “No. I…look, I am sorry. I know you liked playing Santa, but, with you and Beth having problems, I just figured you’d be better off staying home last year.”
Vince frowned. “Beth left me.”
Frank actually looked surprised. “Jeez, Vince…I’m…I don’t know what to say. I know we were never real close, but I always thought you and Beth were a great––”
“Save it, Frank.”
Frank blinked, confused. “What?”
“You can cut the shit.”
“I don’t know what you’re––”
“Oh, it took me a while. A long time. And by then I was in such a bad place I kind of thought it was funny. First you fire me and then Beth acts like…like I’m nothing. I actually thought she might’ve only loved me cause I was Santa every year. Isn’t that crazy? After she left me, I just…I just hit rock bottom. I was never much of a drinker, but when life goes down the shitter, boy, I can tell ya, you learn how to drink. And of course the guys at the dealership weren’t gonna wait around for me to straighten myself out.”
The guilt was burned onto Frank’s face. He knew what was coming next.
Vince shook his head. “For a guy who didn’t know Beth too well, you really liked fucking her.”
Frank’s whole body tensed. “Now hold on, Vince. Just hold on.”
Vince smiled. “Oh no, I know it was only around Christmas time, not year-round. I’d be off at the mall with some kid sitting on my lap, and you’d be at my house with my wife sitting on yours. For a worthless fucking excuse for a human being, you’re pretty smart. No risk of me coming home and catching you when you’re the one setting my schedule. So what was it? Did you hire me back every year cause I was a good Santa? Or were you just enjoying the yearly tradition of boning my wife?”
The room became still, silent except for the muted sounds of the party downstairs. Frank sat there, his face blank.
“Well, Vince, I guess there isn’t any point in saying anything else about it. I think you should leave now.”
Vince didn’t move.
Frank’s face tightened. “I mean it, Vince. I’m not playing any games here. I let you say what you wanted to say. Now get out of my house.”
Vince sighed. “You can’t even admit it, huh? She told me everything.”
Frank leaned forward. “So she told you. So I fucked her. So what?”
“You’re not sorry?”
Frank shook his head. “Vince, you always were a gullible bastard. A real pushover. A guy like you marries a girl like Beth, he should know she’s gonna stray. I’m surprised it took you so long to figure it out. Better late than never I guess. But I’ll tell you what, since you had the balls to come here and face me, I’ll let you take a swing at me and we can call it even.”
“You want a candy cane?”
Frank scowled, gripping the armrests of the chair. “No, I don’t want a fucking candy cane!”
Despite the heavy padding of the Santa suit, Vince moved fast. He was off the couch in half-a-second, grabbing Frank by the jaw and yanking his mouth open.
“Do… you… want a candy… cane?” Vince said, pushing it down the chimney.
Bio: At the age of eleven, Dyer Wilk received a large stack of used Stephen King novels. This event gave his life some direction. He now reads and writes constantly because he doesn’t know any better. He can be found rambling on Twitter and Facebook and at his blog, A Season of Dusk.