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Nobody Says Thank You
In this case the prompt was a run-down looking Santa Clause
with a two day
growth of beard sitting at a bar.
It was two days after Christmas when I ran into Santa Claus down at Sweeney’s
Saloon on Christopher Street in the Village. He had one full bourbon in front
of him and four empties next to it.
The floor around his stool was littered with cigarette butts, and although
smoking was no longer allowed in Sweeney’s, there was something in the look on
Santa’s face that kept me from saying anything about it. He wore a dour, sour
look which inhibited even a man of my bulk from grumbling about it.
Live and let live, I say -- especially when it concerns my life.
Instead of a snow white beard, he sprouted a two day growth of stubble. His
eyes were bloodshot and he wore an expression of exhaustion mixed with
downright menace. I sat down gingerly two seats from him, leaving an empty stool
between us and ordered a scotch -- neat.
He looked me up and down and polished off his bourbon in one swift swallow
without so much as blinking. He turned then to look at me and in a gravely voice
asked me, “Have a nice Christmas, Junior?”
“Not bad, thank you,” I answered nervously.
“Don’t thank me, Junior. I didn’t have anything to do with it.”
I let it go and stared idly at the mirror behind the bar. From there I could
see his wasted face as he stacked another empty bourbon glass next to the
others and signaled the bartender for a refill.
In a voice too loud to be ignored he said “Y’know how many God damn people
there are on this here planet, Junior -- huh! -- do you?”
“Well, no, actually. I read it somewhere and I guess I forgot.”
“More’n 6 billion of ‘em. That’s how God damn many. And what’s more, Junior
-- each of ‘em want somethin’ for nuthin’.” He flicked his butt on the
floor and reached into his bright red coat for another. The package he withdrew
was empty and he crumpled it up into a ball and threw that on the floor as well.
“Well, what next, huh? How many more things can go wrong for Santa? Gimme a
butt. Don’t just sit there, dummy -- gimme a butt.”
“There’s no smoking in here,” I ventured. “Besides, I don’t smoke.” I
fully expected him to pick up the stool between us and hit me with it, the
had made me a little foolhardy I guess. However, he seemed to slump as though
someone had let the wind out of him and I thought for a moment he was going to
“It’s been a rough year f’Santa up there at the pole, junior. It’s no fun
starin’ at the old lady and tryin’ to get the elves to put in an honest day’s
work. I tell ya, my old lady looks more like a walrus every year. Santa’s got
a yen not to go back -- to get loaded and shack up -- unnerstan?” He turned
his watery eyes on me. “Besides, nobody says ‘thank you’ anymore, they just
grab their presents, rip off the paper and say, “Shit! I wanted a Macintosh, not
a damn PC!”
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