A Gift for Santa
“Ho, ho, ho,” Garreth Poole tried to deepen his voice even more than usual. “Ho, ho, ho.”
He heard a chuckle behind him, and turned to see his sister lounging in the doorway of the tiny dressing room. “Looking good, bro,” she said, making an approving gesture with her thumb and two fingers. “You’re definitely ready for Christmas. The suit looks great on you.”
“Thanks,” he replied dryly, adjusting the pillow stuffed under the Santa suit he was wearing. “But the beard itches.”
“Sorry. Thanks for doing this, Gar. I was in a bind.”
He shrugged. “No problemo. Anything for you, sis. You know that.”
She smiled, her eyes twinkling. “The kiddies will appreciate it. I’ll open the store and start letting ‘em in. You ready to play Kris Kringle?”
“As ready as I’ll ever be. Let’s do this.”
He followed her out into her clothing store. His sister Sylvia worked hard at making a go of it, especially in this tight economy. She’d planned to have a man come in and play Santa so that she could have their pics taken and charge for them, but her Santa had cancelled at the last moment. Desperate, she’d called up her big brother and had asked him to fill in. Since this was one of his days off from his construction job (he ran his own crew), he’d agreed readily. So now he was wearing a red-and-white suit and a curly white beard over his face. Sylvia had carefully brushed some blush onto his cheeks to give them that ‘rosy’ affect. He walked over to the gilded throne chair with the red velvet cushions set up in one corner. The photographer, who was a friend of Sylvia’s, was setting up his camera on a tripod.
“Sit down, Santa,” his sister said, amusement in her voice. “Let’s get you settled in before the kiddies start to arrive.”
“Ho, ho, ho,” he replied, grimacing under the beard. She laughed and patted the seat. He deposited his rump down into it, setting his white-gloved hands on the gilded arms. “I’m ready,” he said grimly.
She winked at him. “Okay, Mr. Kringle. I’ll open the doors. Good luck.”
“Uncle Diarmud, are we gonna go see Santa now?” a little boy’s voice piped up.
Diarmud Connelly glanced down at his little nephew, who was holding his hand and skipping along beside him. He smiled. “Sure, we can do that,” he replied in a voice that only had a trace of the lilting Irish accent from his childhood. His family had immigrated to America when he was only eight.
“Cool! Hey, look, there’s a sign. Santa’s in there!” the child cried excitedly, pointing at a hand-painted sign sitting outside of a clothing store up ahead of them.
“All right, Brendan. We’ll go in there. Come on, buddy.” Diarmud steered his overexcited nephew toward the doorway of the store. It was crowded inside; dozens of children were in there already waiting for their turn on Santa’s lap.
They pushed their way into the place, standing at the back. Brendan was disappointed that he wouldn’t be able to see Santa right away, but Diarmud diverted his attention by producing a hand-held video game and crouching down to play it with his nephew while they waited. Soon they were both laughing at it and the brightly-colored characters having exciting adventures on the screen.
Garreth was already getting tired. Eager children had pawed at the front of his suit with dirty fingers, and had shrieked in his ear with dental drill screams that made his head ring. And there were still dozens of them out in the store, waiting their turn to take a picture with Santa. It was going to be a long day. He sighed; looking down at the little girl perched on his lap. “I want a PSP, Santa!” she shrilled. “And a My Little Pony!”
“Okay, sweetheart.” He patted her on the shoulder with a white-gloved hand. “Look into the camera,” he added, pointing at the photographer. “And smile for Santa, okay?”
She did as told, showing off a set of teeth with a charming gap in between the two front ones. He sat still as the photographer snapped their photo, then he gently deposited the girl onto her feet. “There you go. Have a Merry Christmas, Melanie.”
“Thanks, Santa!” she called, before darting off to her mom.
“Next,” his sister said, picking up a small boy and settling him on Garreth’s padded lap. He immediately began to cry, not liking this situation at all.
Garreth patted him gently on the shoulder. “It’s all right,” he said as gently as he could. “Santa won’t hurt you. Can you tell me your name, little guy?”
The boy sniffled. “Bobby,” he whispered.
Garreth smiled reassuringly at him. “Hi, Bobby. Can you tell Santa what you want for Christmas?”
“Umm...a Tonka truck and my first bike,” the boy replied hopefully.
“That sounds like a good wish list. Now will you smile for the camera? Over there,” Garreth said, pointing at the photographer.
Bobby sniffled again, but when Garreth smiled down at him and patted his back, he conjured up a watery smile of his own and looked at the camera. The flash went off, and he flinched a little. Then Garreth set him on his feet. “Go back to your mom, Bobby,” he said. “And have a Merry Christmas, little guy.”
“Thank you,” the boy whispered, then waved before running off to his waiting mother. Only ten thousand or so more to go. Garreth bucked himself up, hoping that his head didn’t fall off before the afternoon was over.
The line moved forward little by little. Finally Diarmud noticed that they were getting close to Santa. “Okay, Brendan, we have to stop this,” he said, tucking the video game back into the pocket of his jacket. “We’re almost to Santa now.”
“Goody!” the boy cried, clapping his hands together in glee. “I can ask him for what I want!”
“That’s the point,” Diarmud agreed. He straightened up and took his nephew’s hand. Together they waited for their turn to see Santa, after which he’d take his nephew out to lunch and would then send the boy home – so that he could buy whatever it was that Brendan listed to Santa that he wanted as a gift for Christmas.
Garreth shifted in his seat, feeling uncomfortable. Even the velvet padding wasn’t helping anymore. Wearily he looked at the next child in line, a small boy standing next to an adult male. He was a cute little thing; he had glossy brown curls and big green eyes, and his face was wreathed in smiles as he looked eagerly up at ‘Santa’. That was a good change from all of the crying, scared ones he’d had today. He held out his arms. “Come up on Santa’s lap,” he boomed. “Ho, ho, ho!”
Laughter, light and musical. Then the adult scooped the boy up and held him out to Garreth. “There we are,” he said in a voice that had the dregs of a charming accent to it. “Go to Santa, Brendan.”
Garreth looked into a pair of sea-green eyes and lost his heart right on the spot. The man was an older replica of the boy, probably his father. Jesus, just his luck! To come face-to-face with a sexy, straight dad who gave him the nearly irresistible urge to ask if HE wanted to sit on Santa’s lap, instead of the boy…
He took the child, still staring at the dad. His mouth felt dry, and he was glad for the padding in the suit to conceal the sudden ‘problem’ at his crotch. “Santa?” the boy asked, making him blink. He became aware that he’d been staring at the dad for several minutes now. The guy had to think that he was crazy.
“Uh, yes? Umm…what do you want for Christmas, little boy?”
The boy brightened up even further, showing dimples in his smile. “I want a Wii!” he cried.
“A Wii, huh? Okay, Brendan. Can you smile for the camera?” Garreth pointed at it. “Your daddy will want a good picture of you.”
“He’s not my Daddy, he’s Uncle Diarmud!” the boy yelled.
Ooo, that was good news. A relative, but NOT a dad. Still, that didn’t mean anything. What a wonderful name, Diarmud. God, he had it bad already. He blinked a little as the camera’s flash went off, then the boy started to scramble off of his lap. But he paused, and leaned in to whisper in Garreth’s ear: “Hey, Santa?”
“Do you bring presents to grown-ups too, or just little kids?”
Well, usually I only do kids, but…I could make an exception.”
“Cool. Cause Uncle Diarmud needs a boy to kiss. Can you bring him one?” the boy asked innocently.
Garreth blinked in shock. Had he heard that correctly? “Your uncle needs…a boy to kiss?” he repeated.
The child nodded. “Uncle Toby moved to California without Uncle Diarmud, and now he’s sad. So could you bring him another boy for Christmas? Please?”
Garreth felt a large smile slowly spreading across his face. “Santa will try his darndest to make sure that your Uncle Diarmud gets another boy to kiss him for Christmas,” he vowed.
“Yay! It‘s a secret,” Brendan held a finger to his lips.
“Definitely. Just one thing, Brendan – what’s your last name? So Santa will know where to send the present for your uncle?”
“Oh, it’s Connelly.” The trusting child replied.
“Excellent. Merry Christmas, Brendan – and thank you.”
The child turned to look at him in puzzlement. “For what?” he asked.
“For making Santa’s Christmas a merry one, too,” Garreth replied enigmatically. He waved to Brendan, who ran off to his uncle. Satisfied, Garreth sat back in the chair. Wow, was he ever glad that he’d agreed to play Santa at his sister’s shop for Christmas! He was about to get the gift of a lifetime, if he had his way…
Diarmud paid for the photo and took Brendan out of the store. “So did you have fun with Santa, Brendan?” he asked as they walked along hand-in-hand.
The child looked up at him with a gleam in his eyes that should have tipped Diarmud off that he was up to something. “Yep,” he replied merrily. “I sure did. And I think that I’m going to get what I asked him for, Uncle Diarmud,” he added in satisfaction.
“Yes, I bet that you will,” his uncle replied, not knowing about the OTHER gift that his nephew had asked Santa for at the last moment…
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