Author's note: This is an old story I wrote back in the days of Clockwork Storybook. We wrote a lot of Christmas stories during our run, of varied quality, but I really like this one, still. It sums up most of my feelings about Christmas nicely. It was literally inspired by a dream I had, and it scared the hell out of me at the time. I tried to make the "off the rails" part of the story just like my dream. You can let me know if I succeeded or not. Hope you enjoy it!
“Santa Claus, Daddy!” Martin Hartsfield tugged frantically on his father’s arm, to no avail. He leaned into the task of attempting to steer the grown-up away from the Old World Sausage Shoppe and into the North Pole Pavilion of Guildcrest Mall.
“Marty, calm down!” Joseph Hartsfield’s tone was rougher than he’d intended, but Christ, that kid was driving him nuts.
“But Daaaad...” whined Marty, the nasal tone raking down Joseph’s spine.
“Son,” said Joseph, as he leaned down and turned the six-year old around to face him, “do you remember our deal?”
Marty’s expression went from petulant to thoughtful.
“What we talked about on the way here? If you’re good and quiet and help me out tonight, we’ll go see the Christmas lights.”
“Yeahbut, Dad, that’s Santa Claus over there!” Clearly this changed the deal in Marty’s eyes.
Joseph didn’t even glance over his son’s shoulder. “Did you see the line over there? Son, the mall will be closed before you can even get to talk to him.”
“Marty, I promise, we’ll come back later, when it’s not so crowded.” Say, in June, Joseph thought. “Now, if you want to see the Christmas lights tonight, then you’ll be a big kid and help me out, okay?”
“Aw, but Daaaad...”
“Okay,” said Joseph, standing up, “here are your choices: keep quiet and help me out, then we’ll go see the Christmas lights, or keep whining and go home with nothing. What’s it going to be, son?”
Marty hung his head. “Aw, I guess I’ll be quiet.”
“Good,” Joseph said. They resumed walking. “While you’re being quiet, why don’t you tell me what you’re going to ask Santa for this Christmas?”
Marty’s eyes lit up. The Santa incident now forgotten, he started in on his list, rapid fire. “I want a Gameboy with the Pokemon Gold, and an Action Man with the blow gun thing, and Spyro for the Xbox...”
Joseph let him chatter away while he gnashed his teeth at the whole thing. Christmas was for the kids now, not the adults. He surveyed the mall, bedecked to overflowing with silver and gold tinsel, red and green wreathes. Every single store had some overt way to signify that it was indeed Christmas, and all of your shopping needs could be taken care of in one fell swoop if you would just come inside. Joseph hunched his shoulders and stuck his hands in his pockets, feeling grinchy. It had been like this since early November, for Christ’s sake! As if anyone needed any reminders.