Christmas in a Good Catchment Area
By Adam J. Shardlow
The boy opened the door and stared at the large black leather boots that stood upon the welcome mat.
‘Who is it?’ Came the call from over his shoulder.
Looking up past the heavy brocade trousers, the colour a deep burgundy russet, and the large barrel chest wrapped in a fur trimmed cloak, to the voluminous white beard that spilled downwards and frothed and curled elaborately around red tinted cheeks and deep set blue eyes, the boy smiled with delight.
‘I’ll see to it,’ came a second male voice as the boy’s father stepped up to the door.
The boy looked around the rotund figure to the antiquated sledge that was parked across their drive, eight reindeer pawing at the snow covered ground, steam and twinkling slipstream sparking off their flanks.
‘Ah - I see. We give to a set of charities by direct debit every month,’ said the boy’s father eyeing the imposing mythical seven foot figure standing by the replica boot scraper. ‘Rwanda and a couple of animal charities.’
‘It’s Santa,’ said the boy smiling and pointing upwards.
‘No - it’s just someone dressed as him. What have we told you about pointing?’
‘Who is it?’
They were joined at the door by an elegantly dressed woman in a figure complimenting suit, elaborate hair coiffured into position.
‘Santa,’ said the boy slightly more insistently.
‘It’s someone collecting for Christmas - sorry, you didn’t say which charity?’
‘But we’ve already given,’ she added.
‘I’ve told him that.’
‘It’s very late to be knocking on doors - we are a Neighbourhood Watch area, you know.’
‘THIS PLACE - IT WAS NOT HERE THE LAST TIME,’ said the figure dramatically.
‘Oh,’ said the wife as the voice rumbled through the house like a sound from some ancient poem.’
‘I see - he’s foreign,’ muttered the husband. ‘We’re a new build. Finished this year, good commuting distance to the city,’ he added in a slow and methodical manner, ‘and the schools are excellent. It’s really a very good catchment area.’
‘THE CHILDREN AND THE ORPHANAGE.’
‘Is that what it used to be - we didn’t know? They’ll have all gone now. Would you like some tea?’ Asked the wife, the politeness out of her mouth before she could stop it.
‘Bit late to be out,’ mentioned the father noticing that one of the reindeer was chewing on the hedge, another defecating on the drive. ‘I suppose, you have to pass all sorts of tests now to do this sort of job. You know, get the ‘little children’ test. It’s political correctness gone mad, I say’
‘Yes, completely mad.’
The boy put out a hand to touch the giant but found it pulled back by his mother who smiled discreetly.
‘What have we told you! Santa’s not real, he’s just a left over from a Judo-Christian myth. Sorry about that, it’s hard to keep them focused. That’s a very good suit by the way. Did you have it specially made?’
‘You’re not ‘The Round Table’ are you, as we’re not members but our neighbours are and we always thought it looked good decent fun - perhaps you could put in a word?’
‘I WILL FIND THEM ALL THIS VERY NIGHT.’
‘Really? They’re making you work all night? Seems harsh - I suppose you don’t have much in the way of union representation?’
‘TONIGHT IS AS LONG AS IT NEEDS BE.’
‘Well, if they’re paying above the minimum then I suppose it’s all right.’
The figure bowed elaborately before putting a hand deep within a hidden pocket and pulling out a gift wrapped in bright green paper and tied with a perfect red crepe bow.
‘FOR YOU, SAMUEL’ he said, and placed it in the boys outstretched hand.
‘Oh you don’t have to, really,’ said the wife.
‘How much do we owe you?’ Added the husband resentfully.
The large mythical being turned and trudged back to his sleigh, small bells at his calves jingling the sound of Christmas deep into the night.
The door was closed to keep out the cold as the boy opened his present.
‘How did he know his name?’ Asked the father, reaching for the phone and dialling the police. ‘That’s really not right at all.’
The boy gasped with awe at his first present of the night, an exquisitely carved soldier in a red suit with a high black hat, a rifle over his shoulder. He smiled and stroked it carefully and held it up for his mother to inspect.
‘Oh, I do hope that’s Fair Trade.’