Santa's Special Delivery
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I always wanted to be a cop, from the time I was a little
guy. When all my friends wanted to play cowboys and Indians,
I wanted to be the sheriff. I was in Boy Scouts too, which
eventually led to me being in an Explorer troop sponsored by the
Crowley Police Department, or CPD as we called it.
Of course I got a degree in Criminal Justice when I went to college.
So I always knew that law enforcement would have a big impact on my
life. What I did not know was that something along the way to
getting my degree would have an even bigger one.
What that was, was one of the many part time jobs I had while I was in
school. I had a small scholarship, but I still needed money
for books and living expenses. One of those jobs was as the
Santa at Burgdorf's Department Store, from Thanksgiving up until
It was the typical Santa gig, where kids came up and sat on my lap and
told me what they wanted for Christmas. One of the things I
learned early on was that not all kids are excited about a big guy in a
bright red suit and all that facial hair, and who has a booming voice and
moves quickly. It scares the crap out of some kids.
I also found out there are kids who don't really believe in Santa, but
still want to hedge their bets. So they'll sit on his lap and
ask for things, but they ask a lot of questions too. And
then, of course, there are the kids who just want to make
trouble. As a cop I deal with them when they're grown up, but
I can tell you it starts much earlier than that. I've had my
beard pulled off a dozen times, and some attempts made to uncover the
pillows they know I'm stuffed with. I even had one kid stick
a pocket knife in my fake belly and then jump off my lap, crowing that
he proved Santa doesn't exist because it didn't hurt when he stabbed me.
But I was still hooked on doing it, and that's because of the kids who
did believe. The hope in their eyes is something that still
brings tears to my own.
Of course some of them ask for impossible things, and there's nothing
you can do about that. "Please bring something that will cure
my daddy's cancer," is an example. I mean it tears your heart
out. Sometimes you can talk to those kids in a way that gives
them a little hope without making promises you can't deliver
on. Like with that last example, I told the little girl that
I would try to help the doctors and researchers be as smart as they
possibly could be, so they could find a cure if at all
possible. It's not much, but it's better than lying
or saying "Get off my lap, kid. I'm no doctor!"
Don't laugh. There are some guys who play Santa who don't
give a shit. They're just there for the money, and if the pay
you get as a Santa makes that much difference to you, then you're in a
world of shit already.
But there are a few of us out there who become Santa when we put the
suit on. It's hard to explain, because it sounds stupid, and
"Santa" means many different things to different people.
Maybe by the time I finish telling this story, you'll understand what
Santa means to me, and who I tried to become when I was wearing the
big, red suit.
First off, I spent the money to get a good wig and beard. I
put the beard on with gum Arabic. When properly applied, it
will withstand a pretty hard tug. And they look a lot more
natural, of course. I also bought my own suit, but all that
wasn't until years later, after I graduated from college.
It's still one of my hobbies, you see. I've been doing it now
going on twenty years. Every winter I volunteer to work New
Year's Eve in exchange for being able to take some vacation during
Christmas time, so I can be Santa some place. It doesn't
matter where, to me. It can be in a big store, though I don't
like those as much, because they tend to try to get you to shill their
own stuff. But I've done it in malls and smaller stores too.
The reason it doesn't matter is that I have an ulterior
motive. No matter where I pursue this little hobby, I
invariably meet some kid whose family could use a little
help. And that's where the rest of the guys in the CPD come
I made Detective Sergeant after ten years on the force. I'm
not being immodest when I say that I'm one of the most experienced men
in the unit, and that I never miss the opportunity to train up
patrolmen who look like they have promise. Doesn't matter whether they
might go to some other department because there are no openings for
detectives in ours. Good law enforcement is something you
can't have too much of. We're all role models, whether we
want to be or not. I've tried to make sure I was a good one.
Which is why some of the men noticed that I was buying presents for
some of the kids who sat on my lap when I was Santa, and who weren't
likely to get what they asked for any other way.
You can call it charity, or do-gooder stuff. A lot of men
have called it stupid. I don't care. I know what a
wish coming true can mean to a kid, even if it's only for a little
while. And helping a kid feel good, even if it's for only a
few days, is worth doing in my book.
I'm not talking about toys, for the most part, though I have gotten a
few of them. But if a kid asks for some shoes,
because his have holes in them, and more often if they ask for
something for someone else in the family, that's where I try to put my
energy and money.
What I started doing was picking a kid or two and making his or her
Christmas a little brighter. Over the years, some of the
other guys got caught up in it and started donating a few bucks to me
around Christmas time. Then, because some of the guys were
helping get things, I had them deliver them, and that's what hooked
them and some of their non-cop friends.
Now I have a whole network of people, probably fifty or sixty strong at
any given time, who either collect stuff to give to needy kids at
Christmas or donate money and time during the season. Last
year we helped a total of twenty-five families.
So that's why, last December seventh, I was sitting on a big gold
painted chair dressed as Santa when a little boy named Timothy climbed
up on my lap and changed my whole life.
Timothy was seven when I first met him. I was forty-eight and
was about six months shy of having put twenty hard years into the cause
of serving justice. Twenty years of dealing with the dregs of
society changes a man, no matter how hard he tries to keep looking at
the glass as being half full.
Doing the Santa thing kind of recharged my batteries. At
least unless I got one of the future felons. But I had
learned to spot them, and was usually ready for them. I had
an elf with a "Naughty List" and I dictated the kid's name onto it,
which then gave me an excuse to tell him to take off.
Anyway, Timothy wasn't one of those. He was one of the smart
ones. They're the most interesting, but can be dangerous,
too. I could see the intelligence in his eyes as he climbed
up the steps toward me, leaving his mother behind. She was
interesting too. I may as well go ahead and explain that now.
You get a feel for where people are on the socio-economic
ladder. It's not profiling, exactly, but poor people wear
their clothes a little longer before getting rid of them, whether
they're of good quality or not. Poor women don't wear the
kind or amount of makeup wealthy ones do. They don't have the
same kinds of hairdos. There are hundreds of differences that
suggest a man, woman or child comes from a family with few or many
means. It's not a hundred percent accurate, but you get a
feel for things when you deal with all levels of society like I had for
Both Timothy and his mother were wearing quality clothing.
Her jeans were well worn in that soft, many-times-washed way.
She didn't abuse them by ripping them up to be fashionable.
Her tennis shoes were Converse All Stars, but not the most expensive
kind. Her T shirt had a logo on it, but it wasn't one of the
big fashion houses. She looked tired, but then traipsing
around with a eight or nine year old - that's what range I put Timothy
in - can wear anybody down. Her hair was blond, from a
bottle, but not an expensive one, and short with enough unevenness to
the edges that I suspected one of her friends cut it for her.
Timothy had a home cut too. I put Mom in her early to
mid-twenties. The only thing that looked odd about her was
that her skin was just flawless, and creamy looking in a way that made
you want to reach out and touch it. Things glinted from the
edges of her ears, and she had a choker on, which made me uncomfortable
because it made her look like a slave who had slipped away from her
master and might be snatched up by some other monster at any moment.
I gave a few second's consideration to the possibility that she was
Timothy's much older sister, but she turned just then and I saw an
orange and yellow tattoo on her shoulder that had to be at least ten
"Ho, ho, ho," I boomed as the boy approached. "And what is
your name, young man?"
"I thought you knew the names of all the boys and girls in the whole
world," he said, looking at me curiously.
"I have lists of their names," I said. I had faced this
"Oh," he said. "I'm Timothy."
"Glad to meet you Tim," I said.
"Timothy," he corrected.
"Absolutely. Why don't you have a seat on old Santa's lap,
Timothy. How old are you?"
"I'm seven," he said. He looked back at his mother, who was
looking our way. She smiled, and he got up on my
lap. For some reason I let him do the work, instead of
helping him, like I did with most kids.
"Seven year olds are my favorites," I said, my voice
conspiratorial. He looked up at me.
"I didn't think Santa was supposed to have favorites."
That was one I had not faced before.
"Well ... er ... I guess that's right, really. I suppose I
just have a soft spot in my heart for that age, because that was my
favorite age to be once upon a time."
"You were seven?" he asked, clearly awed at the concept.
"Absolutely!" I said. "I grew up just like you are growing
up. It just took me longer, that's all. I was seven
for seven years, for instance." I grinned at the boy.
"You mean like dog years?" he asked, his eyes wide.
I laughed, and had to turn it into a ‘ho, ho, ho’.
"What can I bring you for Christmas, Timothy?"
He took a few seconds to answer, as if he was thinking hard ... maybe
choosing between two or three wanted things, so that he wouldn't sound
greedy by asking for them all. Some kids did that, which was
interesting because some of them knew they were being greedy, but
others were just talking about things they wished they could
have. Some kids know the difference between fantasy and
reality. Others don't. I saw Timothy's mother sidle
closer to us, so she could hear his answer. Smart woman.
"There's this girl named Julia in my school," said Timothy, looking at
me as if he expected me to know who he was talking about. I
nodded to play along. "Last year you brought her a baby
"Oh." I had a sinking feeling in my stomach.
"So I want a little brother, so I have somebody to play with."
I glanced at the woman, who was shaking her head at me. Smart
"That's kind of a hard one to do," I said softly. "I can't
make babies in my workshop, and so the only ones I get to give away are
the orphans, when something happens to their mommy and daddy.
But we don't want that to happen to some little boy, right?"
His little shoulders drooped. "I guess not," he
said. He thought some more, and then looked up into my
face. "Can I ask for something for somebody else?"
I nodded. I could feel moisture building up in my
eyes. I'm really an old softy at heart. At least
when I'm not chasing some asshole down an alley.
"I don't know what it is," he said. "But I know you could
bring my mommy something that would make her happy. She
frowns a lot and has to work a lot. I wish she could be more
"I'll see what I can do," I said. I had already decided this
kid was one of the ones we'd pick this season. I reached into
my pocket and hit the speed dial button on my cell phone.
That would set things in motion. When they left, they'd be
followed to a car, or even back to their house if they took public
transportation. Once a license number or residence was identified, there were
any number of public records that could be used to ascertain who they
were, and we could arrange for things to be delivered to
them. We usually did that on Christmas Eve. I
didn't ask any of the guys to give up Christmas morning with their
families. I took care of that if it became
necessary. I had no family. Before I let him go I
got him to name one toy he thought might be fun to play with.
Then he climbed down and skipped back to his mother. The
photographer was talking to her but she was shaking her head.
Parents send their kids to Santa for different reasons. For
some it's just a holiday custom they hope will be fun for the
child. Or maybe fun for them. Who knows?
Some make Santa into a baby sitter while they try to shop.
I've even had a few come up to me before their kid does and try and
tell me what to tell him I'll bring. They already have the
presents, and don't want him asking for something he's not going to
get. Then there is the occasional parent who actually wants
to hear what he'll tell the Jolly Old Elf. Blondie was one of
She was slick about it. I heard her say "I want to go thank
Santa for something he gave me a while back. I forgot to
write him a thank you note. You wait here for me, all
right?" He nodded and she came toward me.
I didn't mind that a bit, because she was a looker. She had
high, tight breasts that were obviously unfettered, based on the
nipples making dents in her shirt. She had a smooth kind of
walk, and for just a second I felt ill as I recognized some hooker
attributes in her movements. Once she spoke, though, it was
obvious she was well educated, and that meant if she was in the
business she was a high priced call girl, and high priced call girls
didn't have seven year olds and dress like that. I felt
"Hi ... Santa," she said. Her voice was high. It
made shivers go down my spine.
"Hello there, ho, ho, ho," I said. My ‘ho, ho,
ho's’ were so ingrained by now that I could make a natural
laugh come out that way. And my fake ones sounded natural.
"Thanks for being nice to him," she said.
"No problem." Our little game was over and now we were just
two adults negotiating.
"The last thing I need is to be pregnant,” she said.
"I couldn't hear him during the last part," she said. "What
did he actually ask for?"
Now we were one adult and Santa, negotiating. She just didn't
know that yet.
"I've got it covered," I said jovially. "Just get him
something from yourself."
"I've saved a little up," she said, frowning. "If he doesn't
want an X-box or something like that I can handle it."
"He asked me to bring you something to make you happy," I said
softly. "Timothy is on my good list for sure."
"He can be so sweet sometimes," she sighed.
"So what would make you happy?" I asked.
She snorted. "Being able to get by on just one job would be
"You'll have to take care of that," I said. "What can Santa
bring you for Christmas that would make you happy?"
She looked at me guardedly. "I'll be happy if Timothy is
happy," she said.
"Then you go on about your business and I'll take care of Timothy for
Christmas. It's my job."
"That's not funny," she said, leaning back.
"It isn’t supposed to be funny," I said. "Do you
"Do I believe what?" she asked.
"In me, of course."
"In Santa?" She sounded incredulous.
"Believe," I ordered.
She backed up, her eyes guarded. It was obvious she had come
to the conclusion she'd found herself a certified weirdo.
"Thanks," she said. "I'll do that." She didn't say
it sarcastically. It was more like she was trying to placate
the weirdo so he'd leave her alone.
"I'll see you Christmas Eve," I said.
She scooped up Timothy's hand and hurried off. I saw Tom
Black watching from his position over by the perfume kiosk and
pointed. He nodded and picked them up. I turned
back to the line and motioned the next kid, a girl who had to be twelve
if she was a day, on up. She was rattling off her list, and
it was a long one, before she even got all the way to me.
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