By Alayna Seggi
The last child waits patiently in line for her turn to see Santa Claus.
“Ho, ho, ho! What’s your name little girl?” asked Kris in his best Santa voice. The words rang off the cardboard Christmas castle that towered above him. December was the height of the shopping season, and Santa’s Workshop in the Liberty Mall was the busiest it had ever been. Lucky for Kris, Santa’s Workshop closed at approximately 7:00 on Thursday evening, leaving him just enough time to get ready for his date.
“My name is Anna,” said the little girl.
“Anna, come sit on Santa’s lap. What would you like for Christmas?” She was the last child of his ten-hour shift. Kris’s velvety-red Santa Suit was soaked in sweat, the fake beard was itching and irritating his skin, and the plastic round Santa Claus glasses made impressions in his nose. Little Anna climbed up to sit on the edge of his knee before saying, “I’d like an American Girl doll.”
“Well, I’m sure you’ve been very good this year. I’ll look for the perfect one. Take this Christmas mint and smile for the cam—!” The flash of the camera came before Kris could get the words out of his mouth. Poof, Poof!
“Okay, bye bye, Merry Christmas!” said Kris.
“Bye, Santa!” said Anna.
Little Anna ran past the velvet rope into her mother’s arms. Anna’s mother handed Bert the cameraman fifty dollars before mother and daughter walked hand-in-hand out of the Santa’s Workshop exhibit. As soon as they were out of eyesight, Bert slipped a five-dollar bill out of the stack and handed it to Kris. He was supposed to receive fifteen percent of all photo profits.
“Come on Bert,” said Kris.
Bert handed him some change without looking up. Kris glanced at the giant clock mounted on the wall right above the entrance to Santa’s Workshop—5:00 o’clock.
“Gotta go, I got a hot date!” said Kris.
Again, Bert neglected to look up from whatever he was doing that was so drastically important, but he did roll his eyes.
Kris had found Kat on Match.com, and the website deemed that they were perfect matches. He had decided to instant message her last week and ask if she wanted to go to a nice, classy restaurant, The Skunk and Goat Bistro. Long story short, they’d agreed to meet each other at 9:00.
Once Kris got home from work, he intended to go straight to the bathroom to freshen up. Unfortunately, his cat Morris had puked everywhere and he needed to clean that up at once. The puke incident left him very little time to get ready for his date and consequently, he did not get to shower or shave. However, he did attempt to style a nice comb-over, except it looked fairly messy, scraggly with various pieces sticking to the back of his head and all matted from his sweat. He sported a very dapper polo and a pair of blue jeans. Kris didn’t bother to tuck that in.
“Would you like another beer, sir?” asked the waiter who was wearing an ensemble complete with coat tails and white gloves. Kris had been waiting at the Skunk and Goat Bistro for twenty minutes at this point, anticipation making his fingers fiddle with his empty glass.
“Yes, and can I see the wine list? I’m sure my date will like some of that,” said Kris.
Suddenly, in walked Kat, who had short blonde hair and wore a strappy black dress and stilettos. Kris’s eyes lit up when he saw her, and he stood up when she approached.
“Hiiiiii,” said Kris as he walked around to pull out her chair. She sat daintily and he forcefully shoved her into the table. Even though he’d been at the restaurant for nearly a half hour by himself, he just now happened to take notice of the creamy white tablecloth.
“I’ve always wanted to do this,” said Kris.
“What?” Kat mumbled before he grabbed the tablecloth and ripped it off the table, knocking everything over in the process. The glass clashed and shattered everywhere, the salads were now tossed, except they were all over the floor, and the silverware scattered.
“The flowers are still standing! Ha ha, well I was close. Gets me every time!” Kris laughed.
The waiter returned with Kris’s beer and the wine list. His super-duper customer service smile faded into an annoyed frown. Angrily, he tended to the mess.
“Would you like to move to another table, sir?” he asked Kris.
After glancing over at Kat’s concerned expression, Kris decided it would be best to move. Once again, he held out her chair and once again, he shoved her in there too tight. She gasped and pushed herself out so that she could breathe.
“Okayyyyy. Ha ha, um, tell me about yourself,” said Kat, attempting to brush off the scene that had just ensued.
“Uhhh, well, um, I dunno, like what?” asked Kris.
“Why don’t you tell me about your job? What do you do?”
“Uhhh, well, uhh, I work at the mall. I’m a Santa Claus, you know, like the ones that you think are the real Santa when you’re a kid.”
“Oh, that’s—nice. Is that like a part-time job or do you do that full time?” A glimmer of concern shivered across Kat’s face.
“Being Santa is a full-time job. But enough about me, what do you do?” he asked.
“I work at Highmark, I’m an insurance agent,” said Kat.
“Cool, I need some of that! Maybe I can buy some from you,” said Kris.
“Insurance is pretty important. If you would be interested, we can definitely talk about some policies. So um, what else are you interested in? I know we matched on Match.com, what else do we have in common?” There was a tone of desperation in Kat’s voice.
“I mean, we have lots in common! Uh, like, uh we are both American, from the US of A and we both live in Bay City. Oh, and we both have cats! My cat’s name is Morris. He comes around every once in a while, I think he’s doing all right. What about your cat?” asked Kris.
“I don’t have a cat, maybe you’re thinking that because my name is Kat, but it’s okay!”
“Human sacrifice! Dogs and cats living together! Mass hysteria!” He laughed until he realized that he’d slipped up on his “hot date.”
An awkward silence settled as they finished their drinks and stared at their hands, then looked around, pretending to notice something in the distance. Finally, Kris broke the silence. “Oh. Geez that was so embarrassing, I’m sorry.”
“No really, it’s okay! Not the first time.” She smiled.
“Well then, do you have any pets at least?”
“Um, yes, but I’d rather not say. It’s a big animal. He needs a lot of time and devotion but I love him. He’s a farm-type animal named Blitz.”
“Blitz! Do you watch football?”
“Yes, I do.”
“Wow, a woman who handles a farm, sells insurance, and watches football!” said Kris. His face was bright red again, and his palms got sweaty. “How many players are on the field?” he asked.
“Who is the Steelers QB?”
“Which team has played in both the AFC and the NFC Championship Games?”
“I believe it’s the Seahawks,” Kat answered. “What, did you not believe me?”
“No, well, it’s just—I get to talking about football and I get going so fast no one can understand me, especially women. They just don’t get it and here I am a-talking away and they act like they know until they’re put to the test!”
“But I understand completely. I was the water girl for my high school, I knew every play just in case they needed me.”
Kris rolled his eyes. “Oh, I believe you.”
“Anyways, you didn’t list that you liked football on your profile. I think it said that you like—meat?” said Kat.
“Oh yeah, I like meat. I’ve got a meat-of-the-month subscription. Bratwurst, ribs, pork, chicken, barbecue, you name it, I got it. Love meats,” said Kris. “Ha ha, and your butt is kinda like an about-to-explode bratwurst. Ha ha, God I love Bill Murray.”
“Oh, Bill Murray, those lines make so much more sense now!”
“Yes, I think I’d like another drink, do you want something?”
“Maybe another glass of Riesling, sure.”
At the bar, Kris ordered himself a shot of whiskey and decided to take two more before carrying back a glass for himself and the Riesling for Kat. By then, their food had arrived, and Kat had patiently waited for him.
A little tipsy, Kris slopped up his rare steak, almost drinking the blood dripping from it, mixing it with his garlic mashed potatoes and green beans. Soon a red paste had formed on his plate and he ate it happily like a pig in mud on a rainy day.
Kat, on the other hand, neatly cut her chicken marsala and sipped her wine, watching Kris become more and more intoxicated. Kris, eating at a speedy pace, began to choke on a rather large bite of steak that he’d neglected to cut.
Kris gagged and held his neck, pointing at his throat, foaming at the mouth, steak blood dripping down his chin and all over his dashing polo. He banged on the table, stood up, and even jumped up and down as if that would somehow dislodge the meat from his trachea.
“Kris? Kris, are you okay? Are you choking? Oh my gosh, do you want help?”
Kat jumped up immediately and wrapped her arms around his beer belly. She gave him the Heimlich, and on the fifth pump the steak was propelled into midair, hitting the passing waiter on the temple. The poor waiter stopped in his tracks, then kept on his way with a platter full of food in hand.
“Whyyyyy, phankssss! You—youss saved my liiiiiife!” said Kris.
“Yes, I did, all in a day’s work. You really should cut your food, though.” Kat wiped her hands and sat back down to finish her chicken and her glass of Riesling.
“I’m, I’mmm about ready to go, how about youuu?”
“Oh, I’m ready to go all right, but I don’t think you are. Do you think you can drive yourself home?”
“Sure I’m fine, I’ve driven in wayyy worse conditions. I’ll just pay for the check ha ha I mean pay for the dinnerrr, I mean— what do I mean? I will take the check.”
The waiter was watching from afar and almost sprinted over to place the check on the table. Kris delved deep into his pants pocket and came up empty. Bewildered, he checked his coat pockets and his shoes before realizing that he didn’t have his wallet. He wasn’t sure of its whereabouts, since he was almost certain that he’d had it in his pocket before he left, or was it when he left for work? Too drunk to be embarrassed, Kris said, “Kaaat, we have a problemo— I forgot my wallet and I dunno where it could beee ha ha.”
The waiter, at his wit’s end with Kris, turned very red. He towered over Kris, who was about ready to pass out. He whipped off his apron, threw it at Kris’s feet, and walked out in a huff.
Kat, with her coat already on, tore off her purse and extracted her wallet. She put down an Express card, flagged down a new waiter, and handed it to him— leaving a very generous tip. “Make sure that the other guy who waited on us gets half of that tip, honey. Kris, let’s roll. I’m taking you home, you’re in no state to drive. You can pick your car up in the morning.”
Kat and the new waiter dragged Kris out of the restaurant, through the parking lot, and into her car. It was a large white van, like those electrician company vans. They managed to get him in the back seat and buckled him in.
“Thanks, honey, have a good night!” said Kat to the young waiter.
Kat glanced at Kris in the rearview mirror, slumped and snoring. She turned on the radio, already preset to the Christmas channels. She started the engine and drove off into the wintry night, popping a peppermint into her mouth.
Kris came to about fifteen minutes later. Realizing he was in a vehicle, he opened his eyes and saw a strange and frightening scene, still a little blurry from the influence of whiskey. Candy canes hung from the ceiling, there were pine needles all over the floor, and all around the inside of the van were Santa figurines— short Santas, fat Santas, skinny Santas, old Santas, young Santas, surfing Santas, football Santas.
But the creepiest of all was the “Santa Sighting” wall which was filled with hundreds of black-and-white photos of Santas from all over the world. Baghdad, Tokyo, L.A., and Paris, marked and dated exactly when they had been seen. Worst of all was when Kris caught sight of his own photograph on the wall at the Liberty Mall. Fear crept over him and he broke out into a cold sweat. Shivering, he looked into the driver’s seat. Kat was driving him away from the city.
“Oh hello, Kris, nice of you to wake up—and join us.” The Santa eyes all turned to peer at Kris.
Cowering, his fight-or-flight mode activated, he tried to pound on the sides of the van, to break the windows, anything to escape. Then Kris fainted from the shock, the fear, and the alcohol.
Kris woke up in his bed at home. Morris was lying on the floor.
“What a crazy dream,” he said. “It seemed so real. I thought I really didhave a date last night.”
“You did,” said Kat, dressed head-to-toe in elf garb. Kris was chained to his bed. There was no escape.
Alayna Seggi is from Erie, Pennsylvania and attended Fort LeBoeuf High School. She is majoring in English education and will graduate in the spring of 2021. She plans to attend graduate school and earn a degree in school counseling while simultaneously teaching. She played volleyball for three years, and in her sophomore season helped her team secure an AMCC championship and NCAA appearance. This is her first publication. She’d like to continue studying creative writing at some point as well. High Roller, War Zone, Working with Ameera