Christmas is over.
Take the ornaments off of the tree.
The glass globes.
The tin soldiers.
The silver stars.
And wrap them well before you put them back in the box.
So that they don’t break. And we’ll have to buy new ones. Again.
Pull off the strings of lights and wrap them around the cardboard tubes.
Otherwise, they’ll get tangled. And we’ll have to buy new ones. Again.
All that’s left is the angel on the top.
Whisper the prayer to release him.
So he can fly back up to Heaven.
We’ll catch another angel for next year’s tree.
In the old days, kids would write letters to Santa and mail them to the North Pole.
Real paper, real envelopes, and real stamps.
For a while, they called him.
But those services charged by the minute.
Kids were supposed to get their parents’ permission.
But what kid ever does?
Now, kids send texts or emails or instant messages.
Santa never got any of those.
Russian and Chinese hackers picked them up.
“And what is your mother’s credit card number?” they asked the children. “You want to be on the good list, right?
Oh, and how naughty those hackers were!
Tinsel was an elf. He made toys at the North Pole.
Elves are supposed to be happy all of the time.
He didn’t like making toys.
He wanted to be an architect.
“There’s a lot you can do with snow and ice,” he said, pulling out some blueprints.
Santa signed the order to have Tinsel sent to the re-education center.
Two months later, Tinsel came back.
He was always smiling.
But he didn’t talk. Or laugh.
He just worked, harder than anyone.
His green felt cap covered the surgery scars.
Everybody makes a show of being happy now.
“VINCENT!” shouted Santa over the intercom. “WHERE ARE YOU?”
Vincent the Elf carried a clipboard, a cup of coffee, and an extra 30 pounds he could never seem to lose.
Stress eating, he told his doctor.
“Do you want a heart attack?” said his doctor, handing Vincent a prescription.
Santa wanted Vincent to carry a beeper, or one of those new-fangled cell phones.
“Kids ask for them all the time,” said Santa. “Just grab one off the line and give me the number.”
Vincent set up a phone, charged the plan to Santa, and looked online for a new job.
For centuries, Santa kept a journal.
This wasn’t Santa’s Nice and Naughty List.
He left that on his desk so elves who handled logistics could plan routes and shipping manifests.
No, this was Santa’s deeper thoughts, about life, everything else.
Things he’d done that never made the Rankin Bass holiday specials.
Famous people he’d met, and the ones he’d fucked.
Or done drugs with.
Santa wrote the book in code, one he’d never shared with anyone else.
Not even Mrs. Claus.
But every now and then, he’d forget, and the nosy elves would gossip along the production lines for weeks.
Frosty The Snowman was a happy soul.
Every Winter, he’d come down from the North Pole to visit.
He’d go to the Christmas pageant, year after year.
As the kids got older, they went off to college, or found jobs in town, and some settled down with families of their own.
One after another, generation after generation, they died.
Over time, Frosty’s face became lined with icy tracks from all of the tears.
Frosty The Eternally Sad, they came to call him.
He took off his hat, a kid smoothed out his face, and put it back on his head.
At the end of Winter, Frosty the Snowman usually went to the North Pole to stay with Santa.
But one year, he asked if he could stay.
“Yeah, we’ve got a freezer warehouse,” said the local grocery distributor. “It’ll let you see what happens around here.”
Frosty agreed, and on the first day of Spring, when he could feel himself sweating, he moved in.
The hanging sides of beef filled Frosty with horror.
But it was much too late to go North.
And despite moving to a frozen novelty display case at the grocery, he never sang or danced again.
Frosty the Snowman was made in his creator’s image.
Two arms, two legs, a head with two eyes and a nose and mouth.
Frosty wondered what would happen if the kids were to build him differently.
Three eyes? Rusty nails in his mouth as teeth?
Tentacles for arms… Frosty the Octopusman!
A giant, a woman, a dinosaur… the possibilities were endless!
Frosty sculpted some concepts and showed the kids.
“I poured some Mountain Dew soda on this one to stain it yellow, but if you all were to piss on me…”
The town council ordered Frosty to leave at once.
If you’ve never experienced the Aurora Borealis, the first time you do, you will fill with wonder and amazement.
Then the second time… third time… that sense of magic fades.
And you grow to resent your past self for its infantile amusement.
“Any fleeting joy you experience is just the endless horror taking a moment to catch its breath and come up with something new and worse,” said Frosty the Snowman.
Rudolf the Red-Nose Reindeer blinked, and he looked away from the light show in the sky.
“What?” he said. “What’s wrong, Frosty?”
“Nothing,” lied Frosty. “Sure is pretty, though.”
The Smith Family was poor.
Not every-kid-has-a-cell-phone-and-gold-teeth bullshit poor you hear of, but real poor.
So poor, at Christmas, the oldest kid would get the new clothes, and then gift their stuff to the next-eldest, and so on.
“We may be poor, but we’re proud folk,” said Father. “No child of mine begs from that Goodwill.”
So, on it went, one to another.
The baby of the family always got worn-out rags.
And, eventually, cholera.
When the baby died, they buried him naked in the backyard.
“Just in case another comes along,” said Father, patting the dirt with his shovel.