Posted by: johnhourihan | December 5, 2013

The real Santa Claus

Knowing Santa Doesn’t Mean He Ain’t Realfake santa
I was a jaded child by the time I met the real Santa Claus.
Until then, I had a few years of total belief, then a few of total disbelief, thanks to Spike Warren who said, “You don’t even have a damn chimney, fool.”
But then my old man came home from work early on a winter’s Thursday. He didn’t usually come home at all on paydays so I figured 8 p.m. was early.
“Hey Jocko,” he says as he comes in the front door,
“Grab a coat, you’re going with me and Biff.”
“Where?” my mother asks.
“Salvation Army. They got a big party tonight, cake, candy, Santa Claus and everything.”
Then to me he says, “Jocko, this isn’t some department store guy. This is the real thing. . . the whole shooting match.”
“Why just him?” my mother asks.
“He don’t believe.”
He was right. How could anyone believe in a fat elf who can make a sleigh and reindeer fly and go to every house in one night, and go down chimneys that don’t exist?
But I had to go.
I wanted a Fanner 50 gun set this year and he was the only chance I had. I was groggy in the DeSoto on the way to town. It was hot and had the sweet smell of Pabst Blue Ribbon.
The captain met us at the door in the snow.
I pushed on by the clutch of adult legs while he talked in very stern tones to Scrapper Jack and Big Fat Biff.
In the open and well-lighted entryway I met up with Lorenzo.
I am told Lorenzo would go on to get golden gloves almost 20 years later.
He got out-pointed for two rounds and then knocked the guy out in the third.
But for now it was him and me in winter coats and wondering what the heck was going on.
We weren’t really bad kids, but we weren’t usually allowed into these things.
The old building down near Main Street had a big room with a stage, and row after row of chairs that were already half filled with kids. We knew most of them, and everyone knew and had a healthy fear of Lorenzo, so we got to go down the front and sit where we wanted.
We both knew that Christmas for boys like us was an impossibility. That whole thing of, “Have you been good all year?” threw us. Maybe Fridays or something, or even February we could be good since it was a short month, but all year? Fat chance.
The catch that nailed the thing shut was that if there really was a guy who could actually tell if a kid was naughty or nice, he wasn’t stopping at our houses.
The room filled, and adults ringed the wall like a smiling parental necklace.
First there were cartoons. Good ones too, Looney Tunes, not some stupid parade of bugs chanting along with classical music. It was the good stuff.
Then he came.
He was red and white and fat and jolly and he was beaming “Ho Ho Ho” as he came from the back of the room.
But then as he passed our row, something weird happened.
He stopped, just for a split second, and looked right in at us, me and Lorenzo.
Instinct told me to say, “Hey, I didn’t do it.” But then he was gone and up on the stage.
He emptied his bag of gifts on the floor. Most were the size of boxes of hard candy, but there were a few bigger ones and he stood next to the 15-foot Christmas tree on the stage with some fake presents under it and started calling out names.
I swear every kid in the place had been called by name except the two of us. It wasn’t surprising. We waited patiently for the end. If nothing else, we had seen some cake on the way in.
He called another name.
“Holy crap Lorenzo, you got one!”
He looked smaller and more like a kid as he climbed the stairs to the stage.
Santa Claus gave him one of the bigger ones and he beamed.
Then I heard it.
It was that familiar sound.
The sound that usually happened just before I got in trouble.
Then there it was again. “John Hourihan? Are you here Johnny?”
On the way to the stage I scanned the floor, there were none left. The bag lay crumpled and empty at the back of the stage. But he was dragging a fake one out from under the tree and smiling at me.
He knew my name and he had a present, but if he was the real Santa Claus the name would be on the present I figured. As he spoke, I searched the box the size of a Fanner 50 gun set, and there it was, my name written right on the side. How the heck did he do that?
I looked up at him, stunned.
He bent down, and a sweet familiar smell blew by me as he asked, “Still don’t believe in me, Johnny?”
We both knew the answer.
“Sure I do, Biff. Merry Christmas.”



  1. Good one!!!!

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