“You! What are you doing here? You’re supposed to be over by the display racks,” the blue-vested employee called, just barely under a shout.
“Sorry? Who? What?”
“Come on, get over there,” The employee grabbed Santa, and dragged him over to a folding chair cheaply adorned to appear like a throne. Santa was pushed insto sitting in front of a long line of children. “Do your job!”
“Oh, umm…okay. Hello Felix, what would you like for Christmas?”
Felix jumped up on Santa’s lap, and began reciting his list.
“Yes, very nice,” Santa replied. “So a new Barbie, then?”
“No, Santa, I said a racecar. It’s my sister wants the Barbie!”
“Oh, yes, right. Sorry, umm…Stephen?”
“Felix!” The young boy pouted, then hopped off Santa’s lap and ran to his mother before the elf could snap his picture. “This fake Santa’s even worse than the last one, I want a real Santa,” the boy complained as his mother took his hand.
“Next,” the elf said listlessly.
“Yes, and what would you like Jamie?” Santa asked the little girl.
“How did you know my name?”
“I’m Santa, that’s how! I also know you want a Juniper Jumping Joy rope and a Pickled Herring for Christmas, right?”
“Yes, but no. I mean. What do I mean? The first yes. Juniper Jumping Joy. But what’s pickled herring, Santa?”
“Oh, yes, right. I think that’s for old Jeroen. Hmm. Where’s Rudolph, he always helps me with these things…”
“Mommy, Santa’s breath smells like Grammy’s before she went visiting the farm,” Jamie said.
“Come here dear, let’s leave Santa alone.”
“Okay, Merry Christmas Jenny,” Santa said.
“It’s Jamie,” Jamie began to cry.
Santa sat for a moment, the other children slowly dispersing. The blue-vested employee came up to him.
“Listen old man, I don’t know why you thought you could do this but get out of here. You’re scaring off customers.”
“I used to be so good at this, what’s wrong?” Santa asked.
There was a crash, and another Santa stood in the doorway of the department store, his fake beard askew, a stack of baskets strewn across the floor. “Whoops!” the new Santa called. He stumbled toward the baskets and started trying to pick them up, swaying as he did.
The employee, eyes wide, looked at his current Santa, then off to the new one. “Well, drunk’s better than batty. Get out of here,” the employee told him.
“Yes, well, okay. But you’re getting coal this time around, Michael,” Santa told him, rising slowly. “Now where’d I leave my sleigh…”
Santa wandered aimlessly away as the employee headed toward drunk Santa. “It’s Mark,” he muttered under his breath.