Lost in the Twilight Zone Marathon | Ep 12 | Nicklaus

“They always assign the crazies to the newbies, huh?” the guard says.

“Crazies?” I ask as I sign into the visitor log. The case seemed to be your standard open and shut B&E. Nothing was taken, though, according to the police report. No one was hurt, apart from a scared shitless thirteen-year-old who had fallen asleep on the couch while watching TBS’s A Christmas Story marathon.

“Guy thinks he’s Santa Claus.”

“Well, it is that time of year.”

The buzzer rings, and the door to my right clicks open.

“You can go back.”

I walk down the end of the hall to the meeting room, where my client waits alone at a gray round table handcuffed to a hook in the center.

I’m immediately taken aback by how he looks. I’m not sure what I expected to see. Surely not a jolly old man with all white hair in a big red suit. But I don’t think I expected to see this guy either. He’s young and, well, hot. His skin is a deep tan, as if he spends his summers in Southern Italy when he’s not in the frigid North Pole. He has sandy brown hair and eyes the same color. His eyelashes are long and curl up as if he’s wearing mascara. His beard is trimmed short, and his lips are full and pink. He licks them right before he speaks.

“Hi there. You’re my lawyer?” His voice is deep and intimidating. I wonder how his “Ho, ho, ho” sounds. Thunderous, I imagine, it could shake this whole room.

I nod and sit across from him. “I’m Jenny.” I reach over and shake his hand. His grip is strong. “So, you’re supposed to be Santa?”

“Not quite what you expected, hmm?” He leans back and crosses he left leg over his right knee. “I’ve always been curious about how these myths start. For example, how does a morbidly obese old man who probably has a breathing problem squeeze down a smoky chimney?”

“Good question.” I click my pen and open my notepad to an empty page. “So why don’t you tell me how you got into the Wilkinson’s house.”

“Right to business, huh? Okay.” He clears his throat, uncrosses his leg, and sits straight. “I was invited in.”

“Invited.”

“That’s how I get into every house. As long as there is someone there who believes.”

“Is that your defense? The girl who called the cops on Santa Claus believes in Santa Claus?”

“Please, call me Nicklaus. Don’t know how ‘Saint’ became ‘Santa.’ It sounds like baby talk, doesn’t it?”

“I—”

“In any case, I’m no saint. Another common misconception. There was a Saint Nicholas. And he was a very charitable man, no doubt. But I was around long before him.”

I’m at a loss for words, but in an effort to turn the conversation back to the case before he tries to tell me he’s Jesus or something, I ask again, “Who invited you in?”

“She has a younger brother.”

I shuffle through my stack of papers. “The boy was sound asleep the whole time. You mean to tell me he got out of bed, opened the door to let you in, and then returned to bed, all without being noticed?”

He chuckles, “Of course not,” then taps the side of his head with his index finger. “In his dreams.”

“His dreams?”

“Yep, a Miles Morales Spiderman suit he was dreaming about, if I’m not mistaken. I was able to deliver it under the tree before they came and arrested me.”

“You’re serious?” The guard was right about the “crazies.” Even his good looks can’t save him. I straighten my papers and return them to the manilla folder and then into my briefcase as I get ready to leave, my visiting time almost over. I’ve stayed longer than I was supposed to anyway. The purpose of this meeting was simply to introduce myself and inform him we were pleading guilty. Like the guard said, the newbies get the crazies, and the crazies are always the easy cases. No need to waste taxpayer money on a lawyer who only passed the bar a month ago after six tries, were my boss’s words. Plead guilty, take the 90-day jail sentence and community service, move on to the next crazy.

“You stopped believing in me at a young age.”

I stop, mid stride to the door, and spin around to face him again. “What?”

“Single mom working double shifts as a waitress. Five other siblings in a two-bedroom apartment. You were forced to grow up quickly.”

“How did you—” I start, and then, almost defiantly, I slam my briefcase back down and lean over the table, beyond the center point and dangerously close enough for him to reach up and wrap the chain of his handcuffs around my neck and squeeze, if he were a violent criminal. The jury’s still out on that. Crazies tend to get physical when you don’t accept their absurd logic.

“It’s kind of hard to believe when Christmas has only every been what my mom’s wages could afford. And after bills, that wasn’t much.”

“Is that why you spend so many sleepless nights in the public defender’s office? The best years of your life wasted on this fruitless job?”

“It puts bacon on the table.”

“But does it keep your bed warm at night?”

“Listen old man,” I say, despite the fact that the only signs of age on him are a few strands of gray sprinkled in his beard. But you have to be close to him to see it, and I’m not really that close, although, I can feel his warm breath on my bottom lip. “If you’re trying to offer me your ‘services,’ my fee is covered already.”

“The service I want to give you is the Christmas you never had.”

“I’m a little past asking for toys, Santa.”

“Again, it’s Nicklaus. And what is your wish as an adult then?”

“Christmas is over.”

“Given that I’m the guy who invented it, I think I can decide when I can and can’t deliver presents.”

An army of church folk would beg to differ, but then the Christmas we celebrate today really isn’t all that Christ-centered either, so I play along.

“I’m sure you want to hear me say I want a husband who doesn’t disappoint. He’s fiercely loyal. Would do anything for me. Fulfills my every want and need. I would lack nothing because he’s a provider. His love is unconditional, and he supports me and my dreams, no matter how improbable. And we’ll have a couple kids, perfect little angels, and we’ll be one big happy family.”

“Sounds nice.”

“That’s not my wish.”

“Tell me.” He leans closer to me. “What do you want?”

His voice is barely above a whisper, almost seductive. Maybe that’s why I say, “To be naked on somebody’s beach.”

His eyes widen. “Oh, really?”

Not really, though it would be nice. What I really want is to be confident in my own skin. I don’t want to have to rely on what a job or a man can give me. I want to already have it myself. I want to make it. I want to live my own life, not what society has written out for me. I want to be independent. Free.

I feel myself lifting off the ground as I think about it, and when I look at him, he seems to be reading my mind. He smiles, and it feels as if every weight of the world has finally relinquished its pressure, but then the announcement that visitation is over echos from the speakers overhead, and everything comes crashing back down, and I backtrack and say, “I don’t know.”

Once again, I turn to leave, but he stops me with one word.

“Alright.”

“Alright?” I repeat.

“It’s done.”

“What’s done?”

He smirks. “You’ll see.”

When the door buzzer rings, I rush out, feeling flustered. I don’t make eye contact with the guard at the entrance as I exit. I don’t want him to think that the “crazy” has gotten to me, that even I’ve started to believe him. I’m supposed to meet with my boss back and the office to give a report, but the case is the furthest thing from my mind right now. I decide to go home for lunch instead. Maybe if I get something on my stomach, I can clear my head and get back to business before my boss starts to demand where I am.

When I walk through the front door, I can’t help but look at my pathetic attempt at a Christmas tree. It stands at only three feet tall, an artificial tree, and it hardly has any decorations, save for the ones I added last year and never bothered to put away, just like the tree, which has stood in that same corner between my patio door and the couch since last Christmas.

Santa, or, Nicklaus, or whatever his name is, was right. All those hours I spend at the office while my Christmas goes on unfulfilled. A whole year it stood and not a single present underneath—only, now I spot a red envelope caught in the branches.

“To: Jenny. From: N,” it reads.

“There’s no way,” I say, as I tear it open. Inside is a folded flyer that says “Fourteen-day all-inclusive stay at the Cap d’Agde resort on the French Mediterranean.” Could this be…

Before I can finish that thought, my phone rings. I fumble around in my briefcase for it and answer on the fifth ring.

“Jenny, where the hell are you?” It’s my boss.

“I uh—”

“Did you go see the Santa guy?”

“Yes. Actually, I just left.”

“What did you say to him?”

“What do you mean?”

“I mean he’s gone. I just got the call.”

“That, that’s impossible!” I look down at my flyer, shaking in my hands.

“You need to get down here ASAP. We need to figure out what’s going on. And you may have to answer some questions since you were the last to see him.” He hangs up without getting a confirmation from me or even bothering to say bye. I stand frozen in the middle of my living room. My bewildered gaze shifting from my phone and its shocking news and my all-inclusive resort vacation, an apparent gift from Santa.

None of this can be real, can it?

Just then I hear what I can only describe as jingle bells jangling right outside my door. I swing it open, and there in my front yard is Nicklaus sitting in a reindeer-drawn sleigh.

I cautiously step toward him. “I must be dreaming.”

“I did say that’s when I appear.” His eyes lower to the envelope and flyer in my hand. “How do you like your gift?”

“I don’t know what to say.”

“Well, I didn’t include plane tickets, so I figured you might need a ride.” He slides over, making room for me in the sleigh. “And maybe, if you were feeling generous, you could invite a tired old man who’s been hauling presents for good little boys and girls across the world all night, just spent the last twelve hours in jail, and could really use a vacation.”

“And what about Mrs. Claus?”

“Ah.” He turns ahead, leans back, and crosses one leg over the other as he did in the visitation room. “Also a myth. Contrary to popular belief, Santa Claus has been a bachelor for a very long time.”

“I thought you didn’t want to be called that.”

He shrugs. “It’s growing on me. So, are you coming?”

I stare at him, unsure of what my “yes” will mean. That my mind has finally cracked and this is all an elaborate hallucination? I don’t know, but as I drop my phone on the last step of my front porch and it splits in half, I wonder, what could possibly be worse?

He is grinning from ear to ear as I settle in next to him. He drapes his arm over my shoulder and pulls me even closer to him. I think for a second he’s going to kiss me. It seems weird, especially given that he’s apparently this ageless being who knew me as a child, but I wouldn’t be opposed to it if he made a move. Instead, he turns his head and takes the reins in both hands, preparing to mush the reindeer. I count only eight.

“Where’s Rudolph? Don’t tell me he’s a myth too.”

This time, he does kiss me, but it’s only on my ear, and really, it’s just a whisper for me to look up, his lips enunciating the words. Then he breaks away. “Clear skies,” he says. “Rudolph and his bright red nose had the night off.” And with that, he whips the reins.

“On Dasher! On Dancer! On Prancer and Vixen…”


This hour’s story was inspired by the Twilight Zone episode “The Night of the Meek,” but you may notice some similarities with a certain Living Single episode too. Can you guess which one?

Too Many Santas

“Alright children, don’t forget that Santa will be visiting our class tomorrow. Make sure to bring your Christmas wish lists!” Mrs. Benson announced.

***

At home, Lulu wrote My Little Pony, Princess Tiana doll, and Easy-Bake Oven on green construction paper. She folded it into two halves and sealed it inside a red envelope. She wrote For Santa’s Eyes Only on the front of the envelope and decorated it with drawings of candy canes, gift boxes, bows, and stars.

“You know Santa Claus isn’t real,” her older brother said, looking at the envelope over her shoulder.

“Yes he is!”

“Then why are there so many of them? At stores, on street corners. And how can one man deliver presents to kids all over the world in one night?” He crossed his arms over his chest, cocked his head to the side, believing he’d had her beat.

Lulu covered her ears and shook her head. “Just because you’re naughty doesn’t mean you have to make stuff up!”

***

At school the next morning, Lulu was the first in line to sit on Santa’s lap.

“Ho! Ho! Ho! And what would you like for Christmas, little girl?”

Lulu took the envelope out of her back pocket and stuffed it inside of Santa’s jacket. “Don’t open it until you get back to your shop,” she said, patting his chest.

“Ho . . . ho . . . . ho?” Santa looked about nervously. “Usually I get these in the mail, but I guess mail does get mis-delivered sometimes,” he finally said.

“I know how you do it. Deliver all the presents. I admit, it never made sense to me before, but my brother made it all clear last night when he said that there’s a Santa Claus on every block!” Lulu winked.

Again, Santa was taken aback. “We have a very clever girl here.” He laughed and waved his arm, signaling for Mrs. Benson to move the line along.

“Lulu, Santa’s only here for a short while. He’s a very busy man. Is there something you’d like to ask him?” Mrs. Benson asked, bending over in her too tight pencil skirt, hands on knees.

“I know you’re real, Santa,” Lulu said, and the jolly man sigh audibly. “And I know your secret.” His breath caught. Lulu leaned forward, cupped her hand over his ear, and whispered, “You cloned yourself.” Then she hopped off his lap, as he relaxed again, and proudly marched to her desk.

© 2015 Nortina Simmons


This piece of flash fiction makes Day 21 of 31 Days of Holiday Hooligans.

Criminal Santa (Part 3 of 3)

The Wal-Mart parking lot was empty save for a few cars. Santa pulled into the handicap space closest to the door. He turned off the engine and leaned over the armrest.

“I don’t imagine I’ll be able to convince you to leave that gun of yours in the glove compartment, huh?” he whispered.

“Not a chance,” Frankie said.

“You see, the thing is, carrying a gun on public property is sort of against the law. Add you being a kid on top of that and I’m sure to go to jail.”

“Breaking and entering is against the law too, Santa.”

He sucked his teeth. “Touché.”

“C’mon. Let’s make this quick.” Frankie opened the door and jumped from the front seat. He pulled his sweater down past his knees to conceal the revolver tucked in his back pocket.

Santa put his hand on Frankie’s shoulder and guided him through the sliding door. His grip tightened when he saw the security guard, and he pulled the strings on his hoodie to further obscure his face.

“Buying a last minute Christmas gift for Junior here,” he said quickly as they passed.

“And he’s with you?” The security guard frowned. Santa’s eyes immediately went to the gun at his side.

“I’m making sure he gets the right one,” Frankie said, then turning to Santa, “He gets it wrong every year.”

Santa forced himself to smile.

“Ha! I’ve been there with my kid myself.” The security guard laughed. “Store closes in ten minutes.”

They went straight for the electronics section. “Please, please, please,” Santa begged under his breath. They turned the corner, and Frankie dashed for the green and white boxes on the shelf.

“You’re in luck, Santa. Now where’s my game?”

“Is it not enough that you got the Xbox?”

“What am I supposed to do with it if I don’t got a game to play on it? You promised me Grand Theft Auto. I want my monster truck!”

One of the store attendants approached them, hands folded in front of his belt, and with a wide grin, he said, “Happy Holidays! Is there anything I can help you with tonight?”

Santa looked over his shoulder as if about to tell a secret. “Hey, uh…” he glanced down at the man’s name tag. “Brian. You don’t by chance have GTA, do you?”

“Uh, sure, but..” Brian hesitated. “Don’t you think that game’s kind of old for him?”

“I’m eight and a half!” Frankie said stomping his foot.

“Shhh, pipe down,” Santa said then turned to Brian. “Look, man, you don’t want to be the reason this little kid’s Christmas gets ruined. It’s not like he’s buying it, right?”

“I guess.” Brian looked down at Frankie, who wiggled in his ninja turtle slippers, struggling to hold the heavy box above his knees. “I’ll take that,” Brian said, relieving Frankie of his burden. “Follow me. The games are this way.”

At the register, Santa laid five credit cards on the counter. “One of them’s bound to work,” he said as the computer beeped, and “Declined” flash across the screen each time he swiped a card.

Frankie held his hands behind his back, whistled toward the ceiling as he waited.

“Don’t mock me, kid.”

“I just hope you can pay for it.” He pointed his fingers to Santa as if they were a pistol, then flicked them back as if firing. “Or else.”

On the last card, Santa pulled back his hood, revealing hair, the same rusted yellow color as his beard, tied into a low pony tail. Beads of sweat formed at his hairline. He slowly slid the card across the reader, drummed his fingers. He breathed a sigh of relief when the receipt printer came to life. Brian yanked the paper from the machine and put it in the bag with the Xbox and game. “Enjoy,” he said as he handed it to Santa.

***

As Santa slowed to a stop back in front of Frankie’s house, Frankie removed the gun from his back pocket and placed it in his lap.

“You know, I didn’t come here to buy you an Xbox,” Santa said.

“I know,” Frankie said.

“You won’t tell your folks about me, will you?”

“I think it’ll be more fun to watch them guess how I got it.” Suddenly he took the gun in his hand and pressed it against Santa’s temple. “But next time, you better knock. We got a lot of burglaries in this neighborhood.” Santa shook his head, held onto the steering wheel until his knuckles turned white.

“Ho, ho, ho!” Frankie winked and jumped out of the truck.

  —Nortina

Part One
Part Two

Day 13 of 31 Days of Holiday Hooligans

Criminal Santa (Part 2 of 3)

He didn’t look anything like the Santa Frankie was expecting. He was skinny. So skinny that Frankie thought to toss him a cookie, had he not already eaten them all while waiting. His beard was only partially white down the middle. The rest of it was the color of burnt straw. He wore are gray hoodie pulled down over his eyes. Even his sack wasn’t its classic velvet red, but a black plastic trash bag.

Frankie put both hands on the revolver. “Where’s your red suit?”

Startled, the man backed into the door. “Whoa, kid. What the hell are you doing up?”

“I said, where’s your red suit?”

“Do you even know how to use that?” He pointed at the revolver.

Frankie cocked the hammer with his thumb. “Do you wanna find out?”

“Ok, ok.” He waved his hands to get Frankie to lower the gun. “Let’s not get trigger happy here.” He scratched at his beard. “My suit, well.” He shrugged his shoulders and weakly laughed. “Santa forgot to do his laundry.”

“And why are you so skinny? And why do you have a trash bag?”

“Economy, kid. Even Santa has to cut back.”

“So you come to my house with no presents?” He closed one eye and aimed the gun at Santa’s head.

Santa stumbled back and crossed his arms over his face. “Easy there, kid! Did you forget Santa has magic?”

“I’m listening.”

Nervously, Santa stepped to the side to avoid the path of the gun. “See, it wouldn’t make sense for me to lug around a big, heavy bag filled with all the presents of the world.” He nodded to make sure Frankie was following along. Frankie only stared. “You see, the bag…the bag,” Santa stuttered, “the bag is like, like a portal. Yea, a portal back to my shop. I wave my hand in front of it and poof!” He snapped his fingers. “Presents under the tree.”

Frankie turned to the tree. Sure enough there were boxes stacked on top of each other, star-shaped bows stuck to the sides, shiny gift bags reflecting the bright lights from the tree, colorful tissue paper spilling over the tops. Frankie shook off his astonishment and raised the gun to Santa’s head again.

“How do I know they weren’t already there?”

“Did you see them already there?” Santa asked hesitantly.

Frankie squinted his eyes. He remembered looking at the tree, but not the presents. He was so focused on the door, shooting Santa the minute he walked it. He bared his teeth, angry at himself for not sticking to the plan. He pointed the gun, pressed his finger against the trigger. “Where’s my present?”

“Well…I’m sure it’s there,” Santa stammered.

“No, it’s not.”

“You didn’t even check.”

“Don’t have to. My present’s too big to go under the tree.”

“What on earth could be too big to go under the tree?”

“A monster truck.”

“A monster truck?” Santa bent over and laughed. “How old are you? Seven?”

“Eight and a half!”

“You’re not even tall enough to drive a monster truck.”

“Doesn’t matter. I still want it.”

“And a Hotweels toy won’t do?”

“That’s for babies. Now give me my monster truck or I’ll shoot!”

“Look, kid. Santa doesn’t have a monster truck.” He began to talk fast as Frankie came closer with the gun. “How about an Xbox. And a game? Grand Theft Auto! That’s like driving a monster truck.”

“Let’s see it.” Frankie held out his hand.

“I-I don’t have it.”

Rolling his eyes, Frankie again pointed the gun at Santa’s head. “Ok, you die in three seconds.”

“No, no, no! What I meant to say was that I had just delivered my last one to the previous house.”

“Sucks for you. Two!”

“Wait!” He was pressing his back against the door now, as if doing so would flatten his body and make it harder for Frankie to aim and fire. “How bout we go to the store and buy one. I bet Wal-Mart’s still open. What do you say?”

Frankie pondered the idea then dropped his arms and put the gun in his back pocket. “Ok. Your sleigh on the roof?”

“I have a pick-up.”

“Are you kidding me?”

“Don’t believe the fairytales, kid. Eight reindeer pulling a sleigh screams animal cruelty to the cops every time.”

—Nortina

Part One

Day 12 of 31 Days of Holiday Hooligans

Criminal Santa (Part 1 of 3)

Frankie’s gift sat in his lap unopened. He plucked at the bow, ran his fingers underneath the creased flap of the wrapping paper, thumped the sticker on the box— “To: Frankie From: Mr. Claus”

His mother had her head under the Christmas tree, checking for overlooked presents obscured by low-hanging branches pulled down by overweight ornaments. Finding none, she drew back. An ornament hook caught a  Styrofoam roller in her hair. Cocking her head to the side to undo the roller, she looked at her son, his face downcast.

“Why won’t you open your present, honey?” she asked.

“Mom, we don’t have a chimney.”

She frowned and turned to her husband, sitting on the couch, for clarity. He shrugged and leaned over Frankie to help detach her from the tree.

Frankie sighed. “How does Santa get in?”

“Oh, that’s easy, son,” his father said, slapping his back as he returned to the couch. “He comes through the front door.”

Frankie scratched his head. There was a gun hidden inside a shoebox in the hallway closet because of all the burglaries in their neighborhood, but Santa was allowed to come through the front door, eat all of Mom’s mouth-watering oatmeal raisin cookies, steal the last of the milk so that Frankie would have none to put in his cereal for breakfast Christmas morning, and leave behind every present except the one Frankie asked for? He was forbidden to talk to strangers, even the ones who drove to his bus stop and offered Krispy Kreme donuts from the backseat of their cars, but every year he was forced to sit on Santa’s lap, take a candy cane, and tell him what he wanted for Christmas? The last one wore so much cologne, Frankie nearly choked. He saw from the news reports that his parents watched every day, that it was against the law to follow children around, yet Santa kept a list of every little boy and girl in the world and knew if they’d been naughty or nice. Imagine! Kids all over the world, afraid to be normal kids—put gum in girls’ hair, pants the new kid in the hallway so everyone can see his Spiderman underwear, talk back to the teacher and get detention at least once a week—all so they won’t find a lump of coal in their stockings on that fateful Christmas morning!

Santa’s reign of terror had to end.

Frankie never opened his present that Christmas. He lied to his parents, said he wanted to wait as long as possible, prolong the anticipation to make the surprise that much sweeter, savor the moment of opening the last gift of the year. Instead, he hid it on his toy shelf behind previous presents he now realized were given to him by Santa to keep him trapped.

On New Years, he made his resolution to himself—that he would kill Santa. All that year, he planned how he would take out the fat man, drawing up his strategy with a stick in the dirt so that he could easily wipe it away if anyone came near.

When Christmas Eve finally arrived, he stayed up past his bedtime, waited until he heard his father’s walrus-like snoring from the other room. He snuck out of bed and tiptoed to the hall closet where he found the Christian Louboutin box at the very back. His mother had weak ankles and never wore high heels. Only one thing could be inside. He pulled back the lid, flipped the box over, and felt the cool metal of the revolver as it landed in his hand. He wrapped his fingers around the bullet chamber. He knew it was loaded. “When there’s a break-in, you don’t have time to remember where you hid the bullets,” he remembered his father saying the day he taught him how to shoot soda cans off the back porch. If only his father had known that he was training him for a future confrontation with the big man in red.

Frankie unlocked the front door first. How Santa broke in all these years without waking him, he didn’t know. Maybe Santa had some magical sound-proofing device that he used. Maybe he repaired the broken lock after he had delivered the presents. Whatever the case, Frankie couldn’t risk making too much noise and waking his parents before he could off Santa.

He sat in front of the door and aimed the gun, waited patiently as the artificial tree slowly leaned to the side, dipping into his periphery vision, until finally, the door knob turned.

—Nortina

Day 11 of 31 Days of Holiday Hooligans