Thursday afternoon as I was meandering about the mall with my two tax exemptions, I happened upon the center court area where Santa Claus was holding audience for all the little crumb-crunchers of Thrasherville. You know the routine…mommies, daddies, grandmas and grandpas dress up the little tykes in their finest then go stand in line for hours so that their Christmas wish lists might be delivered properly.
Now, I had already completed my holiday shopping and was just killing some time while my boys snooped around the video game store. However, I found myself there watching jolly old Saint Nick go about his duties. His eyes, how they twinkled…his dimples, how merry. But I couldn’t help but notice he still dresses like…Don Cherry.
And while I stood there observing the annual holiday ritual take place, into my head popped just what it was exactly that I really, really…I mean REALLY…wanted for Christmas this year. Therefore, I decided to pay the old bearded man a visit.
Now, it had been a while since Santa and I had had a face-to-face…two, maybe three years at least. But what was working in my noggin just wouldn’t wait for me to get home and e-mail this to him. Besides…the big day is tomorrow and I knew that today he’d be back at the North Pole juicing up his reindeer with cases of Red Bull to pull an all-nighter. So I figured I’d better get to him while the gettin’ was good.
The problem was, however…the long, seemingly endless line of youngsters standing in wait for the guy I needed to speak to. Why, it would take all afternoon just waiting here. But just as quick as could be, into my head popped a scheme that would make even old Mr. Grinch grin from ear to ear.
I took my place in the back of the line…standing patiently, of course…and then after a few minutes I looked down at the little girl in front of me and said, “Hey, did you see that kid down there at the other end of the mall…the one with the funny looking haircut? I belive it was that Justin Bieber kid, and he’s handing out free tickets to his concert downtown tonight. It’s a sort of publicity stunt I think”.
“Really?”, she replied in a soft, sweet voice. “No, I didn’t see him”.
“Why, you’d better get your daddy to take you down there right now, little Cindy Lou, if you wish to see the show…supplies are limited and he’s not gonna hang around all day, ya know”.
Dad looked over at me skeptically.
“Yeah”, I whispered to him. “And some Thrashers Blue Crew gals are down there with the popular teen. They’re really a friendly bunch, if you know what I mean”.
And just like that, off they did go…mom following closely, not knowing why her family had bolted so.
Then on to the next kid…then the next…and the next…
It was either Justin Bieber tickets…or an Elmo that was being given away…or a free racecar set…or a new X Box 360, maybe a Wii. They each shot out of the line with such joy and glee.
Down the halls the kids ran raising such a clatter, that the mall cops came ‘round to see what was the matter. Then, to the front of the line I flew like a flash, to tell the old man about what I wanted in my Christmas morning stash. And before his little elf helpers could figure out just how I up front crept…I was all the way up to Santa and upon his lap I lept.
“Oooof”, the old man grunted with pain. “Why, what are you kid, 210 pounds…220”?
“195, thank you…but that’s none of your business”, I quipped. “Now look. I don’t have a lot of time here, see. Pretty soon there’s going to be a pack of peeved off little kids and their parents heading back this way. So let’s get down to business”.
Santa’s eyes found mine…”Rawhide, is that you”?
“Very good, Sherlock Holmes, it is me. Now listen up tubby, I’m gonna make this real simple for ya, see. I want one thing for Christmas…and one thing only. What I want is…”
“You want the Thrashers to go to the playoffs. Just like every year. Yes, yes…I know”.
“No, no, no you sick, bearded freak”, I shot back. “I know I’ve asked for that every year. But you’ve never come through on that yet”.
“But what about Christmas of ‘06”, he replied. “Didn’t I make you happy later that spring”?
“Yeah, yeah, yeah…and it came with a four game sweep by the Rangers. Thanks a pant-load”!
He then asked, “So, what is it you’re requesting of me now?”
“Simple”, I said while pulling his beard to bring his face nose to nose with mine. “See, it’s like this. These Thrashers are doing just fine..without your help I might add. I figure they’ll make it to the postseason on their own, thank you very much anyway. No…what I want from you is this…I want Andrew Ladd and Dustin Byfuglien to sign a contract extension, that is the only wish on my list”.
“Oh”, Santa sarcastically replied with eyes rolling. “Is that ALL you want. Well, I’ll just get my best elves on that one right away”.
“Look buster”, I said, trying to keep my voice to a reasonable level. “I’m not playin’ around here. I haven’t made one request, not one single request, for years now. But I want this…and I’d like for this to happen before you take the lovely Mrs. Claus out for Valentine’s Day, got it”?
“Well, I don’t know…that’s a pretty tall order Rawhide. I don’t know if…”
“Look”, I snapped back. “I didn’t want to have to play dirty here. But if I have to, I can make things pretty tough on you. I do have…ahem…certain measures at the ready to persuade you to cooperate, if you know what I mean”.
“Oh no”, Santa responded with a slight tremble in his voice. “If you’re talking about that little misunderstanding with the Swedish elf twins, I can explain. See, I only use that hot tub to help with my arthritis… and those photos were clearly doctored. Goodness, if any of this ever leaked out to the press…”
“No, no, no fat boy”, I said, cutting him off. “See, I’m in pretty good with Thrash. And you know he’s spent a little time in the Gwinnett Big House. Yeah well, he made some friends while he was in the lock up…friends that you don’t want to have to meet coming out of a dark chimney. I mean, it’d be just awful if anything were to happen to Rudolph and…wait, what… Swedish elf twins”?
“Yes”, he explained. “They’re foreign exchange student elves”.
Santa then snapped back to the matter at hand, “Ah, my reindeer…You wouldn’t…”
“Yeah, I would”, I said, poking him in the chest. “Faster than you can say ‘reindeer sausage’. Like I was saying, it’d be a cryin’ shame if anything ever accidentally happen to Rudy and the rest of your flying reindeer circus. So, see to it this Ladd and Buff signing happens…see that you do”.
Santa slumped back into his plush, regal seat. He knew I meant business and I continued to turn up the heat.
Yes, I had been rough on the old geezer, but this was business…strictly business. And I knew he understood that. Besides…we’re talkin’ signing Ladd and Buff to contract extensions. This isn’t just for me, it’s for all of Thrasherville. And we don’t merely want this… we neeeeeeeeeeed this. And we need it now.
So I hopped down and made my way from Santa’s winter wonderland made of cotton balls and felt. But as I began to leave, I remember one more thing, some info for him to keep under his belt.
“Hey Santa”, I called out.
“Yes”, he responded, his eyes glazed over and staring blankly into the distance…or into Victoria’s Secret. I couldn’t tell.
“Look, uh…speaking of Thrash…”
“So ahhhhh…just don’t leave your sleigh, you know, unattended. You heard about the whole Zamboni incident, didn’t ya”?
“Yes, yes…I know. I’ve got three elves guarding it”.
Then, as I turned to leave, I thought I heard him mumble something about a lump of coal and shards of glass for a certain bad boy’s stocking. That’s pretty brutal…glad he wasn’t talking about me.