Deck the brawls (A Christmas tale…sort of)

image If you think trying to explain to your child why there are two Santas on the same city block is hard…

You see, dear, there is a thing called the space-time continuum….


You’ve never heard of Santa’s twin brother…?

…try explaining why those same two Santas are in a back alley, jabbing red-mittened fists at each other.

That was my job one Christmas Eve many years ago as my daughter and I did a little window gazing in Portland. We’d come to see the lights and shop displays in the hope of starting our own holiday tradition. Instead, we stumbled onto a pair of brawling Santas as we crossed an alleyway in downtown.

“Hey Dad, LOOK!” my daughter exclaimed, pointing her tiny finger at them.

We both froze; her out of confusion, me out of fatherly fear.

This is going to be one of those life-altering parental moments, I thought to myself. My answer could either comfort her in later years, or gradually transform her into a serial killer.

First, I would have to explain why there were two of them. If I used the “evil twin” approach, there was the risk that the wrong one would win.

And while the “time warp” theory was actually confusing enough to be utilized effectively, it still wouldn’t explain why Santa was fighting with himself.

As I struggled to formulate an approach, a figure stepped out from a doorway near the two Santas. He was dressed in a pointed hat and slippers, and was wearing green tights. I could only assume he was either a 6-foot-tall elf, or…

Yeah, I’d have to go with that.

“Fight!” he slurred, tossing his cigarette down and grinding it beneath his pointed shoe. In an instant, a horde of onlookers gathered in the doorway then spilled out into the alley, slowly forming a circle around the jabbing Santas. In the apartments above us, curtains were parting, windows were squeaking open. A group of spectators was collecting at the opposite end of the alley, as well as behind us.

My daughter continued to stare questioningly, brows furrowed.

She needed an explanation from me.

With a heavy sigh, I resigned myself to the fact that, though she was only 4 years old, maybe the truth about Santa would have to come early. I took her hand and gently began pulling her away.

“Hey, let’s you and me go some place we can talk for a little bit. Maybe over hot chocolate.”

In that same instant, I felt someone brush past me.

He was dressed in a red, knitted stocking cap and wore matching flannel underwear beneath frayed, denim overalls. The straps were pulled tight, strained by an oversized belly. A white, pillowy beard draped his chest like an oversized dinner napkin. He walked briskly toward the commotion centering the alley, black boots clopping over the pavement.

“That’s enough of THAT!” he shouted, breaking the circle of onlookers. He stood in front of the two Santas, white gloves on his hips. “How’d the two of you get your hands on a pair of my suits?!”

Both Santas exchanged confused glances.

“Well?” the man asked.

“Who are you?” one of the Santas asked, dumfounded.

“I’m the owner of those two suits, and YOU two are imposters!” He waved a finger at them. “You should be ashamed of yourselves. Now go on, back inside with you both.”

He tugged at their arms, herding the two Santas past the 6-foot-tall elf and toward the rear door of the bar.

I looked down at my daughter, who was now smiling.

“What just happened here?” I mumbled.

“That’s the real Santa!” she said, waving.

Pausing in the doorway, he waved back, met my stare and winked.

Then was simply — gone.

Next to me, I heard the giant elf mutter, “…what the…”

“So it wasn’t just me. You saw it too. He just disappeared like that!” I said, snapping my fingers.

“Yep, juzz like that!” The elf tried snapping his fingers but could only make a fleshy “thwop” sound. “Sorry, my drinking is mezzing with my dextremity,” he said and headed back inside.

“Can we still get hot chocolate?” my daughter happily chimed. In her young mind, all questions had been answered and it was time to move on.

I was the one carrying the furrowed brow now.

I went back there several times over the years and never saw him again. Was he the real Santa?

Well, you be the judge.

As for my daughter, a six-foot-tall elf and I?

We believe…

Merry Christmas Everyone




(Ned Hickson is a syndicated columnist with News Media Corporation. His first book, Humor at the Speed of Life, is available from Port Hole Publications, or Barnes & Noble.)

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Ned's Blog

I was a journalist, humor columnist, writer and editor at Siuslaw News for 23 years. The next chapter in my own writer’s journey is helping other writers prepare their manuscript for the road ahead. I'm married to the perfect woman, have four great kids, and a tenuous grip on my sanity...

36 thoughts on “Deck the brawls (A Christmas tale…sort of)”

    1. And a Merry Christmas to you as well, Randy. Making your acquaintance and friendship has been one of the things on my personal “Best of 2014” list.

      Cheers, Salut and my best wishes for the New Year my friend!

  1. If only Real Santa were always there for us. We need Real Santa to come up to us in the mall, slap us on the back of the head like Mark Harmon does in NCIS, and say “Don’t buy this; this other thing that’s 10 bucks cheaper will be the perfect gift for your child.”
    Great story, Ned.

  2. I’m sure Santa has to keep thousands of suits and keep changing them, because otherwise the suit would turn black from all the soot and reindeer poop.
    That would explain thousands of Santa impostors around Christmas time.

  3. Phew! Santa to the rescue. I was afraid for you, that you’d have to have “the talk” with your young daughter. I’d rather have the puberty talk with my 12 year old. Oh wait, we already did. Merry Christmas to you, too.

  4. are you trying to say that you thought that santa might not be real? you had me worried there for a second. happy christmas, ned, to you and your family )

  5. What a GREAT story!
    For a moment, I was worried that the hot chocolate conversation was going to have a Nemo-ish twist to it.
    I will always love how you are able to dust the surface with great metaphors and life lessons…not that Santa is just a metaphor 😉

  6. I loved it. I believe.
    We used to tell our children that the santas you see everywhere were just his helpers because he was too busy getting ready for Christmas. He gave them special dispensation at this time of year to wear his suit but they had to report back to him every night about what the girls and boys wanted. 😉

No one is watching, I swear...

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