I fucking hate Christmas. I’ve gotten pretty sick of hearing the exact same songs every year for the entire three and a half decades that I’ve been alive. Baby Jesus Christ himself was listening to “Jingle Bell Rock” on the day he was born and somehow I still had to hear that shit over the speakers today in the Macy’s while I was trying to buy slippers.
I sat at the bar at Tucson Hop Shop sipping my barrel-aged imperial stout while I waited to meet the woman who texted me earlier that night. Part of me hoped that she wouldn’t actually show. I hadn’t heard from her at all since last Christmas but of course I never blocked her number or even deleted her off my phone. I thought about it a few times as it got closer to the holiday season and just couldn’t bring myself to do it. I tried so hard to convince myself to ignore her message from today. But I’ll never deny how pathetically easy it is for me to fall back into old patterns. And anyone who knows me knows I’m a sucker for a gorgeous, middle-aged trophy wife with a fat husband who takes her for granted.
So there I was, patiently waiting at the bar like a sucker. I knew her husband basically lived at work during Christmastime and that she had to spend her holidays all alone. Except for last year, of course.
My sense of smell isn’t that great anymore after all the drugs I did in my youth with my Cousin Chico but I recognized her cinnamon-scented perfume immediately. She was never hard to spot in a crowd. She put her hand on mine and I saw the same bright green nail polish that she was wearing when we first met. Her body still looked stunning in her form-fitting red dress and she was still wearing one of those dumb oversized black belts around her waist.
“Hello again, Classy.”
“Hello, Mrs. Claus,” I said, as I pulled my hand away from hers.
“So formal of you. You really aren’t going to use my first name?”
I ignored her question and took a long sip of my beer. Most people think Santa Claus spends all of his time in the North Pole but the truth is that he and his wife are snowbirds. They keep it pretty quiet for obvious reasons but if you get to know the right people they’ll tell you about the massive toy factory he runs in South Tucson. I never knew the exact location and never cared enough to ask. A guy like me doesn’t have much in the way of Christmas spirit. But I found some last December 23rd when I happened to meet Mrs. Claus at a dive bar. We were both there to do some holiday sad-drinking and she was already a few shots in when we struck up a conversation. It didn’t take long for her to open up about how lonely she got every time she had to come back to Tucson for the winter. She hadn’t seen Santa in almost a week and she wouldn’t again until the early hours of the 26th when he came home exhausted and went right to bed.
Looks like she didn’t have much in the way of Christmas spirit herself. So I bought her a couple more drinks, danced with her (badly) a bit and got an invite back to her house out in the rural parts of Southern Arizona. Neither of us were in any condition to drive but luckily she was able to use the sled for a few nights before her husband needed it for work. She introduced me to all nine of their reindeer who flew us to her place but my ass was too drunk to remember their names. Especially because they were all some weird shit like Donden and Bliggle and Cumin or whatever.
I remembered Rudolph though. The poor guy was really old and dumb as shit. The only thing he was naturally good at was guiding the sled but otherwise he just stumbled around the house running into things. He had his own water bowl but he still went into the bathroom to drink out of the toilet. And his antlers got him stuck in the toilet seat like a dumbass. The other eight reindeer were kinda dicks and made fun of him a bunch. And as a guy who frequently did really dumb shit while drunk I felt like I could really relate to him. Plus my nose is also constantly bright red from all the damn whiskey I consume.
So Mrs. Claus and I spent an amazing night together. We talked, laughed, drank hot cocoa by the fire and I even got to wear one of Santa’s hats while she and I banged which is not a thing I ever thought I’d be into before then. But it wasn’t even twenty four hours later when she told me I had to go. She had to take the reindeer and sled to her husband at the toy factory. She dropped me off at my apartment first and kissed me goodnight. I asked if I could see her again and she gave me a wink and a “maybe.” But then I didn’t hear from her all year.
Until now. It was December in Tucson again. The weather was warm as hell for weeks but today was the first time it was actually cold in the early evening. I was at home about to get completely obliterated on whiskey and eggnog in front of a Golden Girls binge watch when I got the text from Mrs. Claus. She practically begged me to come meet her somewhere. And I couldn’t pretend that I didn’t want to see her again.
“What can I do for you?” I asked, trying to play it cool while knowing that I was becoming increasingly nervous.
“All business, I see,” she said. “Did you lose your ability to make small talk in the last twelve months?”
“I lost a lot of things in the last twelve months.” She could see that being here was getting difficult for me.
“I’m sorry, I’ll get to the point. I need a favor and I know it’ll be the last thing you’ll want to do but will you listen?”
I started to get a sinking feeling in my stomach.
“I’ll listen for as long as it takes me to drink this pint,” I said while holding up the IPA that the bartender had just poured me.
“My husband’s disappeared and I need you to help me find him.”
I chugged that entire beer as fast as I could.
“Oops, I guess we’re out of time.”
I walked outside but got stopped in my tracks by Mrs. Claus’ hand on my shoulder. She grazed her index finger on my neck and my feet immediately felt cemented to the ground.
“I’m sorry, I know this is strange but if I could ask anyone else for help I would. I’ve been coming to Arizona for years and I barely know anyone, much less someone with the connections you have. Every trip here is the same. I just sit at home alone with the reindeer while Santa works. I watch so many Christmas movies on TV wishing I could celebrate with someone. I’m Mrs. Fucking Claus and I haven’t had a real Christmas in ages. Last year was the first time I gathered up the courage to go out on my own. I’m really glad I met you that night but I just didn’t know what to do with myself after what happened. And I decided that this year I’m telling Santa that I want him to retire. I can’t keep living like this.”
I couldn’t help but feel sorry for her. A part of me even wanted to do what she was asking. But to help someone actually fix their failing marriage? It was against everything I stood for.
“Classy, please,” she said while my back was still to her. “I don’t know what to-”
The sound of her voice became muffled. Before I could turn around I felt the unfortunately familiar sensation of a fist punching me in the back of my head. My knees buckled and everything went dark before I could fight back. My face was covered by a black bag and two people grabbed my arms on either side. I got thrown into the back of a van that peeled out of the parking lot.
“Hey y’all, I’m not sure who you are and if you’re taking me to a place to get murdered or whatever, which is cool, I don’t mind, but do you think we can stop and get some tacos on the way?”
I felt the unfortunately familiar sensation of the butt of a rifle bashing me on the side of the head. Pretty much all the other kidnappers who snatched me up and put me into a van before had the courtesy to stop and get me food on the way to their murder dungeons. So right away I knew these people meant business.
The car eventually stopped and the kidnappers led me somewhere while the bag was still on my head. I heard the unfortunately familiar sound of a jail cell door opening and closing. The zip ties that were holding my wrists together got cut off. I pulled the bag off my face and tried to look around but my eyes needed a second to adjust to the dark.
“HO HO HO! If it isn’t The Classy Alcoholic,” said a boisterous voice behind me. “I don’t suppose you came to rescue me?”
A white-bearded, jolly, fat fuck in a red suit stepped out of the shadows.
To Be Continued…