---discussion of drugs and sex, cursing---
The short, fat man in the red velvet suit with white fur trim put the marijuana cigarette up to his huge white beard. “How much longer until we are done with this Christmas shit?”
The snow falling behind the large neon signs for the shopping mall reflected reds, blues, greens and purples, showering the three people standing in the alley with sparkling confetti of colored lights. The ripe, sweet smell of restaurant trash from the dumpster next to them in the alley mingled with the smell of the burning weed. Two scantily dressed women stomped their red boots in the black-streaked snow to stay warm. The man’s short stubby fingers passed it to the shorter of the two women, Sugarplum Mary, dressed in a short green velvet dress, tight against her plump body and candy-cane-striped leggings.
“Five.” She inhaled, and then released five perfect smoke rings. “But then we got the holiday party tonight at seven at the Hilton, Nick.” Sugar said.
“Damn- that’s tonite? Dentists.” Nick spat. “I do not want to go. Pepper, could we skip it?”
The taller woman, Pepper Minstix, took a puff on the joint and passed it back to Nick.
“Those dentists pay the bills.”
Wearing the same green velvet dress, it hugged tight to her lean body. Her long curly orange hair framed a pixie face with hard, black eyes.
“Tomorrow being Christmas, we are booked all day, but then we get a break until the middle of January.” Pepper looked at her phone, the case, glittered in gold and diamonds.
“It was a good year Nick.” Pepper said, adjusting her tight dress. “Best we’ve had since we made the switch to this corporate work. I miss the parties, but I prefer keeping my clothes on.” She winked suggestively at him. “Got to give credit to Sugar, her idea to do these holiday events has worked out real good. Especially, since, you got the look- “ she glanced quickly at the man’s belly pushing out the thick black leather belt holding the red suit jacket together.” -and it pays more than the magic gigs do.”
“No comments on my beard!” Nick fluffed his beard up and out, making it even bigger. I prefer to do magic, but-”
“-The mall manager said you’re the best Santa they have had in years.” Pepper said. “The kids love your sleight of hand tricks.”
The Great Magician Nicollo Medici made the joint disappear under his black leather boot. Looking out from under his red cap, his eyes twinkled above red rosy cheeks and a button nose, his small mouth was curved in a snarl.
“Give me a damn spritz Sugar, and let's finish this up.”
Sugarplum pulled a perfume bottle out of her elf bag and sprayed all of them down. A cloud of sickly sweet marshmallow scent floated around them as they walked back through the propped open door.
Santa’s Workshop in the center of the crowded mall had a small elf house, many dangling snowflakes and a red sofa. The line of men waiting for pictures with the Elves was almost as long as the line for Santa.
“That Santa has a real beard, I pulled on it!” A boy said, as he waited for his friend after speaking with Santa.
“And he pulled a candy cane out of my ear!” The other boy said, his eyes big. “And did you see what he did with the handkerchief? He wiped off the root beer I spilled on him and then it just disappeared! He might be real- Oh there is a Cinnabon-let’s go get some cinnamon rolls!”
The line moved slowly through the mall, the kids kept coming, a quick conversation, a smile for the mom’s phone cameras, and then they were off.
“….I want a… football… Quest Pro virtual headset…Purrble robot... iwatch, …iphone 14… …macbook air… leo messi jersey… Steph Curry jersey…Tua Tagovailoa jersey…Jenna Baby doll…american girl doll…mountain bike…puppy…kitten…pony….elephant… ‘an official Red Ryder, carbine action, 200-shot, range model air rifle, with a compass in the stock and this thing that tells time…”
Nick stood up during a break between kids, walked around his sofa couch, stretched and looked down at the line that stretched deep into the mall, past the phone accessory booth. He saw a boy taller than the rest getting closer, he was bobbing his head, moving strangely.
“Sugar, Let's end it soon.” Nick said. “I’m getting a strange vibe from that tall kid. It is after five, let’s call it.”
Sugar whispered to Pepper, who started talking to the line. In between two screaming kids the tall boy walked up. His mother spoke to Pepper, quietly, urgently, her hands gesturing at the boy.
Nick was up helping Sugar collect their bags, when he saw the tall boy sitting on the sofa.
“That is no boy, he is 20 something!” Nick said under his breath. Good looking with long dark hair, his posture was slightly tilted, his head moved slowly while his hands fidgeted quickly in his lap.
Pepper walked up to Nick and began whispering in his ear.
“His name is Sam, and he came to the mall today just to see you. His mom said he has brain cancer, and it is growing worse. Come on Nick, for me?”
“You’re a damn soft touch. We’re going to be late for the dentists.” Nick said softly.
Nick looked up to the mom standing nearby. Brown mouse colored hair turning gray, middle height, baggy sweater and jeans. Nick’s practiced eye knew she was pretty once, before she stopped taking care of herself and started taking care of her son. She was squeezing her hands together, tight.
Nick adjusted his hat and sat back down on the couch. Sitting down they were both about the same size, the boy’s long thin legs stretched out in front, the arms of his jacket seemed empty, flat and deflated, his thin delicate hands endlessly moving, and twisting.
“So son, what's your name?”
The boy breathed something unintelligible.
“What?” Nick asked. The kid spoke in a whisper, and off to the side, as if he wanted to look anywhere but at Nick.
“Sam!” Sam said, louder, agitated.
“Sam, got it. OK Sam, what do you want for Christmas?”
“I want sex.” Sam said loud and clear.
“Sex? What do you mean sex!” This request threw Nick and he broke character, slapping his knee. “You are supposed to ask for shit you don't need, like a video game or a football, or,” he looked carefully at the skinny boy, “a car or something?”
“I don’t need anything. I’m 22 years old and I live with my mom and I don't want to be a virgin anymore. I want sex!”
“Sam, sex is not something you just get. Santa can’t bring you sex…” Nick leaned close. “Don't you know any girls, you could ask out on a date- you're a good looking kid, and…”
“I have a surgery on my brain in January. I would like to have sex before then. I have a 66% chance of significant complications.” Sam’s eyes were wide, guileless.
“Significant complications…” Nick said, leaning back. “But this is not the kind of thing Santa does…”
“I believe in you Santa!” Sam said, pleading.
Nick called over Pepper and Sugar and whispered to them. Sugar looked up sharply at Sam and laughed. But then Nick put his hand on her arm and she looked back down. Pepper leaned over to Nick and whispered in his ear. He looked back at her, questioning, then nodded his head slowly. He moved back to Sam.
“Ok Sam, you came to the right Santa, and the Elves agreed to see if we can come through with a Christmas Miracle. But we can not do it now.” Nick waved his hand and then the two Elves went off to pack up their set.
“We got to pick you up later- we have a gig at seven, but it should be over by nine or so, you live around here?"
"Yes, I live over off Cedar lane-"
“-Pepper will get it. We'll pick you up, say 10.” Nick interrupted. “Tell your Mom we’re… going to look at Holiday lights. Got it?”
Nick smiled and waved at the Mom. “And just so I know what we are dealing with here, does everything uh, work down there?” Nick nodded to Sam’s lap.
“Oh yes!” Sam gave a big smile. “But sometime it gets so hard it hurts, so I have to-”
“-I don’t want to know!” Nick threw up his hands.
Sam sat on the couch at his house and looked at his watch for the hundredth time. “It is only 11, they'll be here Mom, Santa promised!”
“It seems late to go look at Holiday lights-” Sam’s Mom moved over to the front window and glanced out the side of the curtain. She saw a long red Cadillac with a white rag top and chrome wire rims pull up to the curb.
Wearing a black tuxedo, Nick got out of the car, and then a voice called out, arguing.
Nick grabbed a Santa hat from the car and put it on as he walked to the door.
Sam opened the door before he got to the porch.
“That is your car?” Sam asked
“What the fuck do you think Santa drives?” Nick’s beard was now tightly formed, sharp and pointed at his chin.
“Where is your normal outfit?” Sam hesitated behind the door.
“Santa had to change. I got my cap, don't I?” Nick turned to walk back to the car. “Let’s go, It is Christmas Eve, now or never!”
Nick got behind the wheel, with Sugar in the front seat. “Sam, these are my Elves, Pepper Minstix and Sugarplum Mary.” Sam got in the back with Pepper. The red Cadillac peeled out, back wheels smoking.
“What are we doing Nick- is this a good idea?” Sugar leaned over to whisper to Nick. “Santa delivering sex to a young man?”
“There is a force at play tonight, bringing something, I don't know what, but there is magic in the air I can feel it.” Nick said quietly, then louder, “Sam, we are going to see if we can find you a friend tonight. It’s Christmas eve so it might be hard to find some of the girls, but I know a few places. Once we find your friend we can stop by the motel. OK?”
Pepper has Sam’s hand in hers. “Tell me Sam, why do you need this surgery?”
“The tumor has taken over parts of my brain, some motor functions, and vision. I see things a little bit off, like through a prism or a ball of glass. Colors, and images get distorted so I can not see clearly. My eyes are fine, but-” Sam looked out the window. “The surgery is to take out the tumor, however I might never see again, or walk…” He stopped talking, his body tensed up.
Pepper began talking fast. “Oh this is going to be fun. I wonder who will see tonite? Now Sam, what are you looking for in your friend?”
“….I want a… short girl… tall girl…long black hair… dyed blue hair… long legs up to here… short legs… blue eyed…brown eyed… green eyed… dark skin… light skin…smells like rain in a forest… feels like warm bread… dances like a fairy… sings like a bird…. Someone to listen to me…”
“There is SpiceMuffin.” Nick pulled over to speak to a woman on the street. She wore a big jacket over a short skirt.
“Hello Spice, you remember Pepper and SugarPlum- meet my friend Sam.”
“Hello Nicky, nice to meet you Sam, are you looking to party?” Spice leaned into the car window.
A black Dodge charger drove by slowly. “Nick is that…?” Sugar said anxiously.
“That is K-Ram! Spice hop in we go to go!” Nick waited for Spice to get in the back seat and then peeled out, tires spinning on the wet cement.
“K-Ram has the, mistaken, belief that I owe him some money.” Nick said as he gunned the motor. “I do not want to discuss it with him tonite. We need to get out of here!”
The black Charger drove up behind the speeding Cadillac with a man leaning out the window, several shots echoed into the night.
“Is he shooting at us?” Sam asked.
“He is going on the naughty list for sure!” Nick swerved across the empty streets and ran through a red light. The red Cadillac squealed down into an alley then pulled over, lights off.
“OK Sam, no time like the present.” Nick said.
Spice pulled off her jacket, leaned over and climbed on Sam’s lap. “Let’s start with a kiss.”
Spice gave Sam a peck on the lips, pulled back and then went in for a deep kiss.
Sam screamed a high whiny squeal, pushed Spice off him. “No, no, no!” He said.
Pepper grabbed Sam and rubbed his head to calm him down.
“Nick, what are you doing with a boy like that- is he family or something?” Spice said, annoyed. “Take him back to his momma.”
Spice opened the door to get out.
“Here’s some money- sorry Spice.” Nick said.
“Sam,” Pepper said, softly, “if you really want to do it, maybe I can…”
“Pepper you don’t have too… “ I mean we just met him and-” Nick said.
“I want to, as a present. Sam, I can be your friend.” Pepper blinked fast, and squeezed Sam’s hand. “Would you like that?”
“Or I can be your friend,” Sugarplum said, leaning over the seat. “Or even both of us?”
Sam looked at Pepper and then at Sugarplum.
“No, no.” Sam started to cry. “ I mean both of you are so beautiful, it is not that, it’s just-”
Sam paused. “I guess I do not want sex. I didn’t even know what it was really. I do not want to just rub body parts with someone, might as well rub elbows or noses-
“Sex is a lot better than rubbing elbows.” Nick added.
“Maybe.” Sam said. “But what I wanted was to connect to someone, not just about how I look, or how I think, but just as people. And tonight I did that with you all. We even were in a car chase!” Sam started to laugh, and then cry, he wiped the tears off his face with his hand. “I am missing that in my life, I have my Mom around and the helpers. But, I am treated like a kid all the time. Tonight I got to be just me.” Sam looked at the two Elves.
“I guess I wanted someone to talk to who didn't look down on me or tried to baby me. This was the best night of my life.” Sam looked at Nick. “Maybe someday I will find someone to rub genitalia with, but for now I understand better what I want, and I don’t want to have sex with a stranger. I want to be able to share my view of the world. Thank you helping me figure that out Santa.”
“Sam, maybe that tumor clarifies what you see, instead of distorting it.” Nick said, “Let us get you home.”
They dropped Sam off at his house early Christmas morning. A thick mist surrounded the car like the down of a thistle as they drove out of the suburb and hit the freeway back to the City. It sparkled in the headlights refracting and bouncing in new and different ways.