Time to Face the Facts by Roger Shipp

“He’s not who he says he is.” Jonathan was as empathetic as a five-year-old could be about the topic.

“What do you mean, son?” I carefully asked. Never in a million years would I have thought that stopping to see Santa the last time out for shopping might become an unmitigated disaster.

“It’s not him,” he said again. “I know it’s not him.”

“Slow down. What are you talking about?”

“That there Santa’s a fake. I know. He knows I know. That’s why he won’t even turn around and face me.”

“Now that’s just foolishness,” I knelt beside him as I replied... struggling to remain calm. My wife and I had agreed that we would try to keep the Santa-thing as real as we could until Jonathan was seven. By then, we would probably be over-ruled by one of his second grade friends. At least, that’s what happened to me.

Jonathan grabbed my collar and pulled me closer. “That is NOT Santa Claus.” At least Jonathan had the grace to whisper it in my ear, even though it was quite possibly the most belligerent whisper I had ever heard.

“Talk to me, son.” When the time came to tell the truth, Judith and I had agreed, we would not out-in-out lie to our son. We would graciously explain the reason for the season. “Where is

Judith when I need her?” I thought. “She’s so much better at this stuff.”

Taking my hand, Jonathan pulled me to the side of the mall, away from the lines of children still waiting to sit on Santa’s knee. We sat on the benches by a huge Christmas tree complete with animated elves and reindeer.

“Well, It’s like this,” Jonathan began. “When I sat on his lap, Santa had to move his big belly. As

I sat down, his belly completely slipped to his backsides. Bellies don’t do that. I’ve sat on Grandpa’s belly. It stays there.”

“Sometimes fat jiggles.” My, that was a weak answer. But it was the best I could come up with right on the spot.

“Maybe.”

I was ecstatic. I might get through this yet.

“But that wasn’t the real give away.”

“Oh, no. There’s more,” I thought.

“The beard.”

“What about the beard?” I can’t believe I asked that bluntly. I should have tried to deflect. What’s wrong with me?

“It’s loose around that guy’s ears,” Jonathan continued. “And he smells.”

“He smells? Jonathan, we’ve talked about that. You know we’re to be polite to older people when it comes to...”

“No, Dad,” Jonathan stopped me mid sentence.

“I’m not talking about old man smells like great-grandpop’s roommate in the nursing home. This guy smells just like Justin, Amanda’s boyfriend. He smells of Axe Body Spray. I think it’s called Dark Temptation, or something like that.” Leaning in nearer to me. “Justin said it’s to attract the babes. I’m not supposed to tell Amanda that last part.” Jonathan winked at me. “But, I don’t think a real Santa is supposed to be ‘babe-hunting’.”

“Oh,” I replied.

“Maybe we should talk to Mom about this when we get home?”

“I agree.” I stopped talking.


Published in Issue #22

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