Over this last week plus, I’ve been publishing parts of a holiday short story that I wrote and published several years ago in a Christmas short story collection of “less than sugar and spice” Christmas tales called “FROST and other stories published by Michelle Browne. Last week I published two installments of the story (See part 1 HERE and part 2 HERE). This is the final third and the conclusion of the story.
I hope you enjoy reading this as much as I enjoyed writing it!
Santa’s Secret Helper – A short story (part 3 and the end)
The afternoon of the Lion’s Club Christmas Party, Jake had two extra cups of Flor’s tea and asked Martha to brew a thermos full so that he could sip some during the party.
Since the Santa Claus costume was bulky and the Santa hat flopped down to obstruct his vision, Martha drove them to the party. She was in a great mood, mostly because Jake was so attentive and cheerful himself. She had never seen him looking forward to any holiday as much as Christmas this year. If only their kids lived closer, they could see the wonderful changes in their father.
Max, however, was worried about Jake’s temperament after he’d overheard his mom talking to Martha the day before. He wondered how much yerba mate tea Jake was drinking, thought that Jake might overdose and decided to follow them to the Christmas party gig to see for himself how Jake was acting.
At the party, Martha watched as Jake made the rounds of the room, glad-handing everyone he knew. She didn’t notice that Max had slipped into the reception hall behind some other guests and had planted himself behind an artificial shrub in the corner.
Max watched Jake for signs of an overdose. He knew that too much cocaine caused erratic behavior—much like Jake was exhibiting—but he worried about the other symptoms that he’d read about. They included high blood pressure, increased heart rate and a sudden rise in body temperature. Max realized that those could be life-threatening for a man Jake’s age.
He watched from behind the plant and witnessed Jake’s good mood escalate. Jake played a good, jolly Santa Claus. Whenever he approached children, his exuberance made them initially smile and giggle, but then shrink back from him and run to their parents. Max thought Jake seemed a little out of breath after awhile and that worried Max.
Martha watched Jake also and noticed that his hands shook when not clasping on to his Santa cane that was made to look like a giant peppermint candy cane. She thought that maybe the costume was getting too hot for him. She felt around in her purse, found the heavy thermos full of tea, but decided that water might be a better choice.
She went to the bar, asked for a tall glass of ice water and brought it over to Jake. “Are you thirsty? Maybe you should drink something.”
He looked at the glass and then at her with eyes that danced, and which looked much more alive than his costume. “Great idea. How about some of that tea? Where’s the thermos?”
“I have it right here, but maybe water—“
“No, I want some tea. A big swig, that’s all I need.”
Martha brought out the thermos and handed it to him. With a shaky hand, he unscrewed the top, tilted it up to his mouth and took a large gulp. He wheezed a little, as if he’d swallowed wrong, coughed, sputtered some, but recovered. Jake took another large swallow, screwed the top back crooked on the thermos, handed it to Martha and said, “Ho, Ho, Ho—Santa’s ready to roll!”
“What? Jake, are you okay?”
Sweeping Martha into his arms, Jake gave her a big wet kiss and said, “Never better, Babe.” He gave her a swift pat on the butt before heading over to the Christmas tree.
Max took in the scene and slumped to the floor behind the plant. “Overheated body, thirsty, crazy mood—I’m screwed. He’s going to overdose for sure,” Max mumbled to himself.
Jake arrived at the Christmas tree and bent down to grab a present but stumbled and fell into the tree, twirling as he did so, and landed face up on top of the fallen tree.
Gasps were heard around the room. Martha screamed and ran to him. Max ran up also but stopped halfway to Jake and hid behind a group of people.
Martha looked down to see Jake’s smiling face. “Oops,” he said. “Santa went down the wrong chimney.”
“Jake, are you all right? Is anything broken?”
He moved his legs and arms. They worked spastically but adequately, and without pain. He stood, tilted sideways momentarily and then bent over and vomited all over the Christmas tree.
“And now nausea and vomiting,” Max mumbled. “Next, it’ll be lights out.” He touched a finger to his lips when a woman turned to him with a quizzical look.
“I think you’ve had too much caffeine,” Martha said to Jake.
“No, Babe, it’s just too hot in here. I need to shed some of these clothes.” He kicked off his boots and then started to unzip the Santa suit.
“But, Jake,” Martha whispered. “You don’t have anything on under that suit.”
Apparently, Jake didn’t remember that under the Santa suit all he had on was his birthday suit. He slipped off the Santa costume like one would peel a banana. The pants snagged on his hips and refused to move down further.
“Jake, stop. You’re making a fool of yourself,” Martha shouted.
A man rushed up, identified himself as an off-duty policeman and asked if she was Jake’s wife and if her husband had a medical condition.
“Yes, I’m his wife, but I don’t know of any medical problem that would cause this.” She looked at the thermos. “Maybe too much tea?”
Someone in the crowd shouted, “Is he on drugs?”
Martha looked around the room and then at the cop. “Drugs? Jake won’t even take aspirin!”
“It kind of looks like an overdose of something to me,” the cop said and called out to the crowd, “Someone call 911.” He turned back to Martha and frowned. “What’s in the thermos, lady?”
Jake weaved back and forth, coughed some, and then said, “My special tea, and I need another hit.” The Santa pants slid down one hip but Jake didn’t seem to notice.
The cop grabbed the thermos out of Martha’s hands, unscrewed the cap and took a deep whiff. “Smells like tea, but with an undertone. What’s in it?”
“Only what my friend Flor made. It gives Jake energy and makes him happy.” She wrinkled her nose. “It’s really only tea. Flor gets it imported from Argentina.” Martha looked at the thermos and furrowed her brow with uncertainty. “At least that’s what she told me.”
Jake staggered over, grabbed the thermos out of the cop’s hands and took a big swig. As he leaned back, the Santa suit slid all the way down to his ankles. Jake didn’t seem to notice and walked right out of the costume that lay on the floor.
He stood in all his glory and said, “Ho, Ho, Ho. Santa’s got a present for everyone.”
The cop looked from Jake to Martha and asked, “Does he have a drug habit? Is your friend his dealer and you gave him too much?”
Martha opened her mouth to speak, but just then Jake clutched his chest, keeled over, fell back into the Christmas tree and had a cardiac arrest on the spot.
“I’ll need to know everything about Flor and her ‘tea’,” the cop said as he rushed to Jake.
A little girl watching the scene in her father’s arms yelled, “She killed Santa Claus!”
**There is more to the story—does the cop do CPR and revive Jake? Is Flor or Martha (or both) arrested for drug distribution? What do you think? Post your conclusion!
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