Thursday, December 22, 2016

No, Virginia. For Real: I'm Santa Claus By Orrin Hanratty

Hi and welcome to the inaugural Renegade Shorts Winter Holiday Short Story Showcase! The purpose of this is to showcase a small collection of fun short stories that take place during the Winter Holidays. I went to a great group of writers from Hamline University's MFAC program and asked if people wanted to do this. I got a bunch of yeses and we've been writing stories and sharing them with each other ever since. The plan is to post one a day here until I've run through them all. A lot of work went into these stories and I really can't thank the people that decided to write them on such short notice. I am really, really touched.

Anyway, the idea is fun stories for us to share and display, and since it's my crazy idea, I might as well go first. So, without any further ado, I give you:

No, Virginia. For Real: I'm Santa Claus

By Orrin Hanratty

And from the supply closet, there arose such a clatter. Calvin hit his head, and his shin, and he fell out of the door directly into a tall, thin girl, in green clothes with wavy, brown hair.
“AHHH,” said the girl.
“AHHH,” said Calvin. And then he recognized her.
 “Virginia? It’s you. Wait! What time is it? What day is it? Where are we? Why are you wearing an elf costume?”
“Calvin,” said Virginia. “How can you possibly be this high at 8:53 in the morning. And for your first day!”
“I mean it’s fairly easy to wake and bake if I wanted to, but I’m not-”
“Let me see your eyes!”
She grabbed his chin and tilted his head back. Virginia’s parents owned the Chadsbury Mall and the Chadsbury Mall was the only mall in the county. And, if she was to be believed, this was the first Saturday of the Christmas shopping season so there were certain expectations: good deals, convenient parking, large crowds, and of course, a Santa Claus. It didn’t matter that the Wal-Mart two towns over had driven most of the businesses out of the mall by price slashing, under selling, and larger selections. Wal-Mart did not have a Santa Claus. Virginia’s parents prided themselves on their Santa selection process. This year they chose Calvin, because he worked at the The Glass Shop and sort of matched the Santa specifications. The Glass Shop sold glasswares, naturally. They were the type of glass wares that could be generously called “art”, unless you were a police officer then you called it paraphernalia. Not that there was anything wrong with that.
That explained the elf costume, at least.
“Your eyes look normal,” she said.
“Like you'd know what to look for,” said Calvin.
“I suspect redness. Or is it large pupils? Small pupils? Gah! It doesn’t matter. At least you’re dressed. You know you’re not supposed to take your uniform home. Whatever. You’re here. You’re ready. Let’s go.”
“Costume? Ready? But I’m-” he looked over her shoulder and froze. He saw himself in the mirror. The jacket! The hat! Realization. Unbearable, undeniable, encroaching, realization knocked into Calvin like a sleigh charging down the hill at a million miles an hour.
“Holy snowballs, I’m Santa Claus!”
“Yes. I know. That’s why we’re here. Now go sit for the excited children!”
“But you don’t understand. I’m
“SANTA CLAUS!!!” said the children. And then it was on. For his part Calvin was a lively Santa. His “ho-ho-hos” were forceful. His “Merry Christmases” were heartfelt. He felt full of the Christmas spirit. That was to be expected considering what had happened to him.
“What was with the whole The Miracle on 34th Street act today?” Virginia asked at the end of the shift.
“Dude, you spoke Dutch to a set of shy twins!”
“Is that what that is? How can you tell?”
“My grandmother is from Holland. That’s not important. Explain!”
“Ok, but you didn’t believe me before.”
“I’m Santa Claus.”
“No, Virginia. For real: I’m Santa Claus. This all started last night. Well, you’d consider it last night. For me it was so long ago-”
“It was only
 “Shh Shhh shh so before I left ‘last night’ Chet and I hotboxed his car. I decided to walk home. I must have taken a wrong turn—a way wrong turn—because I got crazy lost. It was snowing like crazy I came to this big, stone wall and I tried to walk around it but it was freezing and I was like, ‘Hey! I’m cold help!’
“Then these two guys come out of nowhere. They were wearing big, heavy, leather, coats and pointed freaking rifles at me yelling ‘Wie gaat er?!’”
“That’s Dutch for who goes there,” said Virginia.
“Yeah, I know that now. They were actually muskets. They took me away from the wall and onto a path that brought me to a village, surrounding a big stony tower and castle, not like a Disney castle though. It was way smaller. Everything in the village beside that was straw roofs and wood logs and every house had a smoking chimney. It smelled really nice actually.
“So the guards took me into the town hall or whatever, there was like some screaming and yelling in apparently Dutch and then this farmer and his wife did some yelling and pointing. Then they took me to their house. I didn’t understand a word of anything anyone was saying then, but that farmer and his wife had some kids and they took me in and were really nice to me. It was quiet for a couple of weeks. I had plenty of time to think about it.
“I must have time travelled, obviously.”
“Oh, obviously,” said Virginia.
“And because of that, I was really worried about messing up the space time continuum—I mean assuming that time isn’t fixed. I didn’t want to accidentally erase myself, you know?”
“So a while back I came up with a list of things I should and shouldn’t do just in case this happened-“
“In case you fell back in time while stoned?”
“It’s not that weird, don’t make that face. So with time and fate in my hands I tried not to mess anything up. The family was cool. We ate a lot of boiled meat. I learned the language. Like a month of this, and then yesterday—that is the yesterday that I just went through, not your yesterday—I came back with some firewood and saw this big sleigh outside of town. It looked like there was big town meeting going on. I could see this old guy in the middle of town in one of those big, fancy, white wigs people used to wear, and he was yelling ‘Waar is de buttenstander!?!?”’”
“Where is the outsider!” said Virginia.
“I know! They didn’t give me up. So I tried to sneak back to the house and get my stuff, but when I get home, there’s a wizard
“A wizard!”
“I fell through a time vortex and was hiding out with apparently Dutch peasants, who refused to rat me out, of course there is a wizard. Keep up!”
“So the wizard says ‘Calvin, you have been dropped here because I got into a thing with an evil wizard, and some magic stuff went sideways.’”
“A wizard said ‘Magic stuff went sideways’?”
“Look, there was a lot going on, I didn’t have time to take notes on everything people said, ok?”
“Ok," Virginia rolled her eyes.
“The wizard went on to say ‘So, the dude in the center of town is the evil wizard and during our thing he took a magical doodad from me. Because it caused you to fall back here, he needs you to make it work, that’s why he’s punishing the town by taking taxes and stuff. I can’t get in there so you gotta do it.’
“So I’m all in because I’ve gotta help out. These were pretty cool people.
“I snuck in, the wizard gave me a map to the doodad and the family had some in with the kitchen or whatever and so I’m in the castle, and I find the doodad and, like, these ravens start screeching all over the castle. Can you believe it? A frickin’ magic alarm.
“So then I’m running out the room and all the halls are filled to the brim with angry guards so I run up the stairs and go all the way to the top of the tower and go in to this room and I see a wig and a chest of clothes and boom GENIUS IDEA. Impersonate the evil wizard. Right as I get everything on the door opens up and a guard charges in. He backs off and starts stammering and I assume he’s giving a report about me coming in, and I say ‘VIND HEM!’
“Find him!” said Virginia.
“I ALREADY KNOW THAT, VIRGINIA,” said Calvin. He took a breath. “Sorry.”
“It’s cool,” said Virginia.
“Where was I?”
“Right. So the guard runs off and I head down the stairs and run right into the evil wizard guy. Which, I gotta say was terrifying.
“I book it right into the nearest room, barricade the door and look at the doodad and say ‘Look, doodad, if you want out, you gotta help!’ and it worked. It glowed and I felt all light and stuff. I was about to leave when I saw a big chest full of money. It must have been the taxes! So I look at the doodad and it like shrugs, I guess, and the chest turns into a sack and I grab it and go out the window.
“I land on a roof, in like a crash and I fall over and like it’s freezing out so I pull a hat out of the pocket of the jacket I’m wearing. I start running along and tossing gold out of the bag, which was turned into little sacks, and they are flying all over the place and right down chimneys. I wasn’t really paying attention to where I was running so I fell off the last house and onto the evil wizard’s sleigh.
“Reindeer come up and somehow attach themselves to it, and I’m scared because I think it’s the evil wizard doing that. It takes off and the townspeople are all awake now waving goodbye while I’m screaming ‘Yo! HELP,’ but the reindeer take me to the good wizard and he’s like ‘Yo, good work. I see you used the doodad, but that’s cool. You did everyone a big favor with getting rid of that dude, because by taking the doodad you sent him back to his original time period. Here’s your reward and that’s the way home.’ He gives me this shining blue ball and kicks me into the vortex and that’s how I ended up here this morning.
“Until I saw myself, I didn’t realize what I was wearing.”
“Wow,” said Virginia. “You actually expect me to believe that?”
“Dude! Look.” Calvin opened up his locker and the Santa costume was still in there.
“Ok, so you went to get a new suit from the Wal-Mart to make a joke and-”
“Feel this thing! This is not a Wal-Mart Santa suit!”
It was warm and velvety. High quality and strong. Definitely not a Wal-Mart Santa suit.
“Well…ok… that is nice… but still… time travel? Wizards? Santa Claus?”
Calvin reached into the pocket of the red coat and pulled out a small blue Christmas decoration. “Make a wish,” he said.
“But I-“
“Make a wish.”
“Fine. I wish that my parent’s mall will make it through the holiday season and be filled up with stores again like it used to be,” said Virginia.
The ball stopped shining.
Virginia’s phone rang.
She answered it.
She gasped.
She hung up.
She looked shocked.
“What happened?” said Calvin.
“That was my parents. A stampede of reindeer and mice, all wearing bells, ran through the Wal-Mart today and pooped on everything. It’s been closed indefinitely because that violates the health code in like a million different ways. Apparently, it’s been doing poorly for a while and they’re just going to let it close. My parents have been fielding calls from people looking for store space all day.”
Calvin nodded. “I told you,” he said. “I’m Santa Claus.”
“Ok. Fine,” said Virginia. “But I still don’t think you learned Dutch in a month!”

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