I suspect Santa Claus died this year.
I’m talking about the inflatable one that stood in my front yard. And I think it’s my fault. I think I killed Santa through negligence, and there’s a chance he might come back to haunt me.
Santa spends most of his life packed into a very small box. Every year, just after Thanksgiving, I pull him out, anchor him out in a patch of mud where my front yard should be, and make a lame joke about “turning Santa on”.
“I’m going to turn Santa on,” I say, plugging in the extension cord. “Usually he likes short, curvy women in green miniskirts and red tights, but sometimes he responds to sweet talking, stroking his beard, and double chocolate chip cookies.”
I didn’t set things up properly this year, and Santa was always leaning forward a bit, as if getting ready to chase little kids off the sidewalk. But after shoving four anchors into the ground, then screwing in four more anchors, and tying him off with cords, the last thing I wanted to do was start all over again. Usually by that point I’m either turning blue and losing feeling in my extremities, or I’m ankle deep in mud. This year it was mud.
So Santa stayed like that, and didn’t really look all that bad. He didn’t get inflated very often, because you’re not supposed to turn him on during windy days (insert your own joke here), and we’ve been windier than both Houses of Congress lately.
Then we had an ice storm.
Santa lay there, on his face, because that’s the way he fell whenever I unplugged him. On his face in my muddy, leaf-strewn yard. The leaves didn’t get raked this year. This is because I didn’t want to rake them – I’ve played the yard work game too long to worry about making excuses.
One day I decided the conditions were good enough to inflate Santa, so I went into the garage and plugged in the extension cord. Santa usually stands up by himself, but when I went out to check he was just laying there, part of his legs fluttering a bit, looking pitiful. Like me in the morning. I started moving him around, stroked his beard a bit, told him there would be cookies waiting on Christmas Eve, and he began to come around.
But he was leaning forward way more than normal, and even normal hadn’t been very normal, this year. So I walked around to look at him from the front.
I think I screamed. I’m not sure, but the next thing I knew I was trying to claw my way into the bank across the street. Santa was scary.
Ice still clung to much of his front. So did frozen leaves and mud. He looked like a bum Santa, the kind you might find in the alley of a big city, hiding a bottle under their beard. Because of the ice, his face wasn’t all the way inflated – he appeared to be sneering at passers-by.
There was a chunk of mud weighing down his normally waving arm, so that it looked like he was reaching out. Somewhere along the way, one foot had canted forward a bit, so between that and the leaning he appeared to be lurching forward.
There was Santa, sneering, eyes squinting, reaching out as he shuffled forward toward passing pedestrians, covered with some dark material that could have been frozen mud, or – blood.
It was Zombie Santa.
I swear, Zombie Santa. I think his eyes had turned red.
When I regained my composure, I realized the only way to fix him would be to get that ice off his front, so his features would become normal and he wouldn’t look like he was trying to scoop up young children. I wasn’t sure if just picking at the ice would be enough, and besides – I was afraid to touch him.
So I grabbed a snow shovel.
I’m not at all sure why no one called the police. There I was, out in the open in my front yard beside a state highway, whaling away at Zombie Santa with a plastic snow shovel. It looked like I was trying to keep him from crossing the street and eating the bank patrons. It would have seemed heroic, if it wasn’t so ridiculous.
My success was limited. Frankly, right up until the time I took him in for the winter Santa still looked like he’d recently emerged from the grave, and was craving human flesh. Or maybe reindeer flesh. Or elf.
Christmas will never quite be the same for me. At least, not until the nightmares subside. Who knows what I’ve created? Or what I’ll create next time? Next year I’m going to keep a wooden stake and a silver bullet by the front door – just in case.