The Death of Santa Claus

IMG_0347 Plane tickets have been purchased, and my holiday journey "home" is being planned. As usual, I'll be going backward to the outback I used to know, where the thin air of altitude sparkles with the cold and the wind whips tirelessly at the faraway peaks. Last year, I got several of the kind of perfect days pictured above. This year? Who knows. Nothing is guaranteed … except maybe my annual discourse with nephew Pat on the nature of Santa. He's 9 now. Does he still be believe?! I'm gonna find out, you guys. For now, a poem. A funny, sad poem. About Santa Claus.

 

The Death of Santa Claus by Charles Harper Webb

He's had the chest pains for weeks, but doctors don't make house calls to the North Pole,

he's let his Blue Cross lapse, blood tests make him faint, hospital gowns always flap

open, waiting rooms upset his stomach, and it's only indigestion anyway, he thinks,

until, feeding the reindeer, he feels as if a monster fist has grabbed his heart and won't

stop squeezing. He can't breathe, and the beautiful white world he loves goes black,

and he drops on his jelly belly in the snow and Mrs. Claus tears out of the toy factory

wailing, and the elves wring their little hands, and Rudolph's nose blinks like a sad ambulance

light, and in a tract house in Houston, Texas, I'm 8, telling my mom that stupid

kids at school say Santa's a big fake, and she sits with me on our purple-flowered couch,

and takes my hand, tears in her throat, the terrible news rising in her eyes.

 

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(From last year—my life skills don't lend themselves to cookie decorating.)