Monday, December 12, 2011

Ebenezer Christian and the Three Christmas Spirits, Chapter 6

     At this writing, Christmas is less than two weeks away. In 2002, a few weeks after Christmas, I wrote this novella as a reaction against the way Christmas has become a racket. Many of the worst offenders are professing Christians who have bought into the Christmas racket and are contributing to the world's problems by participating in that racket.
     We need to reconnect with the world, and we need to rethink Christmas.
     Over the coming days, I intend to post each of the fourteen chapters and addendum to Ebenezer Christian and the Three Christmas Spirits. The following is Chapter Six.  For the Table of Contents to Ebenezer Christian and the Three Christmas Spirits, click HERE.

Chapter Six
Santa Claus Gets Fired
     The parry with Cooper Grady had cost Ebenezer Christian some valuable time, and he hastily beat a path for the dressing room. Rapidly climbing into his Santa suit, he ran into the shopping area, and then slowed to a fast walk so as not to appear undignified.
     As he sat on Santa's throne, Ebenezer Christian had the gnawing feeling that he'd overlooked something important. He quickly took a mental inventory of his garments. Good. Nothing was missing. Still, he was bothered by that annoying "something.” What was it?
     Quite a crowd had gathered during the few minutes prior to his afternoon shift. There were more than forty children, plus parents, plus passersby who had stopped just long enough to see how "realistic" the Stewart's Department Store Santa really was. About 150 people must have gathered at that spot, at that time, just to see him.
     The first child of the afternoon sat on his lap. She was a frail little tyke, perhaps three years old. Her mother had had to do a little coaxing to get her obviously frightened child to sit on "Santa's" lap. Ebenezer Christian beamed at her as cheerfully as he knew how. Since he was still a little annoyed at the thought that he'd forgotten something, he wasn't able to beam as brightly as usual.   Ebenezer Christian gently chucked and said, "Well, you're a pretty young lady. What is your name?"
     As the little girl was trying to muster the courage to answer, some numbers rushed through Ebenezer Christian's head. He'd had four twenty-dollar bills and two fives in his wallet at the time of his encounter with the Salvation Army volunteer. When he paid for his lunch, he had three twenties and two fives in his wallet. That could mean only one thing: He had given the Salvation Army volunteer a twenty-dollar bill instead of a five. Worse yet, he had originally intended to give her only a quarter!
     There in the middle of Stewart's Department Store, in the presence of forty small children and more than a hundred other onlookers, Ebenezer Christian heard himself shout two words that forever ended his career as a department store Santa. The first word was, "Oh-hh," and there was nothing especially wrong with that; but the next word had four letters and had something to do with a daily bodily function.
     It was one of those moments of crisis when the senses are acute in the extremes. To Ebenezer Christian, everything seemed to happen in slow motion. Even as the air rushed from his lungs, and his lips began to form the first syllable, he mind screamed that he was going to say something he'd regret. The words slowly rumbled across the store and echoed from the walls and back to his ears, but, even as he said them, he was powerless to stop them.
     The frail child on his lap immediately started crying and reaching for her mother, who immediately snatched him from the lap of that "sick man.” The uproar from the rest of the crowd, who, only a second earlier, had nurtured the expectation of a "Hallmark moment," was similarly disapproving—most of the crowd, anyway. Some college students wearing torn jeans, sporting brightly-died, spiked hair and jewelry that pierced their faces were far more approving in their response. They laughed, pronounced it "cool," and promised each other that they'd tell everyone else about it.
     Mr. Capra, the store manager arrived breathlessly and rushed poor Ebenezer Christian from the scene. Profusely apologizing to onlookers, the distraught merchant kept repeating something about Santa "not feeling well," and that he'd feel better soon.
     Poor Ebenezer Christian was fairly dragged to the stock room (where his street clothes were hung on a coat rack with care, not expecting that "Santa" soon would be there;) thereupon the store manager and two youthful lackeys quickly stripped Ebenezer Christian of his clothes and his dignity. They shoved his street clothes into his arms and unceremoniously pushed him out the back door and into an alley.
     The alley was as filthy and cluttered as any alley he'd seen. At first, it appeared deserted, though it looked as though the nightfall would find it populated with large rats, feral cats, and perhaps winos.
     As Ebenezer Christian gathered his wits, clothing still bundled in his arms, he suddenly noticed that he wasn't alone. A ragged, unkempt man was sitting beside a trash can, leisurely partaking of the grape. The two men noticed each other at the same time. The wino did a double-take at Ebenezer Christian's unconventional attire, uncertainly peered at him through his alcoholic haze, and then turned to study the label on his bottle. He wasn't sure he wanted to buy that brand again.
     Ebenezer Christian hurriedly dressed and went home.

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