Here’s a Christmas tale from my childhood

It’s 1951. I’m four years old… just… and my brother Bob has gotten special permission to take me to school with him to see Santa Claus. Now, at four all I know about Christmas is a tree and a bunch of toys that show up overnight. But I’m getting the idea…

See, there’s this fat old guy who lives at the North Pole who has a bunch of elves working for him–little people with pointy ears (I just survived Halloween, so I know about goblins)–and they go around and spy on little kids to see if they’ve been bad (I’m sunk already) or good (fat chance), so be good, for goodness sake! Oh, yeah, and he sneaks into your house when you’re sleeping! Just like a burglar!!! You better watch out!!!!!

I used to lie awake staring into shadows and imagining I saw little goblin creatures peeking at me. I never passed a fireplace without checking for a fat guy up the flue.

Comes the big day and off to school I go with my big brother, who is in the third grade. Everybody is talking about Santa Claus… The fat guy. You better watch out!!!!

Then comes the sound of bells jingling outside in the hallway. You better watch out!!!

And here he comes, the fat guy himself, dragging a huge sack. What’s in that thing, bad little kids? I mean, did he get that fat from eating little kids??? Ho Ho Ho!

All the kids line up and I’m standing there with my brother holding me by the hand to keep me from bolting because he and I both know I’ve been anything but good and I know damned well I’m going in that sack. You better watch out!!!!

And here we are and it’s my turn to sit on Santa’s lap. Bob picks me up and sets me down on Santa’s knee and I look up into a face straight out of a Stephen King nightmare. Ho Ho Ho!

Santa is wearing one of those old painted masks made out of stiff cloth, only it hasn’t been packed very well, because over the years it’s acquired a bunch of dents. Like someone smacked Santa in the face with a ballpeen hammer. And his eyes don’t line up with the holes. Ho Ho Ho!

“Have you been a good little boy?”

Hell no! Lemme outta here!I kick and scream bloody murder.

Realizing the nature of my panic, Mrs. Doyle tries to explain that this is only the janitor, acting as Santa’s helper. The old guy takes his off mask…

Holy crap! He peeled his face off!!!!!!

I’m gone. Straight under the teacher’s desk.

Eventually, the guy with the removable face leaves, and Mrs. Doyle tries to coax me out, but I’m no fool. I can hear bells in the hallway and I know he’s going to the other classrooms. Ho Ho Ho!

Back under the desk.

Then I get the bad news… it’s not even Christmas yet. Santa Claus is coming to town!!!! I want to warn the kids… You better watch out!!!!

But then I figure maybe he’ll eat them instead of me and he won’t be hungry anymore.

And that’s how you get to be a cartoonist.

Merry Christmas! You better watch out!!!

Mike

 

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