Cities and suburbs, real and imaginary.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Santa Claus is neither fat, nor red

i had the great pleasure of encountering Santa Claus after work, yesterday. he was gathering supplies at a liquor store for the post-christmas party.

i didn't know it was santa claus right away. he was actually quite thin, and hale. he was young-looking, too. he got carded immediately.

i struck up a conversation with him while we were in line. he introduced himself as Nick, and said he was throwing an after Christmas party.

we talked some more, and the truth came out.

you see, Santa is a fey of spring, not winter. in the summer, he grows thick, and heavy, and his beard whitens like snow, and his skin wrinkles up like death. his blood flows in sludgy ice and gets colder all summer until solstice, when he spends the whole long day stiff as death upon a hammock. he's a beached walrus with pale white skin and a long white beard and he's so cold that he has to smother himself in every blanket he can find.

but then solstice breaks, and the spellweather turns inside of him. winter comes down from the sky, and summer rises in nick's blood.

he drops weight. he wears bermuda shorts. his beard is a lustrous red, like a sunburst bobbing when he laughs - and he has the richest, halest laugh you've ever heard and it comes so easily to him.

when winter comes, santa claus is all summer, sun-bleached skin and warm, sweaty palms when he shakes your hand. i imagine a hug from him on a long winter's night would warm the coldest girl's heart. (and, of course, he's only married in the spring and summer, and in the autumn, the two fey drift apart. I didn't ask what his wife does all winter, because it didn't seem polite.)

a twinkle in his gleaming eye, and a sheen of warm sweat all over him, like a halo that smelled like curry and strawberries, santa claus wore only green, lustrous green. his hawaiin shirt was green and covered in blue flowers.

i asked him how come everyone kept seeing him fat and red, and he told me it was all because coca cola thought they'd take over the iconography. they'd wrap him in red like the soda, make him old, and fat like their CEO. They'd turn him into a creature of commerce, and greed.

and, he shrugged at me, because for the most part they did.

still, he's here, buying liquor for the post-Christmas party, when he'll bathe the hard-working elves and gnomes in mead. they'll burn a giant can effigy of a snow can, and dance around it like they used to do.

sometimes, they throw a delivery truck driver into the fire, if that one had been particularly bad to the ancients this year, but it's been a while since any delivery truck driver has had to be memorably bad to the ancients when everything's been so bad for so long.

still, santa claus assured me that times change, and soon a new company will snatch the icons from the soda company, and already signs of change fill the air with African drums and humanistic religious plurality.

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