Christmas is honestly my favorite holiday of the year. I love spending time with my family and my friends. The social norm at this time of year is being friendly and giving, which is a nice change of pace. I hope you all have a terrific Christmas and that the positive spirit of the season carries on throughout the entire year.
“All right. I’ll make it as simple as I can. Christmas has been around for ages, right? Well, Santa has gotten a little old and it's hard for him to do everything by himself. So, in order for Christmas to continue, he had to hire a bunch of people to help out. Like Dennis. He runs SCS business on the West Side. His job is to pick up the recruits and train them to be the best Street Corner Santas they can be."
Joshua remained silent. Then, flatly, he said, "That's why all the food and the red suits."
"Now you're catching on."
Joshua stared at the wall across from him. A poster of Derek Jeter hung near the door. Joshua remembered the only baseball game he had ever been to. His parents took him to the final game of the World Series last year. The Yankees won that game. That seemed like an entirely different universe. One where Santa didn't smoke and the snow didn't give you a rash.
He wanted that universe back. He began to hyperventilate.
"The bag," Stevie said.
Joshua looked at Stevie, confused and scared.
"Breathe into the bag."
He looked down at the brown bag still in his trembling hands and quickly put it to his mouth. After about 20 seconds he managed to calm down.
"I know it's hard to grasp," Stevie said, patting Joshua on the shoulder. "It took me a while to accept it. But trust me, the sooner you accept the truth, the easier everything will be for you."
"So all the toys and games," Joshua said, "They're really just…bribes?"
"More like perks. We all know what we're doing here. At least nobody's feeding us some baloney about this one guy single-handedly controlling the biggest night on the planet. It’s an entire corporation.”
As Joshua regained his composure, he noticed something on Stevie’s face for the first time. Stubble. Stevie had stubble.
After a short pause, Joshua said, "It still feels like there's something wrong with all this."
"It's just different than all of the bullshit you’ve been fed your whole life," Stevie said.
The way he said “bullshit” so casually told Joshua that Stevie had been using the word for quite some time now. Just how old was this kid?
"Think about it,” Stevie said. “We get everything we ever wanted here. All we have to do in return is wear these suits, gain a little weight, and listen to these silly instructional tapes on how to be 'jolly'. Besides, can you imagine what the world would be like if there were no street corner Santas? Dennis says our entire society would collapse in less than a week. I mean, kids would still be sending their wish lists by mail. Santa doesn't even have a mailing address! SCS, Inc. is the only way for thousands of kids to get their wishes fulfilled every year. And you know what? I kinda like being a part of that."
Joshua imagined thousands of kids just like him, trying to get their lists to Santa, and the heartbreak they felt when their wishes went unheard. Now he had the chance to help. So what if this kid was a little older and rough around the edges. If he was going to stay here, it would not be for the toys and food, or for Stevie, it would be to help fulfill the wishes of children across the planet. That sounded almost noble.
“Besides, don’t you wish you could just get away from things sometimes?” Stevie asked. “Like school, your family…”
Joshua thought of his teacher Miss Helfand and her coffee and cigarette breathe. Then he thought of his brother. He’d love to get away from him, that’s for sure. He looked again at the poster of Derek Jeter. He wanted a Jeter poster in his room, but he shared his room with his brother, the Red Sox fan. He had to look at a poster of David Ortiz every morning when he woke up.
Why was he even considering this?
“So when do I start?” Joshua asked, smiling at his new roommate.
“Trust me, kiddo, you already have,” Stevie smiled back, handing Joshua the tray of cookies.