The boy lay on his bed watching the snow falling outside his window.
It was perfect. Christmas Eve. Snow. A belly full of turkey, mashed potatoes, and pie. He could stay like this, wide awake, all night. But he knew sleep would bring Christmas morning and all those glorious presents to him sooner. He closed his eyes and drifted off, dreaming about the video games he would be playing tomorrow.
He woke up from a deep sleep a few hours later. As his eyes fluttered open, he heard a thud from downstairs. Could it be?
He tossed the covers aside and sprinted to his door as quietly as possible. He cracked the door open enough to stick his head out and look down the hallway towards his parents bedrom. Their door was closed. He opened his door and crept to the stairs. There was definitely noise coming from the first floor, and it sounded like it was in the living room, where the tree was set up.
Out of excitement, he almost screeched the Old Man's name, but somehow held back. This was a once in a lifetime opportunity, and he didn't want to blow it.
He crawled downstairs on his belly, suppressing the gas bubble that was attempting to force its way out.
The noise was getting louder. He crawled through the main hallway and towards the living room.
He slowly stuck his head around the corner and saw...
"Santa," he whispered. This was the moment he had been waiting for his whole life, and now he didn't know what to do.
But there he was: Old Saint Nick. Red hat, red coat with white trim. Big black boots. And there was his bag! Santa was taking items out and placing them under the tree.
Kyle had to talk to him. He didn't think it was right to sneak up on Santa, so he got to his feet and entered the room, gathering up the courage to say:
Santa jumped, then laughed his trademark ho ho ho.
"Oh you scared me there Kyle! Merry Christmas!" he said, turning to face the boy.
"Merry Christmas...Santa?" Kyle said. As the words came out, so too did the gas that had been building up inside him.
"Good one! Ho ho ho! " Santa chuckled.
Something was off. The outfit was all there: hat, jacket, boots. The white hair and beard were there. The red bag of gifts was there. His height seemed right. His weight seemed right. His jolly personality was certainly evident. But something was off.
"Merry Christmas Kyle! I'm sorry to wake you. There were just so many gifts here for you and your family that it's taking me a little longer than usual."
"What's the matter, Kyle?" Santa asked. "You look concerned. Are you worried that I forgot one of your gifts?"
"No, it's not that. It's just..."
"Are you worried I forgot a gift for one of your siblings?" Santa asked.
"No. No, we always get what we want. It's just..."
"Are you worried that you didn't leave enough cookies and milk for me?" Santa asked with a wink. "Ho ho ho! I assure you I get plenty of cookies throughout the night, and Misses Claus says I need to cut back!"
"Do you want to know about the reindeer?" Santa asked. "Everybody asks about the reindeer."
"No, it's just..."
"How do I get across the whole planet in one night?"
"No, Santa. It's just...well...you're black."
Santa looked at the boy for a few seconds, then burst out laughing.
"Ho ho ho! Ohhhhh ho ho ho!"
He continued until he saw the boy's face grow sullen.
"Oh, child, you are adorable." Santa asked.
"I just thought..."
"It's ok. I get this all the time." Santa walked to the chair in the corner of the room and sat down. He took one of the three cookies from the small table next to the armrest.
"Talk to me, Kyle," Santa asked in between bites. "What's going through that head of yours?"
"Well, no offense..."
"None taken," Santa said, sipping on the warm milk.
"...but I pictured Santa as white."
"There's nothing wrong with that," Santa replied, wiping the milk residue from his thick white mustache. "People can envision me anyway they like."
"But now you're here, in front of me..."
"Yes," Santa said, reaching for another cookie.
"And you're black. It's just...it's weird."
"That's ok," Santa said. "Some people need a little time to get used to..."
Kyle cut him off: "I mean, there was turkey and mashed potatoes and key lime pie and apple pie, and it was snowing, and then Santa is in my house, and everything was just so perfect. And now," he wiped a tear from his eye, "now Christmas is ruined."
"Ok, I'm gonna stop you there kid," Santa said, standing up from the chair and putting the remaining piece of cookie on the table.
"Listen," Santa said, then took a swig of milk. "I understand you're a little surprised, maybe even disappointed, but does it really ruin your Christmas to know that I have darker skin than you imagined?"
"Take a second to think before you answer, Kyle," Santa said.
Kyle looked closely at Santa, inspecting the man from head to toe. Finally, Kyle's eyes came to rest on the dark skin underneath the white beard.
He thought for another moment, then spoke.
"I just had a different image in my head, and I feel like I've been lied to my whole life."
Santa looked at the boy and truly felt bad for him.
"Poor boy," Santa said. "I understand how you're feeling. And you're right, you have been lied to, and I'm sorry for that. It's shameful how adults lie to children out of the misguided notion that it's for the children's own good."
Santa walked to Kyle and knelt down in front of him, facing him eye to eye.
"It's not your fault that you are feeling this way, Kyle, and I forgive you."
"Oh...." Kyle stammered.
"Society is to blame here," Santa continued, "and you are just a victim."
"K...." Kyle muttered.
"Now, are we good?" Santa asked.
"What is it?" Santa asked.
"Do you think...would it be possible..."
"What?" Santa asked, losing patience.
"Could you be white, just for tonight? Just for me?"
Santa put a white-gloved hand to his temple and shook his head slowly.
"It's just that I've pictured you as white my whole life," Kyle said.
"Listen, son," Santa said, placing a hand upon the boy's shoulder. "I can't change my skin at will."
"But you said people can see you however they want."
"Yeah, I meant in your head. If people want to think of me as white, if that makes them feel better for some reason, that's fine by me. But in reality, in real life, in flesh and blood, I'm black. And that's just the way it is."
Kyle looked down at his shoes, a look of deep sadness washing over his face. Another tear rolled down his cheek.
"Listen, Kyle. I'm sorry to disappoint you, but try putting yourself in someone else's shoes. Think of all the little dark skin boys and girls out there who celebrate Christmas. Every year they write letters and worship some old white man. And all of the other heroes, from movies to the stories they teach in school, all of the people we look up to, they are all white. Think about it, can you name any black heroes?"
Kyle thought for a moment, then said, "Mart..."
"Besides Martin Luther King?" Santa said, before the boy could finish.
Kyle looked around the room, as if an answer would appear on the walls. He tried thinking of any black people he looked up to. He thought about the President, but then he remembered how his dad called the President a "friggen Moo-slum" and decided that was probably not a good thing.
"Can't do it, can you?" Santa asked. "That's okay. Again, it's not your fault. But think about how that makes all the little black boys and girls feel."
"What do you mean?"
"There are no well-known black heroes for all the little black boys and girls to look up to," Santa said.
Kyle looked down at his slippers for a minute, then said, "I never really thought of it that way."
"Most people don't" Santa replied.
"That's kind of messed up," Kyle said.
"Exactly," Santa said, patting the boy on the shoulder.
There was a sound in the hallway, then a voice called out:
"Kyle, Kyle is that you?"
Kyle's father stepped into the room.
"Kyle, are you okay? Who is that?"
Kyle looked at his father, then looked back at Black Santa.
With a giant smile on his face, he said, "Daddy, it's Sa..."
A sound like thunder tore through the room, knocking the boy to his feet. The sound reverberated off the walls, then there was complete silence. Kyle's ears began to ring loudly in his head. He tried to get to his feet, and noticed something large and soft next to his left slipper. He looked down and saw a red, lumpy mass. Underneath the lump, a pool of dark red liquid was forming and getting bigger by the second.
It took a moment for Kyle to realize the red lump was Santa, and the red liquid was blood, oozing out of the hole in the once-jolly old man's back.
Kyle's father walked over to his bewildered son and picked him up.
"You're all right, son. He won't hurt you anymore." He held the boy tight to his chest. The cold metal of his shotgun barrel pressed against Kyle's neck, giving the boy chills.
As he was carried out of the room, Kyle looked over his father's shoulder at Santa, bleeding profusely on the living room floor, red blood spilling onto the green felt skirt under the Christmas tree.
Kyle tried to speak, but could only stare.
Santa watched the father and son leave the room. He took off his hat and placed it over the wound on his chest. He closed his eyes and with his last breath, mumbled...
"I knew I should have skipped Florida this year."
...then passed away.
I Love You All...Class Dismissed.