I’m not too proud to ask for what I want. I went to the mall, I stood in line, and I climbed up on Santa’s lap.
He grunted a little bit. I’ve got a few pounds on those three-year-olds he’s used to dealing with. He shifted around under me, trying to get comfortable, or possibly it was more serious than that, and he was trying to save his spleen.
“And what would you like for Christmas, little boy?” he wheezed. I believe I detected a note of sarcasm in the “little boy” part. But I decided to ignore this. With a wish list like mine, I didn’t want to risk antagonizing the jolly old elf whom I was hoping would be my provider.
I pulled a sheaf of papers out of my jacket pocket, and unfolded them. Santa gulped.
“#1. Peace on earth.”
“Ho ho ho,” St. Nick answered. “You’ve been reading too many Hallmark cards. Let’s aim a little lower, shall we?”
I sighed, but I was undeterred.
“#2. Peace in Ipswich.”
Now it was Santa’s turn to sigh.
“That’s a lot of ground to cover, young man,” he offered. “Ipswich is 42.5 square miles.”
“Yeah, but 10.4 of those are water,” I replied. “And more than half of Ipswich is open space. You don’t have to bring peace to the open space. It’s already peaceful.”
“Still,” Santa said, squirming, “you’ve got more than 13,000 people in that town. And more than 10,000 of them are registered voters. You know what that means, don’t you? Ten thousand opinions. I’m not sure peace is possible. What if I just get you a puppy?”
“Never mind,” I answered. “How about peace at Town Hall?”
Santa rolled his eyes. “I already brought you Robin Crosbie, and months ahead of Christmas! Aren’t things more peaceful around Town Hall these days?”
“I was thinking specifically of the Board of Selectmen’s room.”
“Ho!” Santa bellowed. “How long have you lived here? You don’t seem to understand history. As long as there are citizens’ queries, there will be no peace. And if you cancel citizens’ queries, you demolish 375 years of New England tradition — people would scream bloody murder. See where this leaves you? You can have peace, but they’d kill you over it.”
“OK, OK,” I replied. “Then maybe just peace on Market Street.”
Suddenly the twinkle returned to Kris Kringle’s eyes. His cherry-red cheeks seemed to flare with a wonderful secret.
“That café owner is still yelling at his staff and throwing customers out of his restaurant?” he asked impishly.
“It’s all over yelp.com,” I had to admit.
“I put that guy on my naughty list every year,” Santa chuckled, “but it never seems to make any difference.”
He smiled broadly, almost looking through me.
“I’ve got good news for you, little boy,” he chortled. “There’s a new rum bar going in there. The keys change hands on New Year’s Day.”
“Wow, Santa!” I exclaimed. “Thank you!”
“Merry Christmas,” he sighed happily.
Then he squeezed his eyes shut. It looked like he was about to cry.
“Santa, what’s wrong!” I cried.
“My leg is asleep,” he whimpered. “Could you please get down?”
Doug Brendel is happy to receive Christmas cheer via Outsidah.com.