Mall Santa | Winter Holiday Story Series

“Mm? What’s that?” He buzzed. “Oh a pony. Yep. Mm. Sure.”

The kid didn’t seem to notice the apathetic look on Santa’s face. Instead, he said, “Oh! Oh! And a Wii!”

His deep voice apathetically groaned back, “Yep. Got it.”

Another kid, another dollar, he thought. Looking around, he sought out his manager, eyeballing her to let him take another break. The line was just too long, wrapped around the corner actually, and John knew he was just a little too close to breaking some bad news to one of the kids.

“What.” She mouthed.

Obviously lying, he mouthed back “I have to pee.”

She rolled her eyes. Fifth pee break in 2 hours? Please.

She nodded, indicating him to go, but make it quick. Her squeaky voice called out. “Santa will be back momentarily kids! Thank you for your patience!”

Thank God.

Briskly walking to the men’s room, she stopped him.

“I know what you’re doing, John”

“Going to the bathroom?”

“Yeah, right.” She whined. He always found her to be annoying. Standing at a grand 5’2, he was almost certain he could just pick her up and throw her. Just chuck her.

“Just let me through, Barb.”

“Just tell me what you’re actually doing.”

“Coke. Gotta be on my toes for the kids”


“Ok. Fine. Heroin.”

She was furious. “Ju-Just-”

“Get it out sweetheart my bladder won’t last longer. I’m old.”

“Ugh” she sighed. “Go. I better see you in less than two.”

Walking into the stall, he sat for a minute with the peace and quiet. Only a couple more hours until he could leave. Staring at the blue stall walls, noticing the little dots that bespeckled the wood, he sighed in anger. No, guilt.

Bzz Bzz

A text from his daughter stirred him out of his haze. He rattled his phone out his pocket, staring at the screen. Macy, his little girl, oh his precious, beautiful, little girl, contradictingly texted him with frustration.

Can we invite grammy and gdad this Christmas?

Now, John didn’t cry much, but this put him on the verge of tears. Another text.

Mom always wanted to and we never did dad. I think we should. I know they…

The text message went on about how her father never got along with her grandparents- which was true. Glazing over the text, John remembered the quarrels that always happened with his late wife’s parents. To them, he could just never afford to provide for their beloved child. He was a dirty, poor, a leech on her inheritance. He would never be able to provide for her. And when Macy was born, they swore never to show her a dime.

From them, there was no wedding appearance, no show to Macy’s birth, her first birthday, her tenth, nothing. Her mother seemed to settle them when she was diagnosed, but they still refused to see John. There was nothing in the world that could make them want to see him. And the absolute last thing that John wanted to do was deal with them the Christmas after her passing.

Closing his phone, he heaved a sigh. A wave of anxiety rushed over him, as he contemplated whether it was even worth the call.

Would they care? Don’t they want to know how he’s been? How Macy has been?

A rap at the door interrupted a strained train of thought.

“Out, John.”

A single tear, dripping out of his eye, rolled down his bespeckled face and onto his lap.

“Give me a couple more minutes. I’m having, erhm, problems.”

“The kids are waiting.” That voice.

The kids are waiting. He pondered on that for a moment. The kids are waiting. They’re waiting on Christmas. They’re waiting on him. They’re waiting on dreams to come true. His kid is waiting. Standing up, he slowly unlocked the door, and put back on his fake, itchy, beard and trudged out the door. His boss, astounded at his appearance, slid out of the way and followed him as they both went back to work.

Time seemed to inch forward as John’s anticipation to get home to his daughter greatened with every passing second. With every kid, he pondered the amount of attention he gave them. Did he give this much attention to his own? Had he been blinded by the grief of his loss so much that he was apathetic to his own child? Welts appeared in his stomach. It was knotted, tangled, and ripped apart all in one. His body began to numb, and the overwhelming feeling of guilt seeped through every pore in his body.

“Mister?” A child asked. He stared at his shirt. Rugrats. Macy used to love Rugrats. What was her favorite show now? What did she watch? Was he even paying attention? Does she even watch TV anymore? Does she notice that he doesn’t know? Does she feel neglected? What’s her favorite movie? He should go pick it up. Buy her her favorite candy. Make a day with her. Plan something with her. Macy and her mom used to love going to the movies.
His thoughts spiraled into a never-ending oblivion, and his vision blurred until John could no longer make out the fake presents in front of him. Should he invite her grandparents? They hated him. But they didn’t hate her. When was he going to put himself aside for his real priorities?

Fine, he’d text them, he decided. Only for her.

“Mister, are you alright? It’s okay, I know you’re just acting. I know you’re not the real Santa.” John snapped out of it.

“No, I am!” Every syllable was a full exertion of energy. He blankly stared down- blinking a couple times before attending back to the kid on his lap. “What do you want for Christmas, young one?”

“I want my brother to come back.”

“What do you mean?” John quizzed.

“My mommy and daddy said he left to go to a special place a couple days ago. They’ve been really sad since. I just want them to be happy.”

God, he thought. That was the last straw.

“I’ll try my best, little one.” He cracked a smile. “But right now, Santa has gotta run. I have to speak with my uhm…elves about such a special request.”

The next thing he knew, he was on the highway- full costume still on. He ripped off the beard, that stupid, itchy beard, and sped down the road, without regard for speed limits. He had to get home. As he thought about Macy’s request, he noticed that the inside of his mouth was raw, skinless, and his fingernails nonexistent.

A screech halt at the first stoplight gave him the opportunity to whip out his phone and attempt contact with his despicable in-laws.

Hey… I know it’s been awhile. Dinner?

The words sat on the screen. He knew it was way too casual for them to even acknowledge the text in the first place. Again, he typed:

Good Afternoon…

            “Good afternoon?” John muttered aloud. “What is this, an email?”

Y’all should come over for Christmas. he started to type. For Macy. We would really love to have you. And I know she is dying to see y’all. It’s what she would’ve wanted.

The light snapped green. Hesitantly, he pressed send and floored the car.

Left, right, stoplight. Turn left. Drive. Driveway. Home. Macy. John’s mind was racing so quickly that he could’ve hit a person on the way and not have noticed.

Bursting through the door, he called out for her. His little one- his girl. How could have he been blinded for so long?

“Yes?” She answered.

God, she’s so grown. Where did the time go?

            John said nothing. He walked straight towards her, bending down to meet her gaze. Cupping her face in his hands, he noticed that her face was warm, her eyes red. The gut-wrenching realization had waved over him. She had been crying- and he wasn’t there. He embraced her in a bear hug, with no intention of letting her go. He made sure to tell her that he loved her, that he hoped she had a great day. Inner conscience screamed to ask if she was okay, but better judgement refrained. He knew exactly what was upsetting her, and he knew she most certainly wasn’t okay. Instead, John, for the first time in a long time, was just there.

A buzz parted their embrace. John let go of his daughter and took a good hard look at her. He never really realized, but Macy looked exactly how her mother did as a kid. John tucked her brunette hair behind her ear, and kissed her on the forehead.

“Why’d ya come home so early?” She inquired.

John sighed. “I just missed you.”

Macy looked almost astonished, as if, for the first time in six months, her father truly saw her. He slipped a cracked hand into his pocket, pulling out his phone. A text appeared on the screen: We will be there. We’ve been wanting to pay a visit to see our dear granddaughter for awhile. Thank you.

A smile burst onto John’s face, almost scaring Macy. She couldn’t remember the last time she had seen him smile.

            “Hey. Little one.”

“I’m not that little, dad.”

“You might be old enough to stay home, but you’ll always be my little one. But still- I have a very important question.”


“How would you like to see your grandparents this Christmas?”

Macy instantly burst into tears- it was a cry that came from her simultaneously broke and healed her father’s heart. She leaped into his now outstretched arms, and continued a cry that seemed like it was going to last a long, long while. All the while, he held on to her as tightly as he could, determined to never let her go again.

In between heaved sobs John could make out a “Thank you” and an “I miss mommy”. Up until then, he had been strong. But now, he was weeping right along with her.

“I miss her too, honey” He whispered. “I miss her too.”




Riley M. Cargile is from Houston, Texas, and is a sophomore History major.