by Shellah Garrett

'Twas the week before Christmas and all through the Club
The party was buzzing with Christmas hub-bub.
The children were neatly tricked out in their clothes,
Their parents trussed nicely in neckties and hose.

The glasses, they tinkled,
The spirits, they soared
(In direct proportion to how much was poured.)

I was on duty.
I forewent the likker.
So I was not tiddley, not nappy, not shikker.
I play the piano. I don't talk too much.
My job is "the mood," the background and such.

I spotted the hostess (ahem--My Employer)
Conducting commotionous kids in the foyer.

"Ah, yes.
There's the Santa,"
I said to myself,
When I noticed: this wasn't just any old elf.

His boots were spit-polished! His suit! It was plush!
His cheeks were aglow with a healthy pink flush.
He settled himself in a deep, easy chair...
And amply he filled it! (Well! No pillow there!)
His beard! It was real! It was white, full and fluffy!
It wasn't too long or too short or too scruffy!

You must keep in mind that I work in the malls,
Department stores, banquet rooms, hotels and halls.
I've seen lots of Santas. In fact, I've seen dozens.
I've seen all his helpers, his uncles, his cousins.

I've seen all the sizes,
The fat ones,
The thins,
The Santas whose beards have slipped off of their chins.
Some in suits far too dingy, a few far too garish,
And some with a girth that's suspiciously squarish.

The beard, if it's real, is too sparse or too yellow.
If it's false, it's too curly to be on a fellow.
And then there's the guy, tried to hang from his lip,
His ex-wife's blonde wig. (And, oh boy, did she flip!)

Shiny-black plastic belts,
Pinky cheeks daubed with rouge,
Black vinyl spats flapping loose over shoes.

Twinkling eyes all gone steely from vanquishing dangers
And strangers
And besting
Free-ranging teenagers.

Hot Santas basting in Santa Claus juices.
Cold outdoor Clauses like stiff Santa-mousses.

Their patience worn thin,
Their eyes all flash-dazzled,
Their laps all sat flat
And no nerve left un-frazzled.

But this Santa...
was GREAT! It was he to a tee!
From the cock of his cap to the child on his knee.
His beard was authentic, his belly, it jello'd.
His laugh was sincere when he ho-ho'd and hello'd.
His glasses had lenses, his twinkle..."skeedinkled".
...His eyes saw you only as Good when they wrinkled.
And the Great Ancient Secret he shared with the fry...
Just then things went blurry-- (a mote in my eye).

The tree flaunted glitter,
The candles went bright,
The fire lept, blazing,
The light was... just right.

The children, the carols,
The weave was alchemical.
So was Kris Kringle...

And then...

Something happened.

I can't say just what...

I thought--

I forgot...

that Saint Nick

--was NOT!

It was just a split-instant,
No crack and no thunder;
A miniscule moment...
Of genuine wonder...

I came-to and chuckled, and thought, "silly me."
...Then, again...
Was it him? Was it he? Could it be?

Well, it could be, you know! If you gave it some thought!
(...The Old Man himself?...)
Well, it

Third-graders and Science dismiss this old saint.
I can't prove that he is.
They can't prove that he ain't!

What if he DOES take a break and come down
From his shop at the Pole for a tour on the ground?
Just to keep his hand in, stay on top, stay in touch?
Take a breather, a furlough--he don't get out much.

Why, his cover is flawless! A perfect disguise!
With so many Santas, now who would get wise?

A smokescreen of posers! Imposters!
Discreet? No.
It's holiday camouflage!
Claus Incognito!

Come as you are, Kringle! Wear what you wear!
Michael Jackson and Cher can't do that ANYWHERE!

. . .

It was just a split-instant.

A molecule moment.

My lapse when unnoticed,
It passed without comment.

But mind you...

With all of these counterfeit Santas in town,
How will you know if the real one sits down?

. . .

It was spring when I next thought I saw the old elve.
Disguised as a bus driver
On Metro’s Route Twelve.

(c) 1995, 2002 Shellah Garrett
All Rights Reserved