Will stands by the entrance and fucks his luck. Why me, he thinks, and inhales deeply before entering the large office. The radio is stuck mid-station and static reverberates off the mahogany furniture and ripples across his skin. The office chair is turned around towards the window and the dim light from the desk lamp sends shadows skulking into corners. Will looks around and feels smaller still, his tiny Elfian body compressed and consumed by the brooding artefacts within the aged walls. Dust begins to settle around him and he can feel the tiny fibres and dead cells invading his nasal mucosa, his sinus’ pulsing and preparing to incite a brain burn. He rubs his nose and moves towards the desk, the floor creaking beneath him, his presence accordingly pronounced.
‘Santa…’ Will steps closer and waits. ‘Er…Santa.’
‘We have a problem.’
The chair slowly spins round and Will attempts a smile, unsure of whether his lips are listening.
‘What is it?’ Santa removes an electronic cigarette from his mouth and blows the smoke out into the stale air. He throws it into the bin and strokes his beard, looking across the table at the little man and his wide-eyed complexion.
‘Bobski the Builder has gone rogue.’
‘He’s gone rogue.’
‘What do you mean he’s gone rogue?’
‘He’s killed twenty seven people.’
‘Hmmm.’ Santa tops up his tumbler and stares at the dark liquid. ‘Twenty seven, you say.’
‘How did this happen?’
‘The chip inside his face fucked up.’
‘His face fucked up?’
‘No, the chip in his face fucked up.’
‘Now that is strange.’ Santa raises his hand and feels his worn and wrinkled face. ‘My face fucked up a long time ago. That’s why I wear this beard.’
Uncertain how to respond, Will nods and indicates an understanding he lacks. ‘What shall we do?’
‘Grow a beard.’
‘No, I mean about Bobski the Builder.’
‘Ah, yes. Let me think.’ He removes a packet of cigarettes from his desk drawer and taps it gently against his open palm . ‘You know, I never understood why we didn’t put the chip up his bum.’ He lights a cigarette and shakes his head. ‘Why is that?’
‘He didn’t have a bum.’
‘Well why not?’
‘Why would he need one?’
‘He’s a toy.’
‘Toys poop. Like those baby dolls. They poop everywhere. They don’t stop pooping. I even found some in my eyebrow. Right here.’ He points at his left eyebrow. ‘It was there for three days. I thought I had cataracts.’
‘Yes, but they’re meant to poop.’
‘Maybe Bobski was too. Maybe that’s why he went mental.’
‘Maybe it is.’
‘I couldn’t poop for three days once. Nearly exploded.’
Will stands there and remembers the time he couldn’t stop pooping. It was after the Christmas gift run in Peru. Once the last present had been delivered they set the slay down and he’d taken a stroll among the locals, mingling with the mortals and their wine soaked wishes for merrier mornings. He bought a hot dog from a hairy street vendor and suffered the shits for three solid weeks. There was nothing solid about it.
His stomach convulses and he knows the conversation requires a return to the matter at hand. ‘What shall we do?’
‘Send in Paul the Butcher.’
‘He’s had a crisis of confidence.’
Santa finishes his drink and slams the empty tumbler onto the messy table top. ‘What are you talking about man?’
‘Paul. He’s troubled.’
‘That’s absurd.’ He begins to rummage around in the scattered lists of Christmas longings that litter his desk. ‘If anyone’s troubled round here, it’s me.’ Locating a crumpled packet of crisps he pours the contents into his mouth and frowns at the uninspiring nourishment. ‘Look at me.’
Will looks at the red faced man and waits for further instructions.
‘What do you see?’
‘What do you mean?’
‘I see the same thing every day. Same beard. Same hair. Same hat. Same clothes. Same shit. Day after day. I can’t get a haircut even if I want to.’
‘Coca-Cola. They’ve got me by the balls.’ Santa pours himself another whiskey and leans back in his creaking chair. ‘And if it’s not them, it’s Mrs Claus. She hates me more than I do.’
‘I don’t believe that.’
‘We haven’t had sex in 127 years.’
Will tries to think of something to say, but falls short, once again. ‘I’m sorry.’
‘It’s not your fault…unless…’ Santa sits up in his chair and leans over the desk towards Will, his eyes fierce and swiftly focused. ‘Unless it is.’
‘No. Of course not. Never.’
Beyond the window snow begins to fall.
A deafening silence spills into the room and Will and Santa stare at each other, unsure of how the conversation careered from mountain tops into qualm and carnage. The clock beside the door indicates the expanding emptiness and neither man moves to fill the burden of banality.
Will contemplates the accusation and Santa considers it compulsory despite the long lost need of love. They remember the wedding. The best man standing beside the groom, crying. They remember the increasing visits and whispered words and smiles and secrets. The long lonely hours and cold dinners and empty beds. Loyalty and former friendship. Betrayal.
Will shifts on his feet and fears the old man’s smile.
Santa sets his glass down and leans forward. ‘I have an idea.’
‘Yes?’ Will replies, suspicious of the teeth he hasn’t seen since childhood.
‘I know what to do. But first, let us drink.’ Santa pours himself another glass and fills a second for Will. He hands it over to the little man and sits back in his seat. ‘Cheers.’
They clink and drink, slowly, soberly.
‘Now bring me my shotgun.’
The soundtrack for ‘Bring Me My Shotgun’ is Trouble with Templeton’s ‘Bleeders.’