Kristy’s ears rang with laughter as she returned from her latest interview. A never-ending tune of “You want to be a female Santa?” played in her head.
Dragging a red cap from her bag, she threw it onto the coffee table. The hat’s fluffy edges fell across an array of candy cane wrappers, pine scented candles, and frosted sugar cookies. She absentmindedly reached for a cookie. As she bit into a misshapen Christmas tree, green sprinkles dotted her peacoat.
With a loud groan, she threw herself onto her couch. Crushed beneath her lay an open newspaper, with “Santa for Hire” printed across the top. The ad was circled in red. The words “Open interviews at Macy’s” were underlined several times.
After being dismissed from her usual Christmas gig, she was strapped for cash. She was about to give up. Once more she cursed Twin Oaks Elementary, where she taught third grade. Since it was a year-round school, she got most of December off. Kristy tended to be a bit overzealous with her Black Friday shopping, so as usual, she was in a bit of a pinch.
Left with a low bank account and ever increasing credit card bills—it was enough to turn anyone into a Scrooge, but not Kristy. Instead, she was determined to maintain her typical holiday cheer. That day, she tossed aside her striped elf costume and marched into Macy’s.
Admittedly, as she joined the long line of pudgy white men, she was a little skeptical. She took a seat anyway. Drowning out the chuckles of the men around her, she focused instead on her costume. As she smoothed down the white trim of her dress, her teeth pressed deeper into her bottom lip. She knew that her red velvet dress was a tad unconventional, but then again, she was a nontraditional Santa.
When she got dressed that morning, she smiled at herself in the mirror. Yet as she glanced around at the others’ costumes, her stomach twisted in knots. Who knew how long these men had been in the business? Was there some Santa society she needed to be a part of? How did they get their belts to be so shiny? As her mind buzzed with questions, she tore off her gloves. She was so engrossed in picking her nail polish that she barely even felt the man next to her give her a nudge.
She looked up.
He tipped his glasses downwards. Glancing past her, his eyes pointed towards the open door at the end of the hallway. It was her turn.
The interview was somewhat of a blur. She walked in to find a man in a gray pinstriped suit sitting behind a desk. His eyes flicked towards her, but they immediately returned to the papers in front of him.
“Elf auditions are tomorrow, please come back then.”
“Oh, no, sir . . . I’m here for the Santa interview. I saw your ad in the paper . . .”
His chin lifted. Removing his glasses, he rubbed his eyes. “I’m sorry. Am I understanding you correctly?” His gaze ran over her, settling on her furry cap. “You want to be a female Santa?”
“Yes. I have a lot of experience in the holiday roleplaying business. I’ve worked as an elf for the past few years at Douglas County Mall, but I’d really like to expand into a new role.” Sliding her resume in front of him, she thrust out her hand. “Sorry, my name is Kristy. It’s nice to meet you.” She smiled.
He took her hand gingerly. “I’m Derek. Uhh . . Kristy, what do you think, um, you could bring to part of Santa?”
“Well, I know that I could bring a new perspective to the role.” His bushy eyebrows crept closer to his hairline. She chose to keep on going. “As a woman, I believe that I could bring a warm, nurturing presence. Some children could relate more to a mom-type figure—”
He held his hand up. “I’m sorry, I feel like I just need to stop you right there. I’m afraid that you just aren’t what we’re looking for.”
It was as if he dropped a boulder on her head. She instantly felt woozy. “Oh . . . well, I would really appreciate the opportunity to show you my act.” Her satin gloves began to wrinkle as she twisted her fingers.
By the time she looked up, he was already scribbling something on her resume. “Here’s the number for my assistant manager. She’ll be handling elf auditions tomorrow. I suggest you give her a call and stop by. It might be more up your alley.” As he took in her plump figure, his voice trailed off.
Averting her gaze, she grabbed her bag. “Well, sir. Thank you for your time.” The whitewashed walls blurred around her as she stumbled outside.
Even now, her head was still abuzz. It was as if she could still hear the other Santa’s ho-ho-hoing. Kristy shoved her face deeper into the couch cushions. The corner of the newspaper pressed into her cheek, causing her to sit up.
As she noticed the Macys ad, her lip peeled back. She started to wad up the page, but something caught her eye. “FEMALE HOLIDAY ENTERTAINER. Looking to bring some holiday cheer and give people a jolly time.” Her mouth dropped. This was it! Why wait for a job interview when I could make the clients come to me? She dropped the paper on the floor, completely unaware that the words “Personal Ads” were emblazoned across the top.
She on her dress as she rushed to her bedroom. Opening her laptop, she typed craigslist.org into her browser. Under the “Jobs” section, she found what she was looking for. She clicked “Post” and began to type furiously.
. . .
FEMALE SANTA FOR HIRE
Previous experience with holiday entertainment. Warm, nurturing, and downright jolly, this Santa is guaranteed to rile up your holiday spirits!
She sat back, an eager smile spreading across her face. Now all she had to do was wait.
. . .
A couple days later, Rachel closed the door to her apartment building. A light dusting of snow sprinkled her Santa costume as she trudged down the street.
Just the day before, she received an email from a man named Ben:
“Hi- I recently saw your ad on Craigslist. I’m looking to host a private party tomorrow. I’ve gotten everything else besides the entertainment and a female Santa is exactly what I need. Would you be available tomorrow night?”
Kristy actually squealed. She knew someone out there would appreciate a female Santa. She replied immediately. By the next night, she was on her merry way.
By the time she reached Ben’s house, her teeth were chattering. They matched the sound of the bass, thumping from inside. As she walked up the steps, neon lights flashed through the curtains. Kristy’s eyebrows furrowed. Taking a deep breath, she knocked on the door.
A minute later, a group of middle aged men spilled out. One wore a tie wrapped around his head. The silky fabric swung around as he jerked his head towards her.
“Hi, I’m Kristy. Is Ben here? He hired me for the party.”
His lips spread open wide. “Oh, so you’re the entertainment?”
Rachel looked down at her feet. “Uhh, yeah. You could say that.”
“Well come on in! I’ll grab Ben!” He waved her inside. Shoving past the other guys, he tried to let her through.
The house was covered in blinking Christmas lights. Several cords hung from the walls, swinging over empty cans and dirty food containers. Kristy wrinkled her nose.
“Do you wanna, uh, make yourself more comfortable?” He let out a roaring belch. “Ben will be down in just a sec.”
“Sure. Where are the kids? . . . This is a kid’s party, right?”
He wiped his face. Laughing, he spoke over his shoulder. “Of course it is.”
She was left standing in what she assumed was the living room. Amidst scattered clothes and video game cases was a large group of chairs, placed in a semicircle. Kristy walked around, taking in the musty scent of beer. Just as she began to take off her coat, a voice stopped her.
“Don’t start now . . . wait till Ben’s here!”
Kristy swung around, looking for the source. Across the room, a man fiddled with the stereo. Their eyes briefly connected, but then his gaze swept past her. She turned her head.
A short, black haired man, wearing a black blindfold, was being pushed into the room. He was flanked on either side, by grungy men waving red plastic cups. One of them yelled, “Hey Ben, we got a little somethin’ for ya!”
The man laughed. As he started to take off his blindfold, the music changed. “Santa baby, just slip a Sable under the tree for me-” erupted from the speakers.
Another voice cried out. “This guy’s been pretty naughty lately. What happens to guys on the naughty list?” They all sniggered.
Kristy’s throat instantly went dry. “Umm. Sorry, gentleman. I th-think you’ve got the wrong idea.” Without looking at them, she grabbed her bag. Ignoring the chorus of groans behind her, she rushed for the door.
Crisp air breezed across her face as she sprinted outside. Tears streaked down her rosy cheeks. How could I have been so stupid? I should’ve- Lost in thought, she stepped on a piece of ice. Her boots skid. Losing her balance, she collapsed on the ground. As she lay there, sniffling back tears, a child’s shrill voice rang in her ears.
“Mommy, why’s she cryin’?”
Kristy lifted her head. A blurred figure walked towards her. Wiping her eyes, black streaks of makeup covered her cheeks. She could just make out a woman, grasping something to her chest. As she drew closer, Kristy realized that she was holding a small boy in her arms.
He couldn’t have been older than four or five. His tiny limbs wriggled in his mother’s grip. “Mom!” Green gloves whirling about, he pointed towards Kristy.
“Joseph. It’s not nice to point.” His mother shook her head. Catching Kristy’s eye, she smiled. “Look, Joseph. It’s Santa!”
Joseph’s knit cap swung around. “S-santa? Where?”
“Sweetie, Santa’s right in front of you. Look.” The woman bowed her head towards Kristy.
Kristy straightened up. Clumps of snow fell to the ground as she brushed the front of her dress.
Joseph’s head swiveled towards her. His icy blue eyes bore into Kristy. “She’s Santa?”
Kristy winked at him. Placing a finger on her lips, she said, “That’s right, I’m Santa. But shhh, we gotta keep it our little secret.”
Joseph lips formed a small ‘o’. “Uh o-okay. I can do that.” He took in her crumpled hat and her bag, lying on the ground. “Wait, where are your reindeers?”
His mother chuckled. Locking eyes with Kristy, she shrugged.
Kristy leaned towards Joseph. “That’s why you can’t tell anyone I’m here. I can’t let all of the kids know that I don’t fly with reindeer anymore.”
“You still have Rudolph, right?”
Kristy let out a full-bellied laugh. “Of course, Joseph! The gang’s all still there. He’s up at the North Pole right now. I just come down here early sometimes. Sneak off without the reindeer and sleigh, you know?”
Joseph nodded his head in understanding. “Are you on a secret mission or something?”
Kristy picked up her brown sack. “How’d you know?” She looked over both shoulders. Lowering her voice voice, she said, “I guess since no one’s here, I can tell you.” She reached into her pack. Her fingers latched onto something soft and furry. “I’m giving out early presents to the girls and boys who have been extra good this year. What about you, Joseph? Have you been a nice boy?”
Snow fell of his head as he turned towards his mom. “I think so?”
Kristy pulled a stuffed dog from her bag. “Tell ya what, you are on the nice list. So I think you deserve this.”
He swiveled around in his mother’s arms. His mouth widened, revealing all of his pearly whites. He practically pulled his mother with him as his tiny fingers reached for the dog. “Really? It’s mine?”
Kristy handed the toy to him. “It sure is.”
His mother’s jaw dropped open. “Oh Joseph, isn’t that sweet? Go on. Thank Santa!”
His chin tilted up towards his mom. “I was going to!” He turned back to Kristy. “Thanks, Santa. Best Christmas ever!” He squeezed the dog to his chest.
Kristy patted him on the shoulder. “Glad you like it. Now just make sure to be a good boy next year, too. Maybe then we’ll see each other again.”
“I will, I promise!”
She smiled down at him. “I’m sure you will.” She looked past him, scanning the other houses. “I’m sorry, son, but now I have to go. Is that okay? There are some other kids who need presents.”
“I guess so.” He shrugged. Looking up at her, he asked: “But I’ll see you next year, right?”
She pinched his cheek. “Of course.” Putting her cap back on, she tipped it towards him. “Until next time.”
Joseph’s mother locked eyes with Kristy. She mouthed “Thank you.”
Kristy simply nodded and waved. As she walked away, she heard Joseph’s voice echoing behind her: “Bye Santa!” She grinned, feeling lighter than she had in a long time. Sure, she might have to go back to being an elf. But right now she was Santa. Dashing through the snow, she let out a loud “Ho-ho-ho!”