Christie Shary

Short Stories - The Ho Ho Ho Man

The Ho Ho Ho Man

I bolted for the bus, but it left me. I stood panting in mid-street, overloaded with my Christmas treasures, wrapped in the bright reds and greens of the season and watched it choke down Broadway in a cloud of thick, black smoke. Turning to go back to the bus stop, I saw him from the corner of my eye.

"A Puerto Rican Santa Claus," I chuckled, pulling the collar of my down-filled parka around my neck, a shield from the austere cold. It was almost dusk of a gray, cloud-crowded day. His skin was the same color as the late afternoon sky. I couldn't help but stare at him—a dark, bearless, elf-short Santa. I studied his sunken belly when he rose from his orange-crate throne, holding a drab, dented bell high above his head.

Clusters of last-minute shoppers flowed unevenly around him, but he pushed deeper into their midst as they moved to the rhythm of the red and green flashing lights, in and out of the bounty of cars plugging the intersection. Where did he get that suit? I watched him plod toward me, rigorously ringing his bell, an empty and mangled Kentucky Fried Chicken bucket in his other hand.

"Por favor? Got a dime, Amigo?" he yelled over the bell's din to suspicious passersby as they clung to their purses and packages with urban dwellers' grimness. His thin hands hung from the baggy red suit, darker than the soiled fake fur that trimmed it. His pants fluttered against his icicle-thin legs.

The wind began to moan. I zipped my parka all the way to my chin. Still my teeth banged against each other. Suddenly, I heard a plop echoing from his bucket. We both looked down. The core of a golden delicious apple lay in its bottom, dropped by a fleeting shopper.

Our eyes locked. His were tired and brown and hungry. I searched my pockets for some kind of snack—a forgotten Hershey bar? Some leftover popcorn stuck in my coat pocket?

He marched still closer to me, ringing his bell with the strength of Goliath, his eyes warming.

"Por favor?" he pleaded again, staring into his bucket.

But I only have my bus fare money. I moved away from him and deeper into the crowd. He followed me, ringing his bell in that continual Salvation Army manner, doing little zigzag dancing steps, then twirling around the lamppost hung with holly on the corner. Snowflakes started to sift from the sky. They clung to his black eyelashes.

"Ho, ho, ho," he bellowed, starting to cough. I was astounded at his persistence. I thought that living in the city so long had muddied my mirth, blunted my talent for noticing people. But this Santa, with his colorful yet sad sounds and sights, caught me, held me there. I felt like a fragile glass Christmas ornament about to rupture into a thousand red and green pieces.

It's such a beautiful night for walking, I thought. I walked up to him and plunked my bus fare money into his container along with a foil-wrapped package from my shopping bag. It's such a beautiful night.

"Ho ho, ho," I heard him say as I merged back into the crowd, the snow crunching beneath my feet, the flakes encircling me with their warmth. "Merry Christmas!"