Copyright 2014 Francis DiMenno


A kid saves up his allowance money so he can buy his mean dad a present that will make him love him. He carefully saves up every penny, earning more money by running errands and collecting soda bottles. Christmas day arrives. Angry Dad gets a genuine imitation leather belt. Which he promptly uses to whup the boy, for having given him such a cheap present.

2. MERRY CHRISTMAS: This statement features two lies.

3. KILLER SANTA; THE MOVIE “The Fat Man is back–and he’s ANGRY! He sees you when you’re sleeping and he knows when you’re awake–so you better WATCH OUT!”

    The alcoholic is easy to shop for at Christmastime.

    I have learned that the Power of Christmas can cause Peace and Joy to flood into every nook and cranny–if, by the Power of Christmas you actually mean “a flooded basement” and if, by Peace and Joy you actually mean “a substantial insurance check.”

    Does Santa have monopolar syndrome?

    The Little Drummer Boy was a stage hog.

    Christmas comes but once a year–but then again, so do most other  major holidays.

    To an American who isn’t a Christian, the Christmas season must seem like National False Messiah Month.

    Here’s a secret: Santa eats children. Where do you think he  got that belly?

    Nice thing about being an exile is that you never have to buy Christmas presents.

    Holiday cheer is yet another sign of a conditioned response.

    Thanksgiving for the Puritan, Christmas for the civilized.

    Santa’s methodology: He utilizes a rip in the space-time continuum to conduct his rounds and prowl inside your homes. Mystery solved!

    This festive holiday season, I’d like for us all to pause for just a moment to think about the forgotten people….the convicts on death row. I happen to think capital punishment is an ugly expression. I think we should change it to something nice. Like “Putting the killers to sleep.” Or “Lights out for felons.” Or “Harvesting the psychopaths.” Or “Three strikes and you’re dead.” Or “Giving Amnesty International yet another so-called atrocity to complain about.” Or “A date with Old Sparky.” “Or “A great big heapin’ helpin’ of Edison’s Medicine.”

    The next time you turn down a job applicant for lack of the requisite experience, consider Christ’s resume: Fisherman, short order cook,  some light carpentry, public speaking experience, fluent in Aramaic. Then ask yourself–would you hire this hallucinating, bearded nomad?
    Well–would you?

    Perhaps next year I could write up some timely articles like “My Most Unforgettable Christmas,” or “The 10 Cutest Things Our Department Store Santa Ever Said,” or “I Am Programmed To Lay Up Stores During the Winter Solstice–Isn’t Everyone?”

    In the future: Boom! Atomic Christmas!




    On Friday, February 25, 2000, at 12:14 am, near the constellation Orion, a new star appears in the sky, though nobody now living will ever see it, for its light will not reach the earth for another 400 years. Over the next few hours, however, astronomers at the Arcadia Observatory note a number of anomalous phenomena: at 12:15am, over the northern part of the North Pole there came “balls of fire and a streak across the sky”. At 12:34, the heavens over the southern hemisphere were “obscured by a dark mist”. At 3:01 am, according to the notes of the chief astronomer, “an unknown body of planetary size was seen to cross the Sun.” Mercury, Venus and Mars were present and accounted for; no, this was “an unknown body.”

    At about the same time, Noxtown’s morning newspaper, The Morning Dispatch & Daily Chronicker, rolls off the presses. The headlines bear the usual simple bold text in 18-point type: REPORTER COMMITTED TO REST HOME; GRAFT ALLEGED IN HWY CONTRACT; DISASTER IN HARBOR, COALITION SEEKS REFORM; PROF. CHARGES RACISM; AREA YOUTH WINS SPELLING BEE. At four am, as the first plastic-banded bundle is thrown off the delivery truck to land on the cobblestoned street in front of the City Hall Newstand, the wind begins to whip wildly. The bundle splits open as it hits the stones, and the topmost paper flies off; its wind-strewn pages reveal the interior headlines: ECOLOGICAL NIGHTMARE, PHARMACEUTICAL FIRM INDICTED, NASDAQ SELLOFF, INFRASTRUCTURE IGNORED, OFFSHORING UNDERMINES TOWN MANUFAC. BASE, ASSN PREXY CHARGES MAYOR HAS ‘SECRET AGENDA’.

    Santa Claus awakes, as is his wont, at 5am. In spite of press reports indicating otherwise. he is not ordinarily a jolly man but on this day he awakes with a smile. When his servant brings in his paper at 5:02 am, his smile, beset with tiny teeth of a pearly iridescence, grows frighteningly wide. The 60ish Mr. Claus and his ancestors had been, for the past 300-odd years, the head of a secret society, the name of which is utterly unknown save to initiates sworn to keep its name a dark secret. In his expensive suit, custom-tailed shirt, and conservatively-cut all-silk foulard, he is, by all appearances a respectable citizen of substance and means. 

    Nobody looking at Claus dozing by the fire in his usual comfortable chair in the wood-paneled Cherry Room at the Soho Club in Old Town would suspect that this jolly 300-pound personage with the receding hairline and white beard is a man whose name is spoken of in whispers and used to frighten small boys. A sort of sinister antithesis of the beloved “jolly old elf”, those who have crossed his path have received for their temerity not presents, but a world of pain, for Santa, currently a higher-up in a secretive government agency, is said to have dabbled in virtually every form of mind-control, from those involving hypnotism, sensory deprivation, drugs, and medical procedures to others, nameless and perhaps unnamable or at least better left unmentioned. This enigmatic bachelor–the tales of a “Mrs. Claus” are a mere fable–is a serial monogamist whose partners have all either died prematurely or gone insane. Santa has been known to make grown men quake with just a cross look. It is said that a political endorsement by Santa is a Faustian bargain at best; although his candidates always win their contested races, they are almost invariably forced to resign their positions in disgrace before the end of their terms. Nowadays, savvy pols tend to steer clear of “The Fat Man”, albeit in a diplomatic way which they fondly hope will not give him undue offence. For his part, Santa wields his enormous power in city politics with quiet firmness. Those charities he deems superfluous soon relocate ; those fundraising organizations which fail to meet with his approval soon disband. Nevertheless, he himself refuses to serve on any boards, but prefers to make his preferences known through more clandestine means. It is rumored of Santa that he can make himself invisible; can make a man bark like a dog; can predict what will happen before it occurs. This is palpable nonsense; a testimony not to his true powers but to the power of public credulity. And yet…it is well known that those who have the poor judgment to defy him have a tendency to suffer episodes of delirium and erratic behavior which often provide headlines in the next day’s local paper.

    Santa is smiling because, of the six front-page headlines, he has influenced the outcome of five of them, a new personal best. REPORTER COMMITTED TO REST HOME. That is an interesting one. On Wednesday evening, a freelance reporter had called on him at his Club and interviewed him about the upcoming Mayoral election. The reporter ventured to mention that “A lot of uninformed people seem to think that Mr. Ose might act as a spoiler in the race.” He then smiled and said, “But who cares what a lot of stupid people think?” In an unguarded moment, Santa had replied, “Who cares what stupid people think? I do. The beliefs of the credulous drive the world.” The reporter was foolhardy enough to attribute this saying to Santa in the Wednesday paper. One phone call was all it took; the paper hastily printed a retraction in the afternoon edition. However, very early on Thursday morning the offending reporter had been found by police, trudging, naked and weeping, in slippery snow on the Shanty Street offramp of Route 299 in Noxtown Lower Falls. Santa notes with satisfaction that the newspaper story mentions that “the reporter has been committed and is now being given a series of tests at the Arcadia Nursing Home.” His age is given as 27. “Such a young man, what a shame,” Santa muses, “that he’ll never live to see 28.”

    GRAFT ALLEGED IN HWY CONTRACT is also Santa’s doing. The Citywide Improvement Agency had been working for months to plant a spy on the Highway Department payroll and had finally succeeded in placing the enigmatic Agent 54, who reported directly to Santa, who was able to transmit details of a forthcoming sweetheart deal to his fellow club member, agent 61, the erstwhile publisher of the Dispatch and no friend of the Mayor.    

    DISASTER IN HARBOR is only indirectly his. It is actually the work of his close associate “Zip” Zepar, a man named for his weapon of choice, a prison-crafted pair of single-shot “zip” guns, William Gilmore Simms “Zip” Zepar looks as if he might have stepped out of a 1950s motorcycle flick, with his greasy black hair combed into the classic D.A (“Duck’s Ass”) style–not to mention his well-worn red leather jacket, black leather pants, and work-worn steel-toed boots. Zepar, who stands 6 feet one inch and weighs 250 pounds, is the burly muscleman who patrols the docks of Noxtown’s Olde Mystick Village district with a rolled-up newspaper inside of which is secreted a short but lethal crowbar. His favorite remark to policemen, reporters, lawyers, and private detectives is always a terse, “Why don’t you mind your own business?” It is not clear why harbormasters, ship’s captains, and dockworkers are so deathly afraid of this man, whose whims are law, but one look at his dead-grey emotionless eyes and perpetually sneering mouth is enough to unsettle even the huskiest Bluto. Zepar lives in a modest shack by the riverside and frequently holds forth at Mickey Finn’s next door, which he owns; it’s a place where wharf rats, bent cops, crooked pols and hardened smugglers listen very carefully when Zepar ventures to offer them constructive “advice” which they invariably follow faithfully. Santa well knew it was Zepar’s advice to his minions to ignore the gale warnings of the shore patrol and continue their usual clandestine midnight cigarette-smuggling operation which led to the spectacular disaster: the mid-river collision of a smuggling sloop with a houseboat, which in turn led to an explosion which killed the houseboat’s occupants. The bodies of the two smugglers were never found, leading investigators to conclude they might have escaped amid the din and wreckage. Stolas knew the inhabitants of that particular houseboat. He considered the boat itself a nuisance and its inhabitants the sort of bohemian riff-raff who had no right to sully a rich man’s pleasure with their scruffy presence.   

    COALITION SEEKS REFORM is more of Santa’s work. The coalition in question is one between the noted feminist Thelma “Trixie” Dantalion and the radical law Professor Zora Phenex. Both, unbeknownst to even the most knowledgeable political insider, are deeply in his debt. The still-striking Ms. Dantalion, a political activist and an advocate  for women’s rights for some thirty-odd years, has recently entered the Mayoral race for Noxtown, and though she is not expected to win, she is expected to draw off enough liberal and radical votes to act as a spoiler and virtually ensure the election of the current front-runner, a dyed-in-the-wool conservative and secretly mobbed-up defense attorney, whom Santa has referred to as Agent 59. Of course, nothing would suit the criminal factions currently attempting to control Noxtown more. Ms. Dantalion is well aware of her role as cat’s-paw, however, she does an extremely good job of acting otherwise. She runs her staff ragged and as brutally as any despot or autocrat of yore, frequently exhorting them to work 14 and even 16 hour days in her Get-Out-the-Vote drives. Ms. Dantalion has been married twice, and her second husband left her well-heeled, passing on to her his substantial fortune only hours before he passed away as the result of an auto accident in which he stepped off a foggy curb and was struck dead by a protruding SUV mirror. Even so, it is not known where she gets the money to fund her rather swollen grassroots operation, though there has been talk about large, illegal cash donations by certain zealous real-estate magnates who would do anything to prevent a reform candidate from winning the race. Those who idealistically support the feminist movement have professed to be saddened by Dantalion’s presence in the Mayoral race, but righteously refuse to urge her to withdraw her candidacy; their logic is that Ms. Dantalion has every right to stand up for her principles, regardless of the probable consequences.What would these naïve idealists do if they knew the brutal truth—that Santa, her patron and one-time lover, had more or less blackmailed her into making the run for Mayor?

    PROF CHARGES RACISM. Santa smiles again. Zora Phenex, the other member of the so-called “coalition”, is a radical attorney and the head (and some say sole member) of the breakaway Socialist Authority Party, which broke from the “ameliorist policies of the pro-Mao, pro-Castro, pro-Trotsky playboy soldiers” of the Worker’s League (now known as the Socialist Equality party) back in 1976. She has run in every Mayoral race since 1980, and in her peak year, 1996, managed to garner 71 votes (out of about 40,000 cast). Hers is an entirely grassroots organization; she has never declared any campaign contributions–she claims that, in fact, that she has never received any, and, furthermore, even if she did, she would return them, because “property is theft”. Needless to say, this type of rhetoric does not endear her to anybody with any political influence within the confines of Noxtown. She is a perennial figure on the Ivy campus, where she is a tenured professor at the Law School (the first female to be given tenure, in 1975). Her favorite insult seems to be “ameliorist”; she has accused everyone from Eisenhower and George McGovern to Malcolm X and Angela Davis of this damnable flaw. She is a frequent caller to talk radio programs, where her cries of “free the political prisoners” and “the USA is a giant poison machine!” are permitted for their entertainment value. Botched plastic surgery and Botox injections have left her with a perpetually blank forehead, and her bad teeth and pock-marked face (beauty is “bourgeois”) have made her an easily recognizable figure about town. She rides a bicycle everywhere she goes. Her perpetual campaigns for various offices leave her perpetually impoverished, though she occasionally earns speaking fees from Pan-Arabic organizations who find soothing music in her anti-American diatribes. She is 50 years old; her Afro-styled hair has turned white, and her coffee -colored skin is splotched white by vitiglio. She is well over six feet tall, and claims to be of mixed Indian and Negro ancestry. Santa knows that the secret source of Phenex’s funding is profoundly conservative oilmen who are seeking to discredit certain disreputable foreigners. Of course, these oilmen worked closely with Santa. Santa gave her considerable leeway; she was and is one of the few public figures who have openly criticized him without suffering repercussions. He decided to let her live. He considers her rhetoric harmless. He finds her amusing. And, he likes her style. She is one of the bravest people he has ever met, and that was saying a lot, considering Santa had consorted with presidents, potentates, and war heroes by the score. Phenex is utterly fearless. Her politics are so idiotic they were almost charming. In fact, Phenex would have been rounded up years ago, and given the what-for by the boys with the pinkie rings, if Santa hadn’t stayed their hands. She had charged “racism” so often then that boys at the Morning Dispatch had that headline stereotyped back when they used typesetting.

    AREA YOUTH WINS SPELLING BEE was the only headline he could take no credit for, but as if to make up for it, there was the utterly delicious above-the-fold headline in section two, ASSN PREXY CHARGES MAYOR HAS ‘SECRET AGENDA’. Santa well knew that the details of this so-called ‘secret agenda’ didn’t really matter; just accusing a political foe of having one is red meat to the conspiracy nuts on both the left and the right, and is just the sort of irritating insinuation which is not only impossible to deny, but is also one which was sure to galvanize the Mayor’s foes to vote for anybody but him. Perhaps as a response the Mayor would even be inspired to actually develop a secret agenda!

    Santa is gratified but not overly shocked to note that every other headline in section two pertains to interests he had long had a hand in: ECOLOGICAL NIGHTMARE was the result of Santa’s many real estate ventures in Brazil; the PHARMACEUTICAL FIRM which had been INDICTED was one in which Santa had taken great interest and had, up to about two weeks ago, invested heavily in; now, of course, he could take the profits from he recent sale, buy up their stock for pennies on the dollar and gain a controlling interest with no additional outlay on his part. NASDAQ SELLOFF is indirectly his doing; his inside knowledge of the bursting of the tech bubble has enabled him to sell his e-commerce stock at its peak. As much as he’d like to take credit for INFRASTRUCTURE IGNORED, it is actually more the result of people under his control electing to prioritize cash flow into other areas. He’d have to talk to Agent 62; it didn’t look good to have headlines like that. A bicycle path in Old Town and a pocket park in the Cannery District would create some favorable headlines. OFFSHORING UNDERMINES TOWN MANUFAC isn’t really directly Santa’s doing either; again, it is the responsibility of people   under his direct control, particularly Agent 47,  who has gotten greedy and has neglected to hire the public relations help he needs to recast his cost-cutting measures in a more favorable light. Opening a new sneaker factory and a cut-rate furniture store in Noxtown Lower Falls would create front-page news to counter the offshoring accusation; he’d tell his people to get right on it. 

    Incidentally, Santa is said to have a curious tattoo, though nobody can agree as to what it represents; some say it is a dragon, and others have variously reported it as a star of David, a crown, a crucifix, a lion, a bearded man, a sphinx, a corpse, a heart, a dagger, a globe, an all-seeing eye, a phoenix, a bell, a spider, a tiger wearing an army helmet, a bear on a unicycle, lengths of a chain, a skull in a cobra’s basket, a mermaid, a coiled rattlesnake, or a pair of circling sharks. 

    Apparently, no one has gazed upon Santa’s totally nude body…and lived to tell the tale.  

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