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Slimeballs at Christmas

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by Michael Slator

I know how I would have felt and no doubt eight year old Brian must have been equally dismayed when he was told , “No; I am not bringing you to see Santa Claus", but then to make it even worse, Irene his Mammy really gutted him when she went on her rant.

She started off with long strange words to his ears like “commercialisation” and how the sooner he grows up and learns that Santa is part of a sinister myth dreamed up by "slimeballs" with “flowcharts”, some more words he did not understand, whose only aim is to get you to buy more useless tat and keep the graph line rising.

All this went over his head because all he wanted was to see Santa and leave his order for the a fire engine like the one he showed his Mammy in Smyths toyshop on the Monread road outside Naas a few weeks earlier.

He told the story to his friend Roger who sat beside him in third class. Roger and Brian lived in the same block of flats with Rogers’s family in the penthouse flat. Roger could not believe his ears and counted down the minutes until school was over and he was able to get home and tell his mammy and brother and big sister Mandy all about Brian and his mean mammy.

When Mandy heard the story she was amazed at Brian’s mammy’s behaviour and being a gentle sort of person she put on her thinking cap and tried to puzzle out the no Santa Claus problem. When it came to her a big part of the solution came in the shape of her long-time boyfriend Cameron who would do anything for Mandy.

She started off by saying to him “We have access to the roof from our flat” “That’s so”, said Cameron as the rest of the plan was unveiled all the while he encouragingly nodding as she expounded her intended course of action. When she was finished, he gave his approval. “Great idea,” he said. “We can but try.”

Now if you had been looking out of the windows of Liffey Towers on Christmas Eve and looking down on Liffey Apartments you would have seen an agile man emerging through a skylight and making his way carefully towards the chimney stack, with a light fold up ladder he carried being opened, and as if he was a cat burglar, climbed up the side of the chimney. If you were the possessor of keen eyesight you would have noticed he was wearing a red outfit with a white cotton wool trimming.

Then the red suited man cupped his hands and roared down the chimney and repeated the name three times “Brian O’Driscoll, Brian O’Driscoll, Brian O’Driscoll, Get ready for Santa”, then folded his ladder and retraced his steps.

As he climbed back into the top flat he asked Mandy “Well, how did it go? “Extremely well Cameron,” she giggled. “Now let me just brush you down and then you can go downstairs.”

Brian was sitting in the sitting room while his mother read her book; Brian made out the name Jo Frost on its cover, while his father read his Irish Times and his brother amused himself in his playpen. It was then Brian heard the voice coming down the chimney. The others heard it too as Mammy dropped her book, Daddy lowered his paper in astonishment, and baby looked vaguely up at the ceiling.

“It’s Santa,” said Brian. “Will I go and find a stocking to hang up?” Mammy made no reply. It must have been an auditory hallucination, she thought; but were such hallucinations experience by four people at the same time? Brian ran across the room to look up the chimney. “I’m ready,” he shouted. “Please come down.”

“Brian!” said Mammy. ‘There’s nobody there.”

“But there is,” said Brian. “Didn’t you hear him too, Mummy. It was Santa.”

And then came the knock on the door. “That’s him,” squalled Brian. “He probably couldn’t fit down the chimney.”

Daddy rose from his chair and went through to the hall, accompanied by Brian. The door was opened, to reveal Santa, a large white beard of cotton wool pasted onto his chin, accompanied by a dog on whose head a Santa cap was held in place by an elastic band. Santa’s dog, tail wagging, moved forward and licked Brian’s knee.

“It’s Rogers dog Jeff,” said Brian.

“Well, well,” said Daddy, come in, Santa. What a pleasant surprise.”

“Don’t mind if I do,” said Cameron. “And I’ve got a few presents here, too. Have the children in this house been good this year?” “I hear they have!”

Mammy’s smile was slightly fixed as she watched the present-giving ceremony. But Daddy and Brian were in jovial form as Daddy Stuart handed Santa a large glass of whisky and pouring one for himself, equally generous. Then Santa handed out the presents, including a present for Mammy, a garlic crusher in its original box, surplus from Mandy’s mammy’s kitchen.

Daddy poured himself and Santa another whisky, and Santa then produced a can of Fanta, which he gave to Brian, urging him to open it immediately and join him in a drink.

“Thanks so much, Cameron, whispered Daddy. A great show.”

“No thanks needed neighbour, Cameron whispered back. Sure you know that the Spirit of Christmas eventually touches all hearts”.