by Devon Heffer
It’s so hot in here. All these people.
The glittering mountain sprawled before Little Jimmy, its face covered with oversized snowflakes and inedible candy canes. An avalanche of Christmas presents spilled down the center with a switchback trail of kids running from Housewares to the summit.
Little Jimmy was almost able to make him out. Enormous yellow teeth set in a drum-tight skull. A lumpy shape poured into red velvet and leather perched atop a bejeweled throne, guffawing to the rafters.
It’s too hot in here.
Little Jimmy looked down at his bow tie and the tartan vest he was outgrowing. He was sweltering. The vest strapped around him, making it difficult to breathe.
When was the last time I breathed?
Never mind that. Little Jimmy had his eye on the prize. He’d waited months for this. To ask for the very gift that had tripped through his daydreams since he’d first seen it.
What was it again? It’s so hot. I can’t remember –
There he is again! Close now. The big man’s jaws cracked open, a small girl in his lap. A quick, hushed conversation. The girl murmured a quiet prayer followed by the big man’s whispered benediction. And then she slid from the crushed velvet lap and was directed back to where an open cave mouth waited. Beyond its sharp stalactites and stalagmites lay the promise of Mother and Father, peace and harmony, and reasonably priced tchotchkes.
It looks icy and cool. Dark and still. When was the last time I saw Mother and Father?
Little Jimmy stared at the explosion of commerce below. A tremendous din of arguments over cheap scarves, children throwing up in the aisles, and cash registers shringing open. Sweat poured down Little Jimmy’s spine and sopped up in the small of his back.
How can these people stand it? This heat.
Suddenly Little Jimmy’s arm was jerked backward. He was spun to confront the weirdly grinning elf who slid two hands under Little Jimmy’s armpits and deposited him onto the big man’s lap.
Breath pumped antiseptic peppermint into Little Jimmy’s face. His eyes were blue chips matching the ice cave behind. He scanned Little Jimmy’s tartan vest and bow tie. The sweat staining his shirt.
“I know what you want. You want out of this heat don’t you?”
Little Jimmy’s dried throat couldn’t even summon a croak. He nodded.
“It’s plenty cool back there, Jim. All the boys and girls think so. Why not head in and rest a while?” A single white glove gestured toward the cave.
Little Jimmy slid from the big man’s lap. The cave yawned wide. A smile to match the smiles surrounding him. From the big man to the gatekeeper elf. Even the kids in line stopped yammering and were smiling silently now. The whole store stopped, all to look at Little Jimmy.
Wait. What’s happening? Am I really here? Everything is so quiet now.
Little Jimmy stepped into the tunnel. After all, why would Santa lie?