‘Tis the season to be jolly!’
The VW rocked with Mitch’s off-key bellows. Traffic shuffled along like an old man’s slippers on this stretch of the 405 in Los Angeles.
‘Hey, how ya doin’?’ He smiled at a couple of kids in the car in the next lane.
‘Are you Santa Claus?’ one called through the open window.
‘Yes, I am!’
At the wheel, their mother said to them, ‘So, you’d better behave if you want Santa to bring you something nice.’ She winked at Mitch.
‘You listen to your mother and I’ll do my best for you.’ He stroked his shaggy grey beard. The children howled in the back seat.
His bet had come in and for once Mitch could Christmas shop with impunity. He signalled a lane change. The silver Mercedes to his right pulled forward to block it. ‘Don we now our gay … hey! What the …?!’ He flipped a finger. ‘Have a nice Christmas!’ He eased into the exit lane. Fifth in line at the bottom of the off-ramp, he waited several minutes for the light to change. Only the first three cars made it through before it turned red again. Mitch tapped his fingers and hummed for another five minutes until the light was green. The car in front of Mitch, the silver Mercedes, did not budge. He reached over his belly to lay on the horn.
‘Are you nuts?! Move!’
The light turned red. Mitch thundered up to the Mercedes and pounded on the dark-tinted glass.
‘Moron! Are you waiting for a better shade of green?!’ The shadowy figure replaced the cap on a lipstick tube. Mitch made out a child next to her. ‘Ahhhhh, for Chrissake!’ He lumbered back to his car and squeezed behind the wheel.
The VW wove through the rows of the shopping mall’s busy underground parking lot. On his third lap, Mitch spotted a woman getting into her car. He put on his indicator and reversed to give her room to back out. A silver Mercedes swung into the space from the opposite direction.
‘You stupid bitch! You friggin' …’
Further along the row a car backed out. Mitch jammed the VW into gear to nab it. He got out of his car, slammed the door and glared at the Mercedes driver. She walked toward the mall, a small boy trailing behind.
‘Hey!’ he shouted. The woman entered the mall while her son hesitated outside. The woman waved for him to hurry up, then turned to consult the mall directory.
The boy stared at Mitch.
‘How ya doin’?’ Mitch asked.
‘Are you Santa?’
‘Yes, I am! And, you know what?’
‘I’m going to bring you a pony for Christmas!’ He looked at the back of the woman studying the directory. ‘And when you wake up on Christmas …’ he glanced once more at the figure inside‘ … and the pony isn’t there …’ he leaned down to the boy’s level’ … it’s because your mother killed it!’