He hated sitting for the yearly portrait. It was always the same; thirty minutes of excruciating stillness that resulted in a painting that looked exactly like the one from the year before and the year before that and so on. When he looked at the pictures - which he couldn’t help but do as they lined the hallway that took him from hearth to sleigh - he never saw himself. He only saw a slightly bloated, dress up version of what he looked like over two hundred years ago or more. This year, he would break the boring, phony tradition.
They all gasped when he walked into the portrait studio. The elves, the maidens, the portrait painter himself, they let out a collective gasp, as if he had walked in wielding a bloody butcher knife and holding Rudolph’s severed head.
“S.C.! Why are you not ready? Where is your suit? Your boots?” Patricia, his assistant had flittered across the room nervously to greet him. She was now whispering all this in his ear, clearly agitated.
“I don’t want to dress up this year.” He spoke quietly, though through gritted teeth and Patricia got the message that he was serious.
“But S.C., the Board will throw a fucking fit if we send out the annual card with you looking like this.”
“I don’t give a rat’s ass about the Board, Tricia. I just don’t want to wear that stupid fucking hat. It makes my scalp sweat. And rest of the suit makes me itch all over. I broke out in hives last year, Tricia, remember that? Forty fucking doses of Benadryl. I want for just one year to sit for a portrait without having to scratch my ass for an hour afterwards.”
Santa imagined that he now knew what all the little boys and girls ‘round the world felt like when their parents made them dress up for family Christmas pictures. He made a mental note to send out a memo that a resolution should be drafted requiring all children to wear jeans, t-shirts and dirty sneakers for their next holiday portrait. Stuffy parents be damned.
Tricia was crowding Santa’s space and sighing heavily. He pushed her out of the way and headed for the big chair, where he plopped himself down and looked around impatiently. Patricia recovered from the rude slight her boss gave her and sauntered over to the hand-picked painter for this year, a young, smug art student wearing a shirt depicting Che Guevara wearing Santa’s cap. S.C. chuckled to himself and made a mental note to take a piss under the young artist’s tree this Christmas Eve. Patricia whispered something to Che guy. He shook his head profusely. He stamped his foot. S.C. walked over to the couple.
“Is there a problem, Tricia?” He was half growling, half talking.
“Mr. Russell was looking forward to painting the jolly guy in the red suit.” She looked directly at S.C., her eyes narrow slits. “But looks like he’s a no show this year.”
The room went silent. All eyes turned on the trio of S.C., Patricia and the smug artist known as Mr. Russell. Patricia did her best to smile, but she knew she made a grave mistake in talking to S.C. the way she did. She breached her contract. She broke the rules. She signed her own exit plan, with just a few words and a sarcastic tone.
S.C. latched onto Patricia’s waist-length ponytail and yanked. Patricia fell to the ground with a yelp. Mr. Russell, looking not nearly so smug anymore, bent down and made a move to help the fallen assistant, but changed his mind when several elves started shaking their heads at him. When Mr. Russell stood upright again, S.C., punched him square in the face. Blood immediately poured out of the artists’s nose, running over his lips, down his chin and neck and dribbling onto his t-shirt where the drops splattered like rain on Che’s face. S.C. smiled broadly and walked toward the window, where he stared at the falling snow as if this were just another mundane moment in his life and the lives of everyone in the room.
“Dispose of her and find a replacement,” he said to no one in particular, yet several people went into motion at once. “Che boy, paint my picture. Just like this.” He continued to stare out the window, contemplating an existence where he would continue to live up to people’s expectations of him for thousands more years.
When the portrait was done, Mr. Russell stood shaking in fear, worried that Santa wouldn’t like the painting very much and he would soon be joining Patricia as food for the ravenous wolves Santa kept as pets. But Santa gave a little, quarter-smile when he saw the painting. He imagined it hanging in the long hallway, currently adorned with years of portraits that were nothing more than mirror images of each other. It would be an end of sorts, he knew.
That evening, he hung the new painting next to the generic, jolly old Santa of last year, went into his bathroom, slit his wrists, and hummed Christmas Carols until he bled to death.
All the text herein is copyright © 2004 Michele Catalano. All rights reserved. All art herein is copyright © 2004 Justin Brejwo. All rights reserved.