And for our next act, we have our first reader submission.
The Christmas Spirit
By Chris Deal
Santa's beard was pure as yellow snow around the cigarette perched between his lips. His bones creaked as he rang his bell up and down, his movements robotic, his nose leaking. Santa's illustrious girth was a padded costume, he really too thin these days to keep up the illusion. Under the hat and beard his head a doll's skull slathered with paper-mâché.
Shoppers left in a hurry for their cars, bags filled and their wallets empty, none of them looking him in the eyes, nor him bothering to glance at the faces. Someone dropped a coin into the pot that landed with a heavy thud. Santa coughed a 'Merry Christmas' their way. He'd get chewed out if he didn't say it, maybe even lose the location.
The mall was closing up and the stragglers stumbled out into the cold with dumb smiles dreaming of the reactions they'd get for the junk no one wanted from the. Santa spat bloody mucus to the slush-covered sidewalk and kept ringing. With the locking of the mall's doors, Santa loaded up the pot into the front seat of the beater he called his sleigh and reached into the pot to find out how much he could get tonight.
He counted up a few bills amounting to $27. There were a lot of nickels and pennies, two or three quarters. "Fucking lack of Christmas spirit is what this is," Santa said. Thumbing through the change, hoping for enough to enable him to pick up some glass and still turn in a realistic pot, he found it.
Shining like the Star of Bethlehem under the orange cast of the streetlights, the coin was bigger than a quarter and had a weight to it. Solid gold, it looked to be struck by hand. An eagle on one side, a swastika on the other. He'd heard rumors of this, all the Santas had. Every year, a few anonymous do-gooders plunked gold pieces into the pots and the Army made a killing with those examples of Christmas spirit.
Santa pulled his sleigh out into traffic, his teeth tingling at the luck of the find. If he cut down Independence, technically the dealer was on his way to the Army office. He'd even turn in most of the pot, so it'd be fine in the long run.
His dealer was a Dutch expat by the name of The Mlaz. To be funny he wore his beard in the Old Dutch style, square along the jaw, his lip and chin smooth. He liked to tell people he wore it in homage of the homeland he was cut off from. Santa once brought him a Dutchmaster as a gift, considering the man was renowned for his selection of pills and his always fresh batch of glass. The Mlaz snapped the Dutch in half and held a pistol to Santa's gut for thirty minutes before he could be talked down.
At The Mlaz's door, Santa felt like a little brat on the night before Christmas, jumping from foot to foot with the Nazi coin clutched between both hands. He thumped against the door with both hands, and after several long beats considered clawing at the door. After a few moments, The Mlaz came to the door, his lips formed into his permanent sneer over his albino-blond beard. The disgust he had for every one of his clients was evident.
“What do you want there, Santa?” he said, his accent saturated with disdain. The Mlaz never let anyone into his apartment. He did his dealing from the doorway.
“Look what I found,” Santa said, pushing the coin to The Mlaz’s chest.
“A fucking coin? I’m all out of stars.”
“That’s got to be worth a hundred dollars, easy.”
The Mlaz held the coin up in the dull light that shifted it’s way from the apartment. He tossed it into the air twice, judging the weight. “Pure gold, by the looks. I judge it to be worth around $100.”
“Nah, man,” Santa said. “It’s got to be worth five, easy.”
“Yeah, well, I can’t exactly pay a tab with it now, can I. I’ll give you a hundred worth of glass for it.”
"How about two?”
The Mlaz put the coin in his pocket and withdrew a thin blade, poking Santa in his belly. “How about I give you one and I don’t gut you? I’m being generous, Christmas spirit and all that shit.”
“Sounds good to me,” Santa said with a shaky voice. The Mlaz closed the door and came back a moment later with five bags worth of glass.
"Merry fucking Christmas,” The Mlaz said, tossing them to the ground and slamming the door shut.
The Mlaz sat on the couch and dialed a number on his cell. “Royle, I’ve got a piece you might be interested in. Solid gold, hand struck. Looks to be a Nazi coin, too.”
“I’ll be there in five.”
“Sounds good,” The Mlaz said, putting the phone on the table and going back to his bowl. He was buzzing when there was another knock on the door. The Mlaz put his eye to the peephole and saw Royle standing there, his suit immaculate. For a high dollar coin dealer, the man smoked a lot of grass.
The Mlaz opened the door and pulled forth the coin in question. “What do you think?”
Royle’s face was blank. “Very rare piece. Made from the gold teeth taken from the concentration camps.”
"Fucking assholes. How much will you give me for it?” The Mlaz opened the door and let his guard down.
Royle pulled a gun from his jacket and shot The Mlaz in the gut, the shot not as loud as The Mlaz imagined it would be. The dealer staggered back, his hand to his belly, and slumped back onto his couch.
“The fuck, man?”
“Merry Christmas,” Royle said, pocketing the coin and picking up the spent casing.