dadsville - Ward Cleaver's Prozac Fever


It has been three Christmases

since Santa Claus rang me up on the phone.

I was up on a ladder doin' my

usual dadly chorin' thang ---

this time swapping out a fritzed

light bulb in the kitchen ceiling fixture ---

and as usual, not really

having much luck of it.

The phone's jangle-jingling

brought the lowing sounds of

the fidget stampede

("...I'LL GET IT! I'LL GET IT!!)

scrambling for the phone,

as I discovered the foe I once

again engaged in battle at terrifying

nosebleed heights was none other than

my arch-nemesis,

the evil Mr. Oxidation.



"You ALWAYS get it, let ME get it!!"

The bulb, rusted in its socket, would not budge.

I twisted it again,

this time with a little more English.


"M-O-M-M-M-M-M-M! It's MY turn to get the phone!!"


"Stop it, stop it, STOP IT!!"

My long suffering wife, making her

usual dimensional beeline into

the kitchen from outta nowhere,

at once found daylight through

the offensive line and intercepted

the cordless. She spoke through teeth

clenched hard enough to break

any number of blood vessels.

"No. I believe I'LL get it,"

she whispered.


With a sweeping Swanson gesture,

she bade them away.


she hissed, propelling each syllable

with equally measured venom and force;

an oratorical skill quickly developed

by M & P's everywhere.

Reluctant but resigned, they stomped off,

muttering all manner of foul schoolyard oaths,

to continue their torturesome task

decorating the Christmas tree.

I gave the spent bulb another little yank, and


it shattered into several million shards,

falling to the kitchen floor in

a wafty cutting flurry.

The big pieces, however, remained lodged

firmly beneath the fleshy heel of my bleeding palm.

I swallowed the torrent of expletives

I felt about to cross my dadly lips,

opting instead for the more

politically correct Homer Simpson


sound, as my wife flipped the phone open.

"Hello??" she happily chirped in a

remarkable Hyde-to-Jekyll transformation.

I picked at the glass slivers

perforating my palm and held my breath,

hoping beyond all hope that it was

neither my mother, nor

Quentin come from Collinwood

to git me at last.

My spidey sense a-tinglin,'

I began waving my bloody hands

criss-cross criss-cross,

and shaking my head like

a mime offered cash money to get the hell away,

but my wife, with a most quizzical countenance,

handed up the phone anyway.

"It's, uh...uh..."

A flash of wild desperation rippled

across my craggy face.

"Well, it's Santa Claus."


She nodded silently and handed up

the receiver, the two of us locked

in an unblinking, puzzled stare.

"...uh, hello??" I babbled into the

handset, peering from the top of

the paint-splattered ladder through the

night window and into the infinite sky.

It was Santa all right.

I climbed down, and twisting a

cheesy Christmas dish towel into

a make-shift tourniquet,

I halted my little hemorrhage and

proceeded to have quite the

pleasant chat with Jolly Old Saint N. hisself.

And what, you might now be asking,

did Ded Moroza say to me in

that unprecedented chatty-chit?

Come, now, dear dads,

I think you all know me better than that by now.

You wouldn't believe me in any case,

as I have heard vicious murmurings

from many of you out there in

dadsville questioning your favorite dad's

very sanity after I so willingly related

the true and terrifying tale

of Walt Dinny rising from his icy grave

to roll me for a coupla bucks in Dinnyworl.

For shame, I say!

But since the holiday season is upon us,

and in that I keenly feel the capricious

nature of my tentative

readership all of whom I'll need in

order to sell this sorry Web place to

a publisher for several billion dollars,

I'll tell you as much as Santa will allow.

Here goes:

I've been going to the same Santa for years now.

He has presided over his glittery Arctic Kingdom

in the shadow of the food court as long as

we have been living here in

the wilds of dadsville.

His whiskers are real, and they're naturally white.

For all of these years he has endured

the daily punishment that non-stop

wishing brings to bear, all in a

steaming woolen suit under the incessant

glare of the fluorescents with

only one lunch break as the

raggedy harried tsunami of jaded

holiday bargain hunters wash by.

Some rubberneck and point.

Some wait and wait and wait,

having gussied their kids up in

their finest Sunday-go-to-meetin's,

threatened now by the grease of

blackmail burgers and fries dished up

to keep 'em busy and keep 'em quiet

in the punishing queue.

Some, wearing mammoth insecurities

on their polyester sleeves,

laugh at him out loud,

smug in the superiority of the

knowledge that he is,

in fact,


But is he really?

I was so taken by his serene and jolly

comportment the first year we stumbled

on him at the mall, I was so

transported back into a state of belief,

that I ran into the newsroom where I

worked first thing the Monday

after and immediately assigned a

reporter to do a profile piece on

the "Real Santa."

"What's this guy's name?

"Where's he from?

"Iz he under contract and for how long and how much?

"Who's his agent? Who handles him?

"What's his off-season gig??"

I spat out a hail of questions for

which I wanted answers ---

ultimately more for myself than for

my 6:00 viewing audience.

The afternoon dragged on and on and on

and I juggled the positions of

this homicide and that arson fire,

this injustice and that tragedy,

in the senseless miasma of misery

that generally comprised the first section

of our warring local TV news shows.

I didn't care much about any of it anymore.

But I was on pins and needles

waiting to hear back from my

Santa reporter, and I saved a

whopping three minute slot

(as much time as the whole weathercast got)

for the real Santa at the end of my show.

"Well, what's the deal?" I asked the

reporter as he brushed a slurry of snow

off his coat with his nicotine-stained paws.


"Who IS the guy? What's the deal with the mall Santa?"

"He won't say. Won't tell me anything."

"His name???"

"Said to just call him Santa.

"Says he's from the North Pole."

"WHAAATT?! What about Mall Management, what'd THEY say?"

"Same thing, man. Good story. Good bit.

"Canya gimme 3:45??"

I saved the story ---

had it dubbed off onto a VHS right away

along with all the out-takes too.

For years I'd pull them out and study them

just at the start of the Christmas season,

looking for any nuance, any clue,

anything that could convince me that

this man was in fact, NOT Santa Claus.

Three years ago, I gave up.

Instead, I made a copy of the tapes

and I wrapped them up in the

Muppet Baby Christmas paper scraps we

had left over from the year before,

taped my business card to it,

and after my kids had their turn

with Santa, I had mine.

"Um...I don't know if you remember me,

"Santa, but I've been bringing my

"kids here every year...and I had

"you on my TV show a few years back...

"and I kept the tapes, you know,

"so my kids could look at 'em an'

"all...and I just this year found 'em

"again, and I thought you might like

"a copy of ' know, for your

"own resume or demo tape or whatever..."

He offered me his gloved hand

as I blathered on and on,

his blue eyes twinkling,

his smile infectious and boundless.

It was later that night that he phoned.

I'll see him in the next few weeks.

I guess I look forward to it

even more than my kids do.

You see, it's my first year

being a dad with kids

who now ALL know about Santa,

and who Santa's elves REALLY are.

It's the first year that they're all

on the other side of wanting only toys;

and so it is the first year that

their own personal Santa

doesn't know quite what to do.

We don't really talk about it.

They know I know, but we're not about

to let that on to each other,

and we don't have to ---

and that's because I can see

that their belief is still there---

it's just changed.

Now and forever,

they have come to believe

the magic of Santa

that dances in their hearts.

Last "dads"
Past "dads"

2003 Arhythmiacs

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