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Christmas '92


A clear, cold night in a sub-division. Snow has recently fallen, and it sits shin deep on the houses with their low slope roofs, on the pristine, sterile lawns, and on the S curved road- which has ogee curbs, rather than a step, as soccer moms bend the rims on their mini-vans on those. Street lights, closely placed when you consider they exist on both sides of the street alternately, light the wide empty street.

It’s after midnight, and absolutely silent. You could hear a snow flake land, if it still snowed. Every front facing window in every house is lit with Christmas lights, as are roof lines and gutters. Sufficient to define, but not so many as to appear too gaudy. Unlike the ornaments.

 A few houses have a plywood manger scene, some have a snowman, two have roof top plywood Santas with sleigh and reindeer. One wag has placed a pair of fur rimmed rubber boots upside down and protruding from a decorative plywood chimney. But on or near every front porch stands that ubiquitous, four-foot high, illuminated plastic Santa.

Look closely at that one to your left, that one, three doors down. He glows a little brighter than the others. Someone, short a 60 watt bulb, has used, contrary to cautions, an available 100 watt bulb.

 CRACK! A rifle shot rings out! No, it doesn’t echo. Crack! Not as loud this time. Movement to the left, 3rd house down. A blackness moves. A housecat? NO! Santa’s boot moves. It’s so quiet, so cold the snow has frozen that the smallest sound rings out. His right leg rises, almost horizontal now, and his body sways just a bit, then a bit more, until he begins to fall forward. His boot falls on the porch with a crunch, and his back snaps back with a crack, past vertical, and his other leg swings up, he leans drunkenly forward, and his fall is arrested by his stiff straight leg, and he begins to make his way from the bottom of the front stairs towards the sidewalk.

 But there is other movement already. The next house down has a Santa on the move too…and across the street! And as we look down the street, other Santas are making their start towards the sidewalk. All stiff backed and stiff-legged, they swing their legs forward, come almost to a stop, and swing the next leg forward.

 The boots are falling as one “crunch”! If you have every stepped loudly as you and a group of friends walked, you will know how others will fall into step…and so have the Santas. They appear, as the group from the left and right side of the street converge, as if there will be a collision of red, white and black bowling pins. But they swing through 90 degrees and face us, and we suddenly see they are 6 abreast, and 6 deep, no 7, wait… 8, as more fill in behind.  

There is a tearing of plastic that ripples across the phalanx, and right arms suddenly break free and swing up and forward as right legs fall behind. And then left arms follow. Left, right, left, right…and this group swings past. But behind is another section. Longer.

 The Santas have lost the glow of an internal 60 watt bulb. But they are lit from the street lamps, and something else.

 Somewhere in the distance, a clear, high, youthful male voice begins, almost pipe like, “Hold high the flag! Close hard the ranks serried! Santas march, with just and even stride!” And wax like, the plastic faces of the marching Santas, melt, showing not kindly old faces, but the pock marked, bearded, bruised and battered faces of old street fighters and agitators. And as one they join in at the refrain, not with the voice of the youth, but of age and anger.

 A deep breath, and the second verse begins, “Gangway! Gangway, now for the red battalions!…”. And with it, a great flash of red and white as a large banner is pushed aloft on staffs. It hangs across an entire line of men. A field of blood red that matches the Santa suits, has upon it, illuminated by the street lamps, a circle of white, containing crossed candy canes (“Hammerskins” style? - ed.)

 This group strides past, bellowing, a break of a few yards, and another is upon us. It too has a similar banner aloft, but with “Amerika” picked out in gold. In the last, how long? Minutes? Quarter hour? The sky has become ever so lightly clouded. High, thin cloud. But low enough for the street lamps to reflect some of their light. A distant rumbling, deeper than the thump of the black knee-high boot on the road. A deep clattering and rumbling sound, like a thousand hooves on frozen ground (or aero engines? –ed), and the first “close V” squadrons of long distance sleigh-bombers thunders overhead, their shapes momentarily lighted as they intersect the beams of the sky pointed street lamps.

 The cat at #47 shits itself in fear and flees.       

                                     Kiddies: Next time you’re at the mall, ask Santa for a Panzerfaust



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