It was truly the most wonderful time of the year for Alice. She loved the music, the cheer, the food, and most of all the snow. Her favorite thing was to drive through neighborhoods listening to cheery music, smoking her 100’s, and looking at the snow covered ground and decorated houses. It was one thing she always made sure to do for and with herself during the Winter. Then one foggy day, Alice met a man. She had been getting ready for one of her holiday drive arounds when she found $8 crumpled up in her car. She decided to take that money and up her ante for treating herself. She was in line at the nearest coffee shop ready to order something large, warm, overpriced, and delicious when she walked directly into the man ahead of her. They laughed, she apologized, they chatted, and before she knew it it was 9:30 at night. Alice still hadn’t gone on her holiday drive, but she had enjoyed herself. Max was kind, charming, and bought her a hot coco with extra toppings to make up for taking up so much of her holiday cheer time. The most extra of the toppings was his phone number on the decorative cup. Alice blushed and grinned simultaneously. Maybe holiday movies were real, after all? Chuckling to herself Alice disregarded this thought faster than it had appeared.
Alice left the coffee shop excited. She was enthused about meeting someone who loved the holidays and Mr. and Mrs. Clause as much as she did. They had even joked about him coming along with her next time she went to check out the neighborhoods. Alice was still beaming 20 minutes later when her friend Christine interrupted one of Alice’s favorite Christmas carols. Alice had decided to wander through some back roads instead of heading home in an attempt to live out some of her excitement.
“Hey, come to Blue Ox tonight,” Christine demanded into the phone.
“Tonight? It’s already 10,” Alice said regretting answering the phone.
“Come now. Just for a few drinks. Please, it’ll be fun,” Christine started yammering into the phone. “Besides, that guy I’ve been seeing is here too. Please!”
Alice thought about the man she met earlier that evening. Maybe it would be fun – just for a drink or two. It seemed to also mean a lot to Christine.
It was the most wonderful time of the year. Alice couldn’t ruin Christine’s night by not going, “Okay,” Alice said looking around, “I’ll be there in 10 or 15 minutes.”
True to her word Alice parked her car down the block 14 minutes later. Getting out of her car she thought about Max once more. Maybe tonight would be fun after all. Alice tightened her red scarf and buttoned her army green coat. Crossing the street she dug her cigarettes out of her purse and was lighting one up when she saw Christine coming down the front stairs of the Blue Ox. Great friends smoke alike, Alice thought. She watched as Christine glanced over her shoulder, passing the door to the guy behind her. At first Alice was excited when she saw Max, less than a minute later she wanted to snap her cigarette in half. Alice watched in frozen horror, precariously balanced on the curb as Christine grabbed the hand of Max, the man behind her, and leaned in to nudge him with her hip. Alice swallowed and put on the nicest smile she could muster.
“Great to meet you,” “you too,” “cold out, eh” “worst time of year,” “best time of year,” small talk and chatter. They finished their cigarettes and headed inside the bar. Tonight would be awful there were no maybes in the Alice’s mind about that. After one quickly consumed drink, perhaps a whole 40 minutes later, Alice was back in her car and heading toward the next neighborhood over. She was fuming; livid! Smoking cigarette after cigarette She rarely wanted anything. Now, something she wanted her friend already had. Naturally Alice would back off, but for the first time in her life Alice was angry about it. She was angry that Max had been playing her and her friend. She was angry that she wasn’t going to just pursue something she wanted because why would she? Even if she explained the situation to Christine, there was no way that Christine would stop talking to the guy she had already been talking to for a few weeks now. And that was how it was supposed to work. But why, why did it always have to be her, Alice thought as she whipped around the corner.
Alice looked at the Santas, the blue lights, the white lights, the red lights, and all the blow up decorations as she was whizzing down the street. Suddenly Alice felt a great resentment toward Santa and his elven friends. What had that cute old man ever done for her? Nothing. Just like everyone else. Before she could think about what she was doing or the impact it would have Alice swerved her car toward the right taking out a large, blown up snowman. “Ho, ho, ho mother fucker,” Alice said as she laughed. Up ahead on her left was a large inflatable snow globe with a penguin couple looking happy inside. Alice rolled her window down further and lobbed the cocoa Max bought her through the window laughing as it exploded across the front of the plastic. She would spread her own magical cheer this year – fuck you, Santa (thump). Get bent reindeer (pop)!
Alice felt her tires lose traction with the road. Her car fishtailed, coming to a halt in the middle of an intersection. She glanced around nervously. She was okay. Her car was okay. There seemed to be no one in the intersection or anywhere near to her. Everything seemed genuinely okay until Alice glanced in her rear-view mirror. Looking behind at her path of destruction Alice felt awful. She had hit Santa. She had ruined holiday cheer. She was the anti-christ, the devil incarnate, she was a bad person. She was still in the middle of the intersection. Realizing this, Alice composed herself, looked ahead and began to pull her car forward. There in front of her was the largest inflatable Santa she had ever seen. And she had seen all the santas around here. The same ones, year after year. Alice was mesmerized. At his feet was the crumbled body. Had she hit someone? She pulled her car out of the intersection and parked on the right hand side of the road. Getting out of her car Alice grabbed her cell phone, just in case. Walking over she looked down the block where she had been. Her destruction was gone – everything was in place as though she had never been there. Alice saw the large Santa, further back now, he was on the corner of the street. The person still laying at his feet. Maybe that one drink she had had been spiked, Alice contemplated as she continued over toward the large Santa.
Alice took a deep breath as she looked down at the body. It was definitely a body. Blood trailed out of the man’s chest. A large gash secured a knife plunged deeply into his body. The man was Max. Alice picked up her phone and called 911, “there’s a man. He’s been stabbed. He’s on the corner of,” as Alice looked up to check the street name she made eye contact with the large Santa. She felt as though she were looking into real eyes when suddenly, one of them blinked. Alice took a sharp breath in, “Ma’am? Hello?”
Alice shook her head and regained her composure, or at least as much of it as she could. She told the operator the street names and that of course she would wait until police arrived. She said nothing of her temper tantrum, her destruction, of Santa, or knowing Max – though she would explain the last part when officers arrived on scene. Alice looked back up at the large Santa as the operator reminded her to stay on the line. Breathlessly Alice whispered, “thank you,” as she ran over to the large Santa’s leg and hugged it tightly. Moments later Alice heard the sirens. Pulling away Alice opened her eyes. He was gone. Wonder spread across her face, “thank you, Santa.” A sleazy man was dead. Someone, Santa of all people, returned her years of holiday cheer to Alice. Merry Christmas, indeed, Alice thought to herself.