SANTA'S TOO TIRED
"Santas not coming to you, not now."
A harrowing Christmas tale for Sam and William
by John Peters
William had been down the recreation ground playing
football til it was dark. Make sure youre back before six,
his Mum had said, but William had forgotten the time. He knew his Mum
would be cross, but you cant keep looking at your watch when youre
involved in a life- or- death game of football. You dont see David
Beckham running down the wing, shaping to cross the ball then asking
his opponents to hold on a minute while I check the time, Posh is expecting
me back for tea at six. What would Alex Ferguson say?
Eventually, when it became so dark they could hardly see the ball any
more, the boys packed it in, picked up the goal posts and went home.
They were all in high spirits because it was Christmas Eve, and bragged
to each other about what presents they were likely to be getting the
next day. William out- bragged the lot of them, telling them he was
getting a Play Station, a scooter and a Man United kit with number seven,
Beckham on the back. The others laughed but soon stopped when he threatened
to punch anyone who didnt believe him.
William said see you, Happy Christmas to the others at the end of his
street. He walked more slowly on his own, savouring the light show on
his doorstep. Christmas lights shone in every window, some of them flashing
on and off, making the street seem magical. Daniel Mackesons house
at number 48 was covered in lights. Even on the roof. His dad got the
lights free from work because he was an electrician or something. William
wished his dad could get them lights. He wished his dad would come round
to see them tomorrow. He did last year, in the afternoon, after the
pub had closed. He gave William a present a pair of Nike trainers
and they sang Carols together. It seemed like the best Christmas
ever until he had a row with Mum and ended up hitting her. He said he
was sorry straight away, but it was no use. Mum told him never come
back, and although he had, occasionally, William knew he wouldnt
be welcome this Christmas. Not with Mums new boyfriend Dave on
Williams hands were numb with the cold so he blew on them to warm
them up. He could see the breath from his mouth and he started exhaling
deeply, like a dragon breathing smoke. Without thinking, he turned through
the gate, which was always open, and walked up the path to the front
door. He looked up from his dragon breath and instantly felt the magic
drain away. The house was dark and the curtains were open. For the first
time that evening, he checked his watch. It was six thirty. The
windowpane reflected the Mackesons lights flashing "Merry
Christmas and a Happy New Year" on and off backwards. Its
the wrong way round on our house, thought William, how appropriate.
He peered into the gloom and could make out the tree dark in the corner,
and the twinkling string of red tinsel hed nicked from school
to line the top of the fireplace. He looked down. Beer cans were on
the floor. The place was a mess.
William wasnt sure if he still believed in Father Christmas or
not, but he wanted the house to look nice for him, just in case. He
didnt want Santa coming down the chimney, taking one look at such
a pigsty and saying they dont deserve presents in this house.
So William opened the door, left his muddy boots on the mat and set
to work. He drew the curtains, turned on the fire and found a carrier
bag, which he filled with empty cans, bottles and the contents of several
ashtrays. The clanking sound echoed round the empty rooms and woke up
Sam, who was in his kennel round the back. When William had finished
tidying up and had switched the tree on, he went to put the rubbish
out and let Sam into the house. He knew this wasnt allowed, because
Sam was a crazy dog who ripped the paper from the walls, but William
didnt want to sit and watch television on his own.
Sam charged round the house excitedly while William stood on a chair
and washed the mud off his arms and legs in the kitchen sink. He dried
himself with a tea towel and ran upstairs to grab a pair of dry tracksuit
bottoms. Hed just pulled them on, when he heard the phone
ring. Thatll be Mum, thought William. He hurtled down the stairs
and picked up the phone, panting for breath and the dog barking
"Why werent you back at six?" She asked.
"I forgot the time. Sorry Mum." Said William.
"Just like your father." There was a pause while she took
a drag of her cigarette, then she said; "Is that the dog in the
house? It had better not be."
"Where are you?" Asked William.
"Im at Traceys house. I told you she was having a party
tonight. Its Christmas you know. Dont you ever remember
Mum sounded drunk. There was no point trying to argue with her when
she was drunk. "Cant you come home?" Asked William.
"Ill be back later. Help yourself to some tea and put yourself
to bed. Ill see you in the morning, love."
Mum hung up. It was probably best she wasnt coming back now if
shed been drinking, she would only end up crying and telling him
what a bastard his dad was. Even worse, she might bring Dave back and
he might start hitting the dog for no reason apart from the fact that
hed been drinking too. No, if he comes back with her hell
make sure hes in bed fast asleep, waiting for Santa to call.
William made some beans on toast for himself and Sam and they wolfed
it down together. He then carefully wrapped his Mums present and
put it under the tree. Hed bought her a necklace from the school
Christmas Fayre. It had blue stones in it that matched her eyes, and
she would look beautiful wearing it, far too beautiful for the likes
of Dave. If Dad saw her wearing it hed be sure to come home and
never hit her again. William placed the present under the tree, then
snuggled up on the sofa with Sam and watched the television til
late. So late, in fact, that both of them fell asleep.
By the time Mum got back to the house with Dave they had both been drinking
for several hours. "Shhh!" Said Mum as Dave slammed the door
behind him, "Youll wake the boy."
"Bollocks." Said Dave. "Hell just think its Father
"No Dave, remember. Theres no Father Christmas this year.
He was too tired."
"Okay darling, whatever you say. Mums the word." Said
Dave, his hands groping under Mums coat as she opened the living
room door. He laughed. " Santa might not be coming but I am."
"Oh, William!" Exclaimed Mum, as she saw boy and dog curled
up on the sofa.
William stirred and asked, half- asleep; "Has Father Christmas
Sam, excited by Mums arrival, leapt off the sofa and started jumping
up, trying to lick her face.
"What the fucks going on here?" Snorted Dave. "Youre
supposed to be in bed young man, and this dogs supposed to be
outside." The dog cowered and snarled. "Get out of here, you
dirty fucking animal." He said, grabbing Sam by the neck and dragging
him to the door. "And as for you," he hissed at William as
he took the dog outside, "Santas not coming to you, not now."
William looked at Mum, who sat down beside him, reeking of booze. "Sorry,
love." She said, lighting up a fag and waving it about apologetically.
She looked at her sons sorrowful face, the way her husband used
to look when he tried to make her feel guilty. As if there was anything
wrong in trying to find comfort in the arms of another. After all, he
was more interested in the company of a pint glass and only ever touched
her with his fists. Despite all the confusion in her head she felt a
twinge of conscience. "Its not because of the dog, you know.
I saw Santa earlier and he said hed overdone it what with all
the new babies being born this year, theres just too many people
to get round to these days and hes really very tired. He said
you were such a good boy youd understand. Now off you go to bed."
William went upstairs but he couldnt sleep. Not with the sound
of Dave yelling at Sam, calling him a dirty fucking animal, hearing
the thud of his boots in the dogs side and his Sams pitiful
yelps. William kept his clothes on and put on the Nike trainers his
dad had bought him. They were a squeeze to get into now, but they were
the only pair he had and he could run like the wind when he had them
on. William waited, unable to look until it was all over.
When the shouting and yelping finally stopped, and Mum and Dave were
giggling together in Mum and Dads room, William took a deep breath
and opened the curtains. He could see Sam lying in his kennel, whimpering
softly. Gingerly, William opened the window, climbed out and grabbed
hold of the drainpipe. He slid down it as hed done many times
before, but this time he knew he wasnt coming back. He landed
on tiptoes in the yard and went over to Sam who was bleeding round the
mouth. This didnt stop him from licking William so that blood
smeared his face, too. William untied the rope that chained him to the
kennel and carried him round the front, down the path and out of the
gate that was always open. This time, for the first ever, William stopped
and pulled the gate shut behind him. The snap of the latch was like
the starting gun of a race. He put Sam down on the pavement and looked
up. Snow had started to fall. The lights in all the windows seemed brighter
now, more magical. Never had William felt so alive. "Come on, Sam!"
He said to his dog, and together they ran through streets -it was all
theirs, this shimmering Christmas night.
© John Peters 2000
< Back to Index
< Reply to this Article