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The International Writers Magazine: The Spirit of Christmas Past

The Bigger Man
• Dietrich Kalteis
It was a hell of a flight. Fly the friendly skies, my ass. Bumpy as a back road. First the security dick with that stupid scanning device, making me open my suitcase, embarrassing the hell out of me, poking through my personal things with the tip of his pencil.

It got worse, my window seat didn’t happen. The stewardess called it a computer mix-up and pressed me between Mr. and Mrs. Sumo Wrestler in the center aisle, not wanting to hear about my phobia. Then came the coach-class meal, something the stewardess called chicken, followed by turbulence for dessert.
     Kissing the ground upon arrival, I pressed my way over to the luggage carousel, mine being the last piece off the conveyer. Then my phobia, the one where I can’t be in crowded places, kicked up a gear, and I had to get out of there. Fast.
     Bumping through a forest of arriving passengers, I swung the suitcase in front of me. Knees, shins, thighs. If it got in my way, I hit it.
     Sucking in the fresh air all the way to the long-term lot, I found my car squeezed between SUVs. Climbing in through the hatch, I drove out of the airport maze, one-way signs all pointing the wrong way. Getting into the thick of rush-hour, I inched my way toward home.
     Halfway home, guilt took over where my phobia left off. Slapping myself, partially to ward off the jet lag, partially for not getting Donna anything at the gift shop before flying home, I asked what was wrong with me. Donna was all about Christmas, the tree, the lights all over the place, probably wrestled with a turkey most of the day, probably invited the whole family. Least I could do was come bearing a gift.
     Pulling into the Park Royal lot, I begged my phobia to give me a break, watching the rent-a-cops directing last-minute shoppers. I did my om-breathing like the therapist showed me, weighed gift ideas, not a clue what to get her. Just grab something and hope for the best.
     No parking spot near the Bay. Nothing on the upper level. Nothing on the roof deck. Christmas shoppers like fleas. Where the hell did this many people come from?
     Idling. Waiting. Crawling. More idling – all the way over to the South Mall. I rolled up one aisle, down another. Then, on an outside lane, I spotted a lady with a van full of kids backing out, Christmas tree strapped to the roof. I waited for her to make her maneuver, a nice six-point turn.
     Pulling in, I nearly hit the sasquatch standing in my spot. A guy in a long fur coat with matching ear muffs, holding up his hand like a traffic cop.
     I threw up mine. “What the fuck?”
     Sasquatch pointed to his wife wheeling around from the next aisle.
     I cranked down my window. “You fucking kidding me?”
     “Sorry, this one’s taken.”
     “Not without a car it ain’t.” I revved my engine, inching forward.
     “Go.” He swept his hands at me, acting like he knew I wouldn’t hit him.
     Swearing at him did no good, so I just sat there blocking the spot. His wife laid on the horn as I weighed my options: punch out this guy’s Christmas lights or keep looking. I sized him up, figured he was all fur, then I glared at the missus in her beeping German import. Then reason shone down on me, giving me a glimpse of Donna stuffing that bird, her whole family around the tree, mulled cider and carols.
     I wished the Sasquatches a merry-middle-finger Christmas and screeched off, driving out behind the mall, past the dumpsters, out by the trees. Seemed about a mile away.
     It was near dark and snowing by the time I got inside the mall. Brushing myself off, I faced the wall-to-wall-shoppers. More om-breathing. Should have brought the suitcase in, could have used it to fight my way over to the north mall.
     When I got to the Bay, I went straight for the cosmetics counter, checking out colognes and perfumes, the girl behind the counter spraying her wrist, letting me have a sniff. I picked one that sounded French. The sales girl checked her watch, told me she was sorry, but she had to take her last break, asked me to take my purchase to the ladies’-wear register. Om-breathing, I went over, the line six or seven shoppers deep.
     Didn’t recognize her from behind at first, but right in front of me was Sasquatch’s missus, the one that stole my parking spot. True to form, fur boy shoved past me with an armful of stuff, stepping on the toe of my Tony Lamas.
     “You notice the line-up, pal?”
     He did a half-turn, no recognition. He just shook his head, said something to his wife and waited his (my) turn.
     Again, I weighed my options. No way he was pulling this shit twice. Hefting the cologne bottle, I was bringing it up when I spotted the rent-a-cop strolling down the center aisle. An idea percolated.
     “Hey, Buttinsky?” I said, wishing Sasquatch another merry-middle-finger Christmas. Being the bigger man, I turned and went though the sea of shoppers with their bags and boxes, tapping the rent-a-cop on the arm. “I know you’re probably busy …”
     “You being a joker, kid?”
     “No, I’m being the guy just saw another guy swiping shit. Thought you’d want to know.”
     “Which guy?” He scanned over the heads, dead serious.
     Doing my bit, I pointed out Sasquatch, telling the cop what I saw, wishing him a merry Christmas, throwing him a salute.
     Even with the om-breathing, my phobia was kicking into high gear, and I had to get out of there. I stuck around long enough to watch the cop follow Sasquatch out into the mall, pull him aside. Grinning on my way by, I noticed plush toys in a toy store window.
     Making a quick purchase, I made my way back to the car, clutching the bear under my arm. No time to leave a note on Sasquatch’s German import, let him know it wasn’t Santa that stuffed the Eau de whatever into his pocket. But I figured between him and his wife, they’d put it together. Then I started thinking about sitting down to turkey, getting into the spirit.

© DK March 2012

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