I wedge my old Fiesta on a ten-minute
parking spot and gaze at the despised, four-story building of Bank Goldwest through
the windscreen. A huge ballooned Santa, strapped to the facade of the
building, lit by a chain of colorful lights, waves cheerfully. The street, despite
this hour, is almost deserted, so I accept the cheers of my inflated 'colleague'
sincerely. Because tonight I'm Santa too. I take a healthy swig of Haig from the flask,
the liquid burning my throat and taking the edge off my nerves.
I yank the car door open, Jingle Bells from the loud speakers of the
shopping center across the street invade the night. The sound, crisp and clear, floats
in the freezing air and mixes with the dancing snowflakes.
the way, oh what fun it is to ride' I mutter under my breath while adjusting
my two sizes too large Santa uniform, and reach for the bulky but light red bag stuffed
with empty boxes. It's Christmas eve again. Two decades after my parents' eviction
from our house we mortgaged. Simple default, they told us from the bank I'm
standing in front right now. A year after my father lost his job, ironically on
another Christmas eve, a nice Santa present from the company he worked for as a carpenter.
He got gravely sick while refurbishing the old bank building. Asbestosis, the doctors said.
Nothing that they could do. My father was a liability for the company. He died ten months
later in palliative care. Palliative care? What a fucking fancy word for pain relief. Because
when you die from asbestosis you die a horrible, painful death, slowly suffocating,
gasping for air, brain screaming for oxygen. But you can't scream, you have no strength
to open your mouth, let alone to breathe.
Before I step
on the road, I check both directions and the bulky bag rocks on my back. I wait
patiently for the slow traffic, just the few cars heading home. There are no people on
the street. But of course they are deserted - it’s Christmas
eve, family time for dinner, a honey-glazed turkey in the oven, presents, good memories
and happy times. People are at home now, preparing the table, the Christmas tree
glowing with blissful lights and ornaments. The symbol of prosperous America. God, I really
love Christmas. I should write a song about that, a song clear and crystal, full of hope
I cross the street
and enter the bank building, the entrance brightly lit, festive, with a glimmering tall
tree solemnly standing in the corner. As I spot the security guard my heart
pounds in my chest. I try to relax by deeply inhaling. Even the smell of wealth and
money is different at Christmas.
uniformed man extends his hand. "Slow down, Santa. Where to?"
the party, dude."
two hours early!" He looks bewildered, and suspicion creeps into his eyes.
party's just started, dude. A present for you. Fetch!" I throw at him a fake baseball which
is nothing but a disguised taser, one of the latest ones that come in any shape, and with
a remote control. A small nifty thing. Made in China of course.
he catches the ball and I squeeze the remote trigger. The dude has no chance. I feel
sorry for him but that's life. While he twitches and goes limp I quickly drag him out of
sight beside the revolving glass door.
huffing from the exertion, I straighten my Santa poncho and step into the customer area.
Shiny Christmas stars, fake gold garlands and tinsels hang generously from the ceiling,
the walls and above the four bank counters, trying to warm up the coldness of the
place. Nice try. Well, Christmas disguise might work for a while, making people forget
all the covert financial activities of companies, banks, captains of the
economy, government and who knows who else screwing America. Not to forget the stock
exchange - especially when the stock market collapsed and wiped away people’s life
savings. The president then approved the bailout of the collapsed banks. That was nice.
Really good samaritanly. With taxpayer’s money of course. Well, with mine
too. Didn't that happen around Christmas too?
My hand slides over the rough handle of .45 tucked
in the waistband of my Santa trousers. The gun once belonged to my
grandfather. He served in the army and got wounded in the Korean War. He ended
up in hospital, later to be discharged and sent home with a veteran's pension. A few years
later, just before another Christmas day he received a notice that his entitlement was
to be reduced significantly. Some kind of retirement fund fraud, they explained to him.
For sure Christmas is the best
time of the year. Nothing wrong with Jesus and his hope and wish for a better life
for ordinary people. How nice and humane if you believe in that. Not me.
pull out the .45 and yell, "Hands up! Step back!"
The four bank
tellers behind the counter freeze. It’s quiet for a moment. The jingle outside hums
'Bells on bob-tail ring Making spirits bright...'
just fucking money. Don't get shot on Christmas, your loved ones will be devastated," I
want to harm any of the bank tellers, they are just ordinary slaves - they only want
to bring bread home at the end of the day.
I hastily empty
my Santa bag on the floor and throw it at the woman at the counter, gun pointing at her.
"Fill it up! Fast! The rest of you on the floor."
women obey. The one dumping the cash into my bag is fast, despite her trembling hands.
Once done I wave at her to step back, hands in the air so that I can see them.
really goes unexpectedly well. Maybe because it's Christmas and Jesus watches from Heaven.
I lift the bag,
at least a couple of pounds. Maybe two to three hundred grand. How nice. Expected, by the
way, this time of the year. Before the Armorguard comes to pick up the cash. Well,
I'm Santa after all, bringing joy and presents to others. Selfless. But this time
- a nice present for me.
wave the gun again, take a look at the guard squirming on the ground
beside the door. He will be okay, just a taser shock for Christmas. His
family will be happy that he is alive. Surviving such an ordeal will be like a present
to his family.
I take a final
look at the women, the guards and the hall. The Christmas tree in the corner with
its beautiful flashing lights, its gold star on the top glistening like a huge diamond.
Christmas everyone," I shout and bolt for the revolving door.
Outside the snow has carpeted the footpath. The jingle of the speakers louder
now, "Through the fields we go laughing all
in my Fiesta, I jump on the gas and keep jamming the pedal for the next eight blocks
until I reach the projects.
shielded by the dilapidated houses, the thought pops into my mind: the first Christmas
that will be merry.
The dream Christmas that I righteously deserve has arrived.
George Garnet is an Australian fiction writer.
Other works of his may be found in periodicals, including Pulp Modern, Mystery
Tribune, Switchblade, Out of the Gutter, Mystery Weekly, The
Dark City Crime and Mystery Magazine, Storyteller, Needle in the Hay,
Literary Hatchet, Heather, Flash
Fiction Offensive, Romance Magazine, and elsewhere.