Now aged 10 years old Jason Silverman had never gotten a chance to properly meet his father. He had not even been alive for one month when his father had been killed. His mother had told him it was a drunk driver that hit him. He did not really understand what a drunk driver was, but he knew that his father should not be dead.
He had never truly understood what it was he was missing out on, but seeing his friends after school with their fathers playing ball going out for a pizza or just watching the TV together he knew that is it was something important, special and irreplaceable.
Jason did not believe in magic. He did not even really believe in santa anymore. He was old enough to know that these yearly trips to the mall to sit on Santa's lap and get a photo were just another way of his mother trying to assure him of a normal childhood in the absence of his Dad.
He was next in line to sit on the old mans lap, and although he did not believe in either magic or Santa he still thought he should hedge his bets and make an actual wish. A new bike? A Playstation? No, that would not do. He vaguely remembered in church the week before the priest talking about how only selfless prayers are answered. A wish was kind of like a prayer he reasoned, so would have to abide by the same rules.
He was still contemplating what he could ask for that was selfless and would still qualify as something he wanted when he was lifted up and planted on the old mans knee.
The beard was real this year he noticed as he looked toward the camera and put on a false smile. A scent rose to his nostrils. The combination of sweet rotten fruit and onions. This guy needs to wash his santa suit thought Jason as he wrinkled his nose.
“Ok little boy” the old man smiled at him, “What could Santa bring you this year hmmm?”
He did not know why he said it. It just kind of slipped out.
The old man looked stunned for a moment.
“You want what?!” He said his voicing rising in both volume and pitch.
The crowd of parents and photographers turned silent. All eyes were on Jason and Santa. Jason climbed off his lap, suddenly feeling uneasy.
“You want your father?” Santa continued, his voice crescendoing and spit forming around the corners of his mouth. “Do you think it impossible for me to grant such a wish? No, I can grant it, and grant it I will!” He turned to the gathered crowd, “This Child has asked for a gift that will bring no joy this Christmas, only suffering and sadness! He does not know what he has asked but he will find out soon enough!”.
Finishing his tirade he kicked down the cardboard picket fence surrounding his chair and stormed off toward the truck loading dock, leaving parents mouths agape and children in tears.
Jason could not help but feel that maybe this trip to the mall was a bad idea.
Rodney sat in his worn out executive chair in the security office of Beckham Plaza. He surveyed the banks of monitors in front of him while sipping on a diet cola. It was a busy time of year and frequently shop lifters would use the rush and confusion to their advantage.
Unlike the stereotype mall cop that frequently appeared in movies Rodney was not a military drop out, a wanna be cop or overweight. He kept himself in good shape and was proud of his career and the fact that he was making a difference to society, no matter how small.
The pay was not that great but when supplemented with the money he made turning the other way while some deliveries got misplaced it was not a bad gig. He got to sit at his desk for most of his shift and keep an eye on the shoppers, especially the good looking ones, making sure that they were safe and not doing anything untoward or illegal.
Occasionally he would see something that he could use to his advantage. Last week he had spotted the girl from the Chinese takeaway screwing Jim from the electronics store in one of the fire escapes. He had decided to keep that to himself though and had erased all copies of the recording except for one he kept on his personal USB drive. That would no doubt come in handy later this week when he was doing his Christmas shopping. Rodney was pretty sure Jim would quite happily exchange some premium goods to make sure his wife never saw that recording.
The phone on his desk rang, startling him out of his day dream of DVRs and surround sound systems.
“Security.” He answered in a matter of fact tone.
He listened intently for several moments then replied “Ok, be right there.”
Apparently one of the mall Santas had gone crazy and a whole heap of kids and their parents were freaking out. It was not a mass murder, that was for sure but it was something that was likely to cause a whole lot of headaches if not dealt with quickly. Rodney levered himself out of his chair and headed to the door, grabbing a handful of $25 discount cards and stuffing them in his pocket on the way out. It was going to be a long day.
“Alright then” Rodney said in the most genuinely concerned voice he could muster, “What exactly happened here?”
After listening to various versions of the story for around 15 minutes he was satisfied that there was little that could be done, at least by him. No crime had been committed so it was pointless calling the police and a quick search of the area and surrounds revealed that the Santa was long gone. Aside from writing a report for mall management so they could call the Santa and fire him there was little more to do.
“We deeply apologise for any inconvenience that this has caused you,” he repeated the standard company no liability no fault statement he had been taught in training word for word as he handed out $25 discount voucher to anyone that wanted them.
After everyone else had dispersed, there was a mother and son that remained behind. The mother approached him with trepidation, and he assumed she was after another discount voucher.
“Excuse me Sir?” She began.
Rodney was pleasantly surprised. Not many people treated him with respect, much less called him Sir.
“Yes Ma’am?” He replied extending the courtesy.
“My son was the one who was with he Santa when he..” She broke off. Rodney nodded encouragingly. “It’s just me and him and he is a little freaked out. I know you are busy, but if you could spare maybe a minute just to talk to him?”
“Of course, of course, no problem at all” Rodney was quite pleased that this lady held him in such high esteem as to ask him to reassure her son after what must have been a traumatic experience.
Approaching the young lad Rodney could see the fear in his face plain as day. He was trying to be a tough little fellow, but the dried streaks of tears down his cheeks betrayed his true feelings.
“Hey little fella,” he started, taking a seat next to the boy “Nothing to be afraid of here.” The boy sat in silence. “I know that the Santa said some scary things,” he continued “But that was not the real Santa.”
The boy looked at him confused.
“No, no,” Rodney carried on seeing he was making progress “The real Santa is so busy he gets his helpers to come by and listen to the boys and girls wishes. This particular helper must have been having a bad day, I doubt he will work for Santa again.”
“All I wished for was my father” the boy said quietly.
Rodney heart sank, and suddenly it all made sense. The rantings the other shoppers had described, the mother here alone with her son, the need for an authority figure such as himself to step in and reassure the lad.
“Well my boy, sometimes no matter how much we wish for something it just isn’t meant to be.”
“I hope so…” Jason trailed off and walked to his mother without saying a word.
Sarah was deeply worried by Jason’s behaviour since they had arrived back home. He had headed off to his room as soon as they got home, only emerging for dinner, during which he had sat quietly and not muttered a word. He had volunteered to go to bed early and turned down the offer of extra video game time, which for a boy his age was of course very out of character.
Now Sarah sat alone in her living room. Well, almost alone she thought casting her eyes to the urn sitting on the top of the bookshelf. The urn containing the mortal remains of Henry Silverman.
“Today would never have happened if you were not such a selfish asshole,” She said quietly to the urn. “Spending your day drinking instead of at work where you should have been, then choosing to drive you car home instead of getting the train and going and getting killed! Of course I never told your son that, it’s hard enough not having a father without knowing he was a drunken fool”
She suddenly realised she was crying. “Just because you were an abusive degenerate alcoholic did not give you the right to go and die like that and leave us alone! Your son never got a chance to know you, and look what it’s doing to him!”
She collapsed in the deep leather chair and let out a sigh.
Resigning herself she walked to her kitchen and rummaging through the cupboard found a bottle of sleeping pills. She took two of the pink coloured pills and washed them down with a swig of gin from the bottle next to the sink. Tomorrow was a new day and would hopefully be better, but until then she needed rest.
Not long after she left the room the the urn wobbled on its shelf every so slightly. Then, without warning the lid fell onto the floor and the ashes of Henry Silverman vomited over the side like a drift of molten lava escaping from the earths crust.