Kerry sprang her little surprise on me the week before Christmas. And the worst thing about it was, I was no longer fat. The forty-pound bowlful of jelly that had once hung over my belt was long gone.
“That doesn’t matter,” she said. “You can wear a pillow.”
“Why me?” I said.
“They made me entertainment chairperson, for one thing. And for another, you’re the biggest and jolliest man I know.”
“Ho, ho, ho,” I said sourly.
“It’s for a good cause. Lots of good causes–needy children, the homeless, three other charities. Where’s your Christmas spirit?”
“I don’t have any. Why don’t you ask Eberhardt?”
“Are you serious? Eberhardt?”
“Somebody else, then. Anybody else.”
“You,” she said.
“Uh-uh. No. I love you madly and I’ll do just about anything for you, but not this. This is where I draw theline.”
“Oh, come on, quit acting like a scrooge.”
“I am a scrooge. Bah, humbug.”
“You like kids, you know you do–“
“I don’t like kids. Where did you get that idea?”
“I’ve seen you with kids, that’s where.”
“An act, just an act.”
“So put it on again for the Benefit. Five o’clock until nine, four hours out of your life to help the less fortunate. Is that too much to ask?”
“In this case, yes.”
She looked at me. Didn’t say anything, just looked at me.
“No,” I said. “There’s no way I’m going to wear a Santa Claus suit and dangle little kiddies on my knee. You hear me? Absolutely no way!”
“Ho, ho, ho,” I said.
The little girl perched on my knee looked up at me out of big round eyes. It was the same sort of big round-eyed stare Kerry had given me the previous week.
“Are you really Santa Claus?” she asked.
“Yes indeedy. And who would you be?”
“That’s a pretty name. How old are you, Melissa?”
“Six and a half.”
“Six and a half. Well, well. Tell old Santa what it is you want for Christmas.”
“What sort of dolly?”
“A big one.”
“Just a big one? No special kind?”
“Yes. A dolly that you put water in her mouth and she wee-wees on herself.”
I sighed. “Ho, ho, ho,” I said.