Danny and Fred were the last two kids in their grade to still believe in Santa Claus.
Danny had first believed in Daddy, but he stopped when Daddy began to yell a lot, and drink whiskey, and throw things. So Danny could believe he had a father, because he could see a man coming and going, but he stopped believing in Daddy.
But he still believed in Santa Claus. Santa Claus would never yell or throw things or drink whiskey, and besides, he brought presents and all Danny had to do was be good, which he was anyway. Fred, who lived next door, also believed in Santa, though he and Danny never discussed the etiology of it, so Danny didn’t know why Fred believed. He didn’t care, either.
Then, when Danny was fourteen, Father, who was once Daddy, came into Danny’s room on Christmas Eve and pulled Danny from bed and hustled him into the front room, where the Christmas tree was. Father sat Danny down on the sofa and got a big cardboard box from a closet.
“Look, you little freak,” he said, not merrily, taking gifts from the box and throwing them at the tree. “It’s me. There is no Santa Claus. Me – I buy the friggin’ gifts and I put them under the tree. Me, you little fruitcake.”
When Danny told Fred about this incident, Fred said that obviously, and for reasons of his own, Santa had disguised himself as Danny’s father. Which pretty much ended the conversation and the friendship.
But Danny still had things to believe in. He could believe in the Lord, and he did until he really, really liked this girl, Louella, and planned to ask her to be his bride. He prayed and prayed and prayed that Louella would say, “Yes”, but she didn’t. She said, “I really, really like you as a friend, but I plan to marry Horace.”
It was hard to believe in the Lord after that, and eventually Danny stopped trying. But he could still believe in his Country and his President and he did until his President told a bunch of lies and, to make the situation even worse, his Vice President told a bunch more. Finally, Danny just stopped believing, period. This made Danny sad, but that was life.
Fred still believed in Daddy, Santa, the Lord, and his Country right or wrong. Fred was a happy guy.
RECOMMENDED READING: The Complete Calvin and Hobbes, by Bill Watterson
Dennis O’Neil is an award-winning editor and writer of
Batman, The Question, Iron Man, Green Lantern, Green Arrow, and
The Shadow – among many others – as well as many novels, stories and articles. The Question: Zen and Violence, reprinting the first six issues of his classic series with artist Denys Cowan, is on sale right now, and the second volume,
Poisoned Ground, will be on sale April 30.