Dennis O’Neil: Wither Santa Claus?
Once upon a time, Santa Claus came down the orphanage chimney with a sack full of comic books for all the boys and girls who had just murdered a meter reader. The children enjoyed the comics very much.
Part of the foregoing was a remedy for a mistake I made last week. What I didn’t do was mention comics, or anything closely related to comics or the vast domain of popular culture. And this is a website devoted to Things Comicish and so it seems only proper that comics/comicishness be at least mentioned … and, to fix firmly the relevance to the holidays, which seems to be the custom hereabouts, and avoid accusations of Scrogeiness, to end happily. All done now. Mea culpas finished. (This last is a shout out to the Catholics of my generation, who still remember the Latin Mass and has nothing to do with what comes next.)
While we’re in the neighborhood, let’s visit a house near the orphanage, the one at the end of the cul de sac. The Smith home.
First see the family baby, Janey, age six. She’s traumatized by something told to her by that snotty kid next door, Willie. He said that there was no Santa Claus. Janey thought he was fibbing until she caught Daddy unloading a Toys R Us bag from the station wagon. Daddy slipped on the icy driveway and dropped the bag and toys spilled out, all over the place and Daddy muttered something about visiting the North Pole on the way home from work and then Mommy, who had been standing on the front porch, said, “Oh for pete sake, how dumb do you think the kid is?”
“Plenty dumb” Daddy mutters, almost too quietly to hear.
It is as though there was an explosion in Janey’s head and suddenly she understood everything – daddy thinks I’m dumb! Santa isn’t real! – and before she opens the door to her room she is sobbing and has embarked on a lifetime of mistrust and disillusionment, Next Christmas, if she’s lucky, Santa will bring her an appointment with a therapist.
Meanwhile, Daddy has locked himself in his den and is at his desk, bent over stacks of papers and big, flat books, a pen in one hand, a calculator by the lamp. There is no way the figures offer redemption. When he factors in what he’s spent at the toy store, he cannot avoid bankruptcy. And foreclosure, probably.
At that moment, Mommy is behind the wheel of the station wagon, speeding toward the mall. If she can get there before the stores close, she will exchange the sweater she bought for her sister-in-law for something … different. Better. Classier and how the hell does she know what the old bitch will like, what kind of gift will forestall the snide remarks, the barbed whispers, the yearly humiliation?
Ten minutes ‘till mall closing. Does she have time for a quick stop at the liquor store?
Oh, before I go … Did something happen in San Bernardino last week?