Memoirs of a Department Store Santa

by Audrey Lynne


December 19, 1963

Cleveland, Ohio

Scott Allen had always loved playing Santa Claus during the Christmas season. He knew that some of the men who played Santa did it simply because it was a job and didn't truly enjoy it. But for Scott, children were the spirit of Christmas, and he got a real kick out of dressing up and playing the part of the jolly old guy.

Children also provided a large part of Scott's holiday entertainment. Many of them were unintentionally funny—and, of course, some of them were trying to be funny. Naturally, there were a few sad moments now and then, such as when a child asked for the impossible...he'd never forget the little girl whose only request for Mommy to "not be sick anymore." Generally, though, the good outweighed the bad, and Scott had a really good time.

Today seemed to be the day when most of the smaller children were frightened of him. He didn't blame them—after all, most of them were at the stage when they didn't want their parents to be more than two feet away. At least he'd managed to get most of them to warm to him...though it was something of a welcome reprieve when he saw that his next visitor was an older child who was obviously more than willing to talk to Santa.

The boy settled himself onto "Santa's" lap without much assistance, and looked up into Scott's eyes over the top of his glasses. "Hello."

"Hi." Scott smiled. "What's your name?"

"Egon Spengler," the boy answered smoothly, "and I'm eight years old, though I'll be eight and a half in February."

Scott stifled a laugh. This sounded like a kid who was in a hurry to grow up. "And have you been good this year?"

"I'm pretty sure," Egon responded, "though, of course, all kids get into trouble sometimes." He regarded Scott for a moment before continuing in a somewhat lowered tone of voice. "Listen, I know you're not the real Santa. You're a regular man in a suit who probably likes children a lot."

"You don't believe in me?" Scott asked, though the surprise in his tone wasn't entirely feigned.

"Him," Egon corrected. "And I'm not entirely sure what to believe. My mother says that Santa is in all of us, at least in part. My father says that Santa Claus is only a myth, but he also said the same thing about the Boogieman, so I'm not sure. In any case, you represent something tangible, someone that children can tell their wishes to. The real Santa Claus would already know. I figure there's no harm in at least allowing myself to think he exists."

Some children were simply too smart for their own good—though, in this boy's case, even that might have been an understatement. Scott nodded. "You sound like you've thought this out quite carefully."

Egon beamed. "Thank you."

"So what do you want for Christmas?" It couldn't hurt to ask, anyway.

"A Junior Scientist Chemistry Set," Egon said, his blue eyes sparkling for a moment before he resumed his "mini adult" attitude. "Of course, Santa or no Santa, I'm fairly sure that my father will get that for me. He was pleased when I said I wanted one."

A young scientist in the making, Scott mused. Kid's dad must be a scientist, too. What had Egon said his last name was? Spengler Labs, just outside town? It would seem to make sense. But Scott had seen a hint of innocence in the boy's face and he knew that there was much more here than met the eye. "Then it sounds like you're set. Is there anything else?" Something a bit more frivolous, perhaps?

"Well, actually..." A touch of wistfulness crossed Egon's expression and he leaned forward to whisper, "I'd really like a kitten."