Richard C Rutherford is previously published in Fiction Southeast, Stone Coast Review, Hypertext, LAROLA, Red Fez, Squalorly, The Tishman Review. Upcoming in The Writing Disorder, and Visitant. He has a large collection of stories, including phone size.
The Off Season
When Santa woke up, he lay still, as was his custom, and took account of his situation. He was in his home, in his bed. The phone was ringing. It was morning. Wincing back the familiar headache, he made a mental note (yet again) to cut back on the Schnapps.
“Well Nickie, old boy, “he said to himself. “It’s another fine day and you don’t have to worry about fucking Christmas for another nine months.” He groaned with loud satisfaction, rolled over on his side, swung his legs off the bed and sat up. Lifting his arm, he turned his head and sniffed deeply. Rank pits. He would take a shower when he damned well pleased.
He had to piss and was half-hard. With pride of ownership, he held his cock in his left hand, smiling through his fading headache. Last night, the Tooth Fairy had spent a righteous night: him bellowing and her screaming out their orgasms. He reached down to the floor for his lederhosen and pulled them on. “Nickie-boy, you gotta’ start using condoms. No telling how long she lingers at all those beds she sneaks around.” He combed his beard with his fingers pensively. A girl with her inclinations could spoil his sack of goodies.
Scratching his belly absently, he stood and slid his feet into his slaps. “Goddamn bunions.” Hobbling for the first few steps, stiff-backed and bent over, he headed down the hall to the kitchen. The phone rang again.
Eggs and bacon sounded good, but there were fresh mouse tracks in the frying pan. All the dishes were dirty and he was out of paper plates. Cold cereal in a coffee cup was an option, but… He sighed. It would take forever to get his stomach full one cup at a time.
He should never have let Claudia get a job. She’d met some goofball at her twelve-step meetings who’d sold her on multi-level marketing. Now, she was always off at trade shows, showing product. Shit. Everybody knew what a loser’s scam that was. He’d talked to her until he was blue in the face. But she ignored him. Now they had inventory all over the workshop—and invoices! Who the hell needed invoices?
He started to clear off the countertop; dishes in teetering stacks, take-out boxes, beer bottles. A mouse skittered behind the toaster. “Fuck!” He roared, jumping back.
He picked up a barbeque fork and stabbed around behind the toaster. He yelled in the direction of the mouse, “I move more fucking product than anyone on the face of this fucking planet!” A beer bottle fell over, the neck broke off, and the phone rang again.
“Fucking bitch! I should never have bought her those god-damned teeth!” He stood in the middle of his semi-modern kitchen—flourescent lights in a dropped ceiling, large pantry, Jenn-air, Viking, a dishwasher, microwave, marble countertop. It had cost a fortune to ship all these improvements. The installation had taken months. Between doing the kitchen remodel and Claudia using the workshop for her warehouse/office, the elves were getting bitchy—talking union.
Who needed 400 cases of motor oil that you could also use to brush your teeth?
Again, the phone started ringing. His lower lip trembled. There was a half-bottle of Jack in the cupboard, but he told himself last night that he was gonna’ work in the garden this morning, dig the warm earth, plant peppers, radishes and marigolds. He wanted to believe that connecting with the simple things in life would restore him.
And in the middle of good intent he remembered a text his bookie had sent: The Knicks had Boston at home in The Garden this week—plus 3 ½. Garnett was injured and Shaq still couldn’t make a free throw. No. Today, he was going to start putting his life back together.
After only a slight pause, the phone started ringing again. He glanced at it the way one would at a loaded gun. He knew who it was and what they wanted. He owed a lot of money. The trouble was that he’d never held that money in his hand—neither the wagers nor the winnings. He never saw the money, just like he never saw the faces of the little children. It was all abstract. Winning didn’t make him happy and losing didn’t bring him down. The only thing he ever felt was the jingle—the anticipation of placing a bet.
How had it come to this? A hundred years ago he was the only man in the sky at night. He made toys of wood—there was no plastic. It all used to be so simple.
Ignoring the phone, Santa took down the bottle of Jack and headed for the garden.