By John McDonnell
“In my day Christmas was a time for taking sleigh rides,” Edna said. “We’d bundle up in big fur coats and father would hitch up the sleigh and take us for a ride through the countryside. We’d visit the neighbors and they’d have steaming mugs of hot chocolate waiting for us, with peppermint sticks in them.”
“Mom, you never did that,” Dolores said. She had driven Edna and Larry to the mall for some Christmas shopping, and she was already regretting it. “You grew up in an apartment in the city, remember? You never went to the country.”
“Nonsense,” Edna said. “How did I get this memory if it never happened?”
“It be a false memory,” Larry said, from the back seat. For some reason unknown to Dolores he was in the form of a pirate, complete with a straggly black beard, earrings made out of gold doubloons, an eyepatch, and a gold front tooth. “False memories these days are as thick as barnacles on a sperm whale’s belly.”
It was going to be a long afternoon, Dolores thought, pulling into a parking space.
In the mall Larry went straight to the Santa Claus village and eyed the setup. “By my stars, here’s a freebooter if ever I saw one,” he said, looking at the mall Santa. “Why, look at all the swag this matey has got in his duffle,” he said pointing to the big bag of trinkets that Santa had beside him, for distributing its contents to the children who sat on his lap.
“He looks like my uncle Frederick,” Edna said. “All round and red and jolly. I remember when uncle Frederick would dress up as Santa and come to our house and give us pennies. ‘A penny for your thoughts,’ he’d say. Of course, when I told him my thoughts he’d get a strange look on his face and tell me to run and get him an aspirin. I never did get my penny.”
“Why don’t we go shopping now?” Dolores said hopefully.
“Belay that,” Larry said. “I like this setup better. You just sit on his lap, and he gives you a bit of swag. Why, it’s better than hijacking a fat galleon filled with Spanish gold!”
“Why are you talking like that?” Dolores hissed, conscious that children were giggling at Larry and their parents had pulled out their cell phones and were dialing Mall Security. “Let’s get out of here before--”
But it was too late. Larry had pushed a host of small children out of the way, and he flopped down on Santa’s lap with such force that it momentarily took the poor fellow’s breath away.
“Avast, ye old sea dog!” Larry said.
“What?” Santa said, his glasses askew on his face from the force of the impact.
“Enough of this palaver,” Larry said. “Now, tell me, matey, what do I have to do to get some of that loot?”
“Ho, ho, you know the drill,” Santa said, recovering his composure. “You tell me if you’ve been a good boy, and then you recite your Christmas list.”
“Aye,” Larry said. “I be the roughest, toughest sea rat on the Spanish Main. If any man cross a friend of mine, I’ll cut his throat and feed him to the sharks for their supper, I will.”
Several children had started to cry, and Larry flashed his gold tooth in a smile, which unfortunately only made them cry louder. Santa looked alarmed, and his helper, a girl in a red and green elf costume, pushed a button under Santa’s chair, which caused several men in blue uniforms with “Security” on their backs to come running from all directions. They were talking into headsets and wearing sunglasses.
“My goodness,” Edna said. “Is the President here? I’ve never seen so many Secret Service agents. Maybe I can get his autograph. I have autographs of every President going back to Grover Cleveland. Did I ever tell you--”
“Not now!” Dolores hissed. She was trying to figure the odds on getting Larry and Edna out of the mall without collateral damage occurring. They were not favorable.
“Okay, me red-faced matey,” Larry said, reaching for Santa’s bag. “My part of the bargain is over. I’ll just be taking yer duffle now.” He reached over and grabbed the bag, then leaped off Santa’s lap and made his way through the throng of children, whose pitch raised considerably when they saw the gift bag retreating from view.
“Put the bag down and move away from it, sir!” a voice boomed, and Dolores saw to her horror that the cadre of mall cops had surrounded Larry, and all of them had guns trained on him.
Larry sized up the situation, muttered, “Arrrr,” and then the air shimmered and he had turned into a two-ton bull elephant seal that moved with surprising speed through the line of stunned security guards, down the mall corridor to the escalator, where he rode the escalator to the first floor and then proceeded out of the mall in the direction of the parking lot, with shoppers running in terror from him.
When Dolores and Edna caught up to him, he had turned back into the pirate, and was muttering, “Arrr, it’s a bad business stealing swag in this quarter. Best to trim the mainsail and make for a snug harbor.”
“Forget about the Christmas shopping,” Dolores said. “Let’s just go home before they throw us all in jail.”
“Father would make a Christmas goose with all the trimmings,” Edna said. “And then we’d sit around and sing ribald carols. Do you know any good ribald carols? My uncle Frederick knew quite a few of them. I remember one about Santa and the reindeer that--”
“That’s enough, mom!” Dolores said, pulling out of the parking lot with a squeal of tires.