The boy in the Pennywise the Clown tee shirt and bright green running shoes looked as though the last thing he wanted to do was sit on Santa’s lap. Maybe he’d already caught on that Santa was fake news but was afraid to admit it to his mother. At least Roy Talman assumed the attractive, dark-haired woman who was pushing the boy forward was his mother.
Roy didn’t believe in Santa, either, except as a paycheck. This was the only job he’d been able to land after getting dumped by the private college at which he’d taught for the past nine years, and there was no question he looked the part: a ruddy face with a snowy white beard (that when last seen was salted chestnut brown), and a beer belly. Roy was 57, but could pass for 70. Acting wasn’t required.
Shooting the dark-haired woman a look that he hoped communicated, My shift is nearly over, so tell your kid to crap or get off the pot, he saw the boy finally shuffle toward him. The kid was about eight, Roy guessed, and brown-haired, but with the most amazing blue eyes he’d ever seen. He came close enough for Roy to reach down and gently ease him up onto his lap. “Hello, son, what’s your name?” he said as merrily as he could at 7:57 in the evening, knowing twelve guys named Sam Adams were home cooling their bubbles.
“Jacob,” the boy whispered.
“How old are you, Jacob?”
“All right, Jacob, what would you like Santa to bring you this year?”