From the Diary of Santa’s Grandson

He told me he got a small, annual stipend from Jesus Christ our Lord—that was the word he used, “stipend.”

“Does He pay you with money?” I asked.

“Well, what do you think He pays me with?” Granddad said.

I thought it was against the rules or something for Jesus to touch money, so I said, “Jewels and gold.” And that was the only time I ever heard my grandfather laugh. In movies and books, he can’t keep a straight face for more than a few seconds at a time, but in real life he has no sense of humor whatsoever, and rarely looks you in the eye when he’s talking to you.

Mom hasn’t seen him since we got here. Me, I caught sight of him for all of ten seconds. Reginald fell asleep on my bed last night, and, at around 3 A.M., Santa came in to get him. I woke up as he was heading back out the door and, when I started to say something, he said, “Good to see you too, Prescott.” No one calls me that but him.

December 25th

We’ve had to whisper all day. “Your grandfather was working until six this morning and is exhausted,” Mary Katherine said whenever I so much as turned a page in a magazine. Santa has all these ancient, back issues of Crawdaddy, which is about rock music. According to Mom, he played bass for a while, though she didn’t say for who or for how long.

Sh-h-h,” Mary Katherine said when I asked for details.

He finally woke up around 5:30 P.M. We could hear him in the next room, grunting his old-man grunts. Just as we started to smell his pipe, Mary Katherine went in and busted him for smoking in the house. “You know the rules,” she shouted. “Take it outside!”

You could tell that he’d had it with her. “Can you just for this one goddam day let it go?” I heard him say.

He was still in a crabby mood when he came to the dinner table. Mary Katherine served baked ziti with three cheeses, obviously frozen. The noodles weren’t gluten-free, and when once again she told me to eat around them, Mom said, “Oh, for Christ’s sake,” not directed at me for a change but toward Mary Katherine, who stomped into the kitchen. We could all hear her in there, tearing through the freezer.

“So,” Granddad said, starting in on his ziti, “how was your trip in? Any trouble with your flights, et cetera?”

Mom said we were an hour late leaving K.C. and, though she worried we’d miss the first of our two connections, we didn’t.

“Good,” he said, taking another bite. “You hear stories about airports now and it all sounds pretty exhausting.”

From the kitchen, I heard the ding of the microwave, and half a minute later Mary Katherine slammed a pizza down in front of me. I think she maybe doesn’t understand what “gluten” means, but I didn’t make a big deal out of it; just scraped off the toppings and ate those. There was no dessert. No salad. By six-fifteen, Santa had gone back to bed. Then it was lights-out.

December 26th

I’d never have thought to start keeping a diary if we hadn’t been at Granddad’s, where there is literally nothing to do. So maybe that’s something that came out of this trip. After we had breakfast this morning, Santa called us into his home office and made a big deal out of giving us presents. Mom got a mug with his face on it. I got a short stack of what turned out to be Greek drachmas and the dialysis machine Granddad used before his late wife gave him her kidney.

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