Denis Lehane: Santa knows the whole story

I met Santa the other evening and he was very cross.

“Ho! Ho! Ho!” says he, but I knew his heart wasn’t in it. “What ails you, old man?” I asked the big fella.

“Sure I’m worn out at this stage,” Santa replied. “Every year the job gets harder and harder, with my elves struggling to construct those electronic gizmos the children are demanding. When you were young, Denny, life was a lot simpler. And look how you turned out!” says he.

“Exactly,” I responded, “a total disaster.”

“Them gizmos are exactly what the youngsters need,” I told him. “To forge ahead in life these days, the head needs to be working right quick. And sure my old brain is only on half power.”

Then I gave him plenty of examples of how I’m as stupid as can be. “Them electronic games,” I assured him, “will get their brains racing, and that’s what the country needs.”

“I suppose you’re right,” says he.

Changing the subject, he asked what class of a present I was getting my missus.

“God help us, Santa,” says I, “as you know it’s been a tough old year on the farm.” Santa nodded his head in agreement, he knew exactly what I was talking about.

Getting slightly emotional, he said “Getting rid of the milk quota was a bad job, it’s brought nothing but instability in the market. And as for the meat factories,” he fumed, squeezing his fist, “Words fail me, they really do. How are you managing to survive at all?” he queried.

“With the greatest of difficulty,” I replied. “And due to the fact that I had to buy a set of tyres for my Hilux only last week, my funds are at an all-time low. All I can really offer my missus this Christmas is my love,” I said.

“Love,” said old Santa, “is overrated.” And with that he pushed a fist of fivers into my hand, with instructions that I go to Macroom before the week was out, and buy my missus something with a bit of a sparkle to it. “And have a drink too, on me, before you leave town,” he insisted.

“I will,” I promised Santa, thanking him for the dig-out.

Santa went on to deliver an almighty volley of coughs, the like of which would have a normal man running for a hospital bed.

“God almighty Santa,” says I, “you’ll want to rid yourself of that cough, before Saturday night’s adventure.”

“Sure I’m dying entirely,” says he, “and to make matters worse I’m right sick of all the milk and soft biscuits that the children leave out for me. You’d swear I was an old calf or something.”

“Would you ever,” says he whispering into my ear, “leave out a glass of the strong stuff for me this Christmas Eve, the real strong stuff now,” says he, with a wink.

“I will,” I assured him, but I had to ask, “Aren’t you afraid of the old bag?”

“Mrs Claus, is it?” he replied. “No,” says I, “the squad, the breathalyser.”

“Yerra, blast them,” says he, “how can they possibly catch me and I up in the sky. The Lord save us,” he laughed, “I’m immune from prosecution.”

“Leave out a warm drop for old Santa,” says he, “for once I leave Kilmichael, I’m heading straight over to San Francisco, and the ocean can be terrible cold.”

“I will,” I assured the saintly man, and with that, he wished all the hard working farmers of Ireland a Merry Christmas.

“Have a hell of a time over Christmas,” says he, “for there’s no sector in Irish society that needs a break more than the farmers.”

And I assured him that we would. So Happy Christmas, everyone.

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