by Jack Somers
There were three of them coming down the aisle—a tall guy in a Santa outfit and two shorter guys dressed as elves. Santa was in the lead. He was opening his bag and telling people to put their wallets and phones inside. The elf right behind him had a 9mm. As Santa went up to each person, the elf pointed the gun in the person’s face. The second elf also had a gun. He was lagging behind, holding up the back of the train car, making sure nobody tried anything funny. He didn’t have anything to worry about from this group. Most of the adult passengers looked petrified. The older kids, the ones who knew what was going on, were sobbing into their parents’ shirts. The younger ones seemed more confused than frightened. They were probably trying to figure out why Santa was taking Mommy and Daddy’s stuff instead of giving out presents.
Eddy was sitting on my lap, a half-eaten bag of popcorn in his hands. “Grandpa,” he said, turning to me. “What’s happening?”
“Some bad men are trying to ruin our train ride,” I said.
I already knew I wasn’t going to let these bastards get away with this. This was one of the few times I got to be with my grandson, just the two of us. And here these guys came to spoil it. I couldn’t forgive them for that.
Santa approached the family ahead of us—an Asian couple in matching North Face jackets with a daughter in pigtails and a glittery blue princess dress. The girl looked a year or two older than Eddy—maybe six or seven. She was clinging to her mother, whimpering softy, trembling like a whipped dog. Her mother was patting her head and whispering “Shhh” while her father glared at the thieves.
“Let’s have it, buddy,” said Santa, holding his bag out to the father. “Phone and wallet.”
Up close I could see that Santa was young, no more than twenty-five. The fake beard couldn’t hide his baby-face. The elf next to him wasn’t that old either. They were just dumb kids. I bet they thought this whole thing was hilarious, getting decked out in full North Pole regalia and holding up The Rudolph Express.
The father handed over his phone and wallet and rested his fists on the table. “What you are doing is wrong,” he said. His voice was deep and firm. There was no fear in it, no weakness. I could see veins pulsing in his temple. “You should be ashamed of yourselves.”
Santa smacked him in the right eye, and he crumpled in his seat. “Some people don’t know when to shut the fuck up,” he said to his elf companion, and they both cackled. These sons of bitches were getting a big kick out of this.
They moved on to me.
“All right, Gramps,” said Santa. “Phone and wallet.”
I put Eddy down, pulled my wallet out of my coat pocket, and dropped it into the bag.
“Phone?” said Santa.
“I don’t have a phone,” I said. I did, but I would be damned if this punk was getting it. All my pictures of Eddy were on there.
Santa narrowed his eyes at me for a second and then laughed and shook his head. He waved to the elf, and they moved to the next person, a heavyset 30-something mom with two toddlers in reindeer pajamas. As Santa shook her down, I eyed the elf’s gun. It was about a foot away from my head. I remembered disarming one of the NVA at Khe San back in ’68. The son of a bitch wouldn’t let go of his gun until I pinned him to the ground and bit his goddam hand. If this guy here held onto his gun like that, I was cooked. The other elf would shoot me for sure.
“Get under the table,” I whispered to Eddy, and he did.
I took a deep breath and grabbed for the gun. It came right out of the elf’s hand, thank God. He lunged for me, and I squeezed the trigger. There was a sharp pop, and the top half of his head disappeared in a red cloud. He staggered back and toppled into the lap of a bewildered dad across the aisle. The other elf turned, and I shot him in the head, too. I went for the head because I knew if I shot low, the bullet might go through and hit a passenger or a member of the staff. I didn’t need innocent blood on my hands.
I wiped a piece of brain out of my eye and trained the gun on Santa. He dropped his bag and put his hands in the air. Wallets and iPhones spilled out onto the blood-soaked floor.
“Please don’t kill me,” he said through his ridiculous beard.
“Eddy,” I said to my grandson. “Come out here.”
Eddy crawled out from under the table and stood beside me. I put my free arm around him. “This is my grandson, Eddy,” I said to Santa. “I only get to see him a few times a year, so when I do see him, I want to make sure we have a really good time together. I love him more than anything in the world. And you and your hoodlum friends showed up tonight and took this special time away from us—not just from us but from all these people here, these people who spent a lot of money to have a nice time with their kids and grandkids. You came here and robbed us and threatened to kill us. Now I want you to apologize to Eddy and to all the other people on this train.”
“I’m sorry, Eddy,” said Santa. His beard was quivering. There was a dark spot spreading on the crotch of his pants.
“And everybody else,” I said.
“I’m sorry everyone,” he said.
I nodded. “That’ll do,” I said. “Eddy, close your eyes.”
About the Author
Jack Somers’s work has appeared in WhiskeyPaper, Literary Orphans, Coffin Bell, The Molotov Cocktail, Jellyfish Review, and a number of other publications. He lives in Ohio with his wife and their three children. You can find him on Twitter @jsomers530 or visit him at www.jacksomerswriter.com .