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With a snootful of booze, Santa delivered his goodies in the wrong apartment

"On Vickson"

by Leonard Shannon



Vol. 5, No. 1,  1960

    SANTA CLAUS SHOULD only be so cold. Then kids would have to wait until the Fourth of July. Which was a far more sensible time to be wandering over rooftops in Manhattan.
    Jim Vickson shivered violently, and strained a shot of hot buttered rum through his weird whiskers. Balanced on the icy fire escape, he corked the king-size thermos and eased it into the bag.
    He had been betrayed by four previous mugs of steamy Jamaica and three sneaky friends. Because he was the last bachelor among them; because he was full of holiday spirits. Because he had a hole in his head.
    Jim glanced into the bottomless gulf of 48th Street, flinched and grabbed at the railing. At least, he supposed it was 48th Street down there. Staggering around roofs in the teeth of an Arctic gale could mix a guy up. And he sure as hell wasn't going to look down again to find out.
    He peered moodily through his whiskers. Buddies, indeed; the kind who'd con a pal into a red suit, stuff him with pillows, and run him into a blizzard. Just so their offspring could holler goody for Santa Claus.
    Good thing chimneys were out of style. A slippery fire escape was bad enough. Another pull at the thermos gave him nerve to try the precarious descent. Serve his ex-pals right if all three of their daughters grew up and married reindeer. Jim threw back his shoulders. "Well--on, Dancer, on, Prancer--and damn the torpedoes."
    Three steps down, he skidded and clutched at a window frame. The pillow-bulging tummy didn't help matters any. Another flight to go, and Jim called his pals names every inch of the way. Names unknown to jolly St. Nick. Or maybe not. Nobody could be that jolly from an open-air sled.
    Another window. Jim smeared a peephole in frost and looked in. The thought occurred to him that he might get his silly head blown off this way. A whole hell of a lot of people might not believe in bleary Santa's reeling around fire escapes.
    But his luck was holding. Three girls were in the room. Kind of big girls, he thought, but then he was no expert on kids. And he hoped he'd never be. Look what they'd done to him already, even when they belonged to other guys.
    Jim pushed on the window and a gust of warm air soothed him. "Ho ho-ho!" he said.
    Heads swung; eyes stared; red mouths made startled noises.
    Jim tried again. "Yo ho ho and a bottle of--" but that didn't sound right. His beard blew over his face and he slapped at it. He fell into the window. "On Dunder and Vixen," he finished into the rug.
    Excited squeals bounced around him; a bunch of hands helped him sit up. Somebody poked his tummy; somebody else ruffled his whiskers. Jim tried to focus one eye, to remember the routine.
    "Jingle Bells," he said. "Merry, merry."
    "I'll be damned," said the red head. "He's real."
    That, Jim thought dazedly, was no way for little girls to talk. "Presents for all," he said, "and to all a good night."
    "Like fun," said the blonde. "However the hell you got in here, buster, you can get out the same way. But in the meantime--"
    "Yeah," said the sultry brunette, right into his ear.
    Jim wasn't certain how dolls felt through their nighties, but he didn't think it was like the brunette. Not unless kids grew fully developed these days. One thing for sure, back when Jim Vickson was in knee pants, there'd been nobody around like her. He'd have asked for a doll in his stocking, and the other little slobs could keep their single-breasted slingshots. Him for this kind.
    "Presents," he said inanely. "Goodies for all."
    "You'll have to prove that," the redhead smiled.
    "Ho-ho-ho," Jim said. "Here in my magic pack--"
    The brunette had a handful of pillow. Buttons popped. "That pack'll make a peachy headrest," she said.
    The blonde had been busy, too. "He's got a jug in it."
    "You are Santa," the redhead applauded.
    "Little girls aren't supposed to take snorts out of a jug like that," Jim said. "They're not supposed to--"
    "Yes?" the brunette asked.
    "Do what you're doing," Jim gasped, snatching at the red pants in her hands.
    She threw them away. "Look girls--polka-dot snuggies!"
    Hers weren't polka dot. They were silky and thin, with lace gad gets. Also crammed full of tantalizing hips and firm white thighs. Jim blew gustily through his whiskers. It didn't help. If Santa himself was often trapped this way, it would take him until next August 19th to make his rounds. If he could walk.
    Somehow, the brunette had gotten her mouth through his beard, and was sliding it over his. Out of one eye, Jim saw the other girls retreating with the thermos. The dark one was warm and writhing against him, twin lengths of tapered legs and an undulating torso. The North Pole, Jim thought, was never like this. The whole world would be overrun with passionate Eskimos.
    Her body was more than hungry; it was starved. It was a raging famine, and he was swept under and around and about by its devouring. The damned beard kept getting in his way. Nothing else did.
    Then she was gone, and Jim was grateful for the warming jolt from the thermos the redhead handed him. Her hair was a sensuous, sun set river flowing over her palewhite body. As she caressed him, it spread rippling to cover them both. Moaning, she pinned him to the carpet in a mad tangle of quivering flesh.
    Visions of sugarplums, Jim thought. The redhead obviously didn't mind his preoccupation. She was energetic, a liquid flame that whirled him scalding into the bubbling maw of a volcano.
    After her, the buttered rum was cooling, and he pulled at the jug desperately, seeking strength. He had gone this far; why shatter the faith of the last girl? That chesty blonde crouching naked and bright-eyed beside him.
    The room blurred and bobbled. He wondered if he could claim self-defense against a charge of rape; if the rooms at Sing Sing were comfy. Only the blonde meshing powerfully with him at the moment didn't seem to care. She had a bag of tricks that could have been gained only from practical--and widespread--experience. Still, there had been Lolita.
    The blonde was eager and ambitious, a coursing of wild flesh against his, a runaway torrent of passions that swept all before it. She was magnificent, and deserved better, than a bewildered, shaken, and rum-soaked St. Nick. But Jim rose to the occasion as best he could.
    The pink clouds parted slowly, revealing a towering harridan who stood in the open door. She was a silent and wrinkled banshee. For a moment. Then she turned on the full force of her leathery lungs as she took in the situation--three stripped girls and a pantless Santa Claus. The siren effect was disconcerting. Jim scooted away from the old bat and fell over Santa's pack. The thermos rolled with a tired trickle to the screaming woman's feet.
    Jim did the only sensible thing. He went out through the window like a reindeer invaded by a rampant icicle. The wailing of old big-mouth followed him stumbling down the icy fire escape. Several stories below, the final ladder complained bitterly as it swung down under his weight.
    Fuzzily, Jim lifted his numbed bottom from the snow. Maybe the Foreign Legion would accept him. Maybe he could rent an igloo at the North Pole. He staggered through the alley, leaving a trail a cockeyed Chihuahua could follow--much less a bloodhound. Could the FBI trace a guy through his shoes? How about prints? They knew about fingerprints and footprints. Why not sternprints, such as the one--or two --left at the foot of the ladder?
    Jim whipped into a hallway and tried to tug the beard loose. It was stuck on for keeps. He crouched against the stairway, wishing for a fig leaf, for anything. But mostly for a way out. He didn't figure even the Foreign Legion would swear in a recruit with a beard and a bare bottom.
    The hallway seemed familiar, but perhaps only because it was free of staring eyes. No; he'd been here before. Sure--the apartment building where his pals lived. Ex-pals. He must have run in circles.
    Like a trapped rat. Hooboy! Outraged parents with blood in their eyes; with shotguns in the closets. Jim shivered. He didn't have much choice. It was either the icy street that would ultimately end in Bellevue's fidget farm, or face the music upstairs. And that wouldn't be Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen. More like a dirge.
    Stooping protectively, Jim scuttled up the stairs. At the first landing, he met a package-laden lady. Naturally, he tipped his red hat--the one with the long nozzle and white puffball. It kind of went with the beard.
    Gaining the second landing with a flying bound, Jim wished fervently that people would stop screaming at him. It played hell with a guy's blood pressure. You'd think the old gal had never seen a Santa before.
    Number 214 on a dark door; Joe's place. It had a beribboned holly wreath on it. Jim found holly wreaths weren't exactly suitable re placements for fig leaves. They had stickers. Suffering, he thumbed the buzzer.
    When Joe opened the door, his face registered only surprise. Not mayhem; not the face of a recently deflowered father. That didn't sound right, either, but Jim couldn't think of anything else at the moment.
    "What the hell?" Joe wanted to know, and stared.
    So did Mrs. Joe. Then she laughed like hell.
    "It is not," Joe said with dignity, a damned bit funny. Where are Al and Harry? You can draw straws to see who shoots me."
    "We told you not to take that thermos," Joe said. "Where have you been?"
    Mrs. Joe rolled off the couch and beat the floor with her fists. "Oh," she gasped, "holly wreaths and ribbons, yet!"
    Joe frowned at her. "You've been sneaking eggnog. Liz."
    Jim reeled to the couch and hid behind a pillow. He swallowed hard, and reeled off the sordid story. He was sorry; no excuse for a soused louse to rob young maidens of their--well, of their maidenhoods, dam- mit. He had a last request. Could Joe and Al and Harry give him a pair of pants to be shot in?
    Liz stared up at Joe. She, too, swallowed hard in a obvious struggle with her emotions. Here it comes, Jim thought, and closed his eyes.
    "Jim Vickson," she said carefully, "all our children are under four years old. You crawled across the wrong rooftop. Next door is--is--" here she made choking noises, "--is Miss Huxley's Home for--for--Wayward Women!"
    Jim opened his eyes. The room was bright, sparkling with yuletide cheer and good will. "One," he said, "pass the eggnog; two--a pair of pants, please." He sighed. "And three--kindly stop rolling around on the rug and laughing like that. I'm trying to remember where that fire escape ladder is touching the ground. Hell-- I feel like Santa Claus."

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