Don't Make Me Shoot You, Santa can also be found in my short story collection Adventures By Moonlight.
DON'T MAKE ME SHOOT YOU, SANTA!
By Stephen Walker
My name's Liz Sanford and, when I was six years old, my mother inflicted me on Father Christmas.
He was in a stripey tent on Barker's Pool, just down from the war memorial and she'd carried me into it upside down, so all the demons that possessed me would be made to fall out of me.
I should point out, right here and now, that neither I nor my mother thought I was actually possessed. I was just playing at being possessed, like some kids play at being James Bond.
As for Father Christmas, once I'd been dumped on his lap and he'd got me the right way up, he asked me, 'Well well well, little girl, and what's your name?'
I said, 'You're supposed to be Santa Claus. Don't you know?'
He said, 'I'm not Santa Claus. I'm Father Christmas.'
I said, 'It's the same thing.'
'It certainly isn't, you know. Santa Claus is a cynically commercialised misrepresentation of a dead man, whereas Father Christmas is the living embodiment of the Festive Season; as Father Time is that of the passage of the ages and Mother Earth is that of this very world upon which we currently sit.'
'So how come you don't know my name, then?'
My mum told him, 'Her name's Liz, Daddy Christmas. Whatever you do, don't call her Betty.'
'Well then, Elizabeth,' said the bloke who'd already blown the gig by admitting he wasn't Santa. 'What are you hoping to receive for Christmas?'
'I want the understanding and respect of my fellow children.'
'My,' he said, 'that's certainly an unusual way for a six year old to talk.'
I said, 'I'm an unusual child. Highly intelligent, I have an interest in demonology and the dark forces that surround us.'
'I see. Well, I don't think I have anything like that in my sack but I suspect I may have just the thing for you.' He reached into his sack, rummaged around in it for a bit and then produced something.
It was a snow globe.
He handed it to me and said, 'One day, Elizabeth Sanford, you shall have all the love and respect you deserve but you must first promise me one thing.'
'Which is what?
'To never, ever, throw away this snow globe.'
Now, according to my flatmate and sidekick – Alison Parker – the preceding anecdote is complete and total bullcrap, as no six year old talks like that and I'm clearly just filling the gaps in my memories of a half-forgotten event, with words that I'd use as a grown-up.
Whatever. To this day, I still have that snow globe. It lives on my bedroom windowsill. Sometimes, when I'm depressed, I pick it up and shake it.
But it doesn't matter how hard I shake it, somehow all the snow still always ends up falling back to earth.
I know that feeling. I'm this nation's official occult investigator and sometimes it feels like all I ever do is fall back to Earth.
The week before Christmas proved to be no exception.
As I walked into the office, first thing in the morning, I was hit by a beard.
Fortunately, there was no one attached to it. It was a white thing and, after hitting me, it fell to the floor and lay there like a dead ferret.
It had been thrown at me by my boss Lou Ferman, who was sat behind his desk, with Alison sat to one side of it. Months of experience told me this was bound to signal another plunge into madness.
'Aren't you going to pick it up?' said Lou.
I said, 'No.'
He said, 'Why not?'
'Because you threw it at me. Leaving aside the fact that such an act's disrespectful, anything you throw at me's guaranteed to lead to nothing but embarrassment and humiliation.'
'Liz Sanford, what's your big problem in life?'
'No. You are. Not one person who meets you ever likes you. Well, Betty-'
'Don't call me Betty.'
'-that's about to change. Because I - Lou Ferman - who you've always claimed is useless, have arranged a deal.'
'What? The department store?'
'As you may know, this time every year they have a Santa's Grotto where children can be fobbed off with toys so crap the store couldn't flog them off the Christmas before. Well, this year, in a sensational deal, they're not going to have a Santa's Grotto. What they're going to have is Sanford's Grotto. Kids don't want to sit on that fat old bloke's knee. Who wants to sit on an old bloke's knee? He probably smells of wee, booze and impending death. Instead, they get to sit on the knee of the hottest occult investigator in the land, who asks them what they want for Christmas and then gives them an occult-related present.'
'Are you serious?'
'Too right I am. Kids love horror. That's why they love Halloween. And you shall be their link to that night.'
'Then shouldn't this have been arranged for Halloween?'
'That's the thing. The store wants to get rid of all the unsold toys left over from October 31st, so they have to wait till Halloween's over, which means they have to do it at Christmas. So, stroke of genius on my behalf or what?'
'I'm not wearing a beard.'
'Then don't wear a beard.'
'I'm not wearing a bright red suit.'
'Then don't wear a bright red suit.'
'I'm not going Yo-ho-ho.'
'I think you'll find that's Long John Silver,' said Alison.
'And this'll make me popular?' I asked Lou.
'Not half it will. No longer will you be that woman who only shows up to shoot at people and throw her weight around. You'll be that nice woman who gives toys to children.'
'Are you in on this?' I asked Alison.
'It could change forever the way everyone thinks of you,' she said.
'Of course,' said Lou, 'we’ll have to have a guard with you at all times in case you turn out to be a pervert.'