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Kevin Cutrer.
“Fall on Your Knees.”

© Kevin Cutrer.
Used by permission.
All rights reserved.

I’m not so drunk you’re really Santa Claus. I’m only begging for your ear a while, then maybe next time you come out for drinks you’ll think twice before you show up dressed for work.
I bet it’s never right for them, the mothers. The lighting’s dim, the elf gets in the way, or else they want to haggle, always looking for something free. Ain’t nothing ever free. And you know yourself a two-year-old’s no better than any rancid, riled up drunk in this dump. No wonder Santa’s come to Shorty’s Tavern.
You know, my father always wanted us to believe in you, and every year he had a scheme to put out all our doubts once and for all. One Christmas morning there were reindeer tracks out in the front yard where the grass was thin and it was muddy from a thunderstorm. Well, that was all the proof it took for me. Later I learned he’d sawed a hoof from a buck his buddy killed, to fake those tracks. He went to all that trouble just to fool his kids.
He’s almost ninety now and losing it. I stop in here at times after a visit to the Home, the times he thinks I’m someone else. (Always the same for me, a double bourbon.) The stink of antiseptic fills that hall loud with the groans of gray, forgotten men, the coughs of outcast grannies, TV static. But I’m the only son who works in town, so every day I bring him lunch and joke around and try my best. I do my best.
Is it wrong to want never to go again to those sickening, mirroring floors, stooping to put new slippers on feet that used to stand on cement nine hours straight? Or is it wrong my fear, what brings me here, what wakes me like a siren in the night, is not that he will suffer, but that I’ll live to wear those slippers on my feet, and hear my son say his name at my blank stare?
Of course you haven’t got an answer, Santa. You show up once a year expecting us to sing the same tired songs, over and over, give more no matter how give out we are. You say come here, sit on my dirty lap, tell Santa what you want. Well, all I want is just to know I’m doing something right, and if what right I do does any good.

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Cutrer, Kevin. Lord’s Own Anointed. Loveland, Ohio: Dos Madres, 2015. Print. © Kevin Cutrer. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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