At first glance, the word “Santa” always looks like “Satan.” And maybe there’s a reason for that. I mean, those 2 assholes are pretty similar after all. They both encourage greed. They both distract people from Jesus. They’re both associated with the color red.
Fire. Blood. Death.
When I was a kid, I was all like, “I gotta be good! Or Santa is going to give me coal! Shit! I mean…crap!” And as an adult –– well, before I became an agnostic –– I was like, “I gotta be good! Or Satan is going to, uh, make me feel his wrath!” I guess what depresses me about all of this is the idea of some people only acting “good” to be rewarded with gifts or the luxury of going to Heaven. Or because as kids, they’re afraid of receiving coal in their stockings –– then, as adults, they’re afraid of burning in Satan’s flames or whatever. They aren’t being good because they want to be.
I went to work today. I work in a warehouse for a major shipping company. The job is annoying. My supervisors are annoying. My coworkers are annoying. The forced interactions make me want to sit in a big-ass box and ship myself as far away as possible.
And today was worse than usual. Today was “Ugly Holiday Sweater” day, which is essentially just some stupid thing a higher-up decided on –– probably in an attempt to make employees temporarily forget how much their jobs suck.
Good news: nobody wore a sweater.
Terrible news: some girl wore a fucking reindeer costume. Yup. Antlers and all. There was even a tail. She was a full-blown reindeer with a human face. Human-reindeer hybrid. Bizarro fiction material. Mrs. Claus fucked Rudolph.
Reindeer Girl was standing about 15 feet away from me. She was scanning packages and using a lineshaft roller conveyer to send them my way. I loaded the packages into a trailer. As I did this, some of the packages started talking. Or whatever was inside the packages started talking. This happens a lot around the holidays. Christmas toys for “good” kids.
One of the toys said, “Hehehe! Okay, let’s see if you can count to 10!”
I don’t know why this made me so mad. But I imagined myself saying, “I can count to 10. And if you don’t shut the hell up by the time I count to 10, I will carry you across the warehouse and throw you into the trash compactor, you goddamn abomination.”
I imagined following through with this.
I imagined one of my supervisors seeing me do this, then sprinting over to me as if in life-or-death situation. I imagined him being like, “Holy FUCK!” and then falling to his knees and screaming, “CHRISTMAS IS FUCKED!” over and over at the ceiling.
Another voice brought me out of my fantasy: “Hi, Mommy!” Some creepy doll, I guess.
These toys were distracting me, and I couldn’t work quickly enough. I was drowning in packages. Drowning in voices. Sweat ran down my face. I felt my heartbeat in my temples and neck. I felt anxiety slithering up my spine. I eventually turned around and looked at Reindeer Girl. “These boxes,” I said. “These boxes keep talking to me.”
Reindeer Girl looked at me with no expression on her face.
When my job gets super overwhelming, I usually find comfort in reminding myself that it’s not impossible for the world to be completely destroyed by an asteroid at any given time. However, right then and there, with holiday bullshit polluting my brain, the only comforting thoughts I could muster involved Christmas trees in flames. And carolers being pelted with yellow snowballs. Santa Claus being eaten alive by reindeer. My supervisors being eaten alive by reindeer. Me being eaten alive by reindeer.
I’m not talking about human-reindeer hybrids, by the way. Just normal reindeer.
Or psychotic reindeer with rabies.
After punch-out time, I walked outside and thought about driving my car off of an overpass. In my head, I saw my car landing in the middle of a street during a hypothetical Christmas parade. I saw people dressed as elves, panicking and scattering as the stench of my burning car and my burning flesh began to sift through the wintry air.
But then back in reality, I started thinking about religion and shit. I wondered if I’d end up in Hell for killing myself, then end up having to deal with Satan, who I’ve already established is basically just another version of Santa. I wondered if Satan would be dressed as Santa, just to screw with me. I wondered if his demon army would snarl in my face with snot oozing from their blood-red Rudolph noses, their horns resembling antlers.
Maybe dying wasn’t the best option.
When I got home, I immediately went to my bedroom. I took off my shoes. Collapsed onto my bed. Thought, “I’m finally alone. No one can bother me. No more CHRISTMAS SHIT for the rest of the night.”
Less than 20 minutes later, my sister walked in. “Hey,” she said. “Wanna watch Ernest Saves Christmas?”
B. Diehl is the author of the poetry collection Zeller’s Alley (White Gorilla Press, 2016). His work has been published by Hobart, BOAAT Press, Literary Orphans, Words Dance, and other venues. He runs the website Philosophical Idiot, where he publishes writing by people he likes. He also hosts a reading series called I Hate Poetry in Catasauqua, PA. When he is not doing literary things or breathing in dust at his warehouse job, he is usually hanging out with his cats and/or wondering why his current love interest isn’t texting him back. You can find him on the web at www.mynameisb.net.