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Stalking Santa
By Tamara Becher

A Christmas fable based on true events. Sort of.

If anyone had ever told me that by the time I was twenty-six I'd be locked up in a women's federal correctional facility, I probably would've said, "I wish!" The very idea of all of those women living and, more importantly, showering together all on the government's dime sounded like my own private Amazon Island, where I would be Wonder Woman and the others my adoring "sisters." When I finally did arrive at the big house I was rudely awakened to the fact that I'd be spending the next ten to fifteen with women who looked more like Amy Carter than Lynda Carter.

"What's my story?" you might ask. "Eat me," is what I used to reply, but here in the clink a gal learns real quick-like not to throw such phrases around. My road to ruin began back when I was in kindergarten. That's right, kindergarten. It was December, which meant it was time to work on our holiday projects. The teacher distributed bright red, green, and silver construction paper to everyone in the class except for Hymie Rosen and me. Instead we were given faded and lifeless sheets of blue and yellow. While the other children joyously constructed ornaments and trees, unlimited in the range of shapes and colors, Hymie and I were confined to the oppressive right angles of the Menorah. This seemingly innocuous event in my short life made me aware for the first time that there was more that separated me from my classmates than just my chronic head lice. Out of the corner of my eye I noticed Billy Johnson, the WASPiest kid in the class, drawing this jolly old fat dude, with rosy red cheeks and a fluffy white beard. He was fascinating and frightening all at once. It was a mystical, magical sensation I had never experienced before, and would not experience again until years later when I first laid eyes on my cellmate's back hair. I tried to avert my eyes from Billy's drawing, but it had a hypnotic power that I was impotent against. Kinda like my cellmate's back hair.

"Hey Kid," I said, "who is that mysterious creature?"

"My name's not Kid," he said, brimming with genetic superiority, "it's Billy and it's not a creature, it's Santa Claus."

"Santa Claus?" I rolled the words around in my mouth like a gator rolling its prey under water. It was dangerous, yet delicious. It tasted like chicken. Which can also be dangerous and delicious if not cooked properly. Up until this point in my short life I was ignorant to the differences between Jews and Gentiles, except for the fact that while Christian mothers instilled the fear of God into their children, Jewish mothers instilled the fear of botulism.

"Every December," Billy continued, "you write him a letter asking for stuff you want and on Christmas Eve he brings it while you sleep."

Even at the naive age of six, I knew enough to declare shenanigans on this steaming pile.

"You're a lying crapface. If this Santa deal's for real, how come I never heard of it?"

"Because you're a Jew and Santa hates you."

"But how does he know that I'm a Jew?" I asked.

The blood suddenly drained from Billy's face and his left eye began to twitch. Some would call it a look of terror; Mama would call it time for another High Ball. He cautiously looked over both shoulders, making sure no one would overhear what he was about to say. He leaned in close to my face, and whispered, "He knows everything." Chills ran down my spine.

Although I was grateful for the info, grade school gender politics dictated that I split Billy's lip. Had to keep them boys in line. What I didn't realize at the time was little Billy Johnson just crammed a sugarplum from the tree of knowledge down my innocent, Semitic throat. From then on, my life as a happy, law-abiding Dradle-spinner was over.

That night I composed the most eloquent "Dear Santa" letter that a six-year-old could: DEAR SANTA, GIMME. YOUR PAL, TAMARA "I SWEAR I'M NOT A FILTHY JEW" BECHER. Come Christmas Eve I could barely sleep I was so excited. Words cannot describe my devastation the next morning when all I found in the living room was my Uncle Morrie in his underpants eating lox from a can. I don't get it. What did I do wrong? I wrote the crummy letter, so where was my stuff? Right then and there I decided I would never be snubbed by Santa again.

I began to research and read everything I possibly could about the fat fuck. Every year I'd try to alter a variable in the equation to dupe Santa into stopping by my house. I tried setting up a Christmas tree, but my father had a heart attack. Literally. I tried decorating the house with festive red and green lights, but my father had a stroke. Literally. The year I constructed a nativity scene out of chopped liver and matzo, my mother decided it was time for me to go on the pill. Lithium that is. I started seeing a shrink who tried to convince me that Santa Claus didn't exist. But I could see a glint of deceit behind those well-meaning, shiksa eyes. She was just another cog in the global Christmas conspiracy, and I was determined to be the monkey wrench.

I realized these juvenile methods were getting me nowhere. Not only would I have to be stealthier about my work, I'd have to become more scientific. Through the years my bedroom became a monument to my obsession. I had intensive charts, diagrams, and statistics all relating to the enigma that is Kris Kringle. I even developed a crude tracking system that became the basis for the Global Positioning System now used by the United States Military. And don't think I ever saw a dime from that one. But, no matter what I did, the results were always the same: no presents on Christmas.

I became overwhelmed by my years of failure, and resorted to pelting Salvation Army Santas with gefilte fish just to relieve the tension. Luckily none of these assaults were ever documented by the authorities because no one was really sure how to spell "gefilte." If I were any closer to rock bottom I'd be giving friction dances to the lapless veterans at Jumbo's Clown Room.

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