“You’re very annoying,” Daniel thought as he walked past the Santa standing in the middle of the food court.
Daniel didn’t normally think bad things about people. He tended to be nice, even inwardly. But this Santa was particularly irritating.
First, his suit was green. Who had ever heard of a green Santa? Daniel thought he look more like the jolly green giant than a jolly old elf.
And his bell was huge. No jingle bells or hand bells for this guy. What he rang was a replica of the Liberty Bell and almost as large.
So Daniel allowed himself to be negative about the food court Santa. Every day, as he walked by to go the restroom he thought, “You’re very annoying.”
Today the Santa stopped ringing the bell as Daniel passed.
“What did you say?” Santa pointed at Daniel with his giant bell.
“Huh?” Daniel couldn’t imagine why Santa was calling him out. Had he spoken out loud?
“You just called me annoying.”
A little girl was putting her dollar bill in Santa’s kettle. She stopped and stared at Daniel, mouth open.
Daniel backed away from Santa and his bell. “No, I didn’t… I mean, I didn’t mean to…
Santa stepped towards him. “So you did call me annoying.
The little girl yelled out, “Santa’s going to beat him up!” Her mother scurried over and ushered the girl away.
Daniel’s eyes darted around, desperately searching for mall security. Certainly they would stop Santa from attacking him.
The Santa poked a finger at Daniel’s Payless name tag, making it jab into his chest. “What’s your problem? You one of those atheists or something?”
Santa said atheist with a short a. The mispronunciation made Daniel giggle.
Santa poked him again. “Now you’re laughing at me!”
Daniel couldn’t stop. He was being assaulted by a green Santa in the middle of the food court, and he was unable to contain his laughter.
Santa swung his bell around, aiming for Daniel’s head.
Daniel did what came naturally. He fell to the filthy floor and curled up in a ball.
“What the hell?” Santa peered down at him. “What are you doing?”
Children and their parents began gathering around the pair. A little boy nudged Daniel’s shoe with the toe of his sneaker. “Did Santa hit you?”
The circle erupted into chatter. “Santa hit that man.” “Mommy, does Santa hit people?” “I don’t like the mean Santa.” “I want to go home!”
The green Santa backed towards his kettle, ringing his bell.
“Ho, ho,ho.” He called out. “Merry Christmas, boys and girls! Santa has to head back to the North Pole. Be good! Ho, ho , ho!”
Daniel watched from the floor as Santa grabbed his kettle and ran for the door.
The little boy leaned over and peeled a straw wrapper off Daniel’s cheek. His breath smelled like peanut brittle. “The mean Santa’s gone. You can get up now, Mister.”
Daniel sat up and the crowd disbursed. The dollar girl pulled her mother over to him. “I think you’re on the naughty list,” she whispered.
Herther’s face turned red. “Leave the man alone, Cynthia.”
Daniel smiled at the girl. He stood and brushed off his khakis. “Will you ask him to take me off it? I’m really a very nice person.”
Cynthia chewed on her lip. She pointed to Daniel’s name tag. “Is that your name?”
He glanced down. “Yep. Daniel.”
She nodded. “I’ll write him when I get home.”