The two of them sat there eating spiced cashews from the small plastic tub. One of the caring had left them along with a gigantic pile of Thai noodles and curried chicken. Neither of them had much of an appetite for the good food that they’d been gifted, but the bottle of single-pot Irish whiskey was sure good with the Cashews.
“I wonder why nobody makes a spicy cashew whiskey. It’s sure a good flavor.”
The other Santa shook his head slowly. The liquor was starting to make him mellow. “They call that Fireball, my friend. It’s cinnamon whiskey designed for teenage girls and twenty-three year old rodeo wannabees. No normal human drinks the stuff. But my daughter-in-law left a bottle last year. Let me go fetch it.”
“Sounds like something they both would have liked. Come to think of it, we would have killed the bottle when we were young.”
“I didn’t know your wife was a rodeo wannabee. But I knew you were a clown.”
The liquor was working on both of them, because in spite of the tragedy, they both laughed until they had snot running down their beards. It wasn’t pretty.
“Let’s eat something real before we fall over and die of stupid. I don’t think the girls would welcome us in Heaven if we showed up on Christmas day with acute alcohol poisoning.”
The first Santa shook his head sadly. Softly he said, “Neither one wants us up there with them. We gotta keep going for them.”
“And the dogs.”
“Definitely the dogs.”
Both men looked to where their assembled dogs were playing in the corner. Six lunatics engaged in a lop-sided tug-of-war. The big red one was the size of the five little white ones. All of them were having a blast.
“No funeral for either. Unless you want to preach. The lockdown is tighter than ever. Would you? You got the mojo. You’ve had it since we we went to Vietnam.”
The younger man, who was also gray-bearded and starting to stoop with age, nodded his head. 71 didn’t seem old until last Monday when both their wives died of the Chinese Virus.
“I’d be proud to preach for both of them. Since we can’t hold a service, maybe we should do it now. They’re going to be cremated tomorrow, seems appropriate.”
“I always thought being Santa on Christmas Eve was a tough job. But running the crematorium the day after Christmas? Whew, that’s a real challenge.”
Both men got up and bowed their heads.
“God, I know you needed them up there for something. Don’t know what the rush was, but since we both believe in you, we’re taking it as well as we can. But COVID the week of your birth?”
Both men wiped tears from their eyes. The younger man continued, “We worship you, and thank you for the birth of your son. We know we’ll catch up with our wives soon enough. But it hurts. First we didn’t see any children in person this year, and then even the virtual visits grew less fun as our wives struggled to breathe. Thank you for the strength to continue. Bless them and take them into your kingdom. We ask this in Your Son’s name. Amen.”
The two topped their glasses and toasted their wives.
“This is pretty pathetic. Two Santa’s drinking girl whiskey on Christmas. But we can’t go visit, and we’re stuck with each other until we get out of our quarantine.”
“Yup. But you know, if I have to lose a wife and get stuck with anyone in the world, I’m glad it’s you. After this, I don’t know anyone with more in common than us. Neighbors since we were kids. Now we’re old men.”
“Amen to that. Let’s see if we can find a mass streaming somewhere. I need a little more Jesus. And, maybe, a couple more cashews and the last of that whiskey. I’m hoping 2021 is a huge improvement.”
“It has to be. But even if it isn’t, God’s still in charge. Now, how about some butter pecan ice cream to go with that whiskey. We might as well make it festive – they’d want that.”
“Hey, speaking of festive, I was saving this for my wife, but …”
“Yeah. I think there’s going to be a lot of that in the next few weeks.”
He stifled a sob. Once he’d composed himself a bit, he grabbed the mouse on the side table and the television remote. Turning it on, he clicked through the menu until he found his bookmark. The screen lit up with the famed peacock logo, and the two turned to smile at each other.”
“Man. We were both out in the boonies that Christmas. I remember Ann Margaret in that mini-dress. Remember how hard it rained that day?”
“I thought I was going to drown in that mud. I didn’t spot you until we were leaving. That was a good time. God bless all of them. They made it seem like home for a minute or two.”
“Holy crap – it’s Bob Newhart!”
The show ended, and both of them had tears in their eyes. Not just for the loss of their wives, but for the loss of innocence. And a simpler time.
“That was great. I’d forgotten how good those shows were.”
“There’s about five more I found. I’m not going anywhere. And you still haven’t rolled out to the kitchen to get the ice cream. It’s on the second shelf of the freezer.”
On his way to the kitchen, the second man turned to his friend and said, “I love you. I’m glad we’re here together. We’ll make it. I know we will. Merry Christmas, Santa.”
“And to you as well, my brother.”