Snowy whiskers, held in place by a snug elastic band make Gordon Bender’s chin itch. But he doesn’t mind. What matters is that he is ready when the children arrive. To disappoint them would be, well he’d never forgive himself.
As he dons the familiar red velvet suit, Gordon’s mind wanders back to his own childhood, triggered memories now playing inside his brain as he buckles the black patent leather belt over his pillow-stuffed belly. He is sitting on Santa’s lap, his winter chapped cheek pressed snug against Santa’s beard. Scratchy, but six year old Gordon doesn’t notice, because Santa is whispering kind words into Gordon’s ear.
Now, my boy! I hear you’ve been very good this year. Is there a special toy you would like for Christmas?
Young Gordon appears to be deep in thought, taking an eternity before whispering back. In truth, he is stalling, desperate to linger on Santa’s lap as long as possible. Kind words for Gordon are scarce in 1932. The worst year, so far, of the Great Depression. Gordon’s father, raising a motherless brood simply has nothing left to give. But Santa does, and despite the growing impatience of dozens of other eager little faces lined up and waiting, Gordon is permitted to bask at length in Santa’s affection. A gift worth more to him than the charity truck and coat he receives.
Gordon Bender’s chin is still itching. The velvet suit uncomfortably tight this season as well-his belly padding more Gordon than pillow. Small inconveniences, considering. Ten minutes per child, he’s been instructed. He won’t rush though. He’ll spend as much time as it takes, to melt each tiny heart.