This Ain’t Halloween


“This ain’t Halloween,” Chaz said, revolver cocked and pressed into the intruder’s neck. Chaz had been nursing a warm beer in the dark trailer, watching the lanky man trudge through the howling nor’easter with alarming ease, robbing the double-wides across the unplowed lot, the contents of the burlap sack slung over his shoulder growing with each visit. Chaz’s phone lay silent in his pocket. The uncut drugs on his coffee table nixed any idea of calling the cops. Besides, the neighbors had been a nagging pain in his ass ever since he moved from prison to the park last year. They were always watching, mouthing off about this or that before Chaz could set one foot outside. It had felt good to be the voyeur for a change.

He cursed his curiosity, because the figure clad head to toe in burgundy sweats now stood dripping in the open doorway, letting the storm suck the life out of his home. Chaz had the drop on him but the thrill was gone.

He told the stranger to close the damn door, kicked a few empty cans out of the way and stood to get a better view. His legs wobbled as he leaned against the wall for support, but he kept a firm grip on the gun. The snow had ruined his tradition of spending Christmas Eve drunk in a bar, so he’d wasted the better part of the day making up for it.

The man sucked deep ragged breaths behind a plastic Santa mask that appeared old and beaten in the dim light. The left cheek and nose had been scraped, rosy red to yellow bruise and a splash of red around the corner of the mouth looked like Santa had found a raw holiday roast. His pants were tucked into puffy black boots and on his hands he wore thin white gloves stained black with soot or oil. Chaz ordered Santa to drop the sack and he did, spilling bottles of prescription drugs and bundles of cash on the floor.

Merry fuckin’ Christmas, he thought. His jaw dropped at the sight of the loot. The old timers across the street must be downing palm-fulls of pills a day. Serves ’em right. He could split the meds up, repackage the stuff. Between the scrips and his current stash, he could make enough to leave the terrible New England weather behind for good. Chaz looked back to Santa with a grin that mirrored the plastic toothy smile. But his excitement quickly faded. A tuft of curly gray hair poked out between the mask and hood. Worry lines in Santa’s forehead and grooves in his teeth made the mask appear life-like. Behind the tiny black pupil holes, something in his eyes whispered predator.

“Take off the mask.” Santa stood still, hands limp at his sides. Chaz repeated the command, screaming, his revolver shaking uncontrollably in his hand.

Chaz heard a loud pop and a crash as a bullet shattered the window, ricocheting into his knee. He collapsed in a heap, sending two stray rounds of his own into his favorite sofa chair before losing hold of the gun. Santa looked out the window, then crouched to sweep the presents back into his sack. Chaz cried out in agony, fingers clenched around his thigh but unable to touch the wound. Once the sack was full again, Santa paused and rummaged back through its contents. When he found what he was looking for, he held it up to his ear, shook it twice and, satisfied, set the bottle of percs at Chaz’s feet with a nod. Grunting, Santa stood to leave. He spun on his heel and opened the door to the storm. His eyes crinkled at the sight of the drifting snow. He pulled a striped candy cane from his pocket, gently hung it on the knob, then turned, put a finger beside his nose and winked before slipping out the door.

Outside, Rudolph sat hunched on the steps, his felt antlers cockeyed, cigarette smoke mingling with steaming heat from the gun in his hands. Santa gave him a pat on the shoulder and marched on. They were behind schedule and there were deliveries to be made.

~ fin ~

Irvin’s debut collection, SAFE INSIDE THE VIOLENCE, is a finalist for the 2016 Anthony Award for Best Anthology or Collection. He is also the author of FEDERALES and BURN CARDS. He lives in Boston, MA with his wife and two sons.