This was not the clatter of the goat-hooved devil girls on the roof of the Froggie Family home.
Nor the gentle patter of ballet-slippered sugarplums on the dance floor of Froggie’s dreams.
Or the gravel-chute rumble of his grandfather’s bowels.
No, these were sounds that shook the house and rattled the windows. These sounds threw Froggie from his bed. He landed on the floor and bumped his head.
Clunkitty-clunkitty CLUNK- Clunkitty-clunkitty – OUCH!!!
Froggie sat up and rubbed the knot swelling on his scalp. He heard the sound again; but, instead of the roof, the noise clamored on the floor below. He stood up to investigate. He crept down the stairs and peeked into the living room.
They were huddled in a group under the upside-down Christmas tree.
Froggie rubbed his knuckles in the hollows of his eyes. Could it be? Impossible! never bought into that ‘Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus’ crap (though he did agree, however, with that part about the ‘little minds’ of children and grown-ups). At least he hadn’t bought into it since that day three years ago in the boys’ room of White Woods Elementary School.
It had been a few days before Christmas. And he was standing at a urinal; engaged in the kind of idle game little boys play when their fly is down and their Schlupfnudel is out mingling with the public. In this case, he was drowning a cockroach in a waterfall of hot wee-wee. The cockroach spun in a yellow whirlpool on the floor of the urinal. And, every time the cockroach regained its balance, crawling toward the drain, Froggie doused it again. Finally, the cockroach gave up, gurgled and died.
Froggie zipped his fly and turned to the little boy beside him. The other little boy chewed on the end of a toothpick. He was called ‘Toothpick Rick’.
“Christmas is only three days away!” Froggie said with excitement. “I can’t wait! I was a real good boy this year! Cleaned my room! Ate Aunt Eddie’s creamed onions! Me an’ Sannie Claws had a real long talk down at the mall! I’m gonna get a mountain of stuff! What’s Sannie Claws gonna bring you?”
“Sannie Claws?!” Rick looked at Froggie with disdain. He spat out his toothpick. “Does your mother feed you crack with that welfare-cheese breakfast? There ain’t no Sannie Claws!”
“There is, too!! My mommy an’ daddy said so!”
“Now I know you smokin’ crack! Don’t you know Sannie Claws is one of those lies grown ups tell kids to make us do what they say! Grown-ups are crazy! They always try an’ control everything with lies!”
“Not my mommy an’ daddy!”
“Oh yeah?” Rick sneered contemptuously. “I bet they told you there was a Tooth-Fairy; an Easter Bunny; a Peewee Herman and that hogwash about ‘the birds an’ the bees’!”
“What hogwash about ‘the birds an’ the bees?”
Rick stuck a fresh toothpick between his teeth. He was grinning. “till you hear what they’re tryin’ to hide with that one!”
Froggie rubbed his eyes again in disbelief. They had not deceived him.
Crouched low to the floor with their backs turned, under the twinkling lights of the upside-down Christmas tree, were four steeple-capped figures dressed in black.
Froggie’s mouth fell open in wonder. His eyes were a-dazzle. His restroom wisdom completely forgotten. It’s all true!he thought. Sannie Claws! The Tooth Fairy! The Easter Bunny! Iraq’s Weapons of Mass Destruction!
Overtaken by the same goofy awe his grandfather had succumbed to only hours before, Froggie stumbled into the living room with outstretched arms and greedy fingers grabbing at the air.
“Ooh-ooh!” he hooted. “Ooh-ooh!” sounded like a monkey.
The figure crouched in the middle of the huddle under the Christmas tree quickly turned on its toes with a reptilian hiss, its talons poised for attack. It stared at Froggie with two limpid black eyes the size of dinner plates.
The seat of Froggie’s pajamas suddenly felt warm, soft and wet. the third time that Christmas Eve, Froggie dropped to the floor in a dead faint. he did, however, wonder if this creature in the shiny leather riding boots was the dreaded Peewee Herman goblin who kidnapped little boys and ate them in his playhouse.
The dish-eyed creature doused Froggie with a bucket of ice-water moments after his faint. Froggie was yanked to his feet and slapped across the cheeks.
“‘Froggie’ is a nick name!” ‘Dish Eyes’ hissed. “A pseudonym; a moniker; a false handle; an alias!”
‘Dish Eyes’ smacked him again – THWACK!!! Its hand looked like an oversized Mickey Mouse glove. It had four window-putty gray fingers – two long, two short.
“Let’s try it again. Name”
“Chocolates! Froggie Chocolates!”
“Sorry. Wrong answer.” ‘Dish Eyes’ unhooked what looked like a black cucumber ridden with warts dangling from a belt tightened around its waist. The ‘cucumber’ was made of metal and vibrated with a loud and ominous hum. It spat electrical sparks. ‘Dish Eyes’ shoved it into the crusty-chocolate opening of Froggie’s hinter parts. Froggie danced like a marionette on the strings of a drunken puppeteer.
“Aaargggh!” Froggie screamed. “I don’t know my name! My parents never told me! Maybe they told me once but I forgot! That’s God’s honest truth! My grandfather calls me ‘Froggie’ – ‘Froggie Chocolates’! I don’t know why!”
“That’s not an unlikely story” ‘Dish Eyes’ replied; wrinkling the brow of its bulbous forehead, “given the behavior of some of the ‘parents’ producing children these days. Sterilization should be made mandatory by federal law for most of them. Our Santa would find that idea most favorable.”
It looked down at a clipboard. “, we don’t have a name. For expediency’s sake, we’ll use your ‘pseudonym’ for our records. All we have for you is an address and some crude complaints registered by your neighbors. Several have stated you are a ‘bad’ child. I presume you are the ‘bad’ child in question?”
“No, I still clean my room! An’ eat my Aunt Eddie’s creamed onions! Aunt Eddie is an awful cook!” , there was that ominous hum.
“No! Please God, no! – NOT THE CUCUMBER!!!!”
There was a click. The hum whirred into silence.
“Now, please cooperate. We know you are a bad child. That is our business. It seems you have the unorthodox and wrong-headed notion a certain Mr. Jesus Christ (‘Dish Eyes’ pronounced it ‘Hay-zeus’; like a New York City Puerto Rican) was of Arab extraction. In Santa’s masterwork “You Better Watch Out!: The Great Book of He Knows When You’ve Been Bad Or Good (So Be Good For Goodness’ Sake!)”, that constitutes a ‘bad’. That is not good therefore it is bad in Santa’s eyes. The logic is simple.”
“Unfortunately, the same cannot be said of the morality of children. They must be corrected through Santa’s love. You are such a child in need of Santa and his love. Do you understand?”
Froggie nodded his head in assent. “I am a bad boy” he said.
“Good. You will come with us. We will welcome you into the frosty world of Santa’s love.” That’s when Froggie noticed that the tiny silver bell jingling on its steepled-cap looked like a grimacing human skull.