Ah, those good old Cape May days… by Jackson D’Catur
I may have to change Christmas a little this time around, I’m afraid. Every year, more of you cease to use your fine chimneys and hearths and seal them up, or fill them with dried flowers and other tat that makes a descent somewhat tricky for an old chap like myself. And after a few memorable attempts, I will not be trying to navigate any more central heating vents. In the last one, in one of those fancy modern homes that jostle for room on the way to the Point, I was stuck fast and feared my remains would be found in the spring when squirrels had eaten the flesh from my bones, and had I not had a hand grenade in the pocket of my fine ermine-lined jacket, I would have surely perished.
As it was, I rolled the grenade (I usually carry one, as they can remedy all sorts of problems, from a nest of North Korean machine-gunners to a roving pack of Wildwooders, to a dispute over a parking space on Beach) down the vent and the explosion propelled me out of the side of the building and into the kiddy pool. Needless to say, that house got no presents from Santa, other than a scorched lounge.
Of course, my role as Santa goes back to the very origins of the story – you might assume that, being a ludicrously rich and generous man, I decided to become a local incarnation of Mr Claus. But the truth, as always, is more intriguing: back in my day, Santa Claus was a bit of a ne’er-do-well whose real name was Sammy Hawse. Sammy liked to gamble, and after a win at Atlantic City he would return to Cape May and stumble around handing out random gifts and cash. In time, his slurred introductions, his trademark lucky red gambling jacket and his drunken largesse became the basis for a nice little legend of a jolly, red-faced demigod called “Santa” who slipped down chimneys (rather than his real-life habit of slipping off bar stools, senseless).
Sadly, Sammy’s gambling ended badly and he was shot through the heart by an enraged card shark after he made the mistake of playing no fewer than three aces of hearts in the same hand.
Well then, what could I do except take up the mantle and become Santa himself? I settled on a date, the day before my birthday, and had one of my finest carriages outfitted specially. Then I had a snug and startling red outfit stitched up. Young Albert was dressed similarly, and from that came, I think, the notion of Santa’s elves, though Young Albert is mightily offended at such a comparison.
So, dear friends, this year, I will be knocking directly on the front door. Be warned: I prefer fine malt and shortbread.