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The Second Rate Santa and the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly ... but mostly the Ugly.

When you mention mall Santa's, most people think of kids, and probably 90% of the people who stood in line and came to sit on my lap were under the age of twelve. Then you had the older kids who hated to be there, but their parents still wanted that yearly picture so they forced them to shuffle up and plop down beside Santa in the over-sized chair. There was no way those 'tweens and teenagers were about to sit on my, or any other Santa's lap.

Then there were the older people, women mostly, but a few men as well. They were a mixed bag. Some were all too eager to sit on Ol' Saint Nick's lap and reveal their heart's desire and they ran the gamut from ...

The Good - An entire shift of Hooter's girls, a couple of shapely twins, and pretty young woman who only wanted to ask Santa for her fiance to be sent back stateside from Croatia in time for their planned Valentine's day wedding.

The Bad - An obviously gay man in a trench coat, no I can't say for certain that he had on anything else, the women who obviously had some kind of Santa fetish and delighted in making my cheeks rosy, and the plethora of hacking, wheezing flu ravaged people who thought I as a mall Santa had the magical ability to ward off disease.

The Ugly - The ugly took many, many forms and will be fodder for this series throughout. When I say ugly I don't just mean physically, though Frosty knows there were plenty that filled that sleigh. Along with the aesthetically challenged I had to deal with the hygiene deficient, the personality perplexed, and the downright delusional that actually thought I could fulfill their wishes. Then, there were those who fell into all of those categories and then some. Like the couple from today's installment.

It was early on, in that first week after Thanksgiving, before I'd become completely jaded against the entire legend of Santa Claus. I'd already encountered a few weird things, but I chalked those up as anomalies. The night had been steady, but far from the hectic madhouse it would become in a few short weeks, and with less than an hour to go until the mall closed I was feeling rather jolly. (A couple of weeks alter the mall started staying open til midnight and then with an hour to go I was just trying to sane.) Most of the elves had gone home so it was just Galen and me. He took the pictures, I smiled and listened to all the kids list.

But our next customers were far from being kids. And as they walked up Galen whispered out the the side of his mouth, "Get a load of these two."

They were in their early twenties. She had on a pair of ratty red sweat pants that were two sizes two small and with her rotund build the overall package looked sort of like Santa's gift bag. If it were overstuffed with about two dozen Christmas hams. The woman's hair hadn't seen a brush since Prancer was nothing but a twinkle in his mother's eye, but she wore enough make-up to make Rudolph's nose seem dull.

In stereotypical fashion her boyfriend was as skinny as she was large. His body was all angles and bones, like a broken up candy cane. And there was a smudge above his upper lip that could have been a mustache or a smudge of soot. A chain hung from his grease-stained jeans and the cap on his head read something like, Truckers Do It For The Long Haul.

I made room for them to sit one on each side, but of course she plopped down right on my left knee. With a pat on my right, she said, "Bobby you sit here."

He shook his head. "I don't think so." His filthy hair hung stiff like icicles. Though I'd never seen icicles made of oil. But just because I'd never seen it, that didn't mean 10w-40 didn't freeze.

Like I said, I still had a bit of holiday cheer in me so I gave Jack Sprat and his girlfriend a hearty, "Merry Christmas!"

He mumbled something that might have been " F ... off and die," but I can't say for certain.

Next, as was customary, I asked what they wanted Santa to bring them this year.

She giggled and said, "An engagement ring would be nice."

"Dream on," he answered.

"Maybe a puppy then."

He cast her a dirty look. "What are you stupid? You know my mom is allergic."

She returned his nasty expression with one of her own. "Then maybe we could move to a place of our own."

At this point Galen said smile and the flash went off just as the boyfriend said, "This is bullshit. I ain't made of money."

He grabbed the girls hand and yanked her down from my lap. My knee thanked him.

Galen said to them," Want to have a look at your picture?"

"Hell no. We ain't buying no fuckin' picture."

The girl stopped walking. She crossed her arms across her chest and stuck out her bottom lip like a two year old. "I want a picture."

"What for?"

"I just do."

He hauled out his wallet by tugging on the chain." Okay, but this counts as part of your present."