Ghosts Next Door

Ghosts Next Door
by Lopaka Kapanui

Dec 20, 2018

Believe in Shane

My life had fallen apart to the point that my own daughter wanted nothing to do with me, her new stepfather was well off, and I guess money talks and love can't afford twenty-one or all things Roxy forever.
Be that as it may; being a part-time teaching assistant at a local occupational college was only enough to pay the rent. Anything outside of that didn't leave me with much to pay the utilities, car insurance, or fill my refrigerator. So, I volunteered to be a Santa Claus at a local mall for the Christmas season. No matter what anyone tells you, it's a thankless job, but one has to have the patience of a saint to don the red suit and white beard. The sum of crying children that parents want to place on your lap against their own free will is innumerable, as are the number of drunk women and parents with childhood issues who wish to re-live a moment that they believe they were cheated out of while growing up. Let's not even begin with the soiled diapers and throw up all over the place; thank goodness that no one can recognize me in this get up.
It was a Tuesday evening, and there didn't seem to be too many people at the mall. I took that as an opportunity to take a break until the line began to get long enough for me to make my return as the white-bearded red hat wonder. Geeze...who was I kidding? 

I was halfway to the back room when a chubby little Hawaiian boy pulled on my coat and wouldn't let go until I stopped to talk to him. He was cradling a brown paper bag in his arms, and the look on his face told me that he was in dire need to have my full attention. I sat on my knees, and in a hushed tone, I began to ask about his dilemma.
He held the paper bag up to me so that I could see what was in it; it was a little black and gray puppy.
"It looks like a German Shepard," I said softly.
"It is," he whispered back. "It's my puppy, Randy,"
"Is Randy sleeping?" I asked.
"No," the little boy said, "he died, he choked on a chew toy."
"Awwww, buddy, I'm sorry to hear that," I replied. At that moment, I was not sitting on Santa's chair at my designated spot in the mall. I was on my knees talking to a little boy who was showing me his dead puppy. I forgot where I was, I forgot that I was in my get up. I forgot I was Santa Claus, I was just me, Raymond Jesus.
"You should take your puppy back home with you, your Mom and Dad can help you." At this point, I began to look around for the boys' parents, but I didn't see anyone.
"No, my mom wanted me to bury it, but I brought Randy here because I know you can fix him and make him good Santa," Then I remembered who I was, but what was I supposed to do? Take off my costume in front of everyone and break this kids heart? Give him a reality check that would probably scar him well into his adulthood?
Right then, the little boy took the puppy's body out of the brown paper bag and put the lifeless form of the small animal in my hands.
"Just hold him Santa, just hold him," the look in his eyes was the look I remembered all too well. That look of innocent hope as if nothing was impossible that look of wishes that could do nothing else but come true, that look of a child's fervent dream becoming a reality as they leave every hope and desire they have in your hands. That was the look that my daughter had on her face right before I told her that her mother and myself were going to divorce and that we wouldn't be living together in our house anymore. I never saw that look on her face again.
I held the pup in my hands and stroked it's fur again and again until I found myself caressing it with my cheeks. I gave it all the love I had left as I pet it, again and again, all the while blowing softly on its face. A second later it's body stiffened and heaved up a little vinyl chew toy as it came flying out of its mouth. I placed it softly on the cold tile as it began to cough and throw up. It was alive, it lay on its side breathing but it was very much alive.
"See? I knew I knew you had to hold it and love it, I knew," the little boy said excitedly as he picked his puppy up in his arms and hugged it.
Just then I saw a woman stop a few feet behind the boy and then she came walking towards him.
"I'm so sorry, he's upset because his puppy died. I tried to reason with him but he kept insisting that Santa Claus could fix the puppy. He ran out of the house after that. I've been going absolutely crazy looking for him. We live across the street from the mall, and I don't know how he got here on his own. Shane, let's go now and stop bothering this poor man," the woman insisted.
"You're his Mom?" I asked.
"Yes," she replied, shaking my hand. "I'm Teresa, this is my son Shane,"
"He fixed him, mom! Santa Claus fixed him!" Shane screamed as he held Randy up for his mother to see.
"Oh my god!" Teresa shrieked.
"Dog CPR," I whispered and winked.
She mouthed the words, "Thank you" to me, and Shane gave me a big hug before they left.
I could still hear him screaming down the mall, "I told you! I told you!"
The following evening as I was changing out of my costume into my regular clothes, our boss came to the back and said, "Raymond, someone is waiting for you outside!"
Knowing my luck it was somebody coming to collect money. I made my way to the door and I tried to remember which bill I forgot to pay and why would anyone come here to collect? To my surprise, it was Shane's mother Teresa, who was waiting outside.
"You're the Santa Claus that talked to my son Shane about his puppy yesterday, right?" She asked.
"Yeah, how'd you know?" I returned.
"I asked your boss," she said.
"Oh, okay, so the puppy is all good? No brain damage or anything?" I asked.
"No, surprisingly enough, Randy is one hundred percent like brand new," she smiled.
"I'm glad to hear that," I said. "Teresa, right?"
"Yes," she nodded.
"I'm Raymond, it's nice to meet you,"
I extended my hand in greetings, but she hugged me instead.
"Where's Shane?" I asked.
"He's with his father for the next couple of days, it's his turn," she nodded.
"Cool, well thanks and say hi to Shane," I said as I gave a short wave.
"Well, no wait; would you let me treat you to dinner or something? I think it was wonderful what you did for Shane yesterday and I just wanted to say thank you,"
I could see that it was difficult for her to ask such a thing and she appeared to be very nervous. It's one of those things that divorced parents go through, especially ones who were married for a length of time. Even asking someone out to a casual dinner can be awkward, speaking from experience, of course.

"There's a ramen place around the corner if you wanna go there?" I suggested.

"Is it good?" She asked.

"The best," I confirmed.
The dinner turned out to be really lovely, all we did was talk about our own kids and what went wrong with our marriages. I didn't push it beyond that in the beginning, but by the end of the evening, we exchanged numbers and Facebook profiles. It didn't turn out to be a Christmas miracle or anything, but who would have thought that a little Hawaiian boy and his unwavering belief in Santa Claus could change one person's cynicism and bring a dead puppy back to life?
Certainly not me.

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