The Ungulates Are Waiting: a Xmas Story

New Work

By Thomas Trofimuk

Frank Robertson drops his legs over the edge of the bed and leans up. “Damn,” he whispers. Something woke him up and he’s starting to know what it was. He does not know what time it is, except that it is pitch black in the room. His wife sleeps with the clock radio on her side of the bed because she gets up first. He fumbles for his glasses, slides them on, and stands up. The window is open and the room is cool-cold. He reaches for his housecoat. In his office he can see that it is 3:15 a.m. He sits at his desk and unscrews the cap of a tangerine-coloured fountain pen and begins to write in his journal. He is working on a new story and he has just dreamed a scene. There was no way that he was going to let it go. After three pages he screws the cap back onto the pen and places it on top of his journal.

In the living room, the Christmas tree is dark. He presses the remote button and it lights up the room. Santa Claus is sitting on the couch and it looks as if he has been drinking Frank’s good scotch. He is slouched and disheveled. Frank’s bottle of eighteen-year old Laphroaig is sitting on the blanket box. The ice bucket is beside it.

“Jesus Christ, you scared me.”

“It’s Santa, actually,” Santa says. “And I am sorry about that.”

“You’re a little early,” Frank says. “Christmas is four days away.”

“Early bird gets the whisky,” Santa says. “I was in the neighbourhood and thought I’d drop by. This sure is bloody good whisky. And anyway, this is Solstice.”

“You’re Santa Claus.” Frank is unsure about how to proceed. This is a first.

“Yes, that’s one option. Or, it could be that I’m your neighbour, Angie Howards, dressed up like Santa Claus. Could be I had a horrible night, and that I was feeling so goddamned lonely that I used that key you gave me last year to look after your dog when you were in France. And maybe I came in here hoping you’d wake up so she could talk with you. Maybe.”

Frank is thinking maybe it wasn’t the story that woke him up. Rather, it was Angie Howards dressed as Santa stumbling around the living room and drinking his good Scotch that did it.

“Regardless, “ Santa continues, “I’m enjoying this drink.”

“I’m glad,” Frank says. He smiles. “Hypothetically, if you were my neighbor, Angie Howards, what would she want to talk about? Hypothetically.”

Santa smiles. “First, she’d have to be quite drunk to do something like this.”


“Good… And second, she wouldn’t be wearing anything under this suit except a garter belt and some perfume. Let me show you.” Santa unbuttons his top and Frank gulps. Santa slips his topcoat off and Frank walks over to the sideboard and gets himself a squat glass. He pours a healthy portion of whisky and sits down in a chair across the room. Santa is a stunningly beautiful woman and he struggles to look into her eyes. “Is there a number three?”

“Yep! Number three is kissing. Santa wants a kiss. Just one itty-bitty kiss. Right on the lips. And then she’ll go back to the North Pole, where she belongs.”

Frank looks at topless Santa’s lips. They are full and inviting. It appears that Santa is a mess of lust and lonely and libation.

“Can Santa tell me what’s going on? Because I’ve always cared about Santa. In fact, Santa is one of my favourite people.”

“I’m alone,” Santa says. “Jay’s gone. He’s found a younger model. A week ago. He packed up and left. I’ve been drinking and crying. Crying and drinking. Santa is sad and lonely. You know how that goes?”

“I’m sorry,” he says. Frank knew nothing about this.

“This is all hypoallergetical,” Santa says. “Because your neighbor would never be this lonely, or sad. This is so bloody desperate and depressing. There is no Christmas for her. No, no, no no. There is no Christmas amy-nor.”

“Look, maybe we should talk about this in the morning over coffee. I’m going to pull out the hide-a-bed in my office. Mary and I will make breakfast and then we’ll talk. And by the way, you’re coming here for Christmas. You are now part of our Christmas.”

“That’s sweet but I have reindeer waiting. Ungulates. The ungulates are waiting. I’ll be fine. I’ll be fine.”

“They’ll be okay. Your ungulates are used to the cold. And I insist.”

Frank tucks Santa into the hide-a-bed – she tries twice to kiss him in the hallway – and once she’s in bed she looks up and there is such loss in her eyes that it hurts his heart.

“It’s just like Mary and Joseph and the donkey,” Santa says. “There was no room at the Inn but there was room in the stable. This is a nice stable…It’s not smelly…”

Upstairs, he gently wakes Mary, tells her about the Santa in his office and they talk until daylight.

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Thomas Trofimuk

Thomas Trofimuk’s last novel, Waiting For Columbus, has been published in numerous countries and was nominated for the 2011 IMPAC Dublin literary award. He lives in Edmonton.