We were enjoying a hot summer day at an amusement park called Santa's Village. My parents decided they would treat us to a visit with Santa, which entailed paying for a photo, not suspecting that it wasn't the real Santa, but Santa's evil twin.
Our parents were asked to wait outside, as there really wasn't room. It was a long narrow cottage, just wide enough for Santa's chair and the photographer's equipment that was directly in front of him. We were herded towards the man, placed onto his lap, then the photographer rushed back to the camera.
I'm around four or five years old. Old enough to know how a Santa visit should go. "Ho, Ho, Ho," he'd say, "What do you want for Christmas?" I'm already mulling over what I'm going to request, what toy is important enough to discuss in person, rather than including it in the annual letter that is mailed to the North Pole.
Evil Santa did not laugh. He did not ask if we've been good girls and boys. He certainly didn't want to hear my wish list of toys. That little cottage was not air conditioned, and he didn't appear too happy to have two sweaty, sticky, overheated kids dumped on him.
He peered at me. "You will get no toys this year," Evil Santa stated, "unless you stop biting your nails." He proceeded to threaten my brother, as well, the exact specifics, I don't recall, something about how he must always obey his parents.
I'm stunned, wondering how Santa knew that we were bad. My parents, I thought, must have ratted us out to Santa. I'm feeling betrayed. My brother is trying to jump off Santa's lap. There are no smiles.
The photographer's flash goes off. The moment has been captured forever and placed in a little red cardboard frame with the Santa's Village logo on it. Mom would display the photo on the mantle every Christmas, always swearing that she never provided any inside information to Santa.
In retrospect, as an adult, I realize that chewed up nails are easy to spot and what high-spirited boy doesn't disobey his parents... No need to check the list, twice, to see who's naughty or nice. Regarding Evil Santa, I feel confident that real Santa had a lump of coal to give him that was as black, cold, and hard as his heart.