“Christmas is comin’ up and, my boy, Max would really get a kick out of hearing from Santa.”
“Whadaya want me to do?”
“Well, you can tell him what Herbie said.”
Steve was familiar with some of my schtick with the pseudo-friends in the fantasy world I’d built for them. But, to divulge the true identity of certain characters could be, for me, a professional risk. I had, after all, a reputation to maintain. His shift was ending and mine was starting.
We worked on a psychiatric unit of a major metro hospital. If you thought you were Jesus, or if you were beating the hell out of yourself and wanted to die, Steve and I were the people you would meet at the hospital. The paranoid, the crazy, the terminally depressed, the lonely and confused, the drunks and junkies, or anyone else who could make it past the ER doc’s came to our unit. A pop-up in my head said “go for it,” and so I did.
“He’s an elf, man. He works in Santa’s toy shop. But, he really wanted to be a dentist. Don’t you know the story?”
“No, I ‘m afraid I don’t. Wanna tell me all about it?”
Slowly, Steve leaned back in his chair and folded his arms across his massive chest. His smile morphed into a look of feigned curiosity on a round and ruddy face, framed with long white hair with a few days growth away from a full white beard. I kicked back from my computer, and submitted evidence in support of my petition. I began with the story of my son losing a tooth.
It was shortly after his birthday in September. The routine was familiar to Max, so he washed his baby molar nice and clean and put it under his pillow with great expectations of finding, in the morning, a gift from the Tooth Fairy. Unfortunately, he was wrong on two accounts. First, his father had recently expunged any and all references to “fairies” from the household lexicon. This was his father’s flailing attempt at pushing back against the political correctness encroaching on the sacred ground of traditional language and his parental responsibilities. At least, that’s the way his father saw it. Secondly, his father explained to Max that because he lived in the country the entity now known as the Tooth Angel (an association more closely identified with his father’s evangelical religious orientation) might, in fact, have some difficulty finding Max’s house. The excuse was lame, even by elves standards, but did serve the purpose of deflecting his son’s repeated inquiries about the absence of the expected TRDF, or “Tooth Replacement Delivery Flight.”
When November pushed away October and his shiny tooth remained under his pillow, Max asked his father if the reason the Tooth Angel had yet to arrive was because it was too cold outside. “It’s almost Thanksgiving, Dad. What if Jenny The Tooth Angel can’t find our house because of the snow?” His worry increased with each added contingency. “And, and, and, what if her tiny wings freeze up,” he asked nervously?
Poor little fellow, trying desperately to reason his way out of the conundrum of confusion surrounding his understanding of “Tooth Replacement Theory”, or TRT. It was at this point that Daddy lit upon the “Path of Embellished Explanations,” or PEE.
But before I could continue, my narrative was interrupted by a soft and gentle hand grasping my right shoulder from behind. The soothing voice of Cleopatra, the night Charge Nurse, came as a whisper to my left ear.
“All this talk about an elf named Herbie,” she said. “I just don’t know if that’s a really good thing for you right now.”
She and Steve began to laugh. “There’s a private room at the end of the hall,” Steve said. “We could put him there.”
“That’s a good idea,” Her Highness replied.
Then, she turned to me and said with the compelling authority of her many years of clinical experience, “Now, how about a cheese sandwich, and maybe a couple benzo’s?” We can talk about all these Elves and missing teeth later today after you see the doctor, Hmmmmmmm? Whadaya think?”
I pressed on, making my case for the Cavalcade of Christmas Characters I’d created for my boy. The Queen of the Nile sat down next to Steve and asked what we were talking about.
As I spoke she removed her right leg, flipped it so the sole of the foot faced up and the toes pointed forward. Whipping out a Cigarillo, she lit up, and slipped her smoke between a couple of toes she had filed out in order to make her prosthetic leg a mobile ashtray. Fortunately, we worked at a hospital that hadn’t succumbed to all that “smoking is bad for you” hysteria. Lot’s of staff were professional wheezers, and it made Cleopatra feel right at home. She suggested I reconsider continuing with this unnecessary and utterly irrelevant tangent. So, I shook off the flashback and brought her up to speed.
“I was just telling Santa here about one of his elves,” I replied, regaining my bearing.
“Santa? Who’s Santa?” the good Queen queried.
“He is,” I said, pointing to Steve with my arm fully extended.
She gave a lengthy pause and stared open-mouthed at him, whereupon Steve sheepishly confessed to his newly assumed dual identity. A look of confusion erupted across her face and gave way to more royal laughter as Her Majesty asked, “Has this been going on for a long time, now? Should I prepare a sedative for you, too?”
“You might want to get a few sedatives ready,”……., and here Steve paused, “cause there’s actually what, two or three of us, or me,” he stuttered.
“Huh,” Cleopatra puffed?
“Let me see if I can help here,” I offered. “Steve is gonna be Santa for my son, Max. But, before he does that, he’s gotta be Tonto, cause that’s his e-mail name, and Max needs an e-mail address to call Herbie to tell Santa what he wants for Christmas, so I can get it for him. Get it?”
“What I will get is a couple of sedatives,” Cleopatra replied. Glancing at Steve, she offered, “You guys want to bunk together at the end of the hall? You seem like a match.”
Steve, and our Royal Charge Nurse knew a little about my boy’s disabilities. I had given them some history on Max and his florid imagination, and Steve seemed to have taken a liking to my son. I was usually guarded in discussions concerning my boys disabilities, but I figured I could trust him and the Good Queen. So, I opened up a bit and drove my points.
Kids with disabilities tend not to have many friends, and Max was no exception. Steve understood this from a clinical point of view, and so did the Queen of the Nile. The room became quiet as I told the story of how important it was to Max that he learned to walk so that he could play with friends, and how Daddy found Herbie.
Well, Max worked real hard, just like his older brother, Sammy, who had the same disability. Both of them used their walkers inside the house during the winter and outside in the summer. Up and down the sidewalk and around the yard on the grass, they would walk. Their Mom had set up rest stops so they could sit down and rest up after walking about 50 feet. After wiping their brows and having a drink from their Sippy Cup, off they would go, Sam leading in front and Max bringing up the rear. Day after day they would work hard, the both of them hoping to learn to walk someday.
But, sometimes they would fall. And, sometimes it would really hurt when they hit the ground. Once, Max cut his face and needed stitches over his left eye. Another time he fell flat on his face because he couldn’t get his hands up in front of him to protect himself. Sammy would fall, too. Outside church one morning, Daddy slipped on the ice while carrying Sammy, and both of them hit the deck. Sammy’s head went “crack” when he hit the sidewalk. Sammy said it was real scary, and it made him cry. But, Max had the worst fall of all.
One day, just before Christmas, Max went shopping with Mom. He wanted to get a present for his cat Eddy, when he tripped and fell at the store. Mom said she could hear the sound when Max’s head hit the floor and she knew it was a bad fall. Max immediately went to sleep right there on the floor in front of the check-out aisle. Then, he had a really bad seizure. It took a long time for an ambulance to get their and Max wouldn’t wake up for the longest time. When he started turning blue in the face, Mom thought she might need to help him breath. All the while Mom was praying and trying to help Max she felt like crying, but she had to take care of Charlie too, who was sitting in a stroller next to her.
A nice lady, who also was a nurse, came to help Mom with Charlie, and finally the ambulance came. Max woke up when he was on his way to the hospital. His head started hurting real bad. In the emergency room they took some pictures of his head. A nice doctor came to see him and told him he had a fracture in his skull just behind and above his right ear. That made Mom and Dad real worried. They asked if there was any blood shown on the pictures and the doctor said,”No.” No blood, no surgery; that’s what Daddy thought.
Mom and Dad started praying very hard for Max. And, they asked everybody they knew to pray, too. Some of them did, like Soozy the Secretary on the station where Dad worked, some of the nurses, and even Tonto.
While he was in the hospital, Santa decided to come and see Max to cheer him up. He really did! Dad even got his picture with a United States Military Escort. I think the Marines might really have been Borkus and The Squealer in disguise. You never know. I think Santa did that because none of the guys from church, those Max wanted to be his friends, well, they never called or sent a card, or anything. What gives with that?
Dad went back to the story about Max working so hard to learn to walk. There was just one problem. When they did learn to walk, who could they play with? Who would come to visit? Who would call them or e-mail them? Dad wondered what he could do about that. He began to think real hard about friends for Max. One morning, Dad woke up with an idea and told Mom all about it.
“I know what I’m gonna do,” Dad told Mom with a smile. “What’s that, sweetie? “Mom asked.
“I’m gonna get some friends for Max,” Daddy said with a smile even bigger than the first one. “And then, he’ll be happy because he won’t be so lonely.” “That’s wonderful, “Mommy squealed, and rushed up to Daddy to give him a kiss and a hug. “Where are they,” she asked excitedly?
Slowly, with great big eyes and the biggest smile, Daddy raised his pointy finger and tapped the side of his head. “Right here,” he said triumphantly!
Max’s tooth was still under his pillow on Thanksgiving, so Daddy called up the North Pole and asked Herbie H. Herbsen, chief of all elves working the night shift in the toy shop if he would tell Santa to ask Jenny to get on the stick and make TRDF. The weather was getting bad, maybe even too cold for a night flight into a Minnesota winter. Max was worried that she might have wing problems and maybe even crash.
“But, Jenny was out to Max’s house yesterday,” Herbie said over the super-secret number on the secure telephone line. “She was here, last night,” Daddy asked loud enough for Max to hear? “She hurt her foot? Is it bad?”
Herbie explained to Daddy that Jenny hurt her foot when she crashed into the wall of the house and fell to the ground after a blast of wind hit her while attempting a night landing outside his bedroom window. Relaying that information to Max, Daddy also said that Herbie gave him his assurance that a replacement Angel would make another flight very soon. Curiously, and unknown to Max, the TRDF would take place the morning following Mommy’s shopping trip to Wal-Mart.
Herbie, therefore, as Daddy explained it, became the hub of the Wheel of Excited Expectations, or WEE. All contacts, for TRDF and the ramp up to Christmas were to go through the chubby little elf with the squeaky voice and thick glasses. Daddy explained to Steve and Cleopatra that he soon learned Herbie would not be able to fulfill all his imaginary responsibilities in the vast cavern that was Max’s mind. Herbie needed help. And so, Daddy went into a voluntary short-stay coma (curiously resembling a post-prandial nap) and came out after the supper dishes were done with some names that would prove to be of help in perpetuating the PEE.
Max needed a friend and the kids in town and the kids at church didn’t seem to care much about him. Max was very friendly. He was kind, and had a really big smile. But, the other kids were always doing something else and some of them thought he looked funny because of the way he walked. It was his disability that made him wobble, and stutter, and sometimes tremble with his hands. Daddy really didn’t know why they wouldn’t play with Max. Sometimes it made him mad. It even made Mommy cry.
When the replacement Tooth Angel made a successful flight, Daddy told Max her name was Ferbie. But, when Max lost another tooth and she was really late this time, Daddy was notified by those bulletins that Herbie posted in his head that Ferbie had crashed, too. It was because she was too chubby and couldn’t make it through the window screen.
“Wait a minute,” Steve interrupted. “I thought angels were spirits?”
“Yeah, what he said!” screeched the Queen of the Nile. They had their three feet up on chairs and her Majesty had opened my weekend supply of Cheetos. Washing down a handful of orange Styrofoam with some Cranberry juice she continued, “If they’re spirits why would they have to go through a screen window?”
“And, you guys actually went to college,” Daddy replied, slowly shaking his head with pronounced incredulity! “Didn’t they ever teach you in physics that the North Pole is shrouded in pulsating bands of increased magnetic resonance, and…, it kinda… like…, sometimes affects mass, space, and, like, time, too?”
“This is getting better and better,” Cleopatra said with a queenly chuckle. “First, it’s elves and teeth, then its fairies; no, I’m sorry, angels, and now it’s psychotic physics. Do you still have that sedative handy, Steve?” He waved her off with a giant paw of a hand and said, “Let’s wait until the end of the story.”
“You asked,” I reminded him, “about Herbie and the Angels. Here, have some more Cheetos,” and I poured him a large bowl full. “I’m almost finished.”
I patiently explained to my highly educated peers that Tooth Angels do, indeed, have mass. They are able to deliver tangible goods in three dimensions. However, because of that magnetic thingy and other phenomena, they also have the ability to change size at will, a phenomenon known as shape-shifting, both for themselves and their cargo, according to their flight instructions.
“Where do they get their instructions,” interrupted Steve, impatiently? “From The Squealer,” I replied. “Who’s he,” demanded the Queen? “Flight Director at the North Pole,” I answered. “Who packs the cargo, the gifts for your Tooth Angels, and all that stuff,” her Queeness continued? “Borkus and the boys,” I said quickly.
“Who-kus,” she probed?
“Borkus. Borkus B. Borson,” I offered. Anticipating their next question, I added, “Flight line personnel. And, yes, they are all elves. Hard workers all; built low to the ground, durable in inclement and cold weather. Borkus has a brother, you know. The Borson family is fairly prominent at the North Pole.”
“Steve asked, “What does the B stand for?” “Please, do tell,” agreed her Highness. “As you wish, Oh, Great One. He is known as Borkus Ben Borson,” I replied. “And, what’s his brother’s name,” Steve went on? “Stumpy,” I shot back. “Stumpy Borson? Sorry, doesn’t fit the flow, my man,” Steve said, his head hanging in disappointment.
“No, no, Steve! Don’t you get it?” the Queen interjected excitedly. She took a long and last draw on her stubby butt and blew a cloud of smoke into Steve’s face to bring him around. Her Royal eyes were fairly dancing. “He’s Stumpy S. Stumpson of the Stumpson family from the North Pole,” she said with a giggle. “Right?”
“Very good Your Majesty, but no Corona. The Stumpson’s are from the South Pole, “ I replied.
“Then, what’s he doing at the North Pole, and how come his name is different? How can he be Borkus’ brother if his last name is Stumpson?” Steve coughingly demanded. “Are we back in that tangent again?”
“I’m afraid we are Big Boy,” conceded the Great and Caring One.
“Some things can’t always be explained, Steve,” I interrupted. ” Like this tangent, I may have said more than I should have. Let’s just say it’s a mystery, and leave it at that,” I said finally.
It’s the same for all the others at the North Pole, whether in my head, or my son’s. Actually, it is pretty simple. You go where you gotta go to get what you need. Just open the door and it all pours out. Johnny Bahzing is the promo guy, Glonko J. Blonko Esq. is general counsel for Santa Claus, High Pants Slim is the tech guy, Jenny, Ferbie and her immature cousin Freebie are the Tooth Angels, and on and on it goes. Max loves it. And, he needs these guys, imaginary or otherwise.
I went for their throats and closed my story with an argument on behalf of compassion. I love my boys. But, I don’t like their disability’s and what it’s taken from them. I am amazed that so many people don’t get it. It frags my mind! They just walk right by Max, leaving him standing there with his shaky bird hands, and he’s wondering why nobody wants to hang out with him. I can just imagine his asking me, “Dad, what’s wrong with me? What did I do? Why don’t they like me?”
Until I figure this all out, Borkus and the boys have gotta help me. That’s where you come in.