The Perfect Job
Apart from hating Christmas and loathing fish, this was the perfect job for Colin.
When he first put the outfit on he wondered how low he’d sunk to find himself dressed like this. The curly white beard irritated his nose and made him sneeze onto the taster plate of buttered shrimps. His supervisor had glared at him and booked him on a food safety course.
Colin’s face itched more and more as he got hotter and sweatier throughout the day. And he couldn’t get the smell of fish out of his nostrils before it was time to start the next shift. His co-worker said the only way was to stick the whole outfit through the machine at night and have a good long soak in the bath. Dave was a pro, having done this job every year since university. Present money for the kids, he said.
But on the third day, a young woman, taking her package of smoked salmon and Dublin Bay prawns from the counter, flashed Colin a gorgeous smile, all blue eyes and lovely teeth. She beckoned him closer. He leaned forward, false beard dipping into the clam chowder.
‘I do love to see a man in a Santa outfit. Kinda sexy.’
Colin was speechless. Had he misheard? He felt anything but sexy at the best of times, never mind in the stupid Santa gear. The fleecy jacket and trousers were stifling and the fake belly not exactly flattering. Yes, he must have misheard. His mind was playing tricks on him. She was probably asking for a can of soda or some clams.
She pocketed her change and laughed. ‘See you then Santa.’
He watched her walk away. Blond curly ponytail swinging back and forth, pink jacket and tight jeans. He should’ve thought to keep her talking, but he was gobsmacked and flabbergasted by what she’d said.
After that, the Santa costume didn’t seem so bad. He thought about her all shift long, imagining what he should’ve said in answer to her revelation. He daydreamed about her as he filled the crab baguettes. He resolved to get talking to her properly next time. Ask her out for coffee. The cinema maybe. Or even dinner.
Four days later he was still thinking about her. He had got them as far as his place and a weekend of staying in bed. She liked the same music as him and the same pizza toppings. Pineapple, ham and mushrooms. No fish. They’d walked together on the beach, and he’d taken her to meet his parents. Family Christmas dinner, a day he usually dreaded. They loved her of course. In the New Year, they’d been to that fancy jewellery shop and bought a ring. Throughout all these fantasies, Colin was still in the Santa costume, washing it while she slept and back in it for breakfast. Bacon bagels. Her favourite and his.
He moved ahead a few months. Summer wedding. She, a vision in frothy white and he in a newer, shinier Santa suit, with a rounder belly, bigger buckle and longer, curlier beard. A barbeque wedding supper. Still no fish. They honeymooned in Lapland. Before this, Colin had fancied the Caribbean, but he’d have died of heatstroke in his outfit. They crossed vast sheets of soft snow in a sleigh pulled by reindeer. His bride was delighted, especially as the sleigh lifted up from the snow and shot up into the night sky.
Colin was snatched from the finest part of his honeymoon by the supervisor crashing in through the door at the back of the truck and telling him to scrub the dried fish splatters from the microwave.
Yes, it was quite a dilemma. If she said yes to a date, Colin had to decide whether he should turn up in his uniform, beard and all. He’d get some funny looks, but she might be disappointed with his jeans and t-shirt. His boring old parka and trainers. And could he really take this luxurious synthetic beard of white curls off to reveal a rather less impressive gingery-brown one beneath?
After the microwave was done, Dave arrived, late as usual. He stuck his beard on, adjusted his buckled belt and started refilling the fridge.
‘Oh, Colin. I meant to say. The supervisor has a great trick for getting you to be happy with this daft outfit. He sends his daughter over to tell you she loves to see a man dressed as Santa. Got me with it on my first day.’
Dave chuckled, his head in the fridge.
Colin felt his buoyant mood and rampant imaginings of the past few days slump down into his black wellies and disappear through the floor of the truck. He yanked the beard from his face and groaned. Christmas was a week from today. He had a horrible job, no lovely young woman to take to the family dinner and both his beards stank of chowder.
Sal’s stories appear online & in print anthologies. She won Calderdale Prize in 2011 & Greenacre Writers Competition in 2013. When not distracted by writing, reading and performing flash and short stories, she’s tackling her third AND fourth novels. A nursery cook, living by the sea in Morecambe UK, when not writing, and also while writing, she can be found watching sitcoms, listening to Squeeze & on twitter as @SalnPage