This was published last year. A few tweaks were added. For those of you old enough to remember, this is a take on a poem Win Stracke recorded, "Clout City Christmas".
Santa was gearing up for his midnight run through Chicago on Christmas Eve. As the elves loaded the last packages and retired to raid the liquor cabinet, Santa kissed Mrs. Claus, gave her a hearty swat on the behind, and prepared to depart.
Out of the swirling snow a long haired, bearded, robed figure appeared. There was a golden aura surrounding him. It was Jesus Christ.
Jesus asked Santa if he could accompany him on his trip to Chicago. The big man in red knew that when the Son of God asks for something, the request should be considered a Commandment, to be willfully and cheerfully obeyed.
Chicago style, St. Nick shrugged, put his hands palms up, and said, "Yeah. Sure."
The sleigh's flight path took it into Chicago over the lake from the Northwest. The first stop was Uptown. It was not a home, but a homeless shelter. Jesus noted the men, women, and children, especially the children. There would be no sugar plums dancing in their heads this eve. By morning they would be on the cold streets again begging and trying to survive.
By the New Year, the shelter would be closed due to lack of funding.
Santa left packages with toys, gloves, scarves, toiletries, and other items.
The next stop was the Gold Coast. The buildings were lit up, lights twinkled along Michigan Avenue, and the architecturally significant mansions and newer McMansions were finely decorated. Santa and Jesus went from home to home, high-rises, townhomes, and single families to drop off gifts.
Christ noted the finery of the homes, the best that money can buy. He noted excess of every kind. A gluttony of riches.
They traveled into the city, circling the Loop. The streets and stores decorated to celebrate "The Holiday." Jesus took note of that too. Nowhere was Christmas to be found. Not even a sign proclaiming "Peace on Earth. Goodwill towards men". Nothing except something called "Holiday".
Then, Santa did something unusual. He went underground. Not literally under the earth, but through the underground Wacker and Michigan Avenues. He knew every nook and cranny where homeless street denizens of the underground slept. He left packages for them. These were people who gave up all hope except the will to live, at least another day.
Jesus took in the sight of people sleeping in cardboard boxes, wrapped in layers of clothing, with all their possessions stacked on the ground or loaded into shopping carts. He winced at the pungent odor of the unwashed.
Santa saw a look of profound sadness on Christ's face.
The sleigh alit atop City Hall. Jesus noticed a peculiar smell, the perfume of graft and corruption, the smell of money. Santa delivered the fat envelopes stuffed with cash to each alderman's desk. He knew about pay to play. Santa wanted no trouble from city officials next year.
Next stop was Stroger Hospital, where the poor seek treatment for their ills and the seriously injured or wounded are brought. The waiting area for the emergency room was packed to overflowing. These were people who had no place else to go when they were sick or injured.
Men, women, and especially children, in various states of illness and minor injury, all waiting patiently and not so patiently to be treated. Sirens blared as ambulances delivered more charges. Triage personnel tried to sort out the most serious. The decision of who would get treated and who would wait all night and into the next day.
In the Trauma Unit, doctors and nurses heroically battled to stabilize, patch up, or save the lives of people who were shot, stabbed, beaten, or victims of other violence and mayhem. Their movements were energetic. Their eyes relayed weariness. Santa left the staff presents in their break room.
The night was wearing on. There was still much work to do.
They flew through the Westside, the Lawndale neighborhood, where hope goes to die and when there is nothing left to steal, dreams are stolen. They entered the homes of the poor. Santa left parcels at each one, taking special care to arrange the children's just right. Jesus noted the lack these people suffered. He saw children sleeping, sometimes two, three, or more in a single bed. Stoves and ovens were going to provide extra heat.
There was cacophony coming through the walls of various buildings and homes. Yelling and screaming. The noise of domestic disturbances and arguments by people whose desperation make them so angry, they lash out at the ones they love.
While flying to another block, Jesus noticed blue lights swirling through the snow. Santa flew the sled lower. A police car was parked in an alley, the doors open and Mars lights twirling. Two burly cops were standing over the latest victim of mayhem in Chicago. A teenager, whose crimson blood was staining the pure white snow. His dead eyes staring at the sky. The screams of an ambulance pierced the night air.
Off they flew, until Jesus saw red blinking lights and a flurry of activity. There was a huge orange glow lighting up the night sky. The smell of thick black smoke was strong. There were cold huddled masses on the street watching firemen try to put out a blaze and rescue the inhabitants of a large apartment building. Icicles hung from several helmets. Down the street, a Salvation Army truck was handing out hot coffee, donuts, blankets, and gloves.
They entered the parts of the city where the working classes live. As they went house to house, Jesus noted piles of stuff filling every nook and cranny of the homes. Every child and adult toy or gadget imaginable. Santa lamented that easy credit and rampant consumerism was making his job harder and harder.
Then it was off to the south side. As they approached the Englewood neighborhood, Santa started taking evasive action. Jesus asked why. Santa replied that for the Son of God, he sure did not know much. Santa patiently explained he was dodging bullets. Jesus just shook his head.
When they hit the Southside neighborhood known as the "Hundreds" Santa put the sleigh down. He guided it through the streets. It was worse than Englewood to fly through. Out of nowhere, armed thugs surrounded the sleigh. They interrogated the fat man, making sure he was not from an outside gang or drug operation poaching on their turf. Once assured he was harmless, they grabbed several packages and let him go on his merry way.
The sleigh detoured to the Southwest and Northwest sides. Cop and Fire lands. As Santa made his deliveries, Jesus noticed family members missing, the police and firefighters working on this night.
There was something else He noticed it in other homes. It did not escape His attention during all the other stops. Pictures. Pictures of men and women in dun-colored uniforms, some looked like they were armed to the teeth. Warriors in war-torn lands, away from their families during another year of perpetual war. Soldiers, Sailors, Marines, and Airmen, from across the social, racial, and economic spectrum.
After they landed back at the North Pole, Jesus noticed a single package left in the corner of the sleigh. He pointed it out to the fat man. Santa sighed, grabbed the package, and gave it to Him.
"This one is for you".
Jesus opened the package. Inside was a whip, crown of thorns, hammer, and nails. He shot Santa a fierce dirty look. Santa kindly said,"Maybe next time, in your next life, you can get things right".
Jesus walked off, shaking his head. He disappeared into the swirl of Arctic snow.
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