James Milano | Dirty Santa

A gray old man wanders Penn. Station New York, New York in the early evening. He wears the same thing he has worn for this whole year—red sweatpants and zip-up hoodie and a somewhat white undershirt. His beard is long and wiry and brushes against the edge of the garbage, collecting crumbs that the rest have dumped carelessly into the trash containers. Today he found a bag of popcorn, a piece of hotdog, and is currently rummaging for the full cone of ice cream he just watched someone throw out. He emerges from the can, holding the vanilla cone and brushing away the sprinkles of rubbish that had collected on the surface. As he eats he brushes the debris from his beard, staring blankly into the distance, at the bodega on the other side of the hall.

A child holding his mother’s hand stop her and points, asking, “Mommy, why was Santa in the garbage?”

The man hardly notices, but the mother is upset and embarrassed all the same because how will she get the image of a dying old Santa out of his head? And how will he ever associate Christmas with the smell of gingerbread instead of stale piss?

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