Billy placed the red plate of sparking sugar crystal covered cookies at Santa’s feet.  The aroma of freshly baked cinnamon and cloves almost covered up the smell of fresh blood.  

“I promise I’ve been good this year, Santa.” Billy said, almost like it mattered.  Santa had missed his house last year.  Billy was sure it was just a misunderstanding he didn’t get his hammer and tacks, or the whip that cracks like he’d asked for.  It couldn’t have been because of the dead squirrel he’d snuck into the girl’s lunchbox at school. That had been a funny joke.  She’d made such a fuss about it even though it was already dead.  

He’d made absolutely sure that Santa would have to let him explain what a good boy he’d been this year.  The tripwire he’d strung in front of the Christmas tree had worked like a charm, Santa hadn’t seen it at all. He’d fallen headfirst on the hearth stones by the fire and knocked himself out cold.  Silly old elf.  Now he was laying in a growing pool of blood that Billy kept using Santa’s red hat to wipe up.  Santa would be okay, he was magic after all.  

Honestly, Billy hadn’t even been all that bad this year.  He could only think of one time he’d gotten scolded. When he had put weed killer in Freddy McCooly’s water bottle at soccer practice and then laughed when he drank it.  It wasn’t his fault Freddy’s head looked just like a fuzzy yellow dandelion.  Really, he’d been doing him a favor.  Besides, Freddy was going to be fine.  Mostly.  

Okay, and last week too, if he was being truthful, which he was because that’s what good little boys were. Of course, one knew about this one so it didn’t really count, but he was prepared to admit it if Santa brought it up. The head of baby Jesus in the church’s large outdoor nativity scene had been replaced with a dead possum head he’d found on his way to school.  Seeing batty old Ms. Conner from across the street taken away in an ambulance when she’d found it the next day before going to Mass had been especially satisfying. He’d always hated her dumb, fat garden gnomes he keep tripping over when he went to pee on her rose bushes. It wasn’t like he was the one that gave her a bad heart though, so Santa could surely forgive him those minor things when he woke up.

That’s when Billy noticed the blow poke, the long metal tube with the barbed hook on the end that Daddy used to stir and blow on the fire.  Santa had landed right on top of it.  Billy picked up the end of the blow poke and yanked on it.  It was stuck fast underneath Santa’s enormous belly.  

He yanked again, this time even harder.  There was a distinct ripping sound of cloth and flesh tearing as Billy fell backwards and landed on this butt in an undignified huff, the bloody blow poke clutched tightly in his hand.  Everything looked okay for a second, then the side of Santa exploded, a flood of squishy red and pink meats leaked out.  Billy scurried back out of the way but still got some on his favorite reindeer slippers.  

“Eww. Gross, Santa,” Billy exclaimed, and kicked Santa’s body with his now blood-covered slippered foot.  

None of this was going the way Billy planned.  Maybe if he just put everything back where it was supposed to go.  The long gooey intestine was slippery in his hands and the cut in the side of Santa they had come out of didn’t want to fit them back in.  Billy finally got frustrated enough he threw them in the fireplace instead.  They cracked and popped cheerily, smelling a little of the sausage his mother made in the mornings and poop.

Santa looked a bit deflated now. He let out a low painful groan as Billy poked him in the face with the bloody end of the blowpoke. He couldn’t be hurt too bad if he was still making noise.  If anything, Billy could stuff him with some of the red tinsel from the tree as a replacement, and, he giggled, maybe a bowl of strawberry jelly from the fridge.  

Billy had worn himself out with all that yanking and mopping.  He sat down cross legged in front of the plate of cookies he’d brought Santa earlier and reached for one with a bloody hand.  Santa would forgive him for eating one of his cookies.  Santa would forgive him for a lot of things.  Billy wouldn’t let him go until he did.