The Asylum for the Criminally Insane was designed for the kleptomaniac who stole pocket change. It was created for the man who got drunk, and in his nihilism, cut the heads off parking meters, instead of little girls. It was for the harmless and hopeless who annoyed society so much, that the citizenry couldn’t afford to let them roam free. It was for the drug addict who went to the salvation army for a bowl of soup with the stipulation that he listen to a sermon, and in so doing, he gained a faith in God. Then, he walked out into the street and took his clothes off, to get naked in Christ. It caused quite a show, and would’ve been welcome, if it had only happened once or twice, but every day, was another story. He made the business men late to their meetings, and they couldn’t have that. It’s more of a sin to be late, than to take you clothes off, when the deal is for a million dollars. There are exceptions, of course, like if Pamela Anderson did it, but when it’s an overweight middle-aged man blocking traffic, people get offended. So, the disciple was locked-up for good, in a place that fed him oatmeal, three times a day with psychotropic medication.

There was a game room, but nobody could agree on the rules. It’s horrible to play with someone who won’t let you win. It makes the crazies, even crazier.

Lewis was playing checkers by himself. Then he had sex by himself. Then he watched Oprah. Then he played chess by himself. Then he went to his room and read a book on Santa Clause. It was almost Christmas and the orderlies had set up a tree. It wasn’t real. It wasn’t flammable. It was safe in every way, but it was fake. That’s what Lewis realized about mental hospitals. They protected people from the realities. It was cold outside, and he didn’t mind in the winter months.

Many things bothered him, but as he read about Santa Clause, gradually, only one thing bothered him. Why didn’t Santa Clause visit the criminally insane? There were no chimneys at the asylum, but Santa always found a way in. Lewis had been there, year after year. No Santa Clause. No Presents. No cookies. No stockings. He thought about escape. No, that was impossible. He had to convince the orderlies that he was normal, but when you wear a straightjacket to breakfast every day, it’s difficult to convince a psychiatrist that you belong in the office.

Lewis began to act polite, overly so. “It’s a nice day we’re having, isn’t it?” He asked an orderly.

“It’s 10 degrees outside and I’m stuck in here with you.”

He wasn’t friendly, and grumpy. Maybe, that’s what it means to be normal, Lewis thought.

He went to the head caretaker. “Listen man, this oatmeal, mixed with my medication tastes like shit.”

“Do you want the hose, Lewis?”

“No sir!”

“Then I suggest you get back to eating your breakfast.”

There was no convincing him, or anyone, that he was sane. Lewis had to escape.

All he had to do was steal the key card from the most absent-minded guard. He would chat him up over a smoke break, and then have his hand in his pocket faster than a prostitute on a city bus.

It worked. Harry wasn’t too smart. In fact, Lewis thought the guard was stealing drugs. Lewis walked out of there and nobody noticed. Once he got onto the street, he really blended in. There were so many people who looked crazy.

His mission was to find Santa Clause and kill him. It’s funny how Santa and Satan both begin with a letter S, and they wear a red suit, Lewis thought. They might be one in the same.

It was getting late in the afternoon, and there was the shopping mall Santa hugging kids and making their dreams come true.

Lewis couldn’t stand the sight of it. He grabbed an extension cord and snuck up behind the Christmas tree. When the last little kid left Santa’s lap, the garrote went around his neck.

“Ho Ho Ho, you son of a bitch!” Lewis shouted. “Why didn’t you bring me presents this year?”

As if by a miracle, Santa got some air. “There is no Santa Clause. I drive a bus most of the year.”

“You lie!” But Lewis wasn’t totally convinced.

Santa Clause was turning blue and he slipped into unconsciousness.

Four hand guns were pointed at him before he realized it.

“Let him go, man,” a security guard said.

Lewis ran. He had to find the real Santa Clause.

“Taxi, take me to Bellevue Square.”

The turban talked to him like a psychiatrist. “You don’t look good, sir. Something is wrong with you.”

“Don’t I know it. What do I owe you.”

“14.95.”

“I’m going to give you your life, instead.”

When Lewis walked into the mall, he struggled to find Santa Clause. The place was closing. He tried to read one of those mall maps, which made him feel more lost.

He found a gun store, and asked the red neck behind the counter if he could buy a firearm.

“Sure! If I sell you this piece, it will bring you peace on earth and goodwill to men.”

Lewis noticed the alcohol eggnog the red neck was drinking.

“Will you take a credit card?”

“Sure.”

Meanwhile…

Harris was closing out his Santa job with a stiff drink. He couldn’t remember how many children had sat on his lap. Many of them smelled like they had poopy diapers. He needed whiskey, fast. Two tours in the jungles of Vietnam, and working in a shopping mall was far worse. Back in the suck, he could kill people, he didn’t like. Back in the real world, he had to pretend like he was scratching his head with his middle finger.

Then, there was the Showdown at Midnight…

“Hey! Santa Clause, why don’t you bring me presents anymore?” Lewis demanded.

“Hey, it’s been a long night, man, and I just want to go home to Betty,” Harris said.

“Is she Mrs. Clause?” Lewis asked.

“No. She’s a pole dancer, but tonight is her day off, and I’m a lucky guy.”

Lewis pulled his handgun, and if almost by instinct, Harris reached under his robes for his Mack-10.

He filled Lewis full of lead and smelled the gun smoke.

“Ho Ho Ho, and a Happy New Year!” Harris said.

The mall security cameras caught it all on tape. Harris was exonerated and was given the key to the beautiful city of Bellevue.

Once a soldier, always a soldier.

The End

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