“Nope.” Ham and eggs continued to go west. Or – should that be south?
Heyes and Curry were in a stock small town restaurant – classic gingham tablecloths, lettering on the windows, coffee pot between them. Hey, you know the scene, you’ve watched it often enough.
“I haven’t said anything yet,” objected Heyes.
“Just tryin’ to save time Heyes. The answer’s – no.”
“No – what?”
“No, I don’t think we should take the job.”
“You don’t know what it is!”
“I don’t need to.”
“This is a good job, Kid.”
“No it ain’t!”
Heyes voice rose – both pitch and volume – as he repeated, “You don’t know what it is!”
“I know you’ve been broodin’ over the same spot in that ‘Situations Vacant’ column for the past quarter of an hour…” Kid speared the untouched egg on his partner’s plate and converted it into ex-outlaw food by the oral ingestion method. “If it was a GOOD job, by now we’d be knockin’ on the door of whoever was offerin’ it. It wouldn’t take you fifteen minutes to work out whether it was worth riskin’, or calculatin’ the odds you could talk me into it. What THAT is…” Kid’s knife indicated the spot his partner had been staring at in the small print. “…Is NOT a good job. What THAT is, is a DUMB job.” Chewing.
“Are you done?”
Kid thought about that for a moment. While concurrently chewing. And you thought he was just a pretty face!
“Uh huh,” he agreed. Polishing of an empty plate with a hunk of bread. More chewing.
“Listen Kid, this IS a good job…”
“Does it involve cougars?”
“It’s…” Heyes blinked at the interruption. “No. Why the Sam Hill should it involve cougars?”
“Big Mac?” Kid decided to widen the criteria on this one. “Or any owners of statues?”
“Bein’ actin’ deputies escortin’ other outlaws?”
“Going back to Devil’s Hole with a woman carryin’ a concealed gun?”
“Going back to Devil’s Hole with a pack of archaeologists speakin’ in assorted accents?”
“Going back to Devil’s Hole – period?”
“Diggin’ up lost army payrolls?”
“Wrassling grizzlies while manacled, nekkid, in a snake pit?”
“No. HEY! When did we ever…?”
A grin creased Kid’s cheeks. He drained his coffee mug. “Just yankin’ your chain with that one, Heyes.” A chair was pushed back and Kid stretched out, hands behind his head. A contented sigh. Ah – the pleasure of feeling well fed! “Okay, Heyes. Tell me what dumb job you DO want us to do next.”
“Not ‘US’, Kid. Just me. There’s only one vacancy.”
“Uh huh. Read it.” The newspaper was thrust into Curry’s hands.
“If it don’t involve me…” Kid pursed his lips and mulled. “I like it already!” He read.
“I read about some big fancy stores back East doing this,” enthused Heyes. “I guess even small towns pick up on the trends, huh?”
A pair of blue eyes looked up. “Are you serious?”
“Yup! Good money, Kid.”
“Yeah but…What’s the thing we usually try and avoid? Being recognised. You’re gonna take a job where long lines of people queue up and stare hard at you.”
“Ah! But think, Kid! What’ll I be wearing?”
Kid did think. A grudging nod of the head. Heyes was right – no one would recognise him.
“Look at the requirements, Kid. I’m PERFECT for this!”
Kid read, (out loud this time) “Patient, affable, outgoing, able to make cheerful conversation with folk from all walks of life.” A quizzical raising of one eyebrow. Kid scanned his partner. A grudging shrug indicated ‘Maybe’. He read on, “An aff – affinity…what the Sam Hill is an ‘Affinity’?”
“It just means ‘a way with’.”
“Uh huh? An affinity with children is essential.” His head came up. “Since when did YOU have an affinity with children? It’s ME has an affinity with children!”
Kid did have some justification here. The unwritten Huggins tenet is definitely that CURRY is the one who has an affinity with children.
“Hey! I like children!” protested Heyes.
“Yeah, sure. You like ‘em fine – but you couldn’t eat a whole one.”
An affronted Heyes rose to his feet. “You oughta have more faith, Kid. I am perfect for that job. I will see you AFTER I’ve been hired.” The restaurant door swung shut behind him.
Kid took another look at the advertisement. “Dumbest thing I ever heard,” he disgruntled. A musing sniff. “Heyes is right about one thing though – good money.” The forehead furrowed. Decision. The section of newspaper was ripped out and tucked into a snug back pocket. A couple of dollars were tossed onto the table. A brown hat and sheepskin jacket were donned. A second ex-outlaw strutted out into the street.
LATER THAT SAME DAY.
Our scene shifts to a stock small-town hotel room. Kid, his back to both the door (and to us) stands before a mirror – adjusting and preening. The rear of a tousled blond head obscures what he sees in the glass.
The click of a key in the lock. Heyes strode in, with a gloomy, “‘S’only me, Kid.” He hung his jacket and THE hat. Under a dark blue shirt a pair of broad shoulders displayed a disconsolate droop. A disgruntled – though still gorgeously taut – butt, dropped onto the bed. “Dumb interview panel!”
“They didn’t hire you, huh?”
“No! Told me they’d seen a better candidate! Tchah! I’d like to see the man who they think is gonna do a better job than Hannibal Heyes! I’d like to see the man who they think is gonna do a better job than the genius who worked out the Bryant pump …” Heyes made the mistake of listening to himself. He realised cracking safes was hardly a relevant ‘past experience’ example. He shut up. Briefly. “I’d like to see him, that’s all Kid.”
His partner turned away from the mirror. A luxurious snowy beard obscured the lower half of his face. His blue eyes twinkled out below equally white and bushy eyebrows. These rose, teasingly, as he reached for a scarlet fur trimmed coat and shrugged it on.
The look on Heyes’ face was all Kid had hoped for. Heyes was speechless. Again – briefly.
“You!” he sputtered. “YOU stole my Santa Claus job???!!!”
“Nope!” smugged Kid. “I don’t steal any more, remember. I won fair and square.”
Heyes opened his mouth, failed to find a suitable riposte and shut it again.
“No hard feelings?” checked Kid.
His partner caught the genuine query under the still-teasing tone.
“Nah. No hard feelings.” A dimple peeped. “After all – you got an advantage over me, Kid.”
“I guess they reckoned if they hired you they could save on the padding. What with you providing your own.”
“Hey!” There was a distinct sucking in of Kid’s belly. Defensively, “I am NOT fat, Heyes! I am well-built!”
“You’re fatter than me.”
“There’s skeletons dangling on wires in front o’ medical students fatter’n YOU!”
“I am NOT skinny! I am simply – lean.”
An exchange of ‘the look’.
Curry reached for his hat. Well, not HIS hat. Not the floppier brown second season ‘Hey wardrobe, can I have this one? It looks cool!’ number so beloved of Kidettes everywhere. He reached for his NEW hat – scarlet velvet, white fur trim, cute fluffy pompom dangling from the top. His eyes glinted.
“Hey! Come with me – they have another job to fill after all. I could put in a good word.”
ONCE AGAIN IT IS LATER THAT SAME DAY.
Kid Curry made himself comfortable. Glass of milk to the right, check. Cranberry cookies to the left, check. Carrot for the reindeer, check. Beard arranged in smooth waves, check.
The back door to Santa’s grotto opened. In walked…
The blue eyes widened to their fullest extent. One could say they bulged. In fact one will say they bulged. The blue eyes – these would be Curry’s, okay? – they bulged.
“Shut up!” A pair of dark eyes – these would belong to the other fella – flashed the dangerous look once employed to keep a gang of mean and desperate outlaws, or at any rate the Devil’s Hole crew, under control. “You knew. When you said ‘assistant’ you KNEW it meant this! You knew and you never so much as warned me. Now, if I hear so much as a peep – one peep – of laughter outta you, so help me I’ll flatten…”
“I gotta laugh, Heyes,” protested Kid. “It’s part of the job requirements. Ho Ho Ho!” His gaze rested on his partners emerald clad legs. “Ho Ho Ho!” His gaze travelled up. “Ho Ho …Oh ho! Sheesh, Heyes! Are you sure that outfit is even legal? You know trouble with the law is the last thing THIS Santa’s little helper needs?”
With as much dignity as he could muster – which, to be honest, was not much – Heyes gave an upward hoist to his tights and a downward tug to his tunic. If it WAS a tunic. I guess it could have been a really broad belt. Nah! It had a zigzag hemline that makes it a tunic, huh?
“Some folk,” he said, firmly, “…some folk oughta take a good look in the mirror before they start making fun of other folks’ uniforms.”
“And SOME folk,” Heyes interrupted, the silver bell on his jaunty cap tinkling as his finger jabbed the air to emphasise his seriousness, “…Oughta have a little more professional pride. AND, remember their aliases.”
Kid blinked. They were alone – what was the problem.
“We,” continued his partner, “…Have been officially on duty for the last thirty seconds. I am NOT Heyes. I am not even Joshua Smith. From now on, Santa, I only answer to ‘Jingles the Elf’!”
“Heyes!” protested Kid. This was dumb!
Feigned deafness. Not a flicker from the bell-topped one.
“Jingles,” capitulated Kid.
“Do we have any customers?”
Tapered fingers pulled aside the snowflake decorated spangled drapes curtaining the front entrance to ‘Lapland’, just an inch or so. A dimpled elf peeped out. “Sheesh!” breathed Heyes. “We don’t just have customers. We have ‘em queuing like Christmas is going outta fashion!” He gazed at the excited throng. His brow furrowed. What was wrong? What was missing? Oh!
“Kid – I mean, Santa, come take a look.”
The bearded one did come take a look. He saw what Heyes saw. He realised what Heyes realised.
“There aren’t any children. They’re all…” Kid dropped the curtain as hungry, searching eyes seemed to burn through the material, flushed cheeks spoke of rising excitement and parted lips heated the air with hot, hungry breath, “…All women.”
Above the heads of the queue a fluttering banner announced, ‘Ladies Appreciation Board – Annual Christmas Fair’.
“This isn’t what I expected,” gulped Santa Claus.
“Me neither,” admitted Jingles. “But, nothing in our contracts said they had to be children.” He squared his shoulders. “C’mon Santa. If you have an affinity with children, what you have with the ladies must have one big capital ‘A’.”
From beyond the curtain a chorus was beginning.
“Oh you better watch out,
You better not cry,
You better not pout…”
“Let’s start,” said Heyes. “Ready?”
Outside, what now sounded like dozens of feminine voices trilled, “Sa.a.a.a.a.a.a.a.a.anta Claus is coming to town.”
Kid Curry considered a quick dash out of the back door, but…Hey. Would not that behaviour be a little cowardly from the rough, tough, fastest gun in the West?
“Sa.a.a.a.a.a.a.a.a.anta Claus is coming to town.” Giggles. Squeals of laughter.
“Sure I’m ready,” lied Kid.
Jingles the Elf stepped out. Feminine breath was drawn in. Eyes devoured him from the bells on his hat to the bells on his toes, then returned to a – central – area. Lips were licked. Heyes gave another fruitless tug at the tunic.
“This way to see Santa, ma-am,” he charmed the brunette heading the queue.
She stepped into ‘Lapland’ after him.
“Actually, Mister Jones,” he was interrupted, “It is not you I’ve come to see. I work here, in Human Resources …”
“Like the rendition of song outside, it is anachronous…”
Kid decided he was caught in another Big Word Day and let that one pass without a ‘huh?’ to speed things up.
“It is YOU I need Mister Smith…or should I say, ‘Jingles’?” Another set of lips was licked. “Come with me. I want to de-brief this Elf in safety.”
“HUH?” This time the interjection was from Heyes.
“I want to brief you on health and safety.”
The back door was opened. “Ladies first,” said Heyes.
“No. After YOU, Mister Smith.” A mischievous grin, “I insist.”
Heyes went first.
“HUH?” Heyes’ hands involuntary reached behind him and made an ineffectual attempt to lower the zigzag hemline.
“We’ll talk in Suite One.”
Left alone, Kid guessed he had better call in the next customer, but before he headed for the curtain, three ladies invaded the grotto. All were of a certain age. All were oozing mature, sensual, gorgeously female – oomph.
“Me first! Me first!” fluttered a pouting mouth beneath a glorious pair of pussycat eyes.
Kid crossed his legs.
“Er…sure, ma-am! And – what do YOU want for Christmas?”
“Let me sit on your lap, Santa,” came a mouse-squeak of excitement. Kid uncrossed his legs, hastily, as he found his arms full of forty-something voluptuousness. “…And we’ll see what comes up.”
“Me too Santa!” The second lady made haste to occupy Kid’s other knee. Her voice husked into a growl, as she breathed into his ear, “I’ve been an awful good girl this year!” A tiny nip on his lobe made Curry doubt she was telling the whole truth there. The tip of a moist tongue made him dang sure she wasn’t! “Oh Santa, I could eat you up!”
“And me! Make room for me!” The third lady spoke with a distinct hint of English accent. She perched between her friends. “Do you want to know if I’ve been naughty or nice, Santa? Or shall I tell you a secret?”
“Er – if you like, ma-am.”
She leaned in. Since the two American ladies were blowing in Kid’s right and left ear respectively, it was not EASY for her to lean in, but years of teaching experience had made her resourceful and she managed it.
“When I’m REAL naughty,” she whispered, “…THAT’S when it’s nicest!”
“Hey!” Number One protested (a squeak of indignation this time rather than excitement) “If I’M sitting on this knee…”
“And I’M sitting on this knee,” joined in Number Two.
“What the Sam Hill are YOU sitting on?”
Kid flushed scarlet as his robe.
Number Three raised a perfectly arched eyebrow. “Muhahahah!”
MEANWHILE IN SUITE ONE
“Staff welfare is very important to us, Mister Smith. For instance, we ensure all employees receive a Christmas goose.”
“That sounds real benevolent, ma-am.”
“Oh!” A pout. “I’ve dropped my pencil! Did you see where it rolled?”
“Here it is, ma-am,” smiled Heyes, gallantly, as he stooped to retrieve …”Hey!” He shot upright, clutching the rear of the emerald tights. “Did you just…?”
“I did promise you a Christmas goose.”
BACK IN THE GROTTO
“Please remove your hands from my sack!”
OVER IN SUITE ONE
“You wanna kiss me under the middle WHAT, ma-am?”
A feminine finger pointed upwards at the bunch of green leaves and milky berries.
“Oh!” A dimpled grin, as Heyes decided to yield to temptation. “Not a problem, ma-am.”
ONCE MORE UNTO THE GROTTO
“Oh, Santa! Your beard tickles!”
“Oh, Santa! I can’t wait to finish unwrapping this!”
“Oh, Santa! Would you like to slip a little something into my stocking?”
I think we can gather Kid Curry has also decided to yield to temptation.
“Nice Christmas baubles! Oh, Jingles – you can ring my bells any time…”
“Santa! Is that a gun under your robe, or are you pleased to…?”
Hey! What would Christmas be without a few old chestnuts?
Or rather – outside suite one. We may not enter as a ‘Do Not Disturb – Elf Granting Christmas Wishes’ sign hangs from the door handle, tied on with a pair of vivid green tights.
Again, we are outside, amidst the impatient queue waiting their turn, rather than inside. We are held back by a ‘Do Not Disturb – Christmas Cracker Being Pulled’ sign and our innate sense of decency.
From inside we hear feminine voices once again rising in triumphant song:
“Sa.a.a.a.a.a.a.a.a.anta Claus is coming…”