The kids loved Little Santa. Every year on December 1, Mom and Dad would decorate the house and Little Santa was always the first to come out of the garage. The kids would set him up next to the front steps. When they plugged him in, Little Santa would light up, and his arm would wave back and forth like a holly, jolly metronome of joy.
David was too big to hug Little Santa anymore, but he liked to high-five Little Santa’s velvet mitten hand every time he ran into the house. Kelly still hugged Little Santa. They were the same height, and Kelly’s arms were just long enough to wrap all the way around Little Santa’s tubby mechanical torso. She liked to hug Little Santa before they plugged him in each night.
Two weeks before Christmas, Billy from down the street went missing. The whole neighborhood was very upset. Little Santa did his best to keep spirits bright, lighting up each night and waving at all who passed by. The police found Billy’s body in the park two days after he disappeared, cold and stiff with his mouth jammed open, stuffed full of candy cane shards, and lumps of coal where his eyes used to be.
“That’s why you don’t take candy from strangers,” David said soberly, brushing sticky chips of candy cane from the fuzzy cuffs of Little Santa’s coat. Kelly nodded.
“Billy took candy from everyone,” she said. She fluffed Little Santa’s curly soft beard until it was nice and white again.