You can turn off the goddamned music using this thing.

Hover your cursor over underlined textYeah, like that. for an explanation of its meaning.

Once upon a time, there was an enormous chain of department stores called HellMart. The stores were all hugely successful, with unbeatable deals and low, low prices that compelled customers to swarm its aisles from the moment its doors opened in the morning until they were ready to disinfect the floors at closing time.

Everyone who worked there hated the dump. The chain treated its employees like dirt but because the stores were so ubiquitous, they were often one of the only employers at the hick bergs they dominated so that the employees had no choice but to keep their heads down and slave away at the Hellmart in their home town; with their low wages and minimal health benefits being the only option open to them, often for their entire lives. And with an arrogant, ignorant, unapologetically racist billionaire about to take control of the White House, things weren't about to get any better.

As bad as working at any Hellmart location was, it was universally agreed that the worst store was the chain's most successful. The Main Street Hellmart in Capital City was run by a loathsome tyrant named Mr. Oginyst, a sour and sadistic little twerp whose bitterness consumed him when his wife was killed after returning to her job as an animal feeder at the zoo too soon after their daughter was born – on Christmas Eve ten years before, to give this moronic story its first tentative connection to the Yuletide – and a cackleYes, a group of hyenas are referred to as a "cackle." of ravenous hyenas devoured her face. From that day, he resolved that a woman's place was in the home taking care of her children and her man and not pursuing the perilous pipe dream of having a career. Oginyst started out as a kind and compassionate man who kept an open mind on all things but after the death of his wife, his pain consumed him and he began embracing the demagoguery‎ of Donald Trump as a means of focuing his anger. He inevitably took his bitterness out on his employees, aided by a band of cruel and incompetent ogres he had elevated to department heads so that he would have a crew of toadying yes-men to carry out his ineffectual orders.

The one person on the management team who was intelligent and gifted was Ms. Smart, the head of the toy department. Oginyst wanted to promote another of his slope-headed Neanderthals to the position when it was time to be filled but Ms. Smart had worked three times as hard at any of the other applicants to win the job, so he grudgingly agreed to make her the supervisor of the toy two thirds the salary of any of the men on the management team. His reluctant gambit paid off as Ms. Smart turned out to be the most competent individual in the store by far with her toy department being the most successful in the chain, often salvaging the store's bottom line when Oginyst's crew of managerial flunkies would make profits turn into losses by the sheer force of their ineptitude.

What made Ms. Smart's job even harder was that Oginyst was a compulsive micro-manager whose brain was incapable of generating an original thought. The toy supervisor was a progressive intellectual with an endless amount of ideas to thrust her department into the 21st century and beyond. But every time she devised a new process to make things better for the customers and the staff it was inevitably overruled by the manager, usually on the grounds that if a woman came up with it, it couldn't be any good. But Ms. Smart stood her ground and for the one battle she won out of the twenty that she lost, the result was a better toy department and happier and more satisfied people inside it.

The most galling time of year for Ms. Smart was Christmas. Oginsyt took little interest in the toys she ordered for the Boys' section, every one of which enforced the idea that the little men who played with them could grow up to be anything that his mind dreamed of. But he insisted that the Girls' section be filled with EZ-Bake Ovens and Barbie Dolls and every time Ms. Smart ordered a batch of innovative toys that gave little girls the idea that they could grow up to be something other than a mommy or a fashion model, Oginsyt would insist that she send it back to the supplier. That meant that every December, there was always a load of interesting, challenging toys gathering dust in the loading dock until they could be returned in January.

But the biggest fight Ms. Smart had with Oginyst during the Christmas season was always over who the store would hire to be Santa Claus. The toy supervisor pushed hard for a Latino, Asian or black person to be cast as Saint Nick so that all the children who came into the story to tell him their Yuletide dreams would feel fully included in the ritual. Every year, she tried new tactics to get the store to hire an ethnically diverse Santa. And every year, Oginyst refused to budge on the subject.

"Santa Claus is a white man," spewed the manager dismissively, plopping a ceramic statue of Saint Nick on his desk that had still been in the warehouse after the previous year's After Christmas Sale. "Fox News has announced it so it must be true! We can't mess with our sacred Christmas traditions like that. The reason that they're sacred is that they remain the same, year-in and year-out. The war on Christmas will be won, and it will be won by white men like God intended! Otherwise, the radical Islamic terrorists have won!"

"Santa Claus is a white man," spewed the manager dismissively

"Oh, please," countered Ms. Smart. "Santa was conceived for generations as a tiny elf. That's why the poem has him riding a miniature sleigh with eight tiny reindeer. He wasn't depicted as a life-size human being until the 1930s when he was pictured on Coke cans. If Santa can grow five and a half feet over the course of time, I don't see why he can't evolve into an Hispanic!"

Oginyst glared at the toy supervisor with fire in his eyes. He finally took a deep breath and spoke in a slow, condescending tone that indicated to Ms. Smart that the subject was closed. "A merry, chubby, grandfatherly white man is who we will be hiring to play Santa Claus. Now I'm sure you'll want to get to work finding the right person. The new Glamour magazines have arrived and the other supervisors and I like to check out the lingerie ads before they go on the shelves. Good day, Ms. Smart."


"I said good day!"

Ms. Smart stormed out of the office in a rage. When she finally got back to the toy department, her anger had subsided to the point where she was finally able to deal with the realities of her task and sorted out the issue with the giant teddy bear who stood guard at the front of the department that she liked to talk to when her head was on the verge of exploding.

"So we're going to have another Christmas with a white Santa Claus," she said through clenched teeth as the bear smiled benignly back at her. "So be it. I need to find a white, over-weight senior who likes having kids sit on his lap without liking it too much, if you take my meaning. The problem is that whenever I hire one of those older guys to be Santa, they never want to take direction from a woman and I wind up with an even more aggressive ulcer at the end of December than the one I had at the beginning. I need to find a white guy to play Santa who is so mentally feeble that he won't challenge a single thing I tell him. Who can I find who's that stupid?"

At about this time, a young muse named Jonny M. was looking for a new job. Jonny's previous gig appearing as a Eugene V. Debs impersonator for Labor Day celebrations ended on September 5th and the muse found that he couldn't fuck around with some of the more outlandish jobs he'd landed in past editions of these idiotic stories because he'd suffered a heart attack at the beginning of the year and needed health insurance. As he scanned through the job listings in Craigslist, he looked ruefully at his beloved pug Winston, longing for a taste of the sweet, sweet alcohol that had previously made his disastrous life bearable. Alas, his cardiac trauma had forced him to give up drinking so he could no longer hallucinate having conversations with Winston when he was plastered, but fortunately the complex cocktail of heart medications he was required to take on a daily basis had the same result.

"I'm always looking for a Christmas-themed job at the beginning of these things," said Jonny worriedly. "But we're starting earlier this year than usual. Where am I going to find a Yuletide gig at the tail-end of Summer?"

"Just look under 'Job Openings: Retail,'" replied the pug. "I was at PetCo last week picking up some stool softener and they were already putting up tinsel. In the retail world, Christmas Time begins just as the bikini season is coming to a close."

Sure enough, Jonny found a rich cache of holiday jobs suddenly available. Each one offered an hilarious jumping-off point for a limitless number of wacky adventures, but one opening really leapt out at him:

"Looking to spend long, thankless hours having small children whine to you about their crass, commercialist daydreams while probably peeing on your knee? Want to spend your day sweating under a thermal nightmare of yak hair and faux velvet? Anxious to be berated by frustrated parents when they pay twenty bucks for a picture of you with their kid because the kid looks more like a jolly old elf than you do? Interview for the job of Santa Claus at Hellmart! Compensation are minimum wage and crappy health benefits.White men only."

One opening leapt out at him

Jonny and Winston studied the ad curiously. Neither could believe that in the interminable history of these moronic stories, Jonny had never had a job as a department store Santa before. They looked at each other with an air of disgusted resignation and made a beeline to Hellmart.


Ms. Smart was aghast at the motley crew of drunks and psychopaths who had shown up in the Hellmart break room to interview for the Santa Claus job. They all possessed the one requirement Mr. Oginsyt had demanded of the position: they were all white men. But they were also, to a man, unemployable crazies who no one would let anywhere near their children at any other time of year. In short, they were all ideal candidates for the job of a department Store Santa.

Or so the toy supervisor thought. As she took a deep breath to avoid the stench she was about to be subjected to as she began interviewing the sad bunch, Jonny and Winston stepped gingerly into the room. In stories past, Jonny would be outrageously drunk and create a scene that would end with his passing out in a pool of his own vomit. But thanks to his new sobriety demanded by his heart condition, he was a model of composure; a circumstance immediately noticed by Ms. Smart. She pulled him to the front of the line to explain her philosophy about what a visit to Santa should represent. Rather than simply give a child an opportunity to retread a list that had been mailed to the North Pole a week before and then soak the parents twenty bucks for a quickie snapshot and then having them exit into the area of the store which happened to sell all of the garbage that the kid had just been obsessing about, she believed that the experience should be a learning and growing one. She had devised a series of talking points that Santa could bring up which would expand the child's point of view and consider the idea that he or she was capable of doing anything.

Jonny was the only applicant who wasn't a drunk or a psychopath

Jonny seemed to listen silently in rapt attention. Ms. Smart was delighted because most of the men she interviewed constantly interrupted her to patronizingly "mansplain" what she actually meant to her, but the muse seemed to actually want to hear what she was saying. In fact, Jonny was just zoning out in order to think about disgusting sex fantasies featuring the redhead cashier he spotted on the way in, but that was lost on the toy supervisor. She finally finished her long tutorial about her revolutionary ideas about Santa Claus, and asked if Jonny had any questions.

"Just one," replied the muse, who was knocked into reality with a mental image of the redhead disgustedly walking out on his fantasy because the things he was asking her to do were too vile to even be enacted in the imagination. "I'm still paying off the massive medical bills from my heart attack and money's pretty tight right nowThe real–life author of this story has awesome health insurance and is doing just fine, thanks. . Do you suppose you could also find a position for my pug?"

Ms. Smart looked down at Winston's optimistic, intelligent face and then up at Jonny's blank stare. She realized that having the little dog on the premises would probably help her obviously mentally slow new Santa to learn her complex talking points. She also realized that the children would delight in seeing the charismatic pug in Santa's village. After a few moments of negotiation, Winston was added to the payroll as Santa's elf. The toy supervisor rose and turned to the collection of retched humanity still mulling about the break room to be considered.

"Gentlemen, thank you for coming. The position of Santa Claus has been filled."

Winston was impressed at what they had just experienced. As he and Jonny walked through the parking lot, he spoke with excitement about Ms. Smart's personal superiority.

"A thoroughly intelligent and capable person," the pug enthused. "Her ideas about children's interaction with Santa Claus are revolutionary and progressive. She spoke of Christmas in terms of a social phenomenon to induce a positive change in adaptable young minds that I had never considered before. What did you think?"

"Nice ass," replied Jonny.


The next day, Jonny and Winston had to come to the store to meet with the manager and be put on the payroll. They crammed themselves into the tiny closet that served as the store's H.R. office to fill out a mountain of forms, and then each were handed the costumes that would serve as their store uniforms for the next four months. Jonny was issued a pile of musty red and white rags which had served as the store's Santa costume since it had opened in 1968, which was fine with the muse since they were newer and more freshly laundered than his own clothes. Winston was given a doggy Christmas costume that had been sitting in the store's remaindered bin since the previous December. After they were suitably attired, they were ushered into the manager's office for inspection.

Oginyst liked what he saw. He brought out a booklet of color swatches to make sure Jonny's skin was light enough, which was no problem since the muse's years of going into an alcohol-induced coma and waking up in darkened rooms with his anal region inexplicably sore had made his complexion a pasty beige. And with Winston shining with a life-enhancing exuberance at the muse's side, the manager was convinced that Ms. Smart had found a suitable team to make this year's Christmas profits bigger than ever. But one thing weighed on his mind.

Oginyst liked what he saw

"I suppose our toy supervisor filled your head with a lot of elaborate notions about how a Santa Claus should mess with the kiddies' head," Oginyst sighed, having to give this same speech to the new Santa every year.

"She had some pretty interesting ideas" responded Jonny as he shot Winston an unsure glance, having forgotten everything Ms. Smart had told him but knowing that the pug had taken careful notes about the conversation in his journal.

"Well, forget about them," snapped the manager. "We're here to sell toys, not change the world. Ms. Smart means well but you know how women are. She wants to make everything more complicated than it is so that when it inevitably falls apart, she can dump the drama in a man's lap and announce that she's going on maternity leave. Just let the children tell you what they want and respond with the aisle number of whatever is closest to it in our toy department."

"But what if Hellmart doesn't carry what they ask for?" responded Jonny.

"Then tell them that they haven't been good enough this year to get it," responded Oginyst. "Children are empty-headed idiots who will want whatever it is that we tell them they want, much like the voters of this country. It will put them in the perfect head space for when they come back here in a few years to apply for jobs as cashiers. Now I want you to go downstairs and tour the store so you'll know exactly where everything is."

The muse obediently sauntered out of the office as Winston gave the manager a final wary glance, determined to keep Jonny as far away from him as possible between now and Christmas.


Jonny loved everything about Christmas but he wasn't prepared for the sensory overload of Yuletide decorations that saturated Hellmart's every aisle, especially since the customers were still plodding through the store in sandals and summer shorts. And when he got to the toy department, he was surprised to find that everything in it was meticulously segregated between the "boys" and "girls" departments. When asked Ms. Smart about it, she bristled.

"That was at Mr. Oginyst's insistence," the toy supervisor sadly explained. "I've tried for years to make the toy department gender-neutral, but he says that would result in a generation of – and I quote – 'bull dykes and nancy boys.' So plastic guns, junior science kits and Lego Death Stars go in the 'boys' section while the 'girls' sections gets princess dresses, baby dolls that soil themselves and 'Mystery Date' games from 1968. In the meantime, all this is going to waste."

Ms. Smart ushered Jonny into the back warehouse and showed him a loading dock overflowing with WNBA basketballs, Frida Kahlo Paint By Numbers art supplies and positive body image Lammily dollsA really wonderful response to Barbie dolls in which Lammily and her buddies have realistic human body proportions compared to the anorexic and freakishly tall Barbie.
. There were GoldieBlox and the Builder's Survival Kits, GI Jane US Army Helicopter Pilot female action figures, and doll houses where the Mommy doll and the Daddy doll split the child caring duties between them so that each could pursue a fulfilling career outside of the family. All ordered by Ms. Smart to try and broaden the horizons of the little girls whose parents brought them to the store to make their Christmas dreams come true, and all rejected by Mr. Oginyst to be sent back on January 1st – with strict orders to sit in the warehouse until then.

Ms. Smart showed Jonny and Winston all the toys hidden in the back warehouse

"It breaks my heart to think that these toys are gathering dust on a shelf when they could be changing some child's life," said Ms. Smart sadly. "I don't blame Mr. Oginyst; he's only following the obsolete gender classifications that were ingrained in him as a child. But unless we can educate the next generation from an early age that they don't need society to define them based on their sex and can pursue their own identity based on their individuality, mankind will be stuck in a quagmire."

Jonny was staring off into space while picking his nose during the toy supervisor's monologue, but Winston listened to every word breathlessly. By the end of the speech, the pug was livid.

"This is an outrage!" shouted the pudgy little dog. "I didn't know who I was as a puppy until I woke up on Christmas morning and found my first chew toy waiting for me under the tree. Everything on these shelves is wonderful and desperately needs to be played with by a child with an inquisitive and malleable mind. To deny them this experience is criminal! Something must be done!"

But since Jonny's medication-infused brain was the only one that could comprehend Winston's speech and the muse was presently focused on digging boogers out of his nose, the pug went unheard.


Jonny found that he loved the work. He was accustomed to children following him around when he was walking Winston, although that was only so that they could pet and fuss over the little pug. As soon as they got a gander at the muse's sallow, pock-marked face, they would usually run screaming in the opposite direction. But now that he had taken on the guise of Santa Claus, he found the little tykes would fearlessly hop into his lap and enthuse about their Christmas dreams; confidant that he could turn them into a reality. Much to Jonny's surprise, he discovered that he adored talking to the kids and sharing with them the joy of the holiday season that he had always cherished.

But it was never easy because Jonny was constantly pulled in one direction by Ms. Smart and her progressive ideas to expand a child's mind and Mr. Oginyst's conservative mandate to encourage traditional gender models. The toy supervisor would give him one directive that he would try to follow and the store manager would corner him a few hours later and countermand what she said. Winston was squarely on the side of Ms. Smart but Jonny had other priorities to consider.

"I'm mainly here for the health insurance," said the muse to the pug one day as they were clocking out. "With ObamaCare on the way out, I don't have a lot of options any more. I get what Ms. Smart is trying to do but Mr. Oginyst's signature is on our paychecks and we have to take that into account."

"You're being silly," replied Winston in a rare disagreement with his master. "Anyway, Walmart doesn't even give its part-time employees health insurance."

"This is Hellmart, not Walmart," corrected Jonny. "We do provide health insurance. They're two completely different retail chains, which is something that you, the legal department at Walmart, and anyone reading this idiotic story who is trying to second-guess the narrative need to remember. Now let's go into the in-store McDonald's. I may have given up eating meat after my heart attack, but that won't keep me from sticking my face in the Quarter Pounders and taking a deep whiff to enjoy the aroma."


The one thing Jonny and Winston agreed on was that their favorite part of the work day was having lunch with their fellow employees in the store break room, who (aside from the supervisors) were mainly female. Winston was accustomed to women fawning over him but the second they got a glimpse of the muse leering lecherously at them, they'd nervously announce that they had a long–time boyfriend who was an expert in the martial arts and they were really into chicks, anyway. But Jonny's cardiologist had just increased his medication so that it effectively killed his libido with the result being that when he talked to women now, he was actually able to hear what they were saying instead of trying to steal surreptitious glances at their racks or picture them in disgusting sexual fantasies. His female coworkers were so unused to a man who actually wanted to listen to what they had to say that they flocked to Jonny.

Jonny and Winston loved having lunch with their fellow employees

And the muse got an earful. After a lifetime of simply looking at women on the basis of their physical attractions and imperfections as if he was a judge at the Westminster Dog Show, he was finally able to get an insight into these women's minds. And it didn't take him long to learn that being a woman is hard. They were constantly the victims of sexual objectification and patronizing condescension by men, who most of the time didn't even realize that they were being obnoxious. And above all, they were taught to hate their own bodies...the thing they were most frequently judged upon. They couldn't even turn on a TV without being confronted by a sitcom starring a big fat load like Kevin James being married to a drop-dead gorgeous woman or hearing some old audio of President-Elect Trump saying that he was free to grab a super model's pussy because he's famous. And with the constant saturation of the emphasis on physical perfection being shoved down their throats, they were unceasingly harassed about it in their everyday lives.

"Last week, I was walking out to my car at the end of my shift," said Harmony, the redhead cashier who Jonny had a grotesque sexual fantasy about back when he was first being interviewed for the Santa job. "My feet were killing me and I was depressed because I had been to my great grandmother's funeral the previous day. Just as I was almost out the door, a pimply-faced box boy told me to smile because I was so much prettier when I did. Was I just put on this earth to be a bauble for men to look at to brighten their days?"

Jonny listened to the cashier and then looked intently at Winston. Harmony had a master's degree in veterinary medicine but had to take a job at Hellmart because budget cuts in academia had cost her her teaching job at the local state college. The muse realized that if some random dude had told him to smile because it pleased the dude more to cast his eye upon him that way, Jonny would have looked at him like he was nuts. But all the women at the table simply nodded in frustration, having experienced the same indignity on more than one occasion.

Maybe Ms. Smart had a point.


October turned into November as the store went into full Holiday Mode. The line of children wanting to talk to Santa grew longer every day and while Jonny did his best to follow Ms. Smart's guidelines after his daily conversations with his friends in the break room, Mr. Oginyst became even more insufferable after Trump's victory in the presidential election and the muse couldn't forget that his health insurance depended on keeping the store manager happy. So while Jonny would always tell the boys and girls that they could be anything they wanted when they grew up, he made it just as clear that those ambitions would be even more reachable by their parents making purchases at the Hellmart toy department. Then one day an adorable little girl in a pink dress shyly plopped herself on Jonny's knee.

"Hello, my dear," beamed the muse. "And what's your name?"

"Amy Oginyst," replied the little angel with a smile. "What's yours?"

Jonny's brain suddenly snapped to attention. He looked up to see that the child was accompanied by the store manager. But in the presence of his daughter, Oginyst's countenance was visibly softened. And as Mr. Oginyst strained to get the entire encounter with Saint Nick immortalized on his Sony HDR-CX405/B Full HD 60p Camcorder (20% off with a Hellmart management discount), Jonny could see that he adored his child like nothing else in his life. The muse decided to play the scene for all it was worth.

"Ho, ho, ho!" bellowed Jonny as Winston gave a startled double-take, not being accustomed to such outbursts from his master since he quit drinking. "I'm Santa Claus. And what would you like for Christmas?"

The child's eyes widened nervously.

"I want a GI Jane MIB US Army Helicopter Pilot action figure with Kung Fu Grip," she excitedly replied. "I'm going to be the first girl chairman of the joint chiefs of staff one day, and I want to be ready to command the troops!"

"I'm going to be the first girl chairman of the joint chiefs of staff one day"

"Well, that's a big request," replied Jonny, mischievously pretending to determine if the little girl was worthy of the present. He took a brief pause which caused the child's heart to leap to her throat, and then smiled broadly. "But I can tell you've been a good girl. You'll get it."

Amy was about to scamper off Santa's knee and scurry back happily to her father when Jonny looked up to see the manager was no longer recording the episode but was instead glaring at his employee angrily. The muse felt his damaged heart skip a beat as the manager leapt over the velvet rope separating the customers from Santa's throne and dashed to his daughter.

"Amy, sweetheart," said Oginyst through gritted teeth. "We discussed this. Santa doesn't make those dollies at his workshop. You were going to ask for a You & Me Drink and Wet Baby Doll instead; don't you remember?"

"No, it's okay," piped in Jonny reassuringly. "We even have those GI Jane action figures in stock. I saw some on a shelf in the back warehouse. I don't remember when, but I know they're back there."

Winston smiled happily that his dense master had retained any part of the demonstration Ms. Smart had given them of the forbidden toys all those weeks ago. But Mr. Oginyst was furious. Before he could come up with an angry rejoinder, he daughter piped in happily.

"I told you he was the real Santa Claus, Daddy," the little girl exclaimed. "This is going to be the best Christmas ever!"

Oginyst's face hardened.

"This isn't Santa Claus, sweetheart," said the manager in a disdainful voice loud enough for all the children waiting to visit Saint Nick to easily hear. "He's a transient we hired for a few months to shill toys to all the saps who come through our doors. You wait here, and Daddy will bring this fraud's application to prove that he doesn't know what he's talking about!"

The little girl stood by the velvet rope in confusion as her father rushed back to his office. With nothing else to be done, Jonny motioned for the next child to come sit on his knee.

"You won't be able to understand him," said his mother worriedly. "He's from Sweden. We've adopted him and we've told him you won't be able to talk to him. But he saw you sleeping in the alley behind the store last week and said that you were JultomtenThat's what the Swedes call Santa Claus. Are you impressed that I researched that? If you're not, you damned well should be., as he calls you, and you could speak with him."

The little boy suddenly began rattling off a long monologue in incomprehensible Swedish. When he finished, he looked up at Jonny hopefully. The mother anxiously held her breath, knowing that the child was about to be disappointed.

You could have heard a pin drop as everyone in line who had overheard the exchange waited for Jonny's reply. He paused for just a moment and then smiled at the child and said "Jag slår vad om jag kan få de två flickorna över rummet att ha sex med oss om vi kan få dem berusade." The little boy listened breathlessly and then joyfully spouted a delighted cry of glee to his mother.

"He said you told him he was going to get exactly what he wanted!!!" exclaimed the woman as exultant tears began streaming down her face. "I don't know what you said to him, but you've made this the best Christmas ever! Thank you! And God bless you!!!"

Jonny began speaking to the boy in Swedish

The crowd broke into exuberant applause as the little family walked away in the direction of the head lice medication aisle of the pharmacy, both beaming great smiles. Before Winston let another child through the ropes to meet with Santa, he padded over to Jonny with an air of even greater appreciation than before.

"What did that kid say to you?" asked the pug in a muted whisper.

"I have no idea," admitted Jonny. "But I've had seen enough vintage Swedish porn from the 1960s to be able to recite long passages of dialogue by rote. I told him that I bet I can get the two girls across the room to have sex with us if we can get them drunk. I guess that's what he asked for."

Before Winston could reply, the store manager came bustling back with Jonny's job application. But Amy had seen the entire encounter between Jonny and the Swedish boy (not catching the disgusting follow-up with Winston) and her eyes were as wide as saucers as she gazed at the muse in wonder. She ignored the H.R. forms her father waved in her face and looked up at him with a broad grin.

"Daddy...he is Santa Claus!!!"


Mr. Oginyst was furious. He would have fired Jonny except that word of the muse's encounter with the Swedish boy spread and parents began swarming the store with their non-English speaking kids. Jonny never knew what any of them were talking about but he'd placate them with a few lines of dialogue from his inexhaustible headful of exotic porn. Sometimes the children walked away happy, sometimes confused and occasionally so traumatized that they would seek out therapy in the years to come; but their parents were so thrilled at the sight of their beloved offspring appearing to have a conversation with Santa that they were delighted. And none of the kids mentioned the actual content of the talks until years after the statute of limitations had passed, so Jonny was able to continue the ruse into December.

The muse loved the Yuletide season more than any other time of the year. And even though he'd been inundated with Christmas trappings since he started the job months ago, there was a magic in the air when the calendar was torn to display its twelfth and final page. The store manager did his best to keep his daughter away from Jonny but whenever she made one of her frequent visits to the store, Amy would always find a chance to disappear for a few minutes in order to sidle up to Santa and repeat her dream of receiving her special toy on Christmas Day. And no matter how many children were waiting in line, Jonny always took a moment to give his little friend a wink and assure her that the GI Jane US Army Helicopter Pilot female action figure would be in her stocking on Christmas morning.

Ms. Smart was confused by Jonny's behavior. Before he first met Amy, he was indifferent to the toy supervisor's progressive philosophies. But ever since that fateful day, he seemed to make a point of encouraging each child to reject the definitions that their families, friends, or the media had imposed on them and to instead follow the path that made them happy as individuals. And when he wasn't talking to the children, Ms. Smart would see him walking through the shelves that carefully segregated the boys toys from the girls toys, stopping inevitably at the GI Joe display.

One day very near Christmas (it was actually Jonny's birthday on December 15th in which gifts of alcohol had always been the traditional tribute but since the muse had given up drinking after his heart attack, the date was passing unobserved this year), Ms. Smart couldn't take it anymore and edged up to Jonny as he was looking dreamily at the action figures.

Ms. Smart noticed that Jonny spent his breaks looking at the GI Joes

"I know what you're thinking," said the toy supervisor wistfully. "I wish there was just as big a GI Jane display in the Girls' section. Hopefully, some day there will be."

"I was actually thinking how much I loved GI Joes as a kid," said the muse softly. "They were the only things that made me happy. I always wanted them for Christmas but never got them. Then one day years later, my father's second wife – the one he married after my batshit–crazy mother kicked him out so that she could pursue her dream of living a lonely, friendless life and ultimately dying alone – told me that he always wanted to get me GI Joes for Christmas but she wouldn't allow it because she didn't want any boy playing with dollsTrue story. . Why can't adults just let kids be who they are?"

Ms. Smart stared at Jonny wordlessly. Then she looked up and down the aisle at the little boys perusing the toys (blocking out the sight of a young mom spanking the bejesus out of her kid for pestering her to buy him a Jon Pertwee Doctor Who® figurine when she had only come into the store to get Midol and bourbon), noticing that the girls sticking their noses down the aisle were put off by the forbidding "Boys Action Figures" signs and kept on walking. She finally bit down hard and made a beeline to the warehouse to liberate her forbidden stockade of toys but she discovered that after Jonny had promised Mr. Oginyst's daughter that she would get the GI Jane doll she had been dreaming of, the store manager had ordered the toys to be moved into the locked area of the back room where they kept the Sudafed that was always bought out by a nearby meth lab. She stormed to the manager's office.

"Give me the key," she demanded. "I'm putting those toys out for Christmas."

Oginyst responded with a steely glare. "Those toys are staying exactly where they are until they can be returned to the manufacturers. It's bad enough that trouble-makers like you put radical ideas into my wife's head and because of that, her face had to be pumped out of the stomach of a ravenous hyena. I won't have you doing the same to my daughter or anyone else's daughter to make them think that their destiny isn't raising babies and making their men happy. It's because of you that I'm on every night!"

"But..." replied Ms. Smart.

"But, nothing!" thundered the manager. "I may not be able to fire Mr. Bi-Lingual and his fat little dog before December 26th – which I am itching to do, by the way – but I can kick you to the curb any time I want to. Now get back to work!!!"


The days leading up to Christmas became a pressure cooker in the Hellmart toy department, and they weren't made any easier by the bright-eyed Amy showing up every day to remind Santa of his promise. Ms. Smart knew that the GI Jane dolls weren't going to be rescued from behind the thick chain link of the cage that guarded the pseudoephedrine hydrochloride-laced decongestants which would soon be altered into mind-numbing methamphetamines, but Jonny would simply respond to her query with a wink and a thumbs up. It came to a head on December 23rd when Amy made her daily appearance. But instead of the beaming face that usually met him, the sweet little girl had tears in her eyes.

"Tomorrow is the anniversary of the day my Mommy was eaten by hyenas," she told Jonny sadly. "I never got a chance to know her, but I knew she was a happy lady and she would have been a good Mommy if those hairy little bastards hadn't torn her limb from limb. But her job was important to her because even though she loved her family, she wanted her life to be about more than that and sweeping up animal poop at the zoo was her way of finding that fulfillment. I get that, and I think that deploying troops into the middle east will give my life the same meaning."

"Tomorrow is the anniversary of the day my Mommy was eaten by hyenas"

She looked to Jonny for some words of encouragement but the dim-witted muse only responded with the same wink and moronic thumbs-up that he always gave her. She smiled hopefully but her eyes betrayed a doubtful dullness.

"My daddy says that they don't make what I want at the North Pole."

Ms. Smart studied the scene carefully from a distance. She knew Jonny's heart was in the right place but she also knew that her Santa Claus wasn't about to say anything to jeopardize his medical coverage. Then, the muse broke into a roar of reassuring laughter.

"You don't think I'd let you down?" grinned Jonny. "Sometimes faith is believing in things when common sense tells you not to. You've just got to believe."

That seemed to satisfy the child and she leapt off the muse's lap, oblivious to the shameless plagiarizing of Miracle on 34th Street that she had just taken part in, and scampered back into her father's office before he realized that she had disappeared.

The store closed at 9:00. Ms. Smart was going though the day's receipts with Winston when Jonny was finally able to peel himself off from his Santa throne and limp exhaustedly between them. He looked knowingly at the pug and asked "Did you get it?"

The toy supervisor had no idea what Jonny was talking about until Winston smiled and retrieved a small key from his elf kerchief with his teeth. Ms. Smart recognized it instantly.

"That's the key to the Sudafed cage in the back warehouse," she stuttered. "But how? That key is always kept in a locked drawer in Mr. Oginyst's desk."

"Puh-lease," scoffed Jonny. "I just told Winston there was a Tupperware container full of bacon-wrapped sliders in that drawer. When he heard that, breaking into that desk became an obsession for him. He wasn't happy to find out that the drawer really only had a key in it but when I finally explained the real reason for breaking in, he was happy to go through with it. You'd better leave now. We intend to put those toys on the shelves for Christmas Eve shoppers and reorganize the toy department to be gender-neutral."

"But this will get you fired for sure," responded Ms. Smart. "I thought you needed this job for the health insurance."

"Screw it," countered Jonny. "With Trump as president, I figure the planet's only got about six more months anyway. But if we do survive the next four years, we're going to need women to take over the positions of authority because men are constantly fucking them up; one look at that orange moron's cabinet picks can tell you that. But the only way to get the teeming masses to wrap their heads around the idea that women are born to lead is for girls to be encouraged to handle those challenges from an early age. Now get out of here. You'll want to have plausible deniability when the manager comes in tomorrow."

Ms. Smart's eyes narrowed into determined slits.

"Wait right here," she said. "I put together a schematic three years ago that will make it easy for us."


It took the trio all night to break out the cache of forbidden toys and then rearrange the toy department into androgynous aisles, but they managed to finish just as the store was about to open for the Christmas Eve rush. Ms. Smart looked approvingly over their handiwork, knowing that the scheme would probably cost her her job; yet feeling certain that it would be worth it in the end. But her rush of satisfaction was short-lived when she looked up to see Jonny clutching his chest in agony.

Jonny clutched his chest in agony

"What's the matter?" she asked as Winston nervously leaned over his master and desperately began administering CPR.

"I'm having another heart attack," whimpered Jonny. "Moving all those boxes was too much for my battered ticker. Call an ambulance, quick! I'm...I'm just sorry I won't be able to be Santa for the children on Christmas Eve."

Mr. Oginyst arrived just as the paramedics were speeding away with Jonny to a nearby hospital, his scarlet Santa suit balled up in the corner of the new toy department. The manager seethed at what he saw but immediately sized up a much bigger problem.

"We have no one to play Santa Claus," he fumed. "It's Christmas Eve, and the store has no one to play Santa Claus!"

"You're just going to have to do it," babbled Ms. Smart, still in shock from seeing her dedicated employee whisked away in an ambulance.

"Oh, no," snorted Oginyst. "You made this mess, and now you're going to have to deal with it. You put on the suit!"

"Me?" responded the toy supervisor. "I can't be Santa Claus! I'm a woman!"

"You've been hounding me for years that Santa can be a Latino, an African American, an Asian, or anything else," countered the manager. "If he can be all those things, then I guess that he can be a woman. We'll deal with your outrageous insubordination later. Right now, put on the suit.!"

Ms. Smart saw no other option. She traipsed to the corner next to the Mr. Potato Heads where the Santa costume laid, and gingerly picked it up. She disappeared into the ladies room and reappeared moments later unconvincingly attired as Santa. Sensing no other option, she dejectedly trudged to the Santa throne as the greeters unlocked the doors to admit the hoards of last-minute shoppers.

The first kids to plop themselves on Ms. Smart's knee to make an eleventh hour case for why they deserved some special toy weren't buying it. "You're a lady!" they cried. "Santa is a fat old man with real whiskers who smells like stale fruitcake, like the guy who was here yesterday!" The toy supervisor was ready to admit defeat after half a dozen kids until her eye caught the X-Men section and she decided to try one last desperate gambit as a pudgy little boy plopped himself on her knee.

"You're not Santa!" shouted the child. "You're a girl!"

"Santa has magic powers, right?" responded Ms. Smart with a warm smile. "Everybody knows that I can drive a team of flying reindeer and deliver toys to all the children of the world in a few hours. What nobody knows is that I'm a mutant who can take on the appearance of anyone you want me to; which means Santa can be white, black, brown, Asian, or even a lady."

The little boy's eyes grew wide with wonder.

"I'm only telling you because I can tell you're special and can keep my secret," she whispered conspiratorially. "Now why don't you tell me what you want for Christmas? You're important to me and I want to hear everything!"

The child's hardened expression melted and he rattled off a few reasonably-priced toys while his parents beamed at the pair approvingly from behind the velvet rope. Ms. Smart assured him that he'd get what he asked for, and the boy scampered off happily to join his family.

The toy supervisor knew that if you wanted a child to spread a rumor, the one thing you needed to do was tell him it was a secret for his ears only. Within minutes, the store was abuzz with the "Mutant Santa" conspiracy. Some children were slow to accept it but when they were confronted by a warm and affectionate Santa who listened to what they had to say without judgment and bestowed presents out of love and not as a paycheck for good behavior, they realized that they liked the idea of a female Santa Claus. By 10:00, the line to see Santa was longer than anyone could remember it ever being before. By noon, the line extended well into the parking lot. And perhaps best of all, everyone loved the new layout of the department and all the challenging new toys which had been brought out the night before. For the first time, boys were asking for presents once considered exclusively for girls and girls wanted gifts designed for boys. There was no stigma attached to them because for the first time, no one was categorizing them by gender.

The children liked having a female Santa

"Can I have this EZ Bake Oven for my man cave?" asked one little boy. "It's perfect for warming up Hot Pockets while I'm watching SpongeBob SquarePants with my crew."

"Mommy, can I have the Hot Wheels® Sky Shock Flame Design Remote Control Helicopter?" pleaded an angelic little girl. "I need it for when mud slides push Barbie's Malibu Dream House into the Pacific and she has to be air-lifted to safety!"

"I want a Bratz® Create It Yourself Fashion Playset," exclaimed another cherubic lad. "I love its funky sense of style!"

Everyone at the store seemed to be walking on Cloud Nine except for Mr. Oginyst. He looked bitterly at the calendar and remembered it was ten years ago to the day that his wife had her face eaten by ravenous hyenas, all because she thought it was more important to have a career than stay home with her family. Amy skipped happily behind him while he lumbered through the new toy department, oblivious to the children's excitement and focusing only on how his orders had been ignored. When they came across the new gender-neutral action figure section and she saw a mountain of GI Jane US Army Helicopter Pilots stacked neatly at the forefront, she couldn't conceal her glee.

"They're here!" the child cried out. "Santa told me they would be but I didn't believe him, but he said I just had to have faith and I'd get what I wanted. And he was right, Daddy! He was right!!!"

"Well you're not getting one," replied Mr. Oginyst sternly. "I already lost your mother to her pipe dreams of bringing home the bacon and frying it up in a pan. Your bacon is going to be supplied by the man you marry while you stay home with the children... end of story!"

Amy broke into disappointed tears as her father continued his rant. The exchange became so heated that a crowd of customers and employees began surrounding them. Even Ms. Smart wandered over from the Santa throne to see what the fuss was about, but Mr. Oginyst didn't care. "Your mother went to her grave because she thought it was more important to feed a cackle of ravenous hyenas than her own daughter and husband!!!! If a man had been doing that job, no one would have gotten hurt!"

Amy was too exhausted from crying to respond, but Harmony the cashier (the redhead who Jonny had the grotesque erotic fantasies about at the beginning of the story) edged up to the pair and softly addressed the manager.

"Wait...was your wife Michelle Oginyst? The hyena feeder at the downtown zoo?"

Mr. Oginyst was stunned into silence at the mention of his wife's name, and sadly nodded.

"I was doing my veterinary internship Remember, Harmony had a masters degree in veterinary medicine. You've got to pay attention in a Jonny story. at the zoo when Missy's face was eaten. She was the most dedicated hyena feeder I ever saw. But when she went on maternity leave, the men who replaced her were more interested in playing fantasy football and comparing the length and width of their wangs than in doing their jobs; so the hyenas never got fed. That's why they were starving when Missy finally came back. If she had been replaced by a woman instead of a bunch of sports-and-penis obsessed goofball men, that accident never would have happened."

Ms. Smart saw the pain in her boss' face and put her hand compassionately on his shoulder. "Maybe after ten Christmases of being bitter, it's time to look at the world differently. Missy left you much, much earlier than she should have, but at least the last thing she was doing was something she loved. That didn't mean that she loved you or Amy any less."

Mr. Oginyst said nothing. Instead he was thinking about the many times he and the male supervisors poured over the sports pages or disappeared into the men's room with a tape measure to evaluate the size of their junk, letting their departments fall into squalor. They would spend that time reassuring each other how wonderful they were while Ms. Smart was off by herself on the sales floor, meticulously overseeing her inventory, customers and employees. Then he thought about all the times his wife would begin rhapsodizing about her job and he would coldly change the subject into what she was making for dinner or clumsy overtures in the hopes of talking her into glum, joyless sex. He hung his head in shame for a moment and then looked up at the toy supervisor shyly.

"You really are Santa Claus. You gave me the gift of seeing what a chauvinistic nimrod I've been all these years. And as for you..."

The manager looked down at his daughter, who didn't know how to react to her father's addled behavior. He smiled enigmatically, turned around and retrieved a GI Jane US Army Helicopter Pilot action figure from off the top shelf, and handed it to the little girl.

"Merry Christmas, my princess," he said as a massive smile enveloped Amy's pretty face. "I think you'll be the best chairman of the joint chiefs of staff we ever had." Oginyst then tore the Trump button from off his shirt and threw it on the ground. "I was a fool to let my anger consume me to this point. We might live in Trump's America dad gum it, but we don't have to be Trump's America. That's how we'll make America great again!"

Oginyst handed Amy a GI Jane US Army Helicopter Pilot action figure

Tears began streaming down the faces of everyone watching; unaware that Jonny and Winston were sitting in the manager's office high above them, observing the situation from the window that revealed the sales floor below.

"It's a good thing your chest pains turned out to be just heartburn from all those cruciferous vegetables you've been stuffing down your face," said the pug. "But it's a shame it meant that you couldn't be there for the conclusion of this year's Christmas story."

"It's just as well," smiled Jonny. "This was a job was that better done by a woman, anyway. And I've got nothing to be sad's Christmas Eve and I'm with my favorite pug in the world. Speaking of which..."

The muse produced a gift-wrapped package and handed it to Winston. The pug happily ripped it open and couldn't believe his good luck.

"It's a Tupperware container full of bacon-wrapped sliders," grinned Jonny. "Merry Christmas, buddy."

He expected Winston to tear off the cover and begin greedily devouring the feast, but instead the pug opened a drawer in the manager's desk (the one he had nearly destroyed retrieving the key to the Sudafed cage) and took out a present of his own. Jonny opened the wrapping to find a vintage GI Joe.

"I heard your story about your childhood," Winston said. "I think it's high time we were all able to do what we want regardless of the constraints society dictates to us because of our gender. Hell, I had my nuts sliced off years ago and I haven't missed them one bit."

So all was happiness at Hellmart. Mr. Oginyst changed his ways and began promoting employees regardless of gender, resulting in happier customers and increased profits. Ms. Smart became the regional manager of the toy department for the entire Hellmart chain and made it a policy to cast Santa Clauses of all races and sexual identities so that children everywhere would think of the Christmas season as inclusive of everyone in the human family. Harmony went to Hollywood and became veterinarian to the stars, and wound up doing time for prescribing so much elephant tranquilizer to a Chihuahua on a reality show starring a billionaire heiress that the hairless bitch OD'd on it (the Chihuahua, not the heiress). Little Amy grew up to be the first female chairman of the joint chiefs of staff and gained everlasting fame for ordering a nuclear attack on Iran, ultimately resulting in World War III in which the U.S.A. easily annihilated its enemies and vanquished evil forever. Seven of the battleground states announced that they had miscounted the ballots and Hillary had actually won the electoral college in a landslide. And everyone at Hellmart, male or female, employee or customer, rich or poor (if you were an employee, you were probably poor), had the best Christmas ever.

But happiest of all were Winston and Jonny M. As they gazed down at their new friends finding a fresh sensitivity for how they interacted with each other, they felt a swell of pride knowing that they had played a small part in it. So with a wink of affection to each other, Winston tore into the Tupperware container full of bacon-wrapped sliders and tried to consume them all in a single swallow while Jonny ripped the uniform off the vintage GI Joe and tied it to the leg of the manager's desk so that it could be disciplined by his leather-and-fishnets clad Black Canary Barbie No shit, this is an actual Barbie doll made by Mattel. If you're wondering what to get me for Christmas, I want this.

If you can find a Lammily doll wearing BDSM gear, that would be fine too.
. His cardiologist had reduced his medication and his accelerated libido made him more of a sexist dick than he was at the height of this idiotic story. But he was working on it.

And happiness to you, dear friend. Whether you are male, female, straight, gay, bisexual, transgender, trans feminine, polygender, demigender, bi-gender, intergender, gendervoid or anything in between, I wish you the most joyous holiday season you've ever had. And always remember that if anyone gives you crap because you don't fit into the neat sexual barriers that they've defined for you – no matter what sexist asshole was voted into the White House – keep in mind that it's their problem and not yours.

And know that you always have a loving friend in Jonny M.


Conceived by
Jonny M.

Written by
Jonny M.
(and a team of ghostwriters)

Illustrated by
Jonny M.

Costume Design
(Yes, I bought a fucking Santa Claus costume to make this thing.)

Best Boy

Anything in Jonny's refrigerator with an expiration date of 2010 or later


August Employee of the Month
Non-Neanderthal Supervisor

Mr. Oginyst
Ms. Smart
Beautiful Woman in Painting
Jonny M.
Mara Marini
Athlete on Wheaties Box
Santa Applicant
Santa Applicant
Santa Applicant
Santa Applicant
Santa Applicant
Santa Applicant
Santa Applicant
Sept. Employee of the Month
Dude in Safety Poster
Model in U. of Phoenix Ad
Man in Missing Person Ad
Hallmart Employee
Hellmart Employee
Hellmart Employee
Benjamin Franklin
Amy Oginyst
Joint Chief of Staff
Joint Chief of Staff
Joint Chief of Staff
Joint Chief of Staff
Joint Chief of Staff
Joint Chief of Staff
Abraham Lincoln
Hellmart Shopper
Hellmart Shopper
Hellmart Shopper
Hellmart Shopper
Hellmart Shopper
Hellmart Shopper
Hellmart Shopper
Swedish Boy
Hellmart Shopper
Hellmart Shopper
Hellmart Shopper
Crying Mother
Hellmart Shopper
Hellmart Shopper
Blue Boy
Angry Mother
Kid Getting Spanked
Hellmart Shopper
Hellmart Shopper
Hellmart Shopper
Hellmart Shopper
Hellmart Shopper
Professor Morlock
Amanda Globe
Janet Lawton
Santa Claus
Very Ugly Child

Donna Susskind
Jesse Merlin
Glenn Simon
Frances Fisher
Donna Susskind
Tony Potter
Robert Vestal
David Eck
Jesse Merlin
Richard Fancy
Dr. Charles Dotter
Edmud Gwenn
Bro Joe
Diana Burbano
French Stewart
Sarah Marie Klein
David Pinion
Penelope Psaltiras
Lisa Glass
Harmony Sanchez
Julie Carruthers
Eddie Frierson
Amy Ball
Travis Quentin
Jerry Winsett
Micah Watterson
Jesse Merlin
Steve B. Green
Steve Peterson
David Pinion
Jaz Davison
Mimi Freedman
Joseph Bacon
Natasha Troop
Mel England
Marni Troop
Jason Fogelson
James Cleveland
Roslyn Cohn
Kevin Delin
Kelie McIver
Jessicah Neufeld
Genelle Izumi
Lacie Harmon
Tom Ashworth
MZ Runyan
Eddie Frierson
Gary Tremble
Timothy Mullich
David Mullich
Maxine Lewis
Dan E. Campbell|
Jesse Merlin
Robin Greenspan
Amy Ball
Mara Marini
Christian Chan
Jesse Merlin
Tony Pauletto
Carol Potter
Paige Simon




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