The Otherworldly Visitor of Oscaloo
The sight of unusual people was not that unusual in the suburban town of Oscaloo, Florida—a place where plastic lawn flamingos out-populate human beings 3:1; where grannies in bathrobes shoot alligators off their front porches; where the majority of residents not only believe NASA faked the moon landing but are skeptical about the conceptof the moon; where a poodle was once elected to its city council for completely unironic reasons; where the legendary Skunk Ape is thought to steer clear from because he’d fit in too well.
There was one individual in this unusual town, however, who couldn’t be missed. His name was George George. He was an extra-terrestrial. (He liked the Earthling name George so much that he used it twice for effect.) He hailed from the star system Jawae, which human astronomers don’t know about because it’s located directly behind the star Vega. He was clean cut—a little too clean cut—Caucasian, and looked to be about 30. He could be seen wandering around the Oscaloo Shopping Center.
He’d only landed on Earth a few hours ago—his first hour was spent completely in the nude. All that time he thought ear-piercing shrieks were Earth people’s way of saying ‘hello.’ Fortunately for George George, it didn’t take him long to find a resident willing to exchange in frank dialog with him about the concept of clothing. That was one of the perks of materializing in a town like Oscaloo.
George George was a fast learner and quickly adopted the guise of something like a local. He was garbed in a panama hat, Hawaiian shirt, khaki shorts, and brown penny loafers. They all had the price tags still dangling off them, but you can’t have everything. He also spoke with an unnaturally crisp American accent and walked with an exaggerated gait such that he made 90-degree angles with his elbows and knees with every step. (Human’s lanky limbs are awkward enough to operate as they are, but George George had managed to materialize as a human far lankier than most.)
In addition to being quick at adapting, one of George George’s strengths was finding patterns. As he stepped around the shopping mall, he realized that he was often spotting print advertisements that featured a peculiar looking human with a bushy white beard and red stocking cap. He stood in front of one such advertisement, a poster taped on the wall of one of the mall’s busiest corridors, to study it.
There happened to be a security guard standing nearby named Reuben who was rapidly smacking chewing gum and scanning the roaming flocks of shoppers on high alert for shoplifters. He had a walkie-talkie flung over his shoulder, a pair of dangling handcuffs tucked inside his belt, and an absurdly long flashlight in a holster.
“Friend,” George George said to the security guard.
Reuben took another quick scan of the area before glancing over to George George.
“Could you tell me who that man in this picture is?”
Reuben expeditiously whipped out his flashlight, flicked it on, and shined it at the man in poster.
“That there is one Santa Claus,” he said plainly in a thick Southern drawl. The guard breathed out of his nose loudly before whipping the flashlight back in its holster. He resumed scanning the immediate area.
“Santa Claus…,” George George repeated dreamily, tilting his head. He took a few seconds contemplating Santa Claus before thinking of a new question.
“Why is one Santa Claus’ picture posted all over this building?”
Reuben furrowed his brow and scratched his chin. Unlike George George’s previous question, this one required a little more thought.
“Well,” he said, taking a few quick smacks of his gum. “It’s the Christmas season. Santa Claus is everywhere this time of year.”
This only opened the floodgate for more questions.
“Why is Santa Claus only around for one season?”
“Well,” Reuben said. “He has get ready to deliver presents to all the little boys and girls on Christmas Eve.”
George George’s eyebrows shot straight up.
“Every boy and girl?”
Reuben was beginning to suspect there was something inauthentic about this line of questioning. He narrowed his eyes and glared uneasily at George George.
“Listen, stranger, you trying to be funny?”
George George narrowed his eyes back to Reuben in a simultaneous attempt to practice the expression and to interpret its meaning.
“Funny…” George George said carefully.
Then something caught Reuben’s eye. He took out his flashlight, flicked it on, and pointed it at George George’s sleeve, which had a price tag dangling from it. Reuben’s eyes widened, and his mouth went agape, which allowed his chewing gum to fall out onto the floor.
“Say… Why do your clothes have price tags on them?” Reuben said, suspiciously.
George George lifted up his arm and flicked the price tag with his finger.
“You didn’t, by any chance… steal that, you?” Reuben continued, now hovering his free hand over his handcuffs as though they were a pistol and he was a sheriff in the Wild West.
“Steal…” George George repeated.
At that point, Reuben had all the information he needed. He expeditiously whipped out his handcuffs and used his forearm to shove George George against the wall. His face was pressed up against the poster such that George George and the image of Santa Claus were looking at each other straight in the eye.
“You sir, are under arrest,” Reuben said, cuffing him behind his back. “You are coming with me.”
As George George was being dragged to the mall security office, he thought of a new question to ask.
“What is Christmas?”
As George George sat in the security office, he could overhear Reuben’s conversation with his superior, a small 18-year-old with a surprisingly booming voice, named Bane.
“I’ve told you time and time again, Reuben, you can’t just go around handcuffing people!”
“Son, I have what’s called supreme dominion over all persons who step foot in this here shopping center.”
“No you absolutely do not, Reuben! You’re not even allowed to step foot in Victoria’s Secret anymore, remember that?”
“…That mannequin in that Victoria’s Secret window was dressed provocatively, and per statute 1.13 of the Oscaloo Shopping Mall Security Handbook, it is my sworn duty to protect the youth from—.”
“Reuben, I’m not going to argue this again! The simple fact remains, you did not witness this gentleman shoplift anything, and nobody is accusing him of it. You had no right to detain him!”
The door swung open and Bane came in with a key to unlock George George’s handcuffs.
“My apologies about this misunderstanding, sir,” Bane said, red faced and flustered. “You’re free to go whenever you like.”
Bane left the room to continue dealing with Reuben.
While immured in the mall security office, George George had further contemplated Santa Claus and the logistics of a single human visiting the homes of every boy and girl in a single day. The feasibility of such a pursuit was puzzling to him, and he decided then and there he was going to get to the bottom of it. Also, while he had some thoughts to spare, he taught himself how to read English.
He picked up a loose flyer on the security office’s desk that had a picture of that white bearded fellow with the red hat on it.
“Santa Claus…” George George said to himself. Then he read the text underneath: Meet and Greet, Oscaloo Mall, Dec. 21, 10 a.m.. to 6 p.m., Children of All Ages Welcome.
George George looked at a digital clock on the wall. It was Dec. 21, 2:05 p.m.
What were the odds of that? Of all the places on Earth Santa Claus could have been that day, he just so happened to be in this very shopping mall. George George didn’t believe in the concept of destiny, but he did believe in dumb luck of which he had an abundant supply.
“How does Santa Claus fit into chimneys?”
After standing in a line for two hours, George George finally got to the point where he was face-to-face with the elf running the front entrance of the Santa Claus Meet and Greet. (Really, her name was Sylvia. She spoke in a monotone voice and wore so much mascara that it seemed she had difficulty keeping her eyes open.)
She gave him a shifty glare.
“Uh, sir, I am not authorized to disclose that information,” she replied.
That was her canned response to any question anyone had about Santa Claus. However, it felt odd for her to say that to an adult.
“Do all houses have chimneys?”
“Dude,” she said, wrinkling her nose. “Are you for real?”
George George gave his hands a concerning look.
“Do I appear to be de-materializing?”
Sylvia rolled her eyes. This town…
Then she saw Brad, an elf with dark eyebrows and large biceps, drag a fussy toddler out of the enclosure, followed closely by an irate mother yelling at him about something. This meant George George was next.
“You’re up, slugger,” she said.
A bewildered George George gazed at the ceiling until he felt two large hands squeeze his shoulders.
“OK, bud, you’re just going to get your picture taken and get yourself on out of here, right?” Brad said forcefully as he dragged the extra-terrestrial over to Santa’s chair.
The man playing Santa Claus was named Andy, a part-time actor who looked profoundly befuddled at the sight of this lanky stranger. That marked one of the rare occasions that he ever broke out of character. Andy was something of a local celebrity and mainstay of the Oscaloo Arts Theater where he was a fairly well-liked character actor, apart from the time he played Smee in Peter Pan and badly improvised a scene that ended with him smacking a Lost Boy across the face.
Andy forced himself back into character.
“We have a big kid here,” he said in a voice that seemed forcefully throaty. “You better not sit on my lap! Ho, ho, ho!”
After Brad positioned George George next to Santa’s chair, there was a quick snap and a flash. There was something distinctly Keatonesque about George George’s humorless facial expression as he stood next to Santa Claus.
It was then that George George finally got his chance to talk, but that wouldn’t last long. “Mr. Claus, I have some questions about the logistics of—“
“I’m sure you do, Bud,” interrupted Brad, who once again grabbed George George by the shoulders and started pushing him out the exit. “You promised we would only take quick picture and be outta here, right?”
After depositing George George at the exit, he continued to talk while walking away: “You can pick up your photograph in 30 minutes.”
“But…” George George started. However, Brad was already out of earshot and starting to deal with the next customer.
As he stood despondent over his failure to ask Santa Claus a single one of his burning questions, a tiny voice piped up below him.
“That isn’t the real Santa Claus, you know.”
George George looked down to see a little black-haired girl looking back up at him. She was about 10 or so with bronze skin and gripping the arm of a red, Christmas-themed teddy bear.
“You mean the man is a fraud?” George George said.
The little girl shrugged her shoulders. She wasn’t exactly sure what fraud meant, but she felt confident enough that she knew the gist of it.
“I guess so,” she said.
“But think about it,” she continued. “It’s only four days till Christmas. What is Santa Claus doing in a place like Oscaloo? He should be at the North Pole right now preparing.”
“The real Santa is at the North Pole?” George George said, looking genuinely surprised. What intrigued him more than anything else about that was the idea that Earthlings appeared to have found practical uses for their Poles.
The girl flashed him a dopey look.
“Come on, man,” she said. “That’s where Santa Claus lives. It’s where his workshop is. It’s where he makes his toys. Even babies know that.”
George George quickly scanned the area for babies, but he couldn’t immediately find one to verify the claim.
“More than that,” she continued, “if you go to any other mall in the United States, or possibly even the world, I guarantee you’ll find another man pretending to be Santa Claus. Looking all fancy in that red suit and fake beard, sitting on a throne, taking gift requests, getting their picture taken. …I should know. My grandma took me to the Steam Town Mall in Grubersville last week. There was a completely different guy there in the Santa suit.”
“I see,” George George said, pointing at his eyeball. (That was a good guess on George George’s part, but that was not a gesture that goes along with that idiom.)
“Anyway,” the girl continued, “I have it on good authority that all these mall Santas are corrupt to their bone.”
George George raised his eyebrows.
“You see, when we tell these mall Santas what we want for Christmas, they are supposed to deliver that message directly to the real Santa Claus up in the North Pole. Instead, these bozos go and talk to our parents first and then change it to what they want for us. If you ask me, I think these mall Santas are taking bribes.”
She then held up her red teddy bear at him and shook it.
“I keep getting goofy junk like this for Christmas when I’ve been asking for years for a chemistry set. …I brought this stupid thing here just to give that fake Santa an example of what I don’t want. …Not that it’ll do any good.”
She crossed her arms.
“Is that so…” George George said, putting a finger thoughtfully to his chin. “And you said we can find the real Santa at the North Pole?”
The girl beamed up at him, gave one confident shake of the head and said “Yep.”
George George then made such a curious gesture that it caused the girl to widen her eyes and take a couple steps back. He had his eyes closed and both index fingers pressed to his temples. He looked as though he was deeply concentrating. Then suddenly he spread out his legs and raised both arms in the air.
The next thing they knew, George George and the girl were in an ice field, barren as far as the eye could see. Below-zero air swished noisily across their ears.
“Where are we?” the girl yelled, out of breath, looking helplessly around her. She was hugging her teddy bear tightly as a means of keeping herself warm. Her teeth were starting to chatter.
“The North Pole,” George George said. He looked around, confused. “But where is the workshop?”
George George and the girl then turned slowly to give each other wide-eyed, ominous stares.
Then the girl broke the awkward silence by slapping a palm to her forehead.
“Well, butter my biscuits!” she exclaimed. “There is no workshop at the North Pole! It appears the corruption goes much, much deeper than I thought it did.”
Then the girl relaxed her pose and furrowed her brow at George George.
“Did you seriously just teleport us to the North Pole?” the girl said.
George George mimicked her furrowed-brow look.
“Yes,” he replied plainly.
“Can you do that anywhere you want to in the world?”
“Anywhere in the galaxy, actually...”
She then let out a big, teeth-chattering smile.
“My name is Mimi, by the way,” she said, beaming. She held out her hand expecting George George to shake it. However, when all he did was study it curiously, she said “You’re supposed to grab my hand.”
“Ah,” he replied, obliging, and then she gave it a big shake.
“My name is George George… by the way,” he said.
She out a slight giggle.
Then he continued: “I am an extra-terrestrial from the planet—“
“Yeah, I figured,” Mimi interrupted. “Do you think you can get us out of this cold?”
“Back to Oscaloo?”
“Well…” Mimi replied, thoughtfully.