by Samuel Snoek-Brown
Step 1: Gather the bones of Santa Claus.
I knew I would find most of the skeleton in Bari, Italy, but there were so many other pieces, rumored and real, scattered all over the world. It took me all of this year and most of my savings to track down his fingers, his ribs, and a foot. In Germany, I was almost arrested making off with a stray tooth, but when the cops confronted me I swallowed the tooth and they couldn’t prove a thing. I had to hold it in until I’d crossed the border into the Czech Republic and then I spent two days shitting in a bucket in Prague. Thank Christ for rubber gloves.
I knew all along I needed to end in Turkey. That was the key. It was the country of Santa Claus’s birth, and it was the country where he died. All his relics, like all his stories, had been stolen away, broken apart and reassembled in new ways, new art, all over everywhere. But he has always belonged in Turkey, the historical crossroads from Jerusalem and Mecca to Rome. If I succeed in bringing back Santa Claus, it has to be here.
In the Archaeological Museum in Antalya, not that far from the town where Saint Nicholas served as bishop, I found the last pieces of Santa Claus’s head: his jaw, some more teeth, and parts of his skull. They rested on red velvet in a gold-trimmed wooden chest, an ikon of Saint Nicholas embedded in the raised lid, the whole thing under glass in a side wing of the museum. It wasn’t hard. No one remembered these sad, forgotten relics, these ghosts of another era. Everyone’s childhood tucked into a back hallway and ignored.
So I saved the museum in Antalya till last, and from there it was just a three-hour drive along the coast to the town where Santa Claus died. There’s a little resort on the beach, but December is very much off season, so I have the place mostly to myself, which is both good and bad, because while I need the privacy, it was hell finding the dead fat man.
Step 2: Find a dead fat man with a beard. (Kill him if necessary.)
He didn’t have to be fat, I guess. Saint Nicholas doesn’t seem very hefty in any of his ikons. But if I’m going to do this, I want to do it right, I want to bring back Santa Claus in a way that the world will embrace him again. And right or wrong, our American fat guy sucking on a Coke has pretty much swept the world. So, portly, at least.
The beard was more important, because I’m pretty sure I can bring the man back but I’m not so sure his hair will grow any once he’s in his new body.
The bones are known for miracles. I’d already heard about them secreting rosewater or myrrh on Saint Nick’s saint’s day. I don’t know what myrrh is supposed to smell like but these things are sure as hell sweating something. It’s thin but slick, like baby oil in bathwater. It smells sweet, too, but not like rosewater—it’s a sharp, earthy sweet, like the cedar sap I used to get in my clothes when I helped my dad clear brush in our back yard. Like the resin from live Christmas trees.
The priests in charge of these things would collect the water in vials and sell them to tourists or pass them around at Christmas parties, but I went to college, and I know that Egyptians used to embalm people with this shit, so I’m collecting it, too. I keep the bones stacked in one of those huge drain pans you use when you change the oil on your car. It’s almost two-thirds full already.
My point is, maybe the myrrh will kick-start a growing process and the body I use will sprout hair the way the bones sweat perfume. Or maybe it’ll act as the embalming agent it has always been and stop anything from ever growing again. So I needed a guy with a beard, because I’m not taking any chances.
I found him at my own hotel, which I take as a sign that I’m on the right track here. I don’t think he’s Turkish. He might be Italian, he might be Romanian. It’s hard to say. I found him in the sauna in the back of this seaside dive we’re both staying at. He was on the back side of fifty and has a thick, iron beard. Not white, but close enough. His hair is longish, too – in the sauna, he had it pulled back in a tight, stubby ponytail. And while he isn’t exactly fat – not Coca-Cola fat, for sure – he’s definitely a fan of lamb and beer. And sweating in the sauna, overheated and under that dark sauna lamp, he positively glowed red, his skin the classic suit, his black speedo like a belt.
I slipped outside and back to my room, returned to the sauna with a plastic shopping bag, and pulled it over his head.
He steamed in the December air as I dragged him back to my room.
When I laid him out on the bed and watched him cool and stiffen, I had to wipe childish tears from my hot cheeks, thinking about my five-year-old self and that long, long wait for Santa Claus. Finally, he had come.
Step 3: Find an electrical source with which to revive Santa Claus.
There’s an outlet in my room.
The defibrillator is already plugged in.
Step 4: Insert Santa Claus’ bones into a fresh body.
I’m still missing some relics, not because I couldn’t steal them but because no one knows where they are. Trade in these things was rampant in the Middle Ages, and when things finally settled down after the Reformation, modern politics went and cocked everything up again, all this diplomacy, all these cries for the return of national property. As if any one country owns Santa Claus.
So I’m short a few teeth, a couple of ribs, some ankle bones. I don’t know how that will affect the process, but I’m hoping I can pull a Jurassic Park. You remember in that movie (I never read the book) when the little cartoon DNA is jumping around explaining about the dinosaurs? And how they were missing a few key ingredients? They used frog DNA to fill in the gaps.
I don’t need frogs. I have a whole, fresh, human body.
So the new Santa Claus will have to make do with a couple of Italian/Romanian ribs, and of course all the organs too: the heart, the brain, the spleen, the prick. But I don’t think any of that will really be an issue. It’ll make him more cosmopolitan, maybe.
I do wonder what language he’ll wake up speaking. Italian/Romanian? Turkish? No, Saint Nicholas was Greek by birth. Or nothing at all? Will he wake up new and pristine, and I’ll have to teach him English and what little I’ve retained of my high school French? Maybe we can learn Latin together. Santa Claus always seemed like he might know Latin.
The hardest part, though, is going to be the transferal. Getting the existing bones out without completely dissecting the body is going to be tricky as hell, even with my few years deboning chickens at a bbq joint during college. But getting Santa Claus into his new body? Piecing together the jigsaw of the skeleton in all that dark and slippery meat, fitting joints and arranging muscles by touch along?
Back in the States, I bought a plastic skeleton from a school supply company and practiced assembling and disassembling it in the dark, like a soldier with a rifle. I even stuffed a lawn clippings bag full of steaks and pork chops and tried assembling the skeleton inside that. But let’s face it, this is going to be something else entirely.
And I’ll have to get it done – deboning and the reinsertion and the resurrection – before the body begins to rot.
I wonder if the myrrh in the bones will buy me time. Or at least perfume the meat if it starts to go bad.
A thought about the reindeer:
Granted, these are a recent addition to the Santa Claus story, and the bones won’t recognize them as authentic at all. But I’m hoping for a miracle here. Because in the movies, it’s always something like magic dust or elf-grown hay that makes the reindeer fly.
And I’m thinking the myrrh in the bones is pretty much the same thing. So surely I can get those bastards in the air.
Except there are eight reindeer – nine, if you count Rudolph, which I don’t, but it wouldn’t hurt to be prepared – and I’ve only collected that one oil-pan bucket of myrrh, and it’s all going into the resurrection process.
I have not thought this through.