Santa Sailor Suit" - By Robin Merrill (Exclusive to
swore aloud to no one on his way to the bow. The ship was steering
directly into the wind, so with each freezing step, Brian became
more certain that Christmas cheer was not in his job description.
Brian's new mate, a freshly graduated academy kid, had just instructed
him to go decorate the Christmas tree that was securely tied to
the end of the boom. Brian had nothing against Christmas per se,
but it was zero degrees out, not counting the wind chill, and
it was pitch black four o'clock in the morning. Was this really
necessary? The mate was just exercising his newly found power,
which didn't exactly put Brian in the Christmas spirit.
Brian did manage to reach the bow, which brought some relief
from the wind, at least until he had to climb up onto the boom.
He entered the forepeak through the watertight door and sighed
with relief at the small reprieve from the cold. The forepeak,
which is really just a fancy name for "room on the bow," was believed
by many to be haunted. Apparently the ship had been hit by a torpedo
in an earlier life. Brian didn't believe that, nor did he care.
He'd much rather hang out with the ghosts than get frostbite.
The mate had told him that the box would be clearly marked, "Christmas
decorations," but Brian had his doubts when he looked at the pile
of junk stacked to one side of the bow. He wondered if it was
giving the ship a starboard list. Making sure he took his time,
he began to move boxes of broken light bulbs, weightlifting equipment
that would never get used, and nasty rotten old heaving lines
that no one dared throw away. At the absolute bottom of the heap,
he found an ominously large box that simply said, "Xmas." Yeah,
clearly marked, alright. He smirked, imagining his mother's "They
take the Christ out of everything," as he opened the box to see
what Xmas had in store for him.
He was delighted to see what appeared to be eight miles of twisted
and knotted lights, mixed in with several ugly metal ornaments
that were intended to reflect the sunlight, creating a beautiful
Christmas feel as well as a significant navigational hazard. He
figured that he could definitely make untangling these lights
last the better portion of the watch, and the next poor watchman
could deal with crawling up on the boom with the extension cords.
He began to lay the Christmas lights out on the deck, when he
noticed what appeared to be a Santa suit crumpled in the bottom
of the box. Intrigued, he pulled it out. Holding it up in front
of him, he was surprised to see a large coffee stain on the front
of the suit. But then upon further inspection, he was far more
surprised to see several cigarette burn holes dotting the suit.
What kind of Santa smokes and drinks coffee in the forepeak of
Brian decided this was worth a walk back to the bridge. He could
kill a good twenty minutes asking the mate about the Santa suit.
Of course, the mate had no idea. In fact, he was pretty sure
that Brian was just pulling his leg.
"No," Brian said, "I swear, it was like a Salvation Army Santa
suit or something."
"Well, I don't know what it's for," the mate begrudgingly spoke
to Brian in the darkness, "Why don't you just leave it in the
box, and we'll ask the Captain when he wakes up. I'm sure he'll
say we can throw it out."
But Brian wouldn't be banished back to the bow that easily. Now
propped in front of the space heater, he was going to make the
mate kick him out.
"Don't you gotta wonder what it's for, though? I mean, what weirdo
captain had someone dressing up in a Santa suit? Isn't that just
kind of psycho?"
"Brian, I just don't care. Now please go decorate that tree."
Brian decided dragging this out any further just wasn't worth
it, and moseyed back up to the bow. When he arrived, he was more
than a little disturbed to find that the Santa suit was not where
he had left it. He thought about returning to the bridge to share
this development with his esteemed mate, but then realized with
all the haunted bow stories, his masculinity might be at stake.
His first thought was that one of his shipmates was messing with
him, but who would voluntarily be up at this hour?
While contemplating his next time-killing move, he noticed something
far more terrifying than a missing Santa suit. The eight miles
of Christmas lights were perfectly faked out on the deck. It would
have taken him an hour to untangle those lights, yet there they
were, all ready to go, nice and neat. He felt his heartbeat quicken
and instinctively reached for a cigarette, instead of running
screaming from the bow.
He felt better after his first drag, that was, until he heard
a soft voice say, "That stuff'll kill you." The voice was so faint,
he wondered if it was in his head, and he suddenly really wished
he had something stronger than a cigarette. He looked around the
forepeak, but of course he was alone. Even though he felt pretty
stupid, he took a peek down the hawsepipe, just in case there
was a petite stowaway clad in a dirty, oversized Santa suit stuffed
in there. Of course, all that he saw in the hawsepipe was the
lonely, decidedly unfestive anchor chain.
For a lack of anything else to do, Brian opened one of the portholes,
and was relieved to see that the sun was coming up. Ghost Santas
probably calmed down a bit during daylight hours, right?
He finished his cigarette and crushed it out with his steel toe
on the deck, and he realized with absolute certainty that he was
Fully regretting all the hallucinogenic drugs he'd ever done,
he mustered up the courage to say aloud, "Okay, whoever you are,
cut it out and come out where I can see you."
For a few seconds, there was nothing, but then Brian felt the
soft arms of an invisible Santa wrap around his frame and embrace
him with a warm and firm hug. That was it. Pushing away from the
invisible hugger, Brian screamed like a teenage girl in a haunted
prom movie, flung open the watertight door with a crash, and ran
down the deck like it meant his life. He felt himself slip on
the ice, then a sharp pain in his head, and then nothing but cold.
A short time later, Brian woke up in his own bed to find the
First Mate standing over him. At first he had hoped it had all
been a dream, but then he realized he was still wearing his boots.
happened?" Brian asked.
"I don't know," the First said, "the bridge just called me and
told me you had lost your mind and hit your head. You alright?"
Brian swung his legs out of bed and sat up. "Dude, the ghost.
He's real. He hugged me."
The First let out a belly laugh. "Then you're about due for some
Brian insisted, "No, man, I'm serious. He's real. He hugged me.
And he's wearing a Santa suit."
"A Santa suit? Well that's a new one. Come on, let's go check
Brian shook his head, "I'm not going back up there. Not for a
The First laughed. "You're going, or I'm going to tell your ex-wife
this whole story."
"Fine," Brian grimaced, "But I'm not going inside."
By now, the sun was bright and reassuring. Brian walked back
to the bow, feeling braver now, and bearing a significant headache.
The mate opened the door to the forepeak and stepped inside. There
were the Christmas lights, all perfectly faked out on the deck,
ready to be hung.
"Nice job, Brian, that must have taken you forever."
Brian didn't say anything. He was staring at the neatly-wrapped
present beside the lights. The present was marked, "Brian." He
stepped over the threshold and picked up the gift. Brian gingerly
unwrapped it, and then laughed when his unwrapping revealed a
carton of Marlboros.
"Well that's pretty strange," the First said, "Somebody is really
messing with you."
"Yeah. somebody," Brian said.
The First pointed to the Santa suit, neatly folded back in the
box, and said, "We can probably throw that out."
But Brian, a little too quickly, said, "No, don't."
The First stared at him. "What?"
Brian answered, "I don't know. It just seems wrong to throw
it away. You never know. Someone might need it."
"Okay," the First said, rolling his eyes, "I really think you
need a vacation."
"Probably," Brian said, "but first, I'd really like to climb
up on the boom and put these lights on the tree."
"Okay, whatever floats your boat."
The First left Brian standing in the forepeak, strangely at ease,
and strangely committed to finishing his Christmas task, which
he did. He even stayed an hour past his watch, just to make sure
the tree was perfect.
The next day, he applied for vacation. And he never told another
soul about his friend in the haunted Santa sailor suit.