By Allen Griffin
The line never grew beyond half a block in length, but sometimes it felt endless. John took them inside the unassuming building five at a time, not caring if the groupings divided up families or friends who arrived together. They could share with each other what they saw afterwards.
John never knew who would show up naked on his little stage. Someone different stared at him every morning when he opened the door. The unpredictability helped him get out of bed, a remedy to the times he just wanted to sleep in.
People paid good money even though they weren't sure what they got in return. Some days it appended to be a big movie star, a sexual icon and these days were the longest. As word spread among the tourist circles the line became indestructible, no matter how fast he shuttled them in and out they just kept coming.
Today, it was Santa that greeted him when he arrived. His skin glowed as red as his cheeks and his beard intermingled with a shag carpet of white hair that covered his chest like it was hiding from the seventies. He didn't appear to be embarrassed but he wasn't an exhibitionist either. He just stood there with his shoulders slumped slightly, sometimes resting his hands on his protruding belly. The mood of the crowd seemed morbidly curious, and as people left they often looked as if they wanted to go back to thinking of the man as a myth. The naked Santa raised more questions than he answered, although those questions probably had nothing to do with nudity.
'If only he showed up during the holidays' John thought to himself, 'it would have been a real boost to business'. Last year, Jesus stood waiting for him on Christmas Eve, shorter than John would've guessed and with an odd complexion that seemed to change with the shade of sunlight that came in through the windows. He decided not to open that day. A nude Jesus seemed like a risky proposition.
The crowd for Santa tapered off early and as John took the last group in he thought again about the jolly man's bad timing. He closed the door and opened a bottle of whiskey and took a few quick sips from it as he began sweeping the floor.
"Hey son, can I go ahead and get outta of here?" Santa asked.
Santa exited stage right and a few moments later John heard the big steel door leading into the alley slam shut. He finished counting the money and stuck it in the safe.
Not anxious to go home, he sat on the edge of the stage and toiled away at the bottle of whiskey. Once good and drunk, he peeled off his own clothes and climbed onto the stage. He felt the glow of the overhead lights on his skin, imagined the feel of all those eyes looking him over. He felt more alone than usual, but he forced himself to stay there. Eventually, he laid down on the wooden stage and passed out, dreaming of a life where everyone wanted to see him naked.