December 6th. The snow was lightly falling outside the clinic. It was Tuesday morning. Procedure day. The waiting room was filled with expectant women. A silence huddled and shuffled in fingered damaged magazines. Myra, the receptionist, sensed something different about the day. Maybe it was because it was the Christmas season.
‘No one wants to be in an abortion clinic having to deal with their “situation” during Christmas,’ thought Myra.
But here they were. Heads bowed, eyes red and downcast. Sitting on cold, ripped Naugahyde couches the color of bile. Waiting for their names to be called.
‘Whose idea was it to put up a Christmas tree in the waiting room?’ thought Myra as she shook her head. It looked ridiculous and she could tell it made the women uncomfortable. It reminded them of happiness and childhood. The last thing they wanted to think of.
“Myra!” Edith said from down the hall, “Call the first name on the list. Dr. Wanza needs to be in Springfield by noon.”
“Okay,” Myra stood up and was about to read off the first name when the door opened and a large man in a red suit walked in followed by a great gust of snow and the jingling of the door bells. The man filled the room with his presence.
Eyes bulged, mouths hung agape as the women realized who he looked like. He was all dressed in red with the tall pointy hat of a Bishop perched on top his head. His hair and full beard was white as snow and flowed over his shoulders and down his cloak. He held in his white gloved hand a regal staff. He looked around at the women with knowing blue eyes.
Several women got out of their seats as if stung and backed into the wall. A table toppled causing a lamp to crash to the floor. The women gasped as he stood before them. All was quiet. He said not a word. He just stared at each woman in turn, nodding as if stating he knew each one. No one moved as if they were afraid, not knowing or understanding who this stranger was, what he wanted or what he would do. Why was he here?
“Myra!” yelled Edith from down the hall, “What are you doing? Call the first patient!”
Myra did not move, but stood with her mouth gaping, open, aghast.
“Incompetent fool,” mumbled Edith, as she irately marched down the hall to see why Myra was standing around like a buffoon. Not looking into the waiting room she grabbed the list out of Myra’s hand, “What are you doing? Don’t you understand that Doctor Karl has a busy schedule today?”
She noticed Myra’s stark white face and goggling eyes staring into the waiting room. She turned and looked.
“My God! What the…,” she was taken aback, not expecting to see what she saw. Such a big man. All in red and fur. And that hat! He looked important, regal.
For a minute she said nothing, so shocked by the tremendous figure standing in the middle of the room. Big, encompassing all. She looked around the room at the women’s startled faces.
“Oh, no, no, no! What do you think you doing here? You can’t be here. You need to leave right this instant. Can’t you see? You’re upsetting our patients. What are you thinking?”
The man did not even look at Edith. He breathed in and let out a great, sad sigh.
“Sir!” Edith yelled, “Do you hear me? You cannot be here! This is private property! You need to leave immediately!”
She stepped forward but then stopped as if unsure if she should confront him.
“Sir?! Do you … um… understand English?” she asked.
The man, as if hearing something from above, looked up at the ceiling with interest.
“Do you hear me?” Edith getting irate continued, “You cannot be here!”
The man raised his hands as if reaching for something.
“Sir! I am asking you to leave this instant!”
“Edith! What is going on? You know I have a tight schedule today,” Dr. Karl Wanza stuck his head out the examining room door and yelled down the hall.
“Sorry doctor but there is this man out here…just…standing … and he will not leave!” Edith explained.
“What? Standing?” the doctor yelled confused, “If someone is causing a disturbance call the police!”
“But, doctor, it’s….” Myra’s voice came back.
“It’s what?” the doctor annoyingly barked.
Myra waved for him to come, “You…you just have to see for yourself.”
The man in red continued to stand completely still, eyes raised, arms raised as if waiting to be given something.
“I don’t have time for this nonsense, can’t you incompetent women deal with this yourselves and call the first patient?” the doctor remarked as he walked down the hall toward them.
When he saw the big red man he stopped in his tracks and swore under his breath.
The man in red put his arms down, turned his head and looked the doctor in the eye. As if stung by his stare the doctor flinched and backed against the receptionist’s desk. He fumbled and fell backwards and scurried down the hall away from the man in red.
“Doctor! What should we do?” Edith yelled after him.
“Call the police!” He yelled as he slammed the office door.
One of the women skirted her way around the man in red and left out the front door. The man in red sighed heavily. Another woman, with shaking hands ran towards the door. The man in red reached out and touched her shoulder as she passed. She stopped, looked up at him, kissed his large white gloved hand and sobbed as she left the clinic.
“Call the cops!” Edith hissed through her teeth at Myra, “Hurry! Before they all leave! He’s scaring them off!”
Myra, watching the man in red, did not move. She watched him as if she understood who he was and why he was there. She shook her head at Edith and mouthed, ‘No.’
Another woman stepped forward, he took her hand in his and she smiled, tears pouring down her face. He smiled back at her, nodding. She left.
“Hurry!” Edith barked, “They are getting away!”
Myra would not move.
Maria, the custodian, stepped into the waiting room. When she saw the man in red she gasped, crossed herself, kissed her fingers and began praying under her breath.
“Stop that!” Edith said shaking Marie.
“Saint…” Maria started.
“No it isn’t, stop that!” Edith cut her off and shoved her back into the hallway.
After another woman left Edith shoved Myra back and grabbed the phone.
“Yes, I would like to report an intruder at the East side clinic. Send the police!”
As the eighth woman willingly left of her own accord, two police officers showed up. When they stepped inside the clinic all was eerily quiet. They both blinked at the man in red and looked at each other with smiles, about to break out into laughter.
“Officers!” Edith pointed out, “That is the man! Arrest him!”
“Him?” One of the officers asked, “No way!” He laughed.
“Lady?” asked the other officer, “You want us to arrest Santa Claus?
“It’s Saint Nicolas,” explained Maria in awe “Today is his feast day. He is the Patron Saint of children.”
The older Italian officer looked at the younger red-headed officer, “Hey Murphy, what do you think Saint Nicolas is doing here?”
”And where is here, Sal?” asked Murphy.
“What do you people do here?” asked the older cop.
“Reproductive health. We’re a clinic. We help women in need,” Edith barked, “You need to arrest him.”
“You know what that means, right Sal? Remember what we were talking about earlier?” Murphy nodded at the older cop.
“Yup,” he crossed his arms over his chest and glared at Edith.
“What?! Do your job! Arrest this man!”
“For what? He is just standing here,” Sal pointed out.
Another woman stepped forward and embraced the man in red. He hugged her back.
“Yeah, he looks really threatening,” Murphy said.
The woman left.
“You see, he is scaring off our customers!”
“Yeah he’s wicked scary,” Sal laughed.
“He is an unwanted… man …in this establishment and he is driving away our clients!” Edith was hysterical.
“No one else is complaining but you,” Sal pointed out.
“I’m complaining,” Doctor Karl yelled from down the hall.
“Who’s that?” Murphy asked.
“Doctor…” Edith started.
“The abortionist,” Maria finished.
The two police officers looked at each other.
“What’s he afraid of? Leaving the women out here to fend for themselves. What a…”
Another woman grasped Saint Nicholas’ hand, sobbed and ran out the door. Three female patients were left in the waiting room. They all looked at each other embarrassed and with tears in their eyes.
“Seems to me he’s doing a good thing,” Sal stated.
“He is driving business away!” Edith spit.
“Business? You call this…. Business?” Sal asked.
“Despicable,” Murphy shook his head.
“How much money do you make per baby?” Sal asked.
Edith looked at the eyes of the last three women, “It’s not…”
“It is too. How much does she charge you?” Sal asked one of the women.
“Five…” the woman shyly spoke.
“Five hundred dollars?! Holy smokes!” He bellowed as the woman ran out the front door.
“Well, now, Sal, you scared that one away,” Murphy pointed out.
“Good. I’m helpin’ the big guy out,” he nodded at the large man in red. He nodded back.
“So the rest of yous are going to fork over five hundred big ones to these people…to do…. What? On Christmas? Really?” Sal asked.
The last two women broke down and cried. Saint Nicholas hugged them to him and led them to the door. Then he turned to them and laying a finger to the side of his nose they all watched as Saint Nicholas slowly sparkled and disappeared.
Edith screamed then fainted.
Maria and Myra turned to each other and crossed themselves, “God be praised,” Maria cried, “I have been praying for this day.”
The police officers stood gaping at the spot where he was, “Did you see that, Sal?”
Sal looked at Murphy dumbfounded and choked up, “Wow,” was all he could muster as a tear fell from his eye.
Maria and Myra helped Edith to her feet.
“Did he, did he? Where? How?” Edith stuttered as they set her on the couch.
“Christmas miracle,” Myra stated.
“Did he finally leave? Good! But, wait…Where did all the customers go?” The all turned to see Dr. Karl Wanza standing in the reception area with his hands on his hips.
“Yes, he did finally leave. And all the ‘customers’ went home… to embrace their families, and to acknowledge and accept the one who is to come,” Sal stated.
“Baby Jesus?” Maria asked.
“Well, yeah, him too. Come on Murphy, our work is done here. Let’s get the hell out of this…place. Merry Christmas,” They tipped their hats to Maria and Myra.
“Merry Christmas, and God bless you.”
As they departed a great swirl of snow blew through the room as the bells on the door rang out their song.