1 Samuel 17 by J. Bradley

“You’re not strong enough to load a crossbow, James.”

“Bullshit, look at these guns.” I flex, my biceps barely pitching a canopy.

“Those guns got nothin’ but blanks. Why do you do this every year to yourself?”

Ever since I caught mommy kissing Santa Claus when I was nine, I wanted to reclaim her honor. I thought if I was good all year, I could ask for things that would help take him out the next year. The AirSoft rifle came as a ten-speed, the slingshot, a pair of Hulk hands. This year, I joined up with the FCA chapter at school; being tight with football and Jesus is like finding a magic lamp, except John the Baptist comes out and grants you one wish and that one wish has to be made in America, the product not the wish itself.

“James, there’s no Santa Claus, and there’s no crossbow under the tree. Look.”

“Ben, there’s a Santa Claus, and he’s gonna to give me a crossbow this year. I’m gonna wound him, kill one of his reindeer, feed it to him. I’ll eat the pieces he salts with his tears.” Ben punches me in the arm.

“What the fuck!”

“I hope that’s your crossbow loading arm, you dumb shit.”


I realized Santa’s not dumb enough to give you weapons you might use against him when he left me sweaters, jeans, a black leather wallet last Christmas. Four stockings filled with candy canes and stale Christmas tree cookies slap against my back as I climb the oak tree facing my roof. Hanging out with the FCA taught me you kill legends with faith.

I settle myself on a branch, twirl the first stocking until the shrapnel eats its way through, spilling everywhere. The second stocking smacks the gutter. My mom looks through the window, doesn’t see me through the branches. The third stocking hits the roof, shatters. I sit and wait, imagine myself twirling the stocking, slivers of candy cane puncturing his lungs, the glitter of the stale Christmas tree cookies choking him; I made sure it matched the same lipstick my mother left on his mouth.


J. Bradley is the author of Greetings from America: Letters from the Trade War (Whiskey Tit Books, 2019). His flash fiction piece, “How to Burn a Bridge Job Aid” was selected for Best Small Fictions 2019. He lives at jbradleywrites.com.

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