"When we're little kids we believe in Santa, and we believe in him because he brings us something extra, something neat-o. Sometimes it isn't exactly what we wanted, but so much of the joy is expecting, isn't it? When I was a real little kid, Doubs, I always liked Christmas Eve best. I liked the expecting better than I did Christmas morning, even if Santa did bring me what I asked for. It's like that with you and the Rapids. I hate it when you lose, but the good part is just that you play for us here in Fort Zack.
"The main thing about Santa is that he makes us care. So do you, Doubs. That's what you and all the players do."
Double T took a long swallow. "I never thought about it like that, little Dickie dude," he said. "It always just seemed to me to be a job, you know?"
"Well, that's O.K. It's a job for Santa, too. But just don't forget that you make a lot of people happy with your job. And maybe the people you make the happiest are the ones that the real Santa Claus can't bring presents to—the ones like you were when you were a kid. Because you can bring us a present that no one else can, Doubs. That's why we don't want to lose you from Fort Zack. Everybody loves Christmas, even if Christmas doesn't always come on December 25th."
"Hey, you be some kind of elf," Double T said.
Sanford K. Parker, who had bought the Fort Zachary Rapids because he had played basketball in prep school and because his accountant told him it gave him a good short-term tax position, lived in Manhattan and Palm Springs. In Palm Springs, in fact, he was well known for his annual Christmas Eve party, for to make that guest list was the highest form of holiday compliment. Parker was standing by the pool, which was festooned with floating wreaths, listening to a mariachi band play carols, drinking an eggnog and talking to four bankers, three Vegas types, two PR men and a movie star in a Gucci, when he saw Double T striding across the lawn. Everyone turned to stare at the giant black man who towered over all the little white people.
"My man," Double T said to Parker, snatching an eggnog from a silver tray. The mariachis played Deck the Halls.
"Doubs, what in the world are you doing here?" Parker said. "I mean you're welcome, of course, but...."
"We got to talk, Sandy."
Parker got his back up a bit at that. "Eddie Razor said I was never to speak with you without him. That's your rules."