April 12, 2020
Yesterday Patrick and I left NYC and picked up a “suntanned Santa” from Craigslist on the way to Gilberton. We pulled up in the gravel driveway of a brick house in Easton, PA—I Venmo’d Carlos Martin $55 for the plastic cast. Carlos showed me that it lights up by plugging it in to an outlet in his garage while his husband continued to mow the lawn.
Then, after an afternoon in Gilberton, We drove around, following instincts for direction. We started off taking a left out of the lot and drove toward Mahanoy Plane. Past the dense pine grove on the left (repeated setting for dreams) and down the hill through Girardville. After Girardville (the sun was blaring in our eyes) we turned up to the right on the hill, where, at the top, you can choose to go left, seven miles to Ashland, or right, four miles to Shenandoah.
We turned right. The sun was now behind us as we wove through the hill on the narrow, windy road. Homes on the right were short, attached, slouched together. Homes on the left were tall and narrow, towering, mostly falling apart (sun patch/patch work shingles.) We passed the big white house on the left with the cement wall—it sits behind this wall in a grassy hill that borders the road. It has vines crawling all over its pillars and gate.
After the white house, when we curved around the bend, we saw the cemetery on the left, receding up into the vast, steep, steep, hill that sort of slopes down in flat tiers toward the road like it’s about to slide off the landscape. Like the tombstones are about to slide off the mound of dead vegetation planted only as deep as baby teeth.
Then, as we reentered the pass concentrated with homes on either side, I interrupted Patrick: “A Santa!” I saw the back of his white plastic head, wedged behind trash on a front porch.
-parked facing the sun light
-I got out
-Patrick made room in the car
P: You rigorously ascended the hill
A: I saw the Santa on the porch first, with Frosty. They were a pair.
Patrick heard me say: “There’s another one!”
P: You went up the hill. I didn’t see you anymore and I heard you say “There’s another one!”
(I saw the duplicated Santa silently & on my own.)
A: That’s creepy
P: Yeah, I was just like “Another what?” and you said “Another Santa and Frosty.”
That’s when Patrick started walking up the hill, too.
Two identical pairs. (Santa and Frosty.)
P: Facing the house at different angles.
One (Santa) in front midway across the front of the house on the porch, and one in the center of the side of the house
Both Santas had a Frosty beside them. Both pairs were facing the house: one set in front on the porch, and one set along the side of the house. The placement looked intentional.
I got lured in by Santa.
First I saw: the back of Santa’s head on the porch.
Then I ran up the concrete steps alongside the front porch and discovered another pair of Frosty-Santa on the side of the house, positioned together, side-by-side, facing the house, their backs facing me but they were angled as if they were looking at something. Something in the house.
Patrick was standing behind the Santa in the front of the house. I was standing behind the Santa on the side of the house.
Both Santas’ backs were facing us. We were all facing the house. Frosty seemed definitively placed with Santa. The pairs were identical.
I picked up the Santa on the side of the house. I stood with him in my arms, my hand on his head. We faced the road. Then I put him back and I looked at him.
At this point Patrick and I were standing together. That was when he started noticing the environment while I was still fixated on Santa.
Patrick started noticing homemade cages made of chicken wire with the fronts torn out. They were covered in shit. He also noticed giant fish tanks, five or six feet long. He saw four tanks on the porch and two tall, octagonal ones in the backyard.
I kept remarking about Santa. Patrick was commenting on the reptile tanks. At some point we realized we weren’t talking about the same thing. At no point, up until then, did we acknowledge we felt bad there.
Patrick pointed up the hill. I started walking up there “pretty far” he said, without looking back.
Patrick said that was the moment things shifted from “this is really fuckin weird” to “this feels really bad." I said I felt the same way about that moment.
At the apex of the hill, behind a chicken-wire fence there was an enclosed structure with a chimney protruding. The structure was the size of an outhouse. I didn’t make it that far. But that is the image that stopped me in my tracks and what sticks in my mind now. The part that remains most salient to Patrick is the front porch.
P: “It felt like the aperture between outside & inside that was really uncomfortable.”
The front door to the house had two locks on it. One was a broken padlock. The other was a red cross bar meant for a car steering wheel (a “club”) which was bolted to the door frame on either side with two rusty steel hinges with 100 screws haphazardly driven into the aluminum.
I lifted Santa in my arms from the side of the house and put him in the car. Then, while in the car I was like “Should I go get the other one?”
We stood on the side of the porch, deliberating. It felt stressful as if some kind of time was running out. Before getting caught?
Patrick thought the circular saw blade hanging on the wall beside the porch was a sander but I saw the teeth.
I looked at the front door and at the red bar bolted across it. I wondered how long it would take to scale the front porch from the side entry where we stood, navigating all its debris, to retrieve the second Santa. I imagined Leatherface bursting from the doorway and grabbing me from the waist as soon as I dislodged him (Santa). The Santa was placed just to the right of the door across the porch, under what looked like a sheet of insulation. It seemed like the perfect trap. Santa was planted right in front with just enough time allocated around specific obstacles to trap a nosy idiot.
Patrick said he didn’t think that Santa was there for me; he was there for the house.
Patrick pointed out the one I took had all his color washed out except his blue eyes. “Like mine” I said. “You and Santa are the same guy” he said.
I searched for Santa yesterday so I could decapitate him and bury his head in a brick