I was a precocious child. I learned to read and write by the age of four. This presented many problems for me at that age because of my lack of knowledge about the world combined with a very fertile imagination.
I was born in Brooklyn. We lived in a the Albany Housing Projects in the heart of Crown Heights. It was Christmas time and as with all little kids, I brimmed with excitement that Santa was coming. Most of what I knew about Santa came from TV shows. I’d watched a stop motion version of Rudolph the Red Nosed reindeer so many times and daydreamed about how Santa would come to my house and deliver his presents. The only problem was, we didn’t have a chimney. How would Santa get in? Would he forget me because he couldn’t get in? I would dwell on this question all day until I had to get an answer. I would ask my older brother Elroy, surely he would know.
Elroy lived to torture me. At every opportunity, he would mess with my head. He would very often be left in charge of watching me to his dismay. So to control me and keep me out of his way, he’d tell me stories of Sam Bodoo. Sam Bodoo was the name of the boogey man who lived in the closet. When I wasn’t looking, Elroy would put a shoe in the closet just so the toe was sticking out of the door. He’d then say if I came out of the room, Sam Bodoo would come out of the closet and eat me. He’d say to me in a spooky voice, If you leave the room, Sam Bodoo is gonna get yoooou! I would start crying and he would say if my tears hit the floor, he’ll open the door. That was all he had to say. I’d sit there trembling, eyes as big as saucers, terrified into rigid silence. When he wanted to stop scaring me, he’d pretend to talk to him in the closet while sliding the shoe back with his foot and close the door. I was safe as long as Elroy was around to control him.Elroy was my guardian, surely be able to tell me about Santa.
One day I asked Elroy, How does Santa get into our apartment? He thought for a second and said, he will come down through the incinerator. This was a problem. The incinerator was in a small room in the hall outside the apartment. It had a heavy iron access door that you would pull down to open and put garbage in. This led to a huge shaft that went from the basement to the roof. At the bottom was a huge furnace that would burn the garbage. At that age, it seemed like a chasm to the entry to hell itself. I was terrified of it, especially when the fire was on. When you’d open the chute door, you’d hear the raging flames and the sound of air being sucked in. The vacuum would be so strong it would put the chute door closed with a loud bang. Surely this was no place for Santa, I thought to myself on Christmas eve while laying in bed. My mind imagined that Santa would not be able to stop and fall to his death. consumed by the fury of the blazing holocaust within. I couldn’t let that happen. It would be my fault Santa died trying to give me presents. He must be warned. So bravely I crept out of bed in the dark, terrified that Sam Bodoo would see me, but I had to go for it. Every footstep I took was filled with terror until I got to the bedroom door. I went out of the apartment and into the entrance of hell. The fires were not burning, I knew this was my only chance so I pulled open the heavy door and yelled Santa! Santa!!. My yells had apparently awoken my sister who came running into the incinerator room to get me. Boy! What’s wrong with you?? she yelled. I told her I was trying to warn Santa so he wouldn’t get burned. She looked at me incredulously and said, What? What are you talking about?? I explained to her what Elroy had said and she just started laughing hysterically. Get in the house boy!, she said ushering me back sobbing because I’d failed, Santa would die and I would get nothing for Christmas.