It was the morning before Christmas and Santa Claus was blissfully dreaming of being able to rearrange the younger children’s factory with the purchase of some new labor saving fabrication equipment. This was something he had intended on doing for several years but for one reason or another, had never gotten around to it. The sad part of his dream was the growing attitude of the elves who worked there. Actually, he almost felt that he was coerced into his decision by that group because they were starting to talk about worker’s rights, unions and better conditions to include longer chocolate and cookie breaks as well as the use of those expensive power tools.
He was suddenly awakened by a pounding at his front door. When he sat up and opened his eyes he was surprised to find that the sun had already risen (I know as well as the next person that this doesn’t happen at the North Pole in the middle of winter. But, then again, you will have to find me a pole up there to mark that spot to begin with. And remember, it’s my story, so there!). Not only that, Mrs. Claus was still sacked out next to him with her sleep mask still tied firmly in place while snoring peacefully away.
He lightly slapped her on her rump as he jumped out of bed saying, “’C’mon old girl. The alarm didn’t go off and the sun is up. This is the busiest day of the year for me and we’re already two hours late.”
“Oh Nick,” she replied sleepily. “We do this every year and I’m really tired of it. The closer we get to Christmas the more demanding you get. The more demanding you get the less fun it is to be around you and I told you last year that if it didn’t stop happening, I’ll just quit. Well, you’ve done it again and you think you have problems with the elves. Try this out for size! I quit! That’s it! I’m done!
Let me know when you get back in tonight as I don’t think I’m even going to get up.” And with that she turned over, raised a hand in a goodbye or dismissive gesture (he wasn’t sure) and went back to sleep.
The getting dressed part was hampered by the insistent hammering at the front door. So he threw on one of his special Santa ropes and went downstairs to answer the door. When he opened it and looked out he didn’t see anyone or anything other than noticing that it had started to snow again.
Then he heard a very tiny voice.
“Down here, Mr. Santa. Down here.”
So he glanced down to see his lead elf standing in about five inches of snow with a long scroll held out and pointing at him. At first Santa thought that it was a revised demand for toys list which always showed up at this time of year and he reached for it while inviting the elf in for some coffee he was going to make.
The lead elf had a larger than usual frown on his face as he whipped the scroll out of Santa’s reach saying, “Oh no ya’ don’t
Mr. Santa. Our lawyer said that I had to read this to you before I handed it over in front of witnesses to make it all legal like.” With that the elf barged in brushing by Santa with about half a dozen or so elves following. All, save one, wearing dark frowns on their faces.
The exception was a fairly young elf that Santa recognized as being a brand new worker in his shop. This lad had probably never been in the big house before and as a result his eyes got real big and his head started bobbing in every direction while his mouth hung open trying to take everything in. He did this so much that a couple of other elves had to corral him and guide him back into the entry way.
The lead elf brought the scroll out in front of him and let the bottom drop to the floor. It reminded Santa of a town crier from a by-gone era. When he pulled himself up to his full three and half feet and assumed an air of importance and authority, Santa almost lost it.
Santa wasn’t really in the mood nor did he want to take the time to listen to all the ‘whereas’ and ‘therefores.’ He stood there listening until the elf came to the part, “ . . . that as of this minute we are on strike and have contracted with the UEWA (United
Elves Worker’s Association) to become a union shop.”
They were not going to let any outside, non-unionized, elves cross their picket line. Santa glanced outside in the direction of the toy shops and saw that the picket lines complete with signs, bull horns, and some larger elves standing to one side were already in place. They had miniature lengths of plastic pipe and whiffle bats in their hands. Santa didn’t recognize any of those elves but noticed that they all were very ugly and had candy cigarettes hanging from the corners of their mouths.
He didn’t really hear all that was said but accepted the scroll which was handed over with exaggerated dignity. The elves all piled out and the only one that looked up was the young one who also gave a shy wave of his hand which Santa returned.
At this point, Santa really missed his wife.
Here he was embarking on the longest day of the year for him and he didn’t know how to cook. Try as he must he couldn’t get a rise out of her by calling (yelling) up the staircase. So into the kitchen he went. He spent a great deal of time looking for the stuff he needed for breakfast. Normally Mrs. Claus would also pack him a few sandwiches and a thermos or two to keep warm on this his busiest night. However, he spent so much time looking for the things he needed for breakfast, he had decided that he would forgo his traveling food.
At the end of breakfast there was a frustrated Santa Claus. The coffee he made was pure mud and then he discovered he hadn’t made enough to go into his thermos too. His breakfast turned out to be two strips of charcoal which had originated as a pair of nicely thick cut apple smoked bacon. His eggs turned out to be a couple of cellophane puddles with yellowish orange colored centers that wouldn’t cut but wanted to roll across the floor when he missed the trash can. Normally he was more coordinated than he was displaying this morning but the spoon standing straight up in his coffee cup threw his aim off just when he was trying to toss the eggs away. He gave up on breakfast and started to mutter to himself in a low voice again which was totally non-intelligible.
He went back up stairs to get dressed but couldn’t find his clean clothing.
But here he got a small break. He ended up yelling at Mrs. Claus and she would gesture toward one place or another as to where everything was. He was able to find clean clothing for everything except for his coat. The only one he could find had Alfredo sauce spilled all over it from the other night when they were entertaining the mayor of Santa’s Village. The Mayor had stopped by to tell him that his taxes just had to go up for the survival of the village and its support structure such as garbage pick-up, street maintenance, snow removal, and Christmas decorations. So dawning the stained jacket he made his way out to the workshops.
It was a little disconcerting to find them empty and he noticed that his mumblings were coming a little more often and were just a little louder. He was a magic elf after all and was able to finish all the toys slated for delivery that night and much to his surprise he had a little extra time. So he wondered over to the reindeer only to find that Rudolph had a very bad cold and was coughing, sneezing and running a fever. With Rudolph’s nose inoperative Santa would be flying blind tonight.
He checked his sleigh-mounted RADAR unit to find that the elves had pulled the fuses so it was out too. His grumblings became even louder and occurred even more often. When he checked his sleigh he found the elves had pulled the runner from one side to repair the split in it when he had accidently hit the Golden Gate Bridge last year. The problem was, they hadn’t finished the repairs because of the excess transportation costs in shipping the new one. Oh it had come in but, there again, because of the strike, there it stood all ready to be installed leaning up against the
wall in a corner of the sleigh barn.
Santa’s mumbling got still louder and some of the words would have offended some of the lady elves as well as some of the younger ones. They, of course, were not in the barn so that they could have heard these ramblings. Santa not only re-fitted the runner himself but was able to locate all the elves that were not on the picket line.
He found them having a Christmas party in their common room right in the middle of their quarters. It was a party to end all Christmas parties complete with canapés and exotic snacks and good party booze from all over the world. He attempted to go in but was stopped by the unknown and strange elves. They were firm but insistent and he stopped trying when they started to reach in under their cute little elfin jackets right in the area where there were large lumps under them.
Santa noted the time and went out to get all the reindeer to get them hooked to his newly repaired sleigh. He was only stepped on three times by the nervous beasts. He knew they weren’t entirely keen on using the GPS for the night but he hadn’t any choice. He finished hooking them up and loaded all the toys, games, and other presents onto the sleigh. He had slipped while putting one bag in. That caused him to bark a shin rather hard.
Muttering even louder with clearly understandable words which even the elder elves would never use when they smashed their own digits with hammers while making the children’s toys, he limped back into the great house. He decided that he would try to make some sandwiches for his journey.
He had burnt the toast, dropped and broken a bottle of mayo and chopped on two fingers while cutting the corned beef and the Port de Salud cheese. He was in the process of cleaning the cuts when he discovered he had no idea where the bandages were. This elf was no longer muttering anything. He was involved in a long and loud monolog of every nasty word he could think of in the two hundred and thirty five languages that he spoke fluently. The paint in the kitchen over the sink was starting to peel when the door bell went off again. Still ranting and leaving a trail of blood with an assortment of bandaging material he made his way, limping, to the door and just threw it open.
Again he couldn’t see anything or anybody as before but looked down still muttering to himself while trying to stem the flow of blood issuing from his fingers. There he saw a little cherub. She was such a little thing with a overlarge, fat, tummy, rosy cheeks, red full lips, a button nose and clothed in a pastel blue sash which announced to the world that she was a ‘Novice Angel.’ It went over her left shoulder down to her right hip. She was very shy and had one hand up in front of her chin with the tip of a forefinger in her mouth. The other hand was holding the top part of a large but very full pine tree. It was already partially decorated with some blinking electric lights, a few glass bulbs of which two were broken along with several branches. This tree had seen some rough travel times to get it where it was.
The little cherub batted her big, blue eyes at the hot, steaming, Santa Claus and said in a very high but very sweet little voice. “Mr. Santa Claus, I know its three weeks late and there’s a delivery fee. But, where would you like me to stick this tree?”