By SKIP TUCKER, Alabama Daily News Featured Columnist
It was Christmas Eve, Back in the Day; away back in the day. Traditions weren’t fully formed.
It was so long ago that while not what might be described as svelte, Santa merely was plump, but it was obvious he was calorically challenged. Living at the Heart of Christmas meant continuous proximity to the finest candy, cake and cookies and hot cocoa and why is my mouth watering?
Dressing out, Santa noticed his the red suit was becoming a tight red suit.
While not new to the Christmas thing, he’d had the job but a few hundred years and there might’ve been a tinge of color to his hair and beard. Not after this night. Things happened, got worse, tried to right themselves, failed, slumped and went downhill from there.
Toy production was woefully off schedule. Elves, denied a wage increase, had produced a slowdown and little else. It was rumored that one carried a sign, briefly, that said Fule Pay for Leedil Peepul and another sported one that read We R Small But R Hamers R Bigge. The signs accomplished only the addition of extra schooling for the workforce.
He went to say goodbye to his wife, Barbara. She was Mrs. Santa Barbara Claus.
“Santa,” she said, pleasantly. “Where is our Christmas tree?”
“We don’t have a Christmas tree,” she said. “An elvish oversight, is all.” She smiled delightfully. “It is still a Merry Christmas, dear.”
Santa thought this must be some new definition of the word Merry that had escaped him.
Wearily, he shook his head. “It’s Christmas Eve, and the Claus family has not a tree,” he said, smoke curling ‘round his head like a wreath. Nevermind that he didn’t have his pipe.
“I could be fired for this, for cause. It’s in the contract. It’s the Claus clause for cause.”
Santa looked around, spotted a little Cherub walking nearby, and grabbed him by his halo.
“Go into the woods at once and bring back a proper Christmas tree,” he said in a tone surely sharper than he intended. “Do not go gentle into the good night.”
The Cherub considered a complaint to add to the Elf grievance, registered the look on Santa’s face and went for an axe. “Mmmph, mmmph,” he said.
The weather, always a bit dicey at the Pole, began to deteriorate. Weather forecasters were worse than today, if such a thing can be imagined.
His right-hand elf, I think his name was Elfis, had predicted perfect conditions, clear and bright. And white.
“Something to dream about, even,” Elfis said.
A wry smile failed to cross Santa’s face. He pointed toward the Aurora Borealis, in the process of being engulfed by a wave of whiteness.
“What might that be?” asked Santa in a low voice unbursting with Christmas spirit.
“Snow,” said Elfis, whose brain was not top shelf.
“Fog!” Santa retorted in what from anyone else might have been considered a menacing tone. He shook his head, said, “Alert the historic Rudolph! It’s to be a forty-amp night.”
“Er, yes, well, about Rudolph,” said Elfis, stuttering to a stop.
“And what of that legendary animal, glamorous in song and lore,” said Santa.
“Code clothes,” said the elf.
Flake, his left-hand elf said, “Cold in the nose. Hors de combat. Tonight it’s dead reckoning.”
Santa, too, was fighting a cold, which clearly had won the early rounds. Kind thoughts for Rudy’s welfare strained to enter Santa’s mind, found it shut, searched for a different door, were bounced away and gave it up for a bad job. Instead, the jolly old man’s mind began to play with combinations of reckon and dead, and slaying songs tonight.
Worse, news came that Donner, first reindeer to the left, right in front of the sleigh, had developed a severe stomach complaint. Donner is German for Thunder (Blitzen, by the bye, is lightning).
Santa’s personal Christmas wish list dwindled quickly to one, it being the hope that Donner’s name wouldn’t prove an accurate description. It’s estimated that Santa’s sleigh must move at 6,500 mph to complete the rounds in one night. He didn’t wish to contemplate possibilities. The word cork kept drifting through his mind. His facial color matched the color of his suit.
The elves quickly began to move away quietly.
Still, Santa realized, time to go. He tossed the key to the warehouse so elves could lock it against jealous trolls who liked plunder.
“Lock and load,” he called to his tiny workers. The Big Bag was brought. As he bent to hoist it to the back of his sleigh, Christmas cookies, candy and cake took their terrible toll. His pants split.
The sleigh is made of metal. Metal assumes the ambient temperature. Santa’s fur pants provided the sole layer of protection between his hiney and the metal. Danger, danger, thought Santa. Right up Santa Claus lane.
Just about this time the little angel trudged by, dragging a big fir tree.
“Hey, Santa,” he called. “Where do you want me to put this tree?”
Santa told him.
(Next week: Yum. Cultures Complement Seasonal Holidays.)
Skip Tucker was editor of the Daily Mountain Eagle in Jasper, then communications secretary for gubernatorial folks like George McMillan, Charlie Graddick and Jim Folsom. He ran Alabama Voters Against Lawsuit Abuse for in Montgomery for 15 years. He has published one novel, Pale Blue Light, a spy thriller set in The Civil War. He’s now a regular contributor for the Alabama Daily News at www.ALDailyNews.com.