Christmas is here, and here’s a jolly tale to brighten the day. It’s from the latest Christmas anthology, and it’s a little irreverant in places…
The elf workshop buzzed with activity. Long gone were the lazy days of New Year and spring, where they might casually cobble together a zombie doll or a foam-firing machine gun for the modern children. Those idle, creative days were in the past and yet, also in the future. For now, it was all systems go. They had to fill Santa’s sacks for his trip around the world and that was only days away.
Tiddles, up until now engrossed in his construction of a rather gentle wooden train set, paused in his work as a realisation struck him. He left his bench and wandered over to George, while staring around at the frantic activity of the workshop. Something – or rather, someone – was missing.
“George. Do you have a minute?”
“Sure, Tiddles. I’ve just about finished this power tool set for a two-year-old.” George smiled up at Tiddles from his seat.
“Two…? Oh, never mind.” Tiddles had long since given up on worrying about modern children. Darwin’s theories could deal with their future. He took a breath. “Look, George, have you seen Santa recently? He usually wanders around to check on things at this time of year, but I haven’t seen him for at least a week.”
“Yeah, he’s in his rooms getting into the proper Christmas mood. Dodgy Pete gave him a load of Christmas DVDs and some bottles of whisky so he could get into character. At a reasonable price too.” George buzzed a brightly coloured power drill to test its workings. “I mean, he does get a bit bored the rest of the year. He needs to dispel the gloom before his one night of activity.”
Tiddles narrowed his eyes. “Dodgy Pete? Whisky? This does not sound like a good thing.” He grabbed George’s collar and hauled him out of his seat. “Come on. We’d better check on this.”
Tiddles rapped on Santa’s door and in the absence of a response, pushed it open.
A deep and resonant voice boomed at them from the dark room within. “Ho ho ho, motherfuckers. Now I have a machine gun.”
Tiddles and George hit the ground as the plasterwork above them exploded in a shower of dust. Tiddles hissed to George, “Where the hell did he get that?”
George blinked away plaster dust. “Dodgy Pete maybe. Or perhaps Prepper Brian. I don’t know.”
Tiddles raised his head a little. “Santa. Put the damn gun down. What the hell is it for anyway?”
The voice boomed back from the darkness. “Oogie Boogie’s kids aren’t going to get me this year. As for that Grinch, he’s toast. Green toast. Like that avocado crap the man-buns eat.”
Tiddles pressed his hand to his face. “George, this is just a wild guess, but I’m thinking you didn’t look at the films or the amount of whisky Dodgy Pete sold him. Do you think I might be right?”
“Pete told me they were all Christmas films. From the bargain bin. Cheap ones. I didn’t ask about the whisky.”
“Well so far we’ve had ‘Die Hard’, ‘The Grinch’ and ‘The Nightmare before Christmas’. Still, first things first.” Tiddles took a deep breath. “We’ll have to get that gun away from him.”
George raised his eyebrows. “All great films, I loved them.”
Tiddles’ response was drowned out by another burst of bullets, showering them with splinters of door frame as well as more dust. The burst ended with a click.
“Damn, I’m out.” Santa fumbled for another magazine.
“Now, George. Get him.” Tiddles rushed forward and grabbed the gun, while George, being the bulkier of the two, barrelled into Santa and knocked the wind out of him. Tiddles took the gun and threw it towards the door.
Santa sat on the floor, holding his chest while he regained his breath. George and Tiddles stood facing him.
“You’d better not have a heart attack now, Santa.” Tiddles glowered at him. “We don’t have time to train another one.”
“Well—” Santa took a few deep breaths. “Well if you didn’t go around pretending to be Oogie’s boys and forcing me to defend myself, and then knocking the living shit out of me…”
“Erm… you were machine gunning us,” George pointed out.
“And we weren’t pretending to be anything,” Tiddles growled. “We just came to see why you hadn’t been inspecting the workshops this year.”
“Well, I’ve been getting into character.” Santa started to rise and stumbled back into a stack of empty bottles. He sat among them, sweeping them aside until he found a full one.
“Into character?” Tiddles gasped. “As what? The last days of Elvis? W.C. Fields? Father Jack? A meth addict in red? You’ve turned into a sweary violent pisshead. This is not what people expect to see, you know.”
Santa took a deep swig from his bottle. “Ish…(hic)…it’s the modern world, elfy thing whose name escapes me. I’ve been learning all about it from the documantrees.. doccydamntrees… documentaries Pete gave me. Ish not all swigness and lights out there any more. Halloween wants my job. And then the green thing. And that nasty bastard with the little moustache.” Santa’s brows furrowed. “Little moustaches used to be a mark of nastiness, I think.”
Tiddles covered his face with his hands. At this point, I wish Oogie Boogie was here. I’d help his boys take this madman away. “Look,” he sighed. “Those were fiction. Not documentaries. Just films. And ‘Die Hard’ isn’t a Christmas film anyway.”
“It’s set at Christmas.” George noted Tiddles’ glare. “Okay. Now is not the time for that argument.”
“What are you talking about, not real? I saw them on the screen. The pumpkin head guy, Oogie Boogie, the green misery, the exploding building. I saw them all. And I was in there too.” Santa paused and pursed his lips. “Although it was probably a body double because I don’t remember it.”
“The ‘Nightmare’ one isn’t even real people. It’s computer graphics. How did you think it was real?” Tiddles surveyed the empty bottles littering the floor. “Oh. Of course.”
“Then there’s Krampus and Jack Frost.” Santa shook his head. “Nasty buggers. I’m going to need to go armed this year.”
“No.” Tiddles stamped his foot, which caught one of the empty bottles and sent it clattering into the others. “You are not going into houses armed, and you have no need to fend off mythical creatures and movie characters. They aren’t real.”
“But…” George started to speak, but Tiddles’ glare stopped him.
“Well, we’d better get you sobered up, Santa.” Tiddles rolled another bottle with his foot. It clinked into a couple of others. “It could take a few days. And we’ll have to sit you in front of a few rather more wholesome videos while you readjust. I think we’d better let someone else answer your letters too, in case you get a bit sweary in your responses and… are you even listening?”
Santa responded with a snore that would have drowned out a passing freight train.
“He’s conked out.” George nudged the prone figure. “No response. Yep, he’s completely out of it.”
“Probably just as well.” Tiddles sniffed. “Better get the rest of the elves in here. We’ll need to get him into bed and get this place cleaned up. Make sure there’s not another drop of any kind of booze left here, get rid of those damn DVDs, load up the coffee machine with the nuclear stuff and check everywhere for any kind of weaponry. I’m betting that machine gun wasn’t his only one.”
“Maybe we shouldn’t choose the next Santa at random,” George said. “There’s some problem every year with this one.”
“Yeah, we’ll need to introduce some kind of vetting process. Although we’d need to be sure Dodgy Pete isn’t involved with it at all.”
Tiddles led George over the rubble that was once a doorway. He picked up the machine gun as he passed. “I’d still like to know where he got this though.”
“The Sound of Music?” George held up a DVD. He had to repeat himself, his first attempt was swamped by the sounds of bottles being cleared away, drilling to install a new doorframe and an especially resonant Santa snore.
“Nah. It has Nazis in it. He’ll still want a gun.” Tiddles took the DVD and dropped it in the bin.
George picked up another. “Home Alone?”
“Nope.” Tiddles took it and dropped in the bin too. “The fat idiot will think every child has set traps for him.”
“Ah, how about ‘Miracle on 34th Street’?”
“Now you’re talking, George. We can play that one while he’s still in a haze. Maybe get something into him subliminally.” Tiddles put the DVD to one side. “We should also load him up with Christmas songs while he’s still in that alcohol haze. Get him back to normal.” Tiddles paused. “Well, as normal as he ever gets.”
George picked a CD out of his box. ‘The Twenty Most Irritating Christmas Songs’. He handed it to Tiddles, who nodded his approval.
George sighed. “Do you think we’ll have at least one drama-free Christmas with this Santa?”
Tiddles placed the CD on top of the DVD. “Probably not. Still, we’ll soon have our one night off for the year, when the deranged old fool goes off to deliver presents. I hope the beer and games are all ready?”
“Of course. And the invites sent out.” George managed a smile. “It’ll be a great night.”
“It certainly will.” Tiddles put the CD into a portable player and gently placed a set of headphones over Santa’s ears. He pressed ‘start’ and stood back. “Well, if it doesn’t get him in the mood, at least we can think of it as a suitable punishment.”
It was a rather subdued Santa who sat in his sleigh on Christmas Eve, reins loose in his fingers, his mouth sulky, his bushy brows lowered over reddened eyes.
“Are you sure he’s sober?” George whispered to Tiddles. “He doesn’t look in a fit state to drive.”
“It’s okay, he’s sober, just massively hungover. Rudolph will be in charge of navigation tonight. Santa just needs to deliver the presents.” Tiddles grinned. “Besides, so many people still leave out sherry or brandy for him that he never comes back sober anyway. This time I think he’ll sleep until New Year.”
The launch bell tolled. The reindeer took a few steps forward and the sleigh rose into the air.
“Good luck, Santa,” George called.
The corner of Santa’s mouth twitched. “Humbug,” he said.
George’s eyes widened. Tiddles’ eyes narrowed.
“Did you hear that?” George nudged Tiddles.
“I did. I also saw that.” Tiddles scowled. “The crafty old sod is up to something.”
The reindeer glowed with Christmas magic. As the sleigh rose, a swirling portal appeared in the sky ahead of them. Once the sleigh passed through, time would become irrelevant to it and Santa could cover the whole planet before sunrise.
Tiddles recognised the elf hailing them as Fluffy. Panting, he ran up to them.
“The party is getting started. Krampus and Jack Frost are here already, and Oogie’s on the way.”
“Great.” George rubbed his hands. “Let’s get inside.”
“Wait.” Tiddles watched the reindeer and sleigh approach the portal. “I just want to be sure. He’s supposed to laugh on the way through.”
The three of them stared upwards at the now brightly glowing sleigh and reindeer. It started to pass through the portal.
Santa’s voice boomed from the sky. “Yippee-ki-ay!” followed by a short burst of machine gun fire. The sleigh vanished into the portal.
Tiddles’ shoulders slumped. The three elves stood in silence for a moment.
“That’s not good, is it?” George said. “How did he get another gun?”
“Well…” Fluffy bit his lip. “He did put in a special request. For a toy one though. Dodgy Pete took the job.”
Tiddles nodded. “Then he used magic to make it real. He’s done something similar before.” He turned back to their home. “Well, bugger it. There’s nothing we can do about it now. Let’s just have a good time and try to get drunker than him. Then brace ourselves for this year’s complaints.”
“We’d better double up on the complaints department this year,” George said as they made their way back.
The sounds of merriment reached them across the snow. Tiddles sighed. “We’re going to have to do that every year for this Santa, I think. Well, he’s mortal, we can be a lot more careful when we pick the next one.”
“Will we ever tell one of them about Krampus and the others?” Fluffy asked.
“Oh hell no.” Tiddles raised his voice as he opened the door, so he could be heard over the raucous party inside. “There are some things Santa should never know about.” He grabbed a beer. “And this party is just one of those things.”