Monday, December 14, 2009

A short Christmas story
No one knew what it was like to be Santa Claus.

That's what the man himself thought when he read the headlines about how his operation -- the one he'd been running successfully for centuries, was under investigation by the United States' new president's administration.

The President had promised --during his campaign -- to investigate Santa Claus. Why had the man never paid taxes to any country he'd visited? Why was he -- and only he-- allowed to sneak around people's houses late at night.

And finally, why had rich kids been getting better toys than poor ones for the last hundreds of years?

The man, who had been alive forever and never really aged past 60, shook his head at the stories he was reading. He knew the answers to these questions, and he also knew answers to questions people refused to ask.

It wasn't enough that he could visit every home in one night, or that he could make reindeer fly, or that he had managed to live in the North Pole all these years (the cold air made the take offs and landings on Christmas Eve a real hastle).

The truth was so simple. Rich kids got better presents because Santa was bribed by their parents. If the poor kids didn't like it, well, then they could freeze 12 months a year and live with hundreds of malcontent midgets that the press had lovingly labeled "elves."

Elves were part of the deal. Santa had rescued them centuries ago and given them a place to stay, even given them the gift of immortality. True, they were paid less than union scale, and also were thrown out if talk of forming unions got back to the boss.

But so what? This is how the game is played. Santa Claus had cornered the market on supernatural holiday gift-givers in recent years.

The Easter Bunny was in hiding. The Tooth Fairy was finished after pictures of her with a prominent golfer surfaced.

Santa had elves, but he also had helpers. The Santa Clauses at your local mall don't just take orders from children, they take orders from The Man. These men made sure that the Easter Bunny never eclipsed Santa's popularity, by pressuring malls to stop allowing giant bunnys to greet kids. That's for Santa.

Yes, Santa thought as he looked into the daily paper, he was not perfect. But what about the concessions he made? He gave up his pipe after the anti-smoking groups complained. He even promised to start working out so as not to convey to kids that obesity was OK.

Some gratitude, the old man thought.

Now here's the President, asking me to "spread the wealth around"? He's Santa Claus, not Alan Greenspan.

In truth, the man was thinking of scaling back. Government intervention was no way to make his job easier. Maybe he could outsource the elves. Maybe he could hire a lawyer to help cut a deal with the government where at least he'd be home for the holiday.


"It's no use," Santa said to himself. "Maybe I need to reform."

He could stop taking bribes. He could allow the elves to unionize. He could even let the reindeer hire a backup crew to ease their pressures.

Santa got optimistic.

"Maybe I can finally live up to Miracle on 34th Street," he told his wife, who mentally dismissed it as something she'd heard before.

Mrs. Claus knew her man wasn't a saint, despite his name. But people needed her man. She had helped keep the business afloat during the 1970s, when Santa was out of favor with the general public. She'd made deals with TV stations to keep playing the movies about him, to keep him visible in the public eye.

She'd had to do this, because Santa was always busy with the elves, who were always talking about forming a competitive group to run against Santa.

Mrs. Claus knew that was a pipe dream. The elves frightened people, and they had no connections. For now, Santa was the only game in town come Christmas.

But Santa got so excited he headed for the door. He would change. He would re-invent himself. He would ...

He opened his garage and saw his sleigh had been vandalized.

"Stay home, fat boy!" it said in big black letters.

"The world doesn't deserve a better Santa Claus!" he concluded, shut the door and went about his day.



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