Santa swore loudly at the TV, then took a long swig of export lager, draining the can before throwing it on the pile of discarded empties at his feet. Bloody Christmas adverts, what the hell was the world coming too?
Grimacing, the thought crossed his mind that, in fact, most of the world appeared to be coming to his mailbox at this time of year, judging by the sackfuls of unopened post building up in his hallway. Then there were the damn emails clogging up his inbox. Gone were the simple days of a scrawled note left under the chimney, it was all so complicated now. He cursed again at the thought of chimneys – they were becoming a thing of the past, all very well, but it caused him endless headaches, at least it used to… These days, if he couldn’t find a chimney, he didn’t deliver; it was that simple. It wasn’t unusual for him to return home with a sack almost as full as when he’d set off – at least his eBay seller’s account was doing a brisk trade in ‘unwanted’ gifts. As for those houses that still sported chimneys, only to then confront him with a bricked-up fireplace, he simply dumped what he had right there – sod them… If they want their presents, they can climb down the damn chimney themselves to retrieve them!
He stomped off to the kitchen to rifle through the contents of the freezer; pulling out a plastic tray of something brown, he wiped the frost from the label and stared in incomprehension at the words. What the hell was katsu curry? Muttering more profanities, he threw it into the microwave, turned the dial to ‘high’ and inwardly resolved to take a little more care on his next shopping trip – yellow labels were fine, but maybe he should be a little more discriminating in his choices? Ideally, of course, he wouldn’t be surviving on microwave crap and three-minute noodles, but cooking was certainly not his forte, and since Mrs Claus had packed her bags two years earlier, he didn’t have much choice in the matter. Briefly, he allowed himself to recall her special turkey dinners and how much he missed proper food. Bitch!
He’d never got to the bottom of what exactly had been going on, or for how long, but he suspected it was far worse than she’d admitted too, and for far longer than he cared to admit. Now he’d lost not only his wife, but his best elf too – grimly he hoped things were turning out just as badly for them as they were for him – they deserved it… It’s one thing having an affair with the bosses’ wife, quite another thing for the boss to walk in on you whilst you’re shagging on the back seat of the sleigh! In the end, he’d had to have it re-upholstered – talk about stubborn stains!
His thoughts were interrupted by the ping of the microwave and, even after finishing his meal, he still had no idea what katsu curry was.
He toyed with the idea of going down to the workshop, but he just couldn’t face the elves – arrogant little buggers – they’d got it into their heads that because he ‘only works one day a year’ and they were busting their asses for the other 364, that they should be getting a pay rise and doing the job on their own terms. Plus, they argued, since the job had changed so much in recent years they were well overdue for a reappraisal of their terms and conditions – out were going the old skills, like carpentry and dollmaking, to be replaced by IT and technical engineering – skills that the elves felt deserved far more recognition than they were getting. Santa snorted, this is what happens when you lose your chief elf, not that he’g have him back under any circumstances, but it was damn annoying. Stuff the workshop! There was still a week to go before Christmas, and it wasn’t as if he was making any special effort this year – if the presents weren’t ready, they didn’t go out, he wasn’t going to try too hard to deliver most of them anyway.
An hour later found him slumped on the sofa, the pile of empty lager cans noticeably larger, and some rubbish ‘celebrity’ gameshow on the telly turning his brain to mush. “Shoot the lot of them”, he slurred, “now, that’s something I’d vote for!”
The strident tones of the doorbell rang out, the unexpected strains of Jingle Bells causing him to inhale his drink, triggering a massive fit of coughing. Now, who the hell was that? Didn’t they realise he was a busy man, for crying out loud? The bell chimed again, and grudgingly Santa stumbled to his feet, wiping spittle and lager from his beard, and stomped to the door.
The penguin at the doorstep seemed unfazed by Santa’s bedraggled appearance.
“What?”, demanded the fat, and now thoroughly annoyed, jolly old fellow. “I’m not interested in saving the whales, starving kids or roof insulation – so I suggest you bugger off!”
The penguin looked him up and down critically, then stiffly extended a flipper holding a brown envelope.
Santa laughed nastily; “Oh, it’s a Christmas list, is it? Well you can forget it! No personal deliveries – I only accept requests by the normal channels: Notes up the fireplace, letters to the North Pole or email! I don’t do penguins anyway – people only!”
Sighing, the penguin finally spoke: “I’m from head office. You’ve been summoned to see the boss. I suggest you read the letter.”
“Head office? The boss? What the hell are you on about? There is no head office – I’m the boss!”
The penguin allowed himself a brief sardonic smile. “Of course there’s a head office, and no, you’re not the boss. Who do you think co-ordinates things? They don’t just happen, you know… Someone has to be in charge of you lot!”
“Whaddya mean… ‘You lot’?”
“Well, you; the Easter Bunny, Jack o’Lantern… You get the picture?”
If he’d been wound up before, Santa was now furious. Who the hell did these people think they were to make demands of him like this? He had half a mind to slam the door in the penguin’s face, but on the other hand, he was just drunk enough to want to make something more of this… He would go along with this nonsense and check out ‘head office’, and when he got there, there’d be hell to pay!
“OK, I’ll come with you – but I’m not happy about it!”
“Excellent” replied the penguin, “we’ll take the Polar Express… Might I suggest you change your shirt and wash the curry from your beard before we leave?”
It was a long, and rather tense journey, which ended in a nondescript town, with a nondescript name, somewhere in India. Santa, sweating profusely, cursed inwardly, irritated by the constant drive to outsource business to such places. By the time they arrived at the nondescript street where the nondescript building holding head office was apparently located, Santa was spoiling for a fight. The penguin directed him to take a seat in a nondescript waiting area and disappeared through a nondescript door.
Three hours is a long time to sit and wait in a nondescript room for no apparent reason, so you can imagine both Santa’s relief and his exasperation when a head popped around the door and queried: “Mr Claus? You’re up!”
The head, it turned out, was attached to a body belonging to a rather nondescript looking man wearing an ill-fitting suit and, bizarrely, odd shoes. The man waved Santa in the general direction of a chair that had seen better days set in front of a nondescript desk that had also seen better days. The man took a seat behind the desk, rifled through some papers, from which he selected a thin manilla file, and looked Santa straight in the eye.
“Are you the ‘boss’?” asked Santa. “I was under the impression that I was here to see Mr High and Mighty himself, and you don’t strike me as anyone particularly special”.
“Oh, goodness me, no!”, he exclaimed, “No, the boss isn’t here right now, he’s attending to important business… Somewhere at the North Pole, I believe”.
“What did you say?”, barked Santa, “You mean this idiot isn’t even here? And what the hell is this important business at the North Pole… I’ve just come from there, for pity’s sake!”
The nondescript man appeared to be appraising Santa before giving his response, then he sighed, opened the file in his hand, briefly scanned the contents of the first page, closed the file, then rested his chin on arched fingers.
“It would appear, Mr Claus, that he’s in contractual discussions with your replacement!”
Instantly, Santa was on his feet, leaning across the desk and leering at the nondescript man, who to his credit, didn’t flinch.
“Now, wait a minute, you nasty little worm. I’d be very careful, if I were you, about what you’re saying! My effing replacement?”
“Er, yes…” the man opened the file again and pointed to the second paragraph down: “Apparently, Amazon Logistics have been successful in their bid. I’m truly sorry, Mr Claus, but we’re going to have to let you go…”
Santa felt like he’d been punched in the stomach. Reeling, he collapsed back into the chair.
“Well, Mr Claus, I think it’s pretty clear why. Your record over the last couple of years has hardly been exemplary, has it? Undelivered presents… Theft and resale of property… Industrial unrest in your workshop… Drunk in charge of a sleigh… Unexplained ‘re-upholstering’ claims… And, I hesitate to mention it, but there was the rather disquieting matter of you leaving something unmentionable underneath a client’s Christmas tree!
We really have little alternative, I’m afraid. You’re fired!
Please leave your uniform, ID badge and sleigh licence with the penguin on your way out. Good day, Mr Claus.”
It is the night before Christmas, and all through the house
Nothing is stirring, not even a mouse
For Amazon have been, and in your safe place
They’ve left all your presents, with a whole day’s grace
Whilst down in the pub sits a sad, fat old man
With fluffy white beard and an Indian tan
Drowning his sorrows in whisky and beer
Desperately trying to find some good cheer
But it’s too late for him, now he’s out of a job
For nobody wants to employ a fat slob
So he’ll go home tonight for his microwave meal
In front of the TV, watching ‘Deal or no Deal’
And think of the days when he rode through the sky
On a sleigh pulled by reindeer, flying so high
But those days are over, and I’m sorry to tell
That for people like Santa, it won’t turn out well
You see the boss makes a list too, and is checking it twice
And he always finds out who is naughty and nice
And if you’re a bad one, he’ll give you the sack
Not one filled with gifts: He’s taken that back
So remember this Christmas to do as you’re told
Or, just like Santa, you’ll be out in the cold!