He walked slowly, hands thrust deep in his pockets, staring morosely at the snow-covered earth. Muttering to himself, “These talking therapies, waste of time. They don’t help at all. And lord knows I need help right now. Bored, sooooo bored. Been doing the same job for how long now? Always the same. See a roof. Land on it. Nip down the chimney, don’t forget the present. Back up again. Brush off the soot and old birds’ nests, spit out a stale mince pie and a mouthful of cheap sherry. Look for the next roof. And so on. infinitum. Tedious.
“And here we are again, another Christmas eve, loading up my sleigh. Which needs a full service and a paint job, but with cutbacks, you know, all they’ve done is give it a bit of a hose-down and taped up the damaged off-side runner. It doesn’t look very Christmasy, AND it’s highly likely to break down again. Probably over some sensitive missile testing ground in northern Russia and we all know how that can end up.
“And the Santa satnav software hasn’t been updated for a couple of years now and with all these new homes being built in all these new towns, I’m going to end up like your average eastern European lorry driver: either lost in Norwich – or on a narrow track leading up to an abandoned farmhouse in Northwich.”
Poor Santa Twenty Six, for it is he. His mum had warned him. “Neglect your school work like this and you’ll end up as a delivery boy. Try and do a little bit better. Don’t you have any ambition? Think about a proper job. Like banking or politics. Pillars of society, bankers and politicians.”
But of course he hadn’t listened. He wanted to play in a rock ‘n roll band. Be a big star. Grow his hair long. Spend winters in Bermuda. You don’t need school for that. “C’mon, Ma. Giz a break”, and he would go upstairs and shut himself in his bedroom and play air guitar to the latest number one hit.
He looks over to where the other Santas are loading up their sleighs, brushing their reindeers, feeding them carrots. They all look so happy, practicing their ho-ho-hos and being rather jolly. How do they manage it, he asks himself. Don’t they know they’re just capitalist tools, pandering to big business, encouraging excess consumption. Slaves to the status quo.
And there over there was high-flyer new-kid-on-the-block young number Three Hundred and Ninety Seven loading his souped up go-cart with what looked like I-Pads and smart phones. “Got to keep up with the times, granddad,” he scoffed nodding at the teddy bears and Meccano sets on Twenty Six’s load. And to rub salt into the wound, he would remind everyone that he is usually offered Extra Strong Lager instead of sherry. “Impudent young pup,” thought Twenty Six.
Just then a message came over the tannoy, “Can Santa Twenty Six report to the Controller’s office. Immediately.”
Now what, thought Santa. Something I’ve done wrong? Or maybe I’m being transferred to Wrapping and Packing – can’t think of anything worse. No, no, no, this isn’t good. Being summoned is always bad news. And he shuffled his way to the building where the managers have their swish offices, and took the lift up to the fifteenth floor.
The Controller shouted a gruff, “Come in,” at Santa’s knock.
“Ah, it’s you. Number Twenty Six isn’t it?” and he fussed around on his desk looking for Santa’s personnel file.
“Ah, yes”, he said. “Number Twenty Six. Been with us a while, haven’t you. Over eighty years. Good record. Always deliver on time. A bit of a speed freak. Inclined to hammer your sleigh. Heavy footed, eh? Got a great ho ho ho, but occasionally inclined to be a bit grumpy. Bit of a lefty, something of a mutterer. Some minor workplace disputes along the way. All resolved.
“But here’s the thing, Santa Twenty Six. A note from senior management. Hmmmm. They seem to be happy with your overall performance. Can’t think why. They want me to say nice things to you. But you wouldn’t want to be embarrassed, would you, so I won’t.
Something more – you get a new sleigh. Latest model, great satnav. The elves are transferring the parcels as we speak. And I’m told you qualify for extra mince pies when you get back. There you go, good news. A sort of happy Christmas.
“Oh, and Twenty Six, you won’t be going anywhere near Russia this year. Young Three Hundred and Ninety Seven is taking over that route. Shame he doesn’t speak the language.” He gave a huge wink.
“And Twenty Six. Do try and cheer up. After all, it’s …”
“Yes, yes, it’s Christmas, I know, I know. Season of good cheer and all that. Well, can’t hang about. Parcels to deliver.”
Santa Twenty Six made his way back to the loading bay, a small smile flickering reluctantly over his ruddy face. “Well, ho, ho, ho,” he thought to himself. “Somebody somewhere believes in me. Happy Christmas, everyone.”