“Ho, ho ho,” he said, as a carriage load of guests rushed into the warm house rubbing cold hands and brushing snow off each other’s festive coats. “Make your way through to the drawing room and get some sherry down you. Home-made mince pies shortly.”
Sharon, the senior toy-maker’s wife – she had been a chisel sharpener in the workshop – paused to kiss Santa on both cheeks. “My, but this hipster look suits you. That beard looks so much better. And this is the first time I’ve seen your ears. Good style!
“And Zelda tells me you’ve been going to the gym regularly – it certainly shows. And just lurve the Tom Ford pullover.”
Santa flushed. He’s always had a thing for factory girls and Sharon’s perfume certainly got his attention. “Oh Zelda, she talks too much. And fusses too much,” he stuttered.
He glanced over to the lissome blonde holding a Zippo to a Sobranie Gold hanging from her bottom lip and his heart flipped a little; fussy maybe, but what a catch she’s been for him – and to think that at one point he thought he would lose her to Diocletian. Well, thankfully corrupt, decadent and clean-shaven Roman Emperors weren’t Zelda’s thing. At the end of the day his own chariot racing skills had won her over. What a victory that had been even though they had to leave Turkey in such a hurry.
He gave Sharon’s hand a little squeeze, “Gotta circulate. Maybe later. Enjoy, enjoy.”
He slapped his new riding crop against his leg – thwack – and moved across to his wife, whispered in her ear, “Someone you need to meet, dearest. Jeff Bizos of Amazon. If it weren’t for him I’d be out in the snow on that sleigh with all those weird elves again. Tonight others are doing the work. I’m here with you. Hooray.”
Zelda smiled, “Yes, here you are. Hooray.” And she looked across to where Hurry Hurry, Santaland’s Dispatch Manager for the past six hundred years, was busy pouring some rather good brandy down his throat. He caught her eye, shrugged, gave a wry smile and refilled his glass.
“Yes, here you are,” she repeated, “How nice for all of us. Hooray indeed.”
“So where are all the reindeer?” asked Jeff Bizos. “I was looking forward to meeting them; to suss out the competition, so to speak.”
“All gone, superfluous to needs. Thanks to you. Now I don’t have to worry about keeping them entertained for eleven months of the year. All that rutting! Drove me nuts. Got horses now; having riding lessons.” Thwack.
“Actually there’s some reindeer in the kitchen if you want to take a peek, that’s if you’re not sentimental. Or vegetarian.”
Jeff looked closely at Santa’s face. “Looking good for your age, huh. I checked your purchase record before I set out. That’s some volume of Botox that’s come your way.”
“No, no, no. Not all for me.” Thwack! “A lot was for the elves – they were particularly vain, I tell you. And they had some really unusual habits. Especially after a few jars. Whew! I’m going to write a book. Just joined Macclesfield Writing Group.”
“Oh, put it on Kindle, will you. I’ll give you a special deal. And if it sells, I’ll make sure it goes hardback.”
Santa beamed, “Why, thank you, Jeff, very Christmassy of you. And I look forward to seeing your tender for next year. I scratch yours, you scratch mine, etc etc.”
He took another sip from his pint glass and wandered over to the triple-glazed, sound-proof, floor-to-ceiling window and peered out at the white wilderness. “Cold out there. Hope your part-time, temporary couriers aren’t slacking, hey Jeff. Gotta deliver all those toys on time.”
Something in the woods caught his attention and he stared deeper into the gloom. He rubbed his eyes. Looked harder. Suddenly the outdoor security lights switched on and he found himself face to face with hundreds of elves. He recognized some of them – parcel packers, reindeer grooms, toy makers, sleigh maintenance operatives, and even letter readers. Apart from the rapid twitching of their point ears, they showed no emotion at all. But Santa realised from their body language that they weren’t very happy. And the messages on the placards carried by some of the crowd certainly suggested some hostility.
“Hey, check this out,” called Santa, “Make Santaland Great Again, Arrest Jeff Bizos, Turks Go Home.”
He wiped a tear from his eye, sighed, and pressed the emergency button. Within minutes a battalion of Star Wars Storm Troopers, surplus stock left over from last year, would be on the scene, and, well, problem solved!
In the hallway the great great great great great great grandfather clock chimed.
“Midnight,” called out Zelda, “Time for toasts.”
“Hooray,” sang out Santa, “Merry Xmas everyone.”
“I’m redundant,” muttered Hurry Hurry.
“Me too,” said the senior toymaker.
“Whoar. Gettem off,” cried out Sharon.
“Drones next year. Much cheaper,” gloated Jeff Bizos. “More profit.”
“Ho ho ho,” they sang in unison.
Thwack thwack thwack.
Outside, beyond the pitched battle between the elves and the Storm Troopers, behind the snow-mantled trees of Santaland’s forests, far, far away, a nuclear mushroom cloud spread, and spread, and spread. And spread.