Studio Concert is finished. They all deserved the harvest of applause, which was pretty great. 🙂 And now I’m listening to another concert – the frogs in our garden.
Please accept my apologies for two neglected Friday Story Posts. As a compensation, here is one on Saturday night. I wrote this story on this blog a few years back. Seeing that Christmas is practically upon us, I think it may be an idea to repost. I’m also planning to set it loose on Smashwords some time soon, but not before we have released “Pourne Identity”, by Douglas Pearce.
Years back when my oldest was a toddler, she was terrified of Santa Claus – the big, fat, bearded man in the shops who wanted her to sit on his lap and tell him her Christmas wishes. All she did was scream and run away. (Healthy instincts?)
A commercial Christmas story
It’s a little known fact that Santa has a younger brother.
While Santa is the well-behaved, responsible one who carries out his duties with admirable efficiency and unstoppable enthusiasm and cheer, Fanta Claus was spoilt as a child and just never quite reached the same moral heights. While Santa brings children gifts, Fanta used to shadow his big brother’s footsteps and nick cookies, and a small prezzie here or there. Santa set up a workshop with twelve elves helping (the numbers of which grew as the work pressure increased); Fanta bumbled around the workshop knocking paint pots over and getting the pliers jammed. Santa donned his honourable Coca-cola suit only on Christmas Eve, wearing his more functional but less glamorous heavy fur mantle for the rest of the year; Fanta hung about in his Fanta Orange, Fanta Grape and Cream Soda suits all year round, getting them dirty and creased and the seams unravelling. Fanta, in short, was a disgrace. It was therefore no wonder that at some point kind Santa retired his brother from the factory and paid for him to have a long, in fact permanent sabbatical on a paradise island, where Fanta got into trouble scaring the residents with his bloodcurdling “hee-hee-hee” and decimating the local bird population for their colourful feathers, from which he fashioned himself swimsuits.
All this came to a head one Christmas though.
Santa hadn’t been feeling too well all week. He sat down often between rounds of overseeing the manufacture, and when he put his finishing touches on hand-made toys (which he always did personally), he huffed, out of breath, and could hardly move his right arm. He broke out in a cold sweat when thinking of Christmas Eve – and the night was approaching at a terrible pace.
Around noon his current head elf, Dwelf the Umpteenth, brought him some ginger tea. Santa eyed it with suspicion but drank it on the elf’s advice. It helped lift his mood a bit as it burnt its way down his gullet worse than any Christmas brandy had ever done. When he thought of all the mince pies and brandy he’d have to sup, he felt nauseous.
The elves were very worried. They called an emergency meeting in the tearoom of the factory, away from where Santa sat hunched on a small wooden tripod, and whispered amongst themselves.
“Santa is dying,” said one.
“It’s the children,” speculated another. “They don’t believe in him anymore!”
“It’s the nasty rumours going around about him being the Devil,” whispered a third.
“I’m sure it’s the mince pies,” said Dwelf resolutely. He wasn’t going to have any of this voodoo nonsense. “Let’s call a doctor.”
A young elf by name of Misty was sent as delegate to the world of humans, riding Prancer. Misty found a small house on a hill in Greenland, and knocked on the door, her green pointy elf-cap respectfully in her hand. A middle-aged woman opened the door.
“May I see the doctor who lives here please?” Misty muttered shyly.
“That would be me,” said the woman. “I’m Doc Vera. How can I help you?”
“I need to take you to the North Pole,” explained Misty. “Santa Claus is not well. I understand you are the last human medical doctor who still believes in Santa?”
“I am?” replied Doc Vera, surprised. “I do? Well, certainly! Never really thought about it much. Poor Santa.” She checked her watch. It was one in the afternoon. “We had better hurry then, Elfkins. He can’t have much time left before tonight!”
She packed her briefcase and mounted Prancer behind Misty, and they set off through the dark, polar afternoon, surrounded by spectacular polar lights.
Back at the North Pole, Doc Vera marched straight into the workshop and zoomed in on Santa, who was hunched over on the little tripod, his head on his arms on the workbench, an in-line skate missing its final gloss abandoned in front of him. He opened his tired eyes.
After a thorough medical examination Doc Vera’s first suspicion was confirmed. She called a meeting with the elves.
“There is good news and bad news,” she explained. “The good news is, our beloved Santa is not dying from a lack of belief. Thanks to Coca-Cola and rampant materialism, a lot more children and adults believe in him than actually ever did before. But,” she added with a warning frown just as the elves were ready to cheer, “the fact is, Santa is indeed very, very ill. He has a heart condition. The reasons people believe in him are all the wrong ones. They believe out of greed. He is also hopelessly overworked. Isn’t that so?”
The elves had to admit that they’d had a particularly busy year, and that consumer demands had risen where the intricacy of toys was concerned, too. Plain wooden rocking horses didn’t satisfy parents of toddlers any longer. All sorts of electronic gizmos were expected. The toddlers played with the carton boxes and ignored the toys, but their parents then played with the toys.
“There is no way,” said Doc Vera, “that I will allow Santa to go on a crazy round servicing billions of children and squeezing through chimneys – or even throwing bags of gold through windows, tonight. The ride alone will kill him. As of now, Santa, I’m booking you off. Two week’s bed rest and special fruit-and-veg only diet; after that, a year’s holiday on the South African Wild Coast. I’m prescribing daily activities: Surfing, hiking, boogie-boarding. Walking and swimming are amongst the only exercises suitable to a man whose heart is in such a state.”
The elves agreed heartily.
“The good news,” said Doc Vera, “is that I can practically guarantee that within a year we will have Santa back here and fit as a fiddle, if he sticks to my prescription. Surgery will not be required.”
The elves cheered.
Santa stuck up his hand. “But, Doc…”
Doc Vera turned to him and lowered her glasses.
“Dear Santa,” she said sternly, “the alternative is that you carry on as usual tonight. I predict that you’ll be dead before midnight.”
The kindly old man sighed deeply. What a fiasco!
“Get a stand-in,” ordered Doc Vera, aware of what he was thinking.
“But whom?” replied Santa despondently.
“What happened to the Christkindl?” challenged Doc Vera. “It’s His birthday anyway! Doesn’t He usually help you?”
“Baby Jesus does accompany me, to the houses of Believers,” said Santa. “But He doesn’t distribute material goodies. He spreads Christmas spirit, Love, Peace and Blessings. That is something quite outside my scope. I wouldn’t dream of dumping my workload on Him! You’ve got to understand who is the boss and who is the servant!”
“What about your manager?” asked Doc Vera. “Can’t he take it over just this once?”
Dwelf, who was the child of an elfin father and a dwarven mother, shrunk a bit shorter than he was already. Santa smiled.
“Poor Dwelf! No, Doc – the elves are mortally scared of humans. Rightly so.”
It had to be Sunny, the smallest, youngest apprentice elf of them all who had to stick up his hand and pipe up: “And what about Fanta Claus?”