Write On!

Clause Gets Outsourced

In Responses on December 15, 2011 at 8:22 pm

by Jen Gregory

He sucked in for the millionth time, buckled the big black belt and took a final look in the extra-large ornate wood framed mirror. He saw rough pine floors and over sized antique furniture behind him. This room, his dressing room, was grand, luxurious in its simplicity. The lemon oil, the soft scrape of shoes on the floor, that heady fog of musk that lingers over clothes stored for long times inside cedar walls. It was magic to him. He could breathe that air, look in that mirror and muster up the courage for another year. He could believe everything said of him. This year in the grand mirror’s reflection he simply saw an old man.

“You look so wonderful in your uniform, dear.”

“Thanks,” he managed to mumble.  His voice sounding like a rock tumbler sloshing gravel around. He was tired and worn down. She stared at him with what he was afraid was pity. “I should try to look good for my own funeral, I guess.” He started laughing, the sound of thick gravel falling in chunks to the ground. It was heavy, insincere and Gertrude knew that. Still, the male ego is a fragile little instrument that every good wife knows is one discouraging comment away from total meltdown, even if your husband is one of the most well liked people in the world.

“None of this was ever about you. You couldn’t control it. Don’t blame yourself.”

Her kind brown eyes crinkled into a smile and as they did their warmth melted her two amber orbs into small pools of liquid chocolate. He was pitying himself, he saw it in the confection of her gaze, her always sweet face saying everything her kindly mouth would not.

“Buck up Clause!” at least that’s what he heard as he walked over to her and kissed her on her plump peach fuzzed cheeks, his flagrant whiskers tickling her nose. Gertrude always sneezed after a kiss from her husband. Always.  He murmured, “God Bless you” as he left.

He walked out of the dressing room and through his home, an arctic castle or prison, depending on which day you asked him. The back door was not like a regular home’s back door. Here in the cold, forever winter a door was more like a bank’s safe door. Anywhere living beings resided needed to be thoroughly sealed from the sub zero temperatures. He grabbed the lever and started to yank. This door made his aching back throb. As he pulled on the door he heard someone behind him.

“Mr. C! I need to speak to you before you leave.”

“I’ve got maybe a minute, talk.” Clause said with a deep sigh.

He hated to be hard on the man, but after everything that had occurred over the last few months, he was reluctant to trust his old friend, simply because his old friend was one of “them.”

“Sir, we need a statement for the press before you get to headquarters.

Oali was not a bad sort, but he was an elf. Unlike people’s very poor ideas of what an elf was, Oali was thick boned. He was lean and had the dark skin of the Innuit people, his voice deep and clear. What made the elves “elf-like” were their faces; plump, round faces with unnaturally wide eyes and thick, heavy eyebrows.  You nearly forgot they had noses or lips. Truth be known it took Clause years to learn how to relax around them. Elves looked like they were shocked even while they slept.  It put a man ill at ease some days and now…

Now he had to deal with this new thing. He took a deep breath and thought, his large rough hand rubbing wiry white whiskers over and over, which Oali knew to be a nervous habit.

“I think all I can say at this point is that my only goal in life for the last thirty-five years has been to ensure that Christmas is special for the children. If this contraption can make that happen it will be hard to find fault in it.” He cleared his throat, sounding like a cement mixer as he tried to speak again and said to Oali,

“Nothing will make me happy about it. I’m not allowed to say that, but that’s the truth. You print whatever you want.” With that, Clause yanked the handle on the door and pulled too fast. As the seal on the door moaned its discontent he walked out into the polar night.  There you swim in night. It frustrated Clause, the day in and day out dark. He missed the sullen rays of the arctic sun. Worst, was that as the sun sat below them, the edges of the horizon glowed like a sunrise was coming- but it didn’t. No, it was November and the sun wouldn’t rise until March.

He used the flashlight he had tucked into his pocket to see his way to the stables. He could see the large wooden structure outlined in the dim hazy light of the North Pole where dark isn’t dark and light isn’t light. Lattitude and longitude, earth’s axis, tilt, solstices, all of it worked together to make the North Pole feel like a dimming flickering bulb. And time? When all the latitude and longitude lines meet up, there is no real time. The sun, when it’s out, circles over your head. It doesn’t rise or set ; just circles above like any other arctic bird. It could get to your spirits. It got to Clause’s spirits and over the last thirty-five years the only thing that had spared him the seasonal depression was the sound of children laughing. The North Pole didn’t pipe in Christmas music, it piped in laughter. In the workrooms that’s what the elves listened to, it’s what Clause himself listened to, thousands of children all over the world, laughing.

When Clause had been a little boy living in Nunavut, Canada, Christmas had been an ethereal thing. A small candle, a fish dinner, a prayer; that had been Christmas. There had not been laughter. He had become a fisherman much to his scientist father’s chagrin. There he learned how to tough it out, how to provide for himself and that is where he met his first elf. Most people don’t know an elf when they meet one. Clause certainly hadn’t, but as he befriended this fisherman elf he realized there was something different about the man. He had too much energy and drive. He was dissatisfied with everything, yet kind. He and Uumigi had bonded as they sat late at night talking or staring at the stars.

One Christmas Uumigi had invited Clause home with him. He entered the North Pole that year and never left.  He worked odd jobs, but loved the reindeer best, he loved caring for the them. As he entered the giant wooden structure forty years later he smelled the sweet hay. Hay is common in other parts of the world but here it is a luxury, a testimony to the value placed on these animals.

Uumigi walked up to Clause and patted him on the back. Hi C! Come here and see! Blitzen is feeling better!  Clause walked up to the giant stall and as he did Blitzen, the oldest reindeer, took two steps forward and hung his jaws over the edge of the ornate wooden door as if to say, “There you are!”

“Well old friend, glad to see your foot is doing better.”

“Is he eating much Uumigi?”

“Yes, he is eating like a horse or a reindeer at least.” Uumigi chuckled, his wild green eyes curving upward into a smile as he piled a fresh bale of hay into the stall next to them.

“Well, I’m extremely glad that you, Blitzen, are a fighter. I need you, even if they tell me I don’t, old boy, I need you.” He said rubbing the reindeer’s bristly snout.

“I suppose I need to get going. Is the sleigh ready?”

Uumigi turned his head down and walked up to Clause placing one hand on his shoulder.

“C, they have taken it for fear you would use it.”

Clause had no fight left. His bones were weary, his eyes tired and sullen. He just heaved himself onto a bench near the stalls and placed his head in his hands.

Uumigi thought maybe it was the saddest day of his life. His elf friends were destroying Clause, and any after him, as well. They didn’t mean to, but they were. He felt the biggest mistake came with “Elf on the Shelf.” It had been Mrs. Clause’s idea, a way to let the elves feel they were more a part of Christmas, to feel appreciated, to have the world better understand their vital role in the holiday. Only in Uumigi’s opinion it had gone to their heads. Then, not only did Clause get letters from the children, but the elves started to receive letters too. Quite naturally they all gradually wanted more say so, more input. It was time the world knew and understood the real North Pole, they believed: elves run the North Pole, make all the decisions. Santa is just the delivery boy.

Clause looked up and said, “How do they want me to get to headquarters if they are taking my transportation?”

“They are sending a snowmobile in five more minutes.” Uumigi said with concern in his eyes. “Are you going to be okay? We are all worried about you Clause.”

“Me? I’ll be fine.” He said rubbing his whiskers. “I just don’t get it. I can’t sort through it all, Migi. Am I being selfish? Should the elves get all the credit too?”

“Sir, the elves are disrupting a system that has been in place for a long time. You are kind to always think of them, but that may be your biggest flaw. You are too kind.”

“Please don’t start with the ‘Shelf Elves’ again!” he barked, “I’ve heard you out, you’re probably right, but we thought it would help things! Now, they not only want to be the Christmas spies but the toy delivery system as well. Do you think this new ‘Elf-listed’ program can work?”

“Nothing should ever replace, in the mind of children, the idea that someone special loves them and would go to great lengths for them. This technology takes that out of Christmas. Every child will fill out a form and get what they want, it will not be Christmas. It will only be like a cheap birthday party.”

“I can’t do a thing to stop them, I tried.” Clause said in a low, helpless voice. “The kids, they expect me and now I’m being told not to, to just take my picture and slap a label on it, send an e-mail! I should just resign and see what they would do then!” His face was morphing into a whiskered tomato when Uumigi said, “My friend, I saved this for you. He reached into his pocket, pulled out a note and placed it into the large rough knuckles of the noblest man he had ever known.”

“What’s this?” he asked.

“The last letter sent to you. How did you get this, I thought they confiscated them all to build a mailing list and get everyone ‘on the program’?”

“I have my ways. I thought it would help you. In two weeks it will be Christmas. I thought maybe we could do something for him.”

“I could lose my job over this.” He said rubbing his large thumb over the soft fuzz of the green construction paper.

“So could I.” Uumigi grinned wildly, his eyes protruding so much that Clause thought for a moment they might pop out all together. “We can always go back to being fisherman if we have to, but I’m very good at keeping secrets.”

“How will we get there?”

“By a small sleigh that I own. One reindeer is all that’s needed.

He pat Blitzen on the nose and said, “What do you think old boy? One more time?”

The reindeer snorted and huffed, stomping his hooves gently against the hay underneath him as if to say, “You better believe it.”

Clause read the note:

Dear Santa Clause,

How are you? I am good. I will leave you better cookies this year, Mommy promised not to burn them again. Hope you like chocolate. I love you.

See you soon,

Daniel.

P.S. Dear Santa, It is Mommy. I am sorry I burnt the cookies.

 

“Migi, you sure about this?”

“Certain.” He said nodding his head, thick wavy hair bouncing up and down .

Clause grinned and grabbed his large black belt hoisting it up, standing taller, he chuckled from deep within, the heavy laugh reverberating off of the thick pine walls.

“Well,” he said to Uumigi, “I don’t get to vote on anything around here anymore, but I vote, yes. Let’s do it. Let’s take Daniel the best Christmas gift he will ever get!”

With that Clause marched out to the dock to wait on his snowmobile, chuckles rumbling from inside himself like molten lava. He couldn’t hold them back. He turned to Uumigi as the snowmobile pulled up and grinned, a finger to his lips, a new twinkle in his eyes.

Clause turned to the snowmobile and straddled the warmed leather seat. He pulled back the throttle and gassed it to headquarters where he would be the poster boy they wanted, so that he could be the Santa the rest of the world needed. One little kid at a time.

He signed the papers, prepared his video statements and shook hands. He said the Christmas motto, he ceded his rights to a conglomerate of elves, ready to rule the North Pole. He gave away all of his rights. Santa Clause was no more. No more chimneys, no more cookies, just a face, a signature a logo. Clause rushed back on the snowmobile to find Uumigi. As he pulled up to the stable there was another, newer elf that he could not remember the name of.

“Good afternoon. Thank you. Have you seen Uumigi? I need to ask about Blitzen.”

The elf’s eyes squinted as he thought and then with a giant, obligatory smile he said, “Uumigi said he would return in two hours when he finished some business. He said that Blitzen was recovering well and that you could feed him his afternoon snack.”

“Thank you, I will do that.” as he took off his sub zero overcoat and mask he could hear Blitzen in the back stall announcing his pleasure at Clause’s arrival. Clause walked to the reindeer’s stall and grabbed the snack bag. Deep in the rough burlap bag was a small slip of paper. This was a communication system long ago established for the two friends in a world were there was little to no privacy. Uumigi made the paper himself, it was edible. Clause unfolded it and read it discreetly. At 22:00 hours meet me at the stall. Clause grabbed a peppermint and the note and handed them to Blitzen who ate gratefully. Blitzen was not just the favored reindeer of Cluase he was the secret keeper of the North Pole. Where he was fierce and disreputable with every other elf he was compliant and loyal to Uumigi and Clause.

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  1. I want a Santa Claus series based on this one! Move over, Twilight! This really read like a book chapter and was very creative, Jen! More!!

  2. Very well done. I loved it.
    By the way, where did you get that part about the mother that burned the cookies?

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