Christmas Morning … the Reckoning
The sleigh was parked peacefully behind the bar. After leaving the Garcia house Santa felt there was again hope.
He was inside the bar, at ease among its torn and worn wallpaper. The barstools wobbled, the TV was out of focus, the bar was uneven and even bartender was indifferent.
It was the only bar open at this hour, so by the process of elimination, it was, well — perfect.
“You need something,” Raoul the bartender asked barely glancing away from the TV.
Santa thought while he lit up another Kool. The memories of the Miller, Johnson and Garcia deliveries flooded back in.
Jesus, this had been the worst Christmas ever and it was supposed to be the easiest.
“Tequila and whatever you have on draft,” Santa answered.
Raoul indifferently served both up and went back to watching the fuzzy TV above the bar.
Santa laughed for a moment as the news station reported his progress back to the North Pole.
After slamming back the tequila, he pulled out his iPhone and checked his Facebook.
My friends are such shit heads, he thought as he scrolled though his newsfeed.
The Easter Bunny’s newest selfie was the first thing that appeared. Santa checked EB’s other updates and it was just selfie, after selfie, after selfie.
Why the fuck was this bunny constantly in front of a mirror, taking photos of himself? It was bullshit. You’re a fucking bunny, for the love of all that’s holy. We get it — you think you’re cute. And how fucking easy was his job anyway? Hide a few eggs and a few cheap plastic toys around the house on the night before Easter morning – a robot could do that shit.
Santa scrolled through EB’s photos, it was all the same shit. Cute bunny photo, followed by sexy bunny photo, followed by fake nerdy bunny photo.
The Easter Bunny’s production costs were nonexistent and his continual self-promotion was grinding on Santa’s already frayed nerves. Why the fuck was the bunny constantly making duck lips in each and every photo he took of himself? And was it so hard to ensure the background of those photos was free of dirty clothes, empty food dishes and trash? How could EB’s considerable followers not call these things into question?
“Fuck the bunny,” Santa said out loud.
Raoul turned from the TV and Santa nodded silently toward his empty shot glass. Raoul filled it and went back to the TV without a word.
Santa looked back at his phone and noticed a new red “1” on his newsfeed icon. He clicked it. It was a new update from the Leprechaun. Finally, Santa thought, something from a reputable holiday hero that would have some substance.
Only it didn’t.
The Leprechaun had long since gone political.
This time is was a post railing against the injustices at Guantanamo Bay and advocating that anyone associated with its administration be tried by an international war-crimes tribunal. The post below that argued on behalf of some insurgent group or another in Central Africa. The next post was another call to action after someone tall was sentenced to a shorter stay in jail than a short person convicted of a similar crime. The Leprechaun was having none of that! He was calling for the judge in the case to be assaulted in a very-very violent and anatomically impossible way. The fourth and final post Santa read railed against the NSA, which the Leprachaun alleged spied on everyone.
The last one caused Santa to quietly chuckle. He clicked “Like” hoping this quick, small interaction would feed the half-pint’s paranoid nature. Fuck the Leprechaun and his “pot of gold.” Santa knew the short little shit had blown most of it on hookers and gambling in the early 70s anyway.
Santa was about to shut the damn smart phone off when it happened, the Facebook instant message light lit up.
He clicked open the message and immediately regretted it.
It was from the Tooth Fairy.
Before anyone reading this was even born, the Tooth Fairy and Santa had an affair. Not just a run-of-the-mill affair, but a passionate, tumultuous, turbulent and at-times chaotic affair.
In other words, the bitch was nuts.
“Hey Santa <3< 3 <3 just wanted to say hey!!!!!!! I hope ur not working 2 hard on ur buzy night!!!!!!!! Cupid and I just landed in Bali for a vacation so he can rest up for his busy season in February!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! It’s soooooo pretty here! Thinking of you XOXOXO …”
If eye-rolls made noise, Santa’s would’ve been audible two states away. Cupid’s busy season consisted of ginning up business for the good people at Hallmark and prancing around in a diaper for a few hours. Fact of the matter was, Santa wasn’t all together certain that Cupid wasn’t in fact gay and that his “adorable” wife was nothing more than the type of eye candy required of a person in his line of work.
It pissed off Santa to no end. The Tooth Fairy had so much more potential. There was so much she could’ve done, that they could have done, if she’d said yes when he asked her to marry him those eons ago. But she didn’t and they’d drifted apart. Every millennial or so she’d drop Santa a note and more and more the notes only seemed a cruel and unsuccessful effort on her part to prove what a great and wonderful life she led.
This message was no different. Here she was bouncing around to various vacation destinations without a care in the world. Oh well, it was generally well known in certain circles that she’d long since outsourced her cash-for-teeth program and her “National Tooth Fairy day” initiative (sponsored by who other than Hallmark) was a washed up, dead-on-arrival holiday idea that everyone had long since forgotten about.
Santa drained his second tequila shot and washed it down with his beer. Maybe Mrs. Clause wasn’t so bad after all, he thought. Despite her seemingly incessant naggings, she loved him. She stood by him. She only wanted the best for him.
Something on the TV caught Santa’s eye. He asked Raoul to turn up the volume.
“We have some breaking news from California,” the news anchor said. “It seems the Drug Enforcement Agency gave itself an early Christmas present. In spite of California’s recent legalization of medical marijuana, DEA agents netted the largest marijuana seizure in Sacramento history this morning in a raid at the home of local pot aficionado Juan Garcia. An agency spokesperson credited the raid’s success with the DEA’s cooperation with the NSA …”
The reported continued on as a stunned Santa watched men in black uniforms pour out of the Garcia home. Then, just to confirm it, there was footage of a handcuffed and clearly frightened Garcia being taken out of a police vehicle.
“Jesus Christ, I was just there,” Santa said out loud.
A hooded figure across the bar who’d gone unnoticed up to that point responded.
“The NSA is in everything,” the man said. “Trust me, I know.”
“I don’t get it,” Santa replied. “Why is National Santa Assistance ruining all these people’s lives? I mean sure, I’m down with a little ‘shaming’ for particularly bad boys and girls, but even then I limit it to some coal. None of these families were not bad at all.”
“The National Santa Assistance …” the man questioned.
“Yeah, the NSA,” Santa said as he ordered a beer for him and his new friend and took a seat beside him.
It took a while, but Santa recounted for the man the story of the disastrous deliveries he made throughout the night and how it all seemed to begin with his deal with the NSA.
The man was initially skeptical that Santa was indeed Santa, but after viewing the sleigh, the empty sack of gifts and Rudolf’s disgusting proclivity, he was convinced.
The young man introduced himself to Santa and the name rang a bell in Santa’s head, but he wasn’t sure why. The kid seemed nice enough.
Santa excused himself to take a leak and ran the name through the Naughty or Nice List on his iPhone. Edward Snowden came up on the review list with extra asterisks alongside it. Seems there was evidence he had stolen something. Which in and of itself was of course was very naughty indeed. But it seemed that the something he had stolen was actually something that was potentially safer in Snowden’s hands than in the original owner’s hands.
The case had been marked for executive review by a committee of elf ethics attorneys before the NSA’s miraculous offer to take over Santa’s list.
“Listen Santa,” Edward started when returned to the bar. “NSA doesn’t stand for National Santa Assistance it’s the National Security Agency.”
Then Edward took a few minutes to bring Santa up to speed on the whole NSA situation and with each detail Santa’s jaw dropped a little further.
“So how are you back in the country, why aren’t you still in Russia,” Santa finally asked.
Edward explained that the information he’d “collected” allowed gave him such insight into the NSA’s workings, he was able to slip back into the country from time to time undetected. He knew all the back doors.
“Holy crap,” Santa mumbled to himself drinking in all the information Edward had provided him. Exhausted, he laid his head on the bar for moment to contemplate the wickedness of it all.
“Yeah,” Edward said, “I know, I know. It’s a bitch, but I’m trying to fix it.”
Santa grunted, still stunned from the news. He and Edward talked a few minutes more before Santa excused himself and, after scarfing down a greasy burger from a hole-in-the-wall restaurant next door, he launched the sleigh northward.
Once he was safely airborne, Santa used the phone to call headquarters.
“Executive Santa Division, this is Legolas speaking, how can I help you Santa,” said the elf-formerly-known-as-George.
Jesus, again with the Legolas crap, Santa thought.
“Yeah, ah, Legolas, I need you to help me with something. I need you to access the database that controls who has read/write access to the Naughty or Nice List,” Santa said.
After a brief pause Legolas told Santa he had done such.
“Good Legolas, I need you to remove all NSA access to the list. Can you do that?”
“I can, of course Santa, but that requires that you initiate Santa Operating Procedure number …”
Santa cut him off.
“Look Legolas, would you like an authentic Lord of the Rings Legolas bow and arrow set for being such a good boy?”
This question was followed by several seconds of excited yelling on the other end of the phone. It was obvious to Santa that Legolas would indeed like an authentic Legolas bow and arrow set for Christmas.
“Yes, sir,” he finally said, “I would like that very much, sir.”
“Then yank all NSA access to the Naughty or Nice List. I don’t want there to be any access to the list outside of the traditional, pre-NSA, personnel.
For several moments Santa could hear Legolas furiously clicking on a keyboard.
“It’s done sir, will there be anything else?” Legolas asked.
“Yes, a few things. First I need all NSA incoming calls to the North Pole automatically redirected. Can you do that.”
The elf quickly answered that he could.
“Good Legolas, I want all incoming calls from the NSA directed to the Johnson’s in North Carolina. Also, I need all funds that were transferred into our accounts from the NSA immediately redirected into a general purpose legal defense fund for the Miller and Garcia families. I’ll clear it with the legal team when I get back, but unless I say otherwise, that money can only be used on their legal bills, understood?”
Several more moments passed with furious keyboard clicking by Legolas before the elf confirmed he had done what Santa asked.
“OK, Legolas I need you to take every name associated with the National Santa Assistance organization and put them on the naughty list – with three asterisks by their names.”
This request was met with a gasp on the other end of the line. Legolas was right to gasp, three asterisks next to a name on the naughty list meant one thing, coal for Christmas with extreme prejudice, a fate reserved for only the naughtiest of the naughty.
Several seconds later Legolas reported that the task was complete.
“Anything else, Santa,” the elf asked.
Santa assured him there would not be and wished Legolas a Merry Christmas before hanging up.
Santa checked the onboard computer and only seconds had passed before he noticed the NSA was on to what he had just done, but all of their phone calls had been redirected already to the Johnsons.
“Shoot me in the ass with a BB gun again junior,” Santa laughed.
He checked to make sure his flight path back home was on track before making one more call.
Seconds later a voice came on the line.
“Santa, good to hear from you, we’re tracking you as heading on a course back to headquarters. What can I help you with?”
It was Sara from the warehouse, one of the precious few elves that hadn’t insisted on being called Legolas, and it was a relief for Santa.
“Sara, I’ve got a weird question for you. How many Legolas bow and arrow sets do we have in stock?”
Sara groaned. “Well Santa we have 637 sets here, none outbound and none inbound.”
“Great, I need every North Pole elf named Legolas to receive one.”
Sara laughed, clicked on her computer and seconds later assured Santa it was done. They would all be under the tree when the elves awoke in a few short hours.
Santa hung up and quickly composed a text to Mrs. Claus not wanting to wake her, but wanting to reassure her if she was still awake and waiting on him
“Be home in less than an hour. Crazy night, you’re not going to believe it when I tell you. No Duck Dynasty for me until the attic is cleaned tomorrow, promise! Love you … see you soon,” it said.
Santa banked the sleigh slightly to the left and down when he felt something tap softly on the heel of his boot. Curious, he fished around under the driver’s seat and found the culprit, an unopened beer had rolled out of its hiding place.
Santa cracked it open, took a good healthy sip and smiled.
It had turned out to be a merry Christmas after all.