A tale of the forgotten Santa
Art by Ash Collins
Edited by SueB
Copyright © 2012 by A.M. Sardar v1.1
Suitable for all ages.
* * *
my daughters Zenib, Kinza & Maheen
my inspiration, Spike Milligan
* * *
When toys have passed their play by date
When you suffer a see-saw fate
When best friends grow up and leave
When there’s no magic on Christmas Eve
Then turn back to younger days
Less troubled times, more certain ways
Then think of me and smile
When words and rhymes did beguile
Let me wipe away that frown
That’s the promise of the Santa Clown
* * *
ONCE THERE WERE TWO BOYS, Karl and Kris Kringle, who lived in the Enchanted Forest by the ancient Christmas tree in the Far North. They were special boys for they belonged to the ancient family of Santas.
It had all begun with their ancestor Santa Barba on that first Christmas Eve during a harsh and bitter winter many years ago. Families huddled in their cold houses, hungry and miserable, with no thought of Christmas.
It was then, as Santa Barba walked through the village on Christmas Eve to the local Tavern, that he saw their misery and felt their despair; ‘This isn’t right’ he thought, ‘Christmas shouldn’t be like this!’
He hurried back to his workshop and worked through the night making gifts for every child in the village. As the first light of Christmas Day broke through the pines and fir trees a long deep note on a Viking horn roused the villagers from their slumber.
They crept from their homes to see the huge Pine tree in the town square decorated with ribbons, baubles and little lanterns. And underneath that Magical Christmas tree an enormous pile of presents, one for each child in the village.
That special Christmas morning was like the first Christmas morning, the dawn of a new day, of a new promise and of a new hope in the Saviour.
It was such a wonderful success that all agreed it should be done every year. The news spread throughout the countryside and soon every village within walking and riding distance of the Enchanted Forest wanted Santa Barba to visit them with his Christmas Eve presents.
Villages grew to towns, then towns grew to cities, and then cities grew to principalities, and then principalities grew to States, and then States grew to countries, and then countries grew to Empires and finally Empires grew to Continents.
Christmas had arrived.
It came to pass, as these things are wont to do, that even enchanted Santa Barba couldn’t cheat time and when he grew too old to undertake his annual ritual he reluctantly passed on his Midnight task to his eldest son.
And so started the Great Chain, that long, long chain of Santas who worked to bring special gifts and presents on Christmas Day for all the little children in the world.
But there was one link missing in that chain, a special link, a link missed by many.
The time of the Santa Clown.
Once there were two boys, Kris and Karl, and only one could be Santa.
* * *
MEMORIES FADE. PEOPLE FORGET. We all forget.
Great Aunt Gertrude thought she remembered everything, and by large she did.
Every little gossip, every little tittle-tattle had been preserved in her memory for years.
She despised many people and she, in turn, was loved by few. She had carefully nursed her petty hatreds and spiteful jealousies into old age.
The gloom spread from her into the walls of her large and neglected house.
Once, like her, it had been full of life and hope but they had both lost their sparkle long ago.
Great Aunt Gertrude grew old and tired, her back became bent and her bones began to creak. The house too became twisted and misshapen, filling the nights with wooden aches and groans. Now in her seventy-third year when she walked one couldn't tell if the creaks were from her knees or the floorboards.
Into this strange world had entered her last living relative, little Anna, unwanted and now unloved. Gertrude’s first impulse was to turn the child away, to politely but firmly decline the request in her nephew’s Will.
She was too old and fixed in her habits to raise a child.
She remembered the day in the Lawyer’s office only too clearly.
“And what happens if I refuse to accept the child?” she had asked in a dry flat voice.
The Lawyer had first thought he misheard the question but a quick glance at her face told him she was totally serious.
“Refuse? Uhm, it’s most unusual. Never happened before in my experience. But, uhm, as an orphan she would become a ward of the State. The local Authority will put her in an orphanage.” He had replied quietly.
His words hung in the room like old curtains, unpleasant but serving a need.
“And the money? I would still get the money? Yes?” she had asked a little too quickly.
“No, I’m afraid not. The money goes with the child. It’s a condition of the will.” He allowed himself a brief smile. In the end, he thought, they always asked about the money.
Troubled thoughts played on her brow, little flickers of calculations. Things that could be done with the money; so many things.
She frowned and grimaced, squeezing her thoughts dry to get the right decision. The Lawyer waited patiently and silently.
“What an insane way to die. A sunken boat when whale-watching. Ridiculous.” She sniffed.
“Many people do it. It’s a perfectly safe activity.” He replied.
“Obviously not SAFE enough!” A moment’s pause and then the final order as she walked out. “Very well I shall raise the child.”
“Come now, orphan.” She barked and marched out of the office.
The little girl, who had watched the whole bargaining from a corner of the room, meekly followed her new carer, her feet drifting silently over the floor.
* * *
KABILI WAS SAD. She could hear her mother and father arguing downstairs. They were shouting loudly now, not caring if they woke the servants.
Kabili was seven years old and attended the best school in Nairobi Kenya.
She had a driver take her shopping, a nanny to dress and bathe her, a cook to feed her when she felt hungry and a gardener who brought her fresh flowers every day. But she had never been more alone in her short life.
Her mother and father had divorced quickly and married again soon after, perhaps a little too quickly. Now she had two mothers and two fathers and two sets of brothers and two sets of sisters. Her father's new wife already had three children and she made it quite plain that was more than enough for her to look after. Her mother had married a widowed Army General with six children and Kabili understood very quickly the General’s children didn't want another sister.
It seemed to her that somehow she had fallen between the cracks of two families. In the rush to start new lives, her parents had forgotten their old ones.
Now her parents were arguing where she would spend Christmas.
"We can't simply cancel the Vienna trip, that’s eight tickets. It's impossible. You promised you'd take her."
That was Mother, her voice harsh and unfriendly.
"Be reasonable, I know it’s not natural, but try. We have to travel to Makindu, Ashria," said her father.
“I don’t care if you have to travel to the bloody moon, she’s your responsibility!” she stated flatly.
Kabili moved away from the top of the stairs, she knew the argument would continue for some time and she was bored.
She entered her bedroom and climbed onto her bed and crawled under the cover next to her favourite toys.
It was at times like this that she missed Grandpa Chui. He would have comforted her and said just the right thing to make the pain less.
But he was no more. He had gone away last summer, just after the red dust storm. That’s what they said, ‘gone away’. Her mother had cried a lot behind closed doors but never in front of her.
She wondered if he would ever come back.
* * *
KUSHLOO THE ELF WAS SCARED AND WORRIED. He was about to start the first day of his job in Santa's Workshop and he was nervous.
He had on his best Elf costume and the new red shoes his mother bought last summer and his pointy hat had an extra-special crease. He looked like the best-dressed Elf at the North Pole, but..., he still felt scared.
The large reception area was spotlessly clean; shiny white floor tiles, towering cream walls and the brilliant white ceiling all seemed to blend into one. Kushloo had a hard time focusing his eyes and after a little while he started to become dizzy.
‘Oh dear’ thought Kushloo to himself, ‘this isn’t a good start for my first day’. Then he remembered his shoes.
Slowly he moved his gaze down to look at his the red shoes. They looked incredibly red against the white floor tiles. He looked hard at his shoes and slowly his eyes began to focus again. After a few minutes his head also began to clear and the dizzy spell slowly started to fade.
“What’s wrong with the floor? Isn’t it white enough?”
The voice startled Kushloo and he quickly jerked his head up to see the tall, taut figure of a Troll.
“How are you? Kushloo is it? ” said the imposing figure, briefly checking the name on his clipboard.
The Troll had an oval face with sharp pointy ears, a turned up slightly piggy nose and a strange green hue to his skin.
He was wearing a dark jacket with extended tails, a deep maroon coloured waistcoat and very tight long trousers which made his knees stick out. He couldn’t help himself, but Kushloo was a little scared of this Troll.
Kushloo jumped and straightened himself up.
“Yes, yes it is.” He stammered a little nervously.
The Troll squinted his eyes a little and then he spoke, “I’m Drole..”.
“…the Troll!” said Kushloo quickly without realising it.
“What? What did you say?” said the imposing figure leaning forward.
“Uhm nothing, nothing at all!” He managed to blurt out.
“Good! Come with me, I haven’t much time for this, we’re incredibly busy.” With a little sniff of his large twitchy nostrils the Troll turned and quickly walked away. Before he had realised he should follow, Mr Drole was already half-way across the floor heading towards the back of the building.
Kushloo started to half walk and half run to catch up with him.
“Come along, come along, do try and keep up” said Mr Drole as he tapped repeatedly at a button on the wall.
Seamlessly the wall parted to reveal a glittering lift bathed in gentle blue light.
Mr Drole walked in and motioned to Kushloo with his long, warty finger to follow.
The Troll waited for him to come into the lift, but still he hesitated; unable to move.
“What’s the matter? Get in for Swifin’s Sake!” insisted Mr Drole.
“I…I’m sacred of lifts. I don’t like small closed spaces.” said Kushloo, slowly lowering his face in shame.
“Oh really?” asked Mr Drole, “ and what about a toilet? That’s a small closed space! So where do you wee? In the garden? Get in!”
Kushloo’s legs refused to move, they felt glued to the shiny white tiles. His nervousness increased.
“Well, either get in or this’ll be the shortest job you’ll ever have!” said the Troll with a hard stare in his eyes.
Ting! The little bell sounded and the doors of the lift began to close but still Kushloo hesitated.
He started to shake and bob up and down, as if trying to pry his legs off the floor, forcing himself to enter the lift as the doors continued to close, inching ever closer.
A weary half-smile played on the Troll’s lips as the doors nearly closed and only a small gap remained.
Suddenly with barely two inches left Kushloo hurled himself through the doors, falling into the lift and banging his head on Mr Drole’s bony knee.
“Is everything going to be such a drama with you?” queried Mr Drole.
“No sir! Sorry,” apologised Kushloo as he got up slowly, rubbing his head and brushing his clothes down.
It was then that he looked up and saw that the back of the lift was clear glass and opened out onto a huge ice-cavern. The lift began to move up with a gentle smooth motion. “Oh my…” gasped Kushloo at the spectacular vision before him.
“Welcome,” said Mr Drole with a smug smile “to Santa’s Workshop!”
* * *
THE SIZE OF THE ICE-CAVERN was astonishing and Kushloo had difficulty focusing on any one thing clearly; it was all too much to take in.
The massive cavern stretched both below him and far above him, its size making the little Elf feel even smaller than usual. As the lift rose slowly Kushloo began to see how it had been created. The colossal cave went far back into the distance, the end of it barely visible; endless gantries, production lines and walkways criss-crossing and filling the vast space. Countless toys danced across the space going into strange churning machines which boxed and wrapped them with pretty little ribbons, each being stamped clearly with the lucky person’s name. Elves of all shapes and sizes, young and old, hurried from one machine to another fussing, tweaking and checking to make sure everything worked as planned.
Kushloo turned to look at the wall the lift was going up and realised the gigantic entrance of the cave had been sealed by building the offices across it. All the floors of the offices had glass walls which looked out onto the cavern, so staff could continuously monitor the endless chain of toys, gifts and presents. Alongside their lift other lifts flitted up and down the vast wall of offices filled with all manner of creatures; Elves, Trolls, Globs, Midges and strange creatures Kushloo didn’t recognise.
Kushloo was in a state of conflict. One moment he felt immense pride that he had a job in such a wonderful workshop
and in the next moment feared he would fail, and be found unworthy of his place here. Perhaps all new Elves went through the same emotions thought Kushloo,
Mr Drole sensed his mood and reassured him.
“It is large and can be overwhelming, but size, like love, is a matter of perspective,” said Mr Drole.
Kushloo nodded his head slightly in agreement.
“But not to worry, this is a just a big family working together to make children happy,” he continued.
The lift stopped, the doors slid open and in walked an Elf with an extravagant, large, slicked-back hairstyle, white jumpsuit studded with rhinestones and a wonderful shiny cape.
The Elf looked around in a proud, slightly arrogant manner, nodded to Mr Drole and swept his cape back over his left shoulder.
Kushloo was impressed. He’d never seen an Elf like this before.
“Are you a superhero?” Kushloo asked politely.
“No, he’s not a superhero;” said Mr Drole with a weary sigh, “he’s your Tour Guide, Elf Elvis.”
“It’s actually,” he paused dramatically and spoke in a deep drawl of a voice, “Elvis the Elf! Thank-you-very-much.”
“The definite article is essential is it? Elvis the Elf eh? As opposed to Elvis the Seat Cushion or Elvis the Egg Timer?” sneered Mr Drole.
“It’s Elvis. The. Elf. Thank-you-very-much!”
“Yes, alright, thank YOU very much! Give him the usual tour, don’t get lost and drop him off at the top floor when you’ve finished,” requested Mr Drole as he exited the lift.
The lift door closed with a pleasant chime. Kushloo turned expectantly to the Superhero Elf.
“Thank-you-very-much! Welcome young…” he waited.
Kushloo waited with him.
After a few moments Elvis realised the young Elf wasn’t going to speak. “What’s your name youngun?”
“Oh, sorry. It’s Kushloo.”
“Kushloo eh? Alright Kushloo it is. Welcome to Santa’s Workshop Tour, my name is..”
“Elvis, I know Mr Drole said!” interrupted Kushloo.
“Shh, wait for it son. It’s ELVIS THE EEEEEEELF!” he said with a dramatic flourish, a flick of his head and another swish of his cape.
Kushloo clapped with delight and approval. ‘This was going to be fun’ he thought.
“Thank-you-very-much!” drawled the posturing Elf.
“Welcome young Kushloo to the start of your working life. My name's…,” he paused and pointed his index finger, like a gun barrel, at Kushloo.
“Elvis the Elf!” shouted Kushloo.
“Exactly, Thank-you-very-much! I'm going to be your guide today. You scared? Don't answer that son, I know you are. I was when I started.
“Well, we've got a busy morning for you. December is not a good time to start in the Workshop. Do you know where ya’ll be working yet?” asked Elvis the Elf.
Kushloo shook his head.
“ No? OK Mr Drole will tell you that. Everyone is so crazy running around no one has time for newcomers, but don’t worry son, we’ll all make time for ya. OK we have the production lines on the ground floor and next to that the warehouses for the finished goods. See that down there?” pointed Elvis to the ice cavern below.
“There are so many toys!” said Kushloo in wonder.
“Yes, there sure are. And that ain’t all of ‘em,” said Elvis, “we’ve been making ‘em since last January. We do a kinda Just In Time production schedule. See no extra stuff on the shop floor, everything we need is delivered to the North gates. Finished items come out of the South gate on their way to the warehouses. And boy do we have warehouses.”
The lift started to move up again.
“Alright, going up. This is the Technical Services Area. This is the Logistics area where we ’all map how and where we deliver the children’s toys,” explained Elvis.
“But let’s start at the beginning son, we’re going to see where they make the toys. Would you like that?”
“Yes, but can I ask a question first?” said Kushloo.
“Sure, son; go ahead.”
“How does Santa get all those toys in his sack?” asked Kushloo.
“Well, that’s a good question. See, in this enchanted place the fabric of space has been stretched, kinda like a woollen sock,” explained Elvis.
“And do you know what stretches the most?” continued Elvis.
Kushloo shook his head.
“A wet woollen sock! That’s what this is,” said Elvis.
Kushloo thought he understood and smiled and nodded his head.
Elvis took Kushloo on the best tour the young Elf had ever had. It was amazing going through the huge halls stacked to the ceilings with toys and toys and even more toys.
They explored the different production lines. They even found the one making Teddy bears. Kushloo looked with amazement at the rolls and rolls of Teddy Bear fur.
He looked into the huge barrels filled with stuffing and the baskets filled with shiny glass eyeballs. He ran eagerly from hopper to bins to barrels, trying to take in as much as possible; piles of soldier arms, doll heads, parts of wooden trains, segments of toy worms, plastic snakes, wriggly spiders, and on and on and on; a seemingly never-ending mountain of toy parts.
“There’s so much to see,” said Kushloo in awe.
“I know what ya mean,” said Elvis, “it kinda overwhelms a simple soul, all these toys!”
To the far left of the storage areas was huge hanger cordoned off with large red signs ‘Do Not Enter’, Kushloo was naturally curious.
“What’s in there?” he asked.
“Come on fella, I’ll show,” said Elvis.
They walked passed the signs into the large hanger to see a small group of Elves working on Santa’s magical Sleigh.
They recognised Elvis, waved at him and returned to their job of polishing and checking the Sleigh.
Kushloo was amazed, it was a wonderful, magical sight seeing the magnificent vehicle gleaming and shining under the lights.
Then he stopped with a start. He blinked twice to make sure he wasn’t dreaming, but no.
There really was another Sleigh in the back; exactly like the first one.
“I don’t understand, why are there two Sleigh’s?” questioned the confused Elf.
“Well son, that there is what we call a back-up. If something were ta go wrong with this here first Sleigh we can just go offa and use that one. See, young Kushloo,” said Elvis the Elf turning towards the young Elf, “we gotta deliver alla them presents on Christmas Eve. We just gotta!”
“And do we always do it?” asked Kushloo.
There was a silence in the hanger as Elvis thought long and hard about the question, “Just once we didn’t,” he said quietly.
Kushloo went to ask another question but Elvis the Elf turned his back and walked out of the hanger.
They moved across the storage areas towards the humming conveyor belts, Kushloo straining his neck to try and see the long strumming production lines high in the workshop ceiling.
The worker Elves moved busily between each production line easily maintaining the wave after wave of toys as they came forward. Their dedication impressed Kushloo, all those toys being managed so efficiently without any quarrels or arguments. He could tell it was hard work but the Elves didn’t seem to mind it and appeared to enjoy their work.
There were more places to visit and things to see but Kushloo’s little mind was slowing filling up; he didn’t think he could see anything else without pushing out something he’d already seen. Perhaps if he only looked at the new things only a little bit he could cope, perhaps with half-closed eyes or even one eye.
Elvis the Tour Guide looked down to see Kushloo squinting and then looking around with one eye,
“You alright there young fella?” he asked.
“Yes, I’m fine,” he said a little shyly.
“OK, now we're going to the top executive floor, to see the Old Man,” said Elvis quietly.
“Wow, you don’t mean Santa Claus, do you?” said Kushloo eagerly.
“Yep, sure do. That’s where Mr Drole’s waiting for you,” explained Elvis.
“Now listen up youngun’, there’s a couple of rules ya gotta mind, ya follow?” said Elvis.
Kushloo nodded his head to show he knew what Elvis meant. He quietly followed his Tour Guide into the evil death-trap, which they insisted on calling an elevator.
“Now listen up. First off don't talk to him unless he talks to you. He don’t need no distractions at this time. You understand?" asked Elvis firmly.
Kushloo nodded his head quickly.
“Next thing, remember the Red Line. Don’t cross the Red Line, as we say around here, Walk the Red Line!” chuckled Elvis.
“And finally, don’t touch anything; they get mighty antsy up there this time offa the year. But don’t worry, they don’t bite,” reassured Elvis.
Kushloo half-smiled, because he only half-believed Elvis that they wouldn’t bite.
“And here you are young Kushloo, at the heart of our little Empire. Ya‘all take care now.”
Kushloo stepped out from the lift, the doors closed behind him and a familiar voice growing fainter “Elvis has left the buildinnnnnnnnnnnnnnnng!”
Kushloo felt very small. The immense control room shouted loudly in big letters ‘I AM VERY IMPORTANT AND YOU ARE NOT!’
Shiny screens filled and emptied with important information.
Ernest Elves, toiling Trolls and other slaving sprites moved in union, a harmony of purpose, all serving the familiar large figure seated in the Grand Chair on the high podium, Santa Claus.
His magnificent white beard flowed like a river down his chin onto his chest tickling the top of his fat belly.
His sparkling eyes twinkled behind his glasses as he looked over reports and studied graphs; checking and re-checking, making sure everything was going to plan.
He wore big, black, baggy pants held up with bright red braces decorated with little Christmas stockings and ribbons. On the back of his chair hung a large magnificent red robe decorated with holly, mistletoe, silver bells, golden baubles, and little twinkly stars.
Kushloo was impressed, there was no mistaking; he was a Very Important Santa.
To the side of Santa stood a creature Kushloo hadn’t seen before.
A wonderful lean athletic man with golden flowing straw hair and piercing crystal blue eyes whose gentle voice commanded the entire room.
“That,” said a familiar voice close to Kushloo’s ear, “is the most annoying creature in this place. Campion.”
Kushloo whirled around to see Mr Drole.
“Mr Drole!” blurted out Kushloo.
“Yesss, indeed; the very same,” stretching himself to his full height.
“If we’re lucky we may have a little word with the Big Man himself. Oh, darn it, Campion’s seen us.”
“Ah Mr Drole, I see you’ve come to hand in your weekly status reports. I hope we won’t have to amend them again,” he said in a quiet delicate voice which Kushloo found totally entrancing.
“Sorry to disappoint you, but they’re not due for another twenty four hours. As you full well know,” Mr Drole observed quietly.
“What’s this? What’s this? Is there a problem?” said Santa Claus coming up to the group..
Both Drole and Campion shrank back in his presence.
“He hasn’t got the reports ready,” said Campion with a little smile.
“What? Good Galoshes! We can’t have that Drole!” said Santa quickly.
“As I was explaining to Campion, they’re not due until tomorrow,” said Drole sweetly.
“Really? Why are you bothering Drole now then Campion?” said Santa.
“I thought he might be a ‘little’ quicker, seeing as its Christmas,” smiled Campion.
“It’s always Christmas at this time of the year,” said Drole sarcastically.
“Let’s stick to the schedule, shall we? Not make it up as we go along. Been there. Done that, can’t be bothered! Now, why are you here Drole?” said Santa.
Kushloo was watching the Great Man when he happened to glance at his feet and saw the Red Line. It was then he remembered what Elvis the Elf has said ‘walk the red line’.
“Well Santa, we have a new Elf starting here today. I thought it would be a great treat for him to meet you,” said Drole.
“Meet a new starter? Off course, why not! It’s a great idea, inspire them to work harder!” barked Santa in agreement.
“Allow me to present Kushlooooo….” His voice trailed away.
Santa, Campion and Drole looked on bemused, aghast and bewildered at the little Elf as he walked along the red line.
Kushloo was walking on toes and balancing himself on the Red Line with his arms spread out.
He was very pleased with his progress as he only slipped off just once.
“What are you doing?” asked Mr Drole.
Kushloo stopped and started to get even more nervous. “Wha.. what Elvis the Elf said. Walk the Red Line.”
There was a long pause as Mr Drole looked Kushloo up and down. Then with a sigh he said, “Walk BEHIND the Red Line. Not ON it!”
“Easily done. Not to worry young Elf. Welcome young Cashflow to Santa’s Workshop, I hope you work hard to make those children happy.
Now Campion my Champion, hahaha! What’s this idea for making even more gifts,” said Santa leading his Champion away.
Mr Drole looked hard at the little Elf.
“Sorry,” whispered Kushloo.
“Never mind, at least he’ll remember you,” said Drole heading towards the lifts.
The vertical coffin arrived and both Kushloo and Drole entered it without fuss.
“Remember who? He got my name wrong,” said Kushloo.
* * *