The Greatest Gift is a Mother’s Love.
Art by Ash Collins
Copyright © 2016 by A.M. Sardar v1.0
Suitable for all ages.
* * *
My daughter Maheen.
* * *
Cast of Characters
Kris Kringle, aka Santa Claus, Santa Land royalty and deliverer of presents
Mary Kringle, aka Mrs Santa Claus, wife to above, home maker and general busy-body
Karl Kringle, aka Santa Clown, his elder erratic brother, prone to mischievous behaviour and odd foibles
Kin Kringle his recently recovered daughter, raised by gangsters and prone to aggressive behaviour.
Rufus Augustus Drole, Head of Production. Troll, problem-solver and father of twins.
Caitlyn Fuchsia Spenser, ex-Tally Room Head now wife of above and mother of twins, bored & looking for adventure.
Emile Adonis Egor Campion, Head of Control, self-regarding, over-preening Sylphid (part bird-man), ego the size of the known universe.
Babushka Pincer Scuze, current Head of the Tally Room, Campion’s some-what well-worn wife, who hero worships him but is frustrated by his maddening laziness and high-handedness.
Chaucer, Enchanter, caster of spells and gossip-mongerer with a natty style of dress and a very pointed hat.
Saucer his fellow enchanter, equally gossipy and stylish dresser, they have a habit of engaging in over-lapping dialogue with themselves.
Chullo head of records and recently undergone a suspicious makeover making her look twenty years younger.
Dr Tasheee, Head Psychologist, dispenser of unpalatable truths and stating the obvious
Dr Eustuce Fustus, amiable medical man with an over-cheerful personality
Elf Kushloo, adventurer, and our innocent resourceful hero, ready to right the wrongs of the world, even if the world isn’t quite ready
Elf Alf, mouthy know-all undermined by his lack of reverence for his elder and betters
Elfe Elsie, ex-troublemaker, would-be model and dauber of much face-paint, wants to climb the ladder but often has missteps. Overambitious and under-achiever.
Mr Munga, silent Midge, with an enormous coat filled with exotic inexplicable items, great to have in a fight but not in love, competing with Kushloo for Kin's affections.
Mr Chunga, fellow midge and very much less silent, friend to above and useful administrator
Glob Mahi, gentle Glob learning to assert herself with too much effort.
Glob Yule, homemaker without a home, perennial bridesmaid on the search for a suitable husband, well any husband. Was once briefly engaged to Drole, but alas, not brief enough for him.
Elf Zwolf, the twelfth, such named, stout officious German assistant to the Enchanters, ex-rebel leader and now working his way back to oblivion.
Gum Disease, New York mobster who came to conquer Santa Land but fell in love with it's charity and decided to stay
Side-Parting, fellow New Yorker now residing in Santa Land as per his friend Gum Disease.
Rusty Nyall, aggressive Australian (a tautology if ever there was one) toymaker keen to expand his empire by taking over Santa Land distributing his shoddy goods.
Dingo, Russian soldier and Rusty henchman
Romney & Merino, two sheep shearers happily following their boss
* * *
In Santa Clown.
Once Upon a Christmas Eve there was a riot in Santa Land caused by severe industrial unrest.
All the little Elves, all the large Globs and all the other various enchanted creatures, gathered together and tried to burn down the workshop.
Voices were raised, fingers were pointed, and on occasion, violent harm was done to both persons and property. At one point it looked very likely that Santa Claus would fail to deliver any toys on Christmas Eve.
But fear not children, there was a happy outcome to all this unhappiness and beastliness; the return of the lost Santa, Santa Clown.
For you see, dear fragrant readers, Santa Clown delivered his presents with a joke and a trick; believing the gift of a smile was the greatest gift of all. Alas the strain of constant good humour proved too much and he retired to be replaced by his younger brother, Santa Claus.
Unfortunately, the storms of unrest gathered in Santa Land; machines were sabotaged, seditious leaflets were distributed, an Elf was wrongly accused, an odd couple were miss-betrothed and a love-struck Blob violently expressed his outrage.
By providence and good luck Santa Clown returned to bring harmony to Santa Land and, as in all good tales, the villain was unmasked and rudely chastised, lovers were reunited (although they weren't really parted), brothers reconciled and the ingenuity of our hero was recognised.
In Santa Down.
The agents of mischief were sentenced by the Council of Santas. Campion, the self-adoring ring-leader, was demoted and officially ignored. However, he managed to worm his way into the affections of the indeterminately-aged Scuze and, through a serious of wilful miss-understandings, ended up married to her. Elfe Elsie, his pretty hench-girl, was unfortunately over-promoted, a stepping stone to success upon which she slipped disastrously.
Mr Drole and his beloved wife Spenser suffered the acrimony of settling into a new marriage but were transformed when they were twice-blessed by happy events.
Santa Clown, Kushloo and Mr Munga embarked on an adventure to recover his mislaid wife but failed miserably and ended up finding his long lost daughter Kin instead. They managed to steal her away from some very rude gangsters but they followed our escaping heroes back to Santa Land where their attempt at robbery ended poorly, some were sent packing whilst others became enlightened and decided to stay.
Meanwhile Santa Claus was kidnapped by the megalomaniac Australian toy-maker Rusty Nyall but, with the aid of Mr Chunga, managed to escape into the outback where the ancient Aboriginal enchantments had a very weird effect on him.
In addition to the above Campion briefly assumed the role of Santa, a strange monosyllabic woman (potato being her choice of syllable) was rescued, Alf and Elsie became, then un-became and then became again, a couple and the Enchanters, Chaucer and Saucer, were irksome in the extreme.
Tranquillity and harmony may have been superficially restored but the odious Australian toy peddler has learned of the whereabouts of Santa Land and is planning to take it over and the enchantments holding the place together are failing as the ice sheet melt. Trouble is brewing for our band of merry makers.
* * *
Santa Clown sat sobbing on the floor in front of the little girl.
“It's easy to make kids laugh, they want to laugh, just tell the right joke, show them the right trick and they can't stop laughing. But me? Not much makes me laugh, funny that! Who'd have thought that. Odd things make me laugh. Things other people don't see; they call it silly.
I went to a house today and there was a little boy on the landing, I tried to make him laugh but he wouldn't. Nothing worked. All my best stuff just fell flat. I started to panic. I thought I'd lost it. Then I saw him crossing his legs, he wasn't waiting for me to make him laugh, he was going to the toilet. He wasn't laughing cos he didn't want to wet his pants; funny that, or not as the case was.
It's such a burden, making the whole world happy at Xmas. It's too much for one man. When everyone is happy and laughing, who makes the clown laugh? If everyone is so happy why am I so sad?”
“Don't cry, I'll be your friend,” said Gertie holding his hand.
“Make me laugh,” he pleaded, “make the tears go away.”
* * *
Rufus Augustus Drole, Head of Production, gazed out from his high vantage window to Santa’s Workshop in the ice cave below, tranquil now, but awaiting the press of a button and the start of the toy production for Christmas. He enjoyed these moments of solitude, just admiring the intricate metal framework of the conveyor belts and drives; all engineered to perfect mechanical harmony.
A harmony that was disturbed when a large wrench crashed into his window glass, scratching it slightly, and cartwheeling to the workshop floor far below. Irritated he glanced up to see numerous figures busily working in the roof eves and overhead walkways. ‘Why are they working now?’ he wondered idly, but further speculation was curtailed by the gurgling sound of his baby daughter, Katrina, as she gently stirred in her sleep; disturbed by the misplaced tool.
He moved to his daughter’s crib and gently stroked her under her chin. The child responded immediately and once again resumed her blissful carefree sleep.
The arrival of the twins, Katrina and Rayne, had certainly caught Drole and his wife Spenser by surprise; Drole blamed the incompetent Dr Eustace Fustus and his ‘Medicine isn’t an exact science’ platitudes. After the initial shock, the couple had decided to use the quiet workshop down time for Drole to bring one of the babies into the office, today was Katrina’s turn and he was managing wonderfully, even if he did say so himself.
The buzzer rang on his inter-office phone, Katrina stirred restlessly, Drole frowned, and quickly answered in a low hush, “Yes?”
“Yes what?” growled his fearsome secretary Glob Yule, the gigantic creature he had accidentally become betrothed to for a short time.
“Yes, what do you want?” hissed Drole.
“I don’t want anything,” she replied irritably.
“Then,” hissed Drole, fighting a monumental battle with himself to control his rising anger, “what did you buzz me for?”
“There’s…” she began, but then digressed, “why are you whispering?”
There was a long silence at the other end, before Drole replied, with supreme self-control, “My baby’s trying to sleep.”
“Baby? What baby?” came the reply.
“THE…” snapped Drole, realised his mistake and stopped dead in his vocal-tracks and began again, “the twins whose Christening you attended, and, in case you’ve forgotten, to whom you’re a Godmother.”
“Oh,” said Glob Yule loudly and then she repeated it in a hushed voice, “Oh! I knew that, I just like hearing you say it.”
Despite himself Drole smiled, her pride in the role was evident and she took inordinate pleasure in being reminded of it, “Well?” he asked quietly.
“It’s those wand-fondlers from the 7th floor to see you, Dumblebore and Dumbledumb,” she whispered loudly.
Drole sighed, and hissed, “Let them in,” and then added quietly, “quietly!”
The two elongated Enchanters entered jauntily in their flowing robes, covered with celestial signs and archaic symbols and their matching wizard hats.
“What do you want?” asked Drole in a hushed voice.
“Why are we whispering like naughty children?” hushed back Chaucer.
“Boys or girls?” asked Saucer.
“What?” asked a confused Chaucer.
“The naughty children, are they boys or girls?” repeated Saucer.
“They are metaphorical,” explained Chaucer.
“Ah,” said Saucer, as if a great truth had been revealed.
“Will you two wand-waverers get to the point quickly,” hissed Drole and then added, “and quietly.”
The two Enchanters looked at each other, nodded and then Saucer proceeded to set up an easel, which had appeared as if by magic, and placed a large graph on it. It had two lines, one line going up and the other line coming down, so that they formed a large ‘X’.
Chaucer stood next to the graph and cracked his knuckles a little too loudly which earned him a stern glare from Drole, and said, “We…”
“Shhh!” whispered Saucer, who appeared to have comprehended the sleeping baby situation better than his colleague.
Chaucer began again, in a much lower register, “We have a problem.”
“You’re a problem,” paraphrased Saucer badly.
Drole turned his stare on Saucer, who was suitably chastised.
“What kind of a problem?” prompted Drole.
“This,” said Chaucer pointing at the rising line, “is the increasing temperature of the earth.”
“And this,” said Saucer, pointing at the falling line, “is the size of the ice sheet beneath our feet.”
Chaucer turned sharply to Saucer and said, “I thought I was going to do the lines?”
“But then there’s nothing for me to do?” pointed out Saucer, “Why did I bother coming?”
“I’m wondering the same thing,” interjected Drole, wearily.
“You did the easel,” pointed out Chaucer.
“That’s manual labour,” said Saucer hurt, “I wanted to do the intellectual stuff!”
“Very well,” said Chaucer, slightly dejected, “explain the lines to him then. I’ll just stand here, doing nothing.”
“Have you two quite finished?” said Drole savagely, albeit in a very low tone.
“Uhm, no we haven’t” said Chaucer after a pause, “we haven’t explained the lines.”
“Unexplained lines,” added Saucer.
“Yes, you have” insisted Drole, “the temperature’s getting hotter and the ice sheet is getting thinner; point understood. Thank you and goodbye.”
“No, no, no, no!” said Chaucer.
“What he said,” added Saucer, nodding towards Chaucer.
“No what?” asked Drole.
“The lines aren’t the point of the graph,” whispered Chaucer.
“Pointless,” clarified Saucer.
Drole grabbed Chaucer and Saucer by their lapels, yanked them in close so his face was mere inches from their frightened faces, and asked, “What is the point of the graph?”
“To explain and visualize theoretical data,” replied Chaucer.
“And the explanation is?” prodded Drole fiercely.
“When the lines cross at the ‘X’,” said Chaucer nodding towards the easel, “all the ice sheet will have melted.”
“There’s won’t be a Santa Land,” elucidated Sauce, “more of a Santa Swamp.”
“Well actually, technically there won’t be a swamp,” added Chaucer “just the Arctic Ocean.”
Drole was stunned and his hands limply fell from the two Enchanter’s lapels, they straightened their robes, exchanged meaningful looks of ‘that took the wind out of his sails’ and waited patiently for him to speak.
“Is that what those workmen on the roof are fixing?” he asked, almost in a trance.
“Yes, yes,” said Chaucer urgently, “we’re using robust enchantments and unyielding spells to hold the place together.”
“Unyielding robots,” said Saucer mistakenly.
Drole slowly paced to the windows and looked anew at the activity above him. With their sudden revelation, it had changed from routine maintenance to a live-saving emergency.
He turned back to the Enchanters and asked, “How long before this happens?”
Chaucer looked at Saucer, thought for a moment and said tentatively, “10?”
“Hmm,” thought Saucer, re-examining his wonderful graph, and said, “No, more like 8”.
“Really? 8?” questioned Chaucer.
Saucer nodded grimly and then they both said in unison, “8!”
“8 years,” repeated Drole, “it’s tight but we should be able to get out of here before then.”
The Enchanters looked at each other confused, then laughed hysterically, the baby awoke immediately and started to cry, Drole cursed them loudly whilst attending to his crying child, and asked, “What’s so funny?”
“8 years? We’ll all be wearing flippers and aqualungs by next Spring,” said Chaucer.
“We meant 8 months,” clarified Saucer.
Drole cuddled his crying baby, placed his little finger in her mouth to soothe her, but she wouldn’t stop crying and he paced the room trying to pacify her.
“Well,” asked Chaucer, “what are you going to do?”
Drole sniffed the air, pulled a face and replied, “Change her nappy and call a meeting.”
Rusty Nyall was a large blustery man in rude health, both physically and financially, who had big dreams; to be the Master of the Toy World. He had decided the only way to achieve this was to take over Santa Land and kick out those Santa idiots.
He marched into his war room on the fifth floor of his corporate headquarters followed by a large towering Russian soldier, wearing a distinctive striped t-short and a ferocious scowl.
Awaiting nervously in the war room were his two henchmen, Romney and Merino, a pair of sheep-shearers who’d had sniffed one too many sheep-dips.
Rusty surveyed the two men before him and knew he was right to bring in some new hired help.
“This here is my new man for the job,” announced Rusty, pointing towards the towering Russian, “he’s not a man, he’s an animal; they call him the Dingo.”
Merino admired the man mountain before him and said questioningly, “He’s an animal boss?”
“Fer sure,” confirmed Rusty.
Romney considered the reply and then asked, “Does he pee on a lamppost?”
“Nah,” spat Rusty, “course he don’t.”
“Does he,” asked Romney thoughtfully, “eat from a bowl on the floor?”
“No,” snapped Rusty, “don’t be daft.”
However, Romney hadn’t quite finished his questioning, “Do we have to take him for walkies to do his business?”
“Will you stop that,” said Rusty, slapping the sheep-shearer on the face, “he’s just a bloke.”
Romney stepped back, nursing his sore lip and said quietly, “You said he was an animal, which bit then?”
“The bit,” said Rusty menacingly, “where he bites yer bum.”
Merino gave Romney a swift kick to tell him to shut up.
“Now listen ta me ya drongos,” said Rusty passionately, “I’m taking over Santa Land and kicking those weirdos and kanga-fangas out of there. Just think of it, we control Christmas, every little kid who ever wrote a letter will get a Rusty Nyall toy; no questions, no exchanges and no takey backys. They’ll get a Rusty Nyall! We’ll be the number one toy company in the world, kick the Yanks off their perch.”
“No boss,” corrected Merino, “we’ll be the only toy company in the world!”
“Exactly,” said Rusty, thumping the table with his meaty fist.
“How we doin’ it boss?” asked Merino.
“We need specialists,” said Rusty, “I’ve seen them loonies when we had that Santa Clause and he disappeared right from under your nose. They have weird powers and spells. We’ve gotta recruit people who can see through that.”
“Who’s dem boss?” asked Romney.
“Ninjas,” replied Rusty, “we need Christmas Ninjas.”
“Da,” said the Russian dog.
Great Aunt Gertrude lay upon her four poster bed. Her weight was so slight that the great mattress was barely dented by her lying on it.
The covers were pulled tight to her chin and her emaciated rib cage rose and sank with a laboured effort Anna found disturbing.
Anna had seen much in her short life span; the loss of her parents at sea, reluctant adoption by her only living relative and now, the possible loss of her Aunt.
The nurse stood by waiting for something, anything, to happen, but nothing happened. Day after day and night after night the old woman lay in her giant bed, ate a little, drank a little and continued to wheeze her way through the days.
“Anna,” said Aunt Gertrude, her voice a soft raspy tone that was half lost in the distance it took to travel to poor Anna’s ears.
Little Anna moved forward, reached under the covers, found her Aunt’s bony cold hand and gently grasped it.
Aunt Gertrude whispered again but no sound reached Anna so she leaned forward, her little ear was mere inches from the old woman’s lips.
“My time has come,” said Aunt Gertrude.
Anna was only eight but she had lost so much in her tiny life, she knew this was not a good time she was talking about.
“I didn’t want you when you came. Your dead parents were a nuisance, as were you,” confessed Gertrude.
The nurse listened intently and pulled a face, ‘such horrible things to say to a child when you are about to die’, she thought.
“I’m glad you came,” said her Aunt.
Anna smiled and her Aunt added, “I’m glad he came too.”
Anna’s grin broadened even further, she knew her Aunt was talking about Santa Clown.
“Listen child, you have no other living relative,” said her Aunt and Anna nodded, she knew what that meant. She would be all alone in the world.
“They’ll take you away and put you in an orphanage,” said her Aunt with difficulty.
A pained look fell across Anna’s face.
“Don’t worry,” she reassured Anna, “He will look after you.”
“Please don’t go, I don’t want to be alone,” begged Anna.
“Shh, child, we must all go to the great Christmas tree in the sky, to play in the eternal snow land. He was born on Christmas day but He died too,” said Great Aunt Gertrude mournfully.
Anna started to cry, huge tears welled up in her eyes and rolled freely down her cheeks.
“Shh, don’t cry child,” said Aunt Gertrude, “there are none here to wipe your tears.”
“What shall I do?” sobbed Anna.
“Come closer,” whispered her Aunt.
Anna leaned in even further and the old woman said, “Write Santa Clown a letter now, ask for a mother.”
“But it’s summer,” said Anna sadly, “they won’t open it till Christmas.”
“Do it,” urged her Aunt, “it’s your only hope.”
With that she sank deeper into the pillow and the nurse casually looked at her watch hanging from her lapel.
The old woman resumed her shallow breathing, clinging resolutely to the meagre life she still had a hold on, whilst the last drop of her blood sat by, silently weeping.
* * *
Elf Kushloo, dressed in his smartest dungarees with a brand-new shirt and his specially pointy Elfish hat, climbed the stairs to Santa Clown’s apartment clutching a bouquet of summer posies and a modest box of chocolates.
He had thought about doing this for many months, since he had met the apple of his eye, the banana of his heart, the strawberry of his spleen and the pear of his kidneys; Kin Kringle. He had finally worked up the courage to climb the stairs to her father’s apartment. A stray thought crossed his mind. What if people saw him and thought he was sweet on Santa Clown rather than his teenage daughter Kin? He quickly hid the flowers in his dungarees, together with his chocolates, and continued awkwardly to climb the stairs.
He stood before the door and rang the bell.
The door was eventually opened by Santa Clown, Karl Kringle, elder brother to Kris Kringle, commonly known as Santa Claus.
“Hello there,” said Kushloo brightly.
“Hello where?” said Karl distractedly, looking around him.
“You started it,” explained Karl, “speaking to empty space. I didn’t know which bit you were talking to.”
“I was talking to you,” said Kushloo patiently, “and besides, space is always empty.”
“I’m not a space,” said Karl unnecessarily, “I’m a person.”
Kushloo knew when Karl was in one of his playful moods. This kind of exchange could go on indefinitely. He took a deep breath and said, “Can we start again?”
“As you like,” replied Karl and then closed the door on Kushloo.
“No, not from there,” said Kushloo in annoyance.
“You’ll have to knock again,” said the voice from the other side.
“Oh, for Heaven’s sake,” said Kushloo in frustration. He took a deep breath and knocked on the door.
Karl opened the door swiftly and beamed, “Well, hello there!”
Kushloo looked around in bewilderment and said cheekily, “Hello where?”
“Don’t you start, get in here,” said Karl ushering the little Elf in.
Kushloo stepped inside and took out the flowers, breaking off a few heads in the process, and stiffly pulled out the box of chocolates, unfortunately bending it. He waited patiently to be shown into the apartment but Santa Clown’s playfulness wasn’t quite complete, and he asked, “What do you want?”
“I’ve come to see your daughter,” explained Kushloo.
“You only have one,” further explained Kushloo.
“That I know of,” said Santa blithely.
Kushloo took a deep breath. He was becoming almost hyper-oxygenated from all of the deep breaths he was having to take to get to see the fruit of his body parts.
“I,” he said patiently, as if speaking to the slow-witted and easily-distracted said, “want to see Kin.”
“Ah, alright,” said Santa in a mixed tone, “but you have some competition.”
“What do you mean?” asked Kushloo hurriedly. It was one thing to gather work up your courage, buy flowers and chocolates, dress up neatly and negotiate a lunatic conversation with Santa Clown; but to have done it all in vain was just too galling.
Kushloo walked hurriedly down the small corridor, entered the main lounge area and was surprised to find his, so-called friend, Mr Munga sitting on the sofa next to Kin.
Kushloo tried to hide his frown but failed miserably. He knew Mr Munga liked Kin but he had hoped the erratic silent Midge would have found someone else to woo by now, but unfortunately for Kushloo, Mr Munga was still smitten by Kin.
“Hello Kin,” said Kushloo brightly, beaming her an extra-wide smile, and nodding ever-so casually at his fake friend.
“Hello Kushloo,” replied Kin.
Kushloo couldn’t help noticing she looked particularly beautiful tonight; her brown hair shone radiantly as it cascaded around her shoulders, her lips glistened with a lustrous glow and her eyes glittered incandescently. All things considered, thought Kushloo, she looked like a nuclear reactor he couldn’t wait to melt to the core. He moved closer to the sofa and saw Mr Munga had placed a single rose in a vase in front of Kin. Hiding a sly smile, Kushloo extravagantly placed his bouquet of summer posies on the table in front of Kin and then, with a grand flourish, he placed the box of chocolates next to it. Mr Munga’s mood suddenly darkened when he realised his meagre offering had been trumped by the Elf’s late arrival and double gift.
Whilst Mr Munga fumed Kushloo decided to deliver the coup de grâce and said, with as much charm as he could muster, “These are for you dear Kin.”
“Why thank you, Kush,” she replied sweetly, leaning forward to examine the posies with the broken heads.
This was too much for Mr Munga who reacted furiously. He jumped up and, from his voluminous pockets, produced a large ‘Love’ wreath, a Christmas wreath and another bouquet of two dozen red roses and placed them haphazardly on the table, piling one on top of the other.
“Oi,” shouted Santa Clown from across the room, “stop that; that’s my coffee table not Kew Gardens.”
“I came to see you Kin,” said Kushloo unnecessarily.
“I’ve already been seen too,” she teased back.
“Yes,” said Kushloo with a sneer at Mr Munga, “I can see that.”
He stepped forward and asked Mr Munga pointedly, “May I?”
Reluctantly Mr Munga took his feet off the coffee table to allow Kushloo to squeeze past him, Kushloo passed Kin and finally managed to seat himself next to her.
He smiled at her and said, “You look nice.”
“Thanks Kushloo, that’s very sweet of you,” she replied with a heart-warming smile.
Mr Munga was feeling isolated in this love triangle and nodded his head vigorously, to indicate that he too thought Kin looked nice.
“What’s that?” said Kushloo, pretending to be mystified by his friend’s actions. “You have a headache?”
Mr Munga shook his head in an annoyed manner, to indicate Kushloo was incorrect, and then smiled at Kin and once again nodded his head favourably at her.
“Sorry, are you trying to say something?” teased Kushloo. “Something which can’t be conveyed with nodding your head and wiggling your eyebrows?”
Mr Munga was very upset at this belittling of his mode of communication and raised his fist menacingly at Kushloo, threatening to punch him.
“Alright, enough of that boys,” intervened Santa Clown, “if there’s any hitting of boyfriends that’ll be my job.”
“You leave them alone,” said Kin with a gloating smile, “I like them both.”
“You can’t have two boyfriends,” Kushloo pointed out unhelpfully.
“Why not?” teased Kin.
“It’s unseemly and it’s a waste of resources in these lean economic times,” added her father.
“I can’t decide who’s best,” admitted Kin.
“What about a game?” said Kushloo.
“Be quiet,” commanded Santa Clown, “stop interfering with my interference. I’m thinking something more traditional, more apt to the situation in hand.”
“What do you have in mind?” asked Kin fearfully.
“I have it,” shouted Santa Clown jumping up in the air.
“What?” Kin and Kushloo asked him.
“Jousting!” exclaimed Santa Clown.
“What?” said Kushloo dejected. He was hoping for a game of cards or even musical chairs, but he wasn’t expecting jousting.
“Yes,” said Santa commandingly to his daughter, “you shall be the fair maiden and these will be your competing Knights,” he added, pointing at Mr Munga and Kushloo.
Mr Munga nodded eagerly.
“You’ll never get a horse in here?” pointed out Kushloo.
“We don’t need a horse,” said Santa, “we just need coconuts.”
“What for?” asked Kin
“To make the clattering noise of the hooves,” explained her father.
Mr Munga and Kushloo looked at each other and then at Kin. She responded by posing demurely with the net lace curtain from the window pulled over her head and said, “Who will save me from this Santa Dragon?”
At these words Santa jumped on the sofa and, with his skinny arms flapping wildly, started to roar and growl, with the occasional barking noise thrown in for fun.
“I’ll do it,” shouted Kushloo bravely, “I shall save you.”
Mr Mungo thumped his chest, jumped onto the table kicking over the flowers which covered it and tooted his horn wildly.
Santa Claus mysteriously produced two pairs of coconut halves, threw a pair to Kin and said, “You be Mr Munga and I’ll be Kushloo.”
Kin gleefully caught the coconuts and clacked them together.
“Get ready boys,” shouted Santa excitedly.
Kushloo disappeared into the kitchen and, after a few moments, emerged with a colander on his head and carrying a broom.
However, Mr Munga had other ideas, he reached into one of pockets and pulled out an ornate Knight’s helmet, complete with a visor, and from another pocket he produced a very long lance with a little flag on the end.
Kushloo’s face fell when he saw the equipment his false-friend had managed to produce whilst Mr Munga had a huge ‘Gottcha’ smile on his face.
Kushloo eyed the long lance and said, “That’s not fair, I can’t compete with that!”
“All is fair in love and jousting,” opined Santa and then added, “You should have come prepared.”
“Prepared? For jousting?” questioned Kushloo with astonishment, “Who comes prepared for jousting?”
Santa smiled and said politely, “He does!”
“It’s not fair,” reiterated Kushloo.
“Don’t you want to win my fair hand?” said Kin enticingly.
“Enough talk, rear your horses,” instructed Santa and he loudly clattered the coconut halves together whilst Kin did the same.
“Woh, there, horsey, steady on,” urged Kushloo, pretending to control the horse underneath him.
Kin vigorously clattered her coconuts and Mr Munga pretended to rear up fearfully, fell off his pretend- horse and angrily thumped the carpet in frustration.
“Alright enough tomfoolery,” urged Santa Clown, “let’s get on with it.”
The boys lined up at opposite ends of the room, they pawed their feet like hooves and then they charged, whilst the two spectators fiercely clattered their coconuts together,
Mr Munga caught Kushloo on the side of his head before the Elf was even close enough to make contact with his broom; but although the brave Elf wobbled on his feet, he wasn’t knocked over.
“Again! Again!” Shouted the bloodthirsty pair of father and daughter.
Once again they lined up, the coconuts clattered their pretend hooves and the boys charged again; but this time Kushloo was wise to the striking lance and he dodged the blow easily. Kushloo swiftly brought up his broom head and caught Mr Munga in the midriff and the Midge fell down winded.
“I win, I win,” shouted Kushloo, as Santa clattered his coconuts wildly.
But Kin dropped her coconuts and quickly rushed to Mr Munga, “Are you alright?”
He pulled a sad face as if about to cry, his bottom lip protruding and shaking wildly.
She cradled his head, gently smoothed his brow with her hand, and Mr Munga took advantage by nestling his head into her.
Whilst Kin was distracted, Mr Munga gave Kushloo a big wink.
“Hey, I won, not him,” Kushloo protested.
“If he’s that injured he needs proper medical care,” said Santa, grabbed Mr Munga by his arm, hauled him out of the flat, and threw him out with the words, “there’s a National Elf Hospital down the road,” and slammed the door shut.
“He was hurt,” protested Kin as she got up off the floor and returned to her seat on the sofa.
“He was the loser milking your sympathy,” pointed out Santa.
Both Kin and Kushloo laughed at the remark.
Kushloo turned to Kin and asked, “What are we going to do? A dance? A film? A meal?”
Before Kin could answer Santa butted in and said, “You’re going to sit there on the sofa, three feet apart and I will watch you like a hawk until it’s time for you to go home.”
“But…” Kin started to protest but Santa Clown was adamant in his rules and repeated, “Like a hawk!”
The two young would-be boyfriend-girlfriend sat quietly on the sofa.
“Some win eh? Munga lost and he got a cuddle,” observed Kushloo.
“I’ll give you a cuddle,” offered Santa.
“I’d rather be cuddled by a Glob,” replied Kushloo.
“Just a Glob,” asked Santa, “or a particular one?”
Glob Mahi was large, even for a Glob. The saying in Santa Land was that she hadn’t been birthed but more likely beached. Her head was large, her legs were long, her body was big, her arms were colossal, and her appetite was directly proportionate to her size. Her legs dangled out of her baby crib, her head poked out through the cover, her feet dragged on the floor when her mother took her out in a pushchair, and, within a short time, she was wearing teenage clothes, albeit ones that allowed her to wear a nappy. Her mop of extra curly hair made her a gigantic teddy bear everyone wanted to cuddle but were afraid to approach, lest she grew angry and ate them. But such an act was totally against her nature, for in truth, she was the most amiable, placid child one could hope to meet. As large as she was, she was inversely timid. Elves, who could scarcely reach her waist, would bully her and steal her toys and sweets without fear of retribution.
Such was her gentle nature, she had often returned home without her coat or shoes, taken by bullying Elves, starving because her lunch box had been stolen to feed a group of ten. Her parents despaired of her placid nature. How could they make her just a little bit tougher without turning her into a female warrior? Many attempts were made to instil a modicum of anger and forthrightness in her, but none succeeded, so in desperation her parents turned to the toughest person they knew.
Gum Disease was an ex-New York gangster who had arrived, with others, to steal the Christmas toy sack, but luckily their plans had been thwarted. In part, the thwarting of the plans was the responsibility of Gum Disease and his best friend Side-Parting, and as a reward they had been appointed Head of Security in Santa Land.
It was to this individual that the parents of Glob Mahi sent their emotionally fragile, if not physically fragile daughter.
“Get some backbone,” said her father, although Glob Mahi thought this was an insult to invertebrates everywhere.
Glob Mahi stood towering over her instructor, the stylish Head of Security Gum Disease, who still favoured loud suits, even louder waistcoats, indoor sunglasses and an ever-present toothpick.
“What’s yer name kid?” he asked.
“I’m Glob Mahi,” she replied slowly.
“That’s a dumb name,” replied Gum Disease.
“I have a little sister called Pahi,” she said brightly, as if that explained everything.
“It’s still a dumb name,” he said offhandedly, and then introduced himself, “I’m Gum Disease.”
The ‘little’ Glob thought for a moment and then asked, “Can I call you Gummy?”
“No, ya can’t,” snapped Gum Disease.
Again the Glob thought for a moment and then asked, “Do you have a brother called Tooth Decay?”
“No, I don’t,” he snapped angrily and added, “and no more dental questions!”
Glob Mahi thought of retorting ‘You started it’, but the gangster wasn’t in a very jolly mood so she decided to remain quiet.
He paced around for a bit, walked around her, sizing her up and then he asked, in his typically nasal New York accent, “So ya wanna be tough eh?”
Glob Mahi thought for a moment, ‘was this a trick question?’ she wondered. If she said ‘yes’ would that be considered too rude and forward? In which case she was definitely tough enough.
“Ya still there?” said Gum Disease when her mental calculations seemed to have stalled.
Glob Mahi nodded.
“Ok, I’m gonna toughen ya up, see. Make yer like a real New Yorker; take no bull from no one,” he instructed.
“I don’t have a bull, I have nowhere to keep it,” she pointed out.
“Dat’s just an expression, don’t worry about it," he said distractedly, waving away her objection.
Glob Mahi nodded and immediately forgot what she was supposed to forget. Tried to remember what it was she was supposed to forget, gave up and forgot it anyway.
“Ok, I’m gonna slap ya,” said Gum Disease challengingly, “whatchya gonna do?”
“I don’t know,” confessed Glob Mahi.
“Come on think,” he insisted, “what ya gonna do?”
Glob Mahi thought for a moment and then replied, “I’ll start crying.”
“No, no, no!” said Gum Disease, disgusted at the child’s attitude. “Don’t do that. If I slap ya, ya gotta slap me back; see dat’s how it works.”
“Cos dat’s the way of the world,” insisted Gum,
“But if everyone slaps everyone else, won’t there be lots of unhappy people?” she asked with impeccable logic.
“Yes, but they won’t slap you again,” insisted Gum Disease.
“So I’ll never get slapped again?”
“But,” said Glob Mahi thoughtfully, “to make that happen, I will have to slap everyone in the world, including babies just born, because that’s the only way to stop everyone ever slapping me.”
“Nah, nah nah, ya don’t geddit,” corrected Gum Disease, “Ya only slap da ones that slap you.”
“But that doesn’t stop me being slapped,” pointed out Mahi.
“Don’t-cha see, the person you slap won’t slap ya again,” re-insisted Gum Disease.
“Slap me again?” She thought for a moment and then concluded, “So I’m not stopping people slapping me, just stopping them slapping me again?”
“Uhm yeah, if ya say it like dat, fer sure.”
“So either way,” said Glob Mahi firmly, “I will still get slapped.”
The circular logic of this argument befuddled the gangster and, for once, he fell silent.
Glob Mahi took his silence as a sign the lesson was over, bid him ‘Good day’ and left his office.
And thus ended the lesson with Mr Gum Disease of New York forced to retire and rethink his whole philosophy of slapping and counter slapping.
It was a beautiful summer morning when Anna awake. It seemed like she had almost spent the entire day in bed, but in truth it was still only seven o’clock in the morning. She stretched, yawned and put away the book she had been reading last night before she fell asleep.
It was still early, but something made her get up and wander down the long wood-paneled corridor towards Aunt Gertrude’s room. She was about to knock on the door but realised Aunt Gertrude’s hearing was poor and she wouldn’t be able to hear it.
She slowly opened the door and stepped into the room. The night nurse wasn’t at her usual spot, which Anna thought was odd, but she didn’t pay any attention and wandered up to the bed. Her aunt was peaceful as ever, a gentle, very shallow breath barely disturbed the sheets.
She reached out under the covers, held her hand as usual and pressed it gently. Her aunt stirred, a delicate imperceptible movement and Anna moved forward to listen to her.
“Thank you,” said her Aunt in a soft, barely audible voice.
“For what?” asked Anna in puzzlement.
“Coming into my life and making it better,” said her Aunt.
“But you looked after me,” insisted Anna.
“Goodbye child, I must go…” cracked the old woman’s voice.
“No, pleased don’t go,” she begged, “I have no one else. Please stay.”
“Goodbye,” she repeated again, “my time is now.”
“No!” screamed Anna desperately clutching her hand, desperately willing her to stay.
But a last sigh, like the last puff from a birthday balloon deflating, left her body and she stirred no more.
“NO!!” screamed Anna.
The night nurse ran in and gasped in shock. “I went to call the doctor,” she explained, “I could see she was fading fast.”
“She hasn’t faded,” said Anna through her tears, “I can still see her.”
“That’s not what I meant child.”
“She’s stopped breathing,” said Anna and started to cry again. In truth she hadn’t stopped crying but only paused.
“Now, now child, let’s pray for her soul, for a peaceful rest, may God grant her a peaceful rest,” said the nurse soothingly.
Anna started to cry, an uncontrollable shaking started to rack her small body and she screamed, “I want her back, she can’t go. She can’t leave me, I want her!”
“Now, now,” said the nurse calmly, “hush child. Crying and screaming won’t bring her back. I remember what my Priest told me when my mother died, ‘If tears were a stairway and memories were a lane, we’d walk all the way to heaven to bring you back again’.”
Anna looked at the nurse confused.
The nurse patted Anna’s back and said, “They never come back.”
* * *
A MEETING OF THE MINDLESS
“You going to the meeting Spratt?” asked Alf as they waited patiently, trays in hand, for the cooked breakfast queue to progress.
Kushloo grinned, as much as he had asked his friend Alf not to call him ‘Sprat’, his friend still persisted and now, it was less to tease him but more as a term of affection.
“Yes, you?” he asked inching forward.
“Oh, yeah, we got our invitation first; been preparing. Head and Deputy of Control will definitely be there,” said Alf grandly.
Kushloo was confused as to why Alf was preparing for a meeting called by Drole but he didn’t ask. Since his promotion to Deputy Controller Alf had become more secretive and less prone to gossiping about his colleagues. Kushloo suspected it was the influence of Campion, that champion belittler and trouble-maker turned transient hero, but he didn’t pursue the point.
The boys helped themselves to fried eggs, mushrooms, baked tomatoes, black pudding and moved along the line in search of more tasty titbits.
They came up to the potato women and Kushloo grinned broadly at her. The poor woman had been found by Santa Claus in the Australian outback and, learning she could only say ‘potato’, they had decided to bring her to Santa Land. Due to her mono-tuber vocabulary they had appointed her Head of the Potato Counter, a position she fulfilled diligently.
“Potato?” she asked, which wasn’t a surprise to Kushloo, as that’s all she ever asked.
The dishes varied from hash browns, chips, fries, mashed potato and wedges to curly fries, roast potatoes and many others but the poor woman always just asked, “Potato?”
Kushloo nodded eagerly and pointed at the fries and she piled on a generous amount. Alf too selected the same and the two friends moved on to collect their drinks.
“I heard you and Mr Munga were mixing it last night,” said Alf smiling.
Kushloo turned and joked, “Me and Mr Munga mixing it madly; my, my, how mundane.”
“Bet you can’t say that with fries in your mouth,” teased Alf.
“Bet you can’t either,” replied Kushloo.
“You’re on,” said Alf and stuffed his mouth with a handful of fries whilst Kushloo did the same.
They both faced each other and said, “Me anth Mither Munga mithing ith madthly, my my how munthane,” spraying bits of fries over each other whilst trying desperately not to laugh out loud.
“You two quite finished?” said a sniffy Troll from behind them and they hurried away trying not to giggle and choke on the fries.
They found a table on the terrace looking out across the ice field below them and quickly started to eat their food whilst continuing their conversation.
“So what’s up with you and Mr Munga?” asked Alf.
“It’s nothing, I’ve been trying to get close to Kin and he’s got the same idea,” replied Kushloo.
“Don’t blame him,” observed Alf, “she’s a spitfire.”
“Nah, nah, I’ve got my hands full with Elsie,” said Alf with a wink.
They chatted amiably for a few minutes and then they were joined by Mr Munga. There was a brief nodding of heads in acknowledgement between him and Kushloo, before they all started eating their breakfast.
“So what happened last night?” teased Alf.
Kushloo gave him a severe glare but Alf was immune to any rebuke from Kushloo and elbowed him in the ribs and said, “Go on.”
“Well, Santa Clown insisted we fight for his daughter,” explained Kushloo and Mr Munga nodded in agreement.
“Fight?” asked Alf.
“Well, joust more like,” explained Kushloo.
“Who won?” asked Alf.
“Well I did, but it wasn’t much of a win,” said Kushloo glumly and Mr Munga laughed silently.
“He,” said Kushloo nodding at Mr Munga, “got all the sympathy and loving and I had to sit on the sofa three feet apart; all night.”
Alf started laughing and a stray baked bean shot out of his nose nearly choking him and the other two joined in merrily.
With a drink of his orange juice, Alf managed to recover. He took a deep breath and said, “You two need to watch out, Santa and his daughter are a right pair; they’ll have you doing stupid fighting to keep themselves amused.”
Kushloo looked over at Mr Munga and saw the Midge was thoughtfully considering Alf’s remark. After a few moments he looked up, met Kushloo’s stare and shook his head, as if to indicate the fight over Kin wasn’t worth it.
Kushloo grinned and nodded his head in agreement.
Just then the troublemakers in question, Santa Clown and his daughter Kin, arrived at the table with their trays of food; “Move up boys, make room,” urged Santa Clown.
Everyone shuffled along so that Santa and Kin could slide in too and they all sat hunched together carefully eating their food without bumping elbows.
“I’ve been thinking boys,” said Santa cheerfully.
“Uh, uh,” said Alf slyly.
“I think we need to up the ante,” said Santa, “I’ve constructed a tournament of gentlemanly bouts. We’ll start with sword fighting, then pond-ducking, two bouts of cheese-chasing, French and English and then tomorrow…”
“Ah, just a moment,” interrupted Kushloo.
“What? You don’t approve?” asked Santa.
“No, no, it’s a wonderful tournament, although I thought pond-ducking was reserved for witches,” observed Kushloo and then continued, “but I’ve been thinking and, as an honourable gentle-elf, I’ve decided to let Mr Munga have the honour of dating your delectable daughter.”
“Hmm,” said Kin seething, “obviously not so delectable.”
“What?” said Santa shocked, “but this tournament is designed to reveal your chivalrous and manly nature with a touch of buffoonery. You can’t back out now?”
“I actually didn’t agree to anything,” pointed out Kushloo, “so no backing out involved.”
Then he turned to Mr Munga and bowed low, nearly putting his face into his baked beans, and said “The field is all yours.”
“Well,” said Santa, considering the options, “I’ll have to tailor some of the events for a solitary contestant but we can proceed with the pond-ducking.”
Mr Munga chuckled silently, holding his ribs in mock mirth, and then bowed very low to Kushloo, accidentally dipping his nose in the runny egg, pointed at Kin and then waved at Kushloo.
“What does that mean?” Kin asked suspiciously.
“He’s also stepping out of the contest,” said Kushloo.
“But, but...” began Santa, “we can’t have a tournament without contestants.”
“Maybe you can chase the French cheese down the hill?” suggested Alf.
“Is it runny?” quipped Kushloo.
“WHAT JUST HAPPENED?” shouted Kin, throwing her fork on the floor.
Everyone cowered back at her sudden outburst, waiting to see what would happen next.
“Are you two miserable excuses for boyfriends, an Elf and Midge, saying I’m not worth fighting over? Why you miserable little pipsqueaks? Who do you think you are to turn me down, ya lousy, swivelled-eyed, short-arsed…” she ranted.
“Now, now, dear,” said Santa, “it’s their prerogative to be single cowards.”
Kin picked up two eggs from her plate and threw them at Kushloo. He managed to duck one but caught the other full in his face, “How dare you refuse me,” she screamed.
She then grabbed a hash brown, threw it at Mr Munga who jumped up and caught it in his mouth, and complained, “You can’t even speak and you still said NO!”
“I can’t see why they refused her,” giggled Alf, as Kin chased her ex-suitors around the terrace with her food tray, “she’s such a delicate flower.”
“It’s a mystery,” added Santa Clown.
The funeral of Great Aunt Gertrude was a modest affair. Her small coffin was attended by an even smaller circle of remaining friends and acquaintances. The guests assembled with a modicum of misery and a scintilla of relief. A long life, perhaps too long some would argue, had come to a quiet and dignified end.
At the head of the funeral party was her little niece Anna, more alone now than she had ever been before. After her parents were lost at sea, her Aunt was the rock she clung to but now, that too was gone and she was bereft in a sea of strangers.
They lowered her casket into the grave, sang an old hymn, threw their pitiful clods of earth onto the coffin, gave one final prayer and, with one last look back at her ultimate resting place, they all dispersed like autumn leaves caught in a late gust.
Anna was the last person left standing by the grave of her only relative. She didn’t want to move for she knew a stranger was waiting in a strange car to take her home to collect her things, then take her to a strange family in a strange house. She hoped eventually the strangeness would become familiar, but she doubted it.
Thus ended a long and harsh life, that had started so promisingly, but yielded so little joy until it was redeemed by her final act of love for her great niece.
Drole had arranged for the very important meeting in the very important meeting room and had invited all those he thought should be invited. Each invitation had been issued by his personal assistant, Mr Chunga, with three red flags to show its importance, he would have added a fourth one but the archaic system didn’t allow it.
Everyone filed into the meeting with an expectant air. It was most unusual to call such an important meeting at such short notice, obviously something of very great import was about to be revealed. Speculation, as in all such gatherings, was rife and, as was usual in these gatherings, completely off the mark.
Drole sat at the head of the table cradling his little boy Rayne, it was his turn to look after the boy and, very important meeting or not, Spenser insisted he fulfil his fatherly duties. He nodded to his assistant to begin the meeting.
Mr Chunga, officious Midge and friend to Mr Munga, stood up tall and straight, but such was his slight stature that no one noticed and carried on gossiping. He looked annoyed and knew exactly how to bring them to attention. He picked up his gavel, raised it above his head and swiftly brought it down for a sharp loud tap. The odd noise broke through the chatter and everyone turned towards the head of the table.
“Welcome everyone,” said Drole, holding his little baby boy and feeding it a bottle of milk.
“Why are we here?” enquired the venerable Trollette Scuze, Head of the Tally room.
“You’ll find out presently,” said Drole.
Before a further exchange could take place, the door was swung open by Elf Alf and Campion, Head of Control, walked into the room. He was wearing a hand-stitched Italian suit, a soft baby blue shirt with a cravat, dark brown leather boots, an odd half-cape and balancing a pair of exclusive sun glasses on his head. He looked casually around the room, flicked his flowing golden locks of hair and clicked his fingers.
“Here darling,” said Scuze from the far end of the table, “I’ve saved you a seat next to me,” and she patted the seat to confirm it was definitely his.
Campion smiled a thin cool smile at his wife, gestured to his Deputy, and said, “I’m sorry dearest, but protocol must be observed; as Head of Control I have to sit on the Chair’s left hand.”
“Not when I’m feeding the baby,” objected Drole.
“Please,” sniffed Campion derisively, “less of the infantile jokes, if you don’t mind.”
Drole blew a raspberry at Campion which his baby boy found so amusing he stopped drinking and started giggling.
“My chair, Deputy,” commanded Campion.
“Yes sir,” said Elf Alf and wheeled in a magnificent leather high-backed chair with extra-wide armrests, a vibrating massage motor, a broad footrest and a superb cushioned headrest. Alf placed the chair next to Drole, next he placed a goose-feather cushion on the seat, pressed a pedal to raise it a few inches higher than any other chair in the room and then politely stepped back.
“Is he changing the light bulb?” said an anonymous voice from the far end of the table.
“Has he grown?” asked another.
“Only his head,” came the reply.
However, the enthronement of Campion wasn’t complete, he sat down in the chair, banged his knees on the table, because his chair was so high and imperiously clicked his fingers.
Immediately Alf produced a dark mahogany oblong piece of wood, with a gold plate, carved with the legend, “Emile Adonis Egor Campion, Head of Control.”
Next a leather supporting pad, a jotter, two gold pens, a carved crystal glass and carafe of water were placed in front of him.
“Have you quite finished?” asked Drole irritably.
Campion ignored him and once again snapped his fingers. Everyone waited expectantly. What could possibly top what had come before they all wondered?
Elf Alf leaned forward and flicked a small switch on the side of the name plate and a dazzling blue light encircled the engraving making the words stand out; Campion’s name was literally up in lights.
An envious ‘Oooh’ went around the large table, like a Mexican wave at a football ground.
“Have you,” hissed Drole through gritted teeth, “quite finished?”
“Proceed,” replied Campion flamboyantly.
Drole nodded to Mr Chunga who, drew a breath and began, “This meeting has…”
But he wasn’t fated to finish his first sentence before Santa Clown demanded, “Wait a minute, why has he got a fancy name plate and we haven’t?”
“Because he brought it with him,” said Drole patiently.
“Well that’s not fair. We should all have name plates,” said a voice from the far end of the table.
Others joined in with shouts of, “Yes, we need nameplates, now!”
“What do you suggest Mr Chunga?” asked Drole.
“It is possible that we could all write our names on pieces of paper, fold them in the centre and stand them up?” said his assistant.
The suggestion was met with ill-concealed disdain and ridicule from the meeting.
“We want proper metal name plates!” insisted Santa Clown.
“Oh, for Heaven’s sake,” snapped Drole irritably, “we don’t need them because we know who we are!”
“Why has he got one then?” asked Santa Clown.
“He’s got dementia,” retorted Alf slyly from behind.
Campion whirled around and asked, “Who said that?”
Alf leaned forward and whispered oily, “A passing Elf your Highness, I shall hunt him down and curse his lineage afterwards.”
“Quite right!” replied Campion dismissively. He turned to the assembled nameplate envious hordes before him and said disdainfully, “I am the Head of Control therefore I have a nameplate.”
The room fell silent and the issue of the nameplates was quietly buried.
Mr Chunga once again started, “This meeting has been…” and although he had managed to squeeze in another word he was however, still stalled by a question.
“I would like to raise a point of order,” said Scuze, obviously still smarting from her very public rejection by her ceiling-kissing husband Campion.
“Order? Order?” asked Drole disbelievingly, “We haven’t done anything yet.”
“This is very relevant Sir,” insisted Scuze.
Drole sighed, it seemed it would be quicker to deal with her point than to enter into a protracted conversation about the merits of her case, and asked gently, “What is it?”
“Why is your baby here? This is a confidential meeting with a reserved list, as was indicated on the invite; not just anyone can be present,” said Scuze with lethal sincerity.
“It’s a baby for Heaven’s sake,” pointed out Drole, “he won’t divulge any secrets because he can’t talk.”
“Not to an adult perhaps,” persisted Scuze, “but he could divulge secrets to a baby.”
“This is insane,” said Drole witheringly, “It doesn’t matter if the babies know what’s going on they’re not going to materially affect the outcome, seeing as they can’t walk, talk, or feed themselves and go to the toilet in their pants.”
There was an ominous silence in the meeting, as everyone glared at Scuze, hoping she would just shut up so they could get on with the very important, and very tedious, meeting.
After a long pause Scuze quietly said, “I withdraw my earlier point of order.”
“Thank you, now to business,” said Drole and once again he nodded at Mr Chunga.
Mr Chunga stood up, eyed everyone in the room and, even before he could begin, Kushloo piped up and said, “Another point of order…”
“Now what?” asked Drole exasperated.
“Why is she here?” asked Kushloo, pointing at Kin.
Kin gave him a filthy look and Kushloo instantly regretted raising the point but he was still sore from being chased around the terrace by the rejected would-be girlfriend.
“She’s my daughter,” explained Santa Clown unnecessarily.
“Oh,” said Elsie teasingly, “it’s bring your daughter to work day is it?”
“Why did no one tell me?” said a lone voice from the end of the table.
“I haven’t got a daughter,” pointed out Scuze, “can I bring my cat?”
“I haven’t got a cat,” said Alf, “can I bring my neighbour’s dog?”
Drole placed his baby back in the crib, gave it a little tickle on its belly, then turned to face the argumentative meeting attendees and hissed, “Stop this petty bickering now, we have a serious problem to discuss and it’s not whose chair is higher or whose name plate is bigger.”
He glared around the table, daring them to say anything obstructive and added, “One more stupid point of order and I will physically haul the idiot out of the room myself. Understood?”
Everyone remained silent, so Drole continued, “Speaking of idiots, Santa Clown, would you explain why your daughter is here?”
“I’m a clown not an idiot,” corrected Santa Clown and then added, “she’s learning the way of Santa Land. Someday she hopes to follow in my footsteps and this is an essential learning opportunity.”
“Thank you,” replied Drole, “is that satisfactory?”
A muttering of ‘If you say so’, ‘whatever’, ‘liberty’, and an odd ‘I didn’t vote for her’ greeted Drole’s comment.
“Can we continue?” asked Drole warily.
“Yeah, of course you can,” said Kin, “but just after we find out why he’s here?” pointing at Kushloo.
Everyone turned to look at Kushloo, Drole moaned, “Oh, for crying out loud, now what?”
Obviously Kin was after revenge for Kushloo’s questioning of her presence, but before Drole could object further, Scuze swiftly intervened, “He’s my special assistant.”
“Right, can we proceed?” asked Drole, knowing another objection was about to fly out of the undergrowth, “or is there anyone else you want me to throw out before we begin this darn meeting?”
Before anyone could speak, the door flew open dramatically and an extraordinary vision of Trollette loveliness, all curves and shapes in a tight red dress, entered the room, drawing the attention of everyone.
The figure paused for maximum affect, casually tossed her golden tresses over her shoulder, and giggled, “Sorry I’m late, but my stockings weren’t straight.”
To emphasize the point, she pulled up her tight skirt to flash her shapely legs enclosed in black fishnet stockings and asked provocatively, “Do you think they’re straight now?”
A few wolf-whistles rang out, and the comment, ‘I’ll say they are’ was passed.
“Surely that’s not Chullo from Records?” questioned Chaucer.
“What’s happened to her?” asked Saucer, “she was older than Santa Barba.”
“And twice as plain,” noted Scuze.
“Hmm,” said Elsie, “not so plain now; what a transformation.”
“Uncommonly so,” said Scuze with a sneer.
“Even unnaturally so,” added Chaucer.
Chullo, the not-so-drab record keeper, looked around and said feebly, “I’ve nowhere to sit.”
“Try your arse,” hissed Scuze.
Alf jumped up from his seat, next to Campion, and said, “Here, please, take mine.”
“Oh, thank you,” she cooed as she wiggled her way to sit next to Campion.
Alf beamed with pride that she had taken his chair, however Drole raised a problem with this gallantry, “And pray, where are you going to sit?”
“Uhm,” said Alf with assuredness, “I was going to stand.”
“You are going to stand for the whole of the meeting?” demanded Drole.
“Ehm, yes,” replied Alf with a little less assuredness.
“Don’t be ridiculous,” rebuked Drole, “Someone fetch him a chair.”
Kushloo immediately jumped up and left the room to fetch a chair.
Campion leaned over to the luscious Chullo and said, “I’m Campion, Head of Control.”
“I know,” Chullo replied coyly.
“You’re very easy on the eye,” said Campion smoothly and Chullo giggled like a not-so-little girl.
“I want to sit there,” demanded Scuze, pointing at Chullo’s chair.
“No,” said Drole, thumping the table loudly causing his baby to awake and start crying, “oh, for crying out.”
He quickly picked up his baby, made soothing noises until he fell quiet and said menacingly, “Everyone stay exactly where they are.”
Scuze winced at the menace in Drole’s voice, started to speak, thought better of it and quietly seethed in her chair.
Just then Kushloo returned with a plastic chair and, after some bumping and pushing, managed to slide it near the table. Alf gave a cheery wave and took his place and Kushloo returned to sit next to the smouldering Scuze.
“Right, no more interruptions; this meeting is called to order,” said Drole.
“I was going to do that,” said Mr Chunga disappointed.
Drole nodded apologetically to his assistant, sat down and indicated he should continue.
Mr Chunga stood up and said, “This extraordinary meeting has been called because a grave problem has arisen.”
“I too have a problem,” interrupted Scuze, “I want a nameplate with ‘Scuze WIFE OF CAMPION’ on it.”
“Is that a position?” said Chullo mischievously, and then added, “and is it available?”
“No,” screamed Scuze, throwing her writing pad at Chullo, “it bloody isn’t.”
Just then a junior manager popped his head around the door and asked, “You done? We’ve got this booked next.”
“NO!” screamed Drole and threw the baby’s bottle at him, “we’re bloody not!”
* * *
A BATTLE OF HALF-WITS
The baby started crying and Drole felt like joining in; he had forgotten what a bunch of idiots had been gathered in one place.
He retrieved the second bottle from the baby bag Spenser had prepared, gently cuddled his baby,
and asked, “Would diddums like mummy’s warm milk?”
“No, thanks,” replied Alf cheekily, “I’m fine boss.”
“Do you have a skinny latte?” asked Campion with a smirk.
Drole ignored the remarks and placed the nipple of the bottle in his baby’s mouth. The baby resisted for a few seconds then relented and started suckling on the bottle.
“Now,” whispered Drole soothingly to his baby, but addressing the wider audience gathered in the room, “we’ve all had our bit of fun annoying Mr Drole and his baby, messing up his urgent meeting because Christmas is sooo far away and you’ve all got too much time on your hands.”
“But,” he took the bottle from the baby’s mouth, wiped a dribble of milk from his lips, replaced the bottle and continued, “enough of that. We have a very big problem. Chaucer and Saucer, get up there and tell them what the problem is. Who’s a pretty boy then?”
Campion started to speak but Drole shot him down quickly, “Shut up Campion, I wasn’t talking to you.”
Chaucer coughed politely, stood up, straightened his robes, adjusted his pointy wizard hat and cracked his knuckles loudly. Saucer stood up and politely took his position beside his fellow Enchanter, ready to expand on the problem.
“This is a very grave situation,” said Chaucer, “a dire unimaginable disaster awaits us.”
“A grave awaits us,” paraphrased Saucer ominously.
“There is no other way of saying it,” reiterated Chaucer, “no mincing of words now.”
“Mincing,” said Saucer with heavy emphasis, “is right out.”
“We are looking, unfortunately, at lady luck in the rear, not in the face,” intoned Chaucer solemnly.
“Looking at a lady’s backside,” said Saucer.
“Stop beating around the bush and get on with it,” insisted Drole.
There was a moment’s silence as Chaucer absorbed the slight rebuke, he coughed again and said, “Ladies, Gentlemen…”
“Trolls, Trollettes…” added Saucer.
“…Elves, Elfes,” continued Chaucer.
“And other enchanted creatures,” finished Saucer.
“We’re in big trouble,” said Chaucer dramatically.
“Big,” repeated Saucer.
“Not just big but…” continued Chaucer.
“But…” interrupted Saucer.
“Super-duper big, humongous big. So big that big doesn’t even begin to describe the bigness of it,” concluded Chaucer.
There was a pause as everyone absorbed the bigness of the big problem.
“Any questions?” asked Chaucer rashly.
“Yes, just one,” said Campion with a bored distracted air, “what on Earth are you two talking about?”
“It’s all clear in the chart,” said Saucer bluntly.
“What chart?” asked Alf.
There was an embarrassed pause as the two Enchanters realised there was a conspicuous absence of the aforementioned chart.
“You didn’t put up the chart?” said Chaucer accusingly.
“I thought you had it,” replied Saucer.
“I was doing the speech and you were doing the chart,” explained Chaucer.
“No, no, no, no! I was doing the emphasising and you were doing the chart,” corrected Saucer.
“Oh for Heaven’s Sake,” said Drole, threatening to throw his baby’s bottle at them, “get it out now.”
The two Enchanters swiftly, as if by magic, produced an easel and the oft discussed, but rarely seen, graph with its two line forming a big ‘X’ in the middle.
“Ladies, Gentlemen Trolls and all other creatures we referred to at the top of the meeting, this upward line represents the rising temperature of the Earth,” said Chaucer.
“And this downward line on the graph is the thickness of Arctic ice sheet,” explained Saucer.
“And when they cross,” explained Chaucer, “we are kaput!”
“Kaput?” asked Campion with a single raised eyebrow.
“The ice sheets will melt and all this will be water,” said Kushloo ominously.
There was a stunned silence around the room as the enormity of the news sank into the trivial minds of the gathered.
Drole looked up and said, “You’re unusually quiet Campion, nothing to say?”
Campion looked up, sniffed lightly and said, “I am in charge of Control. There is nothing to control here. I don’t do aimless idle chitchat. Reach a decision and I’ll implement it!”
Drole pulled a sneering face, ‘trust Campion to be the centre of attention without even doing anything’, thought Drole.
“So,” said Kushloo brightly, “just what are our choices?”
“As far as I can see…” began Dr Eustuce Fustus jovially.
“Just a minute,” said Drole, “why is he here? Is someone sick?”
“As a medical man…” restarted Dr Fustus.
“Just barely,” interrupted Drole snidely.
“…I thought I could offer a fresh perspective,” he finally finished.
“Well go on,” said Drole reluctantly, “you might as well have your say.”
“We have two options; do nothing and stay or move,” opined Dr Fustus cheerfully.
“And you went through seven years training to reach that conclusion did you?” sniped Drole, “I think you skipped a few classes.”
“He’s wrong,” said Elsie confidently.
Dr Fustus pulled a face but Drole was delighted someone, so young, had caught out the medical man so easily, and encouraged her, “Please go on.”
“As I see it, we have three options; stop what we’re doing, keep doing it or do it somewhere else.” “Stop what we’re doing?” asked Santa Clown incredulously.
“Shut up shop and cancel Christmas?” asked Scuze equally disbelievingly.
“Are you serious?” questioned Drole.
“Yes, actually I am,” insisted the young Elfe, “What’s the point? No one believes in us anymore. It’s all smartphones and stupid-people, angry birds or flighty bird, or hunting for pokemons. How insane is that? The pokemon isn’t in the field or the street, it’s in the bloody phone which is in your hand which you brought to that field.”
The statement sat like an unwanted sock-shaped present from a particularly distant Aunt, until Campion asked, “What do you propose Drole?”
Drole cuddled his boy and said, “I’m open to suggestions,” and then he tickled the boy and said, “Coo chee coo!”
“And what does the baby recommend?” teased Campion.
“He says I shouldn’t listen to over-preening peacocks,” replied Drole.
“Hmm,” sniffed Campion, “What you call style I call dross. So let’s not bandy words about over or under preening.”
“Very well,” said Drole confidently, “Mr Chunga please take a vote if we should cancel Christmas forever.”
Anna sat at her little desk and wrote the letter her Aunt had told her to do so.
Sorry for writing this letter in summer but something bad has happened and I need to write now. It is wrong to ask now I know because I may be naughty by Christmas and not deserve the present you will give me.
My aunt is gone and I need someone to look after me. I need a mom and she told me to ask you for one.
I was going to ask Santa Clown but he’s a bit strange and you were so nice when you came. So I am writing to you for a mom.
I do not mind if she’s old or even a little bit mean. She can have a big nose, a big belly, a big chin, and even a big bottom. I do not mind, as long as she has a big heart and can find a little space for me. I do not take up much space and I promise if I scrunch up, like when I hide behind the sofa I won’t take any space at all.
I do not need anything else. Not a game or a dress or a toy. Just a bit of a mom.
Thank you very much.
Waiting patiently for you at home
Mr Chunga coughed to clear his throat and said, “The result of the vote to cancel Christmas…” he paused dramatically, as he had seen on the TV shows when they announced results, coughed again, was kicked under the table by Drole, and quickly said, “…is defeated. Christmas will continue,” and sat down promptly.
“Alright, we’ve chased down that rabbit, caught it, strangled it and skinned it; can we move on?” suggested Drole.
“Point of order,” said Scuze.
“Now what?” asked Drole.
“Can we please have less violent metaphors, some of us have pets and we don’t want them chased down holes and gutted,” explained Scuze.
“I apologise. Moving on. Two options on the table, stay or move,” said Drole airily. “What happens if we stay?”
“It’s all in the graph,” said Chaucer, “do you want me to put it up again?”
“Do you think they’ve forgotten it already?” asked Saucer.
“I think they have enough trouble remembering their own names,” added Chaucer snidely.
“Leave that ruddy graph out of it, just tell me what’s our alternatives?” prompted Drole.
“Well,” said Chaucer thoughtfully, “we could build Santa Land as a giant floating city? We won’t have to change our address; we can keep living here as well.”
“How long will it take to build?” asked Alf.
“Oh, I’d say 3 or 4 years,” replied Saucer.
Drole gave him a glare and reminded him, “Didn’t you say we’d be underwater by next spring?”
“Ehm, yes, that’s right,” admitted Chaucer.
“So, we’ll all be drowned and washed away whilst your floating city is being constructed,” pointed out Campion.
“What a stupid idea,” said Scuze, with particular emphasis on the word ‘stupid’.
“I offered a suggestion,” said Chaucer in a hurtful tone, “I didn’t say it was feasible.”
“Perhaps,” suggested Drole, “that should have been your first consideration.”
“So,” said Mr Chunga summarising, “of the three options listed previously, we have ruled out two, this leaves the final option; namely to move.”
A sudden burst of conversation greeted this observation, namely centred around the desirability of various locations in the world.
“Enough, we can’t decide now,” said Drole as he put his baby over his shoulder and patted him on the back, “We need to systematically start exploring alternatives.”
“What do you suggest?” asked Campion.
Drole fiercely patted the baby’s back, trying it to get it to burp, but the baby resolutely refused to release any gas from either end.
“He’s not going to burp,” said Chullo.
“Make a burping noise, that will encourage him,” said Elsie.
Drole turned to Mr Chunga and said, “Make a burping noise.”
Mr Chunga paused for a moment, trying to understand what was required, after a few moments he went “Hiccup!”
“That’s not a burping noise, that’s a hiccup,” said Alf, “it’s more like this,” he continued, making a deep throaty noise.
“That’s a frog drowning,” said Kin.
“Frogs can’t drown,” pointed out Kushloo.
“What about Elves?” asked Kin menacingly and Kushloo fell quiet.
“It’s more like this,” suggested Santa Clown and started making odd guttural noises, not to be left out all the others joined in making a cacophony of odd stomach and throat noises.
“Do you want me to minute the burping?” asked Mr Chunga, pen hovering over his notebook.
“No, I think we can omit that,” said Drole, just as his baby started to cry loudly.
The meeting descended into a round of bickering about who caused the baby to cry.
Alf made a particularly repulsive noise and Drole’s patience snapped. He picked up the empty baby bottle and threw it at Alf, who ducked out of the way and the bottle bounced off the wall harmlessly.
Everyone fell silent and, miraculously the baby stopped crying too; perhaps, thought Drole, it was the noise that had disturbed the baby.
“Have you quite finished abusing your staff?” asked Chaucer.
“Why, would you like to be next?” asked Drole.
It was obvious to the Enchanter Drole was having difficulty juggling his role of father and Production Head. The room waited patiently for Drole to continue. After a considered moment he said, “Right as the two most qualified to assess our needs, you two Enchanters will form a sub-committee and report back to us with the best three recommendations by the next meeting.”
The two Enchanters nodded enthusiastically, proud to have been selected to undertake this important task.
“Any objections or points of order?” dared Drole but everyone remained silent.
“One thing,” said Chaucer, “we’ll need some assistance, say one person each for the three recommendations.”
Mr Chunga quickly scribbled the minutes of the discussion.
“What else?” asked Drole.
“Each lead will need an assistant. It’s a lot of work to assess each place accurately,” explained Saucer.
“Good grief, are you assessing possible sites or planning a football tournament?” asked Santa Clown.
“Who will be the three leads?” asked Mr Chunga.
Chaucer thought for a second and then quickly said, “I want that one,” pointing at Alf, and then added, “I like the way he did the name plate.”
Mr Chunga scribbled the first name and then asked, “Who else?”
“Kushloo,” said Saucer, “we like him, he gets things done.”
“Yes,” agreed Drole, “usually badly, but fine.”
Kushloo beamed with a huge smile and Kin glowered with ill-concealed envy.
“And finally?” asked Mr Chunga.
“We would like a female for that different perspective,” said Chaucer.
“Really?” asked Drole, “Who would you like, Chullo or Scuze?”
“We had a girl in mind,” corrected Saucer, “not a painted dinosaur.”
Chullo glowered at the Enchanter, picked up Campion’s nameplate and threw it at Saucer.
Saucer was, however, up to the task and enchanted the nameplate in mid-air. The plate stopped in its track, hanging in time and space, a flash of light changed the name to ‘Saucer, Enchanter Excellente”. Next the magician plucked the object from the air and placed it in front of him.
“That’ll do nicely,” said Saucer with glee and added, “but, we were thinking of Elsie.”
“Are you sure?” questioned Drole, “last time, she shut down production,” and Kin giggled immodestly.
“I told you it wasn’t my fault,” protested Elsie, “some people have long memories about other people’s shortcomings and very short memories about their…”
“Alright, alright,” interrupted Drole, “you can have her.”
“But that only makes three,” objected Mr Chunga, “You stipulated six earlier.”
“Oh, we don’t bother with underlings,” said Chaucer grandly.
“Is that underlings or under-things?” asked Mr Chunga, pen poised in hand.
“Juniors not underpants,” said Chaucer irritably, “they can select their own; we delegate, not micromanage.”
“That’s one word for it,” sniped Drole and then added, “are we all agreed?”
A murmur of assent arose from the table’s occupants.
“Any objections?” asked Mr Chunga.
“Yes,” said Campion, with a loud sniff and snort, “he’s soiled his nappy.”
“I thought that was Chullo’s perfume,” said Scuze viciously, but before the two Trolettes could start fighting again Mr Chunga abruptly asked, “All who agree with this course of actions say ‘Aye’.”
Drole quickly said “Aye,” and all the others were obliged to follow suit and echoed “Aye!”
“All those who don’t agree,” asked Mr Chunga as a formality, “say ‘Nay’.”
The baby burped and the meeting, finally, ended.
* * *
Continue Reading the Adventures of Santa here.