The tamagotchi was the first nail in the coffin, Santa thought as he load the anorexic sack in to the sleigh for the very last time. From there it had all been down hill, every year another nail, playstation, Xbox, Wii, and then as the speed ramped up towards today, mobile phones and iPods. No longer would the children on his knee ask for a drum kit, wooden soldier, go-carts or hula-hoops.
New Year’s Day, was the normal go back to work day after last Christmas Eve, it had long been tradition for Mr and Mrs Claus and all the elves to have a week long festival of music, wine and food. Last New Year’s Day saw him and the wife, with the elder elves sat around a large table usually used to plan the forth coming Christmas details, this year was to discuss the continuation of the Santa rush. Christmas Eve had seen a letter from Lapland council telling them of the plan to route a new super highway straight through the middle of the work shop, coupled with the futility of arguing with Watford council to get last years speeding ticket quashed had almost decided their decision on the future. Santa stood, the scraping of the chair on the wooden floor made the elves jump, he loved doing it to them every year, he was addicted to the sound of the squeak they made whenever they were caught unawares, and he let out a small giggle, quashed by the thought of their plight, “Right everyone, attention please, we are not going to dance around the subject that has been hiding behind everyone’s lips for a decade now” he cleared his throat before he continued, he could hear the tears galloping behind his eyes, “Right, as we all know things have been going downhill for a while now, a situation completely out of our hands, so I am not handing out blame to any one” the nods went around the table like a Mexican wave, and a low murmur hit the still air, “All the tech these kids want, leave no room for our selection of seasonal toys. We have neither the space or the know how to compete with this, and now we have a letter telling us of the road going through the middle of where the workshop stands” it was no use struggling to hold back the tears, and a few escaped as Santa looked at the faces of his beloved elves, “I, personally, do not think it is at all worthwhile to re-build again, the costs, efforts or hope, so I feel next Christmas should be our last” Santa finished, pulling his brand new checked handkerchief with the SC embroidered on the corner in gold thread, he blew his nose and dried the tears he shed. The low murmur rolled around the table again, Mrs Claus looked lovingly in to her husbands eyes, squeezed his hand gently and without words, reassured him this was the right decision. Toppo, the elder of the elves, stood, and once again caught the elves out and the squeak hit the air once more, Santa chuckled though his heaving sobs. “It pains us to say this, and it has been discussed for over a decade amongst us, in dark corners and quiet rooms, but we have to agree, we have cut the workforce by 50%, and there is not a lot of work for elves out there, its very seasonal, Panto’s, department store grotto’s and the occasional Hollywood movie. Most of the redundant elves are homeless, so for the rest of us we have tried everything, but we are not getting anywhere, we are sadly in agreement with you” Toppo said, brief, to the point and he felt the relief of the weight being lifted. The Claus’s nodded, and silence fell on the room.
That was that, Santa thought as he adjusted the harness on Rudolph, now the only reindeer, the rest of the Hurd had been culled earlier this year, and were now on ice to see them through as they found their feet in their new life. As soon as this trip was over Rudolph would be joining his herd in the freezer. For almost a thousand years there had been a Santa, he was third generation, his grandfather, father and now himself, had kept this going for over a millennia and now it was coming to the end. He had listed the sleigh for sale in Auto trader, reindeer not included, full service history, VGC, one careful owner, he had not had any calls as of yet, but he told himself he would give it until the new year, if no joy then he would have to contact ‘We buy any sleigh’. It’s not like he had to pay off any finance on it, but like the reindeer in the freezer, the money from the sale would help them to find their feet in their retirement. The task of Santa had been handed over to him three hundred years ago, he didn’t know what he would do without it, how would he fill his time.
He was still kicking himself, he had the chance to copyright his name and image in the early 1800’s, that would have made enough money to keep the family business running even in these lean years, it would have provided money to send elves on courses to learn how to create modern tech, and even given a little left over to make life easier. He didn’t even want to imagine how much money they had lost over the years but he was guessing it was in the high nine figures, all those cards, adverts, grottos in shops, movies and wrapping paper. He let out a depressing sigh as he gazed across the icy tundra as the blizzard finally took hold of the night. He shook on the reigns and Rudolph burst in to life, and the final sleigh run had begun.
As he began the final run he remembered all the other runs, dodging arrows and canon balls in the 1600’s, the projectiles and missiles during the first and second world wars, avoiding satellite detection during the Cold War, and completely avoiding the skies over the Middle East since the 1990’s, and never leaving his sleigh unlocked in Manchester, one year coming back to his sleigh in Moss side, only to find the Reindeer had been replaced with stray cats, thankfully the Reindeer had been chipped, and easily found.
It was an uneventful evening, and while normally 99% of the drinks he was left by grateful children were decanted in to bottles to take back to the family, by the time he was three quarters of the way through his run this year, he had partaken in a few more shots than normal, and his delivery was becoming more and more haphazard. He almost slipped from a roof in Germany as he put one foot wrong. He was hardly getting anywhere near the waiting stockings with the gifts as he lobbed them from the fire grate to the general stocking area. By the time they had reached the final country on his whistle stop tour Rudolph had to phone Mrs Claus to tell her to make sure the casserole was ready by the time they got back, as Santa was slack eyed and silly and a hearty meal may help him sober up a bit. Unbeknown to Rudolph, Santa had vomited on the hearth rug at their last stop. While it was a nice size load to have just one reindeer pulling the sleigh, it was always a bit more of a rough ride for the driver, Santa had though he may just have to spew over the side of the sleigh, but he seemed to get hold of himself by the time they had landed, maybe to neck that last sherry was not the wisest of ideas, and no sooner had it hit his fat belly, that the belly said, no.
He surprised himself by just how little a fuck he gave, in previous years he would have had more respect for himself, but this final ride could not be over quick enough, he had all the Christmas cheer of a Buddhist monk tonight, and though to himself, if one kid had been awake to see him, he may just have smashed his face in for shits and giggles. The happy Santa side to him was trying to light the flames under the bonfire of shame he should be feeling, but the bad Santa side just pissed on the bonfire to douse any flames. At the last house it had only been Rudolphs quick wits that had saved Santa from an icy fall as he toppled off of the chimney as he stood there arms raised and exclaimed,
“Thank fuck for that, I’m fucking done with all you ungrateful barrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr” he trailed of as he lost his footing on the narrow edges of the chimney pot. Rudolph had dashed below the roof line to catch him as he slid off the roof.
“rrrrrtards!” Santa finished with a jolt as his backside hit the seat of the sleigh. His teeth clattered and he bit his tongue, which did very little to improve his blackening mood, and he took a long drag on the decanted brandy. Rudolph knew they were just half an hour from home, but didn’t think that Santa would be awake by then. He had seen Santa drunk before, they really did party hard between now and New Years, but there had never been a journey like this one, it was scandalous.
Had Rudolph taken the bet he would have lost his money, Santa was not only awake but his belligerence toward the world was growing with every mouthful of brandy he skulled. He was so drunk and angry that when Mrs Claus heard the profanity’s he was vocalising, she slapped him around the face twice in quick succession, like you would slap an old TV to improve the picture.
“If you don’t buck up, you can just fuck off” she bellowed at him as she slapped his face, one side then the other, to the elves it echoed across the tundra like rifle shots, the elves had gathered at the windows of the workshop to see this spectacle, Santa drunk sleighing. The rumour Santa was in a bad way had stormed through the elves like wildfire as soon as the call from Rudolph had been received. No one had ever heard Mrs Claus swear or strike anyone before, there was complete silence, not even a breath was heard from the elves, they just watched on drop jawed. Her outburst had its desired effect and Santa just broke down sobbing, he hugged his wife and apologised and then hugged Rudolph and begged his forgiveness for tonight’s journey. He released the harness and Rudolph trotted off to the workshop to be with the elves.
An hour had passed with no new information, when the sound of the hot trolly shattered the silence, the table had been laid in full Christmas glory, tinsel, lights, crackers, bread sauce and cranberry sauce just after Santa had left, and the elves had been murmuring that they need it to be a little less gaudy as the boss was in such a bad frame of mind, but they left it, tonight was the first day of celebration, and it was more important this year as it would be the last year. Mrs Claus was followed by the man himself pushing the trolly containing their special Christmas brew, and he had a big smile, as normal, painted across his face. Everyone sat at the table, and Santa rose to speak,
“Happy Christmas everyone, I just want to say a few words before we party, I apologise for my behaviour since leaving tonight, I am embarrassed by my behaviour, and it should not have happened. The wife and I have had a long chat about it, and its not all about me, its about us. This is the last time I will do the Christmas run, and I was all to consumed with self pity, and free booze, haha, but its no excuse. We all are worried about what the future will bring. So, with no more hot air from me, lets get messy” Santa finished with a roar, back to his old self.
On the 27th of December Santa picked up his rifle and headed towards the door, he felt a tugging on his coat. It was his wife,
“Do you have to?” She asked in a soft tone,
“Well, I don’t have to but we did agree we would” Santa replied. After a few moments of conversation Santa returned his gun to the rack, removed his coat and sat down to a Mrs Claus special hot chocolate with an adult kick. He pondered on the thought if Rudolph would ever know how close he had come to being a roast dinner.
It’s a waste of fucking time
He’s just out to get your dime
Fuck Holly and fuck Ivy
And fuck all that mistletoe
White-bearded big fat bastards
Ringing bells where e’er you go
And bloated men in shopping malls
All going Ho-Ho-Ho
It’s fucking Christmas time again!
It’s a fucking Disney show
And all that fucking snow
And fuck Rudolph
And his stupid fucking nose
And fucking sleigh bells tinkling
Everywhere you fucking goes
Fuck stockings and fuck shopping
It just drives us all insane
Go tell the elves
To fuck themselves
It’s Christmas time again!