A Christmas Dilemma.

December 12, 2019

The North Pole is alive and well. The elves worked in rushed anxiety as all of the children’s letters to Santa came flooding in. Why oh, why do kids have to wait until the last minute to tell great ole’ Santa what their greedy cheese-covered hands want? We only have a week and more keep coming, you think. You work in the Painting District for Larry the Locomotive dolls. You paint on the bright big smiles they all seem to have. You were sent there after last year’s “incident.” You and your best friend, Jack Frost, pulled a prank in the Flying and Remote-Control District, setting all the drones to fly at the first face they saw sounded like a good idea in the beginning. You thought someone had to test them before they were sent out. Right? The only thing was…the first face they saw…was Mrs. Claus herself. You and Frost got into so much trouble. You were moved to your current station and Jack was banned for the year.

Setting down your thousandth shiny locomotive – you thought you’d smash it, causing the huge pile to crumble, halting everything, including the wretched carols that every elf insists on singing as they work. You clench your teeth as you pick up the next of thousands of plain wood locomotives. The wood perfectly crafted, the acute lines carved by masterful hands not leaving a shaving of wood unsmooth or frayed, all done by the elves to your left. The elves on your right keep dwindling your work pile by placing locomotives into boxes and wrapping them in paper and ribbons with skill no human with a short life, such as they do, could replicate.

The door to the big man’s office slammed shut up on the balcony. A tall figure stormed away; the workshop got increasingly colder. The carols came to an abrupt stop as every elf looks over at the perpetrator. He, on the other hand, looks at you.

You know who he is by the way the room grows colder. Jack Frost looks at you then turns away to leave the building – a silent invitation to follow. First, you’ll have to find a way to leave the massive hill of unpainted trains. The room erupts with elves gossiping to one another about the man who dropped the temperature just by his presence.

You slowly lower your head and begin backing away from the table. No one pays attention to you as you inch your way to the front door and finally slip out.

Jack stands on the edge of Santa’s sleigh runway. He’s in his lightweight, dark grey trench coat covered in swirls of frost creeping up his sleeves and down from his neck. His short, white hair sticks up at odd ends, looking like ice. His back is to you as your small legs approach him.

“He’s a lying cheat. The weasel thinks he can just back down on his oath with me and still get my services. The old man thinks he can just do as he pleases, and there will be no consequences to his actions. He’s getting too old; he can’t even handle his own promises anymore.” Jack walks back and forth on the snowy ground, mumbling under his breath. His eyes shoot at you as snow crunches under your feet.

“Oh good, you got out. How do you handle it in there? Santa’s whole room seemed to be made of paper. The songs were cutting into my skull as Mr. Jolly tried to get me to work for him for free.”

“You talkin’ about the agreement you and the boss had?” You ask, stuffing your hands in your pockets and trying to free a stone from its icy prison with your foot. The cold froze over the gravel that covers the earth leaving a stone protruding up from the surface of the snow.

“Yes!” he fires back. “He said he can’t follow through with his commitment anymore but still needs my help for Christmas. The disrespect…” he continues to walk back and forth.

“Was last year really that bad?”

“No, it wasn’t, he’s just a drama queen. The drones were fixed in the end, allowing every child to get their wish, and Santa was praised as a hero once again” he sighs. “And it’s not like we didn’t have to weep what we’d sewn. We had to help fix half the damn things and you got moved to the Painting District. I think we’ve paid enough.”

“Still can’t believe he did that. I’d been working in the Flying and Remote Control District for years. I worked hard to get there and now all I’m doing is painting block colors on wood with Larry’s great big smiling face staring back at me.”

“Right! Geez, he wants me to still go around the globe following behind his sleigh making the night easy to fly in.”

“What a joke,” you say.

“And all I ask for is a few months in his domain. He has so much space he never uses. It’s not like I’m going to be sleeping in his house or anything. I just want to live in the village down the mountain. I live in Antarctica! It’s like a prison! The High Holiday Council said that it was the only place that could sustain me, but I can live just fine here in the North Pole. That’s why I made the deal with Santa. He needed help with the harsh winter, and I needed a way out of my isolation.”

“Do you have a plan?” you ask.

The ends of his lips curve up and he looks out at the open expanse. The clouds are dark, and the wind rages.

“Well, I’m going to make the night a living hell to fly in of course. Make him remember why he made the deal to begin with.”  He turns and looks at you. His face contorts in a wicked expression. “You in?”

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