In which almost everyone is either rightfully or wrongfully accused of being a socialist. The NORAD Commander exposes himself as a Santa hater and reveals his plan to end ineffective hand washing and spread skin cancer throughout the Aerospace Defence Command. And in which we meet Sid and Nancy, two thoroughly stoned reindeer, and also meet the Supreme Elven Soviet, headed by a poser named Che, that unsuccessfully casts off the shackles of Capitalism only to discover Justin Trudeau supporters, Rhinoceros Party members and gay elves among them.
Christmas Eve at NORAD
NORAD Commander Lieutenant-General Bucky Bungard reached into the top drawer of his desk and retrieved a blue latex glove. He wiggled his fingers and fitted it onto his right hand. Then he took the stack of papers from Major Wilfred Milk. Milk stood upright again.
“Ever notice that I never get a cold, Major?” the General said.
“No, Sir. But then, I haven’t really been paying attention.”
“That’s because I take precautions, Major.” As the General said this, he held up his gloved hand. “How many times a day do you wash your hands, Major?”
“Not sure, Sir. As many times as necessary, I’d say.”
“Really? And when was your last cold?”
“Well, I have to admit being a bit sniffly last month. But it’s nothing worth mentioning.”
“That’s because you touched something filthy and contaminated, Major,” the General said. “Like a doorknob. Or you shook the hand of, or otherwise came into physical contact with – don’t tell me how, this isn’t the time or place – some infected carrier. Then you probably passed it on. You played the role of disease vector, Major. Like a tic or a mosquito or a flea. How’s that make an educated, sophisticated man like you feel?”
Major Wilfred Milk looked nonplused. His jaw sagged slightly. “I….”
“I’m planning on implementing the use of UVGI in the new year. Wadda ya think of that?” The General leaned forward on his desk and glare at Milk with a fixed stare.
“I’m not sure what that is, Sir.”
“It’s ultraviolet germicidal irradiation, Major. You just zap your hands, or any other body part or surface, and all of the microorganisms die. Everything from your common cold to the ebola virus. NORAD needs to be ready 24/7, Major. We cannot place the supremacy and the sovereignty of our two great nations at the mercy of feckless microorganisms.”
“Ah,” said Milk. “Yes, I have heard of that, after all. I understand it’s strongly associated with skin cancer. Perhaps we might try encouraging more hand washing first, Sir.”
“Dammit, Major,” the General said, raising his voice and banging his desk. “We have the technology! We’re no sand dune nation of minarets. Mere hand washing has failed us. Hand washing is sucking us dry and putting our beloved freedoms at risk. It’s our freedom that those who endorse hand washing hate. It’s time to move on. We make these choices not because they are easy, but because they are hard.”
“I see. That’s very JFK of you, Sir.”
“Now, back to what’s on the radar. Pretty soon that Santa character’s going to pop up, isn’t he.”
“Yes and the children are expecting us to track him,” Major Milk smiled warmly. “It’s a grand tradition. Millions will have their noses glued to their computer screens, following along.”
“Well, he’s never gotten clearance from us to fly in our air space.”
“That hardly seems necessary….”
“Tonight we test the robustness of my new no-fly zone, Major.”
“But it’s Christmas Eve, Sir. It’s Santa.”
“He’s a socialist, Major, and therefore an enemy of both our great nations. He redistributes material wealth without requiring compensation of any kind in return. That’s nearly as bad as Obamacare, dammit! It’s contaminating our children. Each one of them is lost to the radical Republican cause the moment they start looking skyward for those eight tiny reindeer.”
“It sounds more like a poorly thought out form of mass philanthropy to me, Sir. But the children love Santa.”
“I’ve ordered the F-22s of the 3rd Wing at Elmendorf-Richardson military facility on alert. As soon as that fat cross-dressing commie bastard appears on radar, we’re gonna scramble those bad boys and blow this yuletide socialist conspiracy outta the sky.”
“You can’t be serious, Sir.”
Lieutenant-General Bucky Bungard relit his cigar, sat back in his massive desk chair and said, “I’ve never been more serious in my life.”
the Land of Hence
Klaus watched Arlo and Lilibeth enter the compound, escorted on high by an unfamiliar flock of crows. The flock landed where it could round the compound as the smallish couple stepped up to Klaus’ door. Arlo knocked and Klaus answered.
“Welcome back,” Klaus said. “Come in and warm up. The second house in the wood didn’t work out, eh?”
“Let’s not talk about that,” Lilibeth said.
“Fine by me,” Klaus said.
Lilibeth and Arlo looked round the place and were struck by the overwhelming inactivity. “Seems very quiet round here for Christmas Eve,” Arlo said. “Shouldn’t you be loading the sleigh?”
“There won’t be any sleigh this year,” Klaus said. “The reindeer refuse to fly and the elves seem to have gone temporarily insane. It’s a disaster.”
“But that can’t be,” Lilibeth said. She looked embarrassed and slightly appalled at the same time. “The children are expecting us.”
“Are they?” Klaus said, looking away. “Maybe this has been a long time in coming. But I think we’ve finally been rendered redundant by way of Aeroplan loyalty points, Walmart and plain disbelief.”
“Screw Walmart,” Arlo said. “We’ve got to do the run tonight. And we’ve got to get started now. How’s inventory?”
“Inventory’s low,” Klaus said. “Production is way down. But it’s also been a bumper year for naughtiness. If I stick to the Lump of Coal Rule, we might pull off a full run. But without the elves to load the sleigh and the reindeer to pull it, we’re not going anywhere.”
“Let me talk to the reindeer,” Arlo said.
“And I’ll have a word with the elves,” said Lilibeth.
“Wait a minute,” Klaus said. “What about your independence? I thought I was a slave-driver and a sadist, and that you were my victims.”
They were wounding words. The two smallish people looked down at there shifting feet.
“It made sense when I first read Marx,” Lilibeth admitted. “Now it sounds a little specious, at least for elves.”
“Then, at the risk of generating further worker alienation,” Klaus said, “get to it. And I‘ll open the sleigh shed.”
* * * * *
When Arlo entered the reindeer stalls, there was smoke in the air. But it wasn’t burning hay, he was heartened to realise. Instead, the smoke was that of a bodacious hydroponic bud from the reindeers’ private grow-op. Sid and Nancy passed a joint back and forth over a ganja-melodious game of Backgammon.
“Hey, wait a minute,” Nancy said as Sid moved a checker. “That can’t fall on the forth or the fifth points. Both have more than one of my checkers.”
“What?” Sid said, toking. “That’s ridiculous. I started here.” He pointed erroneously to a point on the board.
“No way, caribou-boy,” Nancy said. “You started here.” She pointed to the next point over. “This is why they won’t let you play any reindeer games, man.”
“You callin’ me a liar?”
“No, I’m calling you totally freakin’ wasted.”
“Where are the Doritos, man? You eat ‘em all?”
“No, you finished them an hour ago.”
“There’s gotta be something else, then.”
“Have some fodder.”
“I hate fodder. It sticks in my teeth.”
“You know,” Sid said finally, “I just can’t win a conversation with you.”
Arlo stepped up to the board and said, “You two give anthropomorphism a bad name, man.”
“Got any food, elf?” Sid said. “Any of that gingerbread shit you little people pack around?”
Arlo patted his pockets. “I’ve got some Tic-Tacs,” he said.
“Bummer,” said Sid.
“Too bad about the house, man,” Nancy commiserated.
“Yeah,” Sid said. “I could’ve had a righteous nosh on that, for sure.”
“You two ready to fly tonight?” Arlo said.
“Hell no,” said Sid. “That chapter in our lives is closed. We ain’t flying the hostile skies anymore just so Klaus can get his gift-giving rocks off. You know how many midair collisions there were last year alone?”
“No,” said Arlo. “How may?”
“Shit, I donno,” said Sid. “I’m just asking.”
“Well,” Arlo said, “Lilibeth is talking to the elves. She’s going to get them to load the sleigh. You two need to get the other reindeer mobilised for flight.”
“I need a nap,” Sid said.
“What if we don’t,” Nancy said.
“Then there’ll be a world of disappointment,” said Arlo.
* * * * *
The recently formed Supreme Elven Soviet sat round a table, dimly lit from above. Although they had access to better, most of them smoked cheap proletariat cigarettes and drank a greasy solvent-like alcohol flavoured with synthetic juniper. And though elves are normally happy, immortal and forever young, they tried desperately to look world weary, disappointed and worn down by the hateful shenanigans of the capitalist system.
“This will be our great triumph,” said an elf who called himself Che. He wore a beret, and hammered the tabletop with his fist. “The first Christmas Eve that we refuse to participate in. It is a monumental statement. The Man may own the means of production, but it’s all sleeping machinery without us.”
There were mumbles of agreement from round the table. Then an elf named Gerald spoke up, “Why do we have to drink this corrosive piss. Klaus supplies us with a nice bit of brandy. I’m gagging on this paint thinner. Might as well be drinking Aqua Velva.”
“It’s good enough for the masses,” Che said, eyes blazing with revolt.
“Doubt it,” said Gerald. “The masses like a nice nip of single malt when it can get its grubby hands on it. It’s only human to want better. Besides, if we’re playing at being the great unwashed, why can’t we just have some beer instead of this caustic rubbish?”
“Embrace your poverty,” Che demanded. A few of the elves agreed.
“But we’re not poor,” said Gerald. “We’re quite well-to-do. Elves come off in the highest adjusted earning percentile of all mythic beings. It’s the only reason we can sit around here pretending to be Marxists. We aren’t really a Supreme Soviet, we’re just bloody hobbyists.”
Che was reaching for a pistol on his belt when an elf said, “Oh look who’s here.” Lilibeth was standing in a corner and observing. “Property and acquisition behaviour still aren’t paying off for you, eh? You’ve come back to enjoy the benefits of our all-inclusive socialist ideology?”
“No,” said Lilibeth. “We need help loading the sleigh.”
“You weren’t listening,” said a smirking Che. “We’ve cast off the shackles.”
“Is Klaus gonna make a go?” Gerald said.
“He’s going to try,” Lilibeth said. “We may have all been taking ourselves too seriously lately. If we don’t get Klaus airborne tonight, we’re going to regret it.”
“I’m not a Marxist, anyway,” said an elf named Ned. “I’m an Anarchist, if you must know. And you lot are boring. I’m all for helping Klaus, as long as it’s done on a voluntary and cooperative basis devoid of recourse to force or compulsion.”
The elves round the table grumbled in agreement.
“Yeah,” said another elf named Burt, “I actually belong to the Rhinoceros Party. I just come to the meetings because Phillip does.”
An elf across the table named Phillip blushed, looked at Burt and coyly smiled.
“And I was on the nominating committee for Justin Trudeau,” said an elf named Dilbert. “I’ve got pamphlets if anyone’s interested.” The table went silent at Dilbert’s offer. “Never mind,” he said.
“Don’t allow yourselves to become chattels all over again,” Che said standing and raising a fist.
“Look, Che,” Ned said, “why not come along on the run. Klaus can drop you off in Bolivia. There was laughter round the table.
The crows watched as Klaus struggled to push the empty sleigh out into the compound. It was trimmed in gold filigree and studded with shining gems. It caught the crows’ attention. The Crow King and his Wizard came to perch next to Tibbit and her mother.
“There be some shiny swag,” Tibbit’s mother cawed, looking at the sleigh. “Might make this side trip worthwhile after all.”
“My stomach hurts,” Tibbit rattled, cleaning her sticky bill.
“The Wizard has foreseen our flight home,” the Crow King said. “There will be raptors. Spread the word.”
Keep a festive eye peeled for part 3, coming soon!