An Original Story by Nathalie Boisard-Beudin
I was so tired that I fell asleep in my plate of spaghetti con le vongole*. Pity that was, for it was excellent. Pity and messy too because I ended up having vongole all over my hair. Of course, now the cats LOVE me, but would Santa Claus? I need a computer this year, so I have been trying to be extra good, even if I have figured out by now that it does not pay. Santa Claus too, being a man, must have that thing about naughty girls ( I suppose he probably has a good one at home already so would be looking forward to the alternative).
So after disgracing myself so thoroughly in the spaghetti affair, I was nursing a glass of whisky on my lap, staring disgruntled into the fire place which held no burning log but rather a gaudy mishmash of luminous optical fibres Christmas tree and a nativity scene where the new born had not yet been placed. Joseph and Mary were still kneeling in prayers – for a prompt and painless deliverance, I suppose – and the angel dangling above looking bored with his harp – he’d always wanted to play the kazoo instead but does anybody pays attention to other people’s wishes in this place? The lone plastic kangaroo figure that had been placed near the manger by a little nephew earlier on was not going to dissent. It had dreamt of a white Christmas, yes, but not one that involved artificial foam or smelt of pasta con le vongole.
I must have dozed in my cup again, because I was startled awake by a vicious cracking noise. I looked around, thinking that one of the children must have played with one of the crackers smuggled in from England, but there was nobody around: they had all gone home or to the midnight mass. A look to the clock confirmed that they would soon be back to I went into the kitchen to prepare hot chocolate for the faithful pack. It was nearly ready when I heard another crack and popping my head out of the kitchen door, I saw a tiny pair of legs dangling in from the chimney. A diminutive burglar? I reached, pulling firmly on the legs and in a moment of wonder had myself a handful of the most irate and littlest Santa Claus I’d ever set eyes upon, wiggling like a mad worm.
- I say! PUT ME DOWN THIS MINUTE, WOMAN!
- Well, EXCUSE me. Who do you think you are?
- The milkman. What a stupid question. Isn’t that obvious?
- Well… I don’t know. You do look like … but… I sort of expected a larger man.
- A LARGER man? Lady, I’ll have you know something important, here: SIZE does not MATTER… What was that?
- Sorry I think I’ve just snorted whisky through my nose. Owww, that BURNS.
- Humpf! Shameful waste of good stuff. Will cure your sinusitis, but there are more normal way to achieve that goal, you know.
- Anyway. Welcome, Ô Santa, in this humble abode. Make your self at home. Have a carrot. No? Some milk maybe? No? Why do they leave that junk here anyway? And where is the booty?
- Hold on a bloody minute. I thought you were all going for this “call-off Christmas” shit?
- Errr, I do. You’re right. In the sense that I don’t think that the world is going to end if we don’t spend the night and the full day tomorrow unwrapping presents we never needed in the first place. I say, if Santa wants to bring us something then let HIM do it. The rest is just a pure business trap. But you are there. I suppose that means you have something for me. I’ve been a good girl, you know.
- Oh sure. I have managed to go through the whole year without putting heavy blunt objects through my colleagues’ head. And goodness knows it was quite an achievement, believe me. I’ve also tried to be gracious without – hem – any significant failures…
- Let’s see… Mmm, your records are still not quite up to the standards.
- But I HAVE been good!
- Not according to the standards, you haven’t.
- Let me see this! Whose standards are these anyway?
- YOURS. Questions?
- Quite. So you worked your ass off but there is still a large chuck of it left hanging out your back so I suppose that work was nowhere like sufficient. You’ve been spending time listening and helping friends and colleagues – and even the odd stranger – but not as much as you know you really should have. You gave to charity but not as much as you could have afforded. You did not call your mother often enough…
- Aww! Come on! Rub it in, will you! Who do you think you are? Jiminy Cricket?
- Well, that’s a dirty job but somebody has to do it. Better me that the government officials, that’s what I say.
- But I haven’t done anything illegal!
- No. There I must say that you’ve been pretty regular. Even paid your taxes and … WOW! Even a parking fine? Isn’t that a bit over the top? No wonder officials might get a bit edgy on your case …
- Just kidding.
- What’s that?
- Your Christmas gift. Remember? Christmas? Naked kid rolling in the hay?
- But what is this?
- THIS is your official Santa Office stamped lump of coal.
- A lump of coal? Is that all I get for my efforts? A LUMP? Couldn’t you at least have managed a whole bag, so we could have a barbecue?
- A whole bag? Have you seen the size of me, woman? What do you think I’m made of, eh? That’s the problem with you people: just too greedy and grabby. Not enough thoughts for the next man. And his sore back.
- Well… I can’t say that I am not disappointed but I suppose we can still use it for the nargileh. Thanks. Wow. What can I say? I’m underwhelmed. Fancy a drop of something to recover from all that exertion?
- What? More chimney exercises?
- Actually I was thinking more in the line of something to drink.
- What? A bribe?
- Most certainly NOT. Real whisky, that is. “Aberfeldy” being its pet name. But you can have something else if you don’t like it. Hot chocolate.
- Mmm. Seems a bit fishy to me.
- No, don’t worry, it’s just the vongole in my hair.
- The clams.
- I mean the whisky offer is genuine. So? Want some?
- Well, if you insist, don’t mind if I do. It’s nippy out there, it is. Have a drop. Or two.
- Or a whole bag?
- It’s grating, is it?
- Well, yeah. Rather. I’d fancied myself a little better than just your basic lump of coal level, you know?
- That’s the problem lass. Not enough application. Same thing at school.
- Hey! THAT was a long time ago. And besides, it was only true for subject I did not like.
- Relax! I’m only having you on. Merry Christmas!
- Awww, drink up and cheer up, girl. You can always get that computer yourself you know. On sales in two weeks time. Now I’ve always wondered why we can’t have Christams – Christ-Mas – during the sales period. Would be muuuch cheaper for everybluddy, dat would…
- Mmm, Santa?
- Far for me the idea of rationing you or even showing you the door, you ARE a guest after all, but don’t you think you should maybe … stop drinking?
- Hey, I can take it! Besssides… Hic! Besides, it’s de reindeeeer that does the driviiing.”
There he tried to tap his nose, missed rather dramatically and poked himself in the eye, stumbled backwards, hit his head quite viciously upon the chimney stones and passed out.
The rest of the night was therefore spent in the hospital emergency ward, with all the other more than-merry Christmas revelers, watching over a comatose Santa and thinking that maybe this little incident prevented somebody else from getting a lump of coal too.
I am happy to report that, despite all the drama, he was diagnosed to be suffering of little more than a fierce hangover: He’d had rather too much to drink in comparison to his body mass – it seems that size DOES really matter after all.
What more can I say?
*Spaghetti with clams. It’s traditional in Italy to eat only fish or shellfish on Christmas Eve (normally people were not supposed to eat at all prior to the midnight mass, but the church soon ruled fish as being acceptable).
Nathalie Boisard-Beudin is French yet currently living in Rome, Italy, working by day as in-house lawyer for the European Space Agency and by night scribbling furiously, with results being published in the multi national anthology “Wonderful World of Worders” (Guildhall-Press) in 2007 and, on-line, in Six Sentences, Crime and Suspense, Micro Horror, Pen Pricks Micro Fiction, Qarrtsiluni, Membra Disjecta and The Battered Suitcase.