It's Insanity, Claus
'Twas some months before Christmas, and at the North Pole,
Santa worked on his toys, a big head start his goal.
But then at his front door his doorbell had just rung...
Aw, shoot, no more rhymes here, my mood's too much like dung.
What happened was this: it was a lawyer and two police officers.
"Ah, Ms. Carrie Jove-Justice," Santa said.
She scrunched her eyebrows on that. "You know who I am?"
"Representing the Non-Offending Festivity Unifying Network, yes. Oh, come now. I see you when you're sleeping, awake, bad or good. Don't tell me you've never heard that song before."
She shrugged. "Then I suppose you know why we're here."
"I do." He took a long, tender look over his glasses and into her eyes. "I'm hoping, though, that you'll have a change of heart just now."
Carrie smirked mockingly. "And have it grow three sizes this day, huh?" She pulled a folder from her briefcase, produced some papers and handed them his way.
In Santa's office, his wife Mary Christmas Claus looked at the documents, aghast. "She can't do this!"
Santa sighed unhappily. "I'm afraid she can, dear, and just did. NOFUN demands that I censure and politically correct myself for today's public. On top of the demand list, I must lose at least 125 pounds, and stop using 'polarizing hate speech' like Christmas, Jesus, Joseph, Mary, trios of kings or wise men, angels, stars going west or anything referential to the Nativity or the church. Even saying 'Ho ho ho' is out."
"Ho ho ho?! What in the world's wrong with that?"
"Intimidating to kids, they say. And derogatory to females of... alternate value systems."
Mary scoffed. "And if we don't?"
"Then NOFUN will send in Interpol to cart us off." He thumbed to the police snow tractors parked on the outskirts. "They've already got a restraining order against us on homes in America, Canada and the UK for 'menacing' them with repeated breaking and entering, and put us under house arrest. And that's just for starters."
Mary shook her head. "This is outrageous. Do any of the elves know?"
A big uproar arose down the hall. Scores of agitated, angry high voices echoed back to the office.
"Sounds like they do," said Santa grimly. And they both exited and trotted briskly to the warehouse.
All the elves were centered around the workshop's bulletin board, where one of Ms. Jove-Justice's papers, copied and blown up to poster size, stood for all to see. And to gripe at.
"This is bull hockey! We gotta unionize?!"
"If I wanted to pay union dues, I'd be working for my cousin's hollow tree bakery!"
"PeTA's gonna rip into us if we don't get rid of the leather sleigh harness?"
"If the Humane Society doesn't beat 'em to it over the reindeer."
"Reindeer droppings, mo' like. No offense, Dasher."
"That's not allowed either," Dasher murmured. "Emissions laws."
"I am NOT wearing a diaper through 24 time zones!" Prancer snapped.
"Get rid of the pipe? Santa hasn't smoked since 1974!"
"Please! Who do they think we work for, Montgomery Burns? What part of SAINT Nicholas don't they get?"
"Can't say 'Saint' anymore," an elf sing-songed. "Or someone'll be butthurt."
"Butthurt?" snorted a grizzled, tough elf who more resembled a dwarf. "I got your butthurt right here! I say Santa's a saint, and Ms. Legal is a--"
"We have to get with the times, Krackle," interrupted a taller, slimmer elf in a dark three-piece suit. It was Joseph Silverheels, Santa's attorney. "Now, I don't agree with everything... or frankly, much of ANYthing Ms. Jove-Justice is pressing here, but the courts seem to be on her side. Rule of law, not public opinion. And besides, Christm-- erm, the holid-- uh, the winter festival date is way too close. If we fight, we probably won't make the deadline even if we win."
Krackle looked at the suited elf evenly. "Well, Injunction Joe, then I say we close down this year." Horrified gasps all around. "Hear me out, guys! I think we've been taken for granted for so long, people don't remember or care what Christmas is all about anyway. So here's what I say: we simply take it to court and duke it out. Do a public campaign on the Web, too. News Update: No Christmas This Year Due to Monster Lawsuit. Fox and Sky News'll probably give us decent press here. Once the world figures out what they've lost, they'll back us up, and Ms. No-Justice and NOFUN will be legally hung out to dry and beaten like a Navidad pinata!" He grinned nastily. "And most likely literally if it looks like we'll lose. And we'll make it up to 'em with extra next year."
Krackle's satisfied smirk quickly melted when the warehouse exploded not into a rally but a huge argument. Nobody wanted to simply roll over and play dead, but while many wanted to fight back in court, many others wanted to settle out some other way peacably. Nobody wanted to solve this spat quietly.
Just before it came to pokes and shoves: FHUU-WHEEEET! A whistle fit for hailing New York taxis pierced the air. All the elves and reindeer stopped in mid-sentence, turned and stared at Mary and Santa, who'd taken his two fingers out his mouth.
"Might I have a say?" he asked. Everyone settled down and listened up. "Look. We've been doing this every year for so long, even I can't remember exactly how far back. And we haven't missed a single Christmas. EVER. Not during the Black Plague. Not during piracy of the 1600s. Not during the World Wars. Or the Cold War. Or even September 11.
"We delivered the goods for all the children, and the smiles on their faces, and to help spread a little more happiness, cheer, giving, and Christian good will and love through a world that desperately needs it more than ever.
"THAT is the example we're setting for them. That will never be squelched. Not by any storm, any disaster, any army, any despot, any act of terror, any force of darkness... and not even by any pack of lawyers.
"And if we go on strike this year just to make a political point... well, you know all those kids that are gonna be disappointed and heartbroken when there are no presents Christmas morning?
"Well, if you plan to walk... please tell me what you're going to say to them." And he pointed at a skylight to a certain very bright Star due south. "And to Him."
Silence. A few of the older, crustier elves looked like they going to offer a protest, and Krackle raised a finger and opened his mouth. But the rant never came. His gaze dropped with his finger, he nodded, and softly muttered, "You're the boss."
Santa nodded. "All right, then. Back to work. Joe, let's get our legal team and see how to call off the restraining orders. Mary, dear, let's set up an exercise program."
In the months that followed, Santa's elven lawyers contacted the courts and communities of homes they'd potentially visit. And they set up a visit/don't visit registry database. It was overwhelmingly on the "visit" side. In fact, a high number of "don't visit" entries turned out to be trolls or people with grudges trying to get their targets skipped. It took some investigation and follow-up calls to sort them out.
Krackle repeatedly griped loudly on how unnecessary all this was, and pointed out if Santa knew if folks were sleeping, awake, bad or good, he'd surely know if he was welcome or not. But since that notion seemed too much like common sense, NOFUN dismissed it.
And he did the whole schmear of exercise in that time, too. Aerobics, pilates, weight-lifting, ab crunches, whatever was trendy in the wild world of exercise.
And Ms. Jove-Justice dropped by gave him the hairy eyeball all throughout. Especially on the diet part. Just leafy greens, stuff with roughage and unsweetened tea was what he had.
Mary Christmas Claus was especially unhappy to see her husband go without any roast turkey, ham, cookies, eggnog, plum pudding, or any other wonderful Christmas goodies. Or even that ubiquitous fruitcake. So to help give support to her husband, she joined his side in the exercise regimen.
Thankfully, her taking part cheered him up, and had a very serendipitous result: she ended up a good deal trimmer, pleasantly more buff, and looking younger as a bonus. Stronger, too, since she didn't get meat banned from her own diet.
Santa ended up a lot thinner, too, but the new look didn't work quite as well for him. Actually, it didn't suit him at all: he had to wrap his red fur-lined coat and pants around him like a toga and poke some new holes in his black leather belt to strap down his clothes so they didn't flap like a flag in the Arctic wind.
Despite all that, December 24 finally arrived. And after the elves stuffed his magic bottomless sack full of gifts, he toted it over to the sleigh, where Mary, the elves, and the reindeer waited.
"Well," he said as he hefted the sack into the back, "ready to do the toy run?"
"Whenever you are!" all the reindeer chimed.
"Hold it!" barked an irritatingly familiar voice.
Ms. Jove-Justice and Injunction Joe quickly trotted up and they hopped into the sleigh with him. "We're going to monitor you through the ride. Just to make sure you stay on script."
Santa looked at her evenly. "This trip is going to be a very cold, long, thirty-one hour whirlwind. Not exactly one storybook reading. Are you sure you wouldn't rather settle in with some cocoa by a PC and watch by webcam?"
Ms. Carrie Jove-Justice stared evenly back. "I'm going to make sure. Face to face."
Fingering his own parka, Joe looked between the two, silent but with eyebrow arched in oh-this-ought-to-be-good fashion.
Santa shrugged. "Very well. Are we good to go, Rudolph?"
A small, sharp point of red light glowed brightly up front. "Yes sir! NORAD says we're clear!"
"Right, then! On Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen, Comet, Cupid, Donner, and Blitzen!"
And with Santa's shake of the reins, the reindeer trotted, then galloped, then sprang into the air, towing the sleigh, riders, gifts, and sleigh bell chimes behind them. And as they made a pass around the workshop for Mrs. Claus and all the cheering elves to see, the sleigh bells rang and Santa waved and smiled grandly. "Ho ho ho!" he laughed. "Merry Christmas to all!"
Ms. Jove-Justice butted in: "That's Happy Winter Celeb--"
"I'M NOT SAYING THAT!" And off they sped into the dark starry sky.
Santa shivered quite a bit; the night felt sharply colder than he ever remembered. He realized that all his body fat wasnt there to insulate him anymore. No matter, he thought, he still had to bring the good kids their toys. And his first stop was in the Pacific tropics. Fiji.
He checked the map by the International Date Line. Whoops, no, it was Tonga. With that Santa's sleigh and reindeer closed in on that isle, zeroed in on the first family's home on the list, and parked atop the hut's roof. Grabbing his pack, Santa hopped out and slipped on down the stovepipe.
Ms. Jove-Justice pointed that way for Joe. "Follow."
Coming out the old potbelly stove, the elf saw Santa checking the list, and setting out the toys for the sleeping children. "A beach ball for Clara," he whispered, "a toy RC dune buggy for Pongo... and a dolphin plush doll for Rini."
"What," Joe whispered, "no coal?"
Santa shot him a look. The elf added, "I always looked forward to my lump of coal."
Rolling his eyes, Santa turned back to the stove to head back up. But next to the tinsel festooned palm tree, hey! On a small table with a card marked "For Santa" sat a glass of coconut milk and some banana bread. Santa reached over -- and smack! Joe quickly slapped Santa's backhand. "No, sorry," the mini-sized minder said, "I have to confiscate that."
Grumbling, Santa went back up the stovepipe, and so did Joe. But as they climbed back in the sleigh, the elf whispered, "Maybe you can stash this for later when tonight's over... does this jalopy have a mini-fridge?"
"Heard that," Ms. Jove-Justice said. "Hand them over."
Grimacing, Joe reluctantly did. And they took off for the next home. In transit, Ms. Jove-Justice sniffed them -- mmmm, they smelled very good. She nibbled and sipped the herself.
Well, she thought, it would be a shame and waste to throw them away. And she downed them herself.
And it was that way all night all around the world. No TimTams in Australia. No Mochi rice treats in Japan. No moon cakes in China. No coconut milk in Thailand. No MRE ration bars in Afghanistan or Iraq. No fig bars in Israel. No baklava in Greece. Joe snatched them all away and turned them over to Ms. Jove-Justice, who devoured them all. Santa didn't get a crumb or a drop.
Then somewhere around Naples, Italy, the reindeer were complaining. Santa had dropped off lots of toys, but the load wasn't getting any lighter. In fact, it seemed to be getting heavier, and that was tiring them out. The load was dragging the sleigh off-center, too. And Santa seemed to be moving slower on each delivery.
Now those of you who have ever crunched numbers to crack the mysteries of Santa and Christmas miracles have probably figured out by now what had gone wrong. You see, Santa brings toys to HUNDREDS of MILLIONS of homes each year. And each year all told, all those homes leave 2950 TONS of food and drink for him.
And Ms. Jove-Justice had been eating it all instead. And all night her figure gradually grew bigger... and fatter... and bigger... and fatter... and bigger... and fatter... and BIGGER... and FATTER... until finally, she more resembled a ridiculously huge balloon than a barrister.
The breaking point finally came atop a home in Fort Collins, Colorado, USA. Santa, now very gaunt, stick-like, and weak, staggered out of the sleigh. He wheezed three times...then dropping the sack off his back, he collapsed face down on the roof into the snow.
Injunction Joe bolted out of the sleigh beside him. "Hey! Santa's out! Somebody help him!"
"I can't!" the blimp-bloated Ms. Jove-Justice cried. "I'm stuck in this stupid sleigh!"
From the sleigh's harness, Blitzen hissed angrily, "Didn't you think of this?! Lugging a bunch of toys down the chimney and climbing back up millions of times over is hard work! He needs energy from all that food and stuff just for his weight to break even!"
"He might have pulled it off if you had let him eat," Vixen put in, "but nooooooooo! You had to gulp it all down yourself! And all you've done is sit there primly all night! "
"This is what happens when you interfere with miracles!" Cupid interjected.
"Santa!" Joe was in a horrified panic. "Oh great Gandalf, where's my cell phone?! I'm calling 911!"
"No..." Santa rasped, "Dashboard... hit button... call... home...."
The elf got back in the sleigh, and spotted a button: "NorthStar." He hit it. Three seconds later, Mrs. Claus' voice came through the hands-free phone. "Hello, Nick, honey, what's up?"
"No, this is Joe! We've got an emergency here!" And the elf quickly reported the situation.
Quicker than a verse of "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen," jingling bells sounded in the air. Through the sky cut a smaller flying sleigh towed by two other reindeer. In it rode red-suited Mrs. Claus and driver Krackle, who called:
"Now Saint! Now Mercy! There's Santa below!
"Let's land and go help him up from the snow!"
Once they landed, Mary vaulted out with a big lunch bucket to her husband's side. Kneeling and helping him to sit up, she brought a Thermos bottle of hot chocolate to his lips. "Drink up, dear, you're going to be fine." She also fed him a roast beast sandwich, some black-eyed peas, and some figgy pudding.
"Rest up, honey," she said. "I'll finish the run for you. Just eight time zones left, right?"
"Yes, sweetheart," Santa said softly, "and it's mostly ocean. And the provinces and states north of us are done."
Once she saw he was going to pull through, Mrs. Mary Claus reached down, cradled and hefted up her now much lighter hubby in her arms, carried him over to the backup sleigh's back seat, and fastened him in with a thick quilt.
Krackle shook the reins. "On Saint! On Mercy! On to the North Pole!
"Let's go to full steam and don't spare the coal!"
And as the smaller sleigh shot off like a cannonball, Mrs. Claus grabbed the sack of toys, checked the list, and slid down the chimney. A few minutes later, she came back to the rooftop smacking and wiping her lips. "Mmmm, yummy. Nice kids, too. They deserve the Wii."
As she climbed back in and took the reins, Ms. Jove-Justice huffed at her. "Was that roast pork?"
Mary looked back at her oddly. "No, the Hendersons put out haystack cookies. Some crispy peanut-butter 'n butterscotch thing."
"Not them! You! What did you fed him? I could tell by the aromas none of it was on his approved diet list! I'll bet it wasn't even kosher or halal!"
Mrs. Claus ignored that and shook the reins for the takeoff. "So where shall I drop you off?"
"I said, where shall I drop you off? You sound North American. I'm guessing California Bay Area, but if you're from back east or Canada, I guess I can whisk you straight home now and stay on sched--"
"Now look here! I'm not going anywhere! I'm here 'till the end!"
"Auto-pilot," she called to the reindeer. Then she turned back and gave the jumbo Ms. Jove-Justice her full glaring, growling attention. "What would be the point? I'm not under your diet regimen -- which nearly killed my husband -- and to be blunt, your weight's slowing us down."
"And I'm holding you liable for that!" Carrie spat. "I'll be taking your husband and workshop to claims for the medical bills, the new wardrobe, the therapy, the weight loss program, the gym membership and the home, office and vehicular remodeling for handicap access!"
"Oh, riiiight! Sure was mean of us to strap you down, shove that funnel in your mouth, and ramrod all that food down your throat! I suppose you want us to write down all the names of the boys and girls who gave all those treats so you can sue them, too!"
"No need," Jove-Justice said evenly, "We'll just download, copy, and paste the 'visit' column from the registry database when we file for the class action."
Mary was so shocked at that one, she couldn't answer back. At last, Joe stood up and faced his colossaly corpulent colleague. "Carrie, this goes against every fiber in my lawyer being. But I've got five words for you." And he poked her girth on each one. "This! Is! Your! Own! Fault!"
Stunned silence. Then she shrieked, "HOW DARE YOU! I'll have you disbarred!" And then she launched a torrential tirade of legal threats, invective, abuse, and other nastiness I'd never repeat even if it was acceptable to tender ears. But Mary and Joe quietly looked at each other, realizing Carrie was beyond their help.
Then Joe looked to the sleigh's dashboard. "Say, what does this button do?" he idly asked. And he pressed the one plainly labeled "Tailgate Latch."
There was a woman's short scream... then a POOMPH as a lot of dead weight landed in a snowbank down below.
Joseph Silverheels flashed Mary an impish smile. "Oops."
Mrs. Claus grinned back. "You get coal again this year."
"In sacks or straight carloads?"
"Futures." And they flew off south to the next town.
In the end, Mrs. Claus, Joe, and the reindeer finally delivered the last present, and zipped back to the North Pole with Christmas Day's sunrise nipping at their heels. The usual yearly cheering welcome back was highly muted this time. Once they landed and got inside, Mary rushed over to Santa, who rested in a wheelchair waiting for her.
"Welcome home, dear," he said. "Everything go all right?"
"Everything go... are YOU all right?" she demanded.
"Feels good to finally eat again."
"You could have fooled me. Why so glum?"
Santa sighed. "I'm just sad for Carrie Jove-Justice."
Mary blinked. "After all she put us through?"
"I've seen billions of people -- from great-grandparents hundreds of years old to the baby boy born just last night -- and I can't understand why she'd have it in so badly for us or anyone else who loves Christmas. Why can't she enjoy it or be happy for those who can? Did our sleigh run over her pet as a child or what?"
Mary shrugged. "Well, that's a mystery we'll have to solve next year." She cozied in closer. "But right now, anyway, I'm going to tuck you into bed, and nurse back to health with some TLC. Tomorrow for dinner, I'll fix you up some egg nog, good fruitcake, roast goose, and some hot cider."
And once again, she reached down, picked him up, tugged him close, and carried him gently back to their quarters.
"And once your shape's back," she whispered, "I'll do a few things to make your nice AND naughty lists."
Santa chuckled slyly. "Ho, ho, ho."
Seated by his workbench in his underground warren, Peter put the baby blue dyed egg in its cup. Taking a fine brush in his right paw, he dipped it in red paint. Pressing the spin button with his left paw, he squinted and got ready to put on the first color.
Knock knock knock went the door. Looking up, he twitched his long ears and whiskers. Who in the world could it have been? He put down the brush, hopped upstairs, and answered.
On his welcome mat stood a big bloated woman in not so slimming pinstripe suit with a briefcase.
"Excuse me, she said, Mr. Cottontail, I presume? I'm Ms. Carrie Jove-Justice with the Non-Offending Festivity Unifying Network. It's come to our attention that your baskets are labeled with the polarizing Christian greeting 'Happy Easter,' as opposed the more acceptable and contemporaneously correct phrase, 'Happy Spring.' In order to prevent any legal friction or offen--"
And SLAM! went the door in her face.
Merry Christmas To All, And God Bless Us Everyone.