Contest entrants were asked to submit a 1000 word or less story beginning with the sentence "Dear, Santa...I can explain. In any genre as long as the story was based on or around the Christmas season.
Here are the entries for you to vote on. This is a blind vote and each entry will be identified by number and title only.
#1...The Diary of an unsatisfied Elf.
"Dear, Santa... I can explain!"
Were the first word of the official report dated 25th December, 2011 into the largest industrial action ever seen in the North Pole.
Here, exhibit A, is how the Chief Elf recorded his involvement in the unfortunate event.
So after successfully petitioning for the post of Master Elf in Santa's grotto, I have put to the management, (Mr. and Mrs. Claus) my proposals to take our operation into the 21st Century.
Forthwith all the antiquated titles of earlier years will be changed to better fit our new, Politically correct, hi-tech operation. Therefore the post of Master Elf will now be known as Shop Floor Production Foreman.
The Circle of Elf Elders will be known as the Work's Council and Arbitration Committee.
The label, "Santa's Elves" is deemed far too feudalistic for a modern day working environment and I propose the designation, "Entertainment and Recreational Construction Specialist" to replace the old, throwback-to-serfdom designation.
Addendum: Mr. Claus met my proposals with his customary, "Ho ho ho" and a joke about how clever I am despite my lack of formal schooling. He joked that I must be, "Elf taught".
I have invited the Lapland Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (L.S.P.C.A.) to inspect our reindeer stables, much to the annoyance of the management.
For too long our four legged brothers have been consigned to the penury and embarrassing confines of the back yards. I also want to see better medical care as up until now we've always given them “Elk-a-seltzer" as a reindeer cure-all which simply isn't good enough.
The L.S.P.C.A. inspected the premises and agrees 100% with my proposals.
For the time being, during the building phase, the reindeers will have to be housed in the Elf sleeping quarters but I'm sure the Brothers won't mind bedding down in the old stables for a while.
Mr. Claus wasn't happy but gracefully backed down with a superficial, "Ho ho ho" and a tired joke about how the bill will, "Sleigh" us all.
Revolution 1, Bourgeois Santa 0, methinks.
Trouble with the local planning committee. Because we have no specialised construction engineers among our ranks, we will have to import a labour force to build the new stables. Mr. Claus's cheeks were redder than usual when I told him the cost and insists that we find a cheaper firm.
I only agreed when he agreed to my demand that the firm chosen be environmentally aware and a member of the Fair Trade Alliance. Though Mr. Claus agreed he refused me a "Ho ho ho"; a sure sign of disapproval. I don't think that Santa, I mean the Management are wholly on my side with this one.
The workforce is now calling me, "The rebel without a Claus" behind my back.
I opted for a Russian firm to complete the building programme for us.
So imagine my surprise when the Elf Rights Commission, (E.R.C.) visited this morning, along with an officer from the Lapland Immigration Control to check on the visa status of the Russian builders.
Just read a letter from the E.R.C. about the Elf's stables, I mean quarters. Not good, this could get tricky. I tried to explain that it's only for the duration of the building phase for the stables but they won't listen.
Senior management took it hard when he found out and it was double Eggnogs all last night. Mrs. Claus gave him a rocket this morning because he'd diddled the bed.
There's a tasteless joke doing the rounds about Christmas Logs but I'm not going to go into it.
The brothers are refusing to work unless they get better accommodation and the Big Man is furious!
I told him that if he had provided better sleeping arrangements for the reindeers in the first place then all of this trouble could have been avoided, but he isn't having it.
The brothers are on the barricades.
The Russian builders have all been sent home without pay.
The Reindeer are fouling the Elf accommodation because nobody will clean up after them.
The Elves are going down like flies with colds and flu because of the draughty accommodation.
And the Lapland Inland Revenue, (L.I.R.) want an audit of our books because it turns out that the builders were working cash in hand!
However the brothers are in good spirits and have changed the lyrics to "Rocking around the Christmas tree" to:
"Russians home-bound, without their fee and we're living in a hut.
Reindeer dung, everywhere and the Taxman wants his cut!"
That's the working Elf's spirit for you, indomitable!
Crisis meeting in the stables.
Rudolph, being the only speaking reindeer has accepted terms to move back to the stables.
They demand more straw for bedding, more moss and lichen to eat, more exercise and Rudolph personally wants a pay rise due to his extra duties as warning light, (as laid down in the International aviation law and regulations).
The E.R.C. are satisfied that the Elves will have proper accommodation.
The L.S.P.C.A. are happy the reindeer are happy.
The L.I.R. are happy now that the Russians are gone and production is about to start early tomorrow morning.
The Big Man actually forced a, "Ho ho ho" after the arbitration had been finalised, and cracked a limp joke about, ""Holly's well that ends well."
The Elves are working like clockwork to finish production in time for tonight. 400,000 toys and games finished in less than twenty four hours! A production record that will be the bench mark for my proposed Five Year Plan in the New Year.
Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen, Comet, Cupid, Dunder, Blixem and of course Rudolph are limbering up and making their pre-flight checks on the Sleigh, (or the Holly Davidson as Santa likes to call it).
So, all that's left to be said is have a Merry Christmas all and a Happy New Year.
#2 ...CHRISTMAS IS CANCELLED
“Dear Santa I can explain,” said Kendall, nervously trying to find the right words. But could he find the words? Did he understand what was happening himself? All he knew is that he had to try to make sense of it. Kendall was a private detective from Miami. He had been asked to investigate a strange case.
“It’s Rudolph,” he said.
“Rudolph?” Santa repeated, puzzled.
“Yeah,” said Kendall. “Rudolph the red nosed reindeer.”
“What about Rudolph?” Santa asked, as he started to stroke his beard.
Kendall started to tap his fingers together, and took a deep breath. This wasn’t going to be easy. But there was nothing for it. He had to go straight in, no messing. “Well it seems that our Rudolph attacked someone,” he said. “He’s been arrested, charged, and is now in a cell downtown waiting to go to trial.”
Santa couldn’t believe, and became quite red in the face. “Who is he supposed to have attacked?” he asked.
Kendall took his notepad from his pocket and flipped the pages. “Here it is,” he said, as he found the spot. “Someone by the name of Jack Frost.”
Santa shook his head. “I don’t believe it,” he said angrily. “Rudolph wouldn’t do anything like that.”
“We don’t believe it either,” said Mollie, Kendall’s ever loyal Secretary and business partner.
“She’s right,” said Kendall. “We don’t believe it.” He sighed. “But I have to prove it. It’s the evidence you know. A big red nose. That’s what he said. It was a big red nose.”
“It wasn’t Rudolph,” Santa said emphatically.
Kendall nodded. “Well I have a few leads. I’ll get back to you.”
* * *
The following day Kendall was getting nowhere fast. All of his leads had finished at a dead end. Now he was stuck in traffic and going nowhere. Right in front of him was a large traffic sign, and it was at red. It had been red for quite some time. People were beginning to get a little impatient.
“Hey fellow move it,” yelled one driver just behind.
“Come on let’s get going,” yelled another.
Then the horns started blaring. What could he do? Nothing. The light was still on red. Suddenly there was a tap on his nearside window. He leaned over and wound the window down.
Standing at the side of the car was Detective Devaney of the Miami Police Department. “Kendall, what are you doing here?” he asked, poking his head into the car.
“Oh just waiting around,” replied Kendall nonchalantly.
“i was going to give you a ticket for parking,” Devaney said. “Hope you’re not waiting for this light to go green.”
“Well that was the general idea,” said Kendall.
“The light’s broken,” said Devaney. “Some guy ran into it a couple of days ago. Frost his name was. Jack Frost.” He paused for a moment. “Knocked him out cold.”
“Jack Frost did you say,” said Kendall.
“Yeah Jack Frost, do you know him?” said Devaney. “His father’s name is David.”
“David,” repeated Kendall. “David Frost. The David Frost.”
“Yeah, that’s right, the David Frost,” said Devaney. “From the North Pole. That David Frost.”
“But I thought that Frost had been attacked by Rudolph the red nosed reindeer,” said Kendall.
“Yeah we thought so to,” said Devaney. “Frost had blamed Rudolph. There’s no love lost between them. The guy sends shivers up and down my spine.”
Kendall heaved a sigh. “He certainly sounds a cool one.”
“Anyway he changed his story and confessed about an hour ago, and Rudolph was released.”
Kendall smiled and nodded. That was good news indeed. “I must tell Santa as soon as possible,” he said as he reached for his phone.
“We already tried to contact him,” said Devaney. “We couldn’t get through.”
Kendall nodded again, and he punched in Santa’s telephone number. “Leave it to me,” he said. A few minutes later a voice could be heard.
“If you wish to place an order for Christmas Eve, press one. If you wish to talk about an order that you have already placed press two. To speak to Customer Service press three. To hear these options again please press the hash key.”
Kendall cancelled the call, and returned the phone to his pocket. “I must tell Santa the good news as quickly as I can,” he said. “I’ll be seeing you Devaney.”
He put the car into gear, released the brake, put his foot down and sped across the junction, straight into the path of traffic coming from the side. Horns blared, tyres screeched. Metal crunched.
* * *
Three hours later Kendall arrived at Santa’s Grotto.
“So everything’s all right,” said Santa. “Rudolph has been released, so Christmas can go ahead, right.”
Kendall shook his head. “You better come with me Santa,” he said. “We have a problem.”
He led him down a narrow lane. In the lane the snow was glistening. It was a beautiful sight. Kendall thought it was a winter wonderland. But sadly he knew differently. He knew that it was a nightmare.
At the end of the lane was a large timber barn. Kendall walked over and opened the door. It was dark inside, but there was a strange light coming from the far side. “Go in Santa,” he said. “I’ll get the light.”
Kendall flipped the switch. Over on the far side were twelve reindeer. “Donner and Blitzen,” Kendall said. “Prancer and Dancer and ..... and ..... and Tim, and Tee, and Mike, and Reggie and ...”
Kendall shook his head. He had to admit he did not know the names. But it hardly mattered. All twelve reindeer had very red, very shiny noses. You might even say they glowed. All twelve had heavy colds. They wouldn’t be working today. In fact they wouldn’t be working anytime soon.
“It’s this wretched flu virus that’s going around,” said Kendall, as he sneezed violently.
#3...Mince pie r squared
“Dear, Santa I can explain!” Trimble the elf rocked back and forth on his pointed shoes, the bells at the toes tinkling merrily. Trimble winced, now was not the time for merriment. Now was the time for quick thinking and buck-passing.
“I do hope you can.” Rumbled Santa in reply “I’m sure you’ll agree, Trimble, an explanation is well overdue.”
Trimble nodded. What was it with the big man that his voice seemed to resonate from deep inside? “Yes Santa,” Trimble squeaked. No manly rumbling from his pint sized frame. Bloody mince pies; maybe if Santa ate less and he ate more, he’d have the rumble and Santa’d have less of the tumble and he wouldn’t be in the pickle he was in.
“Well, Santa...,” he began. Hands clenched tightly behind his back so that he wouldn’t be tempted to twiddle with the bell on the end of his pointed hat. The hat should be erect; the bell safely out of reach, but nerves had resulted in an ill timed droop. The bell now dangled far too close for one so easily tempted by a quick tinkle. “It’s all down to physics.”
“Physics?” Santa raised one bushy brow.
“Yup, the business of how stuff works.”
Trimble shuffled “He wasn’t about to give the big man a lecture on how stuff worked, because he wasn’t totally up to scratch. In fact he was more an expert on how stuff didn’t work.
“You know, Santa, physics. How reindeer fly, how you can get around the whole world in one night and how you can get down chimneys without getting the seat of your pants singed...physics!”
“Oh, of course, Trimble,” Santa smiled “I think what you meant to say was magic.”
“Magic...oh yeah, whatever. The thing is Santa.” Trimble leaned forward a little and lowered his voice. He didn’t want the whole of the workshop to find out about the sticky wicket he’d found himself in. Didn’t want those pesky know it all’s on the jack in the box line, heehawing at his expense. “Water is a magical thing too.”
“It is?” Santa reached across and scooped up a mince pie from the table at his side. He left a trail of crumbs and a dusting of icing sugar as he transferred the sweet smelling Christmas confection to his mouth. “Mmm...,”
Trimble raised a hand to draw Santa’s attention to the mincemeat stuck in Santa’s beard, then thought better of it as the lure of the tinkling bell on his hat reminded him why today of all day’s he was stood before the most famous festive fatty, with a secret stashed behind him. Back to physics.
“Yeah water. It’s pretty cool stuff. You can drink it; wash in it...if you’ve a mind to. Trimble thought the whole business of washing was over rated and he rushed quickly passed that one. You can boil it and freeze it. Hey, Santa you’re not the first dude who walked on water, just cos you use skis and a sleigh doesn’t alter the fact that when it comes down to it, snow, ice...it’s all water.”
Santa blew noisily through half closed lips, distributing his moustache and beard in a downy cascade. He withdrew an oversized watch and chain from his pocket and took a moment to listen to the equally exaggerated tick and squeaky second fiddle tock. He shook it gently and checked the time.
“Is there a point to this Trimble? and if there is might I suggest we move toward it promptly. Time is getting on, I’m still not dressed and as you well know I’m going to be rather busy tonight.”
Trimble swallowed, looked at his feet, looked at the bulging sack waiting to be loaded onto the sleigh and took a deep breath. “Okay, so back to water. It’s tricky stuff. You can freeze it and you can boil it. You can use boiling water to melt frozen water and frozen water to cool boiling water.”
“Wonderful, Trimble. Simply fascinating. But sadly I’m a busy man and I must get on.” He pulled himself with some considerable effort from his seat. His girth somewhat hampering his progress. When the last of his roly-poly-ness pulled free, he stretched and let out a resounding “Ho-ho-ho...”
Toys jumped, sugar canes rattled and spinning tops spun. Trimble’s hands shot to ears and his guilty secret fell to the ground behind him. “You know Santa if you ever get tired of the cold and unsociable hours you could get a job as a town crier.” In a town far from here, he added silently.
“Now where’s my coat?” Santa rumbled loudly as he cast about the cluttered workshop.
“Well, that’s what I was trying to explain,” said Trimble taking a hurried step back as Santa’s belly swung alarmingly close. “Water is cool, but when boiled and used for washing it can have...interesting results.”
“Ah there it is...” Santa reached behind Trimble to the Red fleecy bundle which had been studiously hidden for the duration of their conversation.
Oh bugger. Trimble closed his eyes, opening one, when the temptation to peep became too hard to resist. Santa huffed and puffed and wiggled and struggled. His love handles shrieked to be held, his spare tyres begged to be rolled. But no matter how hard he wriggled or how tightly he drew in his breath he simply couldn’t fit into the coat.
“TRIMBLE...,” he bellowed.
“That’s the thing about physics and stuff,” said Trimble. “When you use boiling water to wash a woollen coat...it shrinks.”
Before Santa could respond, the real boss of the North Pole bustled in.
“Trimble,” she acknowledged the elf with a wink and shot a knowing glance at the empty mince pie plate.
“Mrs S,” replied Trimble, relief washing over him as he spotted the new larger coat on her arm.
“Huh,” muttered Santa, “bloomin’ Trimble’s been shrinking my coat. Just as well I have you dear, to make me a bigger one every year.”
#4... A CHRISTMAS PUZZLE.
“Dear Santa . . . I can explain!”
Santa took a big gulp of the beer Joe’s mum and dad had kindly left for him on the shelf above the fireplace, grimacing as he realised this was his 10,000th gulp since he and his reindeers had left Lapland just six hours ago.
“I don’t want explanations, Joe. You know the rules. You’re supposed to be in bed fast asleep when I come down this chimney.” He dusted the coal-dust off his snowy-white beard and took another gulp. This wasn’t a bad brew, he thought. Better than all that frothy stuff he’d had in England. You’d have thought they could have perfected their ales by now, what with all those Brits drinking beer. But unfortunately that was the route he had to take to get all the way down south. It wouldn’t be fair to leave anyone out.
“But, Santa . . . all these years you’ve just been someone I thought wasn’t real. Okay, I know Mum and Dad insist that you are real and that you would be angry if I asked for anything that cost too much, but it just didn’t seem possible that you could come all this way from the frozen north. I mean, really, how could reindeers survive in this heat? So you see, Santa, I really had to find out for myself. I’m ten years old and it’s time I did things for myself, and made up my own mind about all these fairy-tales parents tell their kids to keep them quiet.”
Santa smiled as he lowered his heavy bulk into the armchair next to the fireplace, and bit into the apple that had accompanied this excellent beer. He took another sip and looked at Joe over the rim of the pewter mug they had also thoughtfully provided.
“Ho ho ho!” he said. “You know, Joe, I think if there were more kids around like you, I wouldn’t have such a dull life. I like kids with enquiring minds. Come and sit on my knee. I don’t think Rudolph and Dasher will mind waiting. There’s plenty of straw for them on my sleigh.”
Joe looked at Santa and his mouth dropped open. He still thought he might be dreaming, but maybe if he actually touched this jovial man and felt him to be real flesh and blood, it would finally clinch the argument he had every Christmas with Mum and Dad and he would have to say he was sorry.
Gingerly he walked closer to Santa. He bit his lip. Suppose it was a trap. Suppose he really was real and was only enticing him to come closer so that he could give him the hiding he would have had anyway if Mum and Dad had caught him down here before dawn.
Another step and he’d be there, close enough to touch him. He stopped for a moment. Took a deep breath, and just then Santa stretched out his hand and patted him on the head.
Joe froze. He closed his eyes, waiting for the blow. Either that or when he opened them he would find nobody sitting in the chair, and then he’d know for sure he’d been right all the time – that it was just one big scam cooked up by the shops in town to get grown-ups to buy big expensive presents for their kids.
When he was almost bursting he took another breath and slowly opened his eyes.
Santa was nodding his head now. And he had a twinkle in his eyes. As he hoisted Joe onto his knee he gave him a little hug and turned him round to face him. “You said you could explain, Joe. Don’t you think it’s time you did.”
“But . . . but I did, Santa. I told you I wanted to know if you’re real . . .”
Joe could feel the layers of fat wobbling as Santa chuckled. This was turning out to be a much bigger puzzle than he’d anticipated.
“No, Joe. That’s no explanation. What was it that really made you come down here and sit up all night waiting for me? Come on – tell me. Wasn’t it just because you couldn’t wait to see the racing bike you asked me for? And the Great Dane puppy? And the iPad?”
“No, no it wasn’t anything like that! I told you. I just wanted to know if you were real.”
“And am I?” Santa asked quietly, raising his busy white eyebrows, still dotted with grains of soot.
Joe nodded and smiled. “I guess you are, Santa. I wish you could stay here with me always,” he said wistfully.
“Ho! Ho! Ho!” laughed Santa. “So that I can give you all the presents I’ve got in my sack?”
“No, Santa, just because, well because you’re really nice. I like you.”
“Okay, sonny, then why don’t you go to the fridge and bring me another cold beer. And while you’re doing that, I’ll get your presents ready for you.”
Joe slipped quickly off Santa’s knee and ran to the kitchen to get Santa’s beer, hoping his Dad hadn’t drunk them all last night. He couldn’t wait to get back and see if his presents were all there. When he’d written the letter he hadn’t really expected to get all three – just one would have been plenty, but Santa had definitely said ‘presents’, like there was more than one.
Running back to the sitting room he heard a strange scuffling noise. As he came hurtling through the door his eyes were riveted to the shiny red racing bike propped up against the fireplace. Next to it was the cutest little Great Dane Puppy that cocked its head and looked at him with big brown eyes. And on the floor was a big box with iPad written on it.
“Oh, Wow!” Joe whispered, snapping the top off the beer bottle.
But of Santa, there was no sign.