Friday, December 28, 2018

Santa's Naughty List by Bill Diamond

Ronald Wynn visits Santa to ask why he's on the Naughty list; by Bill Diamond.

"Mr. Claus will see you in a minute, Mr. Wynn." Santa’s rosy-cheeked assistant smiled.

The waiting room wasn't what he expected. It was impressive, with lavish mahogany walls. There were a few restrained holiday decorations and Frosty the Snowman was playing quietly in the background. It could have been the office of any Fortune 500 company; nothing at all like the holiday picture books.

Wynn was nervous and he tried to make small talk. “This is a beautiful building. And so convenient. I thought I’d have to visit the North Pole.”

“Thank you, we really like the new place.” She beamed with pride. “We got a great price on this corporate park when we signed a long term contract during the recession. The transportation and energy costs were killing us at the North Pole. There’s only a token presence there now for photo ops and special occasions.” Motioning to the inner office, she added, “Still, the boss insisted it be in the mountains so we have snow in the winter.”

A small green light flashed on her desk. ”He's ready. Remember, he only has a few minutes. This is the December rush.” She opened the large, walnut door to the inner sanctum. The expansive room had an outdoor feel with a thick snowy white carpet that resembled a pristine field, and floor-to-ceiling windows looking out on a forest. The jolly old elf wore an expensive, pin-striped grey suit and his signature red and white fur hat. Behind a sprawling desk, his short and portly body perched on a large and ornate chair decorated with prancing reindeer. The desk was topped with an oversized computer monitor, a stack of wood boxes for paperwork, and two massive leather-bound volumes. The smaller book was labeled "Nice" in impressive gold leaf. The other, in fiery red script, said, "Naughty".

He looked up and gave Wynn a practiced 'I'm very busy' look. Without standing, Nicholas waved him forward. "How can I help you today?"

"I received a notice that I was on the Naughty List."

With a slightly sour expression, Santa said, "So, this is an appeal? We get a lot of those this time of year."

Wynn pressed on, "Yes. But, the notice didn't explain why. I can’t imagine any reason I'd be on the Naughty List. I'm a nice guy."

Kris' face revealed a weary skepticism. "Well, it's usually obvious. But, let's check." He turned to the computer and brought up Wynn's file. Scrolling through the file, he found the relevant information. "Ah, here it is. Oh, this is not good." He paused to look at Wynn with disdain. "Embezzlement at the Donner Oil Company. International bribes. The failure to pay your contractors. Constant dissembling. Pollution.” Frowning deeply, Santa added, "And, there's the rampant misogyny and harassment.”

Inappropriately, Wynn was smiling. He let out a sigh of relief. "Oh, thank goodness. This is just a big mistake. That's not me. That's my evil twin."

Santa had heard every excuse in the book. He wasn't buying it. "I'm sorry, Mr. Wynn. We hold you responsible for your 'alter egos'. Now, if you get a doctor's note that you have schizophrenia, maybe we can reconsider."

"No, no. You don't understand. I'm not crazy. I don't mean my evil side. I literally mean my evil biological twin. I'm Ronald J. Wynn. My brother is Donald J. Wynn. I've never worked at Donner. Donald is a senior executive there." With barely hidden contempt, he added, "And, he is evil."

Now St. Nick grew concerned. He asked Ronald for some identification. While Wynn fished it out of his wallet, Santa typed furiously on the computer.

As he scanned the new information, Nicholas grew distraught. He looked at the licence, and then mumbled a barely audible, "Damn computer system!” He smacked the side of the monitor in frustration. “When we make these lists, we check them twice to avoid this type of mistake. We never had these problems when it was all done in-house by the elves. But, you can’t hire good elves these days. They all want to work in customer service phone centers in Mumbai where it’s warm.”

Wynn nodded in understanding and said hopefully, "So, you can fix it."

"Welllll. It's clear your records were switched with your brother." Santa scratched his snowy beard. "But, correcting it's not that easy. You see, it's a new system and we can't seem to get the bugs out."

Wynn was momentarily stunned, ”But you're Santa! You can fly in your sleigh... and, that whole coming down the chimney thing. Can't you touch your nose, or wave a magic wand or something?"

Shaking his head, "Unfortunately, my magic doesn't carry any weight with the IT department. Do you know how much paperwork is involved in fixing this type of mistake? And, it’s the busy season, you know."

Wynn didn't like where this was going. "But, I was really good this year. And it was a hard year to stay upbeat and nice.”

“I know.” Santa commiserated. He put on his best smile, "How about I owe you one? I'll put a note in the file, and make it up next year."

Wynn’s shoulders sagged and he was unable to keep the disappointment from his voice, "I was looking forward to getting a new Lexus with a big red bow in the driveway on Christmas morning."

St Nick chuckled and his belly jiggled, "Ahh, you shouldn’t believe those television ads. You have to be really, really, REALLY good to get a new car. It's like a child asking for a pony; it rarely happens. Even if we fix this mistake, you shouldn't count on the Lexus."

Ronald frowned, "This is so unfair."

"Yah, it sucks,” Santa agreed.

Wynn grimaced, "Does this mean that Donald won't get punished?”

"I'm afraid so."

"But he's a very BAD guy. He shouldn't get away with all this stuff."

Santa looked genuinely crestfallen, "I agree. But, that happens in life. Bad guys sometimes come out ahead in the short term. If it’s any comfort, it catches up with them.”

“Not Donald. He’s always gotten away with it.’ Wynn was working himself into a righteous lather. “One Christmas he broke my new toy truck. He said it was an accident. But I know it wasn’t.”

Santa tilted his head and searched his memory. “I remember that. Maybe you forgot what happened. Your father planned to take both of you to town and the movies. At the last minute, Donald couldn’t go because of a tummy ache. So you had a special day with your father.”

“Yah, that’s right. It was great.” Ronald’s annoyance abated with the memory. Incredulous, he asked, “You did that?”

Santa winked, “A bad candy cane.”

Wynn made a last attempt, "Can't you do anything about this year?"

Throwing his palms up, a weary Santa said, "I’ll try." And then, tapping the thick Naughty book, sighed, "There's a lot of bad folks in the world and only so much coal. If it’s any consolation, a lot of them aren’t happy.”

Ronald thought of his brother’s hemorrhoids, alimony to his former wives and lack of real friends. With half-hearted pique, he mumbled, "Maybe I should do something to Donald."

With an expression that said he'd heard this before, Santa said, "Don't do that Ronald. That just puts you on the Naughty List."

Exasperated, Wynn said, "Apparently, I'm already there. No wonder some people don't believe in Santa."

The old elf’s face fell and he whispered, "Sorry."

Now Wynn felt bad, "No, I'm sorry. Glitches happen. You're one of the good guys.”

Santa brightened, “Look, I'll put a rush order on this fix, but I can't promise anything. Let me confirm some information in your file.” He took a pen from a desk drawer and made notes on the form to correct computer mistakes.

Ronald wasn’t hopeful.

Santa began, “First, you have good friends, and you live in the United States?”

“Yes.”

“You and your family all enjoy good health?”

“Yes, we’re very lucky.”

Santa smiled warmly and continued with the form. “And, you still have a good paying job that you generally like?” Claus looked up and into Wynn’s eyes.

Ronald’s faced reddened a bit. “Work is very good, thank you.” Wynn was feeling abashed, but his mood was, nonetheless, lifting.

“That’s great.” Santa’s bright eyes twinkled. He made another note on the pad.

“I think I’ve taken up enough of your time, St. Nick.” Ronald suddenly wanted to end the session.

Santa put away the pen and placed the form in an outbox.

Ronald glanced at the box and saw it was labeled, ‘First World Problems’. Sheepish, he stood, reached across and patted Santa's arm. "I better go, you're very busy. Keep up the great work."

Santa was back to his ebullient self. He came around the desk, gave a hearty “Ho Ho Ho” and surprised Wynn with a warm hug. "And you stay nice. I know it sounds trite, but being good really is its own reward."

Wynn nodded sincerely and turned toward the door.

Santa stopped him, "Here, have a cookie. Mrs. Claus bakes them herself."

"Thanks." As he put on his coat and gloves in the reception room, Ronald noticed Santa’s next appointment. It was a tiny young boy in an old wheelchair and with oxygen assisting his breathing. His family was thin and wore tattered, but clean, clothes. They had worried expressions. Despite his affliction, the child beamed a radiant smile.

St. Nicholas’ assistant said, “Santa will see you now, Tim.” She wheeled the frail child into the office and the boy’s gleaming eyes grew even wider.

Outside, it was snowing and there was a crisp wind. Despite the chill, Ronald felt a warm glow. He stepped over to the bell-ringer and dropped a generous donation into the red pot. Wynn took a bite of the cookie. It wasn't a Lexus. But it was a very good cookie.

4 comments:

  1. A little strange that an adult is looking for gifts from Santa, but the story had good cheer and amusement, things that go well with the holidays.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Very beautiful :) Sometimes nice people do not receive rewards for their good conduct and this becomes a bit annoying after awhile. I loved this story very much. Thank you, Bill.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Entertaining read, Bill! I enjoyed the corporate spin on Santa’s mythology, tying in call center cliches and all. Thanks for the festive tale!

    ReplyDelete
  4. Excellent seasonal humor with a gentle message. Nicely done.

    ReplyDelete