I took a long drag from the cigarette as the hard arctic breeze danced angrily down Iceberg Avenue. My slim frame shivered lightly underneath multi-layers of clothes. There are many things that I have ill feelings toward, however nothing burns with as much annoyance as the cold, well, except for my mother-in-law.
Although, I was born and bred my entire existence in the North Pole, I loathe the yearlong winter and annoying snow. It amazes me how other elves seem not to understand the reason for my resentment and bitterness. Its simply because I hate the Fucking cold. I yearn to be able to walk the sun kissed beaches in printed swim trunks, sipping on mixed drinks with silly names. Or, I would love to tap into my adventurous side and venture off into nudist camps where the sun permits one to strip down to their bare necessities. During my days off from the toy factory, while the wife is out shopping and the kids are in school, I would turn the temperature up to its highest, remove all my clothes, and do house work. This was one guilty pleasure well hidden, until my intrusive mother-in-law dropped by unexpectedly one afternoon while I was fixing the ceiling fan, in the nude, she cried all day. Whenever the incident is brought up she breaks down into sobs. So, occasionally I would remind her. Mean, yes, but also delightful.
Before entering the building I plucked the cigarette into the air and watched with mild indignation as the wind swooped it up into its current. I flashed my employee’s identification card to the door security and headed to the elevators. As usual the elevator was packed with business types. I was stuck beside a talkative women who’s mouth smelled as if she shitted out of it. I exited the elevator at the 12th floor. The receptionist desk sat directly across from the wall of elevators, in front of a wall with large red, white, and green letters that read: Christmas Incorporated.
‘My name is Perelman. I’m the new manger down at Toy Factory C-17, and I’m here to drop off the weekly reports’. I said. ‘Yes, Mr. Perelman go right inside, Mr. Claus is expecting you’. Replied the receptionist, who had a quiet beautiful face and the voice of an elderly truck driver.
I entered the double doors to the office. The inside was large with a thick brown carpet, mahogany furniture, and oak walls that were covered with pictures and certificates. Claus sat behind a large desk in front of a wall-to-wall, floor to ceiling window with a clear view of the blue sky above mountains of snow. The view made me shiver lightly.
‘Hello sir, here is the weekly report from C-17.’ I said as I dug into my coat to retrieve the folder. I handed it to him. He scanned the contents of the folder quickly before tossing it onto a pile of papers.
‘Berriman, my boy, have a seat.’ he said.
“It‘s Perelman, sir.” I corrected. I sat into one of the two chairs in front of his desk. The chair possessed an uncanny softness. I wondered, briefly, if there was any possibility that I could steal it.
‘Take off your coat, relax a little’ Claus said.
I removed my hat, clutching it in both hands on top of my lap. Claus gave me a light smile; his face was fat and rosy with a mane of woolly white hair. He wore a worn faded green trucker’s cap, a white T-shirt; tight and small barely covering his large stomach, and red cargo jeans held up by green suspenders. He was a big jolly fat guy from a long line of big jolly fat guys. ‘How about a beer?’ He asked, lifting a bottle from the desk.
I shook my head. ‘It’s too early.’
Claus looked over the bottle for a moment before drinking. ‘Now that’s a man’s beer.’ He proclaimed before tossing the empty bottle into the wastebasket. He leaned behind the desk retrieving another beer. ‘You sure you don’t want one. They’re pretty good.’ I shook my head again. He opened the beer with his teeth, took a sip, and then sat the bottle onto the desk. ‘I have a life time supply’ He said. ‘I’m being endorsed by a major beer company. My agent think it will beef up my image … few adults believe in me.’ He paused. His eyes seem to wander, somberly in thought. ‘Religion is really damaging my popularity’ He continued. ‘You know, with Christmas being the birthday of Christ. I don’t have anything against the fellow. I read his biography, ‘The New Testament’, and he seems like a swell guy. I tell you one thing; he has a great P.R team. But, many people have forgot about good old Saint Nicholas and Kris Kringle and the many others in the Claus bloodline who had spread joy to the world. I don’t want to whine… If you think about it, it could be worse. That Mel Gibson movie, ‘The Passion of Christ’ nearly put the Easter Bunny out of business.” He leaned forward, laying his forearms, one over the other, onto the desktop. Berriman . . .’
‘Perelman.’ I corrected
‘Do you still believe in Santa Claus?’ he asked.
I shook my head.
‘I am Santa Claus, you know?’ he said. “I’m the one who signs your checks. You work in my Toy Factory.’ He paused for a response, I think, so I nodded. ‘Then, why did you shake your head no when I asked if you believed in Santa Claus? I am Santa, you know me!’
‘You didn’t ask if I knew you or not sir.’ I replied. ‘You asked me if I believed in you.’ He smiled the smile of a big Jolly fat guy and nodded a few times taking my response into consideration. ‘Do you have a religion?’ he asked after taking a sip of beer.
‘Never really thought on it much, sir.’ I said.
‘Do you believe in Heaven?’ he asked.
He smiled. ‘How about Hell?’
I shrugged again,
‘Do you know what Hell is?’
‘Working for you?’
‘It’s damnation, the lake of fire. It’s hot and burning death forever.’
‘Is there any beaches?’
Claus let out a jolly laugh missing the seriousness in my inquiry. ‘See, that’s what we need around here, a sense of humor and more laughter, especially now during Christmas time when it’s all work, work, work. I still remember when it was always happy around here, before the Claus good name was dragged by the legs through the media, before my father was sent to Federal prison for tax invasion. He was retired, I remind you.’ His eyes opened wide, anger sat behind them. ‘How do you arrest Santa Claus! Santa Claus! A symbol of good will. Corporate corruption my ass!’ He reached for his beer, drank until it was empty, disposed of the bottle, retrieved another, opened it and took a slow sip, before placing it into the desk. He leaned back into his chair, interlocked his fingers and laid his hands onto his stomach. ‘Did you hear the rumor in the media that I’m cheating on my wife with Mother Goose?’ He smiled. ‘I love my wife’ he paused. Do you remember that kid who claimed he saw his mother kissing Santa Claus? They even made a song about that. It almost ruined my parent’s relationship. It caused my mother’s drinking. A young woman even claimed to be my father’s child.’ This seemed to amuse him. ‘She turned out to be the love child of Old Man Winter and a stripper in Utah.’
The phone rung, I seen it as an opportunity to leave and stood. As Clause picked up the receiver he motioned for me to sit. I sat back down into the chair, its softness felt like I was sitting on a pile of feathers bare assed. While Claus talked on the phone I thought of ways how I could steal the chair. Clause hung up the phone, leaned back into his leather chair, and then stared off nowhere in particular before turning his attention to me.
‘She grew up too fast.’ he said. ’What’s wrong with this generation? . . Do you have children, Berriman?’
‘It’s Perelman.’ I Corrected. ‘Yes, I have three.”
‘I would guess that you think the world of them, right?’
‘I use to.’ I replied ‘Before they could talk.’
‘What are their ages?’
’13,10, and 7.’
‘You’re okay for now. Mine are in their early 20’s. When Kloey and Timmy were your children’s ages, they were well behaved little joy’s’
‘Well,’ I started. ‘I could say that mine are well behaved little joys, if you’re talking about them when they’re asleep.’
Clause reached for his beer. ‘You sure you don’t want one?’
I nodded. ‘Yes I’m sure, sir.’
He sipped from the bottle before placing it back onto his desk. ‘Kloey’s my first born.’ he said. ‘She was the joy of my life. But since she went off to college she’s changed. She’s into Yoga, P.E.T.A, and boys. There’s nothing the matter with that. She has to find herself, right? I know that. But, when I found her in one or those sex tapes with her boy friend all over the Internet and television, I must ask myself where did I go wrong? . . . I know where I went wrong with my boy? I didn’t play enough sports with him. I should had tossed him down the stairs a few times.’ He shook his head. ‘The Clause men are the outdoorsy types, living in log cabins off in the snowy woods’
‘You live in a cabin, sir? ‘I asked.
‘No. I live in a 25-bedroom mansion?’ He smiled. ‘But I do have a cobble stone fireplace in one of the bedrooms.’ He took a sip of beer. ‘I’m just trying to say he’s different.’ he said. ‘He’s going to be the next Santa Claus. But nothing about him says Santa Claus. He wears a clean shaved face, black frame spectacles, and a bowtie. He’s about one hundred and sixty pounds and scrawny, like you. Talking about he has to watch his weight; obesity is unhealthy. What he need to watch is a strong gush of wind, it might swoop his little ass up.’ He took another sip of beer. ‘He doesn’t want to get into the family business. He wants to be a writer.’
‘I’m a writer, sir.’ I said.
‘Don’t get me wrong.’ Claus said.’ I have nothing against writers, Berrimen.’
‘Berrimen, you have to admit that writing is a lazy profession. That’s not the real problem though. He can be what ever he wants. But who’s going to run the family business? What will happen to the Santa Claus legacy if there isn’t a Santa Claus?’ He sipped from the bottle, in thought. ‘What does your children want to be in life?’
‘Well.’ I said. ‘My oldest love to write like I do. My middle child is a Kleptomaniac and can lie really well. So, I guess he’ll become a congressman. My youngest, I have no idea what she wants in life because I haven’t had a conversation with her in years. I don’t think she likes me.’
A silence slid into the office. I peered at the view behind the window in thought about the benefits of a nuclear winter.
‘I think it’s time for me return to work, sir.’ I said and stood.
‘See, that’s what we need around here, employees that like to work.’
I smiled and wondered what he would have said if he knew that I wasn’t really going back to work, but home to take a nap.
‘I like you Berrimen.’ He said.
‘It’s Perelman, sir.’
‘Well, Berrimen, are you coming to the company party next month?
‘You sure you don’t want a beer?’ he asked.
I nodded and asked ‘How about a chair instead?’
I shook my head and said ‘Bye, sir.’ before leaving his office.