November 30th, 2018
The month of December in the North Pole was always a festive sight. The entirety of Icetown was decadently lit with millions of strings of lights. Every pine, spruce, and fir was decorated with brilliantly colored ornaments, lights, and bows. Christmas jingles played from every building and home, spreading cheer for everyone who happened to walk by. Most elves were busy in the factory, in designated departments of gift making.
There were five departments in gift making; apart from the baking, gift-wrapping, reindeer, and sleigh maintenance departments. For obvious reasons: there was the Toy department, which was then followed by the Sporting Goods and Outdoor Activities (SGOA) department, Electronic and Video Game department, Multimedia (movies, music, books, etc.) Department, Clothing Department, and the Miscellaneous department.
While the elves are busy making gifts for the holiday season, the Claus’ are busy checking The List. Every Kringle in the family was drafted for assistance, as there is only one Santa and about 2 billion children. Mister and Missus Claus had produced two sons of their own: their eldest Kristofer and their youngest, Kristoff. Kristofer, or Topher as they liked to call him, was a no-nonsense type of fellow who valued hard work and the upmost perfection of the departments he oversaw. And Kristoff, well...
“It was December 24th on Hollis ave in the dark
When I see a man chilling with his dog in the park
I approached very slowly with my heart full of fear
Looked at his dog, oh my god, an ill reindeer!”
Kristoff bobbed his head to the heavy beat, blurting out the words as fast as they came from the speaker system in the toy department. The elves swayed to the steady beat, mouthing the words as they worked. Some hammered, some assembled, some painted, some tested batteries. Everyone was working, everyone was singing.
“But then I was illin because the man had a beard
And a bag full of goodies, 12 o’clock had neared
So I turned my head a second and the man had gone
But he left his driver’s wallet smack dead on the lawn.”
Kristoff pulled out his long list of duties and slid the pen from the top of the clipboard. He checked each box he had achieved before glancing at the large clock at the front of the room. Twenty-six days until Christmas. He couldn’t believe another year had passed and the big day was nearing so quickly. His stomach churned at the thought of the board meeting he had coming up at the end of the work day. Kris had a feeling what the meeting was about, but he dared not utter the words, because if he was right, a lot of things would be changing. Glancing out of the workshop window into the neighboring building of the SGOA department, Kris watched through the snowy edged sill as his older brother barked orders at his workers. Yes, change was coming. Change was coming very fast. Poppy entered his peripheral vision and he turned to greet her with a warm smile.
“How’re things in the Multimedia department?” He questioned the elf whom he had chosen to be the overseer of his departments in case of his absence. Kris bit the inside of his cheek as he felt his brother’s hot gaze on the side of his face from the opposite building.
“We’re ahead of schedule by 2,500 pieces, which puts us up from last year by four percent.” Poppy commented, looking down at her own clipboard before flipping a page and gasping softly. “The board meeting is in a few hours, I had almost forgotten. Nervous?” Kris tried to play off his nerves but his easy-going laughter faltered slightly.
“Nah, I’m it’s business as usual.” He took a deep breath, “My father probably just wants to know where our numbers are sitting, so make sure the last count is accurate tonight; check it twice.”
“Yes, sir!” Poppy saluted her boss before turning in the opposite direction back to the Multimedia department.
“It’s Christmas time in Hollis queens
Mom’s cooking chicken and collard greens
Rice and stuffing, macaroni and cheese
And Santa put gifts under Christmas treesDecorate the house with lights at night
Snow’s on the ground, snow white so bright
In the fireplace is the yule log
Beneath the mistletoe as we drink egg nog.”
The day went by rather fast and before Kristoff knew it, Poppy was scurrying over to him with the last numbers, just like he had asked of her earlier. At the end of the day, Kristoff’s department numbers had been up by fifteen percent from last year, which was a drastic change and one for cause of celebration. However, the celebration would have to wait. Members of the board slowly began entering the conference room that adjoined all of the departments, including that of his father’s. Gathering his thoughts, Kristoff was about to enter the room when Poppy shoved a bundle of letters into his chest, catching him off guard.
“Poppy... What’s this?” He questioned, cocking an eyebrow at the small woman. A dark red tint flowered on her cheeks and she leaned forward, her voice in a low whisper.
“These are forty-five transfer requests from elves in your brother’s departments. They want to move into your branch, apparently they feel Kristofer creates a hostile work environment...” She bit her lip, trying not to overstep her bounds. Kristoff groaned softly and nodded, shoving the bundle of envelopes into the interior pocket of his jacket. Striding into the conference room with Poppy on his heel, Kristoff first spotted his mother whose face contorted into pure bliss upon his entrance. Mary Claus was an affectionate being, one known for pinching chubby cheeks, hugging whenever she saw the opportunity, kissing everyone’s foreheads; and she treated her sons no different. Mary threw her arms around her youngest child and raised herself onto her tiptoes to kiss all over his cheeks.
“My son, how handsome you look today!” She pinched Kristoff’s cheeks, creating a red tinge to his milky skin color.
“Thanks, Mom,” Kris chuckled softly and kissed the back of his mother’s hand gently. The two separated and Kristoff took his usual seat with Poppy following suit in the chair next to him. Once everyone had filed into the room, the big man himself took a seat at the head of the table. Santa was a man of great power, but his mere presence caused joy and happiness to erupt from each being in the near vicinity. From his long white hair and even longer white beard, paired with red slacks and black suspenders, down to his shiny black boots, the man embodied holiday cheer. Santa greeted the group and sat down, indicating the meeting had begun. Kristoff was thankful that the meeting had gone on as usual, each department announced it’s numbers and then those numbers were then compared to previous years. When his turn came around, he stood and filed through his clipboard before clearing his throat.
“The Toy department and Multimedia department, on average, produced 1,000 pieces per elf, per day; in all, we produced around 480,000 pieces per department with no mistakes.” Poppy beamed up at her boss, proud to have been the lucky elf he had picked to be his number two. Santa’s eyebrows shot up in surprise and he filed through the department binders before comparing the numbers.
“Son, with those numbers you’re up... 15%? Is that correct?” Mr. Claus turned to his wife whom nodded proudly. ”Fifteen percent, that is incredible.” Kristoff noticed from across the table that his older brother rolled his eyes in tangible irritation.
“Thank you.” Kris smiled warmly toward his parents before taking his seat once again. The other department heads gave off their numbers and it was soon Kristofer’s turn. The man stood up with an aura of importance and without pulling out a physical copy of his department information, grinned at his father.
“I am proud to say that the SGOA department and the Miscellaneous department are up by thirty percent from last year.” Topher looked to his parents who grinned back at their son with fondness.
“That is wonderful dear,” Mary patted her eldest son’s shoulder affectionately. Santa’s mouth seemed to purse in an emotion Kris could not identify as he entered Topher’s numbers into the gift database. As the meeting was about to come to an end and the promise of cookies and hot chocolate waiting for them in the baking department began to cause everyone’s stomachs to growl almost simultaneously, Santa stood with an announcement.
“Before our quarter meeting ends, I would like to announce my retirement.” Every board member in the room seemed to freeze in that moment. “After almost four hundred years, I believe it is my time to step down from this job title. And while this may come as a great surprise, I have no doubt that my chosen successor will continue to hold the torch for many generations to come.” Santa turned to his wife with tears in his eyes, a true end to an era of giving joy to the children of the world. “And that successor will be...” Kristoff turned toward his older brother in anticipation of the announcement of his take-over of the Kringle family business. “My son,” Kris took a deep breath, bringing his hands together in preparation to clap. “Kristoff.”
The room went silent.
No one moved.
“What the fuck?” Topher yelled, striding over to his father in a blind rage.
“What the fuck?” Kris murmured to himself as he turned to face his parents.
“If this is because of the number of mistakes my departments have made, I can assure you that the elves responsible are being disciplined.” Topher growled, his voice full of muddled emotions Kris could not pick through fast enough. “But the promotion is mine, I am the oldest, it is my birthright.”
“It is the way you run your departments and your attitude toward your birthright that made me choose your younger brother.” Santa said softly, putting his hand on his oldest son’s shoulder, “Gift Deliverer was never your destiny, my child, but there are other honorable jobs-” Topher shrugged his father’s hand away and stalked out of the conference room. Santa sighed heavily and turned to the remaining board members. “I would like to apologize on behalf of my eldest son.” He then turned to his youngest with a gentle smile, “Before you question my decision, imagine I had promoted your brother. Do you think that would’ve been the correct choice?” Kristoff’s throat closed around his answer, to which his father simply nodded. “You know my decision to be the right one, my child. Now let the fun begin.” Santa grinned, throwing his arm over Kris’ shoulder and showing him out of the conference room.
“You see, Son, there is a rule for being Santa that I never told you about.” The father told his son, leading him through each department before bringing Kris into the Claus Quarters, the space he would soon be moving into after his parents’ things would be transferred to the Retirement Villa in Hawaii.
“What rule?” Kris questioned, his brow furrowed in confusion. He had thought he’d been taught everything about becoming Santa Claus, in the unlikely event he would become Santa over his eldest brother, he too was taught the ways of being a Gift Deliverer. His father chuckled with an almost nervousness to his voice. “Seriously Dad, what is it?” Santa scratched the back of his head awkwardly.
“You must spend your the next twenty-four days in the human world; if you are unable handle the the three and a half weeks, the promotion will be forfeited to your brother.” Santa thought back to his time in the human world fondly, but things had changed in the last four hundred years, his son would not have the same human experience. People were different, the world itself was different, which is why he feared sending his youngest child into the clutches of humanity.
“You’re saying I have to survive twenty-four days in the human world?” Kristoff cocked an eyebrow in confusion. “That’s it?”
“That’s it.” Santa nodded, “Stay safe, my son.” He pulled his son into a tight embrace and with a gentle goodbye, left Kris standing in hallway of his new living quarters.
“This will be easy, sure I’ve never been away from home, but how bad could it be?” Kristoff mumbled as he absentmindedly wandered around Icetown. Coming to the Merry and Bright Bar & Grill, Kris found himself hopping onto one of the many short bar stools and ordering a Hot Buttered Rum. The idea of being away from his family, from Icetown made his nerves thicken with uncertainty. Kristofer was on a warpath over being ‘cheated’ out of his birthright, which only proved to further ignite his suddenly troubled mind. The chair next to him swiveled around and revealed his Number Two, whom ordered a Nogtini.
“Why the long face, Boss?” Poppy questioned, thanking the bartender as he delivered our drinks.
“It’s exactly that, I’ll be the Boss,” Kris took a long swig of his warm drink, earning a whipped cream mustache across his upper lip. “Between my brother’s shitty attitude and going to the human world-”
“Going to the human world? Who? You?” Poppy’s eyeballs nearly fell from the sockets of her skull. Kris nodded his head, still coming to terms with the information himself.
“Yes, until Christmas Eve.” Kris continued, running his hands through his hair, as if that would relieve some of the tension that was building and building within his brain.
“Excuse my language, but holy jingle bells!” Poppy exclaimed, “When do you leave?”