A short story by
Tony Boswell © 2003

The name's Pip. Director of Operations here at the workshop. Address: North Pole. It's a good job, pays well, and no one makes fun of my height like they did when I worked at IBM. I've been here so long it's home now, but like most nice houses, it's got dark closets

After the big push on the 24th, that's what we call it up here, as if we can't bring ourselves to say Christmas. Oh, every now and then some Jr. exec might slip an X-mas into a memo but sooner or later they all get on the big push bandwagon. After the push we close down the shop. New Year's Eve is our wrap party. It looks fun on the surface, hundreds of drunken elves and reindeer posturing and bumping horns, but somehow it's hollow. After that, everyone gets January off. I stick around for a couple of days and put the spring budget together, than it's 4 weeks in Barbados for this little guy

That's when I found it. One of those days up here alone with just me the maintenance man and the mainframe. A buried file in an obscure subdirectory cryptically named Kringle 2.

We all knew about the crash, of course for the kid's sake we kept it out of the media. The FAA called it wind shear. They said they never found the black box. But here it was. The transcript from the box.

I should say that I always liked the old man. Sure he was demanding but he took care of those who took care of him. Yes he could be annoying always throwing around that Saint Nick Crap. "Hey, who's the Saint here?" or "One of us is a Saint and I'm pretty sure it's not you." It's an honorary anyway but I never burst his bubble.

But now he's gone and his kid is the CEO, but I really run things. If this wasn't a family owned business Jr. would be slapping paint on wagons in the prep room. He's dumb enough to not cause any problems and smart enough to stay out of my way.

Now, I hear it all the time, Christmas is so commercial. You want to know why Christmas is so commercial? I'll tell you why. Years of research, marketing and hard work on my part. That's why. Birth of Christ, blah, blah, blah. Jesus wasn't even born in December. He was born in April. It's corporate politics. We've been sliding the start of the season a day or so every year to take the wind out of that Hanukkah sail. Kind of like the networks with their new fall shows. And let me tell you, with people behind you like Hasbro, Mattel and Fisher-Price we've cornered that market.

I tell you all this so you'll know that the North Pole isn't the idyllic winter wonderland you've been led to believe. It's a goddamned Peyton Place. We're a multi-national and everyone has their own agenda. But nobody pisses me off more than the reindeer. The A team specifically. You know, Dasher, Dancer etc. Talk about a group of Prima Donna's. The irony is they've got the easiest job of all. They're like the Budweiser Clydesdale A team. A few parades, a couple of high profile stops on the 24th and they're back out to stud. But they've got their snouts so high in the air they think their droppings don't stink. But I'll tell you this; they put their jingle bells on one antler at a time just like everyone else.

So that year, the year of the accident, accident, Hah. Assassinations more like it. That year Kris had had it too. The A team was split up and were all supposed to pull full routes. Man they hit the roof. "I didn't work my ass up to the A team so I could drop off Legos in Schenectady." Donner said.

But it was done. Kris drew up the flight assignments and, to be fair I guess, he took a full route himself. See, unless you're a moron you've gotta realize that one guy in one sleigh isn't going to get the job done. Now we don't hit every house of course. First of all you have to write a letter. We go through those, eliminate the bullshit requests, world peace, gimme a break. We include a few key demographically chosen stops, kind of like Nielsen families and then the routes are drawn. Dozens of teams head out, make their stops, hit the staging areas and reload. We've got one of the most extensive warehouse networks in the shipping industry. A lot of our own and leased subsidiaries, mostly through retail chains.

So the flight teams came out and most of the eight realized this was really gonna happen. The bitching stopped. All except for one. One of the team made sure everyone knew how pissed he was. Comet. Comet the reindeer who killed Santa Claus.

They headed out that night. Kris took the first flight with Comet pulling lead. Kris was in a good mood, slapping the other would-be Santas on the back. I was in the tower. Kris went through his pre-flight like a pro. Man he still had it. They were cleared to taxi and they were off. To the top of the porch to the top of the wall, now dash away, dash away… you know the rest. We all got down to work not realizing that we'd never see Big Red alive again.

Things were going smoothly. All the teams were out. The first ones began to report in from the staging areas. But not Kris. We didn't worry at first. Everyone had thought that the old man would probably slip behind schedule. I had Vixen and Prancer ready to pick up an extra stop or two. But as the minutes dragged on the tension in the tower started to grow.

Then we got the report from the Denver tracking station. Our worst nightmare. One of our sleighs was down. I was on my way with a back up team in minutes. On the way, God forgive me, I prayed that it wasn't Kris but one of the others. I knew it was him though.

When I got to the site, it looked like a war zone. What was left of the sleigh looked like a crumpled Coke can. An entire corner of the building was gone. There was fur and bits of pretty paper everywhere. The only things standing were a couple of weebils. They were all gone. Kris, the whole team. That is everyone but Comet. He sat in an ambulance with a blanket over his haunches. A cup of coffee in his hoof muttering over and over, "I tried to pull up. I tried."

We were using a warehouse leased from the K-Mart chain. They'd missed the roof. After that, Comet never regained flight status. He eventually left the pole. Last I heard he was doing shopping malls and car shows and boozing it up pretty bad. And to think, I'd actually felt sorry for the bastard.

The tactical from the box told the true story. They'd come in low and fast. Comet liked to do that. It's how he got his name. It was a direct hit. A perfect kamikaze run only this time the pilot survived. Comet HAD pulled up but at the very last instant. The last few transmissions before the rest of Comet's team and the sleigh caring the old man hit the warehouse say it all.

Kris: Leader, check your angle.
(No response)
Kris: Comet, your vector is too steep. Pull up!
Comet: (Laughter)
Kris: Do you hear me you son of a bitch. If you don't (unintelligible) I'll have your horns on my wall.
Comet: Fuck you fat boy. (Laughter and a loud crashing sound followed by sirens)

End transmission.

Merry Christmas.