A little Christmas fluff, inspired by a 2008 NPR report. Thanks to my son Woelke for pointing me to the original story.
Phone ringing on an empty desk. Enter Santa Jeff, dressed in a red jacket and wearing a white beard. He answers the phone.
Santa Jeff : AORBS, Santa Jeff speaking. Pauses. Hello? Hello? AORBS. Oh, bother. Hangs up phone. He picks up a brush and hair-dryer and starts styling his beard.
Enter Santa Nick, dressed in a red jacket and wearing a white beard.
Santa Nick : Have you seen my #30 rouge? I need to pink up my nose.
Santa Jeff : Nope.
Santa Nick : Did I hear the phone? Who was it?
Santa Jeff shrugs.
Santa Nick : Wrong number?
Santa Jeff : I don’t think so.
Santa Nick : Could you hear him breathing?
Santa Jeff : I think so. Maybe. There was a little hum, like this. Hums. It could have been static on the line.
Santa Nick : No, it was him. I know it was him. First they try to undermine the whole operation on Elfnet, and now this, this harassment. That’s what it is, harassment. I should call the cops, or the FBI. Trace the call. Get a lawyer.
Santa Jeff : Yeah, it started when I rebuked him for his posts on Elfnet. He was way outta line, and I had to rebuke him.
Phone rings again.
Santa Nick : Let me get it this time. I’ll give him a piece of my mind. Picks up phone. Look here, you fake! You greedy fake! Why can’t you identify yourself. You haven’t got the guts have you? You haven’t got the guts to come here and face me, Santa a Santa. Do you, you little worm! Your beard is probably fake! You sick-o. You’re brain damaged, you’re a nutjob, a sick-o. Get it? A sick-o. Whoever heard of a Santa named Tim anyway? Nick – that’s the name. Santa Nick! I’m the real Santa! Pauses. Hello? Oh, excuse me. Hands Santa Jeff the phone. It’s for you.
Santa Jeff : Hello? He listens for a few seconds, then holds the phone. It’s the Wall Street Journal . What should I say? Do we want them to come?
Santa Nick : We’ve got nothing to hide. We’ve done nothing wrong. Sure, let ‘em come.
Santa Jeff ( speaking in the phone ): Tomorrow? 10 AM? Got it. We’ll be here. Hangs up and looks at Santa Nick. I don’t know, Santa Nick. I’m not so sure about this. Is this a good idea? Could be a set up.
Santa Nick ( walking out ): We’ve got nothing to hide. We haven’t done anything wrong. Nothing!
Santa Jeff shrugs, shakes his/her head, and follows.
A Reporter, who is beardless and dressed in a color other than red, sits in a chair opposite Santa Nick and Santa Jeff, holding a pencil and a pad .
Reporter : It doesn’t seem very Santa-like, does it? I mean, all this bickering and fighting. It doesn’t seem much like Christmas.
Santa Nick : Look, we’re peaceful, peaceful folks here at AORBS. Peace on earth, good will, good will . . . and all that. It’s those other guys . . . .
Reporter : The refugees?
Santa Nick : Is that what they’re calling themselves? Who am I, Stalin? Idi Amin? What am I, a monster? I’m Santa Nick, Santa Nick , for goodness’ sake.
Reporter : Why don’t you tell me your side of the story?
Santa Nick : I’d love to. You know, as soon as I joined AORBS I smelled a rat. I knew something was wrong.
Reporter : I’m sorry. AORBS. Can you give me the official name, just for the record. So I’m sure to get it right.
Santa Jeff : Amalgamated Order of Real Bearded Santas.
Santa Nick : We’ve all got real beards, see. Wanna take a pull?
Reporter : No, no. I believe you. So, when did you get involved with AORBS?
Santa Nick : Well, I found them on the web. Here I was in New Jersey, doing my own Santa thing. I didn’t have any training or school or anything. Just a big white beard and a belly, and some red clothes, and I was off and running, just being my own Santa, just being Santa. I knew there were others, but I never really knew any of them.
Santa Jeff : It’s a lonely business. It’s not like you can call your friend and say, “Hey, let’s go do some santaing.”
Santa Nick : So, here I was and I needed a new belt buckle, so I got on the web and came across the AORBS web site, and that led me to the Kringle Group, and the International University of Santa Claus, and the annual Santa Cruises. The whole nine yards.
Reporter : So you didn’t start out with AORBS?
Santa Nick : Right. No, no. I didn’t start out with them. By the time I got there, they had this whole big organization going. Hundreds of Santas. A President, Treasurer, dues, a Sergeant of Arms, the whole nine yards. Oh, a web site, and Elfnet. You know, everything. It was great.
Reporter : But you smelled a rat . . . .
Santa Nick : And how.
Santa Jeff : A big rat. A big red rat with a big white beard. A big red rat named Santa Tim.
Reporter : Tim Connaghan.
Santa Nick : Yeah, that’s the rat.
Santa Jeff : The big red rat with the big white beard. Ho, ho, ho.
Santa Nick glares at Santa Jeff.
Reporter : So, what was wrong with AORBS?
Santa Nick : Let me put it this way. I won’t say that Santa Tim never helped another Santa . . . .
Santa Jeff : Even though he didn’t . . . .
Santa Nick : But I’ll say this. Santa Tim never helped another Santa without helping himself too. Everything was funneling into his own operations, you know. It was all about Kringle this and Kringle that. And he had this Santa University thing, and everyone had to go through that, and he was making a bundle . . .
Santa Jeff : A big rat-sized bundle . . . .
Santa Nick : And what were we getting? What were we getting?Reporter shrugs.
Santa Nick : Nothing.
Santa Jeff : Nada.
Santa Nick : Zilch.
Santa Jeff : Zero.
Santa Nick : And then he went and signed a movie deal, and that was the last straw. That was too much. $1500 he got, $1500 down, with more to come if it ever got made into a movie.
Santa Jeff : And I’m sittin’ here sayin’, I want some of that action.
Santa Nick : Yeah. It&rsqu
o;s not like we’re all rich or anything.
Reporter : So you exposed Santa Tim?
Santa Jeff : We rebuked him.
Santa Nick : Yeah, we exposed him. We had to. It was a scandal. I mean, Santas skimming off the top and profiting. It’s just not Santa-like.
Reporter : And you became President?
Santa Jeff : And I became Vice President.
Santa Nick : And then it hit the fan, if you get my meaning. It really hit the fan. Santa Tim starts this campaign against us, a smear campaign, attacking AORBS and all the other Santas. And they tried to use Elfnet to get rid of us.
Santa Jeff : I had to remove them from the chat room. They were trying to undermine us. I had to take them off.
Reporter : The others say it was a coup. You got power-hungry and took over. They’ve called you Santa Stalin.
Santa Nick ( nearly shouting ): Who said that?
Santa Jeff ( trying to calm him ): Santa Nick . . . .
Reporter : Sources are confidential. What do you say to the charge?
Santa Nick : It’s ridiculous. We get attacked and they howl like they got hit. Ridiculous.
Reporter : But how do you answer the charge?
Santa Nick ( getting angry ): I don’t need to answer the charge. It’s ridiculous.
Reporter : Fair enough. My final question: Do you expect trouble at the next convention?
Santa Nick : Why? Have you heard anything?
Reporter : I’m just asking questions. You’re being interviewed, not me.
Santa Nick : I don’t like your tone of voice. Who sent you here, anyway?
Reporter : My editor. I’m with the Wall Street Journal . Do you need to see my press credentials again?
Santa Nick : Do you know Santa Tim?
Santa Jeff : Santa Nick. Hey, man, let’s cool it a bit. Ho, ho, how ‘bout we cool it.
Santa Nick : I want him to answer the question. I gotta sit here any answer all his questions. He can answer one of my questions. Santa Nick grabs the Reporter by the shirt and starts to pull. Just one: Did Santa Tim send you?
Santa Jeff : Santa Nick!
Reporter ( shaking free ): Get your hands off me! This interview is over! You’ll be lucky if I don’t sue.
Santa Nick ( shaking his fist ): Get outta this office! Get out!
Reporter rushes out. Santa Nick stomps around, very angry. Santa Jeff slumps into a chair.
Santa Jeff : Well, that went well.
Santa Convention, Knotts Berry Farm, 2008. A classroom full of Santas, with Nick teaching.
Santa Nick : You know, there’s no right way to do it. Some are purists, I know. Three Ho’s – it’s gotta be three Ho’s or nothing. “Ho, Ho, Ho” – only that’s authentic Santa. I say, there’s no one way to do it. I’ve heard it done with two, you know, like “Ho, ho, hello there.” It works real good. Put a little of yourself into it. Have some fun. Be creative. Any other questions?
Generic Santa : Do we need to have a reindeer or two around?
Santa Nick : That all depends on what kind of space you have. But that reminds me. I know it shouldn’t have to be said, but, guys, guys, you’ve gotta remember the reindeer’s names, all of the names. In order. The kids are going to know if you miss one, if you get one wrong. You wouldn’t believe it, but there are Santas out there who don’t even know . . . what the . . . ?
Shouts and sounds of a scuffle break out from the back. A Santa rushes to the stage holding a camera. Santa Jeff runs up behind and tries to grab the camera. More scuffling.
Santa Rick : Give me back my camera. Hands off the camera! Tell him to keep his hands off my camera!
Santa Nick : Who are you?
Santa Rick : I’ve got every right to be here. I’m in charge of two chapters of AORBS in Southern California, and I have a right to be here.
Santa Nick : I’m President of 800 Santas across the country . . . .
Santa Rick : Not everyone believes that . . . .
Santa Nick : Who? Who doesn’t believe it? Are you with Santa Tim? Santa Nick gets down from his place at the front of the classroom and starts toward Santa Rick. This is a private meeting for AORBS, for real Santas!
Santa Rick : I’m a real Santa! I’m as real as you are. Hey, what are you doing? Hands off the camera!
Santa Nick : This is a private meeting. No cameras!
Reaches for the camera. Santa Rick pushes him back.
Santa Rick : Get off of me.
Santa Nick : Security! Security! Remove this man.
Santa Nick steps forward and punches Santa Rick in the chin. Santa Rick goes sprawling, and Santa Nick jumps on him. Santa Jeff tries to pry them apart. Security guards join in the free-for-all. With the fight going on in the background, the Reporter comes center stage.
Reporter : This is a true story. Everything you have seen here actually happened. What can we learn from this sad, sad spectacle? What lesson can we draw from this Christmas parable? Is it a story about power and corruption? Is it a parable about commercialism and greed? For me, there is one important lesson: If you unscramble the letters of Santa, you get Satan.