Saturday, December 24, 2016

Clerical Error By Judi Marcin

We are on day three of the Renegade Shorts Holiday Showcase. On this Christmas Eve take in a short story about an existential threat to the concept of democracy Christmas. Today's story was written by the fabulous and fantastic Judi Marcin!

Clerical Error


By Judi Marcin

            The following communication was sent, December 24th at 5:00PM (Universal Time) through the instantaneous global communicator. It was immediately translated into all 6,909 distinct global languages. 
           
            Dear Children of the World:
            I am sorry to inform you that Christmas has been canceled this year, but wait; it’s for an extremely good reason. Before you burst into tears, please let me explain. The replacement Santa that was sent from ER--Elven Resources--was inadequate. No. That’s not the best word—more like deplorable.  So we elves had no choice but to activate Article 1225. This has never been done before in the history of Christmas, but desperate times call for desperate measures.
            You see, when Santa becomes ill the week of Christmas, in this case hospitalized with life threatening sepsis, a proper and specific order of events must happen. The head physician notifies me, head elf, Asteria. I then notify Rufus at ER and a gentle, kind-hearted, but always temporary, magical Christmas soul steps in. Who, I might add, always looks tremendous in the red suit. When the right person is chosen, it becomes a hand and glove kind of thing.
            Rufus always finds the perfect backup Santa. You know the ones you see in the mall, or in a parade or riding on public transit if you live in a large urban center. But what was supposed to this year happen didn’t.. Instead, someone from a place called Hadesville showed up, obsessed with his phone and incessantly doing something with birds, chirping or twittering--whatever it was, it was not a priority. .
            If only I had been paying closer attention and thinking with my whole elf brain, this entire incident could have been avoided. Looking back, I should have retuned him to ER immediately upon meeting him using the reduce/resuse/recycle chute. But instead, I kept making excuses and letting him explain away all those obvious discrepancies..
            My first clue should have been his unhealthy and artificial glow. Not like Santa. Nothing like Santa. Obviously, a can of spray tan had exploded on his face. I suspected his extremely tiny hands contributed to the awful accident. I also noticed his paperwork was stained with grease. His said that was due to the burrito bowl he ate on the way over. He emphasized many times that the fact that he enjoyed burrito bowls on a regular basis demonstrated how well he understood the international aspect of his newly appointed position.
            While the paperwork said his name was HR Cringle, we were instructed to call  him Drumple Tumperdink, DT for short. In elf world DT, means Don’t Touch with a 150ft Pole, but who was I to judge his parent’s inadequate naming capabilities. Again it was fishy—like Norwegian fish left out for Santa, not the Swedish kind—that so much of his paperwork had been altered.
            He pointed and waggled his finger while correcting me, “Smudged. Not altered,” he said. “If you must know, there was a bigly spill of champagne on my bumpy but tremendously fabulous jet ride here.”
            Female was changed to male. Blonde hair, blue eyes, 5’ 5” was written over in bright green Crayola crayon to platinum hair, perfect eyes, 6’1”. (I wouldn’t give him over 5’11”. Santa is 6’1”. I know 6’1”. He is no 6’1”)
           The ultimate clue should have been the misspelling of Greatest Antilly, rather than Greater Antilles. And I was certain there was no Hadesville there. All elves are masters of geography. It’s kind of our thing.
            Anyway, as the days progressed towards Christmas Eve, our elven concerns increased. Never once did he ask how the sleigh worked, what he was supposed to feed the reindeer, what the latest weather conditions were and any detours he might need to take. The worst was he failed to show up for morning updates on the Naughty and Nice List, which of course is critical. It’s, without a doubt, the main job of Santa. One slip up and evil Jennifer is getting a new bicycle while sweet Haki is unwrapping fossil fuel and wondering what on earth he’d done to deserve this. Ultimately, the reindeer refused to ride with him and all negotiations with them failed because, of course, you guessed it, he didn’t make it to the meetings, let alone bring them Honeycrisp apples as the appropriate tokens of good will.         
            So with the reindeer on strike, unsettled elves, no plan in place and no one liking the way he smelled, Article 1225 was officially enacted this year which unfortunately means, wonderful children of the world, that Christmas has been canceled.
            In order to make it up to you lovely, hopeful and wonderful young people, you will have double the number of presents next year to thank you for your sacrifice. We cannot allow horrible holiday mayhem to become the face of Christmas, even if the calendar says we should.
            Thank you for understanding and for playing a vital role in stopping the war on Christmas.
            Yours very truly,
            Asteria
             Head Elf Manager of Yultide Distribution Headquarters, North Pole

            At 7:25PM (Universal Time) another message was sent.  
Dear Children of the World:
            I sure hope I didn’t cause a global holiday panic. I tend to overreact at times. Too much nutmeg in the eggnog you could say. Anyway, you can totally ignore the previous communication because Christmas has been saved! I repeat, Christmas is a go!  The activation of Article 1225 has become unnecessary! Of course, I need to explain, again.
             Moments after sending out the first impulsive transmission, (that’s what I get for trying to be proactive) I saw DT stomping around in the worst possible fitting suit, belt, red hat with faux fur trim I had ever witnessed. I sighed and sadly shook my head knowing my decision had been correct, when suddenly a jingle jangle from the ER phone echoed through the hall.   
            I answered to a frantic Rufus. “Where is he? Have you called the North Pole Mounties? He’s an imposter!”
            “An imposter? But how?”
            “Did you look at the paperwork?”
            “Rufus, you know how busy we are here. I glanced at it—briefly”—my stomach lurched..
            “You should have called. Did you see his photo?” Rufus was in full elvin panic mode now.
            Forehead smack. “I didn’t. I totally forgot to scan it.” Then I heard a thump-thump,thump, then some knocking. Followed by a string of muffled noises. “Let me call you right back.”
            “Wait. What? No! This is an elfcon 10 emergency. We need—”
            I followed the sound around the corner to the coat closet, and there tied up with duct tape over her mouth was someone with blonde hair, blue eyes, and—if I were to guess—stood 5’ 5” tall. I couldn’t be completely sure since she was shoved in a sack with only her head sticking out.
            “Oh my stars. Are you OK? Let me guess—” I pulled the duct tape off her mouth.
            “I’m HR Cringle. That awful man—”
            “—Is an imposter. Thank goodness!” Forehead smack again. “Royal Rudolph—I just notified the children of the world that article 1225 was  enacted!”
            “What? No! Cancel Christmas—you can’t.”
            Under her arm was the 4,688 page Santa Claus Clauses, Regulations and Stipulations: A Guide for Substitute Santas.
            “I’ve been diligently studying ever since Rufus called me. I always come prepared.”
            I hugged Ms. HR Cringle and called Rufus back.
            “Asteria! What took you so long? It was a clerical error. The paperwork ended up into the wrong hands. A new delivery guy name V. Putinanny singed out the envelope.”       
            A few minutes later we discovered, not only did HR Cringle know her guidebook back and forth, upside down and sideways, she also knew about the recycle blaster. Once released, she immediately tracked down DT sitting in front of the mirror. Zap--Poof. He was immediately lasered into a pile of sawdust to be compressed and recycled into something useful.
            So I hope this clears up the confusion wonderful children, Christmas has been saved! You will get your presents on time, and the last minute updates to the Naughty and Nice List have been made. Oh and in case you have forgotten, please do not share this communication or any others with your parents, as most of them still believe that Santa isn’t real and that they are in charge.

Yours Truly,
Asteria
Head Elf Manager of Yultide Distribution Headquarters, North Pole
           
             
            With a sigh of relief, I watched the warm red suit rise off the pile of lasered dust and onto her. It fit like a glove. And not only did she have Honeycrisp apples for the reindeer but organic rainbow carrots too.
            “We’ve never had a woman Santa before. Woo hoo!” I did an elfin happy dance.
            “Well, who else is qualified to fix this mess, especially on such short notice?”
            The other elves and I kicked our heels with excitement. Ms. Cringle was a quick study and eagerly caught up with what she needed to know. She even found time to visit Santa in the ICU, who gave her the thumbs up and offered to be the vice Santa to her Santa, once he recovered.
            Finally at 10:00 pm  Christmas Eve, with hot cocoa in hand and the latest updated GPS directions loaded, we watched Ms. Cringle take off into the winter night with a sleigh full of toys and joy, love, peace and goodwill in her heart. We cheered and exclaimed as she rode out of sight, “Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night.”  We clapped and did one more elven happy dance for good measure.


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