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Frozen Fondue

Today’s story is my continuing saga about the Cold War between Santa Claus and Jack Frost. To read the first installment which I wrote last year for Fondue Christmas, CLICK HERE.

We are nearing the end of our Yule run of stories. We plan to bring you some more delicious freebies in the winter and spring. These are all at no cost to you. However, many of us here at he Fondue Writer’s Club have books, audiobooks, and short stories that have been published through the last two decades, including our collaboration The Covid Quarantine Cantina which reached number one in audiobooks (in a subcategory for about a week and a half). We all have day jobs, so it is not like we’re feeding our family here, but if you are partial to anything you’ve by read any writer — cruise on over to the Amazon and search for us: Joseph Courtemanche, Joe Shaw, Robert Cely, Kathy Kexel, Paul Bennett, Derek Elkins, and Greenbean himself. We would certainly appreciate it. Or, contact these wonderful people and they probably have a closet full of books they’re happy to autograph and send to you.

Now, without any further delay, here is my story. I hope you enjoy it.


Saturn’s Eye

Jamie Greening

For the Fondue Writer’s Club

            ‘Santa is the one who broke the truce, you know that, right?’

            Rudolph could not answer the question. His head was shoved into a tight muzzle. The luminous nose that made him an icon of outsiders and misfits was flaming red, not just from his unusual gift, but from the beating Jack Frost’s henchmen had given when they pulled him from bed in his off-season bungalow in Cabo. The famous little reindeer was in a pickle for sure. They’d hung him from the ceiling, shoulders secured by a hook which ran under his front legs and around his neck. His back legs were chained to the floor while various electrical wires ran from a control panel on the wall to various sensitive organs on his body. 

            Rudolph felt his shoulders slowly dislocating as the bones slid out of joint.

            Frost continued the one-sided interrogation. ‘I don’t know why he took it, but we need it back. Santa doesn’t understand what can go wrong here. It’s all fun and games until people start bumping into themselves going to the bathroom in the middle of the night.’

            Baby New Year pulled his thumb out of his mouth. ‘We know he didn’t hide it at the North Pole because our people would have told us. Where did he hide it?’ Baby New Year seemed like he was about to cry, and then he did cry and scream, ‘Why? Why? Why did he take it? Why would he do this to us?’

            Rudolph’s eyes filled with panic. So, this is what it was about? He’d warned Santa not to take Saturn’s Eye, but the old man ignored the advice of all his friends and counselors. The Jolly Old Elf had become increasingly belligerent since the Zombie War. Reclusive. Paranoid. Quiet. 

            ‘Hit him with some juice,’ Baby New Year shouted with his hands raised high. ‘It’s time for the deer to dirty his diaper.’ 

            Jack Frost looked at Baby New Year and said, ‘He’s not wearing a diaper. You’re the only one who wears a diaper.’ 

            ‘It’s a metaphor, Frost.’ Baby New Year emphasized the point by sticking his thumb back into his mouth.

            A dim-witted ice spirit turned a knob. Immediately, the reindeer began to twitch. He turned the knob further. The twitches became spasms. 

            ‘Enough,’ Jack Frost said. ‘That’s enough. Take off his muzzle. We need him to answer some questions. He’s no good to us dead. Besides, I don’t like burnt venison.’ 

            Rudolph was barely conscious, but his eyes were steely upon Baby New Year. It is a well- known fact reindeer are brutally vengeful. The terrible little tyke’s time would come, Rudolph would make certain of it. 

            ‘You’ve seen how far we are willing to go,’ Jack Frost said. ‘We don’t want to do this, but it is important we get Saturn’s Eye back. Santa’s domain is in human relations, whereas Baby and I are seasonal workers. We are time-bound. We must get it back. We can’t properly do our work without it.’ The frozen blue goblin paced around his lair, then turned to face Rudolph, ‘He’s messing with power he can’t possibly understand.’

            Rudolph stared back at him. 

            ‘If you don’t talk,’ Baby New Year said, ‘we increase the pain. This is level one stuff right here. Level two is even worse – we make you watch every Lacey Chabert Hallmark Christmas movie on infinite loop. Level three is the Fruitcake. Level four is the point of no return. Yeah, that is what happened to Randy Quaid.’

            Jack Frost stroked Rudolph’s cheek. ‘We don’t want to, but we will, and we will get the information eventually. You might as well tell us before you get really hurt.’ 

            ‘I met Randy Quaid once,’ Rudolph coughed up blood, then swallowed hard. ‘I met Randy Quaid once. I always wondered what made him like that.’ The deer sighed. ‘I’ll tell you what happened, if for no other reason to restore peace between the North and South Poles. Santa took Saturn’s Eye, that much is true.’

            Baby New Year yelled, ‘But why? Why did the fat man do it? Has he lost his mind? Did Tim Burton finally get to him?’

            Rudolph answered, ‘It came down to math. The number of people in the world is growing exponentially. There are over nine billion people in the world right now. Twenty years ago, that number was six billion. Fifty years ago, it was only about three. Nine billion people are too many to keep track of. He needed more time. Only Saturn’s Eye could give him that. No one knows this, but Santa Claus hasn’t actually made all the deliveries of toys in at least three years, which has led to the conspiracy theory many elves hold to of why there is so much hate on social media. People keep getting disappointed at Christmastime and it is making them all stop being nice because it wasn’t doing them any good anyway.’

            Jack Frost sat on his throne. ‘So, Santa was in a pickle, and he thought by taking Saturn’s Eye he could buy more time to do his work.’

            ‘That is the way I understood it.’ Rudolph felt dirty, like he’d betrayed a great trust. He knew Santa would never again let him guide the sleigh, foggy Christmas Eve or not. 

            ‘One more question, glowstick.’ Baby New Year took one more suck on his bottle. ‘Where is it?’

            Rudolph knew there was no going back on his betrayal now. The die had been cast. He took a deep breath, ‘Texas. He hid it in Texas.’  

***

            Saturn’s Eye is older than Jack Frost or Santa Claus. 

            Its origins are as mysterious as the depths of the sea or the stars in the heavens. The elven community has long-known of its existence, but it has only been in the six millennia since the Diluvian Accords that a universally accepted protocol has governed its use. The elves and goblins who come in with the seasons form the Council of Saturn. These include Jack Frost, Baby New Year, The Groundhog, The Easter Bunny, Freyr, The Great Pumpkin, and Tom Turkey. Jack, being the oldest and most powerful, serves as president of the council. The rest really do nothing and defer to him.

            Only Baby New Year hangs around because he is too immature to have friends or a real life. The Groundhog is very industrious and busy preparing for the coming bad days. The Easter Bunny has a lot of mouths to feed because, rabbits. The Easter Bunny is not Peter Cottontail. The Easter Bunny is female, and Peter Cottontail was a usurper who tried to overthrow the Kingdom of Unfound Eggs. Freyr is Norse so no one really likes him. The Great Pumpkin never shows up and Tom Turkey is always hiding.

            Saturn’s Eye is stored at the South Pole with Jack. The stone it is made of is not from Earth. There are markings on it that look like circles within circles and then a line drawn through the midst of them. Letters from a long-lost alphabet are written on it in an amber color that glows on equinox and solstice days. No one knows what the letters mean or why they glow.

            The stone is a magic talisman. Any person or creature who holds it needs only to imagine time going backwards or forwards. Their position remains the same, but time and everyone else moves. Thus, the holder of Saturn’s Eye can move through time unawares freely through time.

            Four years were lost in the ninth century because Freyr was angry at the Franks. 

            That is the power of Saturn’s Eye.

            It is also why it is the perfect tool to help Santa overcome the population problem he faces. 

***

            Santa’s feet were propped up in his recliner and he sipped a tall glass of peach iced-tea in his Hawaiian bungalow, as he normally did every January. He and the current Mrs. Claus had gone snorkeling that morning and the knots in his back were finally beginning to work themselves out. The sun, sea water, and Spam always made him feel right as rain. Happy thoughts of a well-deserved off-season were swirling around his mind when a giant block of ice fell through the roof. Mrs. Claus gasped and fainted in fright. Santa instantly knew who it was from. Frost had used the same delivery method in 1972 on Andy Warhol, who, to everyone’s surprise, turned out to be Frost’s illegitimate love child with Suzy Snowflake.   

            Santa waved his finger; the ice melted. Inside a wet, cold, and badly beaten Rudolph shivered and sobbed. 

            ‘Rudolph!’ Santa gasped. ‘What have they done to you?’ 

            ‘I’m sorry,’ he cried. ‘He knows. He knows Saturn’s Eye is in Texas. He told me to tell you if you don’t return it before February, he will take action.’

            ‘You know I can’t do that,’ Santa said. ‘I need it.’

            ‘I know,’ the reindeer said. ‘So does he, and that is something he will use against you.’

***

            ‘I say we zap Texas back to the stone age,’ Baby New Year said. ‘I mean, after all, they are in the central time zone, so no one really cares about them. Everyone knows the only New Year’s Eve celebrations that matter are on the East Coast.’

            ‘Don’t be a baby,’ Frost said. ‘And don’t underestimate the Texas Rangers.’ Frost rubbed his left shoulder, his body remembering the bullet he took in Amarillo in 1922 in a skirmish with Texas Rangers over a barrel of prohibition bourbon. He’d been lucky to get out of Texas alive, and swore never to return. It looked like he’d have to go back on that promise.

            ‘We will freeze Texas if Santa doesn’t deliver Saturn’s Eye to us.’ 

***

            The first cold front hit Texas on February 10. Most people expected a little bad weather, but that first front was followed by another even colder front that covered almost every square inch of the Lone Star State in ice and snow. Snow men were built, teenagers who’d spent their whole lives without ever seeing accumulated snow marveled at how pretty it was. Hats, gloves, and coats not used for decades came out of the closet. Fireplaces roared and hot cocoa was poured from the Rio Grande to the Red River, El Paso to Texarkana. 

            Then the strongest front came and temperatures plunged below zero for several days. By St. Valentine’s Day, the crippling effects of cold upon a state that hadn’t been visited by Jack Frost in a hundred years began to show. Power plants which produced electricity began to shut down. Dallas, Houston, and San Antonio, three of the largest cities in America, went dark. Most of the state was on intermittent power at best, and often nothing for days. Most homes had no other means of heating. 

            People frozen to death.

            Some asphyxiated as they brought their charcoal grills indoors.  

            Older people died from the inability to get medicine or emergency care.

            Already overwhelmed hospitals went into deep crisis.

            Then the water turned off. Lack of electricity forced water systems around the state to go offline. The wealthy, bold, and incredibly arrogant state of Texas had been turned into a third-world nation without electricity or clean drinking water in a matter of days, all courtesy of Jack Frost’s wrath. 

            Santa thought he could hold out, but the suffering and pain was too great for even Kris Kringle to endure. On February 20 he sent an envoy to Jack Frost telling him to meet him at the tiny town of Lone Star, Texas.

***

            ‘We’re here,’ Frost told Santa. 

            The two faeries stood about twenty feet from each other in a pine forest. The ground covered in crunchy ice. 

            ‘Now, tell me where it is so we can end this and I can let the good people of Texas get back to their lives.’ 

            ‘I need the extra time, Frost. I can’t keep up.’

            ‘I know,’ Jack Frost said. ‘But this agreement has been in effect for thousands of years. It is unbelievable you’d go this far. The last time someone took Saturn’s Eye was after they finished Stonehenge. Remember? Remember how that turned out for all those half-naked Druids who so messed up the timeline that they met themselves coming and going until they went mad?’

            Santa screamed into the cold wind, ‘Of course I remember, I was there. You were there. We were all there. It took all of us and all our magic to put it back together again, and even at that we still couldn’t make it all fit.’

            Frost chuckled, ‘Good times. The British still don’t know why they have such bad teeth, but we know.’ 

            Santa giggled, too.

            ‘Why didn’t you just ask for help?’ Frost said.

            ‘Because I knew the Big Baby would never go for it. He’s always been jealous of me.’ He wagged his finger at Frost, ‘the number of people doesn’t bother him at all, or even you. But it is a real problem for me. The elves and I can’t keep up. Soon there will be over ten billion people on this planet, and they will all want iPhones, new tires, Rolex watches, and a Lexus. It is just more than this old elf can do.’

            ‘If you trust me,’ Frost said, ‘I think we can find a solution.’

            ‘Why should I trust you? You’ve laid Texas to waste.’

            ‘They will bounce back. They still have oil, barbeque, and Matthew McConaughey. And, I did return your little pet reindeer back to you alive.’

            ‘He’ll never be the same, though.’ 

            ‘Sure, he will. Give him some peppermint schnapps and he’ll be fine. Now, are you gonna trust me and give me Saturn’s Eye before you accidentally cause a collapse of reality, or must I drop the temperature in Texas another ten degrees and add a blizzard? I can destroy every living thing here and then it will not be hard to find Saturn’s Eye at all.’

            Santa took his index finger and wiggled his nose. To his right a giant pine tree split down the middle as if an invisible saw had torn it asunder. The aroma of sap and wood filled the air. At the bottom of the tree sat the ancient rune. 

            Baby New Year, who had been hiding behind an unused deer blind, leaped out and grabbed it before anyone could say a word. He took his place beside Jack Frost.

            ‘Now,’ Santa said. ‘Did you really mean it about the help, or was it a lie?’

            ‘I am cold hearted, but I am not a liar. Actually, it wasn’t my idea. It was his.’

            Frost pointed to his left and a humming sound grew louder and louder. An ATV painted in camouflage carefully drove through the forest and came to a stop between Santa Claus and Jack Frost. The driver was unrecognizable – heavily bundled in a thick parka, big snow goggles, and huge mittens. But when she stepped out of the ATV her identity was obvious. She pulled back the hood of her coat and those giant floppy ears bounced up and down. 

            ‘Easter Bunny,’ Santa said, ‘What are you doing here?’ His head shook and he blinked several times as if he didn’t believe his eyes. ‘I don’t think we’ve seen each other since Vatican II? It is really good to see you, but, this isn’t your squab—.’

            The Easter Bunny held up a paw to stop him. ‘Oh, it is all of ours. I feel your pain, man. Everyone, even pagans, want Easter eggs and Easter presents and Easter clothes these days. And I don’t have any elves to help me. So, I’ve had to think outside the box, and so do you.’

            ‘What do you mean?’ Santa said.

            ‘Amazon.’ The Easter Bunny said. ‘A to Z. If we combine our assets, we can buy out bozo Bezos and put the system to work for us. It is a win-win.’

            Santa’s eyes twinkled. ‘I know a guy who owes me a favor in Seattle. I think we can make this happen.’ He rubbed his hands together and said, ‘This is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.’

***

            Truce had once again been made between Santa and Jack Frost. It seemed like the mythical forces in the world would unite around a common cause and the armistice might stick. This could indeed be the beginning of a new age of cooperation between the North and the South Poles. Peace in our time. 

            But as the four of them talked, Jack Frost, Baby New Year, The Easter Bunny, and Santa Claus an unseen force was at work. 

            Rudolph viewed the scene through his long-distance scope. He laid flat on the roof of a tin smokehouse with ham curing inside. The rifle’s trigger, adapted for his hoof, itched to be pulled and paint the white snow with Baby New Year’s brains.

            Revenge is a dish best served cold.

            He focused on his breathing and squeezed. 

            Yukon Cornelius, who had been afraid of this very scenario, lunged at Rudolph to prevent the outbreak of another shooting war with the South Pole. But he was only partially successful, as the bullet struck Baby New Year in his diaper, which was full at the time. New Year poop, as everyone knows, is formidable and it stopped ballistic. Nevertheless, it splattered on everyone.

            But Jack, holding Saturn’s Eye, immediately moved backwards in time and pushed himself away, leaving the other three desecrated by defecation.  

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