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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.  

With A Special Appearance By Suzie Snowflake

Yesterday Derek Elkins got us started with some strong action. Today, it is my turn. This story first appeared as a plot idea in a blog in which I was making fun of Hallmark Christmas Movies. I argued they needed more Zombie.

Well, here we are. I hope you enjoy this bit of frivolous fun. Remember, we are just trying to entertain you a bit with some free stories from the Fondue Writers Club. No paywalls, no credit card numbers, no email lists. Just read.


Banished

Drool ran down the corner of Santa’s mouth and onto his beard. He only did that when he was bone-tired, and he was only bone-tired two days a year. July 16 always found him exhausted beyond measure, because July 15 was elf bath day. As the Chief Elf, Santa’s primary responsibility to the elf community was to make certain all one hundred or so elves who lived at the North Pole got their annual cleaning. It was by far the hardest day of the year for him and it took weeks for the bite marks to heal.

            The second hardest day was, of course, December 24. Delivering toys to every good boy and girl on the planet wasn’t as easy as it once was. Back in the old days, there just weren’t that many children, but now with human population nearing ten billion, Christmas Eve was becoming exceedingly difficult. The result was December 25th always found Santa in his favorite recliner with drool oozing out of his windburned lips and puddling onto his white whiskers. If he was lucky, a pile of cookie crumbs would bounce up and down on his belly as he snored.

            On this particular Christmas Eve, he’d already achieved a level of R.E.M. sleep, so he didn’t hear the door buzz. He did hear the shout, though.

            “Father Christmas, we’ve got to get you to the safe room.”

            It was Dropsy, chief of security. He was a competent elf who had inherited his position from his father, Popsy. 

            “Safe room,” Santa roused himself out of the chair. “What on earth for?”

            “We don’t know exactly, but something is wrong with some of the elves.”

            “What do you mean, wrong?” 

            “No time to explain, Nick. We gotta get you to the safe room.”

            Dropsy escorted Santa from his recreational room and out into the darkness of the North Pole. “Where is my wife?” Santa said. 

            “She is en route as well,” Dropsy said. “Sopsy, is taking her there now.” 

            The wind blew fiercely. Snow swirled around in the darkness. Santa’s brilliant, timeless mind began to wake up as the cold slapped his synapses. His mind reviewed the previous day. It had been a near perfect Christmas, executed flawlessly. What could have gone wrong? He had successfully avoided the Jihad in the Middle East and the sad dark peninsula of North Korea. New York was navigated without difficulties. He couldn’t figure out what the problem could be.

            Dropsy reached out his hand and halted his boss. 

            “Do you see them?” he said. They had just rounded the bend in the trail that went around the Egg Nog Cistern. 

            “Yes, I do,” Santa nodded. “It looks like Raspy and Daspy. Maybe they will have some answers.”

            “I don’t think so. Look closer, sir.”

            Santa squinted. His impish eyes adjusted to night vision. He saw the two people he recognized, but their faces were gaunt. The pupils of their eyes glowed red. Cobalt puss oozed down their cheeks.”

            “They’re sick,” Santa shouted. “We have to help them!” Santa lunged away from Dropsy and rushed toward his friends. “What happened to you?” He shouted as he neared.

            Dropsy yelled, “No, wait!” but Santa was too fast to be thwarted. 

            Raspy and Daspy growled at the giver of gifts and opened wide their mouths to chomp on the pink flesh. Santa was caught unawares. They grabbed him and pushed him to the ground and were ready to tear him from limb to limb. Just before they sank their teeth into him, Dropsy, fired two shots from his service revolver, exploding both of their heads. 

***

            Mrs. Claus rushed toward her husband when he and Dropsy entered the safe room. 

            “Step back, ma’am,” Dropsy said. “I don’t want to break the two of you up, but Papa Noel here is covered in, well, whatever is now pumping through the veins of about thirty of our elves.”

            “Thirty?” Santa whispered.

            “Probably more like fifty by now,” said Smartsy. 

            Smartsy was the chief scientific officer of the North Pole. Usually, that meant he developed toys of a scientific nature. His most successful enterprise of the last half century was the iPhone. He developed it in the late 1980s, but it took almost three decades to find someone to manufacture and market the device. Even then, Steve Jobs almost ruined the whole thing with his perfectionism and insistence upon Apple Music. 

            Mrs. Claus turned to Smartsy, “What is going on?” She raised her hands, palms up. “We haven’t had to come to the safe room since those Heaven’s Gates fanatics stopped by on their way to the comet.” She said comet in air quotations with her long and perfectly manicured fingers.

            “We just rode those out,” Smartsy said. “This time will not be that easy. This will be more like the unfortunate Soviet Incident of 1972.”

            “I wasn’t here for that,” Mrs. Claus said. Smartsy winced. He’d forgotten Santa gets a new wife every twenty-five years.

            Smartsy, demonstrating his smarts, changed the subject by punching up a display on the computer panel that formed the long backwall of the safe room. “It took me and my team a while to go through all the data, but if you will look carefully at this video feed from the rear skid on Santa’s sleigh, you will see just as you took flight over the housetops in this Louisiana swamp, Junior Assistant Elf Flappsy was bitten by what looks like a rabid politician. That politician has since been diagnosed with Zombie and was, as is the custom in the United States for all Zombies, immediately sworn in as United States Senator. It seems like the disease has spread to our peaceful habitat here in the Arctic.” 

            “What can we do about it?”

            “I have a couple of options, but Dropsy, why don’t you present your plan The Big Guy first?”

            Santa and Mrs. Claus looked at Dropsy, eyes wide with hope. Dropsy pushed a few buttons on his own communications device and the screen turned to a layout of Santa’s compound. “We have gathered fifty-three of the elves who are positively not infected with the Zombie virus in these four holding rooms. Each one is guarded by one of my children. The rest, those wandering the perimeter the way we found Raspy and Daspy, well, they are expendable.”

            “Expendable?” Santa shook his head. “You mean killed?”

            “Yes, in about thirty minutes I can take them all out. It is unfortunate, but it might be the only way we can save everyone else. It is fast, efficient, and one-hundred percent effective.”

            “You’re talking about killing almost half the elves?” Mrs. Claus brought her hand to her mouth. “Half.”

            “Yes, that is true, but Smartsy and I have talked about it, and we can recruit cobbler elves to take their positions and have them trained for toymaking by mid-summer. The following Christmas might be a bit smaller than previous years, but we will survive. Survival is what matters.”   

            “Isn’t there any way to save them?” Santa’s head drooped.

            Smartsy began, “We hypothesize sunshine will do it. Political Zombieism cannot survive the light of day. It is what has cured every other batch in human history. The problem for us, of course, is we will not see daylight here until June. We can’t survive and hold them off that long without killing them, and likewise, they will not survive that long out of doors without shelter or food. At some point they will turn on each other and their death would be horrific.”

            “I will not let them suffer.” Santa said.

            “There is one more option,” Dropsy said. He pointed to Smartsy. “Tell him, Smartsy. Tell him what you told me.”

            “There is another way.” 

***

            “I took the liberty of calling Suzie to confirm it.” Smartsy looked at the ground and then finally at Santa. “Just as I suspected, Suzie Snowflake tells me there is one person who has continually and constantly dealt with this kind of disease that infects the soul as well as the body.”

            Santa stood up and put his hands over his ears. “No, don’t say it.”

            “I’m sorry, sir,” Smartsy said. “But it is true. He can freeze it out of them. Just as light exposes the virus, cold can, like truth, eradicate it.”

            “Okay,” Santa nodded, “I accept that logic. But can’t we generate enough cold around here, I mean, this is the North Pole for crying-out-loud, can’t we get them cold enough to heal them? We don’t need him to do it, right?”

            “All we can do,” Smartsy said, “is make them cold from the outside in. He, and to our knowledge, he alone, can freeze them from the inside out. That is where it has to start. All change, and you know this, sir, all real change starts on the inside. And only he can do that.”

***

            The “Him” Smartsy spoke of was Jack Frost. It was no secret The Man In the Red Suit and Jack Frost were on bad terms. Once upon a time they had been close. Rumor has it they are cousins, but no one has ever come up with definitive evidence or a family tree. As far as any of the elves know, Santa has no mother or father and he and Baby New Year are sui generis. It is accepted fact, though, amongst the elves that Jack Frost is himself elfish, but from a different line of elves who experimented with magic and the taboo elements of nature. Modern elves disdain magic and opt instead for hard work, peppermint, and cheap electronics from China. 

            Another rumor is that Jack Frost had an affair with the thirteenth Mrs. Claus, the one who preferred everyone to call her Veronica. Santa found the two of them in flagrante delecto on a New Year’s Eve where too much holiday wine was shared. The rumor goes further that Santa banished that Mrs. Claus to sell low-grade jewelry on QVC and Jack was never invited back for another party. The rumor further goes that Santa caught them in the Slinky warehouse which is why no one gets a Slinky for Christmas anymore.

            The elves who help Santa in the tropical regions, and who never come to the North Pole, tell a different tale. They say Santa won a game of dice against Frost and the wager was the warm weather climates where old Frozen Jack couldn’t encroach. Jack tried to renegotiate, and Santa wouldn’t let him. This, according to the Caribbean elves, is why they are at odds. It was a favor Santa owed to the pirates who rescued him once when he was stranded asea. It was during that time period Santa developed the “Ho-Ho-Ho Merry Christmas” he is now famous for, which is a slight variation on ‘Yo-Ho-Ho a Pirate’s Life For Me.’

            No one knows if any of this is true or not, but everyone knows what happened in 1986. The facts of that incident are verifiable and undeniable because of the CCTV. Jack Frost crashed the St. Valentine’s Day party. He brought four minions, Frostbite, Windchill, Hypo, and Thermia with him. It is hard to know if Hypo and Thermia count as one or two, because they are twins frozen at the hip. During the party, Jack Frost drank way too much, started cursing, picked a fight with Yukon Cornelius, and urinated in the fruit punch.

            That was when Santa banished him, placing him for all time on the naughty list. It is an oath he swore to never go back on. Indeed, it would take a great team of elfish lawyers to undo the oath. In all of history, only four others have been put on the forever naughty list: Atilla, Henry VIII, Rasputin, and Alec Baldwin.   

***

            Santa took five minutes to change out of the soiled clothes. He traded the soiled flannel shirt and sweatpants he’d been napping in and put on the tan Carhartt heavy coat, Wrangler jeans, and Doc Martin boots which were in the Safe Room. He also armed himself with a Kringle revolver, a set of brass knuckles, and a Tanto knife. One never knew what to expect at Jack’s igloo.

            “I’ll travel by Magic,” Santa said when he came out of the lav. “No sense taking any chances on sleds, sleighs, or snowmobiles.”

            “Do you have any magic left?” Dropsy said. “Didn’t Christmas use it all up?”

            “Most of it, yes. My Magic will not be back at full strength until the Ides of March. But I do have a little in me. I can feel it. There is just enough to get me there.”

            Mrs. Claus eyes narrowed. “What about getting back?”

            “If things go well, that won’t be a problem. If they don’t go well,” Santa looked away, “then it really doesn’t matter, does it?”
            “Don’t say that!” Mrs. Claus embraced him, pulling him tight. “I need you. The world needs you. Don’t lose your focus.”

            Smartsy cleared his throat, “We will send a rescue sled in that direction as soon as you depart, as a backup.” He punched a few numbers on his keypad. “But I’m sure we will not need it.” 

            “Good plan,” Santa nodded. “I guess that is why you are in charge of intelligence.” 

            Santa checked his gear, zipped up his jacket, and then brought his index finger to his nose and wiggled it, while at the same time visualizing in his mind Jack Frost’s igloo.

***

            Frost’s igloo was in Antartica, which was the other side of the world. By sled this trip would take at least two hours. By Magic it took fourteen seconds. 

            The igloo sat on the rim of the large gaping hole that led to the center of the earth. It was from here that elves emerged eons ago, though no one has ever gone back to explore. Some of Frost’s pixies have, over the years, gone down to try and discover the mystery but they never returned. Frost knows what is down there, but he will not divulge that information. He has made it his sworn duty to keep any humans from entering. So determined was he to protect the secrets of the hole he engaged in what could only be described as a war with the United States Navy in 1946 and 47, eventually forcing Admiral Byrd to withdraw. 

            Santa emerged from the stretch of Magic into the brightest of light. He shielded his eyes with his hand. The sun’s radiance reflected off the ice cap. He’d remembered to bring his Ray Bans, and he slid them over his eyes. Taking a deep breath, he surveyed the igloo compound. Frost’s flag, a navy-blue snowflake pierced by a dazzling white icicle, flapped in the wind. Santa sniffed, and he smelled nothing. Just the way Frost likes it. He popped a piece of butterscotch into his mouth to remind him of home. 

            Claus took a step toward the igloo. The proximity alarm went off. The snow around his feet came to life. It crawled up his leg, freezing him in place as it inched up toward his groin. He kicked and fumed, but it was no use. Santa breathed a sigh of relief when the trap stopped mid-thigh. The wind came from behind him and lifted him into the air and towards the igloo’s roof. Three ice blocks slid aside as the wind brought the not-so-jolly soul onto the ice floor. 

            “That was not a very warm welcome,” Santa said shaking his head at Jack Frost, who stood over him. 

            “Warm is not my thing,” Frost said. His deep voice vibrated the ice. 

            Santa’s voice was high-pitched and squeally, and he’d always envied Frost’s resonate bass.

            Before Santa could realize what happened, the floor liquified, then refroze around his hands and feet, sealing him on all fours. 

            “What brings you here?” Frost put his foot on Santa’s back.

            The bearded man took a gulp of air. He spoke the words he’d thought through while changing back at the North Pole. “We are in trouble. I need your help. Only you can save the elves.” 

            “What have you done, old man?”

            “About half of them, around fifty or so, are sick. They have a zombie virus that is transforming them into monsters.”

            “Just kill them. You can always get more elves. That is what you did with the twenty-eight who became Nazi’s in 1938.”
            Santa winced. Yet another old wound Frost never let him forget. It was like Jack was a computer which held all of Santa’s failures. 

            “We’re hoping to avoid bloodshed. Smartsy says—”

            “Smartsy!” Jack shouted. “You still have that nerd around? I thought for sure you’da gotten rid of him after that embarrassing issue with the Segway.”

            Santa ignored the jab. The Segways weren’t entirely Smartsy fault. Everyone thought they’d be a hit. 

            “Listen, Frost. It was hard for me to come here and ask you for help with all we’ve been through. But I can’t do it without you. Smartsy says your ability to freeze them from the inside out is the only thing that can kill the virus. Will you help me? Will you save my elves?”

            Frost circled around his captive, then sat down on the ice in front of Santa and folded his legs underneath him. “What’s in it for me?” He looked into Santa’s eyes and the two saw each other clearly. “You know what I want, Saint Nicholas. You know what I need. I can’t keep living this life of exile and isolation. It has gotten so bad that I have started blogging about shaved ice and snow cones. Can you imagine, me, the mighty and powerful Chieftain of Chill reduced to liking and commenting on SallyScherbertsUltimate blog about where to get the best coconut snow cone in SoCal?”

            Ice pellets fell from his eyes and piled onto the floor.

            “You say you need me, and only I can help. But Kringle, I need something only you can give. Only you can lift the banishment. Only you can bring me home from exile.”

            Santa sighed. “I know. And I’ve been thinking about that, too.”

            Old Man Christmas wiggled his hands and shook his boots which shattered the ice cuffs. He stood erect. 

            Surprised, one of Frost’s guards, a fanged pixie named Tundra lurched at Santa. Before Tundra knew what happened, Santa chopped him into cubes with his Japanese blade. 

            Santa twirled the knife in his left hand and pivoted around the room. “Anyone else want to try me? I’m not in the mood for this and I haven’t had my nap out, so I’m a little spicy.”

            The room was silent. Frost knew he was no match for Santa.

            Papa Noel sheathed the weapon and knocked more of the ice from his hands and boots. “Jack, I’m prepared to lift the banishment. If that is all you want that is what I will give you. But I am also willing to bury the ice pic completely. I’d like for you to come back as a full member of the Elf Community. I’ll reinstate your seat on the Yule Log. It was wrong of me to banish you. It was a kneejerk reaction. We all need each other, as this recent incident has demonstrated.” Santa reached out an open hand in peace, “I was wrong.”

            Jack Frost took Santa’s hand, and they both envisioned the North Pole in their minds.

***

            They arrived just in time. The Elfin Zombies had worked their way into the gymnasium where about twenty noninfected elves had taken shelter. Jack sprang to action and froze them all solid. The zombiecicles were then taken outside and chained together. After they were secured, Smartsy wrapped them all in thermal blankets so they could slowly thaw. It took about fifteen hours, but it worked.

            “No sign of infection or any aggressive tendencies” Dropsy reported to Santa, who was playing backgammon with Jack in the Gingerbread Lodge. “There are two unfortunate side effects, though.”

            “What side effects?” Santa looked up and sipped from his hot wassail.  

            Dropsy frowned, “All the rescued male elves are walking with a limp, and the female elves all think they are Jennifer Lawrence. Smartsy says this should clear up in a week or so, but he also adds he doesn’t really know.”

            Jack grinned, and Santa saw it. “Jack, did you do that on purpose?”

            Frost’s only response was a chuckle so deep the pieces on the board moved.   

FLASH FICTION–A CHRISTMAS MASH UP

THE SANTA STORM OF 2013

In 1963 Santa Claus snubbed Jack Frost and Frosty the Snowman over royalties from the production of made-for-television Christmas specials.  Their original plan was to go in thirds, with each partner getting a new special every third year on alternating networks.  What Jack and Snowman didn’t know is that Old Man Kringle hired a lawyer from Philadelphia who discovered a tiny loophole involving trade to polar regions and international waters, and thus was able to cut Jack and Snowman from all revenue sharing.  The two of them never forgave the fat elf, but Santa became ever richer with the rise of commercialism and the digital age.  One deal lead to another and before long Santa had the corner market on October, November, and December and he had his eye on January, which made Baby New Year very nervous.

In the early 2000’s Jack Frost and Frosty the Snowman (no relation, despite the shared Frost in the name) began plotting Santa’s downfall and they were able to convince Baby New Year it was in his best interest as well.  Their first plan was to plant incriminating evidence on him of drug use and/or a prostitution ring and get the pictures to TMZ, but Kringle was too clean for that.  However, after a drunken night of despair watching the Sy Fy Channel, Snowman had a great idea.  Jack could use his powers over the weather, and Baby could change the temporal algorithms, combined with his knowledge of cumulonimbus clouds they could generate a tornado just about anywhere they wanted, and he knew exactly where he wanted.

Snowman built a Powerpoint slide showing his plan, complete with pie charts and graphs as well as a few Steve Job’s quotes, and the two agreed.  Two weeks before Christmas the three unleashed a terrible fury upon the tinsled streets of Manhattan during the annual Santa Convention.  Santacon was in full swing as the city was literally littered with drunken Santas.  The tornado targeted each red fake furred Santa and lifted them up into a dreadful red and white funnel of death.

Clausnado had been unleashed.

Santas reigned terror upon the entire Northeastern seaboard.  They flew through the windows of children’s bedrooms, scarring them for life with deep psychological mistrust of men with white beards and rosy cheeks.  Santas fell from the sky and destroyed Christmas trees and nativity scenes.  Especially vulnerable were homes with chimneys, as Santas often would flood down the chimney and out the furnace spewing carnage and vomiting all over the perfectly decorated living rooms.

The storm lasted several hours and threatened to destroy Christmas forever, until a hero emerged.  In their haste to act, Jack, Snowman and Baby had forgotten about the Grinch.  The Grinch had long since made peace with Claus, and in the end he and his new bride, Suzy Snowflake, could stand by no longer.  With the help of his miserable little dog and the hyperactive Rudolph, the Grinch successfully sneaked into the Jack’s lair and methodically neutralized the three menaces.  Jack Frost was the easiest, as all Grinch had to do was turn the heater up.  Frosty the Snowman put up quite fight, but Rudolph gave him a kick to the mid-section causing his three parts to disconnect, and once disconnected Frosty became inanimate.  When Baby New Year saw the other two go down so easily, he pooped his diaper and put his thumb in his mouth, thus bringing an end to Clausnado and restoring order to Christmas.

However, Christmas in New York was never the same again.