WELCOME TO THE NORTH POLE ~ Christian Fitzgerald

Gimble gently closed the heavy, wooden door behind him with a whisper of a click. “Oh my God, Santa is obsessing,” he said.

Fuzzle looked up from her tablet, the project deadlines for dozens of teams on her mind. “We don’t have time for this. I need his sign-off. On like, a shit-ton of projects.”

“I keep trying to tell him that,” said Gimble, “but…”

“What is it?”

“He’s drinking again.”

Behind them through the door they heard a loud crash.

“Fuck,” said Fuzzle.

Gimble sighed. “Let me do the talking.”

They entered the office and gasped in unison. Santa slumped forward in his mahogany and leather armchair, his head on his desk like a mound of dirty snow, weeping uncontrollably. To their left, on the candy-cane striped carpet, a snow globe lay ruined. On its’ side, among shards of glass and a thick pooling liquid, lay a tiny Santa holding a tiny sign that read, Welcome to the North Pole. The globe’s smashed music box struggled to play Jolly Old Saint Nicolas.

“Yikes. That was his favorite,” said Gimble. “She gave it to him.”

Fuzzle addressed Santa directly, “Sir, we need to—” 

Gimble interrupted with a hand on Fuzzle’s arm, which she immediately shook off. He hissed, “I talk. Me, not you. I am his executive assistant, I let you in here without an appointment. I talk.”

“Fine. Jesus,” she said.

He shot her a nasty look.

The two elves gently approached the desk, Gimble leading, as if coaxing a reindeer back into its’ pen. With all the nurture Gimble could muster, he said, “Hey boss, how’s it going?”

Santa heaved a snotty sob. Fuzzle looked at Gimble, who raised his arms, baffled. Fuzzle rolled her eyes.

Gimble tiptoed closer. “So, you missed the operations meeting this morning, and um… Fuzzle is here, and—”

Fuzzle couldn’t wait any longer. “Sir, we have some hard decisions to make on the United States unity rollout with regards to—”

Santa interrupted. “What list is he on?”

“Um, what? Sir?”

Santa sat up and looked at the elves for the first time. “Fucking Greg Bell. What list is he on?”

Fuzzle pulled up her tablet and tapped in a query. She made a sour face, and held it up for Gimble to see.

“Goddamit, what list!”

Gimble took a deep breath. “The nice list, sir.”

“The nice list!,” Santa raged. “He’s screwing my wife, and he’s on the goddamn nice list?”

“I mean, I think you two are on a break,” Fuzzle said. Gimble grimaced and shook his head at her. 

Santa cast off his big, furry mittens and heartily blew his nose into a handkerchief. “What does Carol see in him? He’s such a fuggin douche.” The last few words slurred together. He opened a drawer, setting off a rattle of empty bottles, and procured a pint of Peppermint Schnapps. He unscrewed the top and took a long pull. “For fuck’s sake, look at this,” he pivoted his laptop screen. The elves crowded to one side of the desk. “I took these screenshots off her phone before she left.” 

“So toxic,” Fuzzle muttered.

“For real,” replied Gimble, under his breath.

“It’s his Tinder profile.” Santa screwed up his voice in crass mockery, “‘Greg, 34, he/him. Live to surf. Fun-lover looking for same. Careful, I’ve been known to sing randomly in public,’” Santa made a barfing noise, “‘PhD in Forestry and Environmental Sciences, U.C. Berkeley, Executive Director at Reforestation Alliance, Former Marine—’ Does he have to post this shirtless pic?”

The elves leaned in for a better view. “Damn, he’s a snack,” said Fuzzle.

“Um, yes please,” said Gimble.

Santa continued, devolving into a seven-year-old. “Blah blah blah blah, look at me, I’m saving the world. ‘LGBTQIA+ ally. Women’s rights are human rights. Dolphins are my spirit animal. Salt life.’” Santa slumped back in his chair. “What an asshole.”

He took another drink and the elves fell silent.

“You have no idea. Being able to see him when he’s asleep and know when he’s awake? Total fucking nightmare. And now I have to get him a present because he’s on the nice list?”

Fuzzle said, “I mean, there are literally hundreds of elves you could hand that off to.”

Santa sat forward and boomed, “I’m fucking Santa Claus. If this prick has to get a present, I’m picking it.”

Fuzzle took a deep breath, “Look, Santa, real talk. This isn’t healthy. For years, Carol… I mean, Mrs. Clause, has complained that you’re a workaholic. That you don’t see her. That you two are drifting apart like icebergs. I know because everyone knows.” Fuzzle leaned in. “Sir, I want you to hear me… she did nothing wrong. You either have to let her go, or make a big effort to change, and fight to get her back.”

“Wow,” said Gimble.

“But not until the 26th,” said Fuzzle.

Santa hung his head. “You’re right, Fuzzle. I’m to blame. I just miss her so much,” he started crying again. Gimble awkwardly patted Santa’s big arm through his thick, red coat. After a moment, he sat up with resolve. “Ok. I’ll change, and I’ll win her back.”

“That’s good,” said Fuzzle. “And my therapist is great, if you need—”

“But first, let’s get this guy canceled.” Santa turned the laptop back and began furiously typing.

“Oh boy, here we go,” said Gimble.

Santa grimaced. “I can’t type anything with these goddamn mittens.” He tore them off. “Why do I even wear them inside?” He focused intently at the screen. “Ok, he must have a bar fight, or an assault charge in his past. Oh my God, how great would it be if he wore blackface in the 90’s?,” Santa let out an unhinged laugh. “I mean it was a fucking free-for-all back then.”

“He would have been three,” said Fuzzle.

“This is getting dark,” said Gimble.

“Santa, you have to stop,” said Fuzzle.

Santa stopped. A sly grin crossed his face. “Naughty list, here you come, you motherfucker,” he turned the laptop back to face the elves. It was an Instagram post of Greg and Carol clinking cocktail glasses at a fancy restaurant.

With genuine curiosity, Fuzzle said, “How will this get him canceled, sir?”

“Look what he says about her,” he leaned into the laptop screen and pointed with a huge, fuzzy mitten. Santa jumped. “How did these fucking mittens get back on my hands!” He hastily took them off again.

Gimble read the comment with trepidation, “‘Check out the GILF I bagged.’”

Fuzzle gasped. “What an asshole.” She leaned in closer. “Wait a minute, he didn’t say that, someone else commented that on his insta.”

“Someone else said ‘check out the GILF I bagged’? On his post? That doesn’t even make sense,” Santa said.

“Have you met randos on the Internet?,” Fuzzle asked.

Santa considered this. “Hmm. Yes, all of them. Good point.”

“Ok, and look how Greg responds,” Fuzzle said.

Gimble read the text, “‘Not cool, my dude—’”

“He really said ‘my dude’?,” Santa asked. The elves nodded.

Gimble continued, “‘Stop normalizing the treatment of women as only objects for your gratification. Change your behavior, change the world, bro. Dismantling the poisonous patriarchy requires—’”

“That’s enough,” said Santa.

“Not gonna lie, I kinda like Greg,” said Fuzzle.

Santa sighed. “Ok, so he’s on the nice list.” 

Fuzzle pulled up an app on her tablet. “Yeah, he is firmly on the nice list. Every single one of his ex-girlfriends speaks well of him.” 

“All of them?,” said Santa.

“He even volunteered as an election worker,” said Fuzzle.

“Who is this guy?,” said Santa.

“That’s Greg for you,” said Gimble.

“And he unironically likes Imagine Dragons,” said Fuzzle.

“How does that get him on the nice list?,” asked Santa.

“It doesn’t,” said Gimble.

Santa sighed. “What if we get him, like, an unpresent? Like Crocs, or a subscription to Paramount Plus.” 

Fuzzle and Gimble gave each other a quick look of disapproval. “The guy secured $20 million from Amazon to replant trees in Brazil. We’re not giving him Crocs,” said Fuzzle.

“Fine. Then what’s the worst present we could get him?,” asked Santa morosely.

After a few taps on the tablet, Fuzzle said, “The tier he’s in, he at least gets a PlayStation 5.”

Santa stood and bellowed, “Get out!”

“But sir, I need your approval on—”

“I don’t care, get out.”

Santa stared at them with cold eyes and no merry dimples as he downed the rest of the Peppermint Schnapps. The elves turned and left. As the heavy, wooden door closed behind them, Gimble said, “Well, that went about as well as I thought it would.”

“I don’t even care, I’m calling the shots this year,” said Fuzzle, storming off down the hallway.

Gimble called after her, “What about Greg?”

Fuzzle yelled back, “Greg gets a Peloton.”