Every Christmas, it would happen. We’d place our presents under the tree, we’d settle down for our long winter nap, and come morning—it was all gone. The presents. The tree. The cookies and milk. All gone. Like the Grinch stuffed them up the chimney to his lair high in the mountains. The police were baffled, our neighbors clueless, and my family distraught.
This year, I was determined. I sat at the ready, cradling my shiny new Remington 870 Express on my lap. My wife snored on the couch as the wall clock ticked inexorably towards midnight. My eyes drooped but I choked down another Red Bull, willing myself to stay awake.
I heard a jingling from outside. This was it—go time! I called to Martha, “911! 911!” I rushed through the door, waving my weapon before me. An old lady walking her dog screamed and ran, the jingling coming from the dog’s Christmas collar.
“False alarm,” I called back to the house. “Martha? Hello?”
No response. I sprinted back in, my shoes slipping on the ice, the gun almost wrenched from my grasp. The room was empty. No tree. No presents. NO WIFE.
In the chimney, I saw movement. My wife’s foot! I dove for it, dropping the gun, banging my elbows on the mantle. My hands closed on the appendage which rose up the chimney. I felt my body lifted, sucked up the chimney like a dust up a vacuum. I felt weightless, surrounding by complete blackness, only the feel of my wife’s foot grounding me to reality.
We were falling. I pulled Martha close to me as we tumbled through the air. A landscape lit up, full of shiny red and green objects. We impacted, wrapping paper and toys and Christmas trees softening our blow. We swam back up through the detritus and broke the surface.
“I tried to stop it!” she cried, her eyes wide, glancing at the sea of Christmas paraphernalia that stretched as far as the eye can see.
Cascades of trees and presents tumbled from the sky. “We need to find somewhere safe.”
We pulled ourselves on top of the mess. I spotted something in the far distance, some kind of mound. “This way. Be careful.”
Time lost meaning in this place of lost toys. We subsided on fruit cake and cheese platters, specialty cocktails and piles of cookies. It might have been days or hours, but we finally reached the mound, a towering fortress composed of candy and Legos.
We found no entrance, but I had armed myself with a pack full of battery-powered tools. We went to work on the walls of the fortress. Some interminable time later, we broke through.
We crawled through the structure which oozed of chocolate and tinsel. Red ropes blocked our path but I sliced through with my reciprocating saw. Voices carried to us. Our winding path opened up into some kind of large chamber, where old men in red and white uniforms huddled around large-screen computer monitors, conversing on headphones. A large wall screen displayed a countdown: 59 minutes, 23 seconds and counting—to what I had no clue.
“Isn’t that your father,” gasped Martha, grasping my wrist.
We hid behind a column while I threw sugar plums at the man. He pulled off his headset and looked around. We hid. He rose to investigate the source of the fruit. I grabbed him, holding my hand over his mouth. He struggled, but we dragged him down the hallway.
“Were we followed?” My wife shook her head. I let go of the man and faced him. “What the hell is going on here?”
“Bob?” he said quietly, raising his hand towards my face. I knocked it away.
“I don’t know who you are, but I want to know exactly what this place is, right now!”
The man downcast his eyes. “We’re—reversing Christmas. I’m so sorry, Bob. You’ve been a test subject for a number of years. Christmas, it’s—it’s lost its spirit, its purpose. We were inspired by Dr. Seuss, so we’ve been taking it away.”
“What??” I felt like slapping this man. “Are you really my father?”
He nodded. He didn’t look like my father, not like the shriveled old man I remember with tubes stuck everywhere. “Dad?”
“I’m so sorry, Bob, but these orders come from up above. The Big Guy. This year, Christmas is cancelled. Forever.”
My wife spoke. “The children. What about the children? Say this isn’t so.”
My father shook his head.
“Where the hell are we,” I demanded.
“I guess you could call this the North Pole. We use space-time portals to open the chimneys. We direct robotic angels to snatch the goods. You’ll be better off without those presents. It’s His Will.”
“Over my dead body,” I cried. “Martha, wait here, don’t let him leave. I’ll be back.”
I remembered certain packages along the way. Long, thin, heavy packages. Guns. Thank God people still gifted guns. I returned with an armful, and raced into the chamber, riddling the ceiling with bullets.
“Listen to me,” I screamed, the assorted men rising from their seats. “There will be no more stealing of Christmas. I want all of you to sit back on your consoles, and return every present, or I waste this entire building.” For emphasis I aimed a shotgun and blew apart a monitor.
Those men got busy in a hurry. As the clock ticked down, my outside camera showed the huge sea of Christmas debris sagging, sucked away back to their sources. Just as the clock hit zero, bolts of electricity filled the air, accumulating right in front of me. A Voice spoke from the dazzling light.
“Who dares reverse my orders,” thundered a Voice in a divine chorus of angels.
I squinted at the retina-shriveling light. “It is I! You have no right to steal Christmas!”
“And who the hell do you think you are?”
Something dawned on me. “I’m frickin’ Santa Claus! Now get the hell out of my workshop, we have work to do!”
The electricity collapsed into a point and disappeared. My wife slid her hand into mine.
“Well, Mrs. Claus, you ready to make Christmas happen,” I asked her.
“Just as long as we’re back in time to open presents.”
“Okay, you! Work the Nintendos! You, on the crappy sweaters.”
Yes, Christmas would never suck again, now that I was in charge.