Flash Friday 09/12/2016: Oh, Deer
Packing Santa’s sleigh was definitely the most annoying part of the present packing. Reading the present list was fun. Making the toys was fun. Loading an entire planet’s worth of presents into a sleigh was anything but. Even so, the elves made short work of it, especially when the chief sleigh-packer elf Apple was slave-driving everyone to work as fast as they could. The reindeer stood ready in front of the sleight, awaiting the command to leave.
When the final present had been placed on the sleigh, the elves gave a collective sigh of relief.
“Alright!” Apple said, sounding much more invigorated given he didn’t lift a single present and simply bossed everyone else around. “That’s the last present, Santa. You’re good to go.”
From the seat in his sled, Santa gave a thumbs-up. “I knew I could count on you. We managed to load it up in record time, this year.”
“I know,” Apple said, folding his arms with a smug smile on his face. “And it was all due to my hard work and determination. You’re welcome, by the way.”
Every other elf simply glared.
“Yes, well. Thank you, everyone–”
“And you, Apple, for another successful Christmas delivery. And now, I ought to do my part. Tally ho, and Merry Christmas to you all!”
Santa flicked the reins of the sleigh to start the journey.
All of the reindeer fell over into the snow at once.
“What?” Santa said, looking over the sleigh at the prone reindeer. “What’s wrong with them?”
“Doesn’t look like anything’s wrong with them, per se,” Apple said, crouching down beside Prancer. Billows of steam came from Prancer’s nose as she panted and breathed, as if she had just run a marathon. “I think they’re just…getting old.”
“Old? Nonsense. Why, it feels like I met with these magical reindeer yesterday. How old are they now? Five? Ten?”
“Let’s see. If ‘Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer’ was composed when he was three, and that was recorded back in…” Apple stuck his hand into the pile of sleigh presents, unwrapped a smartphone, and entered a search term on it. “1939?! But that would make the reindeer at least seventy-seven years old!”
Santa shrugged. “I’m older than that, and I still feel in my prime.”
“The average life expectancy of a reindeer is fifteen!”
Santa looked over at his worn-out reindeer with mild concern. “Well, I mean,” he began. “They are magical and all, so it should be–”
“There’s no way you’re taking those poor things out for another flight.”
“I’m sure they’re as good as new–”
“Rudolphs nose used to glow like a miniature star! Now he’ll be lucky if it passes off as a night light!”
“But–” Santa began. All it took was another glance over at the reindeer for him to come to his senses. “No, you’re right. They’ve been dragging my sleight for over three-quarters of a century. I think it’s about time we let the reindeer take the rest they’ve earned.”
“So now what?” Apple said, as Santa got to untying the reindeer. “What are you going to do?”
“I fail to see what you mean.”
“What I mean is, this is the first year you’ve been without reindeer on delivery night. You can’t seriously expect to let Christmas go without presents, can you?”
“So you have replacements for the reindeer, then, I take it.”
Santa rubbed his forehead. “…no, not exactly, actually.”
“So you’re telling me you’ve been Santa for all this time, and yet you didn’t think of a single solution for if the reindeer go out of commission.”
“I suppose it never crossed my mind.”
“Well that’s just outrageous. Utterly unthinkable. I can’t believe the man behind Christmas itself is going to miss out on it because he didn’t prepare properly. Now all the kids around the world are going to be miserable, and it’s all your fault.”
Santa looked over his shoulder in mild surprise. “What’s gotten into you?”
“Oh, I don’t know, the fact that I’m working for a guy who clearly doesn’t know how to keep tabs of his own animals. If I weren’t here, you’d probably have worked them to death! Right now, you’re here with zero reindeers to drag your sleigh and only hours away until Christmas, and you have no plans whatsoever.”
“…no,” Santa said, with a smirk. “I just had one pop up just now. I just need a sprinkle of magic fairy dust to make someone fly.”
“Oh?” Apple said, reprimanding. “And who, pray-tell, are you going to sucker into pulling your sled for you?”
The air was silent around the sleepy town as Christmas Eve moved to Christmas day. Nobody was awake to listen out, but if someone were, they’d hear the sound of distant sleigh bells and a constant stream of muttering.
With a thud, the sleigh landed upon a snowy rooftop, causing snow to cascade off the edge. The sleigh came to a sliding halt before Santa stepped out, picking out a present from the sleigh.
“You know,” Santa said, “I could get used to this.”
“I couldn’t,” Apple said in between exhausted breaths, the reins tied around his waist and a red nose haphazardly strapped over his own. “You know, you could have conscripted more elves than just me to pull the sleigh.”
“You were the only one giving me sass.”
“You did deserve it.”
“And comments like that will only extend your shift,” Santa said, smirking as he passed Apple and began his climb down the chimney. “Now be a nice reindeer and sit still.”
“You know, I don’t think this would catch on as much as the reindeers did.”
“I don’t know, I think ‘Apple the Smart-Arsed Jerk Elf’ has a nice ring to it. Be back soon!”
Then Santa vanished down the chimney with a puff of soot.
Apple snarled to himself, folding his arms and waiting. Maybe they should just buy a jet fighter and forget the sleigh ever happened.