Santa’s Elves go on strike the week before Christmas- what happens?
The pitter-patter of little feet echoed in the huge room as hundreds of little bodies rushed out the double doors. Piles of teddy bears, dolls and action figures watched woefully as the tiny figures retreated down the dark hallway.
“Let’s jet before Santa finds out” the burly ring leader said. He waved the others through the exit door at the end of the passage and one by one they scurried out the door and into the brisk North Pole night. Standing around in the cold air, little puffs of breath rose sporadically, collecting over their heads as they deliberated about what to do next.
There wasn’t a cloud in the sky, making the great escape much more difficult than expected. On top of the bright moonlight, the group had to dodge pools of light from the homes standing between Santa’s workshop and the edge of town.
They trudged through the snow all night. Stolen flasks of spiked hot chocolate and fresh rum cakes were passed around to give them energy. Every so often when the way became particularly treacherous, they’d light a plum pudding to light their way then pass it around when it burned out. Each time they stopped, they were able to rest a bit longer. The heavy branches of the fir and balsam trees protected the group and with the majority of the woodland creatures hibernating, they were able to flee unnoticed.
For the 2 hours the workshop was closed each night, Santa was able to put his feet up and rest a bit. Elves by their very nature don’t require a lot of sleep, which is why Santa had chosen them over faeries (who tended to be an egotistical crowd), gnomes (who lacked the capacity for Christmas spirit) and leprechauns (who spent more time hiding the presents than they spent making them). Even though Santa trusted his workers, something didn’t feel quite right about the day. There was no problem with production and the workers had been outdoing themselves but he couldn’t shake the feeling that something was amiss.
The air of desolation and absolute rejection that Santa encountered when he walked in was crippling. Toys were left half-finished, stuffing spilled out onto the tables and parts tumbled onto the floor and were trampled on. Santa stood there dumbstruck for a minute, unable to comprehend the scene before him until he heard a soft scuff. “Come on out, my dear” he said.
A tiny elf shyly appeared from behind the puzzle table. “Ah, Amelia. My sweet, come here and tell me what happened.” Panic fluttered across her round face and she refused to budge from behind the table.
“They left, Santa. Reginald got them to quit and almost all of them ran off as soon as the workshop closed for the night.” Amelia sniffed and wiped the tears that had leaked from her beautiful blue eyes.
“Why didn’t you go with them?” Santa pulled out one of the elfin stools. It was too small for him but at the moment it was the least of his concerns.
Amelia slowly crept out from her spot and shuffled over to where he was sitting. “I couldn’t leave, Santa. How could I abandon you and disappoint all the children?” She looked behind her and making a little signal, a handful of elves appeared.
“We couldn’t leave you either, Santa” they chimed in.
Santa looked at the tiny group of loyal elves and sat back at the table to think about he was going to do now. “I suppose the first thing is going to see how many toys we have right now. Are we behind at all?”
The elves scrambled to take an inventory and while the numbers weren’t promising, they could have been worse.
“We still have a week and we’ll need everyone in town. Tell me, what is the easiest present to make? We’ll give the least experienced toy makers those projects and those of you here now can take the most challenging presents.” He looked at the small faces clustered around him and smiled. “Don’t worry, we’ll still have Christmas.”
They scattered like snowflakes and once again the workshop was empty. He wearily began cleaning up the workstations, getting everything back in order for the beginning of the next work day.
The group made it to the cave where Reginald had decided to camp out. “Are you sure about this Reggie? We’re starting to feel guilty.” The elves began murmuring their agreement.
“Are you having second thoughts now? Doubts are you?” Reggie sneered at the crowd before him. “Don’t you remember why we ran away in the first place? Aren’t you all tired of working in the toy shop all your life? Don’t you want more?”
Confusion ran through the crowd. The uncertainty of their decision was finally beginning to sink in. “What would we do, Reggie? We miss the workshop, the Christmas spirit and making all those toys.” They nodded and began rustling about. “We want to go back.”
Reginald looked at them and realizing something had shifted. Suddenly he was all alone. “Fine! Go! But I’m not going back. You can tell Santa I’m never coming back.”
As promised, the elves had returned to the workshop with everyone they could find to help with the toys. Even though there still were some empty spots, they settled in to get to work. Their quickly Christmas spirit filled the hall and the elves didn’t mind the work they had to do. Slowly, toys began to pile up. With each new bundle of toys done, their optimism grew.
Soon the elves who were recruited wanted to do nothing but make toys. Dishes were left to pile up in sinks, beds were left unmade and clothes were washed only as necessary. Santa looked around in dismay. The elves of the North Pole were once so proud of their pristine town. He would never see an untidy home or a less than perfectly turned out elf. Now, all they cared about were presents.
The elves turned their backs on Reggie and slowly made their way back to the North Pole. They took their time, scared about what Santa will say once they return.
Not caring enough about Reggie to try to get him to come back with them, they slowly trickled back into town. They found their way back to the workshop and instead of the expected punishments they were all welcomed home with hugs and cheers.
They looked around in dismay at the state of the town. No more homemade eggnog. No more lovely cookie platters. The last few cookies they could find in the pantry were hard and stale.
They made their way back to the workshop, intent on reclaiming their spots at their worktables but it wasn’t that easy.
A fight broke out between the elves. Santa burst in the room at the sound of the commotion and had to break it up. “Enough!” he yelled (and Santa never yells.) They settled down but every so often one of them would glare at another.
After doing a head count, Santa asked where Reggie was. One of the recently returned elves told Santa what Reggie said. Santa was dismayed. Reggie had never been the easiest elf but he was still part of the family.
Reginald continued on, wandering further into the forest. As he made his way through the snowy woods, he began to doubt his decision but having gone this far, his pride wouldn’t let him go back.
As he wandered further and further away, he began to regret his decision. Working in Santa’s toyshop began to look better and better with each step he took. After a while Reggie realized he was homesick. He decided he had enough and turned around to head back.
The countdown to Christmas was down to the wire. Over the past few days a new routine was established but there was still too much grumbling for things to go completely smoothly.
Santa started loading up his sleigh as the last few thousand toys were being made.
On the eve of Christmas Eve, the last toy was being finished and the lists were being checked. As the last few checks were being marked down on the sheets, Santa brought in the cookie trays and mugs of hot chocolate to celebrate another successful year. As the elves were toasting each other, the doors opened and Reggie blew into the room.
Everyone stopped and stared. A hush permeated the air as they looked at the small snowy face peeking out from his hat and scarf.
Santa returned from checking his sled and saw Reggie standing in the doorway. Walking over to the frozen little guy, he draped his warm coat over Reggie’s slight frame and pulled him into the room.
The coat trailed behind Reginald like a giant cape but he was grateful for the warmth.
Once he was settled with a warm cup of hot chocolate and a plate of cookies, the elves clustered around him to ask him about his adventures.
With things forgiven and forgotten, Santa went about his work as the elves welcomed Reginald back into the fold. He smiled to himself as he heard the happy chatter. He knew this was what Reggie needed to experience in order to become the elf Santa knew Reggie was destined to become.
© Sandra O’Driscoll 2012