“You have to understand, we didn’t want this” said Berry nervously. “Every elf in the workshop chose this job because we are passionate about bringing hope, joy and laughter to people all around the world-“
“Yet here you are, threatening to strike days before Christmas.” said Santa, stroking his beard. Something about the movement made Berry nervous, reminding him of a Bond villain stroking a cat. “Happy to disappoint every child in the world, and for what? To make some kind of political point?”
Berry tried to swallow his nerves. He wished more than anything that it hadn’t been him that drew the short candy cane.
“With respect sir, it isn’t about the politics. Whether we agree with the expansion or not, things just aren’t workable as they are.” He scrambled around for the words to explain, words that would make him understand. Santa rarely visited the shop floor, preferring instead to sit in the grotto with his sexy secretary Mrs Claus and some of the perkier elves, counting out cookies and mince pies and basking in the adoration of the masses. He rarely saw the worker elves sobbing with exhaustion as they tried to work out how to craft the latest piece of gadgetry.
“We’ve become so focused on the side venture that we are losing sight of our original mission statement.”
Santa snorted, then leaned back in his seat, tucking his thumbs into his red braces.
“We have to move with the times Ber,” he said. “Joy and hope are nice, of course, but that’s not what the modern consumer wants. They want HD ready, virtual reality compatible real time gaming experiences. They want the latest smartphone, suitable for socialising and work on the go. They want status symbols, material proof they are loved. The market has spoken.”
He said it with an air of finality that booked no argument, as if he had said “it is written” or “God wills it.” Berry took a deep breath, clenched his bladder against Santa’s thousand yard stare and said;
“With respect, we don’t serve the market. We never have” he flinched as Santa leant forward, then ploughed on when he realised the big man was just taking a fat cigar out of the gold plated case on the desk between them. “We serve Christmas. Our primary job has always been to gift enough hope, compassion and joy to the world to see them through the year. We can’t do that when we are tied up making drones and smart phones.”
Santa chewed on the cigar, raising a single, fluffy eyebrow. Berry tried to fill the silence.
“We’ve always been about bringing people what they really need,” he said. “It’s the reason most of us came to work at North Pole Incorporated. I mean, we could cope with the workload when all we had to make was a small wooden train and a yo-yo. But this is beyond a joke, it’s all too big, this isn’t what our job is all about.”
“Your job,” Santa said, “is to make whatever the fuck I tell you to make. Hope? Joy? Laughter? Outdated concepts not fit for a modern workforce.”
“But it’s our primary purpo-“
“But nothing. Wittering on about love and peace like they are saleable commodities. Going on like the humans are the important part of this-“
“But sir,” Berry interrupted, trying not to pee in his stripey tights, “the humans are the only important part of this. They are the reason the firm was founded. Joy is what Christmas is all about-“
“Wrong.” Santa sat forward in his chair suddenly. “You know what Christmas is all about? Me. I am Christmas. It’s about what I say it’s about. And I say it’s about $14billion sponsorship deals from coca cola. It’s about $200 billion per year contracts with toys r us. It’s about Samsung and Apple entering into a bidding war with each other over who gets my endorsement. You think people care about joy and love and goodwill toward men? People care about going one better than their neighbours. No one cares about our invisible gifts. People want things they can hold, and show off and sell on eBay.”
“But without our gift of hope, humanity will fall into darkness…”
“I’m not saying don’t give them the hope. We will do that alongside the material gifts, like always.”
“We can’t keep up with the demand, sir.” Berry said “We don’t even have time to pee! Holly gave birth on the shop floor, she was too scared to stop work. When the Festive Joy-O-Matic crushed Buddy to death, we didn’t dare shut the production line down. We had to return the body to his family in a set of jumbo sized crackers. We have no joy to give. We just can’t go on like this!”
A pair of blonde, giggly she-elves burst in, but when they saw Berry, they stopped, uncertain of whether to come in or not. Santa raised a finger at them to wait. Berry eyed them distastefully. Tall, leggy wood-elves had no place here at the pole. They weren’t suited to the climate like the small, pointy eared snow elves that traditionally ran the workshop. They were too flighty to work the shop floor, and too noisy to fill stockings. No one knew why Santa bothered employing them at all.
“This just isn’t sustainable sir.”
“Listen here you little shit” Santa growled. “We might have started out as a two-bit not for profit, scraping together a living on stale mince pies, but I’ve moved on. I’m a someone now.” He beckoned to the wood elves. “and I’m not going back to being a small time demigod scraping a living in the snow. You can do what you want as regards hope and joy and all that shit. As long as you keep my profit margins up. I have shareholders to appease.”
He pulled the identikit blondes onto his lap.
“You’re dismissed Berry-“
“Berry. Either run my corporation how I say, or I’ll sack the lot of you. It’d be cheaper to outsource your jobs to China anyway. Go ahead, give me an excuse. You think no one wants your job?”
Santa fixed Berry with his ice blue stare. What more could he say? Berry was defeated.
“Good. I make that 16 minutes you’ve been in my office. You can make that up at the end of your shift.”
Berry sagged, sighed, and trudged out to give his coworkers the news.
“Now then my lovelies” Santa said, nuzzling into one of the elves necks. “Which one of you is naughty, and which one is nice?”