While the South Pole lies on a continental land mass, the North Pole is located in the middle of the Arctic Ocean amidst waters that are almost permanently covered with constantly shifting sea ice. This makes it impractical to construct a permanent station at the North Pole (unlike the South Pole). However, the Soviet Union, and later Russia, have constructed a number of manned drifting stations, some of which have passed over or very close to the Pole. — from the “North Pole” entry on Wikipedia.org
Eggnog – A drink consisting of milk or cream, sugar, and eggs beaten together and often mixed with an alcoholic liquor such as rum or brandy. — from the American Heritage Dictionary
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Many people are in fact familiar with the North Pole. They have it on good authority that Santa Claus (and Mrs. Claus (and the Elves who work tirelessly for the Saint Himself)) resides there in command of his particularly popular Christmas empire. This scenario is a truth of a sort that can always stand up on its own, but if a person takes the time to purchase a closer view—and here we mean where the texture cannot only be felt on a person’s fingertips but the design of said texture can be seen in their eyes as well—that person finds that an archetypal scenario has come to the world through alterations, through conflict, and most importantly, through time. The North Pole is, of course, just a place like this; the account that follows explains how it came to be full of unseen textures.
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To begin with, this story is a little complicated. What would make things easier today would be a simple, terrestrial thing: a landmark. If it were more like ancient Greece, we’d have the most classical, most obvious feature available. We would point it out to all the young boys (and girls, presumably): “There’s where Daddy Christmas resides, where all of our dreams and fortunes lie in the hands of a being so powerful and awe-inspiring, he’s not all that different from a lot of pricks here on Earth.” But there are no matching Olympuses at the North Pole. There’s just ice. The thing is, there was not always just ice. There actually was a landmark, and it was Eggnog Lake. Picture it:
In the vast, fractured landscape of wrinkled white terrain, an ovoid, off-white splotch, almost yellow even, rests like an ageless baby. On those days after the weather passes, a fine chestnutty brown peppers the surface, and if the air is calm the faintest traces of Elves “Singing in the Nutmeg” can be heard. As one descends those voices grow (unlike their sources) and the foamy, creamy waves splash the beaches of the North Pole. If the wind is just calm enough to be Nice, the steam rises off the lake, a sweet alcoholic smells fills the nostrils like Santa Claus fills his fat, red suit.
Once upon a time, that’s how it was. Naturally, that is where this story begins.
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It was a perfect nightless, summer day which meant the elves could congregate in their bathing uniforms on the fluffy shaved ice for as long as they could stand not to be in the “Workshop” (which to be real for a moment is a factory that technically, if not spiritually, could be called a sweatshop (except for the little irony that Elves cannot, in fact, sweat)). They just loved that building toys for anonymous children shit, was the point of their existence. Sun-bathing on Italian Ice (if the Santa Clauses felt colorful) and swimming and splashing in the eggnog, while a time-honored diversion, was no Elvish passion, not even a mild preoccupation. It was just something to do when they were unable to do what they really did (and to be clear, they really worked). Much like Eggnog Lake, the Workshop had a carrying capacity, and so the froth, so to speak, had the “privilege” of spilling over and spending some downtime at the Lake. That was where Oscar Tambor was on the fateful day that Things Changed.
Oscar Tambor was perhaps the most descript Elf of all-time for his unique dissonance, his overabundance of blasé. He was known (when he was known at all) as the Most Boring Elf of Time Immemorial, etc. He just couldn’t be bothered to truly give a red and green shit. He did his job, for sure, but when he made a hobbyhorse, for instance, the eyes shone a little less brightly than the others; the mane frayed a little more at the tips. His superiors, be it a Head Elf or a Santa or a Mrs. Santa, often brought this lack of attention to detail to his attention, but lacking a great attention span in such matters and being generally a quiet, almost wordless morose sort, Oscar usually just nodded, not seeing what else was to be done about such things. While they complained about his craftsmanship, his toys were after all good enough to put in a Sack. That was pretty much that.
It so happened on That Day, while he baked in the sun, and eggnog gently washed between his exposed toes, then politely receded, that Oscar was not sure he wanted to go for a swim. Being a poor swimmer he usually only cared to wade out to his shoulder-level. Any farther out was quite a drop-off (for an Elf). And then he was not sure he wanted to be there at all. Instead he imagined his tassel-less, olive-colored bottom bunk in the Elf Barracks. He thought that he thought he wanted to sleep. Curl up, shrink and sink into a deep dayless sleep. He definitely did not want to return to the Workshop. Not today, probably not tomorrow. Maybe someday.
He took one tiny step backwards, the waves foaming just out of reach of his tiny toes. He thought he wanted to sleep—in his own bed—but they would talk, and eventually they would expect him to talk as well and the only thing more tiring to him than the idea of not sleeping at that moment was the idea of having to explain why he wanted to sleep in the middle of a perfect endless summer day. So he compromised. He would sleep under the guise of “sun-bathing.”
Except that, he would not.
Oh, he tried; but after turning his back on the Lake he only managed two steps before a horde of cheery, cherry red corpulence charged the shoreline. It was of course a group of off-season Clauses in all their jolly, holly crew is going for a double-entendre crawl’s glory. The non-descript Oscar of course was not seen. He leapt up to avoid becoming a splatter mark but only managed to bounce off a magnificent Martian globe of a paunch. The red tide pushed and pushed him into the eggnog and uncharted off-white depths. He panicked and thrashed, and if utter fear had not overtaken him, he probably would have seen his life pass before his eyes in all its faded colors.
Oscar Tambor went down, and worst of all, he was ingesting eggnog. Since the Elf anatomy can only metabolize high-grade sugar compounds, does not have a proper excretory system, and releases all by-products through a specialized form of perspiration, he was in trouble. Unfortunately for Oscar, he could only hold his breath for so long. The eggnog entered the Elf.
The ever-oblivious Santas were on their second round before Saint Nicki stepped on “something squishy!” He was a bit squeamish, and slid his slender frame through his fellow Clauses until he was standing in the surf well away from the odd, undernog object. Nobody much paid attention to Nicki, which was typical: being the only skinny Claus among Santas and Mrs.’s, he was somewhat looked down upon. For poor Oscar, it looked worse than the haughtiness down someone’s nose; it looked like a drowning that nobody would notice for quite some time (owing to his particular flair for self-obliviation).
Fate, however, would intervene in the jolly corpulent form of Chris, who as Nicki’s partner (they were the lone gay couple among the Clauses) did not share his peers’ body-image snobbery. He ambled up with his hands resting merrily on the shelf of his paunch, late for the creamy festival, only to see the distress on Nicki’s face. When Chris had the gist of it, he went under without a thought and pulled out Oscar like some candy-apple sea lion.
On the beach the Clauses gathered around, not sure what to do. Oscar was motionless and covered in a film of eggnog. Someone uttered, “He’s dead…” and more than a few people almost said, “Don’t say that…” before thinking better of it.
“Who is he?” Saint Nick said.
“I don’t know,” Kris Kringle said.
“He looks sort of familiar,” said Mrs. Claus.
“I can’t say I’ve ever seen him before,” said Saint Nick.
“Well if someone knows, we can try singing his favorite song,” Saint Nick said.
The crowd was getting larger, and they queried some Elves until finally the Head Elf, Rigoberto, joined the commotion. He saw the lifeless Elf on the shaved ice and rolled his eyes until his head was tipped all the way back.
“It’s Oscar,” he said. And walked away.
“Who?” Saint Nicholas said.
“Oh no! It’s Oscar Tambor, the Ugliest Elf of Time Immemorial. He doesn’t even have a favorite song,” Kate the Elf said.
“You should see how ugly he is when he’s doing something boring,” another Elf chimed in.
Everyone opened their mouths and raised their chins with the realization. They began to disperse when Oscar gagged. It was a horrible sound that could have only come from him, many an Elf and Claus thought. What happened next, they were not prepared for.
The Clauses stared with horror. The Elves stared with wonder. They all crinkled their noses at the stink of it. Oscar continued to hack; he felt woozy and could barely prop himself up on his elbow. No one moved to help him. No one moved at all. The sight of the first Elf to ingest eggnog had left them all quite speechless, until finally, Chris bellowed:
“That just ain’t right!”
The inevitable murmur started frothing not unlike the surf from the Lake so close by. Oscar finally regained his wits and put the crowd in focus. He felt a chill in their globular shadows; the attention embarrassed him to no end; and he wanted to leave. He did not care about having to explain himself; he wanted only to lie in his drab bunk immediately, in his eggnog-film skin and all. There was just one problem: he was having trouble standing up. Just when he had his feet underneath himself, he teetered and fell back.
“He’s drunk!” chortled John the Elf.
“That is not right,” Mrs. Claus said.
“He smells like a reindeer’s anus!” Mrs. Claus said.
“How would you know!” a surprisingly angry Elf countered.
“He’s broken the Order of Things! Elves can’t drink the eggnog! Everyone knows this!” Father Christmas hollered.
“Holy Candy Cane, how he reeks! Punish him!” cried Santa Claus.
“Gah, the lot of you red gullets get diarrhea and smell twice as bad!” Paulina the Elf shouted back.
A great argument broke out between Elves and Clauses. Oscar for his part did not think to revel in the unusual support he was receiving from his Elf brethren, but instead, almost as if to punctuate That Day When Things Would Never Be the Same, staggered out of the commotion and into the surf where he promptly fell face down into the creamy waves.
The Clauses gathered at the General Assembly Globe for an emergency hearing. The Elves were not invited to attend which obviously did not sit well. To protest, they went to the Lake. They rollicked and they swam, but most of all, they got drunk—rosy-as-Santa’s-cheeks drunk. They were soon swaying arm-over-arm in long lines and singing their high-pitched cheer. Their merry slurred words reached all the way to the Elf Barracks where Oscar Tambor tossed and turned.
It was a very odd occurrence, but he actually had an opinion on this matter: his near-drowning/horrific vomiting was an unfortunate, painful event that would best be ignored. Especially if it was going to wake him up in the middle of the end of the endless day. And so, a very disgruntled Elf slipped on his slippers and trudged to the General Assembly Globe to set the record straight. Being Oscar Tambor, he easily snuck past the reindeer guards at the entrance. He walked into the room, where Chris was in the middle of an impassioned speech:
“…and this goes against everything that we know to be true and honored through Time Immemorial. Even if we accept the incomprehensible idea that an Elf deserves to imbibe the precious volume of Eggnog Lake, we must acknowledge their inability to properly excrete. It is a perversion of North Pole common law and it makes no sense to begin to allow it now. It is a perversion of the Elvish body itself. I mean, my God! The vomiting is unbearable both to watch and to smell!
“We must act now. I propose an emergency injunction. All Elves are prohibited from trespassing upon Eggnog Lake and the surrounding area until an adequate solution to the Eggnog Elf-Perversion can be found.”
If one looked hard around the seats a few dissenting faces could be seen, but for the most part applause and shouts of “Hear! Hear!” and the like rained downwards to the center of the room. Even some snow was falling, enticed by the unique musical unison of their fervor. It began to pile on the practically invisible Oscar who began clearing his throat in a weak attempt to draw attention.
The cheers gradually quieted as Oscar’s throat became more hoarse. He started hacking and coughing and a new, discordant grumble reverberated throughout the rotunda: “What is he doing here?” Their babbling indignation soon turned into a collective gasp-cum-groan. Oscar had vomited all over the assembly floor; apparently his system was not properly flushed. They were ready to excommunicate him from Christmas in general and the North Pole in particular when he stained with all his might to be heard:
“Wait! Wait! You think I want to be puking? This buzz is something else, but it’s turning my fellow Elves into madmen. You can’t hear them because of the fine insulation of this structure, but they are going wild down at the Lakes as I speak.”
Oscar was going to ease into his main talking point—that public health education could solve the issue before there were real problems—but instead, the Red Assembly forgot him at once and leapt out of their seats at the news, carrying their portly bodies to the Lake as fast as they could. They encountered the peculiar stench of Elf vomit before the surface of the eggnog came into view. When the Lake did appear on the horizon, there were hundreds of little piles of a dull, disgusting yellow besmirching the beaches. But they were not the worst piles in those Clausal eyes: those were the bright green ones littered all about in between the ugly yellow ones. Finally, they saw the Elves themselves, splashing and singing, giggling and gargling in all their skinny-, eggnog-dipping glory. The Clauses as one can imagine felt very ill at the sight, quite nauseous, but nearly in the same spirit(s). They were habituated to be merry and Ho! Ho! Ho! but anger overtook them.
Saint Nicholas was the first to charge the eggnog’s depths, not giving a thought to his formalwear. He began tossing naked little Elves onto the shaved ice. His face was a mad cluster of ruby-red bulbs; the Elves shrieked in horror. Most of them were too drunk to escape and were hurled to the icy beaches. Once again, most of the Clauses joined in, Mrs. Claus in particular deriving a certain enjoyment out of punting Elves out of the eggnog.
Despite the terror, the Elves on the ground continued to giggle, writhe, ache and vomit in various positions. This reaction, which could certainly be attributed to their intoxication, only incited the Clauses further. Their angry response culminated with perhaps the most unfortunate event of the darkles day: Father Christmas, with eggnog sliding out his mouth and wet flatulence sliding from his rear, raced to the surf with a(n outlawed for this very reason) torch and hurled it end over end into the creaminess and lit the Lake on Fire. The flames certainly cleared the remaining Elves out, but they also kept out the Clauses; the fire raged on, as unbroken as the day, right into the following twenty-four hours. It was a very miserable time indeed, one in which nobody accomplished much work at all. Tempers eventually calmed, but only on the surface. They all waited to see if the Lake would burn off, each side eager to blame the other group. And they may have waited a good deal longer. Only a late-arriving, fortuitously heavy nutmeg shower extinguished the flames.
The twenty-four hours after the twenty-four hours after, reindeer cordoned the full perimeter of the Lake; it took every last pair of antlers to make the brown ring. The Clauses had taken the noble animals out of their training, deeming the matter at hand too important. The Elves responded with a walkout at the Workshop. It was a bad combination of idleness, and now on top of it, there was no time for Clauses to check their Lists. They were spending their time debating the “Elf Lake Question,” even though they held no doubts or questions about it: what the Clauses needed was a compromise to resolve the matter and keep the Elves out of Eggnog Lake for good. It was about as dark as it could get during an endless day. Changes were coming, however; the Midnight Sun was tiring, the Twilight was approaching and Fall was trailing just behind.
Toy production had hit an all-time low. The backlog was staggering the endless day had dimmed into what would soon be known as the Uncivil Twilight. For his part, Oscar Tambor did not like it. He surprised himself with his desire to have the Workshop reopen—although truthfully, he wanted everyone else to go back to work more so than himself. He’d much rather hear cheerful singing than receiving the jarring pat on the back he was never quite ready for.
“We’re going to finish what you started, Oscar. Don’t you worry about that!”
He did not particularly care if they finished that. He didn’t like swimming and he couldn’t understand the point of intoxicating oneself if it was going to leave an Elf doubled over in agony. His fellow Elves felt quite differently, of course, and that worried him. Christmas, The Day that they all worked for, the Refuge in Time courtesy of their lives’ work, seemed imminently in danger to the most uninspired Elf of Time Immemorial. The threat of losing it spurned him into action. He made some rudimentary pamphlets and began campaigning at the Elf Barracks Quad, trying to deliver a positive message while also not dismissing the Eggnog Right (as the Elves had termed it). It was a nice try, but as was typical no one heard Oscar; they were too focused on the numerous rallies on the quad and the exhortations of the bubble-gum soap boxers. If they did atypically notice him (yet more-typically-than-before), they patted him that hard pat, sending his pamphlets flying to the ground, and told him not to do just the thing he kept doing more and more, pat after pat.
The Clauses saw it all and wanted to form a task force to disband the protesters and campaigners but had to settle for the Lake Patrol. It was a group of steadfast, injured and injurious Clauses who pulled numerous giggling, dissident Elves out of the Lake from behind the Righteous Reindeer Ring. They were proud of the purity they were seemingly maintaining until the bright, late hour that (poor) Roy the Elf snuck through an overworked section of the Ring. He was quiet enough to enjoy a good dip and sip, but he stumbled and hiccupped onto the shore and into the antlers of an underfed, undergroomed and very embarrassed reindeer. After the impalement, they called the Great Eggnog Summit.
Fate had wed the commencements of the Polar Night and the Summit. The sky was the deepest midnight blue, and the Great Assembly Globe was two-toned: the upper tier of seats were red, the lower tier were green.
There was no snow certainly, but the bisected buzz filled the room. The proceedings were about to begin and nobody knew what to expect, Oscar Tambor most of all. He fidgeted in his seat, not sure what to do at such a proceeding; he had always begged out of assembly gatherings and, up until and including that moment, he felt it was the best idea. The thought of speaking out terrified him, especially with his peers doubling the audience (to say nothing of the zeal), but he felt someone had to do it in the light of the almost utter lack of attention being paid to Christmas (of all things) by Elves and Clauses alike. He had no idea how to insert himself into such a big discussion with such a little opening. The exclamation point on his trepidation smacked him on the back.
“We’re putting those plump paters and their partners in their place tonight, Oscar. Don’t you worry about that!” Daequan the Elf said with a particular gleam in his eye.
A Claus, Mrs. Claus to be precise, and an Elf, Cordelia the Head Elf, had been chosen to lead the Summit from the Assembly floor. The Claus took it upon herself to call the meeting to order, which agitated the Elves, who felt they were already being patronized and marginalized. The ensuing hubbub delayed things another ten minutes until finally Mrs. Claus and Cordelia the Head Elf calmed both of their constituencies into an appropriate attentiveness.
“As I was saying,” Mrs. Claus began again, “ we all are here to discuss the eggnog…situation. Everyone, Claus and Elf to a North Polite, is decidedly unhappy with the current state of affairs. And I think I can speak for all, in that we all wish to reach an amicable, fair solution.”
She looked at Cordelia who nodded her approval.
“To answer the Question, we have—”
“Wrong. There isn’t any question here,” Cordelia said. “We want fair treatment. And we deserve it.”
The tier of Elves began chanting “No Question! Equal Eggnog!” up to the ceiling of the dome and back down to the floor. The red-cheeked Clauses tried to drown them out with boos and insults. Mrs. Claus for her part merely looked down at Cordelia with an unhappy smirk until she could be heard again.
“While we understand the Elvish concerns, we feel the public health issue is too great to overlook. If we allow the Elves to return to Eggnog Lake, the temptation to ingest eggnog will surely overcome too large a number for the North Pole’s resources to aid,” Mrs. Claus said.
It was now the Elves turn to boo and shout their disapproval, but Cordelia signaled them to control themselves. She called on an Elf seated at the upper part of the green tier, a row or two below the Santas, to speak.
“My name is Geraldo Massimo Granata the Elf,” said Geraldo Massimo Granata the Elf. “I have supervised the undertaking of a study titled, The adverse effects of eggnog on the Clausal population. I am here to report our findings, namely that seven out of ten Clauses who ingest eggnog experience debilitating diarrhea—so debilitating, in fact, that they are rendered incapacitated on a par or surpassing in uselessness those Elves afflicted with eggnog-associated vomiting.”
Like a game of ping-pong, it was now the turn of the Clauses to rumble. More off-color taunts and abrasive shouting poured out of them. Geraldo continued anyway:
“It was also ascertained that nine out of ten Clauses who have ingested eggnog—and it should be said anyone else within too great a distance of them, to be fair—experience the most foul, evil-smelling farts in the Northern Hemisphere.”
“Nothing is as vile and rank as Elf puke!” shouted Father Christmas.
“And is anything as body-, mind- and soul-crushing as eight hours on a red porcelain throne!?” Geraldo shouted back.
“You speak nothing of Elves and their debilitations, Gerry!” Saint Nicholas spewed.
“Well, we would have commissioned an Elf study, but we didn’t have access to any Elf subjects, because we were being oppressed by giant, fat red—” Geraldo said.
“Whoa! Come on, Geraldo. Hold on,” Cordelia said. “Everyone, I assure you this study was done in the most rigorous fashion with complete fairness in mind. We are only making the point that ultimately our differences on the matter are far outweighed by our similarities.”
At this point Saint Nicki stood up and made it known he was ready to interject:
“That is quite powerful information, but I think perhaps there is a solution in which we can avoid the hand-wringing, and each party can get what they want. The Clausal Committee on the Eggnog Question—hear me out, please—has determined that the best solution, as a compromise mind you, is a ‘municipal annex.’”
“Well, what in the South Pole is that?” Daequan shouted.
“I’m glad someone asked,” Nicki continued. “Essentially, in this case, a municipal annex is a more Elf friendly body of beverage. We’ve come up with Hot Chocolate Pond, but we certainly welcome Elvish input.”
“What are you talking about, Claus?” Rigoberto said. “What? I mean, what’s this pond? There’s no pond. Everybody knows there’s only one body of beverage in the North Pole.”
“Well, we’re going to build it. Filled, of course, with an Elf-friendly formula. And hopefully after that—with proper research on responsible content limits—we can start a peppermint schnapps farm to stock it to an Elf-safe level.”
The Elves turned to one another at this unexpected news. They discussed it among themselves and immediately another divide was broached. Some Elves favored it as a reasonable compromise that would allow them to get sufficiently drunk. Others had their misgivings on principle, and others believe the Clauses were just show-wrapping an empty gift box. Oscar for his part was not sure that it was really fair, but in the interests of Christmas he thought this mad North Pole might be able to come to its senses in the interim with this kind of solution.
He was going to share his sentiments with Daequan, but the fiery Elf was arguing with Wanda the Elf who saw “nothing wrong with trying peppermint schnapps.” Daequan was practically apoplectic, his little red face almost a miniature Clausal visage (save the pointy nose). He sprung up and shouted out:
“You’re forgetting one thing, dear Clauses: we deserve eggnog!”
Predictably, there was a big Elvish cheer.
“Well, dear Elf, you are forgetting something yourself,” Mrs. Claus said, rising from her seat in the highest row near the top of the dome. “You are forgetting that God did not make Elves for eggnog, and therefore did not make eggnog for Elves.”
She sat down triumphantly, but Cordelia stepped forward to rebut:
“Yes, dearest Claus, we certainly know who and for whom God made anuses!”
A gasp and a hush circled like a frosty whirlwind from the top of the rotunda to the bottom. Even when they were uncivil the people of the North Pole tended not to mention certain things in the same sentences. No one knew how to proceed, they were at an impasse, when a voice finally cleared its throat and tugged on the cuff of Cordelia’s shining formalwear frock. She wondered for a moment how a dingy chimney sweep child had made it to the North Pole, before Oscar introduced himself. It was his time.
“My fellow North Polites, I know in this contentious argument it is hard to find common ground, but it is here. It is our home that we have so successfully shared all these years. We all love Eggnog Lake—well, I really like it sometimes; that is, I’m sure some people don’t love it. What I mean, generally speaking, is that it is a large part of this great thing that is so important to us. But what truly defines us is this place. This is the home of Christmas. We can’t lose sight of that, whatever changes we make or don’t make. We cannot allow ourselves to lose sight of the common bond that unites us and gives us a greater sense of purpose…”
Oscar continued to talk; he had never done himself prouder. He effectively stupefied the entire North Pole for a good five minutes. He mistook their drowsiness for goodwill and concluded his speech by raising his tiny fist and saying loudly, proudly:
“Forget about Eggnog Lake and remember the children before you forget about Christmas!”
At this moment, Chris stumbled into the rotunda and onto the floor. Eggnog dripped off of his wobbly frame. There also appeared to be a waterlogged saxophone in his posterior, judging by the sound (and smell) of it.
“We will not forget about Christmas! They want Christmas now, too! Well, it’s ours, I tell you! The Lake is ours! Don’t let the Elves’ threats win out! Take the Lake!”
Chris punctuated his cry to action with a right cross that missed its intended target, Oscar, who dodged the blow by burying his face in his hands to weep for the final accidental escalation he would be committing in this story.
Meanwhile, an irate Cordelia blast-tackled the teetering Chris onto his back. He lay there motionless except for the back of his sticky, eggnog-covered red velvet trousers, which trembled when a might wind passed now and again.
The rest of the Assembly was not so placid: the Clauses chanted, “Take the Lake!” over and over. The Elves tried to drown them out with a whiny blast of “Forget Christmas!” but soon found that a swarm of Elves attacking one Claus at a time silenced them more effectively. The Clauses threw them off, and once cheerfully rosy noses soon ran red and green. It was an all-out brawl; unfortunately for the Elves, they were in a different weight class. Cries to God rang out, and unspeakable shrieks not befitting the home of Christmas scarred eardrums.
When the Clauses regained a sense of equilibrium so they could step back from the Elves, they used it to tip themselves over again:
“To the Lake! Drink our Take!”
A procession of red orbs bounced and hustled their way out of the Great Assembly Globe and into the starlit, snowy streets. Some of the still-standing Elves gave chase while others attended to the wounded. The chant filled the endless night to the brim, and the made parade with its two-toned screamers and dirty dancers and nutcrackers made its way to the brown ring.
The obedient reindeer let pass the Clauses but barred any Elf from setting one tiny, curled slipper toe onto the shaved ice. They snarled. Nostrils flared; hot air blew in streams, and Elves who had an obstructed view to begin with, saw something quite more horrible through all those cervine legs.
The first Claus, the ruddy Mrs. Claus, ran faster than one might suppose, jumped higher than one might guess and landed like a cannonball, as one only knows. The Clauses took her cue and began tossing each other into the eggnog until every Claus—an event theretofore unrealized—swam in the Lake. To the dejected Elf, this feat seemed a serious blow to their cause; they took the splashing and belly flopping as old markers for an old-fashioned, in-their-faces party. It was an act of exclusion, an unstoppable affront to their dignity and liberty; and to the Elves, at that moment, it felt like a blow worse than any red-velvety belly-slam. It was less like home, there in their only home, the North Pole.
But eventually the starry, limitless night opened up, the air cleared and the Elves noticed it. No more “Drink our Take!” Instead they saw Clauses clutching the beaches, crawling and dragging themselves as far as they could before rolling over (if they were lucky) and vomiting. The remaining Clauses paid this sight no heed, because they did not see it. Those not yet nauseous continued to drink their “take.” This rabid libation much like the Polar Night did not seem as though it would end; the level of eggnog diminished with each passing hour even as the corpses of Clauses accumulated on the beaches. The grotesque scene horrified and captivated the Elves. Some among them would have to come to aid the crazed Clauses, but the reindeer rendered any more choices moot.
At great cost the final Claus, there at the bottom of the North Pole’s once and only landmark, bent over on all fours, sucked up the final drops of eggnog. Father Christmas collapsed unable to move and choking to death in a giant, empty crater.
Well, it was not completely empty. There were hundreds of corpses and their accompanying small, nasty piles of vomit. Another incomplete truth was that every Claus had jumped into the creamy abyss. As it turned out, Chris who had gotten a head if paltry start on everyone had passed out on the Assembly floor in his attempt to knock Oscar Tambor’s little block off. Saint Nicki, being the lightweight of Clauses and genuinely concerned for his partner, went to aid him in his wind-breaking, unconscious state. He held him up in his arms, caressed his hot head and tipped him to the side so one Santa Claus would not choke—so one Santa Claus would properly express his vomit that night.
While Nicki held Chris in sickness, while Chris was held in Nicki’s health, the only other North Polite not at the vanishing Eggnog Lake raised his teary face from his small hands. Oscar Tambor did not know what was happening in other places, but he saw the broken chairs, the streaks of green and red and the little clumps of multicolored hair. He heard the echoes in his head of chants with spirit but no Spirit. He remembered that they had forgotten Christmas, and finally so did he.
That wonder of unvisibility silently passed Nicki and his gagging little baby Chris. Using a special adhesive mix he climbed on top of the Globe. He looked around to see the North Pole, just to see it. The Barracks and the Workshop stood up tall like two cheery thumbs; the Reindeer Stables and Clausal Condos stood a little taller (as one might expect). Together they were less like thumbs and more like all the fingers needed save one. He gave a last look for it, but he had trouble placing Eggnog Lake in the heavenly landscape. The reindeer ring was still there, but the finger was less creamy, darker, until it was just shadows in an empty brown band.
The North Pole was just a place, but Oscar Tambor did not how to say “good-bye,” so he simply said, “Good Night” and plummeted to his death.
✝ ❄ ✝
The following day (or, to be technically prudish, later that night), the great majority who care to and in fact know such things about the North Pole, could actually claim their sort of truth. They feel the texture of the one and only Santa Claus and “Mrs. Claus,” even though a closer look reveals Chris and Saint Nicki, the last remaining Clauses. What was once a simple, beautiful, flavorful lake is now so much ice among ice. And so on: those fuzzy reindeer games; that blurry, skinny, saint finally breaking their brown ring and sending them to their stables. The warm Elves, the happy toy makers and faithful workers; the sharp skeptics, reconciled and diligent, looking at textures themselves to maybe see if they can truly see some Spirit. And yet, with so many textures to feel and that many more to see, who might be one to blame that person with so few days left in the shopping season? Surely not those missed literally, burying themselves in new ice too slippery to feel for a texture, in places too remote to see.
1 Usually with something substantial, such as food or blood (which goes double for vampires).
2 Or quite the opposite, depending on your temporal disposition.
3 [Sic] and more to come on that, assuredly.
4 Etc. = Oscar the Ugliest [Hush] Elf of Time Immemorial, on account not of his let it be said pleasantly average looks but rather his total lack of even a modicum of proper Elvish enthusiasm and dedication to the Christmas Spirit; the Elf Who Emptied Eggnog Lake, though in this case only a particular segment of the North Pole population used this moniker; etc.
5 The central housing complex for the Elvish population, akin to contemporary large-scale commercial chicken coups, including the lack of restroom facilities (but not to worry, this topic will be broached shortly)
6 Which of course would later win the designation of “clinical depression,” that vast, sometimes murky subsection of mental illness. Of course, the Elves usually referred to those in such a state as “feeling tamborine” (which, as one can understand, led to many a bad pun, and subsequent suffering on Oscar’s part, in the ancient period known as the Tambourine Craze).
7 To disambiguate: Many people are in fact familiar with and even firmly held by the theory of “the Santa Claus,” and some of those people subscribe to “the Mrs. Claus” corollary, but this theory, however curiously romantic in its exclusivity, does not pass the smell test (or the texture test, if those people will) of history. It arose out of a more original circumstance where a multitude of Santa Clauses and the matching multitude of Mrs. Clauses to match that multitude of Elves inhabited the North Pole. Obviously, That Day Changed Things, but all in good time for all good people.
8 Hence the saying that one who adores sweet things or has a delicate digestive system has an “elfstomach.”
9 From a Clausal perspective, anyway.
10 The great meeting hall of the North Pole was a large rotunda with rising seats, the upper portion reserved for the Clauses, the lower for the Elves. The structure was enclosed by a crystal clear glass dome, which was imbued with a snow-producing power. The magical snowfall was triggered when the assembly members moved all at once or if a good portion danced like it was 1999.
11 Yet none too surprising, if we account for Oscar’s aversion to anything uncomfortable.
12 Yes, “punting” as in the kicking action performed on the oblong ball used in American-style football.
13 Not even Once, forget about Twice.
14 The text of the pamphlet (Titled: Please Don’t Forget the Children; Subtitled: Christmas only comes once a year, Lake Eggnog is here everyday!) unfortunately exhibited content much more aligned with Oscar’s more renowned character (e.g. “We must remember the Children. We only have one day for Christmas. We can discuss the Lake on the 26th.”).
15 “Vomiteers,” “reindeer turds,” “perverts,” “elfdicks,” etc.
16 Claiming, among other things, that Elves would not know the first thing about fecal matters.
17 I.e. Making promises upon which they could (or would) not deliver.
18 Although in complete frankness, it should be mentioned that “some among them” was really not so many out of so many. And furthermore, no one should be surprised if the vast majority of Elves, while decrying the senseless waste of Christmas Spirit, were secretly satisfied with “just desserts” “served right” and a general feeling of ordained victory and—just a little (or a lot) further—if said Elves were a little smug considering more than a tiny handful had the idea to hurl a torch at the Clauses whose bodies had flopped on the surface of and soaked up that most flammable eggnog like before washing up like so many beached giant, red fish to die on the shore.
19 Which (death, that is) across the Clausal tragedy took three primary forms that night: suicidal consumption, asphyxiation and alcohol poisoning.
20 Known as “Pole paste,” it consisted of toy soldier sawdust and reindeer spit; the mixture was baked in honey and made into glue sticks or reluiqified and sold in convenient gel squeeze tubes.
21 Neither Claus for different reasons will assume the designation, but it does become useful in certain merriments and arguments as a point of jest or sarcasm, respectively.
22 Because all North Polites, Clauses and Elves alike, are sterile, of course.