Wednesday, 23 December 2015

Cruel Yule: Part 9 – Naughty or Nice?

Klaus was much less happy with the new state of affairs than his elfish friend. 

He’d left the homestead in a bid to get away from all the Christmas crap for a selfish world that wouldn’t know the real spirit of the season if it bit them on the backside. 

These days, it was all about the latest PlayStations, iPhones, selfie sticks – all in pursuit of self, satisfaction, Facebook Likes and smug Instagram duckfaces. 
And the kids weren’t much better, either.

But here he was, back at a desk, faced with towers of letters from self-entitled brats, lists rolling out across the floor and having to plan a delivery route for the most frantic twelve hours of his year.

AND he was doing it without a mug of mead, under the stern harridan glare of Gladys. He shot her a resentful look, only to plaster a sickly smile on his face when he realised she was looking in his direction. His lips grinned but behind his eyes, he harboured fantasies of the perfect Christmas crime - battering her senseless with a frozen turkey or leg of lamb, then cooking and eating the murder weapon. The smile spread to his eyes and he chuckled inwardly as he imagined the morbid scene.

A tug at his sleeve brought him back from his reverie. He looked up, then down until he found who had tugged him. A dwarf wearing a ‘don’t mess with me’ face and medieval battle dress offered him a neat pile of buff folders.

“Sorry to bother you, sir,” he said in a cultured voice. “but these need your urgent attention. We need your stamp before we can proceed with them.”

Klaus sighed and bent to take the files. They were surprisingly heavy, some six inches thick or more, all bound with auspicious looking scarlet ribbons. With a grunt, he hoisted them from the dwarf’s arms and dumped them on the desk.

“Thanks, Tyrion,” he sighed, and looked down at the files. Each one bore a name he was more used to seeing in news headlines: Obama, Putin, Cameron, Kardashian, Assad, some fella called Daesh, Trump….

“Oh, for f….  What would you do with this lot, my friend?”

“Personally, I’d demand trial by combat,” answered the little man with a big attitude. “But we probably don’t have time for that, and I sure Gladys wouldn't approve, so I’d put them straight to the top of the Naughty List.”

Klaus nodded, pulled a stamp and ink pad closer and dispatched the pile of files with a swift flourish and a red “Dislike” thumb-down symbol. It felt good. Like some kind of justice, albeit fleeting. He made a mental note to order more coal.

“Any more where they came from?” he asked.

“A whole roomful,” answered Tyrion and pushed an official looking form in triplicate before the old man. “But, if you give me the authority and the stamp, I can take care of them for you.”

Nodding over to another pile in the corner, he added: “There are more important matters for your attention.”

Klaus scrawled his name at the bottom of the form, handed it to Tyrion, along with the Dislike stamp and ink pad, and heaved himself out of his chair. The files in the corner were darker in colour, and bore no names. Each opened to an image. Drenched frightened children in fluorescent orange lifejackets. Terrified toddlers screaming in make-shift hospitals with walls pocked with cracks and bullet holes. A young girl quietly weeping as she cleaned herself while a sweating middle-aged man rose from the grimy bed behind her and pulled up his pants. A young boy, no more than eight years old, brandished a AK47 at the camera in a display of fake bravado and machismo.

A flood of helplessness swept over the man in red. He slumped in the corner, shaking his snowy white head. Angry tears leaked out of the corners of his eyes.

A familiar shadow loomed over him and a firm but gentle hand was placed on his shoulder.

“Oh, Glad,” he said, looking up to the woman he’d been fantasizing about battering with frozen foodstuffs just minutes before. “What’s the point?”

Gladys knelt beside him and looked into his eyes.

“Hasn’t that always been the case?” she said gently. “But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try, does it?”

She took the top file from the pile and turned to the second page. More images showed the cold boat children in a shed on an island. Some still clung desperately to their mothers, but others were being helped into clean dry clothes by gaggles of scruffy middle-aged women more concerned about the kids than their manicures. There was no holly, ivy or mistletoe. No candy canes or tinsel. But something shone out of the dimly lit scene that had long since been lost from the busy shopping streets.

He looked at Gladys. Beneath her wild hair, ruddy cheeks and appalling dress sense, she was still beautiful. He blinked an apology at her and nodded.

As the pair struggled to their feet with all the grace of a pair of drunken rhinos, the first few saccharine bars of “Last Christmas” wafted through the workshed. It was abruptly cut off with a deafening ‘BANG!’ just after “this year, to save you from tears....”.

They looked up to see a very self-satisfied Tiffany, blowing an imaginary puff of smoke from the barrel of an air pistol, and a shattered 1970s cassette player lying on the floor.

“I always hated that bloody song,” she shrugged.

How will it all end?
Stay tuned for the final episode, coming before those stockings get filled (or will they?).

No comments:

Post a Comment