Rudolph was fed up. Another frigging foggy Christmas Eve and he was being fitted for the lead harness by Taylor, the sewing reindeer. This is the sixth time in ten years. Why can’t the fat slob invest in some fog lights? He was tired of freezing his tail fur off.

Rudolph stomped impatiently in the snow and told Taylor to get lost. He would go to the head honcho himself and demand better treatment. With red nose blazing, Rudolph plowed his way through the knee-high snow toward the frosty, candy-coated, warm cottage where Santa and his wife lived. Yeah, Rudolph thought, we reindeer live in a cold, drafty, smelly old stable while Santa lounges in his La-Z Boy in front of the fireplace.

Rudolph mumbled to himself while fighting the snowdrifts. “Five times I saved the old mans butt, but do I get anything for my effort? Hell no. Not even a thank you or a friendly slap on the hindquarters for a job well done. From now on things are going to be different. I am not leading the sleigh tonight until some of my demands are met. And if he doesn’t agree, I’ll just tell him where he can put his Ho-Ho-Ho.”

The snow became shallower as he neared the gumdrop walkway. He wondered what poor elf had to shovel this off. Sugar-coated candies stuck to his hooves as he stumbled, tripped and wobbled to the front door. Rudolph tried to shake the sticky blobs off each hoof but they were frozen and stuck between his toes. Damn, what kind of idiot would make a gumdrop walkway? With an exasperated sigh he gave up and kicked the door three times.

Mrs. Claus answered the door. She was an elf that had become too big for regular elf duties, with a pudgy wrinkly face, pink twinkling eyes and pink short frizzy hair. Who else would stay with a lazy fat man in this god-for-saken place? He made the elves do all the work, chaining them to their workbenches for 16 hours a day and serving them cold lumpy gruel once a day, a fact that was well hidden from the rest of the world.

“Why, Rudolph, shouldn’t you be getting ready for the sleigh?”

Rudolph’s nose brightened in an effort to build courage.

“I need to talk to Santa.”

“Well, all right, but don’t be too long, he is very busy tonight.”

She opened the door wider and he walked in, making strange squeech-squeech-squeech sounds on the hardwood floors from the gumdrops stuck on his hooves.

Just as he thought. Busy my ass. Santa was stretched out in the recliner, snoring, and his one-size-fits-all long johns didn’t quite conceal his hairy fat belly protruding through gaps where buttons were missing.

Mrs. Claus waddled over to her husband.

“Dear. Dear, wake up, you have a visitor.”

Santa snorted, jerked and opened his eyes.

“Haven’t I told you never to bother me on Christmas Eve?” His voice boomed with anger.

“Rudolph is here.” Saying that she scurried out of the room.

Santa looked at Rudolph, pulled the recliner in an upright position and stood up.

“What’s the meaning of this, Red-Nose, you should be in your harness by now.”

Rudolph raised his horns high and puffed out his chest in an attempt to stand his ground.

“I….I’m not going.”

Santa walked heavily toward Rudolph, rolls of fat jiggling and bouncing and leaned down to within inches of Rudolph’s snout. His black shiny eyes gleamed with malevolence. Rudolph was having doubts about his resolve. No! He would stay the course.

“What makes you think you have a choice?”  Santa's onion breath dripped with a silky undertone of a warning.

“I…. We want better living conditions. The stable needs patching up, we need more hay for our beds, more food than a few grains of corn a day. And for god sakes, buy some damn headlights for the sleigh!”

Santa straightened his seven-foot frame and Rudolph was hard put to stem the shivering that weakened his legs.

“And if I don’t meet your demands?”

“Then I am not going to guide your sleigh tonight.” Rudolph exhaled the pent up fear. There, it’s done, no turning back now.

“You don’t even know who I am, do you? Do you think I live here by choice? Do you think I give these snot-nosed bastards gifts every year for fun?  I am Anasta. The most powerful wizard in the world, hell, the universe, until I fell into a trap woven by the beautiful but devious Morgana.” Santa started pacing..” But she wanted that sniveling, rat faced Merlin, not me.” He drove the point home with a jab to his flabby chest.

Santa turned toward Rudolph and smiled, revealing a mouthful of yellow rotten teeth. He raised a stubby finger in the air and Rudolph suddenly stepped back in fear. Oh no! Not the finger! Rumors have swirled around The North Pole that Santa could conjure up horrible magic by placing a finger on the side of his nose. More than one elf had disappeared under mysterious circumstances. Rudolph watched as the finger seemed to move in slow motion toward the bulbous nose. Contact was made and Rudolph swayed and wobbled. Just before sinking into oblivion he heard Santa exclaim.

"Who do you think gave you that nose? HO! HO! HO!."

Coming to on all fours, Rudolph looked around in bewilderment. He was standing in the middle of unfamiliar woods. Leafless, scraggly tree branches scratched the sky and brown, crunchy leaves carpeted the ground. He raised his nose to the air and could not place the strange pungent smells. He took a tentative step and a crack split the air. Rudolph felt a sharp sting to his chest, felt his legs give way, and was no more.

The hunters whooped and hollered as they ran and stumbled toward their prize. With rifles in hand, they both stopped and stared at the strange sight on the ground. It was like no deer they had ever seen.

“Wait a minute. I saw one of these things in a picture once. I think it’s a reindeer, from like Norway or somewhere like that.”

The other one spoke, shrugging his shoulders.

“Well, it’s a deer. Let’s take it back to the cabin and dress it down. If nothing else we can take the antlers. That’s the biggest twelve pointer I’ve ever seen.”



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