Ho ho howdy folkses! Welcome to Day Ten of our Twelve Days of Shitmas celebration for 2022! Our previous offering was a nostalgic ghost of Christmas past from the sepia-soaked sunset of silent celluloid that featured an unwieldy blend of whimsical holiday mythology and documentary travelogue, though tempered with just a touch too much unpleasant economic reality to function as fantasy escapism. Today we have a special that's so spectacularly inept and incoherent and strays so deeply into the hideous hinterlands beyond the borders of bad it somehow becomes a pseudo-psychedelic work of avant-garde outsider art...or maybe it's just irredeemable crap. Yeah, it's definitely that second one. I get confused sometimes, oversaturated as I am with Shitmas offal at this point in the season, and the dialectics become harder and harder to explore. Regardless, if this is how they celebrate Christmas in Australia I'm gonna toss my itinerary and go to New Zealand instead.

Happy Shitmas, mate! We'll put a turd an the barbie for ya!

We're posting a brand-new review of a holiday special every other day beginning December 3rd and culminating with what we consider the worst of the bunch on Christmas Morning. We've had some fun and we've endured some pain, shared some laughter, a few tears and an occasional trip to the free clinic for testing, but through it all we've always had your back, always been up-front with you and always had your best interests at heart. That's why we're asking you to trust us when we say we've got two fabulous special features this year, including our Crouching Elf, Hidden Santa screenshot game, where an Elf and a Santa photo are hidden via invisible links in two random screenshots somewhere within the review. It's a pleasant diversion from all the redness and irritation, and might help you while away the time as you wait for those test results to come back. The second special feature is our Shitmas Bonus Tales from the Northside anthology, where we're sharing twelve shocking stories from the North Pole taken directly from the personal experiences of a real Christmas Elf on a personal mission to expose the truth about Santa Claus and his sinister empire. It's fearless, fabulous and festive as fuck, and you can only get it here at Million Monkey Theater.

Each year as I'm preparing for Shitmas I research various countries to see if they've produced any specials worth adding to my list. This year when I looked into Australia--and Australia looked into me--I found that most of what they've produced in a holiday way is either too short, too long or somehow involves The Wiggles, and we sure don't want anything to do with them.

Frankly, they terrify me.

I initially chose a special from 1976 called Silent Night, Holy Night, produced in Australia by Hanna/Barbera and chronicling the poignant story of how a humble Austrian priest and choir master composed the famous and beloved sacred song shortly after the Napoleonic wars. It seemed promising...until I actually watched it. Sadly, it was so intolerably slow, plain and dull that as it wore interminably on I found myself losing the will to write about anything else ever again. Thankfully I was able to rally my strength and look for an alternative. I had already committed to doing something from Down Under, though so I needed to find another Aussie special on the international inter-webs stat or my Shitmas goose would surely be cooked.

That's when The Adventures of Candy Claus came to my rescue. It's an animated special based on a 1986 book called "Candy Claus: The Newest member of Santa's Family," and it's fucking horrendous. I haven't read the book, nor do I intend to, but being as every available copy online is a very good- or mint-condition first edition, it doesn't seem to have been a blockbuster hit. As of this writing there's a copy available on Amazon where the very first review is by the author himself, who claims "I wrote the book so I'm prejudice." Fair enough, but the fact that the guy can't properly conjugate a verb might explain why nobody seems to have bought the damn thing in the first place.

I could find no further information about how a mediocre book with mediocre sales ended up as one of only a handful of Christmas specials ever to have been produced in Australia. I mean, I'm glad it happened and all, since it saved backside and all, but damn, people: this shit is whack.

One last note before we begin: I had to use two different video sources for the review. The original broadcast version of The Adventures of Candy Claus ran 3-1/2 minutes longer than the VHS release, and the haphazard edits made an already fragmented narrative even more disjointed. Most of the screenshots are taken from that later release, but it's missing some interstitial material and ends abruptly before a significant portion of the final sequence plays out, so a few screenshots towards the end are from a complete but lower-resolution print. You'll know 'em when you see 'em.

There ain't no "Part Two."

We open, as many a special before has done, on Christmas Eve, where a big, unwieldy family trims their tree and wraps their presents. There's a Dad, a young Boy, and three women who appear to be approximately the same age, with no clear delineation between them to indicate their precise relationship. Is it a young-looking mom with two teenaged or young-adult daughters? Perhaps a mom, a daughter and an aunt? Do they represent some other, unexplored combination of relatives and friends? We just don't know.

I'm gonna go with "sister-wives."

The scene perfectly sets the tone for what we must endure for the entire remainder of the special, as it's a disorienting mess of jumpy, confounding edits and nonsensical dialogue clumsily mixed so that the characters are constantly talking over one another. They seem to not always finish what they're trying to say before someone interrupts them, and sometimes so many characters are speaking at once you can't catch any of it.

This guy doesn't even know what he's saying, let alone what his three wives are trying to tell him.

The gist of their talk, from what little I can make out, comes down to them all feeling bad for poor Santa, who brings gifts to everyone all over the world but never gets a present for himself. They decide they're going to remedy that situation by collaborating on a pair of dolls to slip onto Santa's sleigh, so he'll have something to open when he gets back home at the end of his long night of toy deliverin'.

The sequence where they make the dolls is bonkers, with weird, impressionistic overlays where the various parts are trimmed and assembled against a kaleidoscopic backdrop of Santa heads, tinsel and glass ornaments, and all set to a weirdly disturbing original song sung by a faceless, creepy, deep-bass voice with a tenuous grasp of key, pitch and melody.

It gave me a contact high.

When the dolls are finished they stick 'em in a couple of boxes and wrap them up all purdy, putting a note inside one of them that reads "To Santa from the Children of the World, we hope you love this doll as much as we love you."

Dad waits until he hears Santa land on the roof then sneaks up to slip the boxes under the seat of the sleigh, observed all the while by a nosy neighbor, who gets all verklempt when he sees Santa flying off. The guy shouts to his wife to come to the window and look but she can't be arsed to get up, and when we see her lounging around in her curlers and nightgown, with her feet propped up on an ottoman and a woman's magazine in her hand, we all somehow know exactly what her house smells like.

Cigarette ash, scented toilet paper and bacon fat.

As Santa flies off home, having just delivered the very last of his presents, a weird bug-eyed dude with unweildy facial hair comes swirling through the air around his sleigh. This is Oh-No, the villain of the piece, who in addition to possessing the magical gifts of flight and invisibility appears to suffer from antisocial personality disorder...

...and possibly chronic wind.

Oh-No taunts Santa by flying in circles around him, but Santa has had a long, exhausting night and has no time for his shenanigans. He tells him to bugger off, and gees up the reindeer to get away from him, but in the interim the miscreant snatches the boy doll out of one of the boxes, saying "I got a present, but you didn't!"

Santa says good on ya, mate, but maybe you can tell me about it tomorrow because I've got a La-Z-Boy, a crackling fire and a bottle of schnapps waiting for me. Oh-No zooms away and Santa flies home, settles into his recliner and promptly falls asleep.

Won't you take me to...Santa Toooown!

The next morning Mrs. Claus finds the two boxes on the sleigh and hands them to her husband. At first he thinks maybe he forgot to give some poor kids their presents, but he's doubly baffled when the first box he opens is empty. In the next box he finds the girl-doll and the note, and as his heart fills with the loving warmth of having been given his very own gift, the doll comes to life in his arms. Her stringy yarn-hair becomes a lush white wig, her cheeks flush with I'm-a-real-girl-now vitality and she speaks, calling Santa her dad.

She also grabs a nearby candy cane and starts sucking on it like a skinny striped dick, emitting little moans and making breathy "mmm-mmm" noises in her insufferably vocal-fry-laden, clearly-an-adult-doing-a-cutesy-erotic-little-girl-voice. Santa therefore decides to name her Candy, after a stripper he used to date.

It is rather porn-y.

Now Santa goes into the heart of Santa Town for his annual Christmas Day meet and greet with his many neighbors. Mrs. Claus and Candy come along, too, and the proud parents introduce their new daughter to the whole population. The place is filled mainly with the Elves who work for Santa, with just a few penguins waving and shuffling here and there, and if any of the townsfolk have awkward questions about who the hell Candy is and where the hell she came from they keep them to themselves.

Santa particularly wishes to introduce Candy to Professor Must-Know, a bent and withered old inventor Elf whom we will later discover is integral to his toy-making operation. Santa taps on the old fellow's window, and he comes to it mumbling to himself in a crappy impersonation of Jimmy Stewart. In fact, several of the voices are tarted-up versions of recognizable characters from old films, sitcoms and cartoons, which, like everything else in the special, is not so much charming homage as lazy and unimaginative.

"Merry Christmas Mr. Potter! Merry Christmas Bedford Falls!"

The Professor is far to busy professorin' to stand and chat, so Santa next heads to Oh-No's place and taps on his window to ask him if he'd like to show off the present he was talking about the previous night.

Oh-No peers out from his curtains suspiciously, gives Candy the droopy stink-eye, then closes his blinds and snubs the lot of them without a word.

"You got any weeeeed?"

Outside the window, well within earshot of Oh-No himself, Candy asks why the old fellow is such a grumpy asshole. Santa says he's just a strange and unfriendly, and innocent little Candy, whom we're clearly supposed to find irresistibly lovable despite her irritatingly twee personality and creepy jailbait sexpot voice, says she feels so sorry for the poor bastard.

Hearing this insolent toddler laying down such condescending shade sends the old curmudgeon into a rage. He picks up Candy's brother, whom he's given a broom and dustpan and forced to do chores around his hovel. He shakes him by the shoulders, quite violently, and demands to know why the other doll has full mobility and a perky personality, whereas little "Hey You," as he calls him, can only just barely walk and has multiple speech impediments.

Speaking of contact highs...

Hey You stammers in painful, halting, tearful fragments that he can't do what Candy does because Oh-No doesn't love him, and unless someone loves him he can't come properly alive.

I probably should have mentioned that Candy is supposedly the very first child to ever live in Santa Town, so her being there is apparently some kind of big f'n deal. I'm not sure how that works in terms of maintaining the population through inevitable loss and attrition, but Oh-No seems to think that if only he can get rid of Candy people would look up to him instead of Santa since he'd then have the only kid in town. He watches the other townsfolk moon and dote over her and gets more and more angry and jealous.

He decides to make himself invisible, follow her around and trip her up so it looks like she's super clumsy and accident prone. Eventually, he hopes, everyone will get the shits of her and the humilation of it will drive her from Santa Town forever.

It's a solid plan and I'm all for it.

He begins his campaign by swooping across the town square and knocking over both Candy and Mrs. Claus, who are more confused than annoyed. Still, Oh-No likes the result and laughs to himself that he's going to have a busy year mind-fucking his new nemesis.

Now we jump ahead almost a full year, to the day before Christmas Eve, where, wonder of wonders, we get another song, sung this time by the deliriously happy worker Elves who wax joyful and enthusiastic about making toys for all the children of the world. Candy is working in the factory, too, but somehow every toy she touches falls apart or breaks.

There's quite a bit of automation in the operation, with specialized robots that paint and assemble hobbyhorses, dolls, teddy bears and allsorts. It all looks like a pretty easy gig for the Elves, who basically just stand around and watch, smoke doobies and laugh, and take twelve union-mandated beer breaks every hour.

Working hard or hardly working?

There's one particular robot who looks like a cross between the tripod machines from "War of the Worlds" (1897) and V.I.N.cent from The Black Hole (1979) who seems to have a higher status than the rest. This is Sha-do, who scutters about on a catwalk above the factory floor and anxiously watches Candy, hoping she doesn't fuck up so many toys that the Elves can't reach their quotas.

You worried? You look worried, bro.

A Head Elf, meanwhile sits at a huge, clunky computer and checks the daily readouts. He mentions to Sha-do how lucky they all are to have such a brilliant inventor as Professor Must Know in town to provide them with all this wonderful tracking technology. Speaking of which the monitor screen lights up as they're talking with an alert that Candy is approaching, and The AI interface advises everybody to put on their dog-attack suits and crash helmets so they won't get hurt when she inevigably falls over into them.

We briefly cut back to Oh-No's house to see that he has similar surveillance technology on his end that he uses to follow Candy's every move, allowing him to swoop in unseen and cause disasters for her whenever he likes. Hey You is very interested in the little girl on the screen, and tries to pump Oh-No for information, but the bitter old cretin tells him to shut the fuck up and do his chores.

"You can start by fixing that big-ass hole in the floor."

Back at the factory office Head Elf complains to Sha-do that if Candy keeps breaking shit apace they won't finish their work in time for Santa's deliveries the next day. Just at that moment the little hussy herself appears, batting her eyelashes and enthusiastically thirst-trapping for some kind of "job" to perform, if you take my meaning.

Head Elf tries to convince to take a day off, because she's been working so hard and all and deserves a break, but Candy won't hear of it. She came to work it, bitches, and work it she will.

Shantay, you stay.

Shadow suggests to Candy that she head over to the distribution area and see what she can fuck up over there, not because he thinks it's a good or safe place for her to be but because they need to move her along so they can go to a secret Council of the Elves meering, where her clumsiness and ineptitude will doubtless be discussed and dissected in great detail.

Sure enough, when the meeting comes to order it's one complaint after another about Candy breaking this, and Candy knocking over that, and Candy never shutting the fuck up so they can have a goddamn minute to themselves to think about how to get rid of her.

To be fair, that's probably exactly what the MMT Interns say about me.

Head Elf says he's programmed Professor Must Know's computer with all the pertinent info regarding Candy and her personal deficiencies, and just as he activates the terminal in the boardroom to see the results, we see Candy herself walking into his office holding a broken toy. Invisible Oh-No whips past and trips her as she approaches the desk, and as she fumbles to right herself she accidentally turns on the computer just in time to hear it list all the ways she's been making the Elves miserable since she crawled up from the slime of her pre-sentience and blighted their previously idyllic lives. She also sees details of a plot to ship her off to the reindeer stalls so she won't be able to break any more toys or cause any more worker's comp liability claims.

It's a real confidence booster for her.

The devastating truth of her pariah-hood sends Candy into an existential crisis of damn near Davey and Goliath proportions, and when the meeting is over and Sha-do comes in to explains that he's been assigned to be her special pal, to go where she goes, to watxh all her movements and to guide her in all things, she sees which way the wind is blowing and decides to scarper off into the snowy wastes surrounding Santa Town.

Good riddance to bad rubbish, I say.

Oh-No has been watching all of this on his monitor with glee, and seeing her leaving town he figures he'd better go and seal the deal with a final blow to her ego that will ensure she stays away forever.

Candy, meanwhile, has gotten a fair distance into the wilderness, formulating a grandiose scheme for a Santa Town comeback. She knows she loves sucking on candy canes, and she figures she can't be the only one who also likes sucking on candy canes. She figures if she can make suckable candy canes for every sucking child in the whole sucking world maybe they'll all sucking love her and she will finally get the love and affirmation she needs.

As she yammers on about all the sucking the snow squalls get heavier and heavier, and Sha-Do warns that they're getting too far away from town and are likely to get stranded.

Just then Oh-No invisibly swirls around her, whispering that Santa and the Elves don't really love her and never will, in fact no one will ever love her because she's a stumbling, bumbling buffoon and her whiny, cloying voice makes snarky Christmas special reviewers want to perforate their own eardrums with a paperclip.

Thus robbed of the very force that animates her, she falls backwards into a snowdrift, completely inert. Her color fades and her hair changes back into yarn, and she again becomes the lifeless doll that Dad and the Sister Wives had made while dropping sunshine blotter acid the previous Christmas Eve.

Back in the Reindeer stables, Head Elf is telling Santa about Candy being missing. Quite unaccountably, Santa is genuinely concerned. Suddenly Head Elf's Dick Tracy two-way wrist TV starts beeping and the electronic voice of Professor Must Know's computer alerts him that Sha-Do has sent a distress signal from somewhere in the mountains overlooking the town. Santa hops into his sleigh, tuns on his GPS tracking screen and sets out to rescue her.

It also gets Hulu and Disney Plus.

Unfortunately he finds Candy and Sha-Do and digs them out of the snow. When he hugs the lifeless doll she reanimates and transforms back into the titular heroine we've al come to know and hate more and more as the special has progressed.

Back at the house Candy and Mrs. Claus make a metric shit-tonne of candy canes, using grabby mechanical hands to pull and twist them together.

This takes me right back to Molly's Reach-Around.

Candy announces her intention to deliver them to every child in the world, which Sha-Do calculates would require one billion, two hundred million, three hundred seventy-two and a half candy canes, including a partial stick for Candy to suck on herself.

"It's a living!"

Candy wants to deliver them herself, so we jump ahead about an hour to the reindeer barn, where Santa's big sleigh and Candy's own little sleigh are both loaded up and ready to fly. Head Elf hands them their itineraries and Professor Must Know gives Candy a present, which turns out to be her very own Dick Tracy two-way wrist TV.

The Elves all do a "hip-hip-hooray for Candy" thing and gush about how much they all love her, which is a fuck of a lot easier for them now that they don't have to work side by side with her in the factory every day of the year.

The edited version abruptly ends here, cutting directly to a final song/psychedelic montage about how fucking adorable lovable Candy is and how everybody everywhere should love her with all their hearts despite how plainly and overwhelmingly fucking annoying she is.

I so want to smack her.

In the unedited version, we cut from the Elf-cheer to Oh-No in his lair, lamenting that none of his dastardly deeds can work on Candy with such an intensely protective bubble of love around her.

Back at the stable Candy puts on her bracelet, which the Professor explains has the newly added ability to see through time and space and pretty much knows every damn thing in the universe. She asks where she came from and who she is, and it tells her where and how she was created. She asks about her family, and it tells her she's Santa and Mrs. Claus' daughter, but that she also has a brother, and further, it shows him to her.

Oh-No sees this all on his monitor and grabs Hey You in a panic. He furiously vows to send him somewhere that Candy and Santa will never be able to find him. He kicks a switch next to his computer and the screen on Candy's bracelet goes blank.

The End.

Since this was "Part One" and there was never a "Part Two," neither in print nor on video, the story of Candy and her poor, abused Brother was never completed. I'd like to think that in some magical nether-realm of whimsey and imagination, where all the unfinished stories go to find their endings, Candy Claus found the closure she deserved, where her and her brother ended up at opposite ends of a field somewhere, ran towards one another with open arms, but died in a chaos of machine gun fire before they could share their first embrace.

And that, people, is exactly how much I hated The Adventures of Candy Claus.

Shitmas Bonus!

Tales from the Northside:
The Walrus and the Health and Safety Officer

I had not seen my friend Dongle the Elf for several days after his tale regarding Jangle Jim's covert operations as an agent of sabotage, his capture by Santa's Tin Soldiers and his subsequent escape. We'd been meeting every night for several weeks at that point and I'd never missed a single evening of his recollections about his life at the North Pole, yet somehow through all that time we had never exchanged phone numbers or other contact information. I'd arrived at our pub the following evening at the usual time, but instead of finding him in his accustomed place by the fire I found myself sitting alone. When I hailed the bartender to order my supper he handed me a letter in a red envelope, with my name written on the front in black India ink with an old-fashioned stylus pen.

"I apologize for not meeting you in person. I've been called away suddenly, I hope for no more than a day or two, but it is possible I may be gone longer. I look forward to continuing our acquaintance when I return.

Most sincerely I am
Your very dear friend,

Dongle D. Dingle, Elfsquire"

For each of the next several nights I waited and hoped he'd return to continue our daily ritual of each of us sitting by the roaring fire, him sipping his Guinness and I drinking my coffee and soaking in the fascinating tales with which he would regale me, but again and again I waited and hoped in vain.

On the sixth night since I had last seen him and about an hour past the time we would normally have met I sat as dutifully as ever, but became increasingly certain he had once again been delayed by his own personal business. I finished my meal, paid my bill and grabbed my coat, but before I could put it on, I heard a familiar voice call out to me, saying "Leaving so soon?"

I turned to find my friend stepping across the pub briskly to meet me. We shook hands warmly and I suddenly realized how much I'd missed his company and how concerned I'd been for his welfare.

"I'm terribly sorry I didn't call the pub and leave any further message for you. Honestly, I was so engaged with what I was doing I scarcely had time to think."

"I'm just glad to see you well and safe. I trust your trip was successful?"

"Very much so. It was a personal visit at the behest of an old friend. Its purpose had a direct bearing on what I wish to tell you tonight."

Dongle took care of the mundane but necessary business of ordering his pint, and I reopened my tab with my usual coffee and snacks. I somehow hadn't noticed before that my friend had with him a brown satchel of tough, thick leather, weathered and worn but still sturdy. It was an accessory clearly made for labor and built to last. Furthermore, it was more than half the size of Dongle himself, so I had no idea why I hadn't seen it when he first came in.

"That's quite a tough bag, isn't it?" said my friend cheerfully.

"Yes, and an antique by the look of it."

"Care to venture a guess as to how old it might be?"

I knew Dongle well enough by this point to know his moods to some degree, and I realized immediately that the way he phrased the question implied some vast age for the item far greater than any I would normally have guessed. I therefore ventured the absurd number of a hundred and twenty five years.

"I see you've caught me out at my little game," Dongle said playfully, "but even so, you're not even close. That satchel is eight hundred and eighty-seven years of age. You can see for yourself where the date it was made is burned into the leather on the underside of the flap."

He showed me the mark, "Anno Domini 1185," confirming his statement, and I was, if such a thing is possible, pleasantly surprised at my lack of surprise. The many peculiar things I had learned of since meeting my friend had somehow altered my expectations, and I found myself credulous to almost anything he might say, however patently absurd or deranged it might on the surface seem. I told him as much and he laughed.

"Well it's a good thing I'm an honest fellow or I might lead you down a merry path...but at any rate it wasn't the bag itself I'd wanted you to see, but what's in it," and at that he removed an enormous wrench, at least two feet long and three quarters of an inch thick, made from some green-tinted metal I could not identify. There were flecks of a mineral in its composition that caught the light and sparkled like diamonds. Mundane and functional object though it was, it was really quite beautiful. He placed it on the floor between us and said, "Go ahead and pick it up."

I'm no athlete, but no weakling either, still I found that I couldn't even raise the strange wrench enough to get my fingers around it. I pushed and pulled and even tried to move it with my feet, but despite exerting the full strength of my legs I could barely shift it more than a five or six inches.

"That's a walrus-made tool. It's older even than the satchel I brought it in, and what's more, that very object not only started a war but later helped to finish it."

Taft the walrus was good man. Even back when I first started at the power plant and had to wage-slave all those wild, spirit-breaking hours he was always as kind to me as our opposing work positions would allow. He had a job to do in making us do ours, but I never heard him use an unkind word or even raise his voice to anyone in his charge. There was an unspoken understanding. He knew the demands on us were unreasonable, and he did what he could to make our fulfillment of those demands as tolerable as possible.

I think I mentioned to you before about the walruses having a better union than the Elves. That's because they had staged an uprising against Santa back in 1925, fighting the Tin Soldiers to a stalemate for better wages, hours and benefits. I've also mentioned that in later years Taft had worked himself up to the rather lofty position of Chief of Operations for Manufacturing and Distribution.

He was never entirely satisfied with the job, he later told me. It was a great deal of responsibility but not a lot of actual work, and it didn't suit his hands-on nature. He'd have been happier, he said, if he'd still carried a wrench in his hand and a greasy rag in the breast pocket of his overalls, yet here he was with clean flippers, khaki pants and a shirt with a collar, pushing papers and writing reports instead of fixing machinery and working amongst the Elves, whom he found himself missing more and more now that he only saw them from a distance.

One day, about a week after Jangle Jim had escaped from his cell, when the murmurs of resistance and revolution had begun to rise amongst the workers again, Taft had a visit from the local health and safety inspector.

The annual facilities inspection was a massive undertaking that would last three weeks, but despite a lengthy, practiced show of thoroughness and occasional tough talk from the inspector, there was never any doubt as to how the final report would read. Every category would have its checkmark of excellence, indicating perfect adherence to every standard and law of labor and machine, and despite the age and decaying condition of many of the factories, despite the missing hand guards or inoperable emergency mechanisms on almost every piece of equipment, every factory would be deemed safe and compliant to every letter of every law.

The Inspector would then enjoy a long vacation with his family for rubber-stamping that report, with enough graft left over to buy himself a boat or perhaps a new Mercedes. It was one of Santa's secrets that Taft and the inspector shared, and for the honest and tender-hearted walrus the knowledge of it burned in his heart like a lump of coal.

On the seventh morning of the third week of the inspection, Taft arrived at his office an hour before the inspector was due to arrive. Hanging on the wall above his desk was his family's heirloom wrench. It was more than a symbol of their status as master mechanics, but a point of ancestral pride, having been forged by one of his own forebears at a ceremony of acceptance into the ancient guild. Taft hadn't touched that wrench for seventeen years, but on this morning he felt an urge to hold it in his hands again, to feel its heft and connect with its history. He took it down and carried it with him throughout the day, held it close to him as the Health and Safety Inspector pretended to do his work with a critical eye and impartial judgement.

This was the final day of the process, and it was late in the afternoon when they reached the final piece of equipment, an ancient conveyance mechanism that carried unfinished parts through a three-step process of priming and painting. The protective outer shell of it had long since been discarded, and there was huge crack in the exposed manifold right at the operator's station, with a gap large enough to fit an Elf's arm through it and sharp, perilous gears grinding away in plain sight.

This was a clear violation, and one that could not safely be ignored. Any stray bit of clothing might easily be caught in the gears, pulling a worker's limbs into the gap to be mangled or worse, and even the emergency stop relay had been disabled a few months before, when the crack had first appeared, explicitly to keep the machine running despite the clear and present danger its condition posed.

Five hundred worker Elves watched and stewed in silent ressentment as the inspector pursed his lips, adjusted his glasses and mumbled "This looks safe," and checked it off as "Passed."

Taft could see the clenched jaws of his workers. He could feel the tension and anger their bodies and minds had accumulated over many decades of neglect and exploitation. They were indicting him with their eyes for his complicity, for his tacit approval of this dangerous and convenient lie.

Something in their glares reached a part of him he'd long ago buried beneath the duties of his work. He felt as though he could suddenly see himself through their eyes, could clearly observe and understand what he had allowed himself to become. He did not like what he saw then, and he was ashamed.

The righteous rage of the worker Elves blended with his own sublimated frustrations. It was the same old anger that spurred on his ancestors, and in that moment he knew he must finally live up to the ideals he had always claimed to as his own: That when one peoples' rights are denied then no one's rights are secure, and further, that everyone deserves the same basic respect and decency that he and his people had fought and won for themselves.

He lifted the mighty wrench of his people and brough it down on the manifold with all his strength, and the heavy plate split into pieces and fell to the floor with a deafening crash. He stepped stern-faced and menacing towards the meek-looking sea lion who stood with his glasses and clipboard, slack-jawed with shock at the suddenness of the walrus' fury. The inspector stumbled back in panic until his back was flat against the factory wall.

"What do you think, eh? Does it look safe to you now?"

Five hundred Elves spontaneously cheered. They abandoned their machines and walked out of the factory chanting the four words Santa had been trying in vain to discover for the past three months, the words the initials of which had haunted his every waking thought since he had first seen them aggressively scrawled in red and green paint on a loading bay door. The four words that would soon change his life and his world forever.

"Take back the pole!"

[to be continued]

All "Tales from the Northside" stories
copyright 2022 Bradley Lyndon

Merry Christmas, folkses.

Next Installment: December 23rd!

As always, Cheers and thanks for reading!

Written by Bradley Lyndon in December, 2022.

Questions? Comments? Expressions of disgust? Why not skip the middleman and complain to me directly?

Stealing from this page
will land you on Santa's naughty list