Ho ho howdy folkses! Welcome to Day Six of our Twelve Days of Shitmas celebration for 2022! Well, it looks like we've reached the halfway point of our perennial celebration, though there's still a whole lotta Shitmas fun to be had before we're through. So let's turn from Day Five's bland, wooden characters putting on a bland, wooden play and resolving a bland, wooden existential crisis with a tender tale of forbidden love we had to fabricate from whole cloth just to make our review even remotely interesting, and look ahead to a sentimental tale of crazy Canucks and maudlin miracles that somehow managed to transcend its sappy premise and hit us square in the feels.

I think we're gonna need a bigger plunger.

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're in pretty deep at this point, so you've doubtless heard tell of our Crouching Elf, Hidden Santa game, where we hide and Elf and a Santa inside random screenshots in each review. It's sort of like Whack-a-Mole, except instead of the moles popping up they just sit in their holes and hide, and instead of whacking them you find them and say "Well, that was a complete waste of time," but hey, you're browsing at Million Monkey Theater, so let's not pretend you have anything better to do.

In that same spirit of lazy semi-engagement, don't forget to stick around at the end of each review for a Shitmas Bonus Tales from the Northside story, featuring twelve true accounts of holiday-centric mystery and intrigue, brought to you by a genuine certified Christmas elf with over twenty years' experience in the dank, dystopian trenches of Santa's vast North Pole empire.

This is the fourth year of our Twelve Days of Shitmas celebration, and each year thus far we've left a seat open at the big kids' table for our friends in Canada, who have consistently provided us with some of our quirkiest and most entertaining Shitmas treats. Over the years we've had a mischievous Martian, some friendly Forest Rangers and an animated astrophile, and now our Northern neighbors offer us The Beachcombers, a much-loved, feel-good dramedy-adventure program that ran on the CBC from 1972-1990, accumulated 387 episodes, and engendered a 1995 spinoff, two TV movies and a cast reunion documentary. It centers around two competing marine lumber salvagers and features a multi-ethnic cast of quirky-yet-relatable characters engaging in gently humorous hijinks, interpersonal drama and crisis-of-the week adventures in a costal Canadian town. It's broadly appealing, televisual comfort food of the sort that I'd usually pass by without a second glance, so I was surprised to find myself gradually engaging with its wholesome, uncomplicated, yest strangely satisfying ambiance.

Our tale begins on the morning of Christmas Eve, at Molly's Reach, a coffeehouse/diner that serves as the social heart of the little town of Gibsons, British Columbia. When I first saw the cafe's name, I immediately rechristened it in my head "Molly's Reach Around," and altered its motto from "Welcome Back" to "Please Come Again," because I will have these little indulgences of mine.

Molly herself is a hearty, middle-aged British dowager and a de-facto den mother to the many residents of the town. On this particular morning she's enumerating to her two employees the many bureaucratic hoops she's had to jump though to be allowed to sail a boat up and down the harbor later that night with a chorus of Christmas carolers aboard. She's apparently quite persuasive, as she's managed to recruit not only the youn ladies who work for her, but several of her customers, the local Constable and the owner of the boat to join in with her festive caper.

Molly in a rare moment of not reaching around.

Meanwhile, out on the bay, the series' central protagonist, Greek-Canadian Nick Adonidas is sailing back to town with Molly's Christmas Tree on board. His silent partner (at least in terms of dialog in this episode), Indigenous Canadian Jesse Jim, spots a boat stranded in the water off a rocky cliff face. They steer over to it to see if they can help.

Nick, looking like Kenny Loggins' drummer.

They find a couple of city-slicker day trippers struggling to get their engine started. It's a married couple, inclusive of swanky investment banker and inept sailor Joel, who complains a blue streak about how much money he spent on a boat that breaks down the first time he uses it, and his very pregnant wife Jessica, who is very pregnant.

Joel has nice hair.

Jessica has a bun in the oven. What are the odds the baby has something to do with the plot?

Nick offers to tow them back to port for free, since he's heading that way anyhow, but Joel prefers to pay him twenty bucks for it. When they arrive, Nick ties up Joel's dinghy (not a euphemism) and puts his dipstick in the tank (also not a euphemism), only to discover that the boat is simply out of gas.

Joel thanks the salvage sailors sheepishly and hands over the promised twenty, though it's Canadian money so Nick might as well have done it for free.

Back at the Reach-Around the place is packed with townsfolk waiting in line for handies, and the makeshift boat choir is rehearsing "Deck the Halls." One woulx have thought "O Come All Ye Faithful" would have been more appropriate, but you can't have everything. Those who aren't singing are hanging decorations or trimmimg the tree, and it's a nice snapshot of how close-knit a community they share.

Amidst all the gaiety a somber cloud drifts by, in the form of Relic, the curmudgeonly salvager whose salty temper serves as a balance to Nick's laid back disposition. The crusty sailor sweeps into the place in a rolling grump, annoyed by all the good will and festive activity. He doesn't cotton to all this Christmas cheerfulness and he takes every possible opportunity to say so.

He doesn't bathe too regular, neither.

He's come in hoping for a cup of coffee, but Molly, ever the optimist, puts a lyric sheet in his hands and tries to recruit him into the choir.

What I find quite charming here is that although Relic is clearly the black sheep of the town, he's still a beloved part of it, and everyone seems to care for and accept him for who he is despite his contrary nature. He's not a one-note misanthrope or even an essentially bad person, but a complex character full of fully believable human contradictions. He's reclusive, but needful of human companionship. He's self-sufficient yet lacks the social skills to engage with his community in a healthy and satisfying way.

When he learns that Molly means for him to sing, he's mortified and turns in haste to escape her tuneful wiles. One of the waitresses brings him a to-go cup, and he tells her he doesn't need the coffee anymore, but when she tells him it's hot chocolate, he grudgingly takes it anyway. As he reaches for the door, he tells them "Don't start singing 'til I'm out of range!"

He's my favorite character, obviously.

Now we're back out on the water, where a scruffy guy in a little one-man fishing boat is rowing because his outboard engine's gone out, which seems to happen a lot to folks around there. In the distance he sees Joel and Jessica's boat heading for him at a dangerous clip.

Inside the pilot house Joel is putzing over his charts and not paying any attention to where he's headed, and between his distraction and the roar of his engine he can neither see the fisherman frantically waving nor hear his panicked shouts.

Thankfully Joel looks up just in time to grab the wheel and avoid a catastrophe, but the fisherman, a fellow named McCoy, is mighty hot at having nearly been turned into fish food himself.


When Jessica asks Joel what's all the hubbub, bub, he claims "Some fool just tried to ram us!" Yep, that's his story and he's sticking to it.

They turn from nautical near-disasters to the very raison d'etre for their having bought the boat he can just barely operate, which was to get away from their insufferably shallow, back-biting families and spend Christmas alone in the unspoiled wilds of British Columbia, untouchable and unbothered by the near-ubiquitous hell that is their big-city friends and relations.

McCoy has meanwhile made it back to the dock at Gibson's. Relic spots him and gives him a hand pulling him in and mooring his boat to the dock. Their conversation reveals that McCoy lives by himself in a house on a hill across the bay and only comes into town occasionally to purchase supplies.

Although McCoy is slightly more affable that Relic, they're more or less crusty peas in an isolated pod and have a strong, commiseratory rapport with one another. The newcomer confides that he's got to leave his motor in town for servicing and asks his pal if he might tow him back across the bay. Relic says sure, he'll do it for a ten-spot, and the deal is done.

Later, with supplies in hand and boat in tow, the two bond over their mutual dislike for the holiday season.

The Gibson, B.C. Ornery Old Coot Society.

McCoy asserts that bears hibernate just so's they can avoid Christmas, and Relic counters that birds fly south for the very same reason. Yessir, they're just having a whale of a time bashing their neighbors' spirited expressions of seasonal joy, so when they moor at the foot of McCoy's mountain and his supply box pops open to reveal a box full of Christmas crackers, Relic is mighty confused by what he sees.

It's Santa's favorite fireworks.

When Relic asks about it McCoy testily tells him to mind his own business, gives him a hasty thanks and goodbye, then grabs the box and heads up the hill with it.

Relic's curiosity has been piqued, however to the point that he can't ignore it, so he follows McCoy at a discreet distance and watches through a window as the solitary old fellow carefully sets his table for two amongst a pleasimg backdrop of tasteful holiday decorations.

"He's gone plum loco!"

When Relic gets back to Gibsons he's even grumpier than usual. He finds his pier-mate John, whose boat will carry the carolers around the bay that evening, singing "Good King Wencislas" and decorating his ship with trees, garlands and lights for the night's merriment. Relic shouts at him to keep the noise down and and locks himself in his houseboat, covering the "Not IN, Keep OUT" sign he hangs on the door when he's away with the slate reading "Do Not Disturb" he uses when he's at home.

Back at the house on the hill, McCoy is sitting at his place at the table and filling both glasses with wine. The camera is placed such as to obscure the other seat, but as he speaks we dolly around to reveal that it's empty and he's actually completely alone. It's his dead wife to whom he is speaking, about how he never appreciated Christmas until she came along to make it special, and how he misses her more than ever at this time of year.

It's a syrupy conceit, and can you see it coming a mile away, but like everything else that's hokey and predictable in Stars of Wonder, it somehow reaches your heart anyway.

I didn't know I had one to reach. Also I want that Victrola.

But all is not well this Christmas Ever, for there's fresh trouble out on the bay. Village idiot Joel has somehow managed to fuck up his engine for real this time, and to make matters just that much more perilous, despite her January 12th due date Jessica thinks she's going to have the baby that very night.

Back in town the carolers are boarding John's boat, and Molly realizes she's forgotten her lyric sheets, disposable latex gloves and water-based lubricant back at the Reach-Around. She sends one of her waitresses--not the one who gave Relic his hot chocolate, but the younger, perkier one--back to grab them.

Perky Waitress uses her key to get in the cafe, but in her hurry to get back down to the dock she forgets to lock up again as she leaves. It's a low-key thing, but kind of obvious at the same time, and it stuck in my craw as clearly crucial to the resolution of the plot or they wouldn't have bothered showing it.

Let's keep this detail in mind as we move forward.

As the sun sets the carolers head out into the bay, and when darkness falls completely we cut back to Joel and Jessica, still stranded and getting colder and more panicked by the minute.

Jessica sees a light up on a hill overlooking the water, so they drop their lifeboat and head in towards shore. They climb up to McCoy's house and knock on his door, an he's quite surprised to have had his phantom supper interrupted.

"Is that a Mondrian on your sweater? I fucking hate Mondrian!"

When he hears about their boat breaking down and that little detail about the imminent arrival of their baby, he gets on his emergency radio and starts calling into the aether for help. Unfortunately, the only boat on the bay is the carol boat, and they're singing so noisily none of them can hear McCoy's pleas.

They sure are making those folks happy, though.

Jessica helpfully mentions that their doctor is in Hawaii, so maybe McCoy can use the radio to call him, but he looks at her like she's got a pair of rhesus monkeys for breasts. He can barely get a signal to the other side of the bay, he says, so Hawaii is a mighty big ask. She notices the second plate at the table and asks if maybe McCoy's wife knows something about birthing or midwifery, but he assures her "That's just my memories, and they ain't gonna do you no good." He tells her that they'd better start praying for a miracle, 'cause gol-danga-dingit they're gonna need one.

Back in town, Relic is feeling a little peckish and horny, so he heads down to the Reach-Around for some cake, coffee and a happy ending. He finds the door open, but the place is dark and theres no one inside. He figures he might as well help himself to whatever's around anyway, and as he's foraging the emergency radio in the kitchen crackles to life.

"Can't a feller steal and eat in peace?"

Across the bay, McCoy pulls out his emergency kit and sends up a flare. The singers see it from the boat as it streaks across the sky, much like the Star of Bethlehem but in an arc down to the water instead of a direct line to a grungy stable. Against all safety protocols all of the carolers ignore it, as if it's just some flamboyant Christmas decoration rather than a universally recognized emergency signalling device.

Just as they're about to resume their oblivious singing, Relic pulls up in his boat and shouts them down. There's a lady up at McCoy's place, he tells them, and she's ready pop like one of them crackers, so they'd better get up there and do something to help pronto.

"Meantime, ya got any cookies on that tug? I"m famished!"

Later that evening the whole crew are at McCoy's and carol-boat John announces the successful birth of a baby boy. Relic is there, too, but he's sitting outside alone, feeling a little sheepish and uncomfortable. He knows he's done a good deed and maybe even saved the mother and baby's life, but he still can't find it in himself to join the others in their merriment.

Proud papa Joel pops out onto the porch to make a speech, explaining that he and Jessica had come up to the bay to get away from Christmas, but he can't imagine what might have happened if they hadn't all brought Christmas to them. Nick tells him if there's anybody he should thank it's that cranky old fart sitting by himself over yonder on an old wooden pallet, because he's the one who heard the distress call and sent all of the rest of them to help.

"But aren't you supposed to be the star of the show?"

Joel thanks Relic and asks him what he's called so he can name the baby after him. Relic tells him and the color slowly drains from the new dad's face. Nick saves the day by reminding Relic that his real name is "Stafford," and Molly helpfully chimes in that she never calls him Relic or Stafford, but "Taffy." That's a pair of names Joel can work with, so he shakes the befuddled salvager's hand and heads back inside to inform his wife they've got a Stafford Taffy in the house.

The Perky Waitress who unwittingly saved Christmas through her irresponsible lack of diligence asks Relic to just this once come inside and join the party, but he waves her off and she gives up trying to persuade him.

"It's just as well. He doesn't wash too regular."

Relic is what he is, and he does what he does, and everybody knows a leopard can't change a flat tire, or however the hell that saying goes. Strong emotions are hard to face when they rush in on you unawares, especially when you've built up so many barriers of false pride to keep them at bay, so he remains there alone, sitting on his lonely pallet in the frosty air, looking up at the sky and dreaming, perhaps of some far-off time when he had friends, good fellowship and a family of his own.

Or maybe he's thinking about that handy last week back at the Reach-Around.

The End.

Call me a sentimental old fluff (go ahead...see what happens), but I liked
The Beachcombers: Stars of Wonder. It had a warm, comforting vibe to it, an appealing authenticity in the way it approached its schmaltzy premise. Of course, it would have been worth watching for the Relic character alone, and I can't overstate how perfectly actor Robert Clothier played the role. He'd had sixteen seasons to settle into the character by this point, and there was an easy, natural flow to his every line and movement. It's rare in what is essentially light entertainment to find a character that feels this real.

If it weren't for the fact that I'm a full week behind on my Shitmas articles, with immovable deadlines moving towards me like a runaway Christmas train, maybe I'd take a break and explore The Beachcombers a little further.

Meh, probably not.

Shitmas Bonus!

Tales from the Northside:
A Kitten for Rasputin

My friend Dongle the Elf and I were engaged in one of our meetings at the pub we both frequented, and he was, as usual, regaling me with tales both humorous and intriguing about his former employment as one of Santa's helpers. I think he found it something of a catharsis to unburden himself of the many North Pole secrets he'd been carrying over the years.

It was mostly information I'm certain Santa Claus and others in his circle would prefer to keep suppressed, so it suddenly occurred to me to ask why nothing of it had ever been leaked before. Surely there were others who had sought to blow the whistle on the absurd and sinister things I'd been learning about during our evening talks. Why had they never succeeded?

"It's the legal exposure," explained my friend. "Information coming out of the North Pole is tightly controlled, and there's no story or press release of any kind that isn't approved personally by either Santa's secretary, Rasputin the Polar Bear, or Santa Claus himself. To that end, everyone who's ever been hired at Santa's facilities has been made to sign a non-disclosure agreement. I've heard it through the sugar plum vine that his legal team is swift and aggressive in punishing anyone who leaks even the most minor details of the operation. If anyone still at the pole had even hinted about leaking they could expect a personal visit from Rasputin, and that was something no one at any level of Santa's organization would ever want to endure."

"Well what about you, than? Surely, you're under the same obligations as anyone else, yet you've not only told me these things but given me permission to publish them. Why take such a risk?"

Dongle settled into his chair in a way that invariably meant he had something special to tell, so I discreetly motioned the bartender to replenish his Guinness, so that its running dry wouldn't interrupt the flow of his thoughts.

"Well, friend, it's like this: When I left the Pole, I was as tight-lipped as anyone. I felt at the time as if I'd escaped from a bad relationship, and the last thing I needed was to give any excuse for 'the ex' to come find me.

When I moved here for the job at Keebler I brought several boxes of personal papers with me, and having hauled them all that way I figured I might as well look at them and see what I should keep and what I might shred. There's something rather pleasing about shredding old papers you don't need anymore, don't you think?"

I nodded my agreement. "Absolutely. I love shredding old papers, especially at work."

"There you's satisfying, right? So, I was looking through these boxes and I came across my intake papers from when I'd first been hired, when I got that night shift job at the power plant. As soon as I saw that bundle, I seemed to feel a distant little tickle of something about the day I signed them. It kept poking at my memory as I sorted through the rest of the box, so that after a time I was so distracted I gave it up as a bad job, went back to the hefty packet I hadn't even thought about for over four decades and read through every page.

"I think I told you I nearly arrived late for my first day of work due to some bad weather in the passage. As a result, I was the last new hire of the whole new batch of Elves to check in. They handed me that very intake packet and I starting signing everything in it straight away, but I noticed it went from 18 to 21 with nothing in between. I thought maybe it was something they didn't need and had purposely omitted, but I couldn't be sure.

I walked over to HR, and a helpful Penguin named Mr. Morrison told me it was the 'NDA' that was missing. At the time I didn't even know what 'NDA' was, but I wasn't about to say as much and look a fool. Mr. Morrison said he'd print one for me. He left the room for a moment but returned empty-handed, complaining that the copier had run out of toner. Furthermore, their shipment of office supplies had been delayed by the same storm that had made my own ship arrive so late.

'No problem, kid,' the penguin said, 'As soon as we get the toner, we'll come find you down at the plant.'

I don't know whether they ever got their toner, but I never saw Mr. Morrison ever again, and if I didn't know what an NDA was then I sure as hell know what one is now...and as it turns out I never signed one!"

That's lucky for you, and for me, too, but still...aren't you afraid that even if the lawyers can't get to you Rasputin might takes things into his own paws, so to speak? From what you've told me I wouldn't want to end up on his bad side."

Dongle gave a little chuckle, and his teeth caught the warm, flickering light of the fireplace. "Oh, Rasputin is busy with other concerns these days, but in any event, he isn't quite the terror he used to be."

My friend then relayed, in a convoluted way, the following story which I've condensed and edited into a more coherent narrative than the rambling form in which was given me. Once you read it I think you'll agree that the liberty was well-taken.

Rasputin the Polar Bear was an ill-tempered brute at the best of times, but one particular week many years back he'd outdone himself in his hard talk and brutal treatment of the many Elves, Penguins and other creatures in Santa's employ.

As Santa's closest and most trusted advisor, he had free reign to go where he liked and to administer discipline as he saw fit, and if his ministrations went too far, were too cruel or too wildly out of balance with the transgressions that triggered them, Santa felt increasingly obliged to turn a blind eye. Rasputin was loyal almost to a fault, but he was also privy to Santa's most dark and intimate secrets, and over the decades since his elevation to personal secretary, bodyguard and confidante, the dynamic between them had, at a steady but almost imperceptible pace, changed, so that one morning Santa Claus awoke to the realization that even he was afraid of him.

On the weekend before Rasputin's Great Rampage the factories were humming along efficiently, and the Elves were humming along to the same tunes they'd been singing for generations to help keep the boredom of the repetitive labor at bay. Occasionally they'd improvise new lyrics here and there so that the content would be slowly transformed over time into completely new songs with more modern meanings.

On the Saturday before that fateful Monday morning a cheeky little Elf named Brodwyn sang the traditional Elfin lyric:

"Over the hills and into the valley
I followed my love so fair,
I gave her a glimmer of my little trimmers
and cut off her long blonde hair."

Then he told his workmates he had something new to add and sang:

"Over the hills and into the valley
I followed the big white bear,
I gave him a glimmer of my little trimmers
and shaved his fat ass bare."

The other Elves were delighted at the not-so-subtle reference to Santa's deeply unpopular enforcer, and by Sunday evening the lyric had spread between shifts and even into the repertoire of other factories. By Monday morning it had become a standard feature of the song, and Rasputin, already surly from his previous night's overindulgence from Santa's magic cask, heard the offending lyric enthusiastically sung as he entered Factory 118 for a routine inspection.

He flew into a rage, had the entire place shut down and demanded the names of every Elf on the line. The floor manager, a Walrus named Taft, confessed that it was a common enough song that virtually every Elf had probably sung at some point, so in his view it was impossible to isolate a particular Elf or group of Elves for punishment.

"In that case," Rasputin growled, "they will all be punished!"

And so began the worst week of abuse and deprivation any Elf who worked at the Pole had ever suffered. Beatings were frequent, random and arbitrary, Elves would be plucked from the line then returned bruised and bleeding, then forced to work without breaks, food or water. When they collapsed from exhaustion Rasputin would have them fired and all of their pay docked for the entire season.

Deplorable conditions were nothing new to the workers of the Pole, but this was a level of depravity that had never before been seen. When Santa heard of it he realized it must be stopped, that aside from the obvious ethical concerns, the efficiency and success of his entire operation might be threatened. Though he knew he must act, he was also fearful of Rasputin's uncontrolled rage and at a loss for how to reproach him without making things worse. He stroked his beard and paced his living room for hours, ruminating on the great white brute's reign of terror.

On that Friday evening Rasputin returned to his lavish apartments exhausted from the week's exertions. Though his awful rage hadn't in the least subsided, his body was weary and he was looking forward to a long, hot bath and a quiet evening's rest.

When he entered his bedchamber he found it unaccountably cold. He looked across the room and saw that a window on the far wall was partially open, with a little pile of snow having accumulated on the windowsill and the carpet beneath.

"If someone's been in here," he sneered, "I'll surely have their hide!"

He slammed the window shut and closed the latch, but it fell immediately open again at the first hint of the polar breeze. He shut it once again and the same thing happened, and he realized the latch had become too loose to stay in place.

"Those damn fools in maintenance had best keep out of my way! It's not six weeks since I had this fixed!"

Rasputin was too tired for shouting let alone for summoning and beating the help, so he grabbed a screwdriver out of this bedside drawer and fixed the latch himself.

"Nice and tight!" he mumbled, his gorge receding. "Is it such a hard thing to mend things right the first time?"

He sat on the bed and took a gulp of schnapps, and when he put the glass down he thought he heard something peculiar, like a faint squeak or squeal, that seemed to be coming from underneath his bed.

"What now?" he thought, "Why must I be so burdened with trouble? There's no use calling anyone, I might as well have a look for myself."

Rasputin put the screwdriver back where he'd gotten it and grabbed a flashlight from the same drawer. He knelt down and peered beneath the bed. At first he didn't see anything out of the ordinary, just the bare carpet and the casters on his bed frame, but then at the far corner of the bed and against the wall the light caught the reflecting surface of two tiny eyes, and heard the littlest, most pathetic "meow" he had ever heard in his life.

Now, it wasn't a well known thing, or known at all, really outside of a few trusted confidantes, but for all Rasputin's strength, cruelty and bad humor, he did have one weakness that would invariably reduce him to blubbering jelly: He had a deep, irresistible and all-encompassing love of cats. Santa had, in fact, expressly forbidden him from ever having a cat for fear that he might go soft and become an ineffective bodyguard and enforcer. Now here he was, faced to face with the smallest, cutest, coal-black kitten in the whole wide world, and his heart suddenly melted like the halo of frost around a campfire.

"Come here, little kitty," he said in a voice so sweet and nurturing that no one he knew would have believed it was him, "Daddy won't hurt you!"

The kitten, who had been so frightened by Rasputin's gruff and noisy entrance that he had bolted under the bed to hide, now came tentatively towards the furry giant's outstretched paw. He gave its meaty pads a long, thoughtful sniff, then rubbed his face against the palm of it and began to purr.

Rasputin went to his boss that very evening and begged like a child to be allowed to keep the kitten. At first Santa gave him a stern and resounding "no." Had he no respect for him? Had they not discussed this very thing in the past? Santa had given him everything, his job, his lodgings, his comfortable life, had allowed him every freedom and indulgence, and yet now he dared to ask for this one thing that he had absolutely forbidden him to have?

Rasputin held the kitten to his chest protectively. He begged. He cried. He promised to give up half his pay, even all of it, if only he could keep the helpless little creature he'd found beneath his bed. He got down on his knees and grovelled, he prostrated himself before Santa's feet, and finally, after two full hours of abject humiliation, Santa relented. "Fine, Rasputin! If only you'll stop pestering me...I suppose you may keep him."

That kitten was Cinder, Rasputin's very first kitty, but within a month he had three, and within a year he had seven, and by the end of two years his private apartments were home to seventeen beautiful, frisky cats.

From the moment he adopted Cinder his entire personality changed. He'd suddenly found the empathy, compassion and love he had so long ago abandoned. He could no longer bring himself to be arbitrary or cruel to anyone, because he would always think to himself "What would my babies think of me?"

Of course he was worthless as an enforcer now. Little by little his duties shrank and he no longer had Santa's ear as once he had, but he still knew Santa's darkest secrets, so he was suffered to stay on in the same lush apartments with a generous yearly stipend, and with little to do but dote on his fur-babies to his loving heart's content.

Whenever someone would remark to Santa how drastically Rasputin had changed, the jolly old fellow would get a mischievous glint in his eye and say "It is rather remarkable, isn't it? Whoever would have thought such a big, nasty brute of a beast could be reduced to such a state by one tiny black kitten!"

Then he'd wink mysteriously and walk away laughing.

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

Merry Christmas, folkses.

Next Installment: December 15th!

As always, Cheers and thanks for reading!

Written by Bradley Lyndon in December, 2022.

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