Ho ho howdy folkses! Welcome to Day Seven of our Twelve Days of Shitmas celebration for 2022! Having tipped the fulcrum past Day Six we're now careening ever faster into the second half of our annual celebration. Last time we had something cozy, comforting and Canadian, a tale of Canuck curmudgeons and crazy coincidences that made us feel all fuzzy, warm and bloated, like we'd just scarfed down a heaping plate of baked beans and backbacon around a crackling campfire in the wilds of British Columbia. Today we make a lateral move across the Atlantic to catch up with some friendly Swiss trolls as they attempt to sleep through the winter, but instead awaken just in time to not quite discover the meaning of Christmas. It's an unmitigated delight for a change, and as sweet a Shitmas treat as you're likely to meet for the entire remainder of our celebration. So grab a plate and fill yourselves with trifles while you can, 'cause after today it's reindeer chips and shit sandwiches from here until Christmas.

How much shit would a Shitmas shit if a Shitmas would shit shit?

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. Let's assume for a moment you've been living off-grid in the Kalahari desert, somewhere in Botswana, Southern Africa, caring for an elderly Gemsbok and writing your memoirs, so you haven't heard tell of the Shitmas wonder that is Crouching Elf, Hidden Santa. Imagine for a moment your surprise and delight in returning to civilization and discovering that you and you alone can find the hidden links to an Elf pic and a Santa photo hidden in the screenshots of today's review. It feels real good, doesn't it? Especially after all those long months of having to compete for food and water with a pack of brown hyenas.

Do you know what else feels real good? Our Shitmas Bonus Tales from the Northside anthology, of course! It's twelve terrible tales featuring Santa Claus, labor disputes, debauchery, corruption, worker Elves, reindeer, penguins, polar bears and even a talking walrus named Taft. It's something recherche you just can't find anywhere else, but it's available right here at Million Monkey Theater, absolutely free with a money back guarantee.

The Moomins have been delighting children and adults alike since Swiss-Finnish author Tove Jannson published her first book "The Moomins and the Great Flood" in 1945. Eight more books, five picture books, two theme parks, a long-running comic strip plus five feature films and television series from multiple countries followed, making it one of the most popular and internationally beloved family franchises of all time.

Mumi-Troll (1978), a stop-motion Soviet production.

Today's iteration is from a Finland-Netherlands-Japanese co-production running seventy-eight episodes between 1990 and 1992. I had heard of the Moomins before but knew almost nothing about them, so I went into the special without any preconceptions or expectations. It turned out to be a surprisingly charming, even enchanting experience, and it made me want more. It's sweet without being cloying or disingenuous, features well-developed characters with believable and relatable personalities and has an unpretentious goodness that's both refreshing and morally nourishing.

It's also emotionally grounded in a way I didn't expect from a children's cartoon, and the more I watched the more engaged I became. I was slow to realize why it had moved me so deeply, perhaps through some protective function of my subconscious, but it slowly dawned on me that it had tapped into something deeply personal I've been struggling to come to terms with over the past several months, something I certainly ahad no intention of writing about in an article here at MMT.

I'm not someone who mourns openly or publicly. I generally like to keep my pain to myself and not burden anyone else with it, but intense grief has its own agenda, and when it tells you what it wants, it's best that you listen.

On September 6th of this year, just two days after my birthday, we lost my deeply cherished mother-in-law, Judy Connor Weaver, to pancreatic cancer. There was little question of trying to fight it. It had advanced over the course of who knows how many months, so silently and stealthily that by the time it could be detected the war was already lost. It was only five weeks from diagnosis to death, with my wife serving as her live-in caretaker and me still working, but present with her for as much of each day as I could manage.

Mom was an extraordinarily strong person with tremendous spiritual strength, and from the very moment she knew her time on Earth was ending she was completely at peace. I've never seen anyone face their own death with such poise and serenity.

Mom's mass card, which I carry with me every day. We picked this out at the funeral home then later found the same image in a frame on her dresser.

I've spoken about Mom here before, about her kindness, her generosity, her patience, her loving nature and her deep faith. She was an almost impossible embodiment of the ideals honest Christians cherish and to which all decent people aspire.

Her faith was the central pillar of her existence, and she lived it completely every day of her life. The very worst thing I ever heard Mom say about anyone was that she sometimes had trouble praying for them! As I've said before, perhaps a bit too pridefully, I am not a Christian, but I do strive to live an authentic life of equity, compassion and love.

Sometimes I succeed and sometimes I don't. I occasionally struggle to lean consistently into those values, but Mom was so temperamentally inclined to them she never even had to think about it. She simply did what was right and what was kind naturally.

I've lived through a lot of loss, too much of it, if I'm honest, but neither my wife nor I have ever experienced anything as devastating as losing Mom. It's been an intense, stalking, feral grief that pounces on us unexpectedly, grabs us and shakes us and demands we pay attention to its all-encompassing misery. We're consumed with a ceaseless, disorienting sense that everything is somehow wrong, that our lives are out of balance and our faculties irretrievably diminished. We're aimlessly lost in a strange, melancholy fog, with our brains bedeviled by disbelief, constantly astruggling against time and logic to make sense of this frightening new world that Mom is no longer a part of.

I had to acknowlege that there were things in Adventures from Moominvalley: Christmas is Coming that brought Mom to mind for me, and despite the pain that came along with that, it was ultimately a blessing. Framing this article around those memories and associations has helped give me the permission to openly mourn I'd been denying myself, both out of fear and from and a sense of duty to be strong for my wife.

In the end I just wanted to be able to share Mom with someone, even in some small way, because everyone deserves to have someone as good and loving as she was in their life.

Mom and I, Longwood Gardens, October, 2021.

Christmas is Coming is loosely structured in two parts, which at first made it seem analagous to last year's Astro Boy episode, where the writers seemed suddenly to remember it was supposed to be a Christmas episode halfway through, but the preamble here is necessary to set up the story, which is easily the most genuine, rewarding and Christmassy of our entire list this year.

As we open, we aren't discussing the upcoming holiday at all, but are instead offered the information that Moomins habitually hibernate through the coldest months of the year. Tonight is the very night when they'll begin their slumber and in preparation they're gathering pine needles, a traditional food, to serve as part of an annual celebratory feast before their long winter sleep.

"I've heard of high fiber, but this is ridiculous!"

As Moonintroll and his friend and playmate Snork Maiden fill their wicker baskets, a young girl named Alicia walks up and asks them what they're up to. They explain the significance of the day and add the charming detail that no one knows exactly why they eat the pine needles before they hibernate, it's just that they always have, and it seems they always will.

Back at the Moomin house Moominpapa and Moominmama welcome Alicia, and Moominmama cheerfully invites her to stay for the pre-hibernation celebration, assuring her there will be plenty there besides pine needles for her to enjoy.

Moominpapa in his swanky hat and Moominmama in her snazzy apron.

Moominpapa asks if Alicia's grandmother, the local witch, knows she's there and she tells them no, because sometimes it's best if grown-ups don't know too much. I couldn't agree more.

It seems the Witch is none-too pleased at all the time Alicia has been spending with the Moomin-folk, preferring she spend more time studying witchcraft and less time socializing with kind, generous and decent folk in the valley, but Alicia can't help but be drawn to the friendly and welcoming creatures, with their unconditional love and acceptance of her.

This is the first part of the special that really made me think of Mom, as she always kept an open house and an open heart for unexpected guests. When my wife was growing up, her house was the hang-out house of the neighborhood, the place where everyone felt cared-for and safe, and where her friends could stop by anytime whether she was there or not. At the funeral luncheon we learned that some of my wife's now-middle-aged childhood friends were still in regular touch with Mom, and still considered her a friend and surrogate mother.

Mom was involved in Girl Scouts from the time she was a little girl, and over the decades hundreds of girls, including my wife and her friends, enjoyed the enriching experience of her care. She was still a registered Scout up until the day she passed, having amassed an astonishing seventy-six years of active participation. When she reached her seventy-fifth year, she was issued a three-quarter-century pin, but because so few of them were ever needed it had to be special ordered and she had to wait almost a year to get it.

Be Prepared.

Now we cut to a happy wanderer in a green cap and a brown smock, stepping lightly through the snow on his way to the Moomins' home. This is Snufkin, one of nature's naturals, and a wise, wandering mystic of indeterminate age with a playful disposition and a deep dislike for rules and authority. As he wanders over a rustic bridge, he hears a voice hailing him from behind. It's a human-sized rabbit-kangaroo named Sniff, another of the trolls's innumerable friends, also travelling to the Moomin house to bid them goodnight as they enter their hibernation.

Snufkin and Sniff, keepin' on keepin' on.

When they reach the house to make their visit they find others have already arrived, including a family friend named Hemulin, an older gentleman who the interwebs tell me is fond of collecting stamps. I'm sure he's loads of fun.

Also present is a little red-haired girl named Little My, Snufkin's sister, who lives with the gentle Moomins most of the year. She's sassy, rambunctious, bluntly outspoken and takes no shit.

Just like my wife.

So, they all sit down to a great feast, with plenty of options and plenty of everything to go around. Moomintroll feels slightly guilty for having asked Snufkin to come join them, as he would normally already be on his way south for the winter, but he says he wanted to stay to enjoy the feast with his friends. The snow is getting deep, though, tender-hearted Moomintroll says, and he worries that the roads may become impassable.

No worries, replies his easygoing pal, deep snow never bothered him or slowed his feet, but he is concerned for Alicia, who still needs to get to the other side of the valley that night to get home to her grandmother.

Suddenly, as if his voice had summoned her, the old witch herself appears, looking for her granddaughter and in no mood to be trifled with.

She seems pleasant.

Grandma Witch figured out that her daughter was there and now demands she come home with her. Furthermore, she forbids that she ever again associate with the Moomin folk, as they're good, decent people of the sort grumpy old witches aren't supposed to mingle with.

Of course, Moominmama tells her she's welcome to stay and share their meal, and again, this is exactly what Mom would have done. If some surly stranger came pounding on my door I'd probably tell them to pound some sand instead and get the hell off my property, but Mom would offer them cookies and tea and maybe even hire them to do some yardwork for her. In ten minutes' time they'd be good friends.

Mom's non-judgmental openness has been an inspiration for me in my work at a mental health social center, where my Member Ambassador position means that I'm often the first point of contact for new and potential members, their families and caregivers, or other folks in the community who want to know what it is that we do. Our motto is "I Belong," and it's often up to me to be the face of welcome for our facility.

We're always looking for volunteers...or donations!

Mom had a natural, unpretentious way of making people feel at home, even if they'd been strangers just a few moments before, and I think of her when a challenging member comes in and tries to push my buttons. Mom intrinsically understood the power of patience and watching her use that power in the care of others is still a cogent lesson to me when I'm feeling frustrated by someone else's questionable behavior.

Speaking of which, Grandma Witch is determined to be difficult, and despite Alicia's pleas to be allowed to stay she plops her on the back of her broom and attempts to take off to fly her home. Little My tells them bluntly that they'll never get off the ground with the extra weight, but Grandma is stubborn, and after a few little hiccups and some ten-foot dead-drops into snow drifts, she finally manages to get enough thrust and they speed off over the foothills into the night.

God's speed, witches!

Grandma Witch and Alicia are characters exclusive to this particular Moomin series, and this is part of the arc of their relationship with them. Over time the Witch softens to the Moomins, and if she's not exactly pleasant to them, she at least comes to respect them and appreciate the kindness they show her granddaughter.

Later that night, when all the bellies are full and all of the guests have departed, the Moomin family settles down in the cozy beds for their long hibernations. Just a few days into their slumber, however, another of the Moomin people comes tramping up to their house through the snow. He knocks at the front door but gets no answer, then climbs a ladder to the top of their turret-shaped home to knock on Moomintroll and Snork Maiden's window.

I'm not sure that ladder is OSHA compliant.

The Stranger knocks and knocks but the Moomins are so deep in slumber it takes them a long time to wake up, and by the time they do the little fellow has climbed back down, put on his snowshoes and headed back to from whence he came. Moomintroll sleepily peers out the window, sees him departing and forces the frozen-shut window open to find out why the guy woke him up.

"You shouldn't be asleep! Didn't you know Christmas is coming?" he shouts back in response to Moomintroll's queries. As a matter of fact, Moomintroll did not know Christmas was coming, or even who the heck Christmas is.

The Stranger has no time to explain. Christmas is coming tomorrow, he says, and worse yet, he's running late and lost his mittens and hasn't even gotten a fir tree yet! Moomin shouts after him to learn why he needs a fir tree, but the fellow has gotten too far away to hear him.

All of the noise has woken Moominpapa, who asks what the hubbub is about. Moomintroll explains that Christmas is coming and apparently--get this--they can't go back to sleep until they get a fir tree for him.

"Have you been into the schnapps, son?"

So, Moominpappa wakes Moominmamma, and now the menfolk head out into the forest to pick out a fir tree, ostensibly to protect themselves against "This Christmas person."

As they drag a magnificent pine back to their home they run into a neighbor, weighed down with shopping bags full of groceries. She compliments them on the fine tree they've picked out, but when Moominpapa nesciently asks her to tell him what they're supposed to do with it, she laughs it off as a joke, even commenting on how he can keep such a perfectly straight face while asking such a patently absurd thing. Before he can explain that he really is quite in the dark about it, she hurries off, saying she has a lot of cooking to do.

"Is this a top hat or a dunce cap?"

Back at Moomin house Moominmama is at it again, treating a wayfaring stranger to a bit of rest and a nice hot cup of tea. Snork Maiden comes running down the steps to announce that she's just seen Moominpapa and Moonintroll dragging home a great big fir tree, and Moominmama, befuddled, asks "But what is one supposed to do with it?"

The little Traveller tells them they should decorate it as beautifully as they can, of course, then he schleps off across the wastes to get to his own home before the holiday begins.

So now they know they're supposed to decorate the tree, but not why it's even a thing. They reason that if Christmas is some kind of monster, perhaps decorating the tree is to keep him happy. To make things even more confusing, Moominpapa shares that the word on the street is when Christmas is coming you're also expected to cook lots of food. Moominmama surmises that maybe you have to feed Christmas so he won't try to eat you!

So, the Moomin family sets up the tree in front of their house and begins decorating it with teapots, strings of pink and blue pearls, colorful cloth, pots, pans and tchotchkes all and sundry. Moominpapa finds a beautiful rose and puts it at the top to complete their yuletide masterpiece.

Just then Moominmama comes home from running some errands with the bombshell scoop that Christmas also requires that they give it presents.

"Greedy little shit, ain't he?"

The Moomins all go inside and root through their treasured possessions to find appropriate gifts. They pick out a beautiful seashell, a fishing lure, a model ship and a favorite book, then place them all under the tree with a feast of cakes, pies and cookies. They light a host of warm, inviting candles and sit outside wrapped in cozy blankets to await the arrival of the mysterious creature whose many demands have turned their routine inside out.

They wait and they wait, but no one comes, and the later it gets the sleepier they become. After some hours of dozing, and deep in the night, they see a small crowd of assorted strangers approaching.

And a fine looking group they are, too.

They hail the Moomins with a "Merry Christmas," and one of them explains that they were drawn there by the lovely tree, the finest and best decorated in all of Moominvalley. The Family welcomes them to join in their vigil, and as the hour grows even later it seems plain to them that Christmas may not be coming to eat them, after all. Moominmama turns to Moominpapa and says "Are you thinking what I'm thinking?"

"Yes, mama...but where will we find a billie goat and a hair dryer at this ungodly hour?"

The Moomins decide to go back inside and go to bed, and they tell their tiny guests that the tree and the food and of the presents are now theirs.

And there was much rejoicing.

This is where I kind of lost it, emotionally speaking. I'm a closet sentimentalist despite my gruffness and snark, and when something feels authentic to me, I let it flow over me and soak directly into my heart. I wasn't always able to express that part of myself, but this year particularly, with such a recent sting of loss hovering over my every thought, this simple display of Christmas warmth, love and joy hit me hard. I'm not ashamed to admit it made me a little teary-eyed.

Coming from a toxic mess of a family, with life-bending trauma baked into my early childhood, my Christmases in adulthood have have had to carry a lot of baggage over the years. There were many holidays I hid from entirely, and the thought of going home to spend Christmas with my own parents, when they were alive, always filled me with a terrible, quaking anxiety.

My face is in this book like twenty-eight times.

In my Wife's family, Mom was the loving heart of the holidays, the center of festive operations, and the motivating force in my own life that transformed Christmas from something to dread into a time of unconditional love and acceptance. Every stray within the family orbit who had nowhere else to go was always welcomed by Mom to join us for any holiday event, so when the Moomins so naturally and effortlessly embraced that same inclusive spirit of charitable care, it gave me some hope that Mom's giving spirit might live on, perhaps in the actions of those who've benefitted from and been inspired by her generosity, warmth and serenity.

"Merry Christmas. I'm going to bed!"

So having unwittingly embodied the essential spirit of the season through their innate kindness, the Moomins go back to their beds to sleep, perchance to dream of Christmas trees and sugar plums, until the first flowers of spring awaken them and the cycle of their lives begins anew.

The End.

A few days after Mom passed I had a strange dream, particularly strange since I rarely dream about real people from my waking life. In it, my wife handed me her phone, saying "Here, talk to Mom." I put the phone to my ear and before I could even speak I heard Mom's voice say "What a wordy riddle and a terrible leap! Then I woke up. She had spoken it in a voice of childlike wonder, as I had often heard her use in years gone by when she'd read to our young nieces. That dream has haunted me these past three and a half months as I've tried to extract some comfort, sense or meaning from it.

Is the terrible leap the one Mom herself made when she jumped through the veil of mortality? Is it our terrible leap into a mournful unknown, where the fathomless spaces Mom once occupied in our lives now stand achingly empty?

Is death itself is the wordy riddle we can never solve? We might speak and write of it, hope, conjecture and surmise, but our understanding of it will always be out of reach until we, too cross over from this vessel of flesh and into the realm of the spirit.

Our holidays this year are also a terrible leap, into sorrow and heartache, but we owe it to Mom to carry on the traditions she taught us. Even if they hurt us unbearably today, we hope there will come a time when they will bring us peace, when our memories of the wonderful woman who taught us so much and loved us so deeply will comfort and sustain us. By passing her love down to our nieces and to their future children, we'll be helping to keep Mom's legacy vibrantly alive in a world that still needs her nurturing care and faithful compassion.

She was a humble person, plainly astonished at the outpouring of love from so many family members, friends and acquaintances when she first became ill, but I know she'd want us to be contented by our memories of her. We're not anywhere near that now, but we will still try to lead by her example, and give in some small measure to others the love she so bountifully gave to us.

Shitmas Bonus!

Tales from the Northside:
Reindeer John

"Isn't it odd?" my friend Dongle the Elf remarked one evening a few days after Thanksgiving. "When we first began our friendship and I started sharing my stories with you, I gave no particular thought as to where to begin, but just blurted out whatever recollections came to my mind. I didn't consciously list my experiences in any particular order, but the more I tell, the more I realize there's a pattern emerging, a sort of road map to what finally led to my departure from the North Pole after a nearly forty-five year career within Santa's organization."

It was an unseasonably warm night, despite the chill of the past few days, and although the fireplace was unlit in the coziest corner of our favorite pub, we sat in the same seats we'd been occupying every evening for the past few weeks. We'd only just settled in and Dongle had just finished his first pint of Guinness, but it seemed we were already off to a promising start.

"I know just what you mean," I replied, "The subconscious mind is a disordered engine of contradictions, but there's often some hidden agenda embedded in its chaos, some puzzle it's attempting to solve or message it's trying to convey to us. I've experienced it myself many times, where a series of seemingly random and illogical leaps eventually reveal a distinct pattern and lead to a personal epiphany."

"Exactly! Although I believe I'm only part of the way through the process, I'm beginning to recognize how the threads I've unspooled for you must inevitably come together at some point in our future conversations. The story I have for you tonight is a sad one, yet ultimately, it's a tale of empowerment and self-discovery. It might seem isolated from the other things I've told you, and perhaps a little strange, but it set in motion an idea that would come to have life-changing consequences for virtually everyone at the Pole.

I don't know that I'll be able to fully articulate the full significance of it all tonight, but I'll tell you what I'll tell you and ask that you keep it in mind for some later time, when the overlapping themes of our pleasant evenings together begin to converge."

Donner was not only the fastest and most agile of Santa's reindeer, but also the most beloved among his peers. A natural orator with an open, friendly and enthusiastic disposition, he was acknowledged by all as the undisputed leader of the flying reindeer team. He was also a great mentor for the up-and-coming recruits and always made time for them, answering their questions and addressing their concerns with the patience, wisdom and thoroughness for which he was widely known. The worker Elves loved him, too for his gentleness, humor and sympathetic ear, and there was many an evening he would stay up late listening to their laments at the harsh toils they were so often forced to endure. He felt it wasn't his place to interfere with the boss' operations, but he sympathized with the Elves' plight and whenever the opportunity might arise he did what little he could to comfort them.

He had lived what seemed like a charmed life from an early age, having been a bright, successful student and star athlete, and he had married his high school sweetheart right after their graduation, often proudly admitting that he had never so much as kissed another reindeer in all his life. It seemed a perfectly happy marriage, too, and through all the many years they had been together he had never once raised his voice nor had a single complaint to make about her steady and loving companionship.

To all outward appearances they were as perfect a love match as he himself believed them to be, which is why, when he awoke one morning to find her gone and a "Deer John" letter awaiting him at the breakfast table, it was the most shocking and confusing moment of his life.

He was angry for a time, of course, but he found he could not abide the anger of others where his wife was concerned. Whenever some well-meaning friend would try to commiserate with him by condemning her actions, he would find himself defending her to them. Thus abashed, they would drop the subject and move on to harmless and unrelated subjects, clumsily attempting to distract him as best they could from the profound pain they knew he must be enduring.

She'd been gone about a three weeks when he had the strange dream that began his metamorphosis. He was standing in the snow on the edge of an ice shelf, with his wife at his side, when suddenly the ice between them cracked and she began to drift away and out to the open water. He shouted to her in a panic, desperate for her to hear, but she seemed oblivious to his cries. She smiled serenely, unmoved, as she floated off into a thick swirl of arctic mist and out of his view forever.

He awoke with a peculiar clarity of mind that morning, as if something grand and important been revealed to him, but he could not consciously grasp what that great truth might be. As he made his breakfast, he wondered to himself, had he ever truly been the husband she'd deserved? He was never cross or unkind with her, and he did surely have some kind of real love for her, but it was a cold, distant love, an intellectual and conceptual love without passion or purpose. It was a checklist and an agenda of love and kindness rather than love and kindness flowing from the wellspring of the heart.

He was not a bad stag, he reasoned, but he now saw himself as strangely incomplete, neither the sum of his accomplishments not truly accomplished beyond his many empty, worldly pursuits. He had been so long untethered from himself he'd become a mere spectator in his own life, building his hopes on false glories, and treading in the stagnant waters of a static existence.

That very morning he went to Santa's office and resigned his position. Santa wanted badly to urge him to stay, but there was a grave, determined serenity in his old friend's manner that stilled his tongue and sent a shiver through his fat, jolly frame. It was all he could do to wish him well, and to assure him that however long he he might be gone, he would always be welcome if he wished to return.

Donner gathered his wallet and his passport and booked a trip abroad, hoping that travel and new experiences might broaden his view of the world and give him a better understanding of himself. He spent a month in Istanbul, drinking strong coffee, smoking hookahs with the locals and immersing himself in the city's many charms, but he left the place as lost and restless as he had arrived. Similar stays in Paris, Dresden, Saigon and Osaka were pleasant enough, but ultimately fruitless to his purpose. It wasn't until he arrived in Varanasi, India that he began to feel some stirring within his heart, some indication that he was near where he would find his purpose in the world.

On his third day in the city he visited a temple on the Ganges, where a pyre had been erected on the steps to the river and the body of an ascetic was about to be burned and commended to the water. He watched as the mourners lit the fire, as the fire consumed the flesh, as the bones charred and disassembled themselves in the chaos of Agni's flames, and he felt at that moment that he had also been burned and disassembled, that his body had been reduced to its essential elements then reconstituted and transformed into something better, stronger and more fully alive. Maya's illusory mists fell from his eyes, and he saw himself as a vast, endless line of Donners, each reaping the seeds sown in life by the last, each struggling to crawl just a short distance further forward along the moral arc of their being.

It was that very struggle he must now abandon and yield to the waters. He must give his heart to the sacred river's flow, to see himself reflected in every ripple its surface, and further--to see himself reflected in the eyes of every living thing he had ever known.

Donner gave up his travels that very morning. He offered himself as an acolyte to a Hindu Yogi, set himself to study of the Vedas and vowed to learn the ways of dharma. Finally, after much study and meditation, he reaped the fruits of his detachment, and came to know the Self.

When my friend had finished his tale I sat silently for some time, not really knowing what to say. It was a strange, rambling tale, so detached from the sort of things he'd shared with me on previous evenings, I wasn't entirely certain I understood what he'd meant by telling it to me.

"I can see you're puzzled, my friend, and rightly so! It's not much of a story, I suppose."

"I'll admit it's got my head spinning a bit. There seems to be something larger to it than Donner's transformation, but what it is I can't quite grasp hold of. You said it was significant...that it 'set something in motion' back at the Pole that had profound consequences for everyone there, but it all seemed so private and personal. How it might be so broadly substantial to anyone beyond Donner himself is quite beyond me."

Dongle set down his Guinness and folded his hands across his belly. He screwed up his face a bit as he arranged his thoughts.

"It symbolized something, I think, was the first tiny crack in a formerly impenetrable mythology. Donner was one of The Eight. Santa's original flying reindeer. They'd been part of his myth and mystique from the very beginning and it was inconceivable that such a seminal thing could ever change. All those Elves and penguins and cormorants and walruses, stuck in their dead-end jobs, slave-waging to a jolly old despot, wallowing in the hopelessness that their lives were set in granite and would never improve? They received a message from fate the day Donner left the Pole. If one part of the status quo could change, why not all of it? That tiny crack moved up the foundation of Santa's empire so slowly and imperceptibly that no one in his orbit even noticed it until it was too late to repair."

At this I was fairly bursting with questions, as my friend had seemed to have opened up to me an entirely new avenue of North Pole intrigue, but I watched with disappointment as he downed the last swallow of his third and final Guinness, an ironclad sign that our conversation was at an end.

I knew I'd have to wait until the following evening to learn anything more about that tiny crack in the plaster at the top of the world that would eventually rend the entire Pole asunder.

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

Merry Christmas, folkses.

Next Installment: December 17th!

As always, Cheers and thanks for reading!

Written by Bradley Lyndon in December, 2022.

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