Ho ho howdy folkses! Welcome to Day Eight of our Twelve Days of Shitmas celebration for 2022! Our previous special was a gently sweet Shitmas treat, featuring a gaggle of friendly, frolicsome hippo trolls stumbling on the spirit of Christmas in their scenic, peaceful valley somewhere in the European Northlands. Today we head all the way North, to Santa's polar workshop, with a cash-starved, underwhelming bit of Christmas crud that's all potential and no pay-off, and that barely even whet our ravenous appetites for excessive holiday oedemation.

I had the Shitmas spirit, but I took some immodium and it cleared right up.

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. If you've already been following our quasi-advent event this year you've already had seven satisfying rounds of our Crouching Elf, Hidden Santa feature, where an icky Elf and sickly Santa hide shamefully from the revealing light of day, and it's up to you to pull back the curtain and expose them.

Quite revealing, too is this year's Shitmas Bonus feature, Tales from the Northside, comprised of twelve original tales straight from the most intimate and inaccessible parts of Santa's frigid empire, each guaranteed to curdle your milk and toss your cookies, and every one of them certified 100% true.

The Elf who Saved Christmas (1992), not to be confused Snuffy, the Elf who Saved Christmas (also 1992), The Elf who Saved Christmas (2016), or any of half a dozen other videos posted to YouTube and elsewhere under the same or similar names, is an obscure, independently produced special that ostensibly played on TV in the year in which it was produced and was apparently popular enough to have spawned an equally obscure sequel, The Elf and the Magic Key (1993). I couldn't find any additional information or advertising materials to confirm exactly where and when it aired, but it's listed on IMdB as a "TV Movie," so that's what I'm going with. To be fair, this wasn't a first-string choice for this year's Shitmas list, but a late-stage substitution for something else I'd chosen that suddenly became unavailable, so there wasn't as much time for research as I usually enjoy. Even so, I doubt that precious extra twenty minutes would have done me much good, especially with all the other specials out there gumming up the search results with "Saved Christmas" in their titles.

For such a reputable holiday it sure gets itself into a lot of trouble.

Today's iteration of Yuletide 911 has a novel central conceit, but it utterly fails to exploit or develop it. Everything in it seems cheap and rushed, from its bland acting to its off-the-shelf costumes, to its ambling, filler-packed script...which is a shame, because with some care, attention and a couple of rewrites to better flesh out its characters and build its fantasy world, it really might have been something worthwhile. As presented, it's a mighty hard grind to even get through it, which is really something considering both the level of material we're used to dealing with around here and the fact that it's only twenty-six minutes long.

Interestingly (or not, depending on your level of interest) The Elf Who Saved Christmas was filmed at the very same Santa's Village theme park as this year's Shitmas in July bonus short subject Santa's Enchanted Village (1964), though in the intervening twenty-eight years the place had undergone a much-needed upgrade and aesthetic overhaul. It probably saved them quite a bit of money to film it there instead of building their own sets, and as we will see, they plainly didn't have much money to begin with.

You can tell by the public domain title font.

We open on Christmas Eve morning at the North Pole, at Santa's residence, where the jolly overlord of Christmas cheer is still a-bed, snoring the hours away without a care in the world. Why should he not? After all, everything at the workshop has been going just swimmingly, with the naughty and nice lists fully collated and cross-referenced, the gift production punctual, and a crew of devoted Elves blithely putting their best, most fancy feet forward to make their boss happy and the holiday a rousing success.

The first Elf awake on this most important day is a cute, perky mail clerk named Toby, whose job it is to collect all of the millions of letters sent by the good little Christian and secularly-celebrating children of the world to everyone's favorite annual distributor of tax-free toys.

Toby, notably without pointy ear prosthetics, 'cause that shit costs money.

Toby methodically dons her comfy woolen scarf and mittens, plops an empty burlap sack onto an old Radio Flyer and shleps out to Santa's big-ass mailbox to collect and collate the incoming deluge of letters to her boss. When she gets there and opens it, however, she's disappointed to find that it's completely empty.

That's as bare and clean as my upper colon on the morning of my colonoscopy.

She heaves a befuddled sigh, closes the box up and heads back to the inviting warmth of the mailroom.

Later that morning the Elves are all busy building, assembling and painting toys or hand-crafting holiday decorations, and by "all" I mean five paltry Worker Elves and one Boss Elf doing the work you and I now know requires hundreds of factories and hundreds of thousands of staff to complete. Worse yet, two of them are a pair of do-little, back-biting buffoons who spend more time sniping at each other and playing practical jokes than they do making decorations and toys. We'll have more on them later.

Everything at Santa's workshop is done lovingly and slowly by hand, with old fashioned tools, paint brushes and even an antique foot-cranked sewing machine. That might have worked in the olden days when there were only like seventeen or eighteen people in the world, but I can't help but worry that if Santa can't modernize his facilities, he's just not going to be able to compete with Wal-Mart and Amazon this year.

Look! It's The Lollipop Dragon!

As the miniscule crew bravely face their insurmountable mountain of work, Santa pokes his head out of an interior window overlooking the workshop floor to give a motivational speech about how splendid this years' toys are, and to thank his employees for all the hard work they've been doing on his behalf for all the good little boys and girls.

I will occasionally, and grudgingly, give praise where it's due, and I must admit that rotund stage and screen actor Harry Frazier makes a pleasant and authentic-looking Santa. He's so authentic-looking, in fact, that he played the character in six of his final eight film and TV appearances. Reportedly, his other signature role was as John Falstaff in various stage productions of Shakespeare. He certainly has the figure for it, but as an actor he's no Orson Welles.

"If I tell thee a lie, spit in my face." ("Henry IV, Part 1" Act II, Sc. 4)

His Evita-on-the-balcony moment complete, Santa comes down among the peons for a brief floor inspection, and here we meet our aforementioned and excruciatingly unfunny comic relief buffoons up close and personal. Chunky Elf Smitty is making some sort of multicolored monstrosity out of Play-Doh and nerdy Elf Hoot is painting his decorative balls, but they keep abandoning their posts to distract and insult each other like a pair of rival schoolboys. It's a dynamic that might have produced some chuckles if given a little rehearsal and forethought, but much of it feels as if it was hurriedly improvised on set just before the cameras started rolling, and absolutely none of it works.

"The brain of this compounded clay, man, is not able to invent anything that tends to laughter." ("Henry IV, Part 1" Act I, Sc. 2)

After his brief floor walk, Santa heads over to the mailroom to engage in his favorite Christmas Eve ritual, the reading of his many letters from eager children all over the world, which he does each and every year to inspire and encourage himself before his famous and strenuous sleigh ride, but when he gets there, he finds all the mail sacks and cubby holes empty and Toby standing alone and bored with nothing to do.

"She's in hell already, and burns poor souls." ("Henry IV, Part 2" Act II, Sc. 4)

Santa asks where all the mail has gone, and Toby has to tell him that though she's been checking the big-ass mailbox carefully every day since Thanksgiving there hasn't been a single letter so far this year.

This seems to send Santa into a depressive funk, and he shuffles silently out of the mailroom, through the workshop and into his private study, making sure to place his "Do Not Disturb" sign on the handle of the door.

Back in the mailroom, Toby and the Supervisor are puzzling over the unprecedented dearth of "Dear Santa" letters. The Supervisor tells her he just can't suss it out, that in years past they'd have many millions of them by now, that he'd stay up half the night reading them while Santa made his rounds. Toby says that's exactly the kind of fast-paced excitement she'd envisioned for herself when she put in for a transfer to the mail department, hoping for something more fulfilling and than her dead-end doll-assembly post could provide. She was a young, vibrant and energetic Elf then, full of big dreams and lofty ambitions, but when she rolled the dice on a chance at a new life it seems that she gambled it all away.

"I should've listened to my mother and become a pole dancer."

Just then another of the Elves comes in to tell them that Santa has called a staff meeting and everyone needs to be there. The crew assembles and Santa steps out of his study. He thanks them all again for their hard work over the many years they've been making and delivering toys, but moving forward he's decided there will be no more toys, no more deliveries, no more workshop and no more breaking into a billion people's houses on a single night each year.

The Elves are shocked and beg Santa to reconsider, but he's made up his mind and there's no shifting him. Since they didn't get any letters that year, clearly no one believes in the magic of Christmas anymore, and without the magic there can be no Santa Claus.

That's what happens when you define yourself exclusively by others' validation.

Toby thinks it's all just got to be a mistake, so she calls the North Pole post office to ask if they got any letters. They tell her they got millions of them, and what's more they delivered them all to Santa's big-ass mailbox as usual.

When she hangs up, she tries to reassure Santa, but he thinks the Post Office workers are lying to spare his feelings. No, he insists, children just don't care about Christmas anymore. They clearly have other things on their minds.

"Like monkey pox, student loans and global warming."

Santa heads back into his office, leaving the Elves to try to brainstorm a way out of their predicament. Smitty offers to fly the sleigh himself, but Hoot reminds him of the last time he took it out for a drive, when he got three tickets and double-parked in front of the police station. One of the lady Elves suggests that they write millions of letters themselves that very morning, using fake names and forged handwriting, take them all to over the post office and have them delivered back to the shop that very afternoon, but the Boss Elf nixes the idea, saying Santa would notice the North Pole postmark and figure out exactly what they'd done.

"Aside from that your plan was foolproof."

Toby gets the shits of their dithering and dumb ideas and heads out to do something about it herself. She dons her scarf and mittens once more and goes back to the big-ass mailbox, just to check one more time and see if she missed something.

She peers in, walks around it, bangs on its sides and views it from every possible angle, but can find nothing out of the ordinary. Finally she climbs up into it so she can peer all the way to the back, and suddenly she's sucked into it like a used condom down a storm drain on a stormy night.

When she comes out the other side, she slides down a ramp into a dark, dingy room and onto an enormous pile of all the missing letters!

It's the giant sucking sound Ross Perot warned us about.

This is the lair of the evil and conniving Mrs. Buzzard, who placed an evil and conniving spell on the big-ass mailbox, so that all of Santa's letters would be transported to her evil and conniving lair, the doing of which is not merely evil and conniving but also a felony under U.S. code 18, Section 1708.

Mrs. Buzzard, whose evil and conniving lair is kind of a backwoods shithole.

Mrs. Buzzard is played by Jo Anne Worley of Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In (1967-73) fame. Though her heyday was two decades behind her at the time, she could still command "guest star" status and probably charge a premium well above equity minimum that the producers could ill-afford.

Her screen time runs to less than five minutes, all filmed in this one cramped location, probably over the course of a couple of hours, then spread out during editing over three fleeting scenes.

Buzzard is a bitter old battle axe with a toxic inferiority complex, jealous of the attention Santa gets and willing to destroy Christmas for millions of children just to get even with him. She tells Toby how much she hates how nicely Children behave around the holidays, how they eat their vegetables and do their chores, how they don't so much as slam a door for fear of offending her jolly, rotund nemesis. "Just think of the tantrums!" she says, when Santa misses Christmas and they don't get their gifts.

Toby tries to send some of the mail back up the chute, but it just falls back down into the pile. Buzzard assures her than not only will the mail never get back to the North Pole, neither will she.

"I hope you brought a pack of cards or something. I'm bored as fuck."

Back at the workshop the Elves are still just keeping on, making preparations for the trip Santa insists he won't make, and hoping against hope for some Christmas miracle to change his mind.

These scenes in the workshop, with little visual interest beyond the Elves walking back and forth and painting shit, put a hard focus on the cheap, banal music, which has a distinct 1990's, single Casio keyboard on "flute" setting flair. Said cheap, banal music takes a cheeky, lilting turn when the Boss Elf tells Smitty and Hoot that if they don't get their shit together and pick up the pace, they'll be demoted to stocking stuffers next year. Assuming there even will be a next year.

This leads to a bit of allegedly comic business where Smitty accidentally gets paint on Hoot's face, so Hoot smashes a water balloon against Smitty's chest, then Smitty puts paint down Hoot's trousers and pats him gently on the dick to rub it in.

Gay Elf porn? Sure didn't see that coming.

As evening draws closer, Toby continues her quest to get the mail back up the chute and into Santa's big-ass mailbox. She even uses a slingshot to generate some extra thrust, but it's all to no avail. Buzzard assures her the spell is impenetrable, that Christmas is screwed, and no one can save it, but Toby refuses to give up. She gamely carries on flinging letter after letter, each bitter failure only redoubling her determination to succeed.

She's a plucky little fucker, I'll grant her that.

Boss Elf, meanwhile is perusing the Nice and Naughty lists, making one final check to make sure everything is in order. The Number Two Lady Elf steps in to let him know the toys are all ready to be loaded into the sleigh, and he gives the order to have it done, still hoping to convince Santa to make the all-important trip.

Lady Elf asks if he's seen Toby, which he hasn't, and she tells him neither has anyone else. She says they've looked everywhere a perky Elf might possibly be, but no one can recall having seen her since she left at the end of Santa's staff meeting earlier that morning. He orders Number Two to have the house checked top to bottom and also to call the Post Office to see if Toby's there, then sends her on her way so he can get back to his reading.

"Is this tedious? This feels tedious."

Yes, Boss Elf. It's incredibly fucking tedious. It's as if they had a beginning and an ending in mind but decided to wing it on how to connect them, and in fact there are only three blink-and-you'll-miss-them scenes that advance the plot in any way. Everything else is flavorless, rambling tripe, either endlessly regurgitating what we're already been told or just filling up space to meet the time quota for broadcast on commercial TV, and all of it performed with drowsy, droning and disinterested affect by terminally bored actors who clearly just want to grab their scanty paychecks and go home. This is what happens when a director who's never directed before (Bob Sykes) and a writer who's never written before (Lee Wilson) somehow score a pitch meeting and the money guys are too jacked up on cocaine to say no.

Here's fifty bucks! Now hand me a straw!

So where were we? Oh, yeah, the Elves are going to load up the sleigh, and of course Smitty and Hoot are going to get another chance to engage in some of the contrived and unpalatable slapstick for which they are so justly famous. This time it's a gag involving some delicate glass ornaments, where false tension is initiated via a box of them tossed in the air and a slow-motion suggestion that a few of them might be broken. It's a safe bet that if you've made it this far you'll be wanting to break something for real at this point just to vent your frustration, so it becomes yet another of the special's many disappointments that the box is caught and the baubles are saved.

Next, we head back to Buzzard's lair, where she and Toby are still performing their celebrated seventeen-hour one-act play entitled "Two Bricks Shouting at Each Other."

"It's not right! It's not fair!" screeches Toby for the first eight and a half hours.

"Too bad, tough shit," says Buzzard for the next eight and a half.

For reasons that are frequently yet somehow inadequately articulated, Buzzard has a deep and abiding desire for kids to stop believing in Christmas. Toby, however insists that she, much like Steve Perry, just won't stop believin'.

On a personal note, there will be no song link provided here because it seems like every goddamn time I turn on the goddamn radio Steve Perry is screeching at me to continue to fucking believe. Maybe I don't want to hold on to that feeling, Steve!

Sweet Jesus, I hate Journey more than if they'd killed my grandparents.

Toby stomps over to the base of the ramp, clenches shut her eyes and repeats "I'll always believe in Christmas!" three times, and like another young lady you might recall who once upon a time wore colorful shoes and just wanted to get the fuck home, her wish comes true as she's suddenly sucked straight back up the ramp!

"Where are you going? It's only hour twelve!"

Meanwhile Santa is in his study with Boss Elf, reminiscing about Christmases past and feeling sorry for himself. Boss Elf tries to convince him to go out and deliver the presents one last time, so he might go out on a high note, but Santa is just too depressed and irritable to care about Christmas this year. He's been restless, he complains, hasn't been getting much sleep. When he does occasionally fall into a fitful slumber he has terrifying dreams of apocalyptic prophesies. Sometimes he even has them when he's awake now, too, and he's beginning to think they may be real.

"I have stared into the abyss. It's full of death and golden horses."

It's no use, Santa insists. If the children don't believe in him anymore the magic won't work, the sleigh won't fly, and the chimneys will smite him. A torrent of fire shall fall from the sky, everything that lives shall fall into decay and corruption, and the world shall be plunged into darkness. Verily, a goat with seven horns and seven eyes shall deliver the presents to the children of Christendom this year, and his bitter gifts shall be everlasting pain, torment and sorrow.

Elsewhere, Toby vomits forth from the gaping maw of the big-ass mailbox and lands face-first in the snow. She dusts herself off and runs as fast as her little Elfin legs can carry her to share with Santa the Christmas-saving news that the children still care about him! She bursts into his office and spills the festive beans, and in a trice the whole crew are gathered around the big-ass mailbox, burlap sacks in hand, chanting "I'll always believe in Christmas," in the hope that their faith will pull the letters back through.

I still think the ending with the seven-eyed goat had more panache.

They try their best but nothing happens, and just as it seems that all is lost Toby has the bright idea that maybe they can't pull the letters through because they're not the ones who wrote them. She breaks the fourth wall now, looks straight into the camera and tells the three people left in TV land who haven't already tuned out and switched to the Hallmark Channel:

"You've got to do it!

You know what? I think you're right, Toby. I've been wanting to do it but, but what with this and that to do I've been putting it off all day. I'll be back in about ten minutes.

Well, that was satisfying! I usually wait until right before bed, but what the hell? It's the weekend, I might as well splurge. So what did I miss?

Oh, right, the children are supposed to say "I'll always believe in Christmas" three times to send their stupid Santa letters back through Mrs. Buzzard's postal vortex...and no sooner has Toby led them in the threefold sacred chant, the assembled North Pole denizens hear a rumbling from deep within the corrugated tin bowels of the big-ass mailbox. At first, just a few lonely letters come fluttering out, but soon more and more epistles emerge, building to a great tsunami of hand-written mail the likes of which we'll never again see again since the Post Office has been reduced to rubble by the toxic self-sabotage of Trump-appointed Postmaster Louis DeJoy.

I've got to say, that's far more mail than there were children watching.

So, they all head back to the house and Santa mounts his sleigh to embark on his famous ride. He feels energized and invigorated now, secure in the knowledge that children still love him, and that this is exactly what he's supposed to be doing and precisely where he's supposed to be. He thanks Toby, tells her that thanks to her, Christmas is saved, but she turns humbly to the camera and thanks all the children at home. After all, without Children to give toys to there'd be no reason for Christmas at all, except maybe that Jesus' birthday thing.

"The less said about that the better!"

Later that evening the Elves are all gathered around a crackling fire thinking on their good day's work in making this year's Christmas a great success.

Toby is there, too, but she has more than back-patting and "atta-boy fellas" on her Elfin mind. She gets up and dons her scarf and mittens one last time, and heads back out to the big-ass mailbox with a present for Mrs. Buzzard. She puts it in and pulls up the metal flag to indicate outgoing mail, but as she's walking away the flag falls back down. She checks the box to find the present gone and a note from Mrs. Buzzard.

"'Eat...shit...bitch?' Well, I never!"

And so, after a long, strenuous day of brick-to-brick shouting and saving Christmas, Toby heads back up to the big house to warm her toes and dream of next Christmas, when Mrs. Buzzard will kidnap Santa, she'll have to find a magic key to free him from his cell, and her dreams of an annual franchise will melt away like last year's yellow snow.

The End.

I love me some dirt-cheap holiday garbage as much as the next guy, but The Elf who Saved Christmas not only put the serious hurts on my Shitmas spirit, but damn near drained my jingles completely dry. Let's hope there's something in our final four articles to revive me. I've got big plans for MMT going forward, people, but I've got to live to see the new year first.

Shitmas Bonus!

Tales from the Northside:
The One Where Santa Can't Shit

I arrived a little later than usual at the pub where my dear friend Dongle the Elf and I had been meeting each night for several weeks to find him already halfway through his first Guinness and in a mischievous mood. The previous evening he'd hinted at some previously unexplored and highly consequential intrigue at the North Pole complex where he had spent the bulk of his working life, so I'd spent the whole day anticipating some grand revelations. His opening remarks, therefore took me quite by surprise.

"Have you ever been constipated?" he asked with a wry smile.

I couldn't help but laugh, and I wondered what such a strange, crude question might portend.

"I've had my moments, like anyone else, though it's not what I usually talk about when I'm out at the pub!"

My friend let out an evil little laugh. "It doesn't pair well with a pocket potato and a pint of stout, I'll grant you that, but our conversation last night led me down an oblique path to Santa's struggles with his bowels. I'm sure it was something he'd have preferred to keep quiet, but everybody at the Pole knew he sometimes couldn't shit, and everybody in his immediate orbit could tell when he was thus afflicted by his pinched expression and altered gait. He's old as dirt, of course, and his diet was never of the best, and after a few hundred hundred years of scheming, parsimony and booze things just started binding up for him. It was the grasping for money and power that did it, I think. A physical manifestation of his corrupt internal desires."

"I've read that Hitler suffered painful constipation, and chronic flatulence, too." I added helpfully.

"Really? It couldn't have happened to a more deserving fellow! Perhaps Santa deserved it, too, though he was nowhere near Hitler. He could sometimes be cruel, and he certainly sanctioned cruelty in others if it aligned with his interests, but I don't believe Santa ever rose to the level of outright evil, at least not as himself. Unchecked power and authority would do to almost anyone what it slowly did to him, and maybe his periodic blockages were really the cramps of his conscience."

At that my friend took his first sip of his second Guiness, and I knew his story was about to begin.

What I want to tell you happened just six months after Donner left the organization to go travelling. It was a stressful time for Santa, having lost his first, best reindeer and a good friend, too. To add to his difficulties, things at the North Pole seemed from his perspective to be going South in a multitude of small but significant ways. There were mysterious and expensive equipment problems at many of the factories, his quotas were not being met and the Elves seemed more restless and surly than he'd ever before known them to be. Without Rasputin the Polar Bear to put the fear of God into his labor force, it seemed like Santa's old iron grip was slipping.

One morning he woke to a report from one of the primary distribution centers stating that the power in the entire complex had gone out for over an hour. When the technicians had finally gotten the backup generator to work they found some grafitti sprawled on the back of the main loading bay door. It was four letters, alternately painted in red and green: "TBTP."

For reasons he couldn't quite grasp, Santa found the letters singularly distressing, moreso than the outage or any of the other individual incidents of breakdown and delay that had come across his purview in the previous weeks. There was something bold and agressive about it, appearing as it did during a suspicious system failure where even the backups and fail-safes did not kick in. It was, he felt, a direct message to him, and he knew it could portend nothing merry or cheerful. As he brooded on it, he began to feel the familiar old clutching in his bowels and he knew his complaint was about to return in spectacular fashion.

Santa had his own private physician on staff, a stout Belgian Elf named Doctor Bruce L. Sprout, whose ministrations for general conditions he trusted implicitly. When his stool retention became unbearably painful and acute, however he would instead call in a specialist he kept on permanent retainer at considerable expense, who lived, per a long-standing agreement, in a suite of rooms in the west wing of the Great House.

Santa immediately suspected his current colonic flare-up would be beyond Dr. Sprout's capabilities to amelliorate. "Bring me the Poop Fairy!" he shouted to his head butler, a penguin named Stetson who had served him faithfully for some sixty years.

"Yes, sir, I shall fetch Mrs. Fecalstein immediately!" The butler replied, then hurried off to summon Santa's evacuative savior.

Mrs. Dolores Fecalstein was indeed a bona-fide member of the fairy folk, from an ancient branch of magical beings far more powerful and prestigious than Santa himself, and her extended family had, since time immemorial, specialized in various medical complaints, often causing or curing them in mortals at the whims of their moods or as punishments or rewards for bad or good behavior. Santa's fiscal arrangement with her was highly unusual, perhaps even unprecedented, as the medical fairies were usually fiercely protective of their independence.

Santa, writhing in ever-increasing digestive discomfort, had to wait a full forty minutes for Stetson's return, and when the penguin finally entered his chamber, he entered alone.

"I'm very sorry to report sir, that Mrs. Fecalstein is not in her room. The domestic staff has made a thorough search of the property and no trace of her has been found.

Santa was enraged by the unwelcome news, but the cramping and rumbling in his lower belly was so severe that he dared not raise his voice. "Keep looking," he whispered through his clenched teeth, "and send in Dr. Sprout."

After ten more excruciating minutes the Doctor finally appeared, looking dapper and professional in his blue pinstripe suit, with an oversized black leather bag in his right hand and a huge monocle perched atop his plump left cheek.

"How may I serve you, your portly voor-ship?" he said with an insolent wink and a bow.

"I'm in no mood for your mockery, Sprout!" hissed Santa, "My bowels are full of concrete! Do what you must, but bring me relief!"

For the next seven days Dr. Sprout was a very busy Elf, indeed, prescribing pills and potions, administering enemas and suppositories, and applying hot compresses and gentle massages to Santa's expansive abdomen, but it was all to no avail. Try what he would, he simply could not get Santa to make even the tiniest, most insignificant shit.

On the morning of the eighth day Mrs. Dolores Fecalstein suddenly appeared in Santa's infirmary suite with an enormous, wheeled suitcase trailing behind her and utterly oblivious to the trouble her absence had caused.

"What's all this? Somebody got a little problem?" she asked, smirking cheerfully and peering over her tiny pince-nez spectacles. She was a small woman, just over three feet tall, slim and lithe and still enrgetic despite her two millennia of existence, with delicately wrinkled features full of health and humor. Her dress was fancy and old-fashioned, crafted from exquisite silk and lace in various shades of brown, as befitted the specificity of her expertise. Atop her snowy locks she wore a silver tiara, set with a single pink carnelian, trilliant cut and exquisitely carved with a finely detailed relief of the liver, gall bladder, pancreas, upper and lower intestines, colon and rectum.

"Where have you been, woman?" cried Santa, his voice hoarse and weary.

"Now don't get your panties in a twist! I was visiting my sister, the Gout Fairy, in Manitoba. She was having the trouble with her ankles again, poor thing. I left a note with one of the penguins. You say you didn't get it? Oh, well shit happens...or not! What seems to be the problem?"

"I'm dying, Dolores...please! I haven't shit for a whole week!"

"As I detailed in the note you apparently never got, I left you some potion in a little blue vial on my dresser, just in case you might have the trouble with your poopie-doopies while I was away."

"Fetch it for me, Sprout! Fetch it now! I can't hold out much longer!"

Dr. Sprout summoned Stetson, who summoned a footman, who ran to the West Wing and retrieved the potion. It was part medicinal, part magical, and its effect was immediate. The sounds that emerged from Santa's bathroom that day haunted the dreams of all who heard them, and his moans and sighs of relief echoed in the halls of the Great House until late into the night.

After the final purge, as Santa lay in the infirmary recovering his strength, he called Stetson, Dr. Sprout and Mrs. Fecalstein to his bedside.

"Thank you Mrs. Fecalstein. I believe you've saved my life. I'm sorry if I was short with you, but I was out of my mind with agony."

"No big whup. Just remember who you're talking to, okay? I'm the Poop Fairy. I make people poop. I've been around a lot longer than you, and I'll be around even longer after you're gone."

"Duly noted," replied Santa, somewhat abashed by her gentle scolding, "Perhaps you could tell which of my penguins did you entrust your note? It seems I could have avoided a great deal of misery if only they'd delivered it as you had asked them to."

"Oh, my! How should I know?" said Mrs. Fecalstein with a dismissive wave of her hands, "Those penguins all look alike to me!"

Stetson cleared his throat and shot her a withering glare of disapproval.

"What? Is that racist now?"

Santa pursed his lips for a moment then turned towards his butler. "Stetson, I want you to call together every penguin in this house. Line them up outside the dining room and send each of them in to Dr. Sprout, alone, so he may interrogate them. I don't stand for sloppiness or forgetfulness by those in my employ. I want to know why I never got that note."

From his chauffeur to his footman, to his valets and other attendants, Santa had, at that time, thirty-seven Pengins on staff in the Great House, and it was no small feat to pull them all from their duties and gather them together in one place. One by one they entered the dining room for their private conferences with Dr. Sprout, who was alternately kind and stern in his questioning.

It was already morning when the final penguin, a young fellow named Tad who had only just completed his first year as a house servant, shuffled into the dining room and stood sheepishly before the good Doctor.

"Guten morgen, Tad. You know vie you are here, I assume?"

"I do, sir," replied the trembling seabird, who had perhaps never before so lamented the fact that his wings were flightless.

"Zen you doubtless recall vut happened on Tuesday of last veek?"

"I do."

"You remember, zen, zat you handed me a leetle blue envelope zat Mrs. Fecalstein had given you earlier zat morning?"

Tad was visibly shaking at this point, and if penguins could perspire, he'd have been as wet as a mop. "I do."

Dr. Sprout smiled benevolently, put a paternal hand on the poor Penguin's shoulder and said, "Take my advice...forget all about it. You never had zee note, I never got zee note, and vee must never speak of it again."

Tad was a little confused, but heartily relieved, too. He stammered out a sincere "Thank you, sir," and returned to his duties.

Dr. Sprout reported to Santa that he was, unfortunately, unable to discover the culprit who had misplaced the note. He also advised him, as his Doctor, to put the whole incident behind him and to focus instead on his recovery. He administered a mild sedative to help him sleep then sauntered back to his own apartment on the first floor of the eastern annex.

He had just removed his tie and waistcoat when he heard a knock at the door. "Come in!" he hollered across the living room, "Zee door is not locked."

In swept the young and stunningly beautiful Mrs. Claus, beguiling in her favorite silk kimono and flashing her hypnotic smile.

"How is our patient?"

"At zee moment he is sleeping like a baby. He'll be fine. He all-vays is, zough I had hoped vee could drag it out for another few days. I put enough immodium in him over the past veek to stop up an elephant!"

"And what about young Tad? Do you think he'll keep his mouth shut?"

Dr. Sprout nodded confidently. "He vill. He's too shy and frightened to say anything...und besides, he vuz at the last meeting vit us. He took zee oath with zee rest, and I am confident as to vere his loyalties lie."

Mrs. Claus draped herself elegantly across a chaise lounge, stared at the ceiling and sighed.

"Let's raise the stakes, then, shall we? I think it's time we started phase two."

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

Merry Christmas, folkses.

Next Installment: December 19th!

As always, Cheers and thanks for reading!

Written by Bradley Lyndon in December, 2022.

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