Terry Shanholtzer

 It’s the standard interrogation room, small, no windows.  In the middle is a table with opposing chairs on either side.  One wall is devoted to a large one-way mirror.

Seated on the opposite side of the table, facing the mirror, an elderly gentleman, the suspect, primps his white whiskers, regarding his own image.  After seeing that every hair is meticulously in place, he finishes off by playfully waving his fingers to the mirror, seemingly to acknowledge those who are surely observing from the behind the glass.

With an abrupt speech pattern, Detective Jones demands, “Do you know why you are here?”

The suspect, with a pleasant and soft demeanor responds, “For questioning?”

Jones is pacing back and forth between the table and mirror.  His last step takes him a stride past the end of the table.  Upon hearing the suspect’s response, he spins suddenly; slapping both palms down on the table and leaning over the table to the suspect, says, “Yeah, that’s right, ‘questioning,’ as if you didn’t know.”

“No, I know.  That’s what you said when you brought me here, ‘DOWNTOWN,’” the old man sings. “By the way, the neon lights here are pretty.”

“Don’t be a clown,” Jones snaps back.

“Sorry, I don’t mean to be a clown.  But, it is my job to be jolly.  You know, what with Christmas and the red suit and all,” the elder gentleman replies.

“Yeah, right, we’ll get to that later.  Right now we want to know if you really expect us to believe, your name is Claus, that you actually make all those toys for everyone on earth, and that you deliver all of them by means of a flying sleigh around the world, in one night” Jones mocks.

“Nope,” replies Claus.

“Huh,” utters Jones.

“I don’t expect you to believe that.  It’s not true.  Not everyone gets ‘em, only those who believe, believes in me that is,” the suspect explains and continues.  “I don’t go all around the world anymore.  Route is getting smaller and smaller, very few believers these days.  By the way, that’s why you’re, ‘not getting any’”.

“That’s what she said,” comes an under-the-breath muttering from detective Smothers who is in the corner and playing the role of passive-cop.

Detective Jones presses harder, “Spare me the sermon, and answer up.  Where did you get all those toys we found in your sleigh?  And another thing, what’s with that red nose of yours?”

Jones turns to Smothers, “Did the lab boys give this guy and that lead reindeer a breathalyzer test?”  He turns back to the suspect, “That reminds me, do you have a license to operate that sleigh and eight tiny reindeer?  We have you on so many counts, and don’t even get me started on the EPA issues with those reindeer.  You will be doing time for the rest of your life.  How old are you anyway?”

The old gent puts a curled index finger to his upper lip, clears his throat, and begins to chuckle his response, “I am nearly three hundred years old by some folks’ measure, depending upon nationality and geographical location, if you must know.  But it is hardly a polite question.  With respect to the reindeer’s nose, I don’t know, I really, don’t know.  I can’t tell you how often I have asked him, ‘Rudolf, what’s up with that nose of yours?’”

“And?”  says Jones, eager to hear.

“All I get is a bunch of bio-techno chatter that only a reindeer nerd would understand,” Claus continues.  “With respect to MY nose, do you have any idea how cold it gets up there, flying around without a windshield?”  He ponders a moment and with revelation mutters, “A windshield, now there’s an idea; it would help with my cold nose and all, not to mention other benefits what with Dancer and Prancer’s frequent digestive disruptions.”

“Excuse me,” Jones interrupts.

“Sorry, I got off point there for a moment.  You never can tell when inspiration will strike.  But, to continue, the EPA surely would not object; there are no fossil fuels involved in my mode of transportation.  All natural, if you know what I mean.”

“Do you mind?” Jones prods.

“Sorry again, I just don’t know why I hadn’t thought of a windshield before.  I mean the name says it all.”

“Claus!” shouts Jones

“Right,” Claus answers.  “I know, I know, back to the main issue, which I suspect, is the merchandise.  ‘Elves,’ the answer is just that simple, ‘elves.’  I employ elves all year round.  They make the toys.  It used to be a really, big deal.  I even had to import elves from the South Pole just to keep up with demand.  I miss those days, but I don’t miss having to make grits for those South Pole, sawed off little squirts.  You can take the elf out of the South Pole, but you can’t take the grits out of the elf.  ‘Course, I have to hand it to them: with a belly full of grits they can do ‘most anything.  Do you have any idea how many toys one elf can make in a given day?”

Smothers’s interest peaks.  He stands straight and, leaving his place in the corner, approaches Claus.  “No, how many toys can an elf make?” outstretching his arms, palms up soliciting a reasonable answer.

“Not sure, really, but I bet it’s a bunch,” Claus answers, wrinkling his nose, nodding his head, seeking acknowledgement from Smothers.

“Pst,” Smothers exhales, and in disappointment drops his arms to his sides in defeat.  He returns to the corner, shaking his head.  “Don’t buy into this, Jones,” Smothers coaches.  “He does not have elves.  He snatched these toys from a local store and he is going to make a quick bundle selling them “black-market.”

“A bundle!  A bundle!  Are you kidding me?” Claus begins to get agitated.  First of all, I am an eleemosynary entity.  I make something from nothing and when I am done, I turn around and give it away, FREE, NO CHARGE, to the ones who deserve it.  By that I mean, those who believe, in me.  And, as far as me pilfering those toys, you need to take a closer look, buddy-boy.  There are no ‘made in Hong Kong’ tags on those babies, and definitely no lead based paints.

“Oh!  Getting a little touchy, are we?” says Jones.

“No, ‘WE’ are not.  ‘I’ am.  You try riding around behind a bunch of gastronomically challenged reindeer who only want to play reindeer games.  ‘Gee’ and ‘haw’ mean nothing to them.  At least a good jackass knows right from left,” Claus declares.

“Okay, Claus, settle down; you’ve made your point,” calms Jones.

From the corner, Smothers mocks Claus, “But, reindeer can fly?”

Claus tilts his head to one side and nods in concession, “True, a redeeming quality to be sure.  But, that is not my point.  My point is that all anyone wants, including you, is the toys.  You just want the toys, and you are missing the point.”

“Which is?” both detectives ask simultaneously.

“If you have to ask, I rest my case,” Claus concludes in condemnation.

“C’mon Claus, don’t be a pouting, obese, old elf splattered with reindeer dung…

“That’s me,” Claus injects quickly.  “But where have I heard that before?” he mutters to himself, trying to remember.

“Just give us something,” pleads Jones.

“That’s what she said,” again Claus mutters to himself.

“What,” asks Jones?

“Nothing,” replies Claus.

“You got a problem, Claus.”

“With all due respect, I think YOU have the problem, Detective Jones,” replies Claus.

“Oh yeah, how so?”

“Well, ‘ya better watch out, ya better not pout, ya better not cry, I’m tell’n ya why; look out, ol’ Mackey’s back in town’,” Claus admonishes in song.

“I bet you say that to everyone,” Smothers injects.

“This has been fun, boys, but I have to go now?” says Claus.

“I don’t think so,” rejects Jones.

Claus chuckles, “Try and stop me.”  Claus gets up and heads for the block wall at one end of the room next to Smothers.

Smothers straightens up in anticipation of an encounter, but Claus just walks past him, and into the block wall, but there is no collision.  He simply disappears, through the solid concrete blocks.  There is the slightest sound of a small tinkling chime, which fades quickly.

Smothers’s jaw drops in disbelief.  Then the reality hits him.  “Jones, you know what this means,” Smothers asks as he turns to see Jones, sitting at the table writing out his wish list to Santa.


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