SANTA'S PRECIOUS LIST
By lunchtime Santa Claus had a hangover.
It had been a busy old year, and besides disciplining at least a dozen of the more wayward elves with a rolled up newspaper, which gave his arthritic shoulders no end of trouble, he had lost his list.
The thing about busy people like Santa Claus is they can become very forgetful and are absolutely lost without a list. He knew what he was doing at one particular moment because he was doing it, but what should he do next? It was on the list, the long, long list that his good lady wife and bane of his existence had made for him, and that list was lost.
So he had set about trying to find it.
The thing about searching through his Ice Castle for anything let alone something as small as a list (even a really long list is quite small when compared with, say, an elephant) is the size of the place. It has rooms for just about everything and even more rooms for nothing in particular, and in order to get to any one room you have to wander through another, so it's difficult trying to recall which rooms you've been in and which you haven't. Even to go to the toilet meant a trip through at least a dozen rooms, and he was acutely aware that he might have dropped that list in any one of them.
And he'd been to the toilet seven times, each time going a different way through different rooms.
And on top of that the Ice Castle was a confusing place. The rooms one day would be in a different place to where they'd been the day before. You see, the building was made of ice and sometimes ice can melt and re-freeze in odd ways. He sometimes found himself almost wetting his pants searching for the lavatory only to find it where the pantry had been yesterday, or, weary and exhausted, going in search of his nice warm bed only to find it had transmogrified into a gymnasium, and sleeping in gymnasiums is never an easy thing.
Life in the Ice Castle was no straight forward, easy thing.
But back to his list.
If he didn't find it he knew he'd be in trouble. There were at least a dozen things he knew he had to do before lunch and Mother Christmas, who'd given him the list, could be a real tartar if he failed to do his chores. She had even been known to withdraw sexual favours for a whole year just because he'd forgotten to clean the windows, a punishment that he found to be almost a reward and which sent him on a course of never cleaning the windows in the hope it would be repeated. But Mother Christmas had her appetites, and reverted to the usual punishment of nagging.
So he looked as hard as he could for the list. He searched every which-where that he could. He trampled along interminable frozen corridors and poked his nose into room after room, and never saw hide nor hair of his lost list (not that it had either a hide or hairs).
He wandered into bedroom after bedroom, some he didn't know that he had and would probably never see again, and found himself apologising to all manner of sleeping occupants – though why they should be sleeping when it was almost time for elevenses he couldn't quite work out.
He bumped into naked people fresh from the shower, all dripping onto his fine carpets as they struggled to wrap invisible towels round their unmentionables.
He passed by burglars with bags of swag on their backs all looking for a way out, and he hoped they'd get away soon because they were cluttering the castle with their reprehensible shadows.
And no matter how many people he saw and how many rooms he peeped into, he couldn't find his list anywhere.
On his way round he tidied things away because he knew that you find things more easily if the place is nice and neat and tidy. So he put everything in its place if it wasn't in it already. He even washed the pots in the kitchen sink (the dishwasher was broken and he was expecting a new one for Christmas) and put them away in the proper places, all gleaming and clean. And when he came to the bathroom he cleaned the toilet with the toilet brush and washed bleach down it like he knew Mother Christmas did.
And it was almost lunchtime when he found himself in the cellar. And it wasn't any old cellar: it was the wine cellar. And right in front of him was a corkscrew. It was a shiny chromium-plated corkscrew that twinkled at him, and he picked it up and pulled a cork out of a bottle of fragrant elderberry wine, 2002 vintage.
And, being generally fed up, he drank the wine.
He drank the whole bottle of wine even though he knew it was ridiculously strong and likely to make him very drunk indeed. But, he reasoned, it was almost lunch time and he still hadn't found his list and Mother Christmas would be furious with him and might slap his bottom rather firmly with her gnarled old hand. He needed fortification
Strengthened by his wine he staggered out of the cellar, only to land straight into the arms of his beloved lady wife, and he groaned.
“What's irking you, beloved,” she murmured smoothly, “it's still not quite lunch time and I see you've not only done this morning's chores but you've done this afternoon's too, and the place has never been so spotless! I think you've been a really good boy, and I'm going to pour you a big glass of delicious wine as a mid-morning treat!”
And so it was, by lunch time, Santa Claus had a hangover.
© Peter Rogerson 04.12.12