A Short By Luis A. Mendez
As part of a year-long plus project, throughout the 2019 holiday season and all of 2020, I will be releasing brand new and re-releasing re-published short fiction on here on Medium every two to three months. They will be available only to Medium members, though non-members can still read them if they have “free previews” still available for the month. This is the second of those planned releases. I hope you enjoy it.
Tire tracks dotted the snow-covered hill of Claus Manor, the little-known second home of the man known as Santa Claus. The manor was the summer hiding spot for the hardworking, jolly gift-giver — a massive, cathedral-like structure with a large suite of rooms for the residents, plenty of guest rooms, and copious office space, along with a backyard warehouse for emergency elf work. Other features included a large, wide convention room filled with a hundred-plus members of the highest-ranking working staff for Saint Nick — the humans. On an empty stage next to the entrance the staff learned why they had been summoned here as “an emergency” just a day after Thanksgiving.
The man who would soon step up on the stage and explain everything was Mister Samuel Whipple, who represented Mister Claus as his lawyer. He was abnormally late to this occasion, despite riding in the limousine provided by the Claus estate for his services. Though he was late, he remained calm, knowing that the staff wouldn’t dare leave without knowing why an emergency meeting of the highest-ranked staff had been called. In the car, he was going over legal documents, reading them through his glasses, and every now and then asking his secretary, Miss Roberta Prim, to take a note.
As they pulled up to Claus Manor, Whipple put the legal documents into his briefcase and asked Miss Prim to pour him a glass of the apple cider whiskey kept in the liquor compartment — a strange request at nine in the morning. The sighing, middle-aged, blonde-haired man thanked the short, red-haired, freckled woman as she handed him his drink. He gulped it down in less than a minute.
“Sir!” she responded as she pushed up her glasses.
Whipple straightened his blazer before buttoning it up as he stepped out of the limo and stared at the masses who were arriving.
“Miss Prim, have you ever read about a Claus election?”
“No sir, as there hasn’t been one since I was born.” Prim was in her late twenties.
“Last one was before I was even out of my toddler phase,” Whipple replied. “But I’ve heard stories, and, trust me, if what I’ve read about them is correct, you can be assured that this drink is the first of many.”
Prim continued to judge him with a stare as they stepped out the car doors. He had his briefcase and she had a leather bag of documents. The limo drove away and almost instantly men in their business suits or expensive trench coats approached. Each of them had questions and asked them as the cold frosted their breaths.
“What’s with having this meeting so early after a holiday?” one man asked.
“Right, the boss man is the one who’s supposed to work holidays — not us!” another man commented.
“Well the elves, too…” a third man spoke.
Whipple held up his hands to beg off, “Please gentlemen, please. All will be explained once we get into the conference room. Just give me and my secretary some time to gather the proper documents and the final signatures.”
“What signatures?” one man asked.
“Just hold on to your horses, my good man,” Whipple replied as he and Prim walked towards the manor, with a crowd gathering behind them, making the lawyer and his secretary anxiously quicken their pace.
The crowd became one voice, asking Whipple questions and talking among themselves.
“What has Claus told you?”
“Has he told you anything?”
“Well, of course, he has, he’s Claus’ lawyer!”
Finally, one man dared to ask, “Come on, man, what’s the emergency? Has the boss kicked the bucket or something?”
Whipple froze after that last question. He flinched and started to walk faster, with Prim following and gasps were heard from the crowd about his reaction.
“Wait, are we here for an election?” one man demanded to know.
“We will talk about the details in due time!” Whipple answered as he and Prim quickly hurried into their private office. The poor secretary had to shove away many curious men from the entrance as she closed and locked the door.
“Do you see the ruckus this is already causing?” Whipple commented to Prim as he put down his briefcase and began to pull out documents. “Has Missus Claus arrived yet?”
Prim, finally stepping away from the door that she was hoping wouldn’t be broken into by the crowd outside nosily asking questions, sat down and placed her bag down on the table and took out her own documents. “I was told on the phone half an hour ago that she would be here soon.”
“Good. After she signs these papers, we can finally go into that conference room and begin the election.”
“Are you sure we can decide this one by the end of the day?”
“We have to as Christmas is here in a little less than a month. A new Claus must be chosen by today. If not, then the job has to be taken on by me by law and I don’t want this job.”
Nicholas Scott was in the conference room. The typical human working for Claus these days was a middle-aged to senior man who had served a couple of decades. Nick was a new guy, hired a year ago, and the youngest member ever hired by Claus Corp.
He too was confused about why everyone had rushed to Claus Manor for this meeting a day after a holiday. He was also concerned that his mother had so readily accepted his excuses about where he was after he failed to stay for Thanksgiving dinner.
“Are you hiding a girl from me?” she asked. “If you are, you should bring her over.”
“Should’ve just told her I ended up working for Santa Claus,” Nick thought to himself. “That’d go over well.”
“Young blood!” an older man with a scruffy beard, wearing glasses and in a gray suit greeted him with a cup of hot chocolate. “Compliments from the board.”
“Thank you,” Nick replied as he politely took the hot drink — much needed in this frozen tundra that could give Lambeau field a run for its money.
“You’re the new guy, right?” the older man asked, then offered a handshake. “Frank Cunningham. I work in the sales department that sends parts to the elves. I’m the only one who has learned the tech lingo to help out with the electronic items.”
Nick shook his hand and introduced himself. “Nick, how did you know I’m the new guy?”
Frank chuckled, “You’re the only one here without a gray hair. You look young enough to be my son. I mean as a dark-haired young man, tall, ruggedly handsome, and yet to put on a ‘dad bod’ you gave yourself away among us senior citizens. What department are you in?”
Nick couldn’t help but smile at Frank’s half-hearted humor. “Oh, I help creative services identify how to better market us. I was trying to get a job after college in any business that would accept me and I ended up here.”
Frank sipped the hot chocolate. “And let me guess, you were shocked Santa Claus existed and operated like this?”
“Pretty much,” Nick replied as he sipped his hot chocolate. The truth was the former hadn’t struck him as shocking as it should have come off. The latter though was a different matter altogether.
Frank laughed and patted him on the back as they walked towards the stage where everyone was gathering and awaiting news from Whipple about the meeting.
“You’ll be alright. It’s about time this place got some new blood anyways. Is this your first meeting?”
“Well, major meeting, yes.”
“Usually these meetings include a long lecture or presentation, then we get to go back home. We shouldn’t be here too long. Don’t worry too much.”
Then Frank suddenly stopped in his tracks, causing Nick to freeze too. He looked around to make sure no one else could hear, then softly said to the young man, “Well, unless the rumors are true.”
“Once again Mrs. Claus, I am so deeply and terribly sorry for your loss.” Whipple said as she, an elderly white-haired woman shook his hand. She was a tad plump, carried a cane, and needed to put on her glasses as she approached the legal papers she had to sign. She had come in with a rather fine fur coat and seemed in a hurry.
“My husband lasted longer than he should have,” she snipped back as she started to sign the papers. “I’m surprised the cold of going out every Christmas Eve night didn’t give him pneumonia to die of sooner, or maybe one of those disgusting reindeers making him sick.”
“Well, nevertheless, I am sorry for your loss. Eighty-nine years of age sure left a lot of service for Claus Corp. to count on in many of those years,” Whipple replied as he took the signed documents.
“Well, it killed him, and he knows he should have retired years ago,” Mrs. Claus replied as she waved her finger at Whipple, while Prim grimaced in the corner.
“You just make sure my family is taken care of and that his life’s work is appreciated.”
“Yes, ma’am,” Whipple assured her as he guided her out the room through a backdoor so that there wouldn’t be a fuss from the gossiping staff in the hallways.
“Merry Christmas!” Prim said as the old woman left.
Whipple gave her a scolding look, and Mrs. Claus huffed at her, “I’ll tell you if it’s any merry at the end of the year. Hah! Merry Christmas….”
Whipple closed the door behind her and then Prim looked at him, “What a…merry individual she is.”
“No matter. That humbug is old news,” Whipple said as he began to put documents into his briefcase. “She signed over the estate and agreed to the terms of the pension. It’s time to decide who’ll be the next Santa Claus.”
“Here we go…,” Frank said to Nick as Whipple came up onto the stage and approached a microphone. Behind him, Prim stood with her hands folded, looking anxiously at what was about to happen.
“Welcome Claus Corp. team!” Whipple greeted the crowd. “I am so happy to see you all seemed to have made it all here safe and sound.”
Polite applause followed only to be interrupted by a random shout from the floor, “Address the rumors!”
Whipple seemed startled at the incident, but composed himself quickly and kept going. “I want to extend my deepest sympathies and apologies for any inconvenience caused by the fact you all had to skip out on Thanksgiving dinner with your families, so that you could rush here for this emergency meeting. I am very appreciative that you all made it here.”
“The rumors!” the random voice shouted from the crowd once again.
“Somebody needs to put some tape over that guy’s mouth, he’s delaying the news,” Frank told Nick.
Whipple ignored the heckler this time, “I have asked you all here today because you are all part of the team that helps Claus Corp. run. The sales department, the creative services, the jingles studio, the team managers, the contact points, and all of you who help Santa Claus deliver those presents each Christmas Eve night.”
“The rumors!” the heckler shouted.
“Someone shut him up!” another man shouted.
Whipple couldn’t hold back any longer. “Okay, fine! I better get on to the rumors.”
Gasps followed. Whipple had just semi-confirmed them by addressing them.
“I regret to inform you that Santa Claus…,” Whipple hesitated, knowing the likely panic to follow. “That Santa Claus passed away in his sleep three days ago.”
The crowd in the room lost it. Everyone began talking about what that news meant.
Whipple raised his voice to get the audience’s attention, “Thus, as his lawyer, I have been tasked with the job of helping decide the next Santa Claus!”
“Election! Election! Election!” a voice randomly and repeatedly shouted. This sent the room into a frenzy, as everyone rushed everywhere. Many took out their cellphones while others stayed stunned on the floor.
“Calm down! Calm-” Whipple gave up. Everyone knew their chance to become the next Santa Claus had arrived, and they would take it over from here.
Prim approached, “Sir, why are they losing their minds?”
Nick asked that question as well, as he and Frank tried to survive the near riot occurring in the conference room floor around them.
“The same reason a Senator looks in the mirror every day and sees the next president of the United States,” Frank replied.
Whipple’s answer was more or less the same.
“How exactly does electing a new Santa work?” Nick asked Frank, as the two walked over to a line where everyone was being asked to register their names. “I imagine it doesn’t work like in the Tim Allen movie The Santa Clause.”
“It’s like a presidential nominating convention.” Frank explained. “They have everyone put a name on the ballot and votes are cast for as many rounds as needed until one candidate finally gets the majority of the votes. The problem is everyone wants to be in on this, so everyone registers to be a nominee. If you don’t get a vote, you’re eliminated each round. You can also drop out at the end of a round if you don’t see a path to victory.”
“Hold on,” Nick replied as he looked at his surroundings. “Why am I in line then? I don’t have any interest in the big job.”
Frank pulled Nick back into the line. “No, go ahead and register. I need someone to keep voting for so that I don’t have to vote for the other candidates. That helps my chances.”
“Then vote for someone else every round,” Nick advised as he tried to leave the line again.
“Are you kidding me?” Frank replied, tugging at Nick to stay. “These guys have been networking and sucking up to each other for decades to have a shot at this job. Any vote for one of them could end up tipping off others to take their votes towards that candidate. No, I need someone who is brand new and less well known and won’t be a threat.”
“And that’s where I come in? Why do I have a feeling you didn’t just approach me so that you could be polite to the new guy?”
“What do you mean?”
“You had this planned all along, and you knew the new guy would be an easy throw-away vote to count on keeping you in the competition. You heard the rumors and you saw me and your chances to be the next Santa Claus right there in front of you.”
They each reached the register’s table by now. “Okay, I admit it,” Frank fessed up as he signed his name. “I needed a ringer.”
Nick sighed, shook his head and went to leave, but Frank grabbed his arm one last time to plead with him. “Look, you seem like a nice kid. You’re not interested, so may as well help out the only guy who cared enough to approach you.”
Nick hesitated, then sighed as those behind them in line pestered him to make a choice, and then he signed his name to the candidate list.
Minutes later, with everyone registered, a waiter came in with a cart of freshly spiced eggnog for everyone. Nick went up to get one, but Frank motioned that Nick should skip it.
“What’s wrong?” Nick asked.
“They’ll poison it,” Frank replied.
“Oh, come on!” Nick replied with a laugh. “I know the competition will be fierce, but food poisoning? Aren’t you being a little too paranoid now?”
“Trust me on this one,” Frank replied. “Keep your head on a swivel. These guys play dirty.”
“Sir, I have news,” Prim told Whipple as he looked over registrations in their private office.
“What’s that?” he asked, his attention never leaving the papers in front of him.
“A good chunk of the would-be candidates have pulled out because of food poisoning.”
“What?!” Whipple replied as he snapped his face up at her.
“There’s an ongoing investigation…the eggnog is suspected.”
Whipple sat back in his chair. “Who had access to the eggnog?”
“That’s what the investigation is trying to determine, sir.”
Whipple put his hands to his face then sighed and clasped them on top of his head. “What did I tell you? These guys were going to lose their minds at the opportunity to be the next Claus.”
Prim pulled up a chair next to her boss, “Sir, if I may….”
Whipple raised his eyebrows.
“I was curious as to why there were no women in the room.”
“Oh no, not this,” Whipple groaned and grabbed a drink.
“I’m just curious!” Prim replied as she sat up and confronted him.
“Look, we have had various women in our top offices, but the rule is Santa is a guy. So only the men were invited over.”
“How progressive,” Prim sarcastically replied with folded arms.
“I didn’t make the rules,” Whipple replied. Just then a knock on the door. “Come in,” he hesitantly replied, fearing what it could be now.
“Hey there, Mister Whipple,” a short gray-haired man with a Brooklyn accent in a trench coat and a fedora said as he walked in and shook hands with Miss Prim as she backed away towards the other side of the office, and then he shook hands with the confused lawyer.
“Excuse me, and you are…?”
“You don’t recognize my voice? Then again you did sound a little more high-pitched than you do now over our call, so maybe there was a bad connection,” the man replied.
“We’ve talked?” Whipple answered, the handshake going on for far too long and now in the middle of the awkward exchange.
Both realized this and finally stopped shaking hands
“I’m the private investigator you hired over the phone,” the short man answered, then after that only received more silence he identified himself, “Agent Brutananadilewski!”
Whipple looked at Prim who was confused, and she shrugged her shoulders in confusion too. “Agent?”
“Yes, you hired me to look into the background of all the candidates to this little mall Santa competition you’ve got going on.”
“I never did any such thing,” Whipple replied as he rummaged his mind for answers. “My God…someone must have gotten leaked news about Claus’ passing and hired an investigator to dig up dirt on the election candidates.”
The mystery man then pulled from his inside pocket a large envelope with stacks of papers inside it. “I have some boring stuff on most of these fellas, but some of this is some good down and dirty information, Mister Whipple,” Brutananadilewski said as he flipped through them himself.
A polite knock was followed by Prim letting room service come in. The private investigator got up and rudely grabbed a cookie from the tray without asking. The waiter gave Whipple a look, but Whipple silently told him to let it go and that he could leave them be.
“I’m looking forward to seeing who you pick based on the dirt I got, Mister Whipple. After all, I have kids, too, and I want to know what kind of guy is leaving stuff in their stockings in the middle of the night, if you know what I mean.” He said this as if he were joking, not realizing this was the real thing.
“Sir, the election is held between the staff invited to the meeting, not me,” Whipple replied as he took the envelope and went to hand it to the agent.
“Now, sir, I cannot repeat your last name, so I’m just going to tell you that I did not hire you and that I have no need for this information, sir. So, with all due respect, you may be on your way now.”
Brutananadilewski held his hand up. “Now wait a minute there big shot. I was hired by someone and I put in a lot of work to get that information. Now I’ve already been wired the money by whatever party was involved, so the way I see it you may as well go over that information one way or another. You may think you don’t have a say, but you know you can start asking some these guys in and start twisting some arms.”
Whipple thought about it and looked to Prim.
“I mean…it couldn’t hurt to have as insurance,” she said.
Whipple relented, “Okay then. But you stay and help me sort this thing out, Agent Bruta…Agent.”
“Hey, I’ll make myself just at home,” Brutananadilewski said as he tossed his trench coat aside and made himself comfortable on the small couch next to the desk.
Whipple carefully walked over to Prim and whispered, “Find out who hired this gentleman.”
In the conference room, ballots had gone through three rounds and no one was anywhere close to receiving a majority. Many who had not gotten a vote, or could not hold the vote or two they had from previous rounds, began to be disqualified. Others resigned themselves to defeat when they saw no path forward and dropped out. Frank had been doing well, but a handful of candidates still lead. Nick only received one vote each round, each time from Frank of course.
The buzz in the room was over the fact they were now reaching the mid-afternoon and yet they had not given anyone any more than 20% of the vote. Deals and compromises could be in play if nothing broke for anyone soon.
Frank approached Nick coming out from a crowd of men talking among themselves. “Okay, so I’ve talked a couple guys into getting behind me. If I’m reading the room right, that should place me in sixth place on the fourth ballot. Not bad for a guy who had finished ninth in the first round.”
“You sure you want to keep me around as a candidate?” Nick said, looking over at the board. “Might be suspicious that I’m the only guy with one vote still holding on. And considering you can’t vote for yourself, they’ll start putting two and two together about your strategy.”
“Don’t worry about that right now. They’ll come a time to let you free, but not just yet.”
Frank greeted a bald middle-aged Asian colleague coming towards them, “Oh, hey, Luke!”
“I’m just working the room,” Luke said with a blushing smile.
“Yeah, second place is quite impressive,” Frank replied with a grimacing fake smile back.
Suddenly, a southern gentleman with a pot belly approached them. “Luke, I got a vote to give since my preferred guy pulled out this last round.”
“And you’ve come to me for votes, Cody?” Luke replied with a light laugh. “Starting to think I have a shot at being the first Asian Santa.”
“Perhaps. Perhaps,” Cody replied. “But I do have a question — what is your relationship with our lord and savior Jesus Christ?”
Awkward silence followed.
“Ex…Excuse me?” Luke replied.
“Someone leaked that you may be a Buddhist. I’m not sure the Southern division would be happy with that news. Our Christmas keeps the Christ in Christmas. That includes Santa. Sorry man.”
Cody walked off, and a confused and concerned Luke excused himself to see who had spread this around.
“Well that was uncomfortable and arguably bigoted,” Nick commented.
“Fair or not, Luke’s chances just dipped now that he’s got that information floating out there.” Frank was trying to hide a smile that his chances just went up. “What did I tell you? These guys are playing dirty. That’s why I’m laying low.”
“Hold on. So if he’s Buddhist, why would he be working for Claus Corp.?” Nick openly wondered.
“Time for the fourth round!” interrupted Miss Prim from the stage.
“Luke goes to my church! I’m Catholic!” Whipple shouted in annoyance when word of the rumors destroying Luke’s chances got to him.
“These fellas are getting a little out of control, Mister Whipple,” Brutananadilewski commented as he continued to eat cookies from the cart room service left. “Awfully cutthroat for a mall’s Santa competition.”
Whipple sighed. “We’re now nearing dusk, and no one has reached even close to the majority needed. Six rounds in and the top vote getter has only gotten 32%. This will be the most controversial thing out of Claus Corp. since the jingles studio released ‘Baby It’s Cold Outside.’”
Just then Prim came in, “Sir, I have some news.”
Whipple motioned she would not give it to him just yet and went over and poured himself more whiskey. He gulped it down before motioning her with the glass.
Prim approached him with a pamphlet in hand, “Someone just gave this to me.”
Whipple took the paper and read it aloud. His eyes widened as he followed the words on the page. It read….
THE CHRISTMAS LABOR REVOLUTION HAS BEGUN
ELVES NEED PROPER LIVING WAGES AND PROPER WORK BENEFITS
A NEW SANTA MEANS NEW RULES
UNIONIZE OR SUFFER
MEETING ON THE FIRST OF DECEMBER AT SANTA CLAUS WAY
Whipple let the paper fall to the ground and placed a hand on his forehead. “I think I’m feeling ill. If we don’t have a Santa before the first, those elves will have plenty reasons to strike.”
Brutananadilewski got up and consoled the stressed-out lawyer. “My father knew a little something about dealing with insubordination. This might be time to start twisting some arms. I know some guys.”
It then hit Whipple, not about union busting, but about the dirt Brutananadilewski had gotten his hands on. “You might be right Agent Bru…Agent.”
“Are you sure about this, sir?” Prim asked as she watched the gears in her boss’s head work.
“We’re running out of time,” Whipple replied. “Let’s bring in the top candidates and start asking questions. Hand me the information on them agent.”
“First place Bruce!” Whipple greeted the current first-place finisher. “Sit down there sir. We have some questions since you’ve lead all the ballots since the second round.”
“Thank you!” Bruce replied, an overweight, but jovial man.
“Cookie?” Brutananadilewski offered.
“Um, sure. Who are you?”
“Let’s talk about you buddy…,” Brutananadilewski replied with a slick grin.
“Um, agent, I have this,” Whipple assured him.
Brutananadilewski waved off.
Bruce nervously chuckled. “Agent? What is this?”
“Agent Bruta… this agent here has been hired by us to look into the background of the top contenders. He claims to have found some skeletons in your closet Bruce.”
“Is…is this a joke?” Bruce replied, continuing to nervously laugh.
“You tell me…,” Brutananadilewski said, giving the large man a CD disc.
“What’s this?” Bruce asked.
“Some of your greatest hits,” Brutananadilewski replied, then sat up, and without asking Whipple, placed the CD in his laptop to play.
Whipple looked on confused, “Um, agent, hold on. I myself have no clue what’s in the audio. Is it safe for Miss Prim to listen to?”
“I’m not a little girl,” Prim shot back.
“Hold on. Please don’t play that music. I beg of you!” Bruce shouted as Brutananadilewski turned the laptop around to face the pleading man. And instantly they heard Bruce singing Christmas carols from the audio, but not only did Bruce sound horrible attempting to sing them, but the man was also replacing certain lines between certain lyrics with dirty words.
“Agent, what the hell is this?” Whipple asked as Bruce got up and flew into a rage, picking up a baseball bat that had been sitting in the corner of the office for God knows what reason and started destroying the laptop with it.
Prim shrieked in terror as Whipple shot up from his chair in shock, with Brutananadilewski laughing at the display before them.
“Sir!” Whipple shouted to the crazed man.
Bruce calmed down and let the bat go. “I’m…I’m sorry I don’t know what got a hold of me.”
“What is the meaning of this, Bruce? Explain yourself!” Whipple demanded to know.
Bruce cried and Brutananadilewski lent him his shoulder. “Poor Brucey here once did a dirty Christmas carols album. Now what kind of mall Santa is that to have your kids sitting on his lap?”
“Agent, you told me you had dirt. This is a joke,” Whipple said.
“What? We’re talking about mall Santas here, not some race for president,” Brutananadilewski replied. “I found stuff that makes them bad mall Santas.”
“No…the agent is right. I failed you. I can’t be a Santa that sings dirty Christmas songs,” Bruce said between sobbing. “I’m dropping out of the race.”
“I believe Santa is meant to be a sort of highlander,” The second-place candidate who offered wild conspiracy theories he picked up online told Whipple, Brutananadilewski, and Prim as they continued their investigation.
“I have to admit, I’m not the biggest fan of children,” The third-place candidate told them.
The fourth-place candidate seemed like he would be a good fit…then they learned that he was registered on the naughty list.
All of them were dismissed and convinced to drop out with promises to push their votes towards the compromise candidate Whipple would choose. That left the fifth-place candidate, Frank.
“Frank, you’re the first one we’ve gotten in here who Agent Bru…who the agent has no dirt on,” Whipple revealed. “Since we can push some votes towards you, I need to know — do you have any skeletons in your closet?”
Frank looked around realizing what this could mean, then as he rubbed and clasped his hands together in a silent congratulatory prayer for himself replied, “Um…no. No skeletons here.”
“Well then…we’re about to make you the next Santa Claus Frank!” Whipple replied, then got up and gave the man a congratulatory hug.
Frank was all smiles as Whipple gave him the plan on how, as a compromise candidate, the major candidates who were dropping out would shift their votes to him per the deals they made with Whipple.
“My work here is done.” Agent Brutananadilewski said as he stepped out. “I gotta’ tell you, Miss Prim, I really can’t believe how serious you guys take this mall Santa job,” he told her as she closed the door behind him.
“Time to celebrate with some nice ice-cold milk,” Prim said as she handed the drinks out.
Frank rejected the celebratory drink though. “I’m okay.”
“Oh come on Frank, this one isn’t poisoned,” Whipple joked.
“No really. I’m okay, I just want to get back to the conference room and win this election.”
“Alright.” Whipple replied.
“Not even just a little?” Prim asked, blocking Frank from going out the door.
“No, I…I can’t,” Frank replied, shirking back from the milk.
“What’s going on? Leave him alone about the milk,” Whipple ordered of his secretary.
“You really don’t like milk that much, huh?” Prim commented as she drank it in front of him.
Whipple noticed Frank seemed disgusted watching Prim drink the milk. “Do…do you not drink milk? Santa has to drink milk with the cookies kids leave him.”
“I…I like milk just fine,” Frank replied, now looking nervous and side-eying the drink.
“Then a sip would prove it,” Prim said as she handed him a glass.
Whipple agreed, “Yeah, one sip to alleviate our worries.”
“Oh…Okay then,” Frank said, sweating bullets as he grabbed the glass of milk. Then he put his nose up to it, smelled it a bit, gagged, and gave it back to Prim.
“Exposed! He doesn’t like milk!” Prim shouted, strangely excited.
“Frank! I asked if you had any skeletons in your closet,” Whipple crossed his arms, he knew what this meant. The search for the next Santa was still on.
“I’m sorry!” Frank finally said. “Okay, so I find milk disgusting and I’m lactose intolerant. I can’t have the milk the kids leave out. I admit it.” He then pleaded as he slammed the table with his fist, desperation in his eyes. “But I am running a progressive campaign for the next title of Claus! I believe in a world where Santa can drink soymilk!”
“Frank…,” Whipple calmly replied.
Frank calmed down, and then plopped himself back onto the couch, resigned to defeat. “I know, I know, they’ll never vote for someone who can’t drink the milk.”
“So, we’re back to square one,” Whipple sighed and sat back on his own chair, his turn to be resigned to defeat.
“Wait…,” Frank said looking towards Prim. “How did you know I wouldn’t drink the milk?”
Prim gulped nervously. “I didn’t know….”
“You sure were insistent….”
“Yeah, you were…,” Whipple now said, standing up from his chair and approaching his secretary. Then it hit him, “Are you…are you the one who’s been leaking information from the office? The one who was spreading rumors? Were you the one who hired the detective? Oh my God, were you the one who poisoned the eggnog? Were you the one who made those pamphlets trying to get the elves to strike?”
“Fine! I confess,” Prim blurted out. “I knew a little more about the election process than I let on. I wanted the vote to be inconclusive by the end of the day, by the rules that would’ve made you Mister Whipple able to proclaim yourself the next Claus, and I could be the lawyer running things.”
“You realize the chaos you’ve caused?” Frank asked her.
“I don’t want the job, Miss Prim, and I sure as hell didn’t want to be your puppet,” Whipple said, anger coloring his face.
“Okay, look. I’m sorry. Maybe I let things get out of control, but no one got hurt,” Prim begged off.
“You poisoned the eggnog and put Christmas in danger,” Frank retorted.
Prim then realized just how much trouble she was in then. “Don’t fire me, Mister Whipple!”
“Oh, you’re fired. Frank go out in the hallway and call security!”
“Mister Whipple, please!” the sneaky and conniving woman begged as security came in and did as they were asked, hauling her off.
It was now evening, and the buzz was they would have no Santa Claus elected by the end of the day. Mister Whipple by now had a raging headache, and yet he continued to drink the whiskey to try and calm his nerves. With Frank still sitting in the office with him, they both were stumped as to what to do next.
“I can’t accept the role of Claus, which would mean we are about to end this meeting without knowing who the boss is. Chaos among the staff will reign. Elves will strike. Christmas may be cancelled,” Whipple moped.
“The biggest problem is everyone in there has their own cliques and enemies after so many years working together,” Frank said as he decided to pick up a cookie from the cart. “And with all the leaks about our dirt, no one’s gonna trust the other.”
“If only we could have them coalesce around someone they didn’t have an opinion of already,” Whipple thought aloud. “Someone they could just project all their hopes and fears about the future of the company onto.”
Frank then started to lean forward from the couch he had been sitting on. “You mean like a young brand-new employee?”
Whipple glanced at Frank, “Yeah…you know a guy?”
With the clock striking eight, the conference room erupted into applause and cheer as they finally saw a ballot in which someone got over a majority of the vote. A candidate who had no enemies, hell he didn’t even have allies, no known skeletons in his closet, and everyone could get behind as a fresh face.
“Congratulations to Nick Scott!” Whipple shouted as Nick awkwardly stood next to him looking confused and nervous over how one vote cast for him became a majority. “From here on out, he will have the title of Santa Claus!”