Pete was having a cigarette in the snow outside of the workshop. His dark skin converting flakes that landed on his face. He saw through the white, two short men dressed in green. Pete greeted the elves.
“Hey Tony” said Pete.
“Hey” said one of the newcomers pulling out a cigarette. “This is the new guy” said Tony talking about his companion. “His name is Greg”.
Greg spoke before he thought. “But you’re not an elf”.
Pete smiled and inhaled slowly “Yeah, see, about that. Pre-Krampus, pre-Grinch, pre-Anti-Clause, there was me. I was the first before television got their hands on what we do here”.
“So…you steal Christmas” asked Greg not understanding. Tony took a small step away from Greg waiting for Pete’s response.
“Bit blunt, aren’t you short-stuff” stated Pete. Tony relaxed. “No, I don’t steal Christmas. I just give coal to naughty children”.
“So, you ride with the boss on work night” asked Greg in shock. “Jesus”.
“Speaking of,” said Tony “guess who’s coming to the new-years party. Dobby is free to do wine slushies”.
A question came to Pete’s mind. “Actually, you never told me how you got the party in the first place. We don’t exactly have a union”.
“Why, want to get us another one” asked Tony.
Pete inhaled deeply, wondering if his idea was too far out of reach. “No, I was just wondering…since you got the party and all…that maybe…The boss would give me something I want”.
Tony knew Pete was walking into dangerous territory. Making requests to the boss was unheard of until this year. “What are you thinking”?
Pete blurted out his response. “I want to ride the sleigh, without the boss breathing down my neck. I want to see the birds, look at the moon, watch the sky without getting barked at to do this and that”. Greg and Tony gave the response a plumber would to a pipeline that had ingested a grenade.
“The boss would wrap you up in a box and give you to a kid in India before he’d let you ride the sleigh without him” said Tony.
“But how did you get your party” asked Pete. “Maybe if I did the same…”.
“I’m going to stop you there” said Tony. “We asked the boss, but we had to do something in return”.
“What” asked Pete feeling the sky touch his face already.
“You’re better off asking him yourself” explained Greg. “See what he says”…
* * *
Greg and Tony saw Pete having a cigarette in the snow. They trudged over to him.
“What did he say” asked Greg excited.
“I can see why you didn’t tell me what you did” said Pete. “Everyone has a different task to do in return”.
“But what did he say” asked Greg again.
“I have to make someone’s Christmas” said Pete. He inhaled deeply and said “A lot of someones. But there’s a catch”.
“The boss is always nasty with his catches” said Tony. “What’s yours”?
“I can only use what I have” said Pete. Greg and Tony shared a mournful look with Pete. All Pete had was a packet of cigarettes, a lighter, and an infinite supply of coal.
“Sorry man. I know you had your heart set on riding the sleigh” said Tony and patted the back of Pete’s leg comfortingly.
Pete threw his cigarette into the snow and took out another one. “Yeah, such a shame. I really wanted to fly free, you know”.
Tony had not said anything because he was thinking, calculating how Pete could achieve his dream. The boss gave him those conditions for a reason. It was possible, and Tony had worked out how.
“You still can” said Tony. “I have an idea. What if you gave your coal to homeless children”?
Pete could have done more than kissed Tony. He would have married him, bore his children and shared a coffin at the end of their long and happy marriage.
“No” said Greg. “The boss has a list. He’ll take care of everybody”.
“Everybody with chimneys” shouted Pete. “Oh my god this could work.
Greg said “So, when the doctor was supposed to slap you as a baby, did he straight up rugby tackle you into the wall? Cause that’s the only thing I can think of that would explain that new breed of stupid you just said”.
“I think I can do it” restored Pete.
Greg laughed at the idea. “Ok, listen real close, You have two days to do that. There is no way in hell you have the time”.
“The boss does what he does in one” replied Pete. Tony nodded in agreement.
“As if you knew how The boss does all that in a day”.
“I ride with him every year. I know how” explained Pete.
Tony was in quiet contemplation. “Problem” he said. “If you’re making their Christmases, you’ll need transport”.
But Pete was on a roll so he said “There is one thing that can make the journey”. A large grin crawled on his face
Greg checked Pete to see if he was serious. “You want to steal the boss’ ride” shouted Greg.
“Well, I can’t ride it on my own, so I want us to steal it”
“Rugby tackled babies, the lot of you”.
“I get to ride the sleigh and do my job in the one night. I get to ride all the reindeer, in the sky, without him“.
“Come on” said Tony “If I help him on my own, we’ll get caught”.
Greg sighed and agreed to help them. They all started walking to begin their theft.
“You know” said Greg “A black man stealing the boss’s ride. There’s a joke in there”.
Pete stopped, looked down on Greg and said “I’m bigger than you, and we’re going to be a couple of thousand feet in the air in a few minutes, do you really want to make that joke”?
“I retract my statement” said Greg. And he mumbled “Going to be doing a lot of that in court when we get caught”.
* * *
The three thieves stood in front of the Boss’s cabin. Behind the three lay the carcass of a destroyed sleigh and concussed reindeer, trying to find balance by leaning on the snow beneath their feet. The boss standing outside his front door, whit an expectant look hidden behind his large white beard. “And that was…” their superior asked.
“Can I retract my statement” asked Greg.
“You haven’t made a statement” said Tony.
Pete stood in front of the other two, who used this opportunity to back away. “Look, Sir, I made people’s Christmases, like you asked. I gave my coal to the homeless. All the homeless. Everywhere. They’re sleeping warm tonight”.
Their boss stroked his beard. “And tell me, did you do it just to ride my reindeer”?
Pete thought about this for a second, then he spoke honestly. “At first, yeah, but after I started handing out coal, I was just happy these people were getting something for Christmas. They don’t have chimneys so we look past them, but for one night, they weren’t cold”.
“Let me get this straight” said the victim of their theft, “You stole my sleigh, covered it in soot, spooked my reindeer with your driving, crash landed here knowing you would get caught, all to give coal to the homeless”.
“The crash landing is my fault” said Tony raising a shaky hand. “I’m insured and Pete’s not so I took the wheel and, well, one thing lead to another, which lead into a tree which almost lead into an airplane and” Tony noticed he was talking too much by crystal eyes above a long white beard glaring at him. “Sorry” said Tony in a way smaller than his size
“Was it worth it” asked their employer.
“Yes sir” said Pete without hesitation.
“I’d like to weigh in” said Greg about to deny as much as he could. All three characters shot him a glare and he stayed silent.
“Would you do it again” asked the largest of the company, sticking his thumbs behind his large belt buckle.
“Would you do it again next year”? Pete smiled, laughed and then jumped up and down in joy. He had a job. He was not the Christmas bad guy anymore, and he got to fly “Oh, I wouldn’t celebrate too soon” said his boss pulling out a toothbrush from his pocket. “You have a sleigh to repair and clean”. Pete did not care, he had made many people’s Christmas, and his Christmas was made.