Saucy holiday cheer for the final prompt of Sensual Moments, Vol. 7
Outside, when there was no blizzard scouring the frozen landscape and great snow dunes forming at the base of the mountains, the surrounding environs of the workshop possessed a quiet serenity. The still, frigid air tickled your nose and sunlit snow drifts glittered and sparkled as if a grand kaleidoscope to entrance you. But once inside, the din of industry seized your senses and your nerves bristled with the buzz of activity. Just as on every other day for as long as memory permitted, this day too was no different.
Overhead, conveyers squeaked and jangled and shook on their rollers heavy with parts and do-dads, half finished assemblies, and brightly colored packaging boxes, all merrily on their way to destinations below where busy and enthusiastic elves awaited them. How the conveyers operated with such precision in their low-tech state, the aging mechanisms to propel them unchanged for centuries, was still a mystery to all except Santa himself – and perhaps maybe Mrs. Claus. Although, Lars would bet his pointy ears that Santa's pouch of magic sprinkles had a lot to do with it.
Below the conveyers, great oak workbenches lined the floor from wall to wall neatly aligned like ribs protruding from the central isle. Scores of short, pointy-eared elves manned every meter of workbench space, each decked in lederhosen of greens and reds, or leotards, skirts and sweaters, and there were caps of various styles. Each to a one of those elves had rouge red circles of natural skin tone adorning their cheekbones, and there was not a joyous smile missing on any one of them, even Lars. It was almost impossible to see the pocked and nicked wood surfaces of the workbenches for all the clutter of parts and tools and schematics filling the space and busy little hands dashing about.
The walls of the shop boasted great windows from floor to ceiling frosted with ice, and they beautifully framed picturesque icicles just outside reaching down from the overhang of the roof. Rays of light from sun-drenched blue skies and the glare reflecting off nearby hills covered with pristine blankets of snow filled the room with resplendent Christmas cheer.
“Ah, my dear Hans,” sighed Lars as he peered intently at the circuit board held securely in his table vice. “What happened to all the lovely woodworking... all those beautiful dowels and mitered edges and mortise and tenon joints that used to snap together in such a satisfying way?"
“Here we go again,” sighed Hans himself. “I'm busy, Lars… happily busy with today's technology, if you wouldn't mind leaving me to my work.”
“Remember the delightful scent of pine sap that always filled the air while we worked... and the sawdust that quieted our steps?” Lars struggled a moment to find the proper setting on his amp meter. “I miss the wood, Hans, really I do.” Looking back at his work, he snorted a scoff. “These transistors and tiny circuits and hair-thin wires are near to driving me mad.”
Hans lifted the mechanized, plastic Transformer toy he'd just completed and brought it close to his eyes for inspection. It was perfect.
“Timmy Nobel won't be able to contain himself when he gets his hands on this baby!” Hans hugged the toy to his chest, imagining himself young Mr. Nobel on Christmas morning, then glared at Lars. “Lars, if you complained less, and concentrated more, you'd have a much easier go of it. You're falling behind with all your whining. How many units is it now that you've completed this week?”
“984,543… to be exact.”
“Exactly! Less than a million... let alone 2. I'll have you know the average is well over 2 million per elf. Please, Lars, whine if you must, but keep it to yourself. I mustn't be slowed.”
Lars grumbled under his breath, finding no support from his friend. Stifled, he returned to his work, his soldering gun continually missing its miniscule target.
“Lars,” suddenly came a deep, reverberating voice through the ether. Focused so intently, Lars didn't notice. He pressed on with his work, an abundance of joy filling his heart; for joy it was, because he was a true elf through and through. Although, the momentary grumbles continued nonetheless in typical Lars fashion.
“LARS!” That did it. Lars pinched the ear lobe of his pointed ear and jiggled it to pick up the full message. Even though Santa was in his office at the far end of the compound, the voice reached the workshop magically.
“How does he do that?” asked Lars convivially, even though the answer was patently obvious.
“He's Santa… the guy with the pouch, remember?”
Lars left his 984,544th unit unfinished and made for Santa's office.
True to Santa's cheerful, ever-merry self, his open door policy remained doctrine – apparently literally as well as figuratively this day. As such, the formidable, heavy mahogany doors to his office, artfully engraved with etchings of reindeer and sleighs, were open; and Lars, being the slight fellow that he was, was grateful he didn't need to move them on their hinges. Entering inside, he was greeted with the delightful scent of cherry pipe tobacco mixed with the smells of fresh-baked gingerbread and aged wood. It was the marvelous smell of Santa Claus, and Lars was ecstatic to meet with the great saint he loved so dearly.
“Ah, Lars, there you are. Come and sit down… and please, feast yourself on this batch of Mrs. Claus' gingerbread. I dare you to tell me she hasn't out done herself this time.”
She had out done herself, and Lars could only beam merrily at Santa for a moment, excitedly nodding like a little boy as he stuffed sweet morsels of gingerbread into his chomper, crumbs gathering in heaps in his lap.
“I need you for an important task, Lars. We… er... I have a serious problem, and you're going to help me fix it.”
“Yes, Lars, a problem. I can sum it up with one simple name: Bertha Kittenfrau! You're familiar with Bertha?”
Lars pinched his ear lobe again and jiggled it. His head cocked to the side and his eyes became distant for a moment, and he seemed as if a computer doing a search.
“The breathtaking Bertha Kittenfrau, of New York City. Of course I know her.” He paused a moment, a wry grin forming on his face. “Such a naughty woman!” He smirked knowingly at Santa who only puffed on his pipe drawing clouds of thick smoke that clung to his beard. He peered at the elf, his thumb tucked in the buckle of his leather suspenders twitching nervously.
“Yes, Lars,” he finally spoke with a sigh. “Naughty. Very naughty indeed. Naughty to the bone, that one!" Santa chewed on his pipe stem, considering. "Naughty right from the very moment she discovered herself at age five. What was that boy's name...” Santa looked off through the clouds of smoke contemplating. “...that of her very first thrall?”
“Haden Larchmont, you mean, sir?” queried Lars after jiggling his ear.
“Yes yes, that's him. Haden Larchmont. The boy who, after meeting young Miss Kittenfrau in kindergarten, would never again savor the delights of his lunchbox chocolate chip cookies. All he ever knew of them from then on were the traces of chocolate smudges on her fingers and the smell of cookie dough on her breath when she peppered his cheeks with kisses. Poor boy.”
“I cannot even imagine the horror of going without lunchbox cookies.” Lars shuddered at the thought. “According to my records, her naughtiness has soared ever since.” He flipped through his ear-jiggle records further. “I wonder if that high school teacher ever recovered from his legal problems? Her straight A's were the least of his misdoings.” Lars giggled.
“He did… that is, of course, after prom queen Kittenfrau got the judge alone in his chambers.” Santa chuckled too – though he knew he shouldn't. It was just plain wrong! Wrong just like everything else he'd let her get away with – and then reward, no less.
Bertha Kittenfrau... his only true weakness.
“And yet…” Lars couldn't control his lips. The words just slid out like snickerdoodle cookies sliding off a well greased pan: “And yet all the presents...” He let the sentence hang in mid air.
“'Presents' you say?”
“Like the ring.”
“And the 54 convertible.”
“That was a mistake! I was going to swap my rickety old sleigh for that fine piece of automobile. Unfortunately it had capacity problems,” replied Santa, bending the truth a tad. He hid his eyes from Lars, growing in embarrassment.
“And the platinum mine.”
“Okay, Lars. You may stop jiggling your ear lobes now.”
“And the duplex. The sable. The yacht.”
“Must I remove that plate of gingerbread from your lap?”
“All done!” cried Lars, alarmed, sputtering crumbs as he spoke.
“The problem, Lars, as you can see, lies with me. Naughtiness should never fly! That is one of my most basic tenants. I feel so ashamed. It's high time I set things right.”
“Have you decided, sir, that enough is enough?”
“After her high jinx this year, yes, Lars. My behavior must change with regard to her… and Bertha must be taught a lesson.”
Santa flipped his pipe and tapped out the residual embers into the ashtray. He leaned forward and stared intently at Lars a moment. “Do you realize she is the only person to ever catch me coming down the chimney?"
“But you've met scores of children, Santa.”
“Only when I choose to… special occasions. For centuries I've been the stealthy saint whisking through the shadows, eluding with ease the attempts of millions of boys and girls trying to catch me with their plates of cookies and their tempting glasses of milk. I am a pro, Lars! I have powers. I remain aloof. That is my purview… among others,” he added with a twinkle of pride.
“I know, Santa,” Lars kindly reaffirmed.
“'I know, I know,' he says,” grumbled Santa. “But what of her, Lars? She caught me the very first year that she became aware of me… snuck right up on me and gave my heart such a fright! Uncannily she's caught me every year since. She knows me better than I know myself… almost better than the Misses does.
"Year after year, Lars, she intercepts me on Christmas Eve, engages me, charms me to the point where I'm practically begging to check off her Christmas list, and already planning ahead to visit her next year… regardless whether she's good or bad.”
“I've often wondered about that, Santa. You've never made exceptions before where naughtiness was concerned. But who am I to take such things up with you?”
“She makes me forget somehow, makes me shrug off her naughtiness as if it was nothing worse than a glass of spilled milk; pushes it right out of my mind with those sultry purrs and irresistible giggles and flirtatious wiggles... and those to-die-for pecks on the cheek that make me go weak in the knees. She brushes her transgressions aside like a harmless misnomer uttered among guests, so she can get straight to business, straight to making her wants known… and straight to my inevitable bearing of gifts.
"She senses weakness, Lars. That is her purview! She senses weakness just like you can sense the quality of a cookie by sight alone. And she knows my weakness is a simple one: HER!”
“It's alright, Santa. It'll be okay. Here, have some gingerbread.”
“No, Lars! No more gingerbread and milk to help me drown the regrets afterward. My capitulation to her is sucking the 'merry' from my soul. She's been an exceptionally bad girl this year, and I see now I must put an end to this madness.
“What did she do now?”
“Jiggle your ear and look up Katelin Mosser.”
“Ah yes. Strong, powerful, and quite a lovely woman. Former owner of Swagger & Stagger magazine.”
“Yes, former owner. Former owner of what was her pride and joy. She built that magazine from ground up with years of sweat and toil. And she was finally on the cusp of reaping the rewards of success.” He eyed Lars and frowned. “Guess who owns it now?”
“Why does the name 'Bertha Kittenfrau' enter my mind so readily?”
“Indeed. Apparently, while working as an editor there, mainly just for something to keep her busy – Bertha does not wont for money – she...”
“I should think not!” interrupted Lars with a fair degree of snark. “And thank you very much, Santa Baby!”
“Eat your gingerbread and be quiet, Lars. Now listen. She decided that owning that magazine outright was more to her liking. So, employing her talents, nay with any regard for Katelin, she zeroed in on Miss Mosser's true weakness – her weakness for the touch of another woman, you see.
"All it took was getting Miss Mosser alone in her office after hours. Now, along with ownership of the magazine, Miss Kittenfrau has Katelin, the once powerful tigress of the community, tamed into a little pussy cat to keep her warm at night... while she currently collects the advertising checks. Or a languid house cat, you might say, when Bertha deigns to be out on the town wreaking havoc with New York's gentlemen gentry.
"I'm told tears can still be seen on Katelin's face when asked about her departure from the magazine. Obviously her former station and ambitions are not completely forgotten while she wades in the pool of Bertha's staggering allure and own cunning ambitions. Katelin is a good girl, has been since she was a wee lass.
"Bertha has gone too far!”
Santa made to settle his nerves and gobbled a goodly sized chunk of gingerbread. “Which brings us to your mission, Lars. It's one that I'm too weak against her, too unequipped, and too married to carry out. Therefore, it falls in your lap.”
“I'll do my best, Santa. But what exactly is it you want me to do?”
“Why, you're going to seduce her, my dear fellow.”
“I am?” Lars felt beads of sweat begin to trickle down his forehead.
“Indeed you are! You will be visiting her on Christmas Eve in my stead. You're mission is two-pronged: First, for as long as it takes, you will compel Bertha to relinquish ownership of Swagger & Stagger back to Katelin. Then you will seduce her into returning back here with you where she will willingly and happily join the elves in the workshop and work along side them. What better way to infuse humanity back into her, eh, Lars? And best of all, you elves are immune to her brand of naughtiness. Not even she could make an elf succumb to her charms, try as she might. Am I right?”
“There'd be a distinct absence of material goods in her possession if I'd been the head honcho all these years.”
“Glad you agree… though you could lose the smugness, mister,” quipped Santa, amused just the same. “Now, I think a year or two of hard work here should suffice, don't you?”
“But Santa, don't you think it's a little dangerous to have her in such close proximity to you? You know… with your weakness and all.”
“Ah... but that's where your new job comes in when you return. In the interim, you'll no longer be making toys. You are hereby tasked with the job of keeping her away from me, and you will do so with utmost diligence! Do I make myself clear?”
“Clear as a sleigh bell, Captain!” No fussing with circuit boards and chip sets and plastics for a year or two. Marvelous! “Alright then, I shall prepare Rudolph and be on my way. You can manage without him for just one Christmas, can't you?” Lars grabbed one last piece of gingerbread and made to leave.
“Lars, you silly elf, do you presume to run off to New York just like that and expect to succeed in your mission? I haven't even equipped you yet.”
With a burst of excitement, Santa rose from his seat and adjusted his suspenders, his expression the very portrait of good natured mischief. “Stand there and close your eyes.”
“Done,” said Lars merrily. This was such an exciting year.
Santa moved to a large armoire and removed his special pouch. He gathered a handful of glittering powder from it, recited an incantation in a strange tongue, blew on it, then moved to Lars and let the powder stream over his head like the sands of an hourglass. “Okay, Lars, all done.”
When Lars opened his eyes, nothing was in its proper place. The things he expected to see ahead of him were now below him, and the ceiling of Santa's office seemed significantly lower.
“Check the mirror, Lars. Have a look at yourself.”
At first Lars couldn't believe his eyes and stared shell-shocked at his image. It was not himself that stared back at him, but rather a young man of about 25, tall and lanky, yet possessing a most bronzed and muscle-toned body cut to perfection, each muscle etched in sharp relief and rippling beneath his supple skin. He stood naked except for a well-worn pair of light blue Levis. His black hair was thick and wavy and had a dazzling sheen, and its shoulder length tassels framed smartly his penetrating blue eyes and sturdy square jaw and sensuous pouty lips. The short stubble adorning his prominent cleft chin added a superb touch of manliness.
“Oh my,” gasped Lars. “I think I now see what it is you expect of me.” He shook a little bit. This mission would be taking him into unknown territory; territory in which his few scant glimpses of had sent him scurrying to the cookie jar for aid in recovery. “This is very naughty, Santa. I don't know that I have it in me to be so naughty.”
“You'll do just fine, Lars. But you must use the gifts you now possess wisely. Dangle them, tease and tempt and lure with them, and never offer freely... until she begins to bend to your will. You have my blessings to treat this like a game. You do so love games, don't you, Lars?”
“I was born for games!” declared Lars excitedly, now dizzy in form and function.
But something was not right. There was something – menacing – at his crotch. He was sure a feral animal was lurking down there under his pants. He sucked in his six-pack abs and drew out the waistband of his jeans, and his eyeballs nearly popped out of his head when he peered inside.
“Oh good heavens, Santa! Is THIS really necessary? I can feel the head of it on my calf, for Pete's sake!”
Santa frowned, stroked his beard, studying Lars up and down. “Too much?” he asked unsure.
“A bit overkill, sir. I think 10 inches would suffice.”
“We'll make it 12… while at ease. It is decided. Now, off with you!”
It was a week later when Santa looked up from his desk to see the commotion at his door. “Lars! There you are… finally! My God, son, you look like you've been through hell in a hand basket. Are you alright?”
“Please, I beg you, change me back. Please!”
“Hold on.” Santa got up and made it happen. “I take it everything went well? Were is she… busy at work in the shop, I presume? Ah, this is such a joyous occasion! One dish of humanity, coming up.” Santa howled with jubilation, glowing so brightly about his rosy cheeks he lit up the office.
“Well… No. Not exactly.”
“Not exactly?” Santa's glow diminished by the second.
“She's still in New York, sir. She preferred to stay there, and no matter how much I tried to compel her otherwise, she would have none of it.”
“She resisted your... charms?” Santa's wide eyes and gaping mouth bespoke his incredulity.
“Resisted? Well, I wouldn't exactly say that. Put more aptly, resistance to her was the game I was force to play… once she got a gander at my, um... bulge.” Lars blushed. “I lost that game, sir – hands down! In the end, she – and Miss Mosser – became, shall we say, very intimately acquainted with my equipment.
I'm sorry to say, sir, but Bertha manhandled me right from the start, in mind and in body, and I dare say that I now fully understand your plight and capitulation to her all these years.”
“But you're an elf, Lars! How, pray tell, did she ever seduce you?”
Lars muttered something meekly under his breath.
"What did you say?"
“Coo…" The unexpected word stuck in his throat momentarily. It took a moment for it to sink in.
"By the Gods, Lars!” Santa erupted, admonishing the poor elf, his glow now completely squelched. “I should have known.” He sighed, forlorn. He shook his head and pinched the bridge of his nose contemplating the magnitude of his folly. “She found your weakness. Imagine that.”
“I have something more to tell you.”
Santa shot Lars a stern look, squinted with one eye and frowned. “I'm not going to like this, am I!”
“Well, sir… she kind of took a liking to Rudolph. And um…" Lars hesitated, trembling, and then he lost it. "My God, Santa," he cried. "All those cookies! Oreos and Fig Newtons, Vanilla Wafers and Chips Ahoy! She rained cookies upon me, sir... rained them upon me until I became so drunk with mirth and adulation I would have given her the world were it in my power to give.” He bowed his head in shame. “It is a done deal. Bertha is now Rudolph's proud owner.”
“WHAT? No! Lars? No... say it's not so," pleaded Santa.
Lars only scuffed the floor with his green, upturned elf shoe, nodding his down-turned head ever so reluctantly.
"Saints preserve me," moaned Santa.
“It is beyond me," opined Lars, "how mankind can travel without reindeer. This trip back was grueling, sir!” Lars plopped into the seat exhausted. “Oh, there's also a message from her,” he said offhandedly.
“There is?” retched Santa, dire misgivings clearly etched all over his face. A nervous tick of the eye began twitching away, and he looked a little ill to Lars at that moment. It concerned him, but he pressed on.
“She said you were very naughty to skip out on your visit this year, but she forgives you, and agreed, nonetheless, to give the magazine back to Miss Mosser. But she also said she expects to see you at midnight sharp next Eve… if you want Rudolph back.” Lars jiggled his ear one last time. "Oh yeah, then she purred... whatever that means."
Santa's hand came up to his forehead in a grand facepalm. His shoulders slumped and he fell back into his chair, his great girth bouncing up and down a time or two. Then he drew in a sweeping breath and suddenly a smile began to form at the corners of his mouth.
And throughout the whole North Pole complex, neither elf nor reindeer could miss the thunderous reverberation: “HO HO HO HO HO." And Lars wondered if even Bertha Kittenfrau in New York City could have missed that merry sound.”