A Season for Family
n the last hour of December the 24th, Once Upon a Time, Simon Kringle descended the chimney of the Clement Moore household. He left a spinning hoop for the boy, a dolly for the girl and a jack-in-the-box for the toddling baby. The hoop was made of tissue and thin glue, the doll was a medusa figure and the jack was made to pop up with a scream. The kerchief he left for Ma was spotted with mildew, and the cap for Pa was knitted from boar's hair.
He rucked up a shovelful of embers from the fireplace and flung them onto the tinderous tree. Then he fled up the chimney, leaving only the echo of his scornful guffaws.
In the next moment, Santa Claus arrived and set everything to rights.
The bitter Uncle Yule visited seventeen, willful yet not truly mean. He left them shallow boxes with faces of dark glass, each one packed with distractions and temptations and deceptions.
The joyous Father Christmas visited the homes of three billion or so good children and seventeen who had been sort of bad. The delinquents received slates, the frames engraved with the words I will not ..., and boxes of chalk in one dozen colors. He topped off every furnace bin in Newcastle.
The ill-tempered beasts roped to the shackles of Simon Kringle's cloud-gouging dray shed their boarscat at random on the roofs and playgrounds of the many innocent and the few who had strayed.
The Claus dispatched his idled elven cohort to scour away the filth.
The Anti-Claus drove his feral porcine team along Main Streets thirty-five thousand eight hundred seventy-nine miles. Destruction spread in his wake.
Thence upon a time ...
"It's so beautiful, Kris."
He stood with Jessica and Simon at the head of Santa Claus Way, the heart of Christmas Town. Petite and warm, lovely and glowing from within, his betrothed nestled under his left arm. His brother stood one pace to his right, bouncing on the balls of his small feet.
"I could never have done it without you, my love," he rumbled. "Not without you and Simon." He began to reach out his free hand.
Simon shifted, a nearly imperceptible tenth of a pace, to the right. Behind his fixed smile, a bitter thought took form. She could have been mine.
Full night fallen over Chelsea, Kris entertained his last random thought before midnight in Greenwich. Give him time. He'll figure it out. He touched the silken reins. "Now, Dasher ..."
And a heart-rending cry arose from every Main Street, and the fingers of Saint Nicholas were quick upon the silken reins. He alighted in all of those places in darkness. The words of the fathers were lost in alarm. The words of the children were lost in tears. And the words of the women were these. "Came a great angry wind, Father Christmas! The whirling blast swept away the lights, sucked away the wreaths, shattered the baubles and withered the mistletoe. How were all the tokens and offerings of our celebration ripped away, Saint Nick?I"
"It matters not," consoled the Avatar of the Season, "it matters not. All will be made right. Let the fathers and the mothers and every man and woman grown stand cordon on the length and the breadth of the thoroughfare. Let all of the children gather near to me." This was done.
In Fort Repose, Santa chose an orphan son and his little sister. "Take one pipe and pass the rest along." He turned to his right.
In Lake Wobegon, Santa chose a redheaded stepdaughter and her twin brother. He instructed them and turned to his right.
In Hannibal, Santa chose a boy and his pup, Rex, and a girl and her kitten, Patches. He enlisted them and turned to his right.
In Blythe, Santa chose a gallant young woman and a petulant young man. He enrolled them and turned ...
... to walk among the youth as he spoke. "Close your eyes, children, close your eyes and remember. Think back to the twilight, and the enfolding of night. Recollect, now, one spark of light, one glass ball, one woven wreath. Raise to your lips the crystal tabor in your fingers. Sound but one note, and make it your best."
Fluting music rippled throughout the mob. All of the dingy and brassy storefronts, all of the posts and columns and the fountains of the city center circles were lighted in many colors sparking off of blown glass.
"Again, children!" The storefronts and columns were draped in tinsel and festooned with those sprigs of nature which enjoy their greatest vigor in the cold climes and the frigid times.
"Once again!" The sculpted heroes of the fountains were graced about their shoulders with wreaths, and also the necks of their rearing mounts. And all about the windows and the streetlights, a fine fog of icy vapor and the rime of its settling softened the flare of workaday light. For such is the ideal in the mind of a child.
"Now, children, open your eyes. The miracle of your labors is complete!"
A wave of cheers and cries of delight rolled through the whole of the people. A song of celebration took rise from every throat.
"Merry Christmas, yes, a joyful merry Christmas! And now we must dash away all, I and mine. I've one with whom to reckon, and his hour is upon me. Fare well, and share all. I wish you all farewell!"
The Anti-Claus crashed the hearth at the Van Allsburgh home and stomped cinders into the rug. He found his brother ensconced in the author's chair. A ceramic chest rested between the shimmering toes of the elder's nightshade boots.
Kris nodded to the plate of chocolate biscuits on the side table. "Have a cookie, Simon. They're good."
"No saltines, no sardines, no sour cheeses. Can I get a lager, at least?"
Kris rolled his eyes and sketched a sign in the air. "One draft of the thin and bitter."
"Just the way I like it." Simon picked up the stein and drained it half away. "Good. Your private stock?"
"The wife." Shrug. "Summertime. Elves."
"So, that explains everything?"
"I don't need to explain anything, not any more than you. Not any more than you can stop me."
"I didn't come here to stop you."
"Sure. What, then?"
"I come bearing a gift."
"There is nothing that you might have --"
"It is not a thing of mine."
"Just make sense, will you?"
Kris gestured to the kiln-cured vault. "Open it."
Simon glared. "You don't scare me, brother." He lowered his angry gaze to the lid.
The elder watched his sibling's hands, noted their trembles.
The younger elf knelt, gripped the lid from either side and raised it slowly.
A golden glow from within, mellow as the light of first dawn, touched his twisted mouth. Simon released the lid. It continued to rise on its own, then floated to rest on the rug. The chest laid fully open. Healing radiance bathed his clenched features. Gradually, the raging tension in his face melted and evaporated.
"You said --" He choked, swallowed. "You say this doesn't come from you."
"It comes from a sad young woman. She feels you need it more than she does."
"Damn me. Say her name, Kris."
"She who sends up gifts."
Simon puzzled out the Greek word. "Anesidora?"
For a version with footnotes, see https://www.writing.com/main/view_item/item_id/2197990-ONStyle-Father-Xmas-and-U...