|"Ding, dong, merrily on high ..." Larry stretched and yawned, thumped the alarm back into silence, then tucked his pointy ears back under the quilt. In the distance he could hear the thud, thud, thud of his fellow elves marching off to work, with a 'Hi, ho!' As the zzzs rang out again, there was a banging on the door.
"Go 'way!" Larry buried his head under the pillow.
"If you don't get yourself to the workshop in ten minutes I'll have to report you to Mrs. Claus." The footsteps retreated and Larry turned over and tried to return to his dream of Cloud Cuckoo Land. It was no good. He was awake now. Kicking off the quilt, he slipped his feet into his slippers, causing the little bells to ring.
"Eight minutes." The cuckoo in the clock counted down.
"Oh, shut up!" Larry sniffed the red and green tunic thrown to the floor last night. It would do. He ran his fingers through his dirty blonde hair, causing it to spike even more. Grabbing a slice of last night's turkey and stuffing pizza, Larry headed out. As he stuffed his face, he meandered down the road like he had all the time in the world.
He stopped to sip water from the giant cup flowers that grew along the route. "BURP!" The stuffing came back to haunt him. When he got to the bright red gates of the toy factory, he kicked the door open and wandered in. "I'm here, so what ya want me to do?"
They could smell him before they saw him. The Foreman, Elf Eric, looked at Larry's crumpled clothes and stubbled face, and shook his head. "You are on the train line today. Your job is painting."
Larry wandered over. He watched the other elves dipping their brushes in the big pot of blue paint, then carefully applying it to the engine. That looked too much like hard work. Larry picked up an engine and dropped it into the pot. He pulled it out and put the dripping toy on the conveyor belt, where it puddled.
"Not like that, idiot." The foreman took a deep breath. "Okay, lets try you on applying wheels."
Larry watched as his fellow elves screwed on the wheels and then carefully tightened the locknut before checking they were firmly attached. Larry thought that looked too much like hard work. He hammered the wheels on and put them back on the belt. As soon as they were picked up the wheels fell off.
"Larry, you're useless. What are we going to do with you?"
"Send him to the stables." Mrs. Claus could not abide laziness. She knew something Larry didn't.
The reindeer stood happily in their straw filled stable. They were resting, ready for their one big night. Larry made himself comfortable among the bales and promptly dozed off. He was woken by a kick. Rudolph stood over him, an empty feed bag hanging from his mouth. "Have I got to feed you?" Larry stretched and thought about it. It seemed too much like hard work. Rudolph kicked him again. "Okay, okay."
He went to the feed shed and got the big bag of oats. "Here!" He dropped the open sack onto the floor. The reindeer tucked in heartily, too heartily. "Poo! What's that stink?" The air had filled with the methane stench of a dozen animals that had overeaten. Larry gathered up what was left of the grain and put it out of reach. "You smelly lot. You're not having any more of that today."
He settled back in his straw nest and tried to return to the land of nod. This time, Rudolph kicked a lump of poo at him. "Wha ...." As he sat up, he saw the dung pile growing almost to the ceiling. Tempted as he was to leave the offending muck, the smell became overwhelming. And he didn't fancy another face-full flying in his direction.
"Alright, alright." He grabbed the wheelbarrow from outside, picked up the shovel and started loading. Six barrows later, he collapsed back into the straw. Still Rudolph wouldn't let him rest. The reindeer held his bell bedecked harness in his mouth and shook it. The noise was deafening at close quarters. "And what am I supposed to do with this?"
He placed the harness around Rudolph's neck. The reindeer shook his head. "You want me to polish it, don't you? Huh!" He grabbed the polish and the cloth from the tack room. He rubbed, Rudolph shook his head. He rubbed some more, Rudolph shook his head. "No more!" Rudolph kicked him in the shins. "Okay!" He gave it one more rub, Rudolph nodded.
Just when he thought things couldn't get any worse, the other reindeer queued up with their harnesses. "Tomorrow, I promise." He was saved by the Candy Cane Whistle, which indicated the end of the working day.
While the other elves marched home, Larry all but crawled. He was so tired. As he entered his little house he was tempted to go straight to bed. But he stank of reindeer poo. He showered, washed his hair, shaved and even cleaned his teeth, before falling into a deep sleep.
"Cuckoo, work for you." Larry awoke to a bright sunny day. He washed and dressed in a clean tunic, then breakfasted on porridge. He joined the others in their march to work. He entered the stable to be greeted by Rudolph with his feed bag.
"Oh no you don't. Not until I've cleaned up the poo." It was only two barrows today. Larry took a handful of oats for each feed bag. "You're not catching me out today." He sat down on a straw bale and called out "Next!" The reindeer lined up with their harnesses. Larry polished each in turn. "What more can I do for you today?" For once he got no answer, no kicks, no nasty smells.
Mrs. Claus appeared at the door. She looked around the barn. "Well, have you learned your lesson, Larry?" Larry nodded. "Would you like to go back to the toy factory?"
"Yes please. And I promise to do the job properly this time. Just keep that Rudolph away from me."