Santa and the Subordinate Clauses: an After Christmas Story
What if you were Santa Clause, and you had hundreds of helpers who looked just like you, and wherever they went everybody thought they were you, only some of them smoked crack, and one of them ended up in jail as a half werewolf/half fae shifter warlock’s prison sissy bitch?
Some smart-ass posed that question to me as a joke. It’s not funny because it really happened. My friends call me Nick. I don’t live at the North Pole. I won’t tell you where I do because I’d have to move again.
It used to be so much simpler before the days of the mass marketing of the winter holiday. I had a few helpers. We put together gifts for the small children in the northern part of the European continent and delivered them in the darkest days of the year. Now it seems almost every child on this planet wants a ton of toys, and they want them all delivered on one night.
I’m magic, but I had to have help, enter what a school teacher friend of mine calls the Subordinate Clauses. It started with a few extra delivery men. Then, the requests for appearances at parties and schools made me put on more guys. I ended up with a big crew of look-alikes. Most of them are regular guys, you know, they want to do good, make the kids happy, and get paid. Then, there’s Eddie, Ivan, and Olaf.
This is the tale of the Insubordinate Clauses. It happened a few years ago. After the big delivery, those three went to Florida to catch some sun. The trouble started in Miami. I got a call that woke me from a deep sleep.
“Nick, it’s Ivan. Man, you gotta help us.”
“What’s going on?” I was still fuzzy from sleep.
“Olaf was popped by the Miami police. We need bail.”
I was wide awake. I sat up. “What?”
“We need bail. We’re in Miami and we need bail for Olaf. Bondsmen won’t touch us because we’re from out of town. You’re our only hope.”
“Where in Miami are you?”
“It’s a little motel called the Coral Essex. Are you gonna help us?”
“I’ll meet you at the motel in a couple of hours. We’ll discuss this there.” I ended the call. Yeah, I’m the jolly old elf. I’m not too jolly about my look-alikes getting arrested, not good for business, you know. I had a few calls to make.
Two hours later, looking more like a Jimmy Buffet Parrothead than the man in the red suit, I pulled into the parking lot at the Coral Essex and shut off the engine of my old red Caddy convertible. Crumbling stucco, peeling coral pink paint, and a pool full of foul water set the scene. Reminded me of a bad movie. I knocked on the door of the second floor room. Grit and sand sifted to the floor.
Through the door, Ivan asked, “Who is it?”
“Ho Ho Ho.” I didn’t sound very jolly, I wasn’t. Ivan opened the door. Cigarette smoke rolled out. No way was I walking into that cloud of poison. I called up the wind and had it blow through. When the room was clear, I went in and shut the door. I turned to face the two errant elves, and said, “Cigarettes are bad enough. Smoking crack is definitely not nice. Please tell me what possessed you to do such a thing.”
Seated on the lumpy couch in the far corner, Eddie hung his head and said nothing. Ivan shuffled his feet and cleared his throat. “Uh, we were, uh, just hanging out, you know, uh, blowin’ off some steam, and, uh, this guy came up to us, and uh, well, he told us he could get us something that would, uh, help the situation, so, uh, we took him up on his offer.”
I shook my head. “You took him up on his offer? What’s his name?”
“Fenris the wolf?” I knew that guy. He wasn’t into stuff like this.
“No, not him. This guy is a relative of his though. He’s half fae skin-shifter and half wolf.”
“Werewolf,” Eddie added from his corner of the room. “And, he’s a warlock. That’s how he got us the stuff.”
My head was beginning to ache. “Where is the mighty werewolf fae shifter warlock now?”
Ivan’s face twitched. “In jail with Olaf.”
“His magic can’t get them out?”
“Boss, you know how it is with iron, he’s trapped.”
I chuckled for the first time since I had been so rudely awakened. “Cold iron trumps magic. That guy needs an upgrade. I take it Olaf’s abilities to get in and out are not working.”
“The crack kind of did us in in that department.” Eddie turned his face to the window. That’s when I saw big patches of his beard had been singed away and he was missing about half his mustache. ‘So, are you gonna get Olaf out, Boss?”
“I’ll know right where he is until I take care of you two.” They looked hopeful until they saw my face. “That’s right, you’re on the naughty list now. Both of you are getting a shave and haircut. I won’t have you walking around committing criminal acts looking like me. Go get in the car.” They shuffled out the door, blinking in the brilliant Florida sunshine. I shook my head again. Hungover halfwit helpers, just what I didn’t need. We loaded up and I drove to a barber college in Little Havana. I stopped the car and said, “Get out.” They did.
We went in. I knew the owner. He looked up and recognized me. “Hey, Nick, what’s with the moth eaten look-alikes?”
“Long story, Raul, I don’t want to tell it right now. Shave ‘em clean and buzz their hair.”
“Made it onto the naughty list!” Raul laughed. He pointed at two empty chairs. “Take a seat.” The Insubordinate Clauses did as they were told. Raul waved a hand, “Carlos, Benito, shear ‘em like sheep.” The barbers took clippers and made quick work of the hairy messes on Ivan’s and Eddie’s heads.
A close shave later, I paid and herded the clowns back into the car. We were cruising toward the jail when Eddie asked. “Can we stop and get something to eat?”
I burst into a full belly shaking laugh. “No.” I kept going. They sulked. More points in their naughty column. By the time we walked in to spring Olaf, they had caught on that I was not Jolly Old Saint Nick today and trailed along behind me like a pair of whipped pups.
It took a while to get the bail paid and have Olaf delivered. He came out looking down at the floor, wouldn’t meet my eyes. Even so, I could see bruises on his face. “Go get it the car.” He and the others did. As I drove away, I asked him, “Did you have fun with your new friend?”
“Friend?! That fiend kept trying to make me do things!”
I smirked. “Things?”
“Yeah, things.” Olaf shuddered. “The kind of things a guy shouldn’t do to other guys. It’s a good thing his magic was messed up.”
“Yeah, good thing.” I got us out of Miami and back to the factory at delivery speed. As they got out of the car, I said, “You’re all on janitorial duty for the next five hundred years.”
“Olaf, shave and a haircut now.”
“Yes, sir.” He headed for the company barber.