MOST SECRET This letter is sent, in strictest confidence, to Canada’s Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, with directions for him to forward this missive to his Ministry of Defense immediately. It is vastly important he endorse it.
Recently, while on summer holiday, I took the opportunity to search for and find an elusive man known as Santa Claus. Much to my surprise, after receiving a tip-off, I found not one, but four of them. The Canadian Santa makes his home in Okanagan, British Columbia, a place that seasonally enjoys all four types of weather: equal amounts of rain and snow in season.
An American Santa lives in Ajo, Arizona, an arid place which never snows. A third Santa never leaves his small town in North Pole, Alaska. A far-flung man, Santa Mia, lives near Tauranga, New Zealand, perhaps he uses flying penguins? These fantouche males are fast friends and cooperate closely each year, figuring which toys to collect, produce, and to distribute during Christmas 2020.
What follows, Sir, is privileged information.
The Canadian fellow goes by the name Alvin. Strangely, he has no last name and no known mailing address, simply ‘Dear Santa’. I assume someone else collects his millions of letters each year. It was his estranged wife, Temperance, who tipped me off to his whereabouts. It seems this particular Santa couple quarreled about not taking enough vacation time last winter. She wanted a cruise.
Ms. Tempe Claus became advised by her elves of my quest to find the real Santa. She’d also read a little of me through Fake News Internationalle.
These splendid men are not the thousands of rent-a-Santa’s we find on every street corner a month before Christmas. Tempe Claus knew of me as a skinny, grumpy reporter-guy who hated the thought of writing trivial news. I always require proof.
One day, summer solstice I do believe, Miss Tempe strode into my office at Penticton, B.C., in Canada. “I’m the real Missus Santa,” she declared—her fiery eyes blazing—although allowing me a friendly grin. “I’ve left my husband this year, he will deal with those workaholic elves all on his own. But I’ll tell you where he is. You may have a talk with him, ask his side of world affairs. And please, please tell my good man to slow down this season. Then, perhaps, I’ll return home.”
Please, Prime Minister, know all the best reporters require proof of existence. At first, I doubted who this woman was; a tall lady with a striking figure, she dressed in high fashion. I suspected her, until she gave me a folded photograph, one taken in the nineties by the look of her old-fashioned, skimpy clothing.
There, set in a foot of snow, stood Tempe Claus in short gown and colorful, long apron; at her side, a half dozen elves, all much shorter, with incredible ears. She reclined on a sofa while admiring eight furry reindeer. Magical specimens, with twinkling antlers.
The man in this picture stood just behind her. He looked exactly like the image of our traditional St. Nick. Short and plump and happy.
This aging writer was agog.
Tempe said, “Take a good look, Mister Grinch, there’s your proof. That’s me twenty years ago.” With that, she snapped her fingers and the photo poofed into ashes, disappearing in a puff of fluffy pink tendrils in seconds.
In an instant, she jotted me a paper note, dropped it on my desk and left the building without another word. I was flummoxed at first, thinking inglorious images.
Enough proof for anyone, I’d say, Sir. Critics be befuddled.
After searching the narrow banks of a small creek, I found the man right where Tempe told me he’d be. Old Alvin knelt near the edge of a stream, holding a large pile of willow strips he’d collected. He was weaving tiny gift baskets. With his tremendous girth and white beard, I had no reason to doubt who he was.
I stood mesmerized, watching this man humming tunes, and weaving several further moments. Finally, I dared introduce myself. “Alvin, I am Gus Grinch, a C. P. leading reporter. Your pretty wife contacted me about you a few days past. I have a few questions to ask during this interview but promise discretion. I shall not divulge your true location if you agree to tell me the truth about how you started giving presents to little children. And, out of interest, could you tell why your good wife, Mrs. Claus, left your happy domain?”
The man enjoyed a long, hearty laugh. His eyes glimmered like a pair of sparkling sapphires. “Ask away, fine fellow. Set your camera to record, write what you like. No one will believe you anyway. Your second question is easy. My wife left because she got sick of Christmas avarice. But we’ll join up again next year, I’m quite sure.”
As I flicked a handy switch, recording, he chuckled amiably.
This video will be included.
“How old are you, Santa?” I asked. “In this country, it seems you’ve been around for a hundred years or more.”
“You got that right, sonny. My grandfather and my father took on this task delivering gifts to the poor. I’m ninety-nine next year, maybe planning to retire. My wife, Tempe, and I, were quite unlucky. We have no children. I don’t know who’ll take over delivery the next season for us. Maybe Max, from the North Pole, he’s younger and livelier. Maybe Mario in Mexico?”
I was somewhat startled by this. “How many actual Santas are there, Alvin?”
“At our last convention, there were fifty-nine of us. A few leave every year. It can be stressful at times, delivering a billion presents, country-to-country. We survive with plenty of help. We have millions of volunteers over Christmas holidays.”
This answer was a serious revelation. “What volunteers?”
Santa motioned to stop the camera. I switched it off.
Now we’re getting down to it, the mystery of how this happens.
Secretly, I jiggled the camera switch to on when I could. I’m sneaky that way.
He admonished, “Ho, ho, ho. That’s the dark secret you’re after. Fa, la, la,” he hummed. “I don’t mind. It’s everyone in the world helps us. For the making and gathering of gifts, we have a secretive organization called The Elven Group. These are seniors who volunteer all year, raising money from many giving foundations. The Sally Anne comes to mind. Ho, ho, ho. Big jolly old Elks and Lions.”
This was truly enlightening, Prime Minister.
Santa leaned back against a tree, his teeth flashed in a wide, effortless grin. I asked about the greatest mystery of all. “Who delivers the presents, Santa? Certainly not reindeer, nobody drops down a dark chimney these days.”
This got another showy bellow, and I joined him in a deep chuckle.
He leaned closer. “Hey, Mister Reporter,” he whispered, dropping out of character for a moment. “The doggoned chimney story stopped over fifty years ago, along with my old sleigh and eight persnickety reindeer. Old Rudolph had joined us with his magical nose.”
Alvin raised a finger to a pesky mosquito. It disappeared.
“More pollution nowadays,” the old fellow continued. “I suppose, the world’s changed. Today, with billions more people, we must use the military.” Santa huffed and fluffed his bushy beard.
“In Canada, the RCMP, in their famous crimson jackets, they pick and deliver to even more volunteers. Us Santas conscript all these people with Christmas Magic. We have ways to coax and hypnotize families if need be. Tee hee.”
The old man offered me a wicked grin; but those bright eyes, sparkling with beams of warmth, gave his poor attempt at pique away.
“Parents and community groups are involved as well, in every way. They just don’t know they work for us. We’re in a league of our own, us bigger elves,” he grinned and brushed fingers through his raggedy beard once again. His mustache twitched.
Santa said, “I have top people in every government ministry in this fair land. As does Max, in the lower U.S. We use naval ships and supersonic jets to transport gifts to poorer countries. Seventy-five of ’em, last we heard. We even cross tricky borders without passports, flying into Africa. No problem when Santa’s come a-calling.”
A cloud of mosquitoes threatened to descend. He shushed them off.
“One last question,” I demanded. “Santa, how did it all start?”
Alvin considered this for a moment. He closed those bright eyes and flexed his shoulders. This is an interesting point of the interview. I shall quote him below verbatim.
“It all started centuries ago in Europe and Africa. But the reason we give gifts today, as in past, is because of people’s greed. In the beginning, there was slavery and rampant poverty. As the powerful and rich took over the lands, they denigrated aboriginal peoples, citizens of color and new immigrants equally, keeping them all in tow. Christmas was the one-time ordinary people were allowed a holiday and to be cheerful. Songs may be sung; food and firesides are shared.
“Charlie Dickens once wrote and told your people all about family sharing. I shall pass along Dickens’ name to you. Our own Canadian Santa celebrations started shortly after Dickens wrote his splendid book. Please re-read A Christmas Carol. That’s when ordinary folks first became joyous and hearty. Fore before it was all kinda sad an’ staid.”
Alvin suddenly grinned. “One of my great, great grandfathers, Robin Hook, he decided to even out the wealth.”
Santa leaned forward, chuckling, as his fingers wove his willow branches, making wooden miracles. “Old Gramps traveled Europe, searching for ways to help the poor. He heard stories of old St. Nick and improvised. That’s how it started. But my father did pass on one other important piece of puzzle: he’d met an old man in Greece, this person had heard of my grandfather asking questions about sharing during Yulefest.
“The old fellow said he was related to old Sinterklaas of yore, the patron saint of children. He is perhaps the Great, Great, Greatest Santa of all, bringing lonely brothers and sisters toys to play with, all in the heart of grim forest lands covered with snow.
“This gentleman followed Gramps about the countryside. Dad said the guy made an impression on his father; he was magically touched in some way. That’s when we began here in the north country. It’s a story of allowing love and kind-heartedness.”
Interview ended, I left Alvin sitting by his quiet creek, snapping willow switches. During our short talk, his magical fingers had woven a dozen gift baskets of odd sizes.
Please find enclosed, Prime Minister, my surreptitious video of this special interview. It is remarkable, enlightening, and somewhat frightening to me.
I’ll end this letter by hand, Sir, writing this epistle in red ink. That’s it, Justin, enjoy viewing the video disk. It’s all up to you now. Know I’m not out to stop Christmas. I just deplore all the greediness. One or two small gifts are just fine for richer families. My greatest concern is that you find how those Santas cross guarded borders so unseen.
That’s my story. Perhaps your government ministry could investigate those globe-trotting, red-suited crazies who ruin Christmas every year? However, I am becoming addicted to green Mistletoe, the glittering golden tinsel and, especially, the smiling children who receive Santa’s most humble gifts.
I do detest those garish store Santas for encouraging shopping madness. This jolly fellow I interviewed gives strange vibes. Maybe call NORAD this year? Maybe tweet?
I am becoming somewhat paranoid, Sir Justin; just like the other magical man, my poor deluded cousin, Doctor Grinch.
Gus, the other Grinch. (Not the green one stealing presents)
Rand Hill lives in the southern Okanagan area of British Columbia. He is a former reporter and managing editor of a weekly newspaper. Hill enjoys writing tales of the deserts of California and Arizona. He loves telling tales of many creatures inhabiting his novels—Roadrunners, Kit Fox, Kangaroo Rats and Raven. He learns the art of a novel from the writer's group Scribophile. His genres include romance, travel, mystery and humor. Road trips are special ventures.