Clawed feet scrabble across freshly polished laminate flooring.
The call echoes through festively decorated yet empty corridors.
‘What?’ came a grumpy mutter from a lumpy pile of fur-trimmed red cloth slumped on a large brown leather chair.
‘Santa? Oh, there you are. Did you check it twice?’
‘The list. The naughty or nice list.’
The heap grunted.
‘Well, did you?’
‘No, no I didn’t.’
There was a long pause. Tinsel the elf scratched one of its long furry ears.
‘Um… sorry, Santa, did you just say you didn’t check the list twice?’
‘I didn’t bloomin’ check it once.’ A large bulbous nose protruded from the heap of cloth followed by a bushy white beard and two coal-black eyes, scowling at the elf. ‘Problem?’
Tinsel considered his options.
‘Well, Santa. I suppose you don’t have to check it twice anymore. I mean, there are over 2 billion names and you know, you’ve got the toy manufacturing and the delivery schedule plus the mince pie conditioning to go through. It’s okay.’ He sucked his teeth. ‘But… but, you should’ve checked it at least once. Really.’
A hand crept out of the Santa heap and snagged itself a mince pie from the nearby plate.
‘What’s the point?’ Santa asked thickly, his mouth full of crumbly pastry and a particularly zingy mincemeat filling.
‘What’s the point? What’s the point?’ Tinsel’s ears were standing up bolt upright in agitation. ‘The point is… you see, the reason is… it’s because…’
‘HA!’ said Santa, spraying crumbs at the elf. ‘You can’t even give me a reason.’ Santa finally stood up, his iconic clothing all rumpled and stained. He stomped over to the book, opened a page at random and stabbed a name. ‘Joe Hawkins. He’s on the naughty list. What is he going to get for Christmas?’
‘A lump of coal,’ answered Tinsel confidently.
‘Nope. He’s going to get a PS4, an iPhone, £200 cash, several games for his console, a new bike and a plethora of other high-end gifts that he neither needs or deserves.’
‘Yes, but, those gifts are from his parents and relatives and such like. Not from you. They don’t count.’
‘Of course they bloomin’ count! It’s all that bloomin’ counts. Naughty child, nice child – there’s absolutely no distinction because the idiot parents buy them everything anyway. It’s not like it was back in the old days.’ Santa looked off into the distance, dreamy-eyed.
Tinsel intervened quickly.
‘Er, Santa? If you don’t check the naughty or nice list then the world as we know it will fall into chaos.’
Santa regarded his elf somberly for a moment.
‘Do you remember last year when you asked me if I’d checked it twice?’