Santa’s Takealot Christmas

Ugly old bat, thought Santa Claus as he saw the warty face of Mrs Claus break into another disapproving scowl. “Wear your mask, you silly old fool,” said Mrs Claus with just a hint of malice mixed with venom in her voice.
To be truthful, the Claus marriage was in difficulty. The Covid pandemic hadn’t left the North Pole unscathed and the Claus family, and the elves, had been in lockdown for months. Self-isolation, and having to wear masks and constantly wash their hands was taking its toll. The normally chatty elves had long ago stopped “hey ho-ing” off to work, and had taken to grumbling about poor pay, and threatening to unionise. Their usually happy banter as they went about the task of packing presents had become replaced with the odd shouting match and throwing of things. The other day, Santa had spied one elf hitting another over the head with a cricket bat.
Even the reindeer had sensed the mood and it had become a constant chore to repair the holes they were kicking every night in their stables.
And, of course, there was the weather. Climate change had turned the usually pristine snow outside to slush, and Santa was worried about how the sled would fare. Would it be able to take off?
And Santa had another worry. The old sleigh was falling apart. He had ordered some spares but the only supplier of sleigh spares was in China, and getting stuff out of that country this year was proving to be a nightmare, with this Covid situation. Still, the elves had done the best they could, but Santa was worried that the sleigh would break down. The question was where? Some countries were better than others, he knew. “If it breaks down in South Africa,” he told the elves, “we’re gonners. Because the hordes will appear from out of the dark and make off with everything. Possibly even the sleigh.”
He was even worried about the reindeer ~ somewhere he’d read something about animals being shot for their horns in South Africa. “Would they want reindeer horn?” he wondered.
Not to mention the Greta Thunberg lobbyists who kept on at him about the emissions of greenhouse gases from the reindeer.
It was all becoming too much. He reached into the voluminous folds of his red coat, pulled out a small flask, twisted off the stopper and took a long gulp. “Aaah, at least the aquavit is still good,” he thought, as the strong clear spirit coursed warmly down his throat and a melancholy glow settled over him.
The rickety sleigh, disgruntled elves and a harridan Mrs Claus aside, Santa knew the big issue this year was the mask. He certainly didn’t want to be accused of being a superspreader of the virus and was resigned to wearing a mask.
The problem with a mask and the need for social distancing, he realised, was that he’d not be able this year to cop a quick feel and a smooch under the mistletoe of the simpering young mothers trying to control their over-excited children while their husbands were pouring him his customary “loopdop.”
And the children! They were all becoming dreadful. Rude, unruly, and pasty-faced from too much time in front of the television. And the current trend in their presents was horrible, too.
Previously, he’d enjoyed building models with the odd Lego or Meccano set in his off-time, or playing bat and ball with the elves, before packing up the gifts for the kids. But now it was all X-Boxes and cellphones and Alexa, none of which was much use to him, and no fun to play with, what with the atrocious Wifi at the North Pole.
The security systems, at some homes, were also a problem. “Why don’t people switch their alarms off when they know we’re coming?” Not to mention that fewer and fewer houses had working chimneys any more.
And then the dogs. Last year he’d lashed out with his boot at an unruly mutt that was intent on ripping the ermine from his coat bottom while walking from house to house in a suburban street in Cape Town. The dog gave a yelp as it leapt away, and the whole incident caused loud howls of “Shame! Dis animal-cruelty,” from the drunken residents lining their balconies to watch him go by. That incident made the local newspapers, and he was tempted to give Cape Town a miss as a result.
“I’m getting too old for this,” he thought. “Surely there’s an easier way? How about I do the whole thing remotely, from the comfort of my home, over Zoom, or something? I can fire the elves, burn the sleigh and shoot the reindeer, and have all the presents delivered by Takealot.”
He reached for the flask again. It was empty. “Merry bloody Christmas,” he muttered.

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