Story Go Round 12/09/2006, round 1, #3

Escape Clause

(pre-titled by John)

"Santa's Elves On Strike!" read the headlines of respectable newspapers. "North Pole Sweatshop Discovered!" read the headlines on tabloids at check-stands across the nation. "Santa Picks His Scabs!" scrolled the CNN ticker for three days straight, followed by "Mrs. Claus Cuaight in Back Room Deals with Walmart"

Unfortunately, Elbert never read nor even glanced at the headlines in the airport. Clutching his acceptance letter and boarding pass, he waited for flight NP387 to call his section. Occasionally people stared at his elf apparel, which he had toned down to an L.L. Bean ensemble and appointed hat with a bell. He made giddy chit-chat, little knowing he was on his way to becoming a scab against a peer group he revered like immortals. He phoned his mother to let her know he was fine and she could stop texting him. He stared out the window and watched the luggage come and go, espying his own red and green duffle at one point. It had come open! Incriminating evidence rolled down the tarmac left and right. Pulling down the shade Elbert ignored a little girl sitting next to him and started doing the crossword in his in-flight magazine.

...four letter word for 'betrayer'...

He closed the magazine and avoided the little girl some more.

But it was no good, you see, for she knew.

Mary-Ellen, 38, was a highly successful voice actor for cartoons. She was proud, but it was not her passion. When she left work behind for the day, the hair went into pigtails, and she traded her briefcase for a lunchbox. An avid elfophile , she always stopped by the North Pole Compound for inspiration for the next day. What she saw this time didn't inspire her. Burning piles of toys, wagons tipped for cover, the whole mob , "Naughty Santa! Naughty Santa! Naughty Santa!" and burning stuffed Santas in effigy. The North Pole Security team (six elves on sleds pulled by huskies) were trying valiantly to pepper spray the three foot mob, and Santa himself towered above them all with a whip and flicked it whenever anyone got too near.

This sight brought a lone tear to Mary's eye, and had prompted her to appeal to a higher order. Paperwork stowed in her lunchbox, Mary had boarded flight NP387 with hope. Now she worked up the courage and addressed her seatmate.

"Candy cane?", she proferred - he smiled shyly but eagerly unwrapped the sweet and began sucking. "I love these too" she said in a lowered voice with a knowing glance.

Elber thought it was all a play. "Oh, isn't that creative? Isn't that fun? Hey! I'm here! I want to help!" he called out. Proudly, he strode forward into the mob, which turned to look at him. He had changed into his full elf uniform after arriving; he wouldn've seemed like he belonged were it not for the fact that he was 6'7". About Santa's height, in fact.

"What do you think you're doing?" someone shouted.

"Living out a dream," Elbert gushed.

"A dream of putting honest labourers out of work at the holidays!" another rioting worker shouted at him.


Mary had joined him now and took Elbert by the elbow , which was all she could reach with her short stature.

"Dont' listen to them, you'd be a great elf, Elbert the Elf!", she said enthiastically.

"Tell you what, scabbie" one entrenched elf called, "If you want to help, grab Santa's hat for us! We need a hostage."

"Yeah," his grizzled companion said, "If you do, we'll promote you quick."

Perplexed, Elbert looked around at the throng and noticed for the first time that some of them didn'tlook at all happy, and that all of them were elves.

Still perplexed, Elbert asked them, "What're you all doing out here? You're supposed to be inside making toys!"

The roar of rage that erupted didn't help Elbert any. Mary-Ellen steered him through the shouting elves toward , and righ tup to, the looming figure towering over the little guys menacingly. "Go on, Elbert, grab it!"

Trusting Mary like no one he'd ever met before, Elbert played it like a game. He waited till Santa started whipping a little elf in a wheelchair who kept ramming it into Santa's shins squeaking: "Bad Santa, we should be employee owned by now!", and nabbed the red & white cap off his head.

"Keep away," Elbert cried, and tossed the hat high into the crowd

"You stupid elf!", Santa screamed.

And time stopped.

'Elf. ELF! He called me elf!!', the elated Elbert thought, and everything went inito slow motion. He saw the elves jumping up and down, the maniacal looks of triumph, the pumping fists. What he didn't see was Santa behind him with the toy whip and the toy truncheon.

Mary-Ellen, however, was paying attention, and she knew that this was her best shot. "Nichloas 'Santa' Smith, you are in violation of your contract with the NPTWU, and are hereby ordered to cease and desist all Christmas-related industry." She finished reading from the court order and handed it to 'Santa'.

The mob hoiseted Elbert onto their shoulders (it took all of them to hold him up) and chanted, "Elfbert! Elfbert! Elfbert!" Mary-Ellen watched with a smile, then turned to find that 'Santa' had disappeared. She sighed, but knew that the worst was over, so she went back to enjoying Elbert's trimph.