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– Chapter One
Introducing Santa

– Chapter Two
"Take Me Through the Numbers"

– Chapter Three
The Scheming Begins

– Chapter Four
Santa and His Shrink

– Chapter Five
The Doll Factory






New Orleans






- The Divine Right    of Capital

- Pigs at the   Trough


- What It Is

- Why a Santa    Novel?

- Who Benefits

- Secrecy in Santa

Author Bio





Chapter Two - "Take Me Through the Numbers"

      “OK, Oiler, let’s get started.   Show me Page Four.”  Santa peered over his glasses at his Logistics and Operations Director.


     Oiler presented Santa a slim green-and-red binder, already opened to the Page Four Report.  Page Four got its name when someone wise realized it always showed up on page four of the NPI Operations Summary Report.  It was actually a facer page of figures (4f), combined with a summary page (4).  You could run the whole company from Page Four, making North Pole Industries not much different from other multinationals.  Oiler’s discovery of this, and his discovery that immense amounts of often conflicting detail existed merely to keep the CEO wannabes busy, had fueled his rapid rise in the organization.  He stuck strictly to Page Four, not even bothering to read all that other stuff.  If the Chief asked him a question for which he didn’t have a ready answer, he simply made one up that sounded reasonable.  If it turned out to be wrong, he blamed it on flaws in the detail he hadn’t read. In this way, he could set whole departments against each other, initiating turf wars and internecine battles destined to last for centuries.

     Roxy opened her laptop.

     Santa made the same request he’d made every month for about the last hundred and fifty years.  “Take me through the numbers.”

     “OK.”  Oiler cleared his throat smoothly.  “First, reindeer.  Total herds up to three hundred sixty thousand fliers, twenty thousand new calves, ninety thousand trainees, ninety thousand pastured-so we’re at five hundred sixty thousand total.  Now, new ranches--”

     “Can’t we do something with all that dung?”


     “The reindeer dung.  The crap everywhere.  Didn’t Bridle mention the Argentines to you?”

     “Why, no,” Oiler said; “ …should he have?”

     “I always want my people to share information,” Santa said.  “You understand, Oiler.  Why can’t the others?”

     Oiler shook his head.

     “Anyway, the dung.  Can’t we recycle it, make a fertilizer out of it or something? That would keep the green planet boys off my back!”

     “I suppose we could--”

     “We’d have to figure out a collection system.  Tap into the local labor markets, probably, to keep costs down.  And locate some local factories that do that kind of thing.  Partner with Cargill, maybe, I don’t know, one of the big multinationals,” the big half-elf ruminated.  “Need a catchy name, too.  Something that starts with the same sounds, maybe, I don’t know, Santa’s--”

Christmas story, Santa CEO involves elves, reindeer, presents, Christmas and business, business ethics and strategy

     “Don’t go there, Chief.”

     “You don’t like the idea?”

     “No, I don’t like the name.  Maybe reindeer, reindeer--”

     “Why don’t you just call it ‘Reindeer Magic’?” Roxy said.  “Forget about fancy names, people hate that stuff, anyway.  Besides, it’s what it does that’s more important.  People will remember the name if the stuff works for them.”

     “I like that, Roxy.  Sounds like something we can work with.”

     Oiler’s withering look dashed on the crossing of her long legs like surf hitting a rock beach.  “Well, the marketing people will be able to come up with a name, I’m sure.” He waved his pen.  “I’ve got it noted.  We can revisit it after the Board meeting.”

     Roxy smiled.  “I’ve got it noted, too.”  

     “I knew you would.  Thanks,” Santa said.

     For a moment Oiler felt his smallness, pinned between these two half-elves.  “OK, back to these numbers, or we’ll never get through it.  New ranches:  New Zealand, Tierra del Fuego, another one in Greenland, a third on Baffin Island.  Total new acreage, let’s see, six hundred forty thousand.  Startup costs, thirty-five point two million Santeans.  They’re all on their feet now.  Patagonians were a little shaky until they stopped eating the trainees.  New Zealanders are the best.  They just think of reindeer as big sheep with weird horns.  It works out well.”

     “And they thought these ranches weren’t going to work,” Santa rumbled.  “Stupid Board. Though we did have a few problems early on when we were doing the transports, UFO reports, that kind of thing.  Press made a lot of money off of that.”

     “Yes, I remember.  Now, santas.  Current permanent payroll is forty-two thousand, which is about right.  We’ll expect some of the fliers to come up lame at the last minute.  Rather than bringing in trainees, it’s cheaper to stretch the existing teams.”

     “But we stretched them last year, Oiler, and I heard about it through the Talk It Up program.  That and the United Elves Union screaming about casual overtime.  Contract talks will be a pain if we keep this up.”

     “It’s what the Board wants.  They figure they can bring the union around if they keep telling them the Company’s on the ropes.”

     “What ropes?  Those guys on the line can read, they see the numbers same as you and me! I tell you, Oiler, they’re starting to see through the nonsense about competition and speed and all that.  Who are we competing with?  And when did speed matter to a kid on Christmas morning?  Except when opening presents.”  He leaned forward.  “And it’s getting into the ISO area, too.  Our rework numbers are starting to push up, not to mention the misdeliveries.  Lingerie to a six-year-old.  Tabloids had a field day with that one!”

     Oiler raised an eyebrow.  “Talk to the Board.  They’re the ones pushing for it.  Helps shareholder value, which helps the permanent santas, and the UEU, when they think about it.  Anyway, we’re still pushing the hiring program because of attrition and expected growth.”

     “Make sure they’re careful on the Italian hiring.  I don’t want another Befana incident.”

     “Nobody knew he was a transvestite.”

     “Yeah, but it’s no excuse.  Now what about the temps?”

     “The Board scotched your idea about using the homeless.”

     “Doggone good idea, too.”

     “I know, but they thought it was going to tarnish the image.  Unless you can break the link, keep people from finding out they were homeless.”

     “Tarnish the image!  Oiler, you ever really look at some of those department store santas?  Homeless ones would bring the image up in a lot of cases!”


    “Well, some cases, Roxy.  I know they’re mostly good people, but when you hire--how many of ‘em we got, Oiler?”

     “One point two million.”

     “--one point two million, for three weeks, you get some bad apples.  Besides, we’d be helping those people.  Sometimes all they need is something to tide them over.”

     Oiler sighed and nodded his head.  “OK, so we’ll keep the temp hire at one point two, tighten up the Italian checking thing, and--”

     “Oiler, that’s it.”  Santa checked his wristwatch.  “I’ll just have to pick up the assembly operations and sales numbers on the fly.  I assume there’s no major issues.”

     “No, no issues.  I don’t understand.  We still have a few minutes.”

     “Had.  I just remembered something I need to do before the meeting.  Sorry.”  He stood up, towering over Oiler.  “We can go over them later.”  He turned his back and faced the curtained wall behind him.

     “OK, then.”  Oiler snapped the binder shut and jumped down.  

     Roxy stood up.

     “Roxy, stay here.  I need you to--I need to get some thoughts down.”

Christmas story, Santa CEO involves elves, reindeer, presents, Christmas and business, business ethics and strategy

     He turned and saw Oiler walk, then charge toward the door, opened by a mail courier who’d chosen this moment to peer shyly into the inner office, hoping to sneak the Confidential letter inside.  She looked a bit puzzled when Oiler hurtled past, arms and legs flailing like a dry land skater, until he crashed into the wall at the end of the receiving area, binder and papers exploding every which way.

     Roxy shrugged.  “Can I can help you, Spindle?”

     The elf struggled against the heavy door and gestured with the envelope.  “Something from the Board,” she stage-whispered.  “They said it’s urgent.”

     “Thanks, Spindle.” Roxy took the envelope. The door thumped shut.

     “I’ll look at it now.”  He snatched the letter, tore through the Confidential sticker and read greedily before slapping it down.  “Bah, urgent!  They’re just telling me they’ve brought the new guy onto the Board, the one we approved last month.  He’ll be in charge of the Finance Subcommittee.  An automotive guy.”  

     She regarded him.  “You wanted me to stay?”

     He sighed again.  “Roxy, I’m in trouble with the Board,” he said.  “No one knows this but you.  Unless they’ve bugged the damn place.  I can’t put my finger on it.  No one’s come out and said anything.  But you get a feeling.”

     She blinked and sat back down.  “But you’re the CEO, the Chairman.  How can you tell?  If no one’s said anything.”

     “You can tell.  Chairman’s just a title.  It’s how these guys play.  The higher the stakes, the less is said.  But you get signals.  Your ideas are resisted.  Or brushed aside.  Those that stay on the table have their results downplayed.  

     “Look at the homeless thing.  Perfect example.  It would be so easy.  Bring the homeless through the temp hire program, give them jobs for about a month around the holidays. Sure, you’ve got to let them go at the end, but it gives them a chance to get back on their feet.  If they do a good enough job, they might even get a reference.  But the Board started picking it apart from day one.  First it was Oswald, talking about image.  Then it was Spencer, talking liability.  Then Parcell on logistics.  Only Donaldson thought the idea might work.  They talked it to death and then some.  There weren’t even any pieces to pick up.”

     He sighed, running his hands along the curtains behind his desk.  Abruptly, angrily, he shot them apart.  Dim light filtered into the large office, the dusky almost-twilight of an overcast day late in the north country summer.  Outside, mist-shrouded factories and office buildings stretched to the horizon. The thick glass prevented even the tiniest sound from reaching his ears.  

     He watched the silent movie play before him, small shapes on the move, delivery trucks lined up, goods in, goods out, endless motion both immediate and ancient.  He looked at the factories and saw logistics, time motion studies, repetition injuries, scrubbers on the chimney stacks, production rate incentives, quality controls, UEU stewards, depreciation allowances, asset turnover rates, and on and on.  Raising his eyes to the horizon, he could not see but could imagine the row upon row of sleek red-and-green-tailed cargo jets, standing ready to transport the NPI Export business to the big players:  K-Mart, Kaybee, Target, FAO Schwartz, Steiff, and to the brand new upstarts, the dot-coms, to distribution outlets; his mind ruminating over export revenues, internal operations, international tariffs, hazardous material regulations, packaging calculations, just-in-time deliveries.  He winced.  He’d invented just-in-time delivery, the wild rides through the heavens, the magical distributions. But the job had grown, exploding with the population.  Now thousands of delegates did the work, learned the secrets of entrance to impermeable places like penthouse apartments, and he--What did he do?

     “Sir.   Um, Santa.  It’s getting close to the meeting.”

     “I used to like looking out this window.”  He snapped the curtains shut, turned and walked back to his desk.  “I’ve changed, we’ve had to change a lot with the times,” he went on, sitting down.  “Incorporating.  Globalizing.  Diversifying.  Equalizing.  Streamlining. Computerizing.  Anyone who says a CEO has the freedom to direct things the way he wants has a head full of sand.  That gang in there, that Board, and those shareholders egging them on--they’ve got as much to say about what goes on here as I do.  Or you.  I trust you. I listen to you.  Your ideas work.”

     “Thank you, sir.”

     “It’s changed the elves, too.  Oiler.”  He waved a hand.  “Does he think I’ve forgotten how to spot when someone’s lying?  What does he think?  ‘He knows when you’ve been bad or good.’  What is that, just words?  …I couldn’t hear you.”

     “I just completed it.  ‘So be good, for goodness’ sake.’”  

     “Yes, well.  Change.  Too much, too fast.  Too scattered, too frantic.  You look at the people out there, lurching from entertainment to entertainment.  Talking Elmos to Furbys to who knows what it’ll be this year.  Do you have any idea what that does to the production schedule?  The screwups?  We had four hundred thousand extra Furby eyeballs on hand last year, and then the demand dried up.  Four hundred thousand!  Can’t use them on anything else, because of a design infringement.  A design infringement!  Whoever would think of protecting a doggoned plastic eyeball?”

     “Somebody did.”

     “I’m venting, I know.”

     “It’s time.”

     Santa scowled at his watch.  “Five more minutes.  I need five minutes alone, Roxy.”

     “I understand.”  She stood, laptop in hand, and strode to the door.

     He watched her leave.  The way of the world, right?  Wife leaves you, secretary takes her place.  He shook his head.  Not this CEO.  He studied glass cabinets that housed Hummels, Waterford, rare crystals from Africa, a carved jade elephant from India--all presented by emissaries sworn to secrecy, governments asking favors.  He glanced at bookcases jammed with business treatises, notebooks summarizing NPI’s operations, production statistics, marketing journals, a whole shelf crammed with offal from this consultant and that, addressed to “Mr. Samuel Claussen, CEO, North Pole Industries”, each claiming to have the secret he needed to re-vitalize or re-energize or re-make his business, as though it were a bad hairdo in need of a medicated shampoo and a cosmetic perm.  (The Board had thought up the Claussen name, too, despite his claim that it made him feel like a fat pickle, telling him that a “street name” (their word) would allow him to tap into, no, “leverage” (their word again) the abilities of highly-paid brainy people who’d tell him how to do what he’d been doing for thousands of years.)  

     He surveyed thick carpet, huge exotic plants that would freeze instantly in an NPI winter, framed artwork on the walls.  Finally, his gaze rested on the smaller-framed, ultimate work of art on his desk, a portrait, a friendly older woman beaming like anyone’s grandmother, a smile speaking of comfort, warmth, familiarity, and constancy.  By all rights he should take her picture and set it aside, or turn it to face the other way.  She’d left him, after all.

     But he couldn’t.  He no longer needed to pull the letter from his desk’s middle drawer to reread again.  “When you are able to find your way back,” it said, “then I may be able to find my way back to you.  But not until.”  A lot more stuff besides.  She’d been upset for so long. The business did it.  There was no stopping it.  And no stopping her.  

     Idiot, his half-elf shrink, had told him a few sessions back that spouses leave for all kinds of reasons--even a spouse as magical as she was.  He tried picturing her changing herself to a younger half-elf and hanging out someplace warm, Morocco, maybe, or Rio de Janeiro, but it didn’t do much good.  Eventually, he’d come to accept what Idiot had told him, that this was a fling with freedom.  It made sense.  After six thousand years, a person can get a little tired of the cookies and cocoa thing.  That’s one hell of a lot of hot cocoa.  She’d come back. Until then, there was business.

     His watch beeped.  Late again.  Well, tough.  He was the CEO.  They all needed to remember that occasionally.  He stretched, yawned, and riffled the Operations Summary pages before thumping his feet on the floor and getting up.  He made a mental note to deal with Oiler later, then promptly forgot it when his hand hit the office door.


© 2004 David Soubly

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