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Third Price - Sally Curtis

Behind Every Great Man...

By Sally Curtis

“Where is the drunken bastard now?” yelled Mrs Claus, grabbing hold of Bernard’s

With blue lips and eyes bulging, the only sound he could utter was a strangled

“Well?“ she demanded, her bulk casting a menacing shadow.

The Chief Elf’s eyes rolled into his head and he began to convulse. Mrs Claus
loosened her grip and waited.


“He’s taken the sleigh,” he managed to rasp. “I don’t know where he’s heading but
two elves have gone with him.”


“I bet I know which two it is,” she thundered. “That tosser, Pepper Minstix, who’s
meant to be guarding the workshop, and that Shinny Upatree – pathetic little suck-
up. Why didn’t you stop them, you imbecile?”

“I tried,” Bernard replied, “but ... “ Mrs Claus’s grasp began to tighten. “... I think
you need to see inside the workshop.”


“Oh God,” she sighed. “Not again.”

It wasn’t the first time her husband had been off his head on whisky and gone on a
rampage – there were usually a few deaths as the twenty-fifth drew near and the
pressure began to bite – but this was the worst yet. The entire night-shift had been
hacked to pieces: severed limbs strewn across the floor, bodies slumped, headless,
over work stations, blood spatters festooned the walls whilst that seeping from the
dead, puddled in crimson pools.


Everybody knew Santa was not only getting too old for all the late nights and
relentless hours of travelling, he had also grown to hate Christmas more with each
passing year. He would begin with curt words and insults, then clouts around the ear
and kicks to the shins until, whisky fuelled, he became predictably unpredictable
resulting in many a broken bone. However, at his worse he had stabbed, shot and,
for the first time last year, carried out three hangings before he was restrained. All
the workers knew to keep away if they noticed Santa Claus becoming jittery, which
he inevitably would. There was always something that tipped him over the edge: the
arrogance of children and parents alike insisting on bigger presents and more of
them; the derision for traditional toys and the demand for electronic gadgets and

“What was it this time?” asked Mrs Claus, nudging a bespectacled head out of the
way with the side of her boot. “Is it because they are still asking for money? I
thought he’d come to terms with that over the last few years.”

Bernard shook his head.

“Tik Tok, apparently. Loads of kids don’t want physical presents this year. They
want views and followers. A lot of the letters were very threatening but there was
one in particular that seemed to do it. It was some mouthy kid demanding five
hundred views an hour or he’d post something on-line... something we wouldn’t like.”

“And?” demanded Mrs Claus, “Who cares what some kid posts?”

Bernard looked down at his feet and mumbled incoherently.

“Speak up, you mimsy coward.”

”It seems he has footage of ... that night.”

“You mean, the actual that night?”

“Yes, the night he ...”

Mrs Claus paled. “Don’t say it.”

Him being out there, blind drunk and volatile, could only spell trouble for the Santa
brand but if that footage got out, then the entire operation was sunk.


“He couldn’t have harnessed all the reindeers in the state he’s in and I doubt those
two idiots were in any fit state to help him. Come on, we can catch them if we go


As Mrs Claus and Bernard yoked the remaining reindeer to the stand-by sleigh,
Santa was careening through the night sky pulled by the other five, only three of
whom were happy to be there.


“Come on Dancer, you freaking namby-pamby piece of shit. Put some fucking effort
in,” yelled Santa.


Dancer glanced at the harness which had been looped haphazardly around his body;
the straps were slack and he could feel it slip and slide with every roll of the sleigh;
his back leg was caught awkwardly in the girth hanging under his belly; the buckles
were rubbing his haunches raw. He turned to his left trying to catch the attention of
Blitzen, but his head was fixed forward, a mad excitement in his eyes, froth bubbling
at his mouth. On his own, newly promoted Prancer proudly led, whilst at the rear
were Comet and Cupid, one galloping gleefully, the other, muscles clenched in fear.
Behind them, rolling back and forth in the sleigh, was Santa and his two favourites,
whooping and wheeling, whisky bottle passing between their lips, telling dirty tales of
nights past.

“We need to slow down,” shouted Dancer. “We’re going to crash.”

“What’s the matter?” sneered Blitzen. “Worried you’re gonna fall? Scared of a bit of
speed? You’re worse than that frickin’ Rudolph was. You want to watch yourself; it
won’t take much for another accident to happen.”


Dancer thought back to this time last year: the shock at seeing Rudolph impaled on
the gates of the village, nose sliced off, snow dyed red.


Without warning, another sleigh drew alongside; Donner, Dasher and Vixen pulling,
Bernard at the reins and Mrs Claus in the back.


“Pull over now, you fat fuck,” she shouted. “Don’t make me punish you.”

Santa yanked hard on the reins, taking all the reindeer by surprise. Cupid and
Comet were wrenched backwards, Blitzen followed but Dancer’s body twisted
around at an unnatural angle in the loose harness. There was a sharp crack as his
hind leg splintered, the knee joint snapping, jutting through the skin. Struggling to
right himself, the harness loosened further and he began to slip through the straps.
At the front, Prancer, unable to carry Dancer’s dead weight, felt the bit jarring in his
mouth, tasted his own blood as the metal split open his gums. As he kicked out,
worsening the imbalance, the sleigh tipped ninety degrees whereupon Dancer finally
slipped the harness completely and pirouetted to the ground, landing with a
sickening crunch. As the sleigh plummeted after him, the other reindeer were sucked
into one twisting, turning vortex of leather, legs and antlers.

Mrs Claus and Bernard landed shortly after, desperate to conceal the spectacle.
Luckily, they had come down in a deserted industrial estate of some sort. Comet
and Cupid were both dead; crushed between the sleigh and the concrete pathway,
their bodies shattered, whilst Blitzen lay nearby, eyes glazed but breathing heavily.

“Blitzen,” whispered Bernard, stroking his snout. “Can you hear me? We need to
get you up.”


But it was soon apparent his neck was broken and movement was not possible.

“What’s wrong with him?” asked Mrs Claus, Dancer drooped across her shoulders.


Dropping Dancer to the ground, she drew out a pistol and shot Blitzen between the

“What about that one?”

Bernard turned his attention to Prancer who, although his mouth was ripped open
and half his tongue had been torn off, seemed to have fared better than the others.


“I think he’ll be fine.”

In tandem, they collected the splintered remains of Santa’s sleigh, stacked them as
high as possible and, pouring the remains of the whisky over it, set it alight.
Dragging the four dead reindeer across, they heaved each one onto it and watched
the flames take hold.


“Now to get him on.”

She pointed to the unconscious lump that was her husband.

“You’re going to burn Santa?”

“Don’t be fucking ridiculous. He’s my husband. We’ve got to get him home.”

Taking him under the arms, they hauled him onto the standby sleigh, wedging him
between the seats.


“Is that all of them?” she asked, as they carried Prancer between them and swung
him on top of Santa.

“What about those two?” Bernard, pointed to the two elves, bruised and bloodied at
the side of a building. “They look in a lot of pain.”

“Leave them to me,” said Mrs Claus.

Marching over, she scooped up Minstix who cried out in agony. A gurgling began
deep in his chest and he began to cough; thick, dark blood spattered from his mouth.
Taking his neck between the crook of her arm, with her other hand, she twisted his
head round hard, the crack of bone giving a satisfactory denouement.


Scrabbling to his feet, Shinny tried to make a run for it but Mrs Claus had him in her
grasp within seconds.


“Let me go, you mad bitch.”

“I don’t care for that kind of language,” she hissed, “Especially from the likes of you.”

With the dead elf under one arm and Shinny under the other, she returned to the
burning pile of wood and reindeer.


“You should have let me do what I intended. It’s going to be much more painful this


She threw Minstix onto the pyre and then, holding Shinny by the feet, suspended him
over the flames until his hair caught. When the heat scorched her hands, she let go .


“Come on,” she called to Bernard, as the reek of burning flesh and the shriek of
Shinny’s screams scarred the crisp night air. “We’ve got to get back and start
watching a pile of crap on Tik Tok!”

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