Santa Claus laughed at yet another letter asking for yet another of the latest fad toy. Years of copyright restriction and lawsuits and left the old elf impoverished, barely able to fund the three elves currently toiling away, hour after hour, day after day, trying to make enough toys for a few people in northern Canada, Russia, and, where necessary, northern Europe.
Sorry little Timmy, Santa thought. I can’t afford the fuel costs of getting to Texas.
He crumpled up the letter and tossed it on the fire. The flame roared to life, and Santa was happy – a little heat came out to warm his arthritic fingers. He had had to lay off the medical elf years ago, an extraneous expense that meant Mrs. Claus now rarely rose from bed, and Donner had to put down last year. The meat had fed everyone for months, but it was still sad.
Looking up from the next letter, Lucien stood before him.
“Sir?” Lucien said.
“Yes, Lucien,” Santa said.
“Sir, Kimberly and Adolfo were wondering if we might take a few hours’ rest. Our hands are worn, and we’ve all got blisters. We just…we – ”
“It’s okay, Lucien. Yes, take a break. Rest as long as you need to. We’ll get as many presents out as we can this year, and spread them around as thin as possible. You’re all doing great work, and I appreciate you staying on, despite little return.”
“It’s the work we love, sir. The helping.”
“Mmm. Still. Good of you to keep at it. I’ll get in there and join again once I’ve got the list complete.”
“Okay, thanks boss.”
“Just Santa, please, Lucien.”
“Sure thing, bo – Santa.” Lucien smiled weakly and left. Santa turned back to the letter, seeing what the next ask was for.