Late in the afternoon of December eleventh, Santa finished the List. He clicked the save icon and watched the progress bar creep to full. Not quite the same as the satisfaction of checking each name with a pencil, but it saved literally tons of paper. He shuddered to think about how many trees went into the List in the years just before the first computer version. Bells, but what a nightmare that had been. They’d almost gone back.
A tiny jingle preceded Frank into Santa’s office. “Meeting room’s full. You ready, Chief?”
Santa looked up, first at Frank then at the clock. “I guess I am.” He pushed away from the desk. “Didn’t realize it was so late.”
“Plenty of time for the List, Chief.”
Santa let tiny lie pass. Worse lay in the past but they both knew two weeks before Christmas was deep into crunch time.
Frank obviously had the same thought. “Remember the seventies? There were a couple of times you didn’t have the list done until the twenty-second. We still made it through.”
Santa stood and stretched, stomach jutting forward as he arched his back. He cricked his neck from side to side then rolled his chin shoulder to shoulder.
“Still gonna make me wait, huh?”
A chuckle slid past Santa’s lips, a lower, throatier version of the patented Ho! Ho! Ho! “Leave me this little bit of fun. I promise you’ll be happy with my choice. It’s only a couple minutes more.”
Frank rolled his eyes. “What I’d really like to know is what you threatened them with. They’re all so tight-lipped they can barely breathe. I can’t even get a squeak out of Hans. He won’t always tell you what you want to know, but he’ll always tell you something.”
A louder laugh as Santa reached the door. “I should make threats? Now why would Santa need that kind of motivation? Really, Frank.”
“Sure, boss, whatever you say.”
(Note: Branch Santa is released on http://lanceschonberg.com under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 3.0 Unported License. It can be shared, copied and distributed, but not changed or sold.)by