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Santa’s Penance, finale

December 9, 2010

         “Watch carefully, I’m only going to do this once.”  Kringel stood up, adjusted his belt, rubbed his nose and went up the chimney.  He didn’t climb up the chimney; he just sort of got sucked up it.  A moment later he was deposited back at the spot he had been standing.
         “Oh my God.”  Maxwell sat down.
         Kringel’s eyes crinkled up.  It was the first time Maxwell saw anything like a smile from the guy and he didn’t like it.
         Maxwell shook himself, “You’re just a story told to make children behave.”
         Kringel winced,  “Where do you think the story came from?”
         “But, this isn’t anything like the stories about you.  Where are the elves, what happened to your toy shop and sleigh?”
         “I had them once.”  Kringel settled down and began his story.
         “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.  Shortly thereafter Satan rebelled against God.  Some of the angels sided with the Devil; most of them sided with God.  Some of them didn’t choose a side.
         “Chief among those angels was me.  At that time I went by Kringel.  I was one of the Archangels.  In fact, I was God’s quartermaster.  I knew every piece of inventory in God’s creation.  Now Satan and the ones that followed him were condemned, but those of us that didn’t choose a side weren’t condemned, but we weren’t welcome in heaven either.  We became what you call elves and fairies. Neither blessed nor damned.
         “We didn’t mind.  The world was a wonderful place and we entertained ourselves for centuries with dances and games and other diversions.  Some of us enjoyed tormenting mortals by playing tricks.  Eventually though, many of us grew tired and wanted to go home.
         “So, I asked God what it would take to redeem ourselves in His eyes.  He told me that for every human that went a full year without sin, one of us would be allowed back into heaven.  I would be the last one.
         “This won’t be hard, I foolishly thought. There are lots of humans and more every day.  They don’t have to be pure, just sinless for one year.  Well, we got to work right away.  We encouraged fables and stories extolling morals, but that wasn’t enough.
         “Some of us helped people, thinking that it would encourage similar behavior and although it produced some good deeds, it didn’t stop the sinning.  Some of us thought about scaring people straight, that’s were some of the stories about ghosts and devils come from.  People would be good for a while, but as the fear receded, so did their good intentions.
        “Years passed and many of us started to get discouraged when I got an idea.  We’d concentrate on the children; they’d be easier then adults.  We started spinning the stories about a man named Santa Claus that rewarded children that had been good all year with toys, but wouldn’t leave anything but coal for bad children.  We came here and built the factory, this lodge and began producing toys.  Then we waited, ready to reward the good children.
        “The first year came and went without any good children.  There was some grumbling among the elves, but I told them we’d just started, that the stories didn’t have enough time to spread, but that they would and children would start behaving better.
        “The next year went by and still I didn’t have anyone to reward.  The story of Santa Claus was spreading everywhere, changing as it reached different countries, but it was essentially the same.  The grumbling grew worse.  Some of the elves started to abandon me, but I didn’t lose hope.  I knew there would be good children soon.
         “I was so wrong.  The children would be good, or at least better, as the holidays approached in the hopes of being rewarded at Christmas, and they were rewarded: by their parents.  They didn’t need to be sinless to get presents, so they weren’t.  Making matters worse, poor children didn’t get presents or get as many presents as the children with more affluent parents.  They were getting the message that they weren’t as good as the rich children.
         “I did not lessen the sin in the world; I compounded it.  All those lists of things children want for Christmas just kept growing with every year.  Greed, one of the seven deadly sins, and I encouraged it to grow, and now it blossoms in the heart of every child.
         “The elves left me.  The factory fell apart.  Each year the materialism and greed and gluttony grows worse.
         “I’ve never delivered a single present.”
         Kringel paused and looked at Maxwell, “I’ve given up hope of ever being redeemed, but I want this nightmare to end.  I want you to tell them what I told you.  Try and stop the wretched excess.  Remind people of what is really important: family and friends and love.  You promised you’d do something for me, that is what I ask.”
         Maxwell was surprised to see that the sun was starting to rise.  “I promise.”

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