I’VE BEEN THINKING by James Napoli

     December 16, 2007

I’VE BEEN THINKING by James Napoli



Previously, on The Passion of the Claus:

Inspired by the spin-doctoring ability of Rumpo, one of his two main elves (there were four, but two usually had other commitments), Norbert Claus, whose birth had been foretold as the beginning of a new age of consumerism in an otherwise perfectly sane world, gained some weight, changed him name to Santa and very quickly gained thousands of converts to the new scripture of shopping. The most devoted, and the most capable of creating a rather legendary psychosexual dynamic, was Mary Marmalade, whose pining for Santa’s affections can border on the icky. Meanwhile, King King (who lived in a one-bedroom apartment since these were very egalitarian times and that was exactly what Santa Claus was jeopardizing) sent his emissary Toady to tempt the other lead elf, Hermy, into betraying Santa with promises of being able to fulfill his lifelong dream of becoming a dentist.

That afternoon, at the Santa Claus Toy and Bauble Factory, with, at last, all four of his elves around him, Santa was way ahead of the way things were going down…

“Welcome, Rumpo and Hermy,” Santa Claus stretched out his arms in a gesture of welcoming to all of his first followers. “And may I say I am so glad that Pendergast and Williams could also be here.”

“Actually, we kind of have to go,” said Pendergast as he and Williams pushed back their chairs with a pronounced scrape that sounded like an ass cart running over a bicycle horn.

“Yeah, we sorta have other commitments,” Williams added as they abruptly left.

Santa looked forlornly upon his two faithful elves. “Well, guys,” he said, “Sorry to bum you out, but one of you is going to betray me tomorrow before the cock crows.”

Rumpo snickered. “Heh-heh, you said coc—“

“Yes, yes, Rumpo, I see where you’re going with that one,” Santa interjected quickly. “My only quandary lies in discovering which one of the two of you will rat me out to King King. Tell, me, Rumpo, where are you going after this, our last brunch?”

“Me?” said Rumpo. “Figured I’d go do my killer version of ‘Holding Back the Years’ at the karaoke bar.”

“I see. And you, Hermy?”

“Oh,” Hermy replied reflexively, even excitedly, “I’m starting a new job. Right off the bat, I’m dealing with two impacted molars and a case of bleeding gingivitis so bad it makes the floor of a slaughterhouse look like a hospital toilet.”

“Hermy,” Santa asked, “when did you become a dentist?”

“Busted!” cried Rumpo. But his condescension was short-lived, for King King’s servants burst in at precisely that moment, shutting down the toy and bauble factory and arresting Santa for conspiracy to commit commerce.

After eight days and nights in a fetid jail cell, Santa Claus was himself becoming rather fetid, yet buoyed by his own assurance that his message of universal shopping had reached so many of the faithful. The prison guards, who first took pleasure in hurling both epithets and saliva at him, were themselves disarmed by the prophet’s wisdom, as when he assured them that casting their hard-earned bread upon the registers would come back to them a thousand fold. How, he didn’t say, but he was cryptic that way. It was almost as if he was leaving room to be grossly misinterpreted by people in future generations who claimed they each knew exactly what the hell he was talking about. In his times of darkest despair, Mary Marmalade sat below the window bars of the cell that confined him, offering words of support like “if they ever let you out of here, I promise you one around-the-world, absolutely no charge.”

Even King King began to soften toward his captive, and on the day the Claus was to be publicly banished, he gathered the people in the town square. On his left was Santa Claus, accused of inciting the people to rebellion, employing elfin accomplices and introducing the purchase of worthless objects as an opiate to an otherwise fairly well-adjusted citizenry. On the King’s right was a man named Barnabas who had been arrested on four counts of assault, and one count of attempting to marry an alpaca.

“Which one would you have me banish?” King King asked of the assembly.

“The other guy!” shouted the crowd as one, throwing the easily-flustered King into a tailspin with which he decided to contend by playing rock/paper/scissors with each of the accused. Santa Claus lost. And so, in his now filthy, dust-covered red and white coat, he was placed in a sleigh and dragged down the road that led out of town. All along his path, he was pelted with stuffed animals. The wrath of those now disillusioned with Santa’s teachings became even more punctuated by the fact that as each plush projectile brutalized his face, neck, arms, chest and back the entire thing was somehow captured in slow-motion. Not only that, but some industrious music supervisor had obtained the sync rights to “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen” and altered it to suit the mood of the day:

Forgive us Jolly Fat Man, we know not what we do

We could not get our minds around a concept that is new

And furthermore we think your view is utterly askew

We don’t need all your baubles and toys, baubles and toys

We don’t need all your baubles and toys

If we are feeling unfulfilled we’ll look within ourselves

And children do not need a bunch of crap to snap off shelves

We’ve done okay without a shopping mall for a thousand years

We don’t need all your baubles and toys, baubles and toys

We don’t need all your baubles and toys.

Hermy did not attend Santa’s public humiliation. Not out of guilt, but because he had misjudged how long it would take him to scrape all the tartar off this one guy’s teeth. Only Rumpo and Mary Marmalade stood quietly on the sidelines, bereft and feeling lost. And then, they both witnessed something that would become the foundation of the church they would one day use to spread the Claus gospel of purchasing. While the account in The Book of Rumpo is slightly different from the one in Mary Marmalade’s Go For It: Pampering Your Inner Consumer (an Oprahvitius Book Club selection), both recount the extraordinary sight of the sleigh in which Santa was being dragged suddenly borne aloft by reindeer and disappearing into the sky. The townspeople reportedly shrugged off the miraculous occurrence as another of Santa’s retail-driven spectacles, but to this day there is no conclusive evidence to indicate that Santa ever appeared on earth again.

Rumpo and Mary Marmalade each claim to have been visited by the spirit of the Claus, who told them to “keep representin’.” And so they did, continuing the message their leader had imparted to them, finding a small amount of converts in every city where they preached, and making a fortune in chimney installation.

But, as we know, the message of consumerism never really caught on. And from our perspective as a highly-evolved society in which no person needs more than he or she has, and the idea of buying things just for the sake of it is an almost laughable concept, we can look upon the legend of the Santa Claus as nothing more than a charming folk tale. A folk tale, however, that would make an excellent movie, which would be pretty awesome to watch on a brand new plasma flat-screen. That is, if you’re cool enough to have one of those.

Peace out!

“The Passion of the Claus” originally appeared in a slightly different form as a live radio theater presentation called “The Legend of Ka-Ching, Ka-Ching” and was performed by the ensemble New Frequency. http://www.newfrequencyradio.com

James Napoli, writer and humorist, is the author of “Christmas Letters Gone Wild.”He has also written and directed the award winning dramatic shorts “The Priests” and “Nobody Gets Hurt.” He is a graduate of the London Film School.

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