Author: Paul deVere
11:30 p.m. (GMT), December 1, 2007—North Pole (or there about)
The following interview took place in the living quarters of my subject and her husband this evening. Not that day or night mean much here at this time of the year. It’s always dark. I am sworn to secrecy as to the exact location. However, I am permitted to write that it is about midway between the North Terrestrial Pole (which defines latitude 90 degrees) and the North Magnetic Pole (where your compass points), which are currently 600 miles apart!
I am also permitted to explain a very basic fact. While the place is always depicted as a building (usually cute) of some kind, this most popular address IS IN THE MIDDLE OF THE BLOODY ARCTIC OCEAN! There is no LAND out here, no terra firma. The Claus manse is actually a very large boat, sort of a giant icebreaker that can withstand the tons of pressure from shifting arctic ice. But it is quite comfy. I was not told if they ever took it out for a spin.
Finally, let’s get this straight. Ms. Claus (yes, “Ms.”) does not in the least bit look like Angela Lansbury (“Mrs. Santa Claus”—1996) nor Diane Robin (Single Santa Seeks Mrs. Claus—2004) nor Marcia Ann Burrs (Meet the Santas—2005). Actually, she looks like a slightly older (but only slightly) Diana Rigg (when she played Mrs. Emma Peel, The Avengers—1965-67). She and “Mr. Claus,” as she refers to her husband, are religious about using the workout gym on deck 3, level 4, every day, and it shows.)
I bagged this assignment with a professional journalist’s most fundamental tool: luck. An essay I wrote last Christmas titled “If You Don’t Believe in Santa, You Get Underwear,” caught the eye of one of the lower level people at CSI (Cringle Security, Inc.) and was booted upstairs. The whole piece was about the true meaning of Christmas. Ms. Claus, a stickler for keeping the Claus brand pure, felt I had “the right stuff,” and arranged with Greenland’s First Responders (GFR), a little known, but highly trained, group of native Greenlanders, to get me onboard the S.S. North Pole safely. (I noticed a Liberian registry for the ship. Tax problems?)
I was escorted to my stateroom by a rather short gentleman, dressed in what I learned was the Claus livery: blue blazer, khaki pants and deck shoes. His photo ID simply said, “Joseph.” I noticed a foil-wrapped chocolate mint (in the shape of a Christmas tree) on my pillow, with an elaborate “CC” logo (Claus Chocolates) embossed on the front.
“Madam will see you at 9:37, sir,” the little guy said. Pretty thick Danish accent, I thought. “She has an interview with Euronews from Paris at 11:51 GTM. We must be prompt.”
At precisely 9:37 (GMT), Joseph led me into a very comfortable, softly lighted lounge. Ms. Claus was standing, looking out a portal into the arctic night. Mr. Claus, “Santa” to the rest of you, was seated in a plush chair, sipping what looked like brandy.
He lifted his glass and looked at me. “Velho Barreto, prime stuff. Care for a sip?”
His hair, gray rather than white, fell to his shoulders. He definitely wasn’t an elf, more like a linebacker for the Chicago Bears. He caught me staring.
“Pillows,” he chuckled. “Since Ms. Claus put me on this quite strict, though flavorful diet, I need padding or I’m just not convincing. When you’ve been around as long as we have…”
Ms. Claus, gently, but firmly, cut Mr. Claus off as she turned to me and asked, “How are the Hanes and Fruit of the Loom lawsuits coming?”
She was referring to the corporate whiplash I seemed to have caused with my little underwear essay. These corporate undergarment behemoths claimed my article caused their stock to fall several points and had cheapened the image of their products. Both companies went so far as to take out a full page ad in the Wall Street Journal and USA Today with the headline “WE BELIEVE!”
“Well, when they discovered what my net worth was, which tends to run in negative numbers, they backed off,” I told her, thinking how kind of her to ask. But then, who was I talking to!
“We invited you here so you could clear up some misinformation,” Ms. Claus said. She obviously wasn’t one to beat around the bush. “You seem to have our best interests at heart. Please, sit down.”
She smiled at me. I dissolved into my seat. Was this the reason the polar ice cap was melting? She took her husband’s hand. He smiled. I could barely move I was so, well, so moved. All my questions about chimney sizes, flying reindeer, how Santa managed in large apartment complexes seemed frivolous.
“First, I want you to know I don’t cook, darn socks and do not have the foggiest idea how to knit,” Ms. Claus said, her smile breaking into a little laugh. I took notes.
“She doesn’t do windows either,” Mr. Claus chuckled. His six pack abs did ripple a little.
Smiling at her husband she continued. “Please let your readers know we’re working with China on the lead business and other issues. In so many ways, it’s such a young country. We’re also trying our best in the Middle East, Africa, Latin America and, of course, America. We’re also considering sharing SSPS, Santa’s Sled Propulsion System with NASA and the major airlines. The atmosphere has gotten so bad up there, Mr. Claus has taken to wearing a face mask on Christmas Eve. And as for the polar bears, we will take care of our own. Our labs are working overtime to get a handle on this global warming business. We’re not sure if Mr. Gore helped us or not,” she continued. “But his heart is in the right place.”
I was writing as fast as I could. She went on for over an hour, giving details about certain families all over the world whom The Claus Foundation had targeted for help. Finally, she stopped. Her husband squeezed her hand. Again those smiles “That’s why I married her. What’s it been, Ms. Claus, eight hundred…”
She cut him off again. “Not now, Mr. Claus, not now.” Do you understand how important it is that we protect our brand? How it must not be soiled by so much commercialism. Do you understand now why we even exist? What we are here for?”
I thought I knew that answer when I was four years old. I thought I had always known the answer.
She leaned close to me, making sure I was still writing. “Santa Claus… Santa Claus is…”
I had only one page left in my pad. I flipped to it. I wrote one word.
And then I was home.