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Thursday, January 28, 2021

Bill Thompson: A COVID tale – The Santa who stole Christmas

‘Twas three nights before Christmas when all through the House (and Senate) the elves were dancing across the aisles, elbow-bumping and air high-fiving after they stopped dragging their pointy little feet and delivered a bag of 900 billion toy$ to Santa’s House for COVID-weary boys and girls across the country. The sleigh was revved and ready; all Santa had to do was sign on the dotted line.

But wait!

“No deal!” Santa said. “These aren’t the toys I wanted. I wanted big, fat checks with my name in giant red letters at the top and a message saying: “From the Santa House – a $2,000 Christmas gift from Santa J. Claus!”

The measly $600 checks the elves had designed were a disgrace, Santa said. Nobody would praise him to the skies if he dropped those down their chimney.

“I need more zeroes!” Santa demanded. “If you elves don’t give me $2,000 checks I’m canceling Christmas! I won’t insult my reindeer making them hall these chintzy checks from house to house.”

“But I was hard-pressed to get the elves to agree to make the chintzy checks,” said Mitch McElf, the toymakers’ foreman. “Some of the elves didn’t want to make any checks at all. They’ll never agree to make bigger ones.”

“I want bigger checks!” Santa roared. “I don’t care what the elves want.”

“But Santa,” said McElf, “there are lots of toys in the bag besides the checks – small business loans, unemployment benefits …. there’s even a tax deduction for business lunches.”

“Those things don’t have my name on them,” Santa snarled. “I want big $2,000 checks that say Merry Christmas from Santa!”

“But you can’t get those, at least not in time for Christmas,” said McElf. “If you don’t accept what the elves have given you,” the boys and girls won’t get any presents at all.”

“I don’t care!” Santa bellowed. “I care about my name on checks with three zeroes! I’ll pout and hold my breath until I get them. I’ll spend Christmas tweeting instead of loading goodies on my sleigh. Tell the elves to stuff that in their stockings!”

“But why are you just now telling us this?” asked McElf. “If you had said you wanted bigger checks a week ago maybe we could have done something about it. But not now. Why didn’t you say something sooner?”

“You should have known what I wanted,” Santa sulked. “I was busy crafting clemency for criminals.”

With that, a stunned silence descended on the Elf House (and Senate). The elves had worked and worked and wheeled and dealed and as the days grew short before their deadline they were sure they’d found success. Now they didn’t know what to do but wait and hope that Santa would change his mind.

He’s changed his mind before, they knew. He could change it this time. Couldn’t he?

Meanwhile, there was only one thing to say: “Happy Christmas to all and to all a good night!”

Bill Thompson
Thompson is a native of East St. Louis, Ill., where he developed a lifelong love of the St. Louis Cardinals (all-time favorite player, Stan Musial; runner-up, Lou Brock). He’s been editor of daily newspapers in Illinois, New Jersey and Maine, where he spent four teeth-chattering winters in-between two of his three stints with the Fort Worth Business Press. But Thompson’s favorite job over the years has been riling up readers with opinion columns and editorials on topics ranging from politics to sports to curious shenanigans at City Hall. A newspaper in Pennsylvania once marketed him as “the man you love to hate.” He wrote columns for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram from 1987 to 2001, when he left in the first wave of buyouts and layoffs perpetrated by a now-defunct company called Knight Ridder. He still misses that job. He doesn’t miss Knight Ridder.

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