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The elf approached Santa with a gnawing sense of foreboding.

“You sent for me, Master Claus?”

“Yes, I did. I’m afraid I have some bad news,” said his boss.

“Bad news? From Santa Claus?”

The elf was deeply perplexed.

“I have to lay off half the staff,” Santa reported icily. “Cost reductions. We have to stay competitive in this global economy, you know.”

The elf was confused. Competitive? Competitive with whom? There’s only been one Santa Claus from as far back as anyone could recall.

“But it’s Christmas, sir,” the elf pleaded. “Must it happen now?”

“Actually, that’s the way it’s usually done, elf,” Santa replied matter-of-factly. “And next year, I’m relocating the entire workshop to China.”

The elf was stunned. Moving the workshop to China would devastate the North Pole economy, seeing as how Santa’s workshop was about the only economy in the North Pole, save for the reindeer stable and the little electrical store that kept Rudolph in bright noses. “Isn’t there any alternative, Master Claus?” he asked.

“Not really,” Santa said, a bit glum now. “Everything is pricey these days.”

“But what about quality?” the elf protested. “We cobble the finest toys in all the world—no small parts to swallow, and not a drop of lead paint in anything.”

“Evidently, safety is a cost no one wants to pay for anymore,” Santa said. “Look, it’s not just you elves who are being affected. I’ve already let Dasher and Comet go. That’s gonna slow down deliveries. Fortunately, all those foreclosures mean fewer houses to deliver to this year.”

“What’s going to become of us, then?” the elf asked.

“My advice is to retrain for another line of work,” Santa said.

“Other lines of work? We’re tiny elves.”

“I’ve started taking courses in refrigeration,” Santa said. “And I advise you to start thinking outside the box as well.”

“What about Christmas?”

“What about it?” Santa asked. “You think anybody who believes in trickle-down economics, privatized social security and drilling our way out of oil dependency has room left in their thinking for another myth? Face it, elf, we’re going the way of the dinosaur and the woolly mammoth.”

The elf shook his head sadly. “I remember when those were some of our most popular toys, Santa.”

“Different world,” Santa replied. “Remember when ‘batteries not included’ used to drive the mothers and fathers crazy, trying to find a store open at 10 p.m. on Christmas Eve night?”

The elf laughed. “Those were good times, sir.”

Suddenly, the elf had a thought.

“Those were good times, sir.”

“I heard you the first time, elf,” Santa replied coldly.

“No, I mean, we are the good times. We—us—represent the good old days. Let us be that for all the people who still appreciate those simple values.”

Santa brightened. “You know, you’re right, elf. Every day, the world loses sight of what those days represented and could represent again. Tell the elves we’re staying put. I’ll get Dasher and Comet back from that tannery. We’re back, baby!”

But when Mrs. Claus learned of her husband’s decision, she scolded him mercilessly. “Santa belongs to the stockholders, not the good old days,” she snapped.

Within days, Mrs. Claus found a buyer in the United Arab Emirates, and the new owners promptly funneled all of Santa’s mail to a call center in Tibet. Ho, ho, ho.

Reid Champagne recalls waking up one Christmas with sugarplum fairies actually dancing on his head.

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