Friday, 15 December 2006

Pink Santa, Part Nine


Pink Santa is a Christmas novelette of twelve chapters, posted serially by me, your coronally bathed host, Cheeseburger Brown.

Did you step outside last night to see the auroral residue of the sun's recent storming? Heavens! I have never seen the Northern Lights so clearly this far south. After supper there was just a vague green glow in the boreal sky, but as I put my daughter to bed we were obliged to pause to poke our heads out her window to watch an undulating ribbon of blue-green phospherescence wave to us, sandwiched between sheer, slowly throbbing vertical blossoms of copper and red.

I'll never forget the first time I saw the aurora, and I'm so pleased that now my daughter has her memory to keep, too.

And now, let us continue with our Christmas tale:



9/12

R. P. Baron awoke in a good mood.

This was in and of itself quite remarkable, and the rumour moved quickly through his household staff until even the girl who came by to walk the dogs knew about Mr. Baron's uncharacteristic cheer. "Maybe he made another million dollars yesterday," she guessed, and then she grumbled as one of Mr. Baron's yorkshire terriers peed on the kitchen floor.

"That's what you get for lolligagging," said the chef.

Stewart the butler was more surprised than anyone. "He didn't even yell at me this morning," he told everyone in the kitchen. "Maybe he's got a girlfriend."

They all quieted when Mr. Baron came downstairs and took a seat in the dining room. The chef set toast and boiled eggs on a tray and Stewart walked the breakfast out to Mr. Baron. "Where's my newspaper?" asked Mr. Baron.

Stewart unfolded a copy of the National Post from under his arm and placed it on the table next to the eggs and toast. Mr. Baron picked up the newspaper and shook it flat before flipping through the pages. He was about to stick a piece of toast into his mouth when he froze, his eyes glued to the page.

"Is everything all right, sir?" asked Stewart.

A wide smile slowly crept over Mr. Baron's face, and then to cap it off he made a low, chortling sound that Stewart guessed was laughter. "Oh ho ho!" chuckled Mr. Baron. "This is rich. It's too good to be true."

"What's that, sir?" asked Stewart.

"Look!" replied Mr. Baron, turning the newspaper toward the butler and tapping the page.

Stewart leaned forward to read a headline that said, POLICE SEARCH CONTINUES FOR MISSING ORPHANS. "Missing orphans, sir?" said Stewart politely.

"This is perfect," said Mr. Baron. "The police may not be able to do much about last night's break and enter at the factory, but when I tell them the missing children are with the culprits they'll fall over themselves to capture those coots!"

Stewart frowned. "Coots, sir?"

"Santa Claus!" cried Mr. Baron, gesturing with his toast. "I'm talking about Santa Claus and his gang of criminal ragamuffins, of course."

"Are you feeling quite well, sir?" asked Stewart.

"I feel splendid," said Mr. Baron sharply. "Who wouldn't feel splendid when presented with the chance to crush his enemies with one fell swoop?"

"Enemies, sir?"

"Yes!"

"Would that be the orphans or Santa Claus?"

"The whole lot!"

"Um," said Stewart awkwardly. "Perhaps I had better call Doctor Porter..."

"Nonsense," snapped Mr. Baron. "If you want to do something useful why don't you fetch me a cup of coffee? And get me a telephone: I must update the police."

The police constable Mr. Baron spoke to was also concerned about Mr. Baron. "Why didn't you mention children in your report last night, Mr. Baron sir?" asked the constable through the telephone. "That's rather a large oversight."

Mr. Baron said, "I didn't think they were important. But now I realize they are the catalyst that will see those Santas jailed!"

"Santas, sir?" asked the constable.

"Yes, of course," replied Mr. Baron hotly, "the criminals who broke into my factory! Can't you keep anything straight?"

"It says here they were dressed as ninjas."

"Ninja Santa Clauses," corrected Mr. Baron. "You'll know them by their beards."

"Um," said the police constable.

Even though it was Saturday Mr. Baron had a lot of things to take care of, because later that night his entire family was coming over for a holiday supper. Mr. Baron wanted everything to be just right. He was very excited to talk to his father about how much money Baron Toys had earned under his leadership, and he was sure everyone would thank him for the wonderfully expensive gifts he had asked Mrs. Green to buy from the finest boutiques.

Since he was so busy he was very irritated to have to Dr. Porter call to arrange a meeting over lunch, but since he had known Dr. Porter for many years he agreed. Mr. Baron met Dr. Porter at the Senator Grill where they ordered veal sandwiches and tall glasses of bitter beer.

"Your staff says you've been behaving erratically," said Dr. Porter seriously as he sipped at his drink.

"Nonsense," replied Mr. Baron. "I'll fire them all!"

"Now now R. P.," said Dr. Porter soothingly, "they're only trying to help. Your people are concerned about you."

"Ridiculous," said Mr. Baron. "They should mind their own business."

Dr. Porter said, "Your welfare is their business, R. P."

"So what if it is?" snapped Mr. Baron.

"Talk to me about Santa Claus," said Dr. Porter.

"Why do you want to talk about that scheming nogoodnik?" asked Mr. Baron.

"Indulge me," said Dr. Porter.

Mr. Baron grunted and shifted position in his chair. "What do you know about him?" he asked.

Dr. Porter looked confused. "About Santa Claus? Just the standard stories, I imagine -- red cheeks, button nose, fat belly, jolly laugh -- that sort of thing."

"There's a lot more to it," said Mr. Baron. "First of all, there's not just one of him -- there's hundreds."

"Hundreds of Santa Clauses?"

"Indeed," said Mr. Baron, nodding. "And they're all against me. Why, just last night a pack of them broke into my factory to smash my machines. They're terrorists, I tell you."

"They're against toys?" asked Dr. Porter.

"They're against business!" shouted Mr. Baron.

"What did they look like?"

"What sort of a question is that?" growled Mr. Baron. "They were old men with white fluffy beards, naturally."

"Red suits with fur trim?"

"No, actually, they were dressed like ninjas."

"I see..." said Dr. Porter thoughtfully, furrowing his brow. "And how long have these ninja Santa Clauses been making trouble for you, R. P.?"

Mr. Baron did not answer him. He had been distracted by something over the doctor's shoulder. Mr. Baron's eyes narrowed furiously. He threw his napkin on the table and stood up. "Hey!" he yelled across the restaurant.

Dr. Porter turned around. Behind him was a fellow dressed up as Santa Claus, going from table to table to ask for donations to feed the needy. He stopped to look at Mr. Baron, confused about why he was being yelled at. "Me?" said the man dressed as Santa.

"You stay away from me!" continued Mr. Baron angrily. "You and all of your ninja friends. I've already talked to the police about those kids, I'll have you know."

"Ninjas?" echoed the man dressed as Santa.

A waiter in a crisp white shirt scampered over to Mr. Baron's table. "Is there something the matter, sir?" he asked.

"There certainly is!" hollered Mr. Baron, pointing. "I want that man out of this restaurant immediately."

"Look, buddy," said the man dressed as Santa, "I'm just collecting some donations here. You don't have to give if you don't want to. Nobody does. I'm just asking around, is all."

"He's lying!" cried Mr. Baron. "It's a trap!"

"A trap?" said the waiter nervously.

The man dressed as Santa shook his head. "I think you've got me confused for somebody else, buddy."

A vein on Mr. Baron's forehead quivered. "You're supposed to be Santa Claus, aren't you?" he demanded.

"Well, sure..." said the man.

Mr. Baron turned to the waiter. "You heard him! He's one of them. I insist that you throw him out this instant, or I shall call the police. I'll call the police on all of you!"

The waiter didn't know what to do. He looked to Dr. Porter helplessly.

Dr. Porter stood up from his seat and put a gentle hand on Mr. Baron's arm. "R. P., you're making a scene," he said softly. "Why don't we go back to my office and I'll give you some pills to help you calm down?"

"I don't want any pills," snapped Mr. Baron. "The only thing that will calm me down is knowing that all of the Santas are destroyed forever!"

A little kid eating lunch with his mom and dad was listening to Mr. Baron shout, and he started to cry. "Please don't let the nasty man hurt Santa Claus," he blubbered to his parents, "or I'll never get my train set."

"I don't want any trouble," said the man dressed as Santa, holding up his hands.

"It's too late for that now," promised Mr. Baron darkly. "You're in for a world of trouble, fat man!" With that said, Mr. Baron tried to jump over the table to get to the man dressed as Santa, who ran away. Mr. Baron and Dr. Porter's table turned over, spilling veal sandwiches and beer everywhere.

Mr. Baron got to his feet and chased the man around the salad bar few times until he was restrained by the restaurant manager and a couple of waiters. "Sir!" said the manager over and over again. "Sir! Sir!"

The man dressed as Santa took his donation bucket and left the restaurant with a frightened glance over his shoulder. Dr. Porter had a quiet word with the manager and asked him not to call the police on Mr. Baron, because Mr. Baron was having a very bad day and just needed some rest. The manager agreed, since Mr. Baron spent so much money at his restaurant. He didn't want Mr. Baron to be angry with him.

Mr. Baron rode in a taxicab to Dr. Porter's office and agreed to take two little white pills which Dr. Porter said would make him feel better. "You're simply under too much stress," said Dr. Porter. "I know this is a very busy time of year for your business, R. P."

Mr. Baron was grumpy. "Bah!" he said.

"I think you should go home and get some sleep," suggested Dr. Porter.

"Impossible," declared Mr. Baron. "The Christmas party begins at six!"

Dr. Porter frowned and said, "I want you to come and see me again tomorrow, R. P. I'm concerned about you and this fixation with Santa Claus."

Mr. Baron grunted. "We'll see," he said, stroking his mustache.

Once he was back home in his giant house Mr. Baron went from room to room to make sure everything was ready for his family to arrive. He found dust on the mantel and yelled at the maid, and then yelled at the chef for preparing to make mashed potatoes instead of scalloped potatoes. "I'm surrounded by idiots!" he cried in frustration.

With an hour to go before the guests arrived Mr. Baron retired to his study to have a glass of sherry and smoke a cigar. While he waited for Stewart to bring him those things he decided to watch the news on television. What he saw upset him very much.

The reporter said, "Toy tycoon R. P. Baron went on a rampage in Toronto's Senator Grill today and, strangely enough, the apparent target was Santa Claus himself. Imagine that! Maybe Baron Toys doesn't like competition, ha ha ha. Baron's doctor, Dr. Geoffrey Porter, is quoted as saying that Baron is under tremendous stress as his company prepares to roll out their new line of subscription toys, coupled with stressful preparations for a large family dinner at the Baron Estate tonight."

Mr. Baron switched off the television in digust. Stewart arrived a moment later with his drink and smoke. "Is there anything else I can do for you, sir?" asked Stewart.

Mr. Baron puffed on his cigar as he lit it, rings of grey smoke drifting up to the ceiling. "Yes," he mumbled around the cigar, "as a matter of fact there is, Stewart."

"Yes sir?" said Stewart.

"Santa Claus is coming," said Mr. Baron slowly, watching the smoke twirl, "and I want you to be ready for him."

Stewart cleared his throat. "Shall I leave out cookies and milk, sir?"

"No, you idiot!" roared Mr. Baron. "I want security. I want every door watched. I want dogs on patrol at the gates. I want cameras and motion detectors. I want every single possible thing done to ensure that Santa Claus will not disturb this dinner." He puffed on his cigar, frowning. "See to it personally, Stewart. I'm counting on you."

"Yes sir," said Stewart.

Mr. Baron nodded and said, "That will be all," and then turned his chair around to face the window, chomping angrily on his cigar.

Stewart poured a glass of sherry and then quietly tiptoed away.


12 comments:

Orick of Toronto said...

"Maybe he's got a girlfriend."

Hah, for some reason that line made me really start envisioning Mr Baron as a slightly younger Mr Burns in my mind.

National Post, truely the paper for the rich and evil. :)

CBB, did you give a free plug to Senator restaurant there? I spent a whole summer working there when I was young and run into Diana Krall.

And you finally made me wade into this whole blogging thing.

Simon said...

For some reason this chapter reminded me strongly of Star Wars. I think it was the Tarkin-esque "...crush his enemies in one fell swoop," combined with the, "See to it personally, Stewart," at the end. I expected him to add, "There'll be no one to stop us this time!"

The best bit was Stewarts line about the milk and cookies. He's convinced Baron's lost it and is humouring him. Love it!

Cheeseburger Brown said...

Dear Orick,

I debated whether to have this story take place in Anywhereville or to have it take place in actual locations. Since I did opt for actual locations (Yonge Street, the Hudson's Bay Company, the Eaton Centre), I decided to go all the way and make the restaurant real, too. In the original draft of this chapter it was called the "Midtown Grill" but I changed it for consistency and also because I liked the idea of events happening in the same place where I had my dinner with Red Green.

I'll check out your blog next break I get today.

Dear Simon,

The references were conscious, and I was thinking of you.

Love,
Cheeseburger Brown

Moksha Gren said...

As a relative southerner, I've never seen the Northern Lights outside of pictures. Your description makes me very sad about that fact.

"You'll know them by their beards." That made me smile

Anonymous said...

Whoo hoo! What a hoot CBB! It's so fun to watch characters lose it in front of "the help"! What a treat!

THE Danimal

gl. said...

at some point (maybe is was the mashed/scalloped potatoes line), i had a sudden desire to hear you read this aloud. so when are you going to release the audiobook? :)

seeing the aurora borealis is on my list of "things to do before i die." when i was up in edmonton this summer we waited fruitlessly for them every night, but i was guessing winter was the best time to see them. *sigh*

Mark said...

Definitely fun seeing Baron's personal staff's reactions to his seemingly insane ramblings. I've always wondered, however, why an intelligent person (okay, that might be a leap for Baron) would not realize how insane it sounds and fully explain the situation. A little context goes a long way.

But, this way makes for more fun.

Cheeseburger Brown said...

Dear Moksha,

Well, it remains a rare treat up here in southern Canada, too. I've seen the lights clearly maybe five times in my life counting last night. It is, however, one of the great delights of our planet and I'm so glad my daughter got get a glimpse. She was very interested in learning about the storms on the sun which, she informs anyone who asks, is "made of fire and on fire and has fire around it."

Dear Danimal,

It must be delicious for members of an abused staff so see chinks in the armour of their master, eh? I giggle for them.

Dear gl.,

Audiobook? I don't know. Maybe I'll experiment next year. As for the lights: I saw them best in Edmonton. I was just getting out of a car and I happened to look up, and did a double-take because I did not understand what I saw. It looked like CG. And yes, it was during the winter when the air is clear and crisp.

Dear Mark,

It's like in movies when people say,
"No wait -- let me explain!" while they're being dragged away, and they never think to say something that will get real attention like, "Johnny is the murderer!" or "it's a trap!" They always threaten to reveal critical information or context but never manage to spill the beans to frame their ramblings.

Love,
Cheeseburger Brown

Simon said...

I remember my best time seeing the Northern Lights was in late summer at a fly-in fishing lodge 500 km north of Edmonton some time after midnight. It was a perfectly clear night and the campfire was the brightest light for hours in any direction. It was the first time I'd ever seen any colour other than the more common green, and the undulations of pink, red and orange were breath-taking.

Mark said...

Because I live here in the north-central part of the Lone Star State, I can't help think of the Muppets lyric, "Aurora Borealis/Shinin' Down in Dallas/Can you picture that?"

Throughout the song they name other things that are impossible and finish with "Can you picture that?" A few times, Animal follows up with "blabablabadat."

If you've never seen the Muppets, then the above paragraph must seem very strange to you. And, you live under a rock (but not a Fraggle Rock, because I never had HBO).

Teddy said...

I've seen the Lights twice now, both times here in ND. The first time they were a light green, it looked like dust being scattered over a vibrating metal plate. The second time it was much thicker and more solid, being blue and green stripes across the sky. It slowly waved and despite the cold winter night, I couldn't bring myself to go inside. Frankly, I believe the Lights to be the most amazing phenomenon the sky has to offer. I'm definitely glad that you and your daughter were able to see it. Pity I missed that one though, although it may not have been visible this far south.

I must congratulate you on your triumph, CBB. Baron's war against Santas and Orphans suddenly became so cliche that it crossed the line into Awesome. I laughed hard. Keep writing!

TRH

Sheik Yerbouti said...

Mark,

What does it say that I thought of the very same line? Dr. Teeth and The Electric Mayhem had such a gift for poetry (they don't look like Presbyterians to me). Perhaps Dallas' latitude is far less of a problem than its light pollution (though I didn't see any auroras out in Kaufman at 3AM during the Geminid peak either).

But about the story... CBB, I have to wonder if Baron's predicament doesn't sound a bit too contrived. Why wouldn't this conceited man tell the police all about how the intruders had a "Santa Claus complex" and how they were bent on saving Christmas from him? Seems like he wouldn't pass up a chance to rat them out and sneer at their obvious delusions.

Even so, this story is loads of fun and there's no way you can dim the glory of a hundred ninja santas.