The Head Elf

Well, here were are at story number twelve in the twelve stories in twelve months challenge. This month the prompt was “not my type” and the word count was 1200. I don’t have much to say about it except I’m glad that I got a Christmas story done this year. As always, I’d love to hear what you think.

Zoey approached Santa as he watched the elves working. “Excuse me, sir. Have you made a decision yet?”

“I’m sorry, Zoey. I haven’t yet.”

“I know it’s not easy, but we need a decision soon. I want to have time to show the new elf the ropes before I retire.”

“I know, I know. I’ve narrowed it down to three candidates. I’ll have a name for you by the end of the week.”

“If you want my input, I’d recommend Winky. . .”

Santa grimaced, caught himself, and gave a weak smile instead. “He is one of the three.”

“Who are the other two?”

“Joey and Blinky.”

“They’re fine elves, sir, but not in the same class as Winky.”

“They all gave really good interviews.”

“But just look at him, Santa,” she gestured toward the working elves. “If everyone worked like Winky, December wouldn’t be such a stressful month.”

Santa sighed and looked down. Winky was working considerably faster than all the other elves. He also seemed to be helping those closest to him. Santa knew Zoey was right, so why was he hesitating? “It’s not all about how fast you work,” he said. “You know better than anyone, there’s the coaching and teambuilding and occasional discipline.”

“I know, sir, but everyone loves Winky. He won’t have any trouble earning their respect.”

Santa sighed again. “I’ll let you know by the end of the week.”

***

Santa called Blinky, Joey, Winky, and Zoey together at the end of the shift. All the other elves were chatting happily and walking toward the exit. “Sorry to keep you,” Santa said. “This won’t take long. As we all know, this is Zoey’s last Christmas as head elf. I’m afraid I’ve become quite dependent on her the past few years. I’m trying to adjust, so I thought you three could give me the end of shift briefing today.”

“Yes, sir!” said Blinky, Joey, and Winky together, but Winky took the initiative and continued, “Overall, stock is 15% above plan, although we’re 3% down on yo-yos and 4% down on sleds.”

“That’s good, but what happened with the yo-yos and sleds?”

Blinky chimed in, “Sorry, Santa, I was in yo-yos today. Somehow distribution sent the yo-yo strings to sleds and the sled pulls to yo-yos. It took us a while to find the right parts.” She paused for a moment, “But now that everything’s sorted, we’ll make up the lost time tomorrow.”

“I’m sure you will,” said Santa. “Joey, how’s morale?”

“Excellent, sir! The sugar-plum and cookies lunch that Winky brought in lifted everyone up.”

Winky said, “It was nothing. I cooked it for fun. I’m just glad everyone enjoyed it.”

“Good, good. Anything else I need to know?” Santa asked.

The three elves looked at each other, then Zoey spoke up, “No, Santa. That covers everything I had prepared.”

“We’re a bunch of busy little bees,” said Winky. “Although, I hear even the busiest of bees is jealous of the busy little elves.”

Everyone laughed, except for Santa.

***

“What’s the matter, dear?” asked Mrs. Claus over dinner.

“Oh, it’s just this head elf thing. I’m really going to miss Zoey.”

“Of course you will, but I don’t think that’s it. She lives two doors down, it’s not like you’ll never see her again.”

“I know, I know, but it’s just going to be so different.”

“Change is part of life, dear.”

“It’s not just that,” said Santa. “I also have to pick a new head elf.”

“Ah,” said Mrs. Claus.

“I know who I should pick. Winky is completely qualified, probably more qualified than Zoey was when she took the job, but. . . but. . .”

“You don’t like Winky.”

“What? No, no, no. Of course I like Winky. What’s not to like?”

“Face it, Santa, he’s not your type.”

“Not my type? Not my type? I’m Santa Claus. Everyone’s my type.”

“What about the naughty kids?”

“You know I never actually give them coal. I love everybody.”

“But that doesn’t mean you like everybody,” Mrs. Claus reminded him. “I know you don’t want to admit it, but I’ve known for years that you don’t like Winky.”

“How could you know that? I don’t even know that.”

“Don’t worry. You’re always nice to him. There’s just a warmth you have with most people that isn’t there when you deal with Winky.”

Santa looked defeated. “But if I don’t like Winky, what am I supposed to do?”

“You’re going to make the right decision. If Winky is the best elf for the job, you’ll pick Winky. You’re not looking for a best friend. You’re looking for a head elf.”

“You’re right, you’re right. The idea of not liking someone just makes me so uncomfortable. How am I going to work with him?”

“You’ll be your usual self, dear. In a little while, you’ll get used to Winky. I wouldn’t be surprised if you actually grow fond of him over time.”

“I hope you’re right.”

“I always am, dear.”

***

Santa and Zoey walked onto the work room floor. Santa took a deep breath and said, “Ho, ho, ho,” in a booming voice that filled the great hall.

The elves returned a, “Ho, ho, ho,” of their own and all eyes turned to Santa.

“I have an announcement,” he began in the same booming voice. “Tomorrow is the first day of December. I’m sure you’ve all heard that Zoey will be retiring as head elf, so this will be her last Christmas in the position. I tried to talk her out of it, she is only eight hundred and twelve, after all. But once she’s made up her mind, she’s made up her mind.”

A ripple of soft laughter went around the room. “She will be missed,” Santa turned and gave Zoey a hug. She smiled and hugged him right back.

He continued, “But, on a happier note, this opens up a new opportunity for the right elf. I have thought long and hard about this. It wasn’t an easy decision. There were many good candidates, but one elf stood out. I’d like to announce that the new head elf will be Winky.”

A loud cheer went up around the hall. Blinky and Joey were the first ones over to shake Winky’s hand. After a few minutes, it quieted down and Santa said, “He will spend this December working side by side with Zoey, learning everything he can. Wish him well.”

As everyone started returning to work, Zoey said to Santa, “You made the right choice.”

Santa answered in his regular voice, “I know I did, I know I did.”

“He’ll make you forget about me.”

“Never.”

Winky approached the two of them. “Thank you, Santa,” he said.

Santa reached out to shake his hand, “You deserve it, Winky.”

“I know you said I’d start working with Zoey tomorrow, but I’d love to start now.”

Zoey laughed. “Fine by me,” she said.

Santa looked at Winky and smiled at Zoey. “Of course, of course.”

The two of them smiled and started walking toward the workstations, Winky already asking questions.

Santa felt better than he had in weeks. He knew he made the right decision.

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