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It has long been a human trait to take for granted that, although the wheels have fallen off our own wagons, everyone else is doing just fine. If you are a reindeer at Christmas, it’s all but a given that things are looking up. Surely, as one of Santa’s anointed eight, the laborious joys of the solstice would establish peace and harmony. Maybe not. Let’s eavesdrop on a little soul searching, compliments of Blitzen, a veteran point man in Santa’s annual entourage. Nobody knows the trouble he’s seen.

     Damn. Another cold night out here fooling with these reins. I wish the fat boy would spring for new tack this Christmas but he’ll probably settle for carrots and green apples like last year. Where in all of creation did he read that reindeer like that sort of thing. What we need out there in the dark is a cup of rum and eggnog. Where’s Donner? She was supposed to be back from the hardware store an hour ago.

     Legend tells it that we beasts of burden are happy pursuing a life of service to this obsessed elf in a red suit. That’s history for you. The winners write it down and the losers suffer from cold feet. I’m so tired of little kids with dreamy eyes waiting by the chimney while we’re up on the roof freezing, our hooves slipping. How many people still use fireplaces? Don’t they know wood smoke pollutes the ozone? Why can’t they hold Christmas in July like all those greedy furniture stores?

     Damn. If I hear that carol one more time I’m gonna puke. Can’t someone play something a little more progressive. Hell, I’ll even take Elvis or Brenda Lee over this syrupy saga that Santa pumps out over the loud speakers. Maybe he’d lighten up if we could get the internet at the North Pole. WiFi works in the snow.  I think they can’t make any money up here what with polar bears, codfish and crazy elves with those pointy red noses.

     And speaking or red noses the old lady, Mrs. Claus, has been flown down to Canada for another round of rehab. I can’t blame the woman for hitting the bottle. You try living with a benevolent elf that can’t afford a second suit of clothes but insists on giving away the farm every December 24. I don’t mean to be bitter but everyone has his limit.

     And then there’s the favorite son, Rudolph. Before some flatlander came up with the song, you know, Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer, there was parity, solidarity in this job. Now we have the privileged one and a host of extras. It’s not like we’re in it for the notoriety, or that most of us care. We just want to finish our jobs and get back down to Greenland for winter carnival. It’s tough enough to find a suitable mate in the Arctic but try it up here where we’re up to our butts in blizzards and sleigh bells.

     He hates to be called Rudy. Rudy…Rudy…more Rudy. Hey, you don’t sign my pay check, you pompous flit. Where did you get that red nose from anyway? At least Mrs. Claus drinks out in the open.

     After all these years I’m still fifth man on a string of idiots. When I first started this gig I figured I’d be into management by now. In fact I was promised a promotion following the Christmas of ’82, or was it ’92? The years all blend together when you’re working on the chain gang here in the Great North. Maybe this year Prancer and Cupid will brush their teeth before we go out on our journey. Maybe Dasher will bring a map and Vixen will wear those red tights again. I still think Dancer swiped my flask somewhere over Scotland in 2010..

     Sure, we could have joined the herd union but then we’d have to go to all those smoky meetings with burned-out antelopes, arrogant zebras and yoked oxen. I’d rather sit through one of the fat boy’s sermons. At least he provides health insurance. Oh, here comes Donner, back from the hardware store. I hope she got the right…what? A package in gold with red ribbon? Under the tree in the stable? My name on it? Who…are you pulling my leg. If you are I’ll…we all got presents?

     I’ll bet it’s a new collar, or some dry boots or maybe some decoration for my antlers. And a present from Comet? Another from Prancer? A card from Vixen? They shouldn’t have. I thought we agreed not to buy presents anymore. I thought I’d been forgotten.

     Even Donner got a pile of presents and she’s only been with us for a little over a century. Christmas morning will be quite the festive occasion this year but I’d better get busy. Maybe I’ll buy us all Christmas dinner or a spring trip to Antarctica for the penguin races. Maybe I’d better go to town. I know what all the reindeer want. I’ve heard them talking and it is far better to give than receive but combined the action is dynamite. Dasher wants a basketball and Cupid a cell phone. I’ll get Santa new underwear and Donner a nightcap. And, speaking of nightcaps I know what I’ll buy Mrs. Claus too. What the hell she deserves to make merry before her coming brush with temperance. Hospitals can be so dreary in January. It’s only a few days away. I love this time of the year.