Thursday, January 7, 2010


This blog contains a fictional tale written in real time and is best read in chronological order. For best results, read from the bottom up.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Is There a Santa Claus?

"We take pleasure in answering at once and thus prominently the communication below, expressing at the same time our great gratification that its faithful author is numbered among the friends of THE SUN:

'Dear Editor: I am 8 years old'
'Some of my little friends say there is no Santa Claus'
'Papa says, "If you see it in THE SUN it's so"'
'Please tell me the truth: is there a Santa Claus?'
'-Virginia O'Hanlon'
'115 West Ninety-Fifth Street'

Virginia, your little friends are wrong. They have been affected by the skepticism of a skeptical age. They do not believe except they see. They think that nothing can be which is not comprehensible by their little minds. All minds, Virginia, whether they be men's or children's, are little. In this great universe of ours man is a mere insect, an ant, in his intellect, as compared with the boundless world about him, as measured by the intelligence capable of grasping the whole of truth and knowledge.
Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus. He exists as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist, and you know that they abound and give to your life its highest beauty and joy. Alas! how dreary would the world be if there were no Santa Claus. It would be as dreary as if there were no Virginias. There would be no childlike faith then, no poetry, no romance to make tolerable this existence. We should have no enjoyment, except in sense and sight. The eternal light with which childhood fills this world would be extinguished.
Not believe in Santa Claus! You might as well not believe in fairies! You might get your papa to hire men to watch in all the chimneys on Christmas Eve to catch Santa Claus, but even if they did not see Santa Claus coming down, what would that prove? Nobody sees Santa Claus, but that is no sign that there is no Santa Claus. The most real things in the world are those that neither children nor men can see. Did you ever see fairies dancing on the lawn? Of course not, but that's no proof that they are not there. Nobody can conceive or imagine all the wonders there are unseen and unseeable in the world.
You may tear apart the baby's rattle and see what makes the noise inside, but there is a veil covering the unseen world which not the strongest man, nor even the united strength of all the strongest men that ever lived, could tear apart. Only faith, fancy, poetry, love, romance, can push aside that curtain and view and picture the supernal beauty and glory beyond. Is it all real? Ah, Virginia, in all this world there is nothing else real and abiding.
No Santa Claus! Thank God! he lives, and he lives forever. A thousand years from now, Virginia, nay, ten times ten thousand years from now, he will continue to make glad the heart of childhood."

Handwriting, or Dinner at the Claus House pt 3

I looked at Santa, and then at Mrs. Claus. For a flash of a second I thought it might be wrong to ask, but I ignored the flash and said, "Mrs. Claus, this has been an extremely informative evening for me, but I feel compelled to ask: is this why you invited me to dinner? Is it that we needed to have this conversation?"

She laughed. "No. It's that I have something to show you in your employee file."

Santa laughed heartily. "Wait until you see this. You and Mrs. Claus must have been born on the same planet. Your poetry collages are remarkably similar. I'll go get Mrs. Claus' file."

I was shocked. I turned to Mrs Claus. "You have an employee file?"
Chuckling, she returned, "Of course I have an employee file. Who do you think used to do your job?"

Santa reappeared as Mrs. Claus was reminding me of the little poetry project I was asked to do during one of my interviews. She was explaining that Santa basically knows what each person will gravitate toward in their job, and how far they'll get, but he asks prospective Library employees to do this poetry project in order to test his accuracy. He gives you a few words, and asks you to write a few lines of drippy poetry ("The drippier the better!", he says, as he tells you that whatever comes out will work just fine for this exercise) and to then cut it up and rearrange the lines (you don't have to use all of them).

Santa handed me a file. "It's on the top," he added. On the file it said: Marion Rachel Sylvia Claus, b. 15 March 1852.
My jaw dropped. I could barely hear Santa saying, "Her words were: sex, danger, and passion. This was long before we even had a department for inappropriate letters!"
I opened the file and saw a loose page entitled "Dangerlightenment". As I did so, Santa handed me my own file.
"And as you'll remember, your words were: old, new, and knowledge. I knew you would attack that old news like crazy!"

But I wasn't listening. I was gripping Paolo's elbow, laughing hysterically at Mrs. Claus' poem.

Dinner at the Claus House pt 2

I cringed slightly. My obvious naiveté was very much beginning to crowd all other thoughts in my mind, but I still knew that doing Mrs. Claus any harm was not among my intentions. I had been listening, and as I'd been listening I'd been absorbing more and more of the validity in her assessment of my state of mind. I decided consciously that I should find my own control in the situation, and in my mind that meant trying to extract myself from this enamored state I had somehow fallen into. I silently (and quietly at that) told myself that I was going out, all the way out, all the way back, out of love with Mrs. Claus. By the time she finally said something frightening enough to make me cringe, I had started to regard her differently. It wasn't much -- she just looked older -- but she still seemed like the same person. I had a momentary thought that I was glad for the preview; who knows what she would look like if she suddenly decided to throw the illusion aside and come toward me with something else.
I sighed. She smiled at me mischievously and said, "Well, my dear, there is a good reason you saw truth in that. It's the same reason you wanted to come to me." She glanced at her hand, still writing with the tines of the fork.

I knew immediately what I'd been missing before. It was the handwriting!! 'That was her handwriting', some phantom voice uttered, only to me.
Gasping, I said, "You! You wer...", and then I tried to compose myself. I still felt so comfortable around her that I almost blurted out things I would only say to a close friend in a familiar and casual setting, but I'm glad to have recovered my formality.
"Mrs. Claus, were you the author of that email?"
Smirking, she said, "Well, I had to get you there somehow."
"And also...the scribe of that rumor about Jippy the dog?"
She just looked at me. The answer was yes.

At this point Paolo was laughing. I looked at him, amused, but as a friend looks to a friend in situations like this, I also hoped for an explanation.
"I'm sorry for laughing," he said, "but that email was very funny." Seeing my look, he added, "I would have told you to talk to Santa!!"
Everyone was looking at me. My eyes had opened to a ridiculous width, and I felt very silly. I looked at Santa.
He smiled. "Here we go again, right?"
I lowered my eyes, and when I lifted them up again I was nearly laughing wondering how in the world this could help.

"What was your childhood ambition? Your silliest one!"
I thought for a moment. I was aware that whenever these questions had come from Santa, I had been able to answer them with ease, and this instance was no exception. I wondered if perhaps the influence of Mrs. Claus was at play. Then I replied, "When I was young I used to envision stepping on the Earth and never taking the same step twice. Never putting my foot, or my shoe, in any exact print I'd made before."
Santa nodded. "What did that ambition grow out of?"
Somehow I understood him perfectly, as there had been a prior idea, a failing one, that I had cast aside in favor the plan I'd just described. Laughing, I said, "An even sillier one!! It was so silly. It was that I would try to cover every bit of ground with my footprints. But then I realized that such a thing would be exhausting and would feel repetitive even if it wasn't. I also realized that I wouldn't get very far."

Santa observed me for a moment, and then said, "You know, the reason we gave you the job in Inappropriate Letters was that you checked almost every available box under "Religious Influences" on the application, and even wrote in a few -- I myself thought that indicated an open-minded soul -- and your essay about your favorite childhood game was fascinating. You wrote that your fantasy world existed inside a tiny closet, and that in it you were very poor and had very little -- only the things you needed for survival, and that in that game you gave great reverence to each of those things. It was both funny and a little sad that you also wrote that you would try to get your friends to play this game with you and that almost no one was really interested, but overall that story told me something. It is very clear that you have always been after the truth. That's why you got the job."

Dinner at the Claus House pt 1

Never would I have imagined having so many things cross my path, metaphorically speaking, in a single evening, as I encountered when I visited the House of Claus for dinner the other night. It was just a very lovely and comfortable dinner (also a delicious one), and it was made by Paolo and a small staff of other chefs. Paolo ate dinner with us, while the other chefs served. The food was exquisite, of course, but it was definitely the conversation that made this such an evening to remember. At least it's an evening that I will remember. It had an impact on me that would be hard to forget.

I should preface this with the note that I went to dinner after having finished my work on the email that drew me to the old Blackmail Files and that had brought the legend of Jippy so dominantly into my mind. In the days between reading the account of Santa's possible or fake children in Brazil and going to dinner at the Claus' house, I had become a bit focused on the puzzle, and I think I lost sight of the task at hand, which was to answer the email. So I returned to that email and responded. I found that letter very silly (and maybe little threatening, toward the end), but I did respond with something along the lines of "leaf blowers worldwide have been permanently priced at $59.99, which may or may not help your cause depending on what you do with that information, but it's still not what I got you for Christmas, love, Santa."

At dinner, before dinner, when I walked in to dinner...I knew that it was now very unlikely that I would ever ask Mrs. Claus about her past with regard to that rumorous information. Above the fact that it was none of my business, it was also not in my job description. Once I'd realized that, it was very easy to let go of my need to know, and to figure out the answer by my own sleuthing. And anyway I was sure that my experience at dinner would yield at least some clarity, somewhere. I didn't know how much would actually come.


Mrs. Claus told me during dinner that she had chosen me in this season's gift exchange.
"Thank you!", I said. "Thank you for the shoes, and the necklace, and the loan of the dress. And...thanks for the magazine, and the pajamas, and...the cake, on Christmas...and I think there were a few other things!" I smiled.
"You're most welcome! But, those things were not the actual gift."
I paused. I looked to her to continue.
"Your gift this season has been the gift of protection. I offered you my love, and it seems to have carried you through nicely. I dare say, you might have had some insurmountable challenges without it."

I was floored. But remembering how she had treated me at her New Year's party, I could clearly see that Mrs Claus had, in fact, offered me great love and protection. I was just unaware that it had been there or that it had aided me in any other situation. I also was a bit shocked by her direct manner -- it was as though what she had to say was something stronger than her constantly present emanation of personal honesty, and also something that I wouldn't have been able to hear without her saying it.
"Do you know why you can't tell how old I am?" she asked me.
I didn't know.
"It's because you are in love with me. But please don't be alarmed; it happens very easily when you are a protegé under the arm of anyone who loves you and is not jealous of you, or afraid."
I really didn't know how to feel or what to say at that point, but she continued, almost casually.
"But then there's [she gestured toward her husband]...people usually fall in love with Santa on the strength of their expectations. It's not a healthy love, and it tends to fall through...or even when the expectation WAS met, it tends to wear off as the novelty of the gift fades. It's a good thing Santa's only under that kind of pressure once a year...can you imagine how exhausted he'd be if people just continued to expect the world from him, day after day?"
I shook my head.

"Ahh! Assumptions!" She shook her head as well, and then asked me, "Did you notice that from the moment you read that rumor you started to obsess over it, needing to know if it was true?"
I replied, "Well, yes. But to be completely honest and accurate, I cared mostly because I was sure SOMETHING was true in it. But I didn't know what, and I still don't."
She quickly interjected, "I think that's when you started to notice me, actually!" But then she looked over at me, expecting me to continue.
"After sitting with you at the New Year's party [she smiled as I said that], I...I had to think: why was I coming to you with this question? It was that I thought the answer could be found most swiftly through you...but then I realized I was being obsessive! I was focusing on something that, although it is perhaps related, was not the actual letter I needed to answer."
Mrs. Claus was absentmindedly doodling again, this time with the tines of an unused dessert fork (she had chosen the spoon). I hoped she was still listening, and that I hadn't bored her. She said, "You know, the thing about assumptions is that the moment they are made they start their own sphere of influence. They become very real. They can make or break someone's reputation, for instance."
She went on.
"Like you, for example. If you'd made an assumption about me, particularly a judgmental one, and you'd then published that assumption on your are writing a blog, after would have become the first voice announcing my new image. But whether that image is based in truth or not is something else entirely."