On the day after Christmas, Santa was very tired. So he took a nap.
A very long nap.
When he woke on January twelfth, Santa was hungry. He said to Mrs. Claus, “Cecilia, I would like some breakfast.” (Cecilia is Mrs. Claus’s real name.)
Mrs. Claus made Santa breakfast. She made him two eggs, a cup of coffee and an English muffin.
Santa stared at his breakfast. “Cecilia,” he said. “Two eggs, a cup of coffee and an English muffin are very nice. But I usually have a half pound of steak, six eggs, hash browns, a quart of coffee, three pints of cranberry juice, six pieces of toast, five slices of bacon, seven pints of milk and an orange.”
Mrs. Claus looked at him very crossly. “Well, Nicholas,” she said. (Nicholas is Santa’s real name.) “This is the way it is. The reindeer ate a hundred and forty-seven thousand pounds of alfalfa in the first week of January alone. The elves asked for a raise this year and you gave it to them. It’s very expensive to heat a house–even a very small house like ours–at the North Pole. And in the meantime, no one pays Santa Claus to rush around the world on Christmas Eve giving toys to little girls and boys. So if you want to have a half pound of steak, six eggs, hash browns, a quart of coffee, three pints of cranberry juice, six pieces of toast, five slices of bacon, seven pints of milk and an orange for breakfast, you will have to get a job.”
This seemed a very odd idea to Santa, so he had to think about it for a while. But on January thirty-first, after eating two eggs, a cup of coffee and an English muffin for breakfast every morning, he decided to look for a job.
He didn’t want to go far from home, so he started with a friend he knew who took people for tours on dogsleds around the North Pole. His friend, whose name was Jerry, always seemed happy, and his dogs were friendly. Giving people tours of the North Pole sounded fun, and not so much different from driving a team of flying reindeer.
Jerry hired Santa right away. He gave Santa a big, warm, brown coat and a gray-and-brown hat and big black mittens. In his new clothes, Santa didn’t look at all like Santa anymore, which was exactly what he wanted.
Jerry hitched eight dogs to a big dogsled. Mr. and Mrs. Jinglefritz, tourists from the very north part of Maine, would be his first customers.
Santa stood on the back part of the dogsled. Mr. and Mrs. Jinglefritz sat on the front part. And the eight dogs stood in front of the sled, all harnessed together with shiny brown harnesses decorated with silvery bells that jingled when the dogs moved.
It all looked very pretty and familiar to Santa, who smiled to Mr. and Mrs. Jinglefritz and got ready to signal the dogs to run. He had to think a minute to remember what he was supposed to say. It was hard for him to think these days because his stomach growled so loudly all the time from eating only two eggs, a cup of coffee, and an English muffin for breakfast every day.
Finally he remembered. “On Blackie, on Brownie, on Rover and Spot. On Fido and Fritzie and Sparky and Dot.” And the dogs pulled at the sled…
…and pulled, and pulled and pulled… But as hard as they pulled, they simply couldn’t pull the big dogsled, plus Mr. and Mrs. Jinglefritz, plus Santa Claus, even though Santa was certain he’d lost at least three pounds from eating only two eggs, a cup of coffee and an English muffin for breakfast every morning.
Jerry saw what was happening and came out to help. He thought the dogsled might be stuck, so he pushed it from behind, but still Blackie and Brownie and Rover and Spot, Fido and Fritzie and Sparky and Dot just could not pull the sled.
Jerry scratched his head. “Goodness,” he said to Santa. “I’m very sorry, Mr. Nick, but I don’t think this is going to work out at all.”
Santa was very sad. He had been looking forward to taking Mr. and Mrs. Jinglefritz on a dogsled tour of the North Pole. With a sigh, he stepped off the sleigh.
And Blackie and Brownie and Rover and Spot, Fido and Fritzie and Sparky and Dot, who had been trying very hard to pull the sled all this time, took off so fast that they ran straight into a giant snowbank. Mr. and Mrs. Jinglefritz flew out of the sleigh and ended up upside down in the snow.
“Well,” said Santa, “this obviously just isn’t the job for me.” And he left Jerry’s Dog Sled Tours very quickly, because right before he had gotten into the sleigh, Mr. Jinglefritz had told Santa he was a lawyer.
When he went home, he told Mrs. Claus what had happened. She shook her head sadly and gave Santa a tuna salad sandwich and some lettuce for dinner.
Santa went to bed very hungry.
The next morning, after eating his two eggs, a cup of coffee, and an English muffin for breakfast, Santa sat down in his favorite chair in front of the fireplace and thought for a very long time. Mrs. Claus, who was sweeping the room, had to ask him seven times to move his feet so she could sweep under his chair, because he was thinking so hard.
At four twenty-seven that afternoon, Santa sat up straight and said, “I’ve got it!”
“What have you got, Nicholas?” said Mrs. Claus.
“I’ll write a book about my adventures as Santa Claus,” said Santa Claus. “I’ll sell it to a big publisher in New York and we’ll be rich.”
Mrs. Claus rolled her eyes and went into the kitchen to make macaroni and cheese for Santa’s dinner.
So Santa spent all that night, and all the next day, and the next four days after that, writing a book about his adventures as Santa Claus. He typed it on his old-fashioned typewriter, put it in a big envelope, and gave it to Jerry, who took it in his dogsled down to Fairbanks, Alaska, to mail it to New York.
Now Santa was sure he would soon have enough money to buy a half pound of steak, six eggs, hash browns, a quart of coffee, three pints of cranberry juice, six pieces of toast, five slices of bacon, seven pints of milk and an orange for breakfast every morning, so he spent the next several days sitting in front of the fire smoking his long pipe while Mrs. Claus made eggs and English muffins and tuna salad in the kitchen.
“Nicholas,” she said one day, “all we have left now is peanut butter and jelly. I’ll have to go to Fairbanks to buy food soon, and all I have is the little bit of money that the elves collected for you as a Christmas present.”
“Don’t worry,” said Santa. “Everything will work out fine.”
But the next day, Jerry drove up to Santa’s door in his dogsled and gave Santa a letter. It was from the publisher in New York. It said, “I’m sorry, but we can’t publish your story. It’s not realistic enough for us.”
Santa found this hard to believe, because all the adventures he’d written about were true. But he supposed the publishers knew best, so that day he walked from his small house at the North Pole to the small town in the north part of Siberia where the elves lived when they weren’t making Christmas toys.
Sven, the biggest elf (he was almost four feet tall) answered the door. “Santa!” he said in surprise. “You look distressingly thin! One would almost think you’d been eating nothing but two eggs, a cup of coffee and an English muffin for breakfast.”
Santa nodded sadly. He sat in the elves’ friendly, warm kitchen and told them the whole, sad story. Sven, Vlad, Atilla and thirteen other elves listened with tears in their eyes.
“This will never do!” they exclaimed when he was done, and all but Sven, Vlad and Atilla disappeared into the kitchen, coming back five minutes later with a giant plate full of ham, cheese, crackers, sausage, biscuits and cake. Santa ate and ate and ate, and after a while his stomach stopped growling and began to feel once again like a bowl full of jelly.
“I’ve got just the thing for you,” said Sven. “You come with us down to Moscow tomorrow and we’ll get you a job so you can afford a decent meal again.”
Santa was grateful. That night he called Mrs. Claus to tell her he wouldn’t be home for a few days, so she could have all the peanut butter and jelly to herself for a while.
The next morning, Sven and Atilla took Santa to Moscow in a snowmobile. There, in a beautiful building not far from St. Basil’s Cathedral, was the largest, most colorful toy store Santa had ever seen. It was owned by a man and a woman with red cheeks and black hair, who smiled and nodded when Sven and Atilla introduced them to Santa Claus.
“This is where we work in the off-season,” Sven told Santa. “We know you gave us a raise, but it’s still not enough to keep us going all year. It’s really the reindeer that cause your trouble. Magical reindeer eat four times as much as regular reindeer, you know. You should think about investing in a plane.”
A plane didn’t sound nearly as fun to Santa as his eight flying reindeer, but he did like the bright and colorful toy store. The owners, Mr. and Mrs. Toynik, had been working there for fifty years, and they desperately needed a vacation.
“How long will you be gone?” Santa asked.
“Ten years,” said Mr. Toynik.
“Twenty,” said Mrs. Toynik. And they waved goodbye to Sven and Atilla, and to their toy store, and ran off to book a flight to Hawaii.
And to this day, Santa Claus works from January to October in the big, bright toy store in Moscow, selling toys with Sven and Atilla. His magic reindeer make the commute fairly easy, though they need lots of alfalfa. And every morning, Mrs. Claus makes Santa a half pound of steak, six eggs, hash browns, a quart of coffee, three pints of cranberry juice, six pieces of toast, five slices of bacon, seven pints of milk and an orange for breakfast.