“That’s it! I’ve had enough!” The old man threw off his hat, ripped off his wide leather belt – the damn thing had been digging into the soft skin on his belly all day – and collapsed into his red easy chair. Contrary to belief, this was his favourite place to be. Not his workshop. Not the reindeer barn. Here, at home.
He let his tired head flop back against the cool leather, and closed his eyes. It was quiet. A silent night here, alone in his apartment. No requests. No questions. No whining. No little assholes lying to him through their teeth about being good all year, when he’d seen with his own two eyes – watched live on his security cameras for goodness sakes! – as they wore their masks under their chin, much to the chagrin of their teachers; as they started another game of minecraft instead of brushing their teeth before bed, much to the chagrin of their parents; as they pushed and shoved their entitled little selves to the front of the line, much to the chagrin of their coaches. But here, all was quiet. Here, he could relax. It was bliss.
“Sir?” A small, rather worried voice interrupted his reprieve, squeaking the question as if forcing air through a tin flute. Looking over, a tiny face peered at him around the overstuffed arm of the red easy chair.
The old man nodded wearily at the tiny creature. “Hi Phil.”
The small, rather worried looking face disappeared for a moment, then peeped back around the arm of the chair. This time a tiny arm extended, offering the old man a hot toddy on a tray.
“Ahh! Yes, a drink is in order. Thank you Phil.”
“Err, why do you say that sir?”
“Because, Phil, when I said I’ve had enough, I meant it. I’m done!”
“Yes, Paul. Done.”
The old man picked up the drink, raising the glass upwards. “To forty-six years of being Santa!”
“Santa,” Phil squeaked again, panic rising in his voice. “Are you saying what I think you’re saying?”
“I’m retiring Phil,” Santa said. “Stepping-down. Vacating the throne, as it were.” The weight of the decision rose off his chest as he spoke, dissipating into the air. “May the next, younger, Santa have better luck with these techy-kids. With these brats. With these little germ factories.” His shoulders already felt remarkably lighter.
“But where will you go?”
“Yes, here, at home. Now good night Phil.” Santa let his tired head flop back against the cool leather, and closed his eyes.
A silent night. Bliss.