ROCKETS AND REINDEER
By Lou Antonelli
Christmas Eve, 1999
The North Pole
"I don't see any way around it, Santa. We're in big
Santa Claus drummed his fingers as he squinted at the
printout. "I have to agree with you, Clancy. The portal
is just too small." Santa rose from his desk and peered
out the window. "Last year, we barely squeezed through,"
he said absently.
Clancy the Elf picked up the paper from Santa's desk.
"This year, it's no bigger than a Yugo. Much too small
for a large sleigh and eight reindeer--even if they are
Santa turned around with his hands behind his back.
"Tell me, if the collective disbelief of the children is
slowly closing the portal--how come we haven't been
fading away ourselves?"
"The Law of Conservation of Archetypes," said Clancy.
"Archetypes may become obsolete, but they cannot be
Santa scratched behind his head. "Nothing will make
us obsolete faster than missing Christmas."
"You know as well as I do, it's an impossibility in
this dimension to deliver the gifts in one night," said
Clancy. "We need to take a shortcut through the timeless
dimension, and we can't squeeze through the portal any
"Wow, the kids are going to be disappointed." Santa
looked very serious. "We wonít be able to deliver toys
in the new millennium."
He sat down at a table where examples of some of the
toys were scattered about. He picked up a foot-long
plastic rocket. A thought came to him, and he knitted
his eyebrows as he turned the rocket over in his hand.
"Clancy, these rockets do travel pretty fast, don't
"Fastest mode of travel humans have. They go as fast
as a bullet."
The Elf came over to where the old man sat. "But we
couldn't use one of these to pull the sleigh!"
"I wasn't thinking about using one for deliveries."
The old man stroked his beard. "I was thinking... if
we hitched the sleigh to one of these, and got up a real
head of steam... could we punch through the portal?"
The Elf knitted his brow. "Well, there's a thought.
Let me crunch some numbers."
The Elf went over to his Dell computer and began
pecking at the keyboard. Santa stood with his hands
behind his back, looking at the stars through the
He turned as he heard the printer whirring. "It might
work," said Clancy as he grabbed the sheet of paper. "It
just might work. If we hit ballistic speed, we just may
crack the portal like a walnut."
He walked over and handed the sheet of paper to
Santa. "But where can we find a rocket on Christmas
Santa raised an eyebrow. "It pays to have satellite
TV. I saw a story on CNN just a few days ago."
He grabbed his red coat. "Go hitch up Rudolph and the
usual suspects. We need to go right away."
"Where are we going?"
Santa pulled his fur cap on tight.
ICBM Missile Base
"I wish I had enough seniority to avoid this shift."
Dimitri cupped his hands as he lit a cigarette.
"Myself also, comrade," said Nikolai. "But someone
has to stand watch, even on Christmas Eve."
Dimitri cocked his ear.
"Are you wearing jewelry?"
Nikolai cocked his head. "No, what makes you say
"I thought I heard a jingling. Like from a bracelet.
But that makes no..."
He stopped as Nikolai held up a hand. "Quiet! There,
I hear it too!"
They both looked up.
"It's coming from the sky," said Nikolai.
They both drew their rifles.
Dimitri looked across the dark and starry sky.
"I don't see anything."
The sleigh dropped rapidly after clearing the
perimeter fence, and the soldiers turned around as the
sound quickly grew louder.
"Ho Ho Ho!"
Nikolai dropped his rifle, which struck his foot--but
he didn't flinch. The cigarette fell out of Dimitri's
There was a cloud of snow as the sleigh skidded to a
halt. Santa dropped the reins and stood up, waving a
gloved hand in a most cordial fashion.
Nikolai looked over at Dimitri, whose jaw remained
dropped. "My mother told me this would happen if I kept
drinking cheap vodka!"
Santa came over, and shook their hands.
"You both look rather surprised to see me. Has it
been so long?"
Nikolai found his voice first. "Father Christmas!"
He clasped Santa's handshake to see if he was real.
"To what do we owe this honor?"
"Do you remember, Nikolai, when you were six, and you
got that shiny red sled? How grateful you were?"
Nikolai's eyes grew wide. "Yes, I remember!"
"Well, I could use a favor now."
Dimitri spoke up. "What could we possibly do for a
supernatural being such as yourself?"
"Truth be told," the old man said with a wink, "this
year, it is I who needs a little help."
He cocked a thumb in the direction of the missile
"I need to borrow one of your rockets. I saw on
television you tested one just a few days ago, and
planned more tests. I was right, you have one just
sitting here ready to launch."
Nikolai's eyebrows shot up. "You want we should help
you steal a Russian Republic ICBM?"
"I need a boost to start my trip delivering toys
tonight, and I think I can get it with the rocket."
Nikolai shrugged at Dimitri, who rocked his head.
"Why not?" said Dimitri. "It makes as much sense as
anything else here," casting a sidelong glance at the
line-up of flying reindeer.
"But Comrade Claus--I mean, Commissar Christmas,"
said Nikolai. "We will be shot if the missile disappears
on our watch!"
"You can come with me and stay in the mythopoetic
dimension, if you like," said Santa. "I can always use
good help. Besides, you get to be immortal."
Dimitri looked at Nikolai as he tossed his rifle over
his shoulder. "I say KGB, friend. Kiss Good-bye
Barracks. Let's go."
Nikolai took off across the launch pad. "I know code
for control bunker."
Santa rubbed his hands. "Excellent! Dimitri, why
don't you help Clancy hitch the reindeer behind the
While the Russian and the Elf were switching the
reindeer around, Nikolai entered the bunker and then
went into the gantry. Santa gave him the traces, which
he draped around the nose cone of the ICBM.
After everything was in place, the guards sat in the
sleigh next to Santa. Clancy sat on Dimitri's lap, and
Nikolai held the remote control.
"You sure we're not going to be blown to kingdom
come?" asked Nikolai.
"Rest assured," said Santa. "I have plenty of magic."
"Hoo-boy, here we go," said Nikolai as he pressed the
The rocket emerged from the silo in a rush of gas and
steam, and in a second, the traces drew taut.
"Hold on, everybody!" said Santa.
The ICBM shot into the night sky, with Clancy pressed
up against Dimitri's heavy Army coat, Nikolai praying,
and Santa holding the reins with both hands. The
reindeer at the rear enjoyed the ride.
"Wowser, these things do go fast!" hollered Santa.
"There's the portal," shouted Clancy at the top of
"I see it!" said Santa.
As they streaked upwards, what at first looked like a
bright star turned into a small shiny disk. It enlarged
Nikolai stopped praying and looked ahead. He could
see the nose cone was beginning to glow red.
Dimitri saw it, too. He nudged Santa and pointed.
"Not to worry," shouted Santa. "We're almost there."
Right then, they hit the small, round dimensional
portal. There was a flash of blinding light--and then
Clancy clenched both fists. "Yes, it worked!"
Santa looked behind them. The hole was expanding into
a halo-like circle of light.
"Great job, Clancy! Not only did we punch through,
the portal is growing back to its old size."
Nikolai looked around, rather dazed. "Would you,
please, like to tell us what just happened?"
"I need to travel through to this dimension where
there is no time, in order to deliver gifts to children
all across the world in one night," said Santa. "The
force of childhood unbelief, however, had caused the
portal to this dimension to shrink, and I needed a
little boost from your rocket to punch through."
Santa waved his hand and the rocket engines cut off.
"I have plenty of magic, but in your world I also have
to fight the laws of physics. Here, magic is unabated."
He looked over the side of the sleigh. "Let's drop
down there and hitch the reindeer up in front again. We
can tow the rocket now, until we go back to the pole."
They alighted in a clearing among some very tall pine
trees. "This looks pretty remote," said Santa. "Let's
make the switch and take off--we have a lot of work to
"Thereís no snow," said Dimitri as he helped Clancy
and Nikolai with the reins.
As they hopped back in the sled, they heard a dog
baying. "Away we go!" said Santa as the reindeer took
As they flew into the night, a large black and tan
hound ran into the clearing. A middle-aged man with a
crooked walking stick loped after him.
"Damn it, Solace! What's gotten into you?"
The man followed the dog's upward gaze to see the
reindeer and sleigh disappear into the night sky.
He shook his head, took off his glasses, and rubbed
his eyes. "Aw, cripes, this is too weird," he muttered.
"Even for East Texas."
Dimitri and Nikolai helped Clancy load up Santa each
time he dropped down a chimney. Clancy enjoyed the help,
and the two Russians enjoyed their new role as mythical
When they got back to the North Pole, they plopped
the rocket onto the snow.
"This doesn't really look like the North Pole,"
commented Nikolai as they all walked towards Santa's
"Of course not," said Santa. "This is the mythical
North Pole. In my existence, the real and the mythical
exist side by side."
He stood and turned around on the doorstep. "Thanks
to you, I was able to get a little technological help
when I needed it! I'm very grateful."
Nikolai put his thumb under the lapel of his heavy
coat. "We are proud as Russians to have been of
Nikolai turned and followed Santa's gaze. Dimitri was
trotting over to the rocket, which stuck out of the snow
at a tilt.
"Dimitri, what are you doing?" asked Nikolai.
Dimitri stood by the mid-section of the rocket and
held up a piece of charcoal he had picked out of a
scupper by the door. He carefully spelled out in
Cyrillic letters, "R-U-D-O-L-P-H II".
Santa and Nikolai both looked at him, puzzled.
Dimitri walked over with a smile. "I thought we
should name this historic rocket. I saw as we shot up
from the base how its nose cone grew red, so I thought
to call it the Second Rudolph."
Both Santa and Nikolai smiled and nodded, making
Dimitri believe they thought him clever.
What they were really smiling at was the sight of a
formidable stag behind him, charging at full speed - his
red nose drawing a laser-like line across the snow--with
his head down and antlers lowered to catch the former
Russian missile base guard right in....