A young man goes to his uncle’s office. They are both partners in the family business. The young man wears his hair and beard long. He has piercing blue eyes. Above them is an irregular line of marks, puckered like scar tissue, lighter than the generally swarthy appearance of his skin. The older man also has long hair and beard but, where the younger man’s are dark, his are pure white. His cheeks, visible above the white hair of the beard, are rosy and his eyes are crinkled in the appearance of a permanent smile. He is working at a computer screen, going through long lists of requisitions, placing orders.
“The Old Man wants to see us.”
“Did he say why?”
“No, but I don’t think it’s to talk about the Christmas bonus. He was going through the record books and I got the distinct impression he was not too impressed.”
The uncle sighs, “He knows how much I hate being interrupted when I am in the middle of the Christmas rush. It doesn’t get any easier you know. The number of children and the volume of stuff they demand makes it harder every year. If it wasn’t for Amazon I don’t know how we’d manage.”
The man the young one had referred to as “The Old Man” is strikingly similar in appearance to the uncle. He is pacing up and down behind a large desk.
“Nicholas; thank you for coming. I know how busy you are at this time of year.” Before the uncle can respond the Old Man holds up his hand. “Just hear me out. I’ve made a decision. It’s going to make your life a lot easier from now on.” He stops his pacing and grasps the back of the ornate chair behind the desk. “We may as well sit down,” he says as he pulls it out.
Seeing the young man hesitate he says: “You too my boy. Whether you like it or not, you are in this as well. Your message doesn’t seem to be getting through any more and we need to work out what we are going to do about that. But first there’s this Christmas business. It was supposed to be a celebration of your birth. But thanks to your bumbling, Nicholas, it has gone horribly wrong. What happened? How did a tradition that was meant to be about ensuring the poor got their share of the harvest end up as a colossal orgy of self indulgence? If I didn’t know better, Nicholas, I would accuse you of working for the other lot.”
Nicholas splutters and the Old Man raises his hand again. “I’m not saying you are in the pay of the rival firm, although I do have serious doubts about that crowd Amazon you’ve given the sub-contract to. But whatever is going on, be it naivete on your part or something else, you are obviously not on top of the job anymore and you have to admit he is winning.”
“I know, I know.” Nicholas is evidently chastened by the Old Man’s criticism. “I was just saying to the boy here how the demands of this latest crop of children have become harder and harder to satisfy.”
“Exactly. And it has to stop.”
There is a stunned silence in the room. Eventually Nicholas speaks in a quiet voice that is full of sadness. “You know, I can remember,” he pauses, turning to the young man as he adds: “and this is something you will appreciate from your days as a carpenter. I remember how fathers would make things for their children. Doll’s houses, rocking horses, simple models of grown up things like wheel-barrows, locomotives or motor cars. The cleverer ones would fashion toy animals. Mothers knitted and sewed making dolls for the girls and fair-isle pullovers for their husbands and sons. And they made cakes, pies and puddings involving the whole family in the mixing. The whole season was a great occasion. In those days I got so much pleasure from our work. Collecting all those lovingly crafted objects brought joy and wonder to my heart and, I am certain, to the children for whom they were intended.”
The Old Man looks at his son who has been fidgeting uncomfortably as Nicholas was speaking, finally pressing his hands between his knees to keep them still, ringlets of the long hair hanging in front of his face. “See what I mean? Your message. Just not getting through, is it?”
The young man raises his head, flicks his hair back, brushes a tear from his cheek. “Evidently not. But what can we do?”
The Old Man grasps the edge of the desk with both hands and leans forward. “There is only one solution as I see it. Nicholas, you are looking very tired these days, jaded. I think you should take some time off. I am cancelling Christmas.”
Nicholas and his nephew emit horrified gasps and the Old Man lets go of the desk and leans back in his chair. “Think about it,” he continues. “It will give you a break, a few years sabbatical if you like, a chance to take a well earned rest. The boy and I will spend the next while sorting things out, getting the business back on track. Then, in a century or so, we can think about bringing you back on board, helping people celebrate Christmas as it was meant to be.” He leans forward extending his right arm its forefinger pointing directly at the young man’s uncle. “Meanwhile Nicholas,” he says, “You’re fired!”