Christmas Prose Competition 2009
Advice for an Elf by MinorVogonPoet
There was an elf sitting in the waiting room of our Advice Bureau. I knew he was an elf by his green tunic and pointed hat, which brightened up our drab waiting room. He sat with his eyes downcast and his feet hardly touching the ground. He looked strangely out of place alongside our racks of leaflets on every subject from pensions to complaints about faulty goods.
"Do come in and sit down," I said, showing him into one of our tiny interview rooms. As he marched in, I noticed the snow on his boots."How can I help?"
"I've been sacked."
"Oh, that must be difficult for you."
"Yeah. In the run-up to Christmas, too," he scowled.
"What was your job, Mr Green?"
"I arranged presents for Father Christmas."
"Father Christmas? Is there a company called that?"
At this, the elf jumped out of his chair and danced a little jig on the spot."No, no, no! You know Father Christmas. There's only one Father Christmas."
My eyes widened as I struggled with disbelief."How long have you been working for ...em...Mr Christmas?"
"For ages. Years and years."
I looked at him, pen poised over my notebook."Have you got a contract of employment?"
"A contract of employment? Father Christmas doesn't give contracts of employment."
I hesitated for a moment, then decided to move on."Why were you sacked? Can you explain what happened?"
"It was all the fault of the management consultant."
"What management consultant was that?"
The elf snorted."Young man.Wet round the ears. Wore a smart suit and a tie and talked well."
I nodded."I know the sort. What did he do?"
"He said Father Christmas had to modernise. I ask you! He wanted us elves sacked and replaced by a set of robots."
"I see." I had an immediate vision of a production line, with a computer scanning the bar codes on presents and passing them down a conveyor belt. There, robotic arms picked the presents up and wrapped them in brightly coloured paper."So did Mr Christmas make you all redundant?"
"He said we weren't wanted any longer," the elf wailed.
"Well," I said, feeling out of my depth."You might have a claim for unfair dismissal. But I don't think Mr Christmas would be within the UK's jurisdiction."
"But I'm his UK representative. Was."
"I didn't know Mr Christmas had a UK representative."
"How else do you think he knows what presents the children should get? It's my job to find out."
"So, do you want your job back?
"Of course!" he wailed."I've been working for him since I was a tiny elf."
At this point, I gave up trying to make sense of this story and switched into the Information System on my computer. Solemnly, I read the section on unfair dismissal, scrolling down the paragraphs of cool, legal text.
"What I suggest you do", I said at last, "is write to Mr Christmas, at his official address. I take it you know what that is?"
"Of course. It's the North Pole", he said with an air of impatience.
"Oh, right. I suppose I didn't need to ask. Anyway, your letter needs to say how long you have worked for him and explain that you think you have a claim for unfair dismissal. Ask for your job back and tell him that if you don't hear from him, you'll consider taking the matter to an Employment Tribunal. Give him fourteen days to reply. Send the letter recorded delivery and keep a copy. Can you do that?"
He shrugged."Will it be all right to send it by reindeer?"
"I suppose so. If the reindeer are reliable."
I watched the elf walk across the waiting room, clutching a couple of pages of text which I had printed off my computer. This must be the oddest case I had ever come across, I thought.
Suddenly I heard a sound, a musical flurry of little bells, growing louder. The door swung open, bringing with it a blast of snow and cold air. In walked a huge figure, clad all in red, his face almost hidden by a snowfall of white beard. The elf stopped still where he stood.
"So there you are, John Green!" boomed Father Christmas."Why aren't you back at the North Pole, preparing for Christmas?"
"You gave us all the sack, Sir," quavered the elf.
The laugh that rang out shook the building."The sack? Never! I was just playing a trick on that whipper-snapper. I told him I would act on his recommendations. Got the elves to hide. Then, as soon as he was out of the building, they came out and rolled him in the snow. You've never seen such a big snowball in your life! There were just a few of you who went off before I could explain."
"I'm sorry, Sir. I should have realised."
"Never mind," said Father Christmas, laying his big hand on the elf's shoulder,"come back home now." Then he turned to look at me and his eyes sparkled like sunlight on water."But first, I've got something for these good people."
A moment later, a Christmas tree stood in the corner of the room, surrounded by presents. For us, there were mince pies, Christmas cake and sherry. There were toys, neatly labelled, for the poorest children in the town. When I looked up to thank Father Christmas, he and the elf had vanished. Nevertheless, my colleagues and I had a party in the office that afternoon.