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Not even brushing the snow from his burley overcoat, he fell into his chair. A puff of snow billowed up around him. Santa was exhausted.

“This is the worst it’s ever been,” he mumbled with somewhat of a grunt as he unbuttoned his coat and reached down around what at the moment felt like an insurmountable Everest-like waistline to untie and remove his boots. But he gave up even after the first try. He was just too tired.

Tonight had been an exceptionally difficult night of deliveries, one overly awash in dangerous mishaps.

It started when this normally jolly and limber ol’ elf tried to make his first delivery at little Jimmy Tackleton’s house in northeast London. As he shimmied his way down a chimney that also happened to be the home for a family of raccoons — which, by the way, almost always happens at least once in the evening but never the first stop, thusly, he was unprepared and the result was tragic — not only was he surprised, but he gave surprise and his rear quarters were greeted with unkind aggression, causing him to slip and fall, carrying the entire fuzzy family to a tragic end beneath his massive girth at the hearth’s opening. All five furry bandits — squashed dead.

“Well, looks like the Tackleton’s will get a little extra Christmas surprise in the morning,” he said as he lifted his olden frame, his spine already beginning to feel a tinge from the fall. The oncoming 370 million households looked daunting.

Having completed his first delivery, he was aboard the sleigh and moving to the next stop. “369,999,999 to go,” he thought. At that very moment, Dasher reared slightly to evade collision with a bird swishing through the night air and looking for cover from the evening Christmastide snow in a tree above little Maggie Geffenberger’s home. Dasher’s hoof met Prancer behind him with a clean buckle to the chin causing him go higher in altitude, and yet as Dasher’s evasion was toward a lower elevation, the whole team was drawn out of time and the sleigh could do nothing but plummet into and through the aforementioned bird’s homestead and then straight into and through the Geffenberger’s new solar paneled roof.

Dangling from a cathedral ceiling that was splintering and cracking under the weight of the team and only moments from collapse, Kris Kringle sighed, “It’s going to be a long night.”

And he was right. The night was full of similar events.

But he was home now. The reindeer were in the stables. Mrs. Claus was already in bed and fast asleep. The elf barracks were dark. No one was there to greet him. Except one.

“Santa, my friend,” he spoke on behalf of the Caol Ila 12 year old bottle sitting on his whisky shelf, “you’ve been really good this year.”

Bottle in hand, he grabbed his best Waterford crystal rock glass, and poured three fingers worth. He touched the side of his nose and whisked to the roof of the house, and while in mid-flight, managed to snap an icicle cleanly from the sill of the master bedroom window and plopped a few bits into the dram. Getting situated, he took a moment to gaze across the northern landscape of the Pole.

All was quiet. The snow was falling ever so gently, often landing in his glass and melting immediately, as if offering him a kind regard, “Here’s a little water for your whisky, Santa. We do so hope that you enjoy your rest.”

Swirling the whisky in the glass, the ancient elf nosed.

“Smokey. I do love that smell.” Of course he did. In fact, it wasn’t an uncommon thought in Santa’s mind each and every time he chuted a chimney. It was often that he wished the people would toss a little peat moss in with the timber.

He sipped and savored. A few moments passed. He swallowed.

“Wonderful,” he whispered. “Sturdy. Peaty. But so clean. And I taste a little bit of Mrs. Claus’ lemon and barley cookies; a little crispy, but so fine on a lonely night such as this.”

He sipped and swallowed again. “The finish, a longer wafting of chimney smoke rising from peat and freshly cut oak. So good.”

And just as his enjoyment began to peak with thoughts that the morning star would be rising soon and the children all around the world would be waking to the efforts of his good deeds, the grip of his boots released and he fell two stories, landing on his back in a snow drift to the left of his grand front door. Neither the thud nor the cloud of snow from the landing was heard or seen by anyone.

So deep in the snow as to be invisible to a passerby, only the mist of his breath being visible, he laid there. He looked up at the night sky and could see that it was already beginning to change over into the new day’s dawning. He pondered the beginning, middle, and ending events of the fortnight.

“Sure was a rough one,” he sighed as his voice rose softly from the snowdrift. And then he noticed something magical. He’d fallen two stories and yet his glass was not broken nor the bottle shattered and empty. In fact, both were still being firmly grasped, each to its own hand. And so, as it was with his boots, he gave a little grunt as he maneuvered around his belly to remove the cork and pour another dram. With this, the pixie-like snowflakes breezed their paths back to his glass to add that tiny bit of water, once again offering him the kindest regards, “There you go, Santa. Rest here, even now amidst our kindred snow. Enjoy your whisky, and rest here, good sir.”

Santa smiled and whispered, “It’s going to be a good year.”