By Brian law
“Santa, it’s Vern on line two,” the elf relayed, rolling her eyes a bit.
Sighing, Santa picked up and answered, trying to be upbeat, “Vern, it’s been a while. What can I do for you, cousin? I’m pretty busy this time of year, so keep it simple.”
“Simple, simple! You want me to keep it simple? Simple I can’t do, cousin. Simple is out this year! I got a problem and you’re the solution, and simple it isn’t,” Vern yelled as if talking to an underling.
Santa looked at some budget figures on his desk as he waited for Vern to calm down. It was always like this with his cousin. The yelling, the demands, then the contrition and the pleading. He waited for the contrition and the pleading as he tried to figure out why the budget for reindeer feed was so out of control this year.
“Santa, you still there?” Vern asked and then continued, “Look, I’m sorry for yelling like that and I know you’re busy. So, I won’t make any demands, okay? But I do need your help. I’m in a bind, a real bind.”
Again, Santa said nothing but let Vern know he was still on the phone by clearing his throat and taking a loud slurp of tea.
Vern breathed deeply, steeled himself and then spoke very slowly and concisely, “Okay, Santa, here it is. There are six fewer shopping days this year between Thanksgiving and Christmas. Well, you obviously know that, but then there’s this tariff thing on ham and all these damn vegans running around. I’m telling you, cousin, I’m at my wits end!”
Santa put his hand over the receiver while he discussed something with one of the elves, then returned to the phone call and asked, “So far, Vern, you’ve told me about stuff I’ve got no control over. Calendars, tariffs, vegans, your wits.” He paused to let that sink in and then added, “Get to the point, Vern. What do you really want? I’m a busy man.”
Vern chose his words carefully as he answered, “Cousin, I want to sell my ham business to you and only you. Buffett is down here, nibbling around the edges, but I want to give you the first right of refusal. It’s a perfect fit with your current operations. Interested?”
Without saying anything, Santa motioned for his Chief Finance Elf to get on the line and listen in. As he waited, Santa smiled and wrote some notes on his scratch pad and then responded to Vern, “I’ve got my finance elf listening in, Vern. So, I’m going to leave him with you to discuss the details of the deal, okay? And then I’ll get his report later today and get back to you. How does that sound? Oh, and thanks for putting me before Buffett, Vern.”
As Vern and the Chief Finance Elf began their phone conversation, Santa hung up and placed another call. He waited patiently as the call was relayed through a variety of security checks until finally, he got through. “Mr. President, this is Santa! How are you?”
The voice on the other end sounded tired but that wasn’t unusual. They exchanged pleasantries and then Santa got right to the point, “You were right about the pork tariffs. Vern just called today and he’s selling out to me. I’ll lowball him, of course, and I’ll make a killing.”
The voice on the other end asked him about how he was going to handle gift deliveries to the children of Democrats this year.
Santa laughed and replied, “Oh, you know, the usual screwups, delays, and non-deliveries. So, what about those turkey tariffs? Can you arrange for something to happen there?”