The Vine

Friday, November 25, 2005

Gumshu, Elf Spy of the North Pole

Things were just not right at the North Pole. Normally
at this time of year, there would be a buzz of
activity, with all Santa’s elves hammering, soldering,
varnishing, assembling, stitching, pointing, gluing,
sawing, and Santa barking out orders. Every day Mrs.
Claus would come back from the mail center with bags
and bags of letters to Santa, work orders, as the
elves saw it. See, this tribe of elves who live at the
North Pole with the Clauses want nothing more than to
make toys and gifts for good boys and girls. It is
their very reason for living.

So when the letters to Santa started to slow down over
the past few years, discontent began to brew among the
elves. They became grumpy and depressed. They blamed
Santa, for not giving the children enough reason to
believe in him. They even threatened to strike, until
Santa pointed out that if they went on strike that
means they wouldn’t be making toys anyway. Santa
himself was affected. He snapped at the elves and Mrs.
Claus, and spent too much time alone in his office
drinking brandy and feeling sorry for himself. He
didn’t brush his beard and in no way would he be
called a jolly old elf. “Maybe the elves are right,”
he would mutter to himself, “and if the children don’t
believe in me, I can’t blame them. I don’t believe in

But this year was the worst yet. From a trickle of
letters, the mail had dropped off to none. Zero.
Zilch. Nada. Even in his derelict state, Santa
realized that something was afoot. He put his bottle
of brandy back into the file cabinet and stomped down
to the basement, pausing briefly to apologize to Mrs.
Claus for throwing the dish of chocolate chips cookies
onto the floor in a snit the previous night.

In the very bottom of Santa’s toy factory, in the
basement there is a door with a sign that says
“Investigations.” “Sque-eek,” went the door, and Santa
stepped into the musty gloom. One beam of light from
the basement window lit up the dust in the office, and
a chair swiveled slowly around. A middle aged elf
propped his feet up on the desk, knocking off a whole
stack of cluttered file folders. He turned on a bare
light bulb, causing Santa to blink.

“Well, Nicholas old boy, it’s been awhile,” he

“Alright, let’s just do away with the detective novel
opening lines, okay?” sighed Santa. “Gumshu, I need
your help.”

Gumshu’s Office of Investigations normally had one
line of business: knowing who is naughty and who is
nice. It was nice, thought Gumshu, to have a different
sort of contract. A challenge will keep my instincts
sharp. Now, what I need is some information. Where to
begin? We need an informant, someone on our side. Who
can we trust? And, with less than a week until
Christmas, I’ll have to work fast.

Gumshu decided to start with the obvious. He checked
his files and picked the oldest child who had racked
up the most “nice” credits on the naughty and nice
records over the years. “I don’t know if this kid
knows anything, but at least she’ll be on our side.”
Gumshu took out his old meerschaum pipe, loaded it
with his magic tobacco, and with the spark of his
lighter, he found himself in a girl’s bedroom.

“Would you mind putting that out, please?” said the
girl, who was bent over a project at her desk. “I
certainly wouldn’t want my parents to think I had
started smoking!”

“Well, no, you wouldn’t, would you,” shrugged Gumshu,
capping the pipe. “You are much too good for that,
aren’t you? Pardon me, it is just the most efficient
way for me to travel. Allow me to introduce myself,

“Oh, I know who you are! You’re Gumshu, head of
Santa’s investigations! You’re kind of famous, well,
at least if you are in the right Santa fan clubs.” She
blushed, embarrased by her own nerdiness.

“Well, gee, miss, uh...,” Gumshu scratched his
forehead under his green felt hat. It had not escaped
his notice that she was a very pretty girl, with fine
blond hair, a round face, and the biggest blue eyes,
bright like the sky on a sunny winter day.

“Woo, sir, Cindy Lou Woo,” she smiled. Then one
eyebrow shot up quizzically. “Why are you here in
person? Aren’t these naughty-and-nice checkups done
mostly by satellite now?”

“You look very familiar, Miss Woo, have we met
before?” asked Gumshu, ignoring her question.

“Uh, no sir. I, uh, played some parts as a child
actress. You might recognize me from one of my minor

“Child actress? How old are you now, dearie?” asked

“I’m twelve and a half. No, more like twelve and
eleven twelfths, you see, my birthday is on Christmas
and so, this is my last year to be able to write a
letter to Santa…” Cindy Lou Woo sighed, and as she
looked into the elf’s squinty eyes, he saw that a tear
was brimming in one of her great big eyes, and that it
sparkled like a snowflake.

Gumshu turned his face and looked away from the
dreaded tear. “Which leads me into my investigation,
and what part, if any, you might play in it. I presume
that you are now writing your letter to Santa, aren’t

“Oh, no, not yet Mr. Gumshu,” said Cindy, “I try to
wait at least a week before Christmas to write my
letter to Santa. I figure that other kids might need
to get in their requests before I did. Right now, I am
writing thank you letters to the elves, and to my
family, for making my Christmas so, so, well, so

Hiding a burp, Gumshu said, “Well that gives us a
chance to further the investigation. If you have not
yet composed your letter to Santa, then now you shall,
and we will try to find out who is stealing all the
work orders, er, the letters to Santa. I will track
this letter and confront our adversary!”

“I will go with you!” blurted Cindy. “I can help,
really I can Mr. Gumshu!”

“Please call me Gumshu. You will not go with me but
yes you can help. Just write your letter to Santa, as
usual, then hand it to me. I will take it from you and
then I will seem to become your very letter, and as
such I will be delivered to whoever is intercepting
the letters to Santa.

Cindy took a fresh piece of stationary from her desk.
She wrote several sentences and then folded the letter
into a scented envelope. She addressed it and then
sealed it with the big tear that still hung on the
edge of her eye. She handed it to Gumshu, who then
appeared to get vacuumed into the letter. Not knowing
what else to do, Cindy walked it over to the post
office and dropped the letter into the post. “Good
luck, Mr. Gumshu, I mean Gumshu.”

Big, long fingernails rasped the envelope. Gumshu
would not be able to shape shift again until the
envelope had been opened. He smelled the sulfurous
smell of unbrushed teeth. He closed his eyes and

“Well, what have we here?” said a pinched, greenish
face with long yellow teeth. With squinted eyes, it
peered into the letter with a grumpy frown of the most
downward proportions.

Gumshu dropped from the letter, assuming his own
shape. He looked up at the strange creature above him
and said, “Good afternoon. I am Gumshu with Santa’s
Ministry of Investigations, and I just have a few
questions for you. Your name might be...”

“Where is the list.” said the ghoul.

“What list?” taunted Gumshu, holding it behind his

“The list you just apparated from!” snarled the ghoul.

“Oh, you mean the letter, well, that isn’t written to
you, is it?” said Gumshu. “Who are you?”

“Give me the list. I need the list that is in the
letter. That is how we work here.”

Gumshu sighed. “Okay, why not? It won’t do you any
good. Here is the list Mr...?”

“Some call me ...Grinch! You'd know that if you read
anything but detective novels!”

Grinch pulled apart the letter from Cindy and a
lavender scented page read out to him:

Dear Santa, here are my requests this year.

1) All of us can live together peacefully, figuring
this thing out as best as we can.

2) We all can give each other presents.

3) Everyone should get enough love and attention to
feel special.

4) Nobody gets left out.

Much Love,

Cindy Lou Woo

With a sneer, the Grinch read his way through #1 and
#2. Then, as he read through #3, he began to choke up.
At #4, he tried to think back to a time when nobody
gets left out, and could not remember one which
involved him. Against the will of his frozen heart, a
tear formed in his eye and it splashed onto the

The teardrop of the Grinch thereby combined with the
teardrop that Cindy Lou had used to seal the envelope,
and then, POOF! Cindy Lou appeared.

“How did you do that?” whispered Gumshu,

“Hey, I’ve been in your fan club and you didn’t even
know it, but I guess I learned some of your elf tricks
anyway!” snarked Cindy Lou. “Sorry, I guess you will
write me up for that, won’t you?”

“We’ll let it slide this time, Cindy Lou.”

The Grinch scowled at Cindy Lou and her big sky eyes
and snowflake tear. “No! Not you! Why can you always
make me cry? What are you doing here?” Because of
course, Cindy Lou Woo was really Cindy Sue Who, who
derailed the Grinch's last attempt to steal Christmas.

“Never mind what she is doing here, what are YOU doing
here, Mr. Grinch?” demanded Gumshu.

As Cindy Lou fixed the Grinch in her eyes, she said,
“What are you doing with the letters to Santa,

“Don’t call me that!” coughed the Grinch. “I am
sending them all somewhere else, where the work is

“Cheaper than elves? Elves make toys for free,
Grinch!” pressed Gumshu.

“Well where is the profit, then, when presents are
free?” snarled the Grinch. “But, if the child-labor
factories make them, well, there is a lot of money to
be made in that, for our corporate allies, at least.”
smiled the Grinch. “My plan is so simple! We get poor
children to make all the toys for the children of the
western world. We cut Santa out of the market and make
all of the money for our corporations! And I get a
handsome bounty for intercepting all the lists. We
call them consumer polls, at the corporation.”

Cindy then began picking up the mail bags. “You think
you've stolen Christmas, again! But we are not
allowing it. This is a counter-heist!”

“What are you gonna do cry for it? Your tears got you
here, but you don’t have any plan to get all these
lists back to Santa. They are mine, and the
Corporations!” The Grinch leered, stalking over to

“Sorry Cindy, I am going to have to send you back.
This is too dangerous.” said Gumshu.

“On the contrary she will be very valuable back in the
child labor factory. She will make toys all the rest
of her days! Haw haw haw,” guffawed the Grinch.

Gumshu quickly lit his pipe and blew the smoke into
Cindy Lou's face. Coughing, she reappeared back at her
desk. She went to her computer, composed a news
release about what had happened and then punched in
the secret function code, which only kids under 13
years can access, and the message about the Grinch and
the kidnapping of their Santa letters and all the
child labor corporations was immediately sent to all
children online everywhere in the world. Cindy Lou had
requested that all the kids receiving her message
should send their own barely used toys to the children
in the toy factories.

Because of her prominent leadership position in all
the Santa fan clubs and organizations, her broadcast
had tremendous influence. Within days, kids all over
the world were sending toys as well as money and
useful presents to children in all the countries known
to have child labor factories. By the time Christmas
Eve arrived, all the children had quit their jobs in
the sweatshops and were enjoying a holiday with their
families and friends.

But meanwhile, back at the Grinch’s mail derailing

“Okay, Gumshu, you got rid of the sniveling brat, I
appreciate that.” An evil grin spread over the
Grinch’s face. “She will probably cause lots of
trouble for my corporations, from that computer of
hers. But I still have the letters to Santa, and
there’s not enough smoke in your pipe to spirit them
back to the North Pole. So I have still stolen

A big rustle and thud broke the Grinch’s exultation.
Grinch and Gumshu turned to the fireplace in the
office to see a pair of black boots flailing in the
soot. Gumshu went over, gave them a yank, and a
somewhat sooty Santa popped out of the fireplace. “I
would have thought you too clever to have a chimney to
your office, Grinch,” he said, pulling off his

“Nick! How did you find me?” sputtered Gumshu.

“Oh, so sorry, Gummie boy. You have a transceiver in
your hat. Not that we don’t trust you. Oh, also, Cindy
Lou emailed me.” Santa turned his attention to the
green ghoul, who was backing away. “Now, Grinch, come
here old boy…”

“No, no, you can’t make me!” whimpered the Grinch. “At
least wait till after Christmas!”

“Come Grinch, give us a hug, it will be alright.”
Santa stepped toward the ghoul, and even though the
Grinch shrunk from Santa’s embrace, he did not really

Then the most amazing thing happened. It seemed like
Santa just folded the Grinch into his big velvet suit,
like the Grinch melted into Santa’s big chest, like
Santa’s heart opened up and swallowed the green ghoul.
Then there was just Santa, who nonchalantly began
picking up the bags of letters.

“What was that?” gasped Gumshu? “Where did he go?”

“Gumshu, my dear elf, you could really benefit by
reading some Jungian psychology. Don’t you understand?
The Grinch is my alter ego, my shadow self. I just let
him get away for awhile, and that is why he got out of
control. See, everyone has a dark side that is a
little like the Grinch. Selfish and pouty, we all have
that part of us which hates Christmas and feels left
out. We have to remember that self and love it, too,
because as you saw, even the Grinch had a part within
him that felt compassion, which cried at Cindy Lou’s

“Now, Gumshu, we have a lot of work to do. Give me a
hand with these bags.”

With only three days and two nights left before
Christmas, you can imagine the bustle and noise in the
elves’ workshops at the North Pole. All their pent up
energy was released in a great burst of creative toy
making. Santa’s bags filled to near bursting.

Then it was Christmas Eve, and Cindy Lou rested for a
minute by the fireplace at the homeless shelter, after
her volunteer shift. All the homeless people had gone
to their bunks, and Cindy Lou was waiting for her
mother to pick her up. A shuffle and a clunk, and
Santa wriggled out of the fireplace and sat next to

“Cindy Lou.” he began, with a sigh. “I had to come to
talk to you about your Santa’s list this year. You
know, don’t you, that what you asked for my elves
can’t make and put into a box. Now, none of that,
sweetheart!” and he wiped the big tear that was
brimming in her eye. “That is why we stop sending
letters to Santa after our thirteenth birthday,
because hopefully by then we have grown up enough to
ask for things that are not things. Those are the
sorts of things we have to make for ourselves in the
world, aren’t they?” Cindy Lou nodded, causing a new
tear to splash onto Santa’s waiting mitten.

“But here, girl, I know that Christmas is your
birthday too, so I brought you a little something.
It’s okay to open it a little early, go ahead.”

Cindy Lou gently peeled off the wrapping and peered up
to Santa. It was a little glass bottle with a simple
label that read "One More Year."

“Do you see? If you drink this, tomorrow on your
birthday you will not turn thirteen, but you will turn
twelve again. That way you will have one more year to
work on those wishes, organize your fan clubs and next
Christmas you can write me one more letter. Really, I
couldn’t bear the thought of this year’s letter being
the last, myself.”

Cindy Lou crawled into Santa’s lap and made herself
comfortable, and sipped the sweet potion from the
bottle. She fell deeply asleep and didn’t even notice
when Santa left and her mother picked her up. But in
the morning when she woke up and found her birthday
cake with twelve candles there under the Christmas
tree, she thought to herself, “This is the best
Christmas ever!”

Princess Poysen Ivieee 2005


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