The Little Elf and Santa’s Computer 

Sandeep Girish Bhatnagar

writings: story

December 2013

There’s so much to do before Christmas, especially in Elftown. Toys have to be made, Santa’s routes to our homes planned out, his sleighs and reindeer tended to and so much more. Much of which you and I take for granted as being part of the festive season is looked after by elves. Yes, indeed, if church bells are to ring out the good tidings to one and all through the cold crisp air, sleigh bells to jingle joyously as Santa rides across the snow, holly and mistletoe to have that heart-warming tinge of green and Christmas puddings to taste as delightful as when the three wise men first celebrated the coming of the messiah all those years ago, the little elves really need to work around the clock. Now, let’s not forget the carols! What would Christmas be without carol singing? Yes, the elves are very musically minded and make sure everybody sings in key and gets the tunes right. Ensuring that festivities are really festive is the job of the elves and like you and I, they enjoy doing it well. Day in and day out, you will find the little creatures busy at work with a song on their lips and their tiny hands whirring away like the wings of a bumble bee.

So it was that one day, a little elf named Leslie was walking home from school. His small pointy ears stuck out from beneath his green woollen cap, while his neck was protected by a nice thick muffler. He had a huge beaming smile on his face and the slight built of a gymnast. Once in a while, he broke his step and skipped a couple of paces. School was over and now it was time for some fun! It’s dark at the North Pole at this time of the year but Leslie didn’t mind. Coloured lights were draped across the evergreen spruce trees which lined the streets and avenues and also twinkled merrily from shop fronts and houses. Every home had a star or lantern that sent forth the season’s greetings to everyone regardless of where they are or where they come from, while street lamps shone gaily through the red, green and orange shades which covered them.Sounds of choir singing and the bells of reindeer filled the air and the little elf hummed along with the singers. They were singing “Silent Night:

“Silent night, holy night
All is calm, all is bright
Round yon Virgin Mother and Child
Holy Infant so tender and mild
Sleep in heavenly peace
Sleep in heavenly peace.”

Leslie was on his way to his father’s workshop to help out in whatever way he could.The little elf’s father was the chief technician for Santa. You can well imagine the kind of paradise his workshop would be for a young elf with an enquiring mind. Tools of every description and utility, clean and neatly labelled, could be seen in racks that lined the walls. There was a multi-purpose workbench at one end and a storage place for machines waiting to be repaired at the other. It was all so very nice and cosy with a blazing fire place. Leslie simply loved being here.

All the machines Santa used were cared for by the little elf’s father. Besides sleighs and bells, there were so many devices about whose existence most of us would not even have dreamt about. There was, for instance, the Good Mood Inducer and the Good Day Stabilizer, not to forget the Fortuitous Event Initiator. Right now, Leslie’s father was busy servicing the Good Deed Account Keeper or the GDAK, a computer which keeps track of all the good deeds done by boys and girls all over the world. Naturally, as everyone knows, Christmas presents have to be earned through good behaviour; that is to say, doing things that are more than just “nice”. An act has to be more than merely “nice” to qualify as a genuine good deed.So you can see that GDAK computer has to function properly if Santa is to maintain a proper account of each child’s activities.

Now, elves do not use silicon-chip-based circuits like human beings. Instead, they create them from plants and trees. So a gadget, which to the casual observer may appear to resemble a potted plant, is actually a high-tech machine. Computers like the Good Deed Account Keeper interface with the user by verbal commands and visuals which appear on a mirror display. The organic microprocessors developed by elves are so powerful that a single potted plant, the kind you and I would keep on the window ledge of our apartment, is able to keep track of the activities of boys and girls all over the world. At least, those boys and girls who believe in the existence of Santa!

As Christmas time approaches, Santa views the accounts of good and bad deeds and decides on the kind of presents each child will receive. Naturally, all this cannot be left to the discretion of a machine; it requires the experience and finesse of a kind- and good-hearted person like Santa. After all, there are so many things to be considered.No machine, howsoever smart it may be, can take the place of Santa! Even so, the GDAK is a very important machine and has to be kept in good working order. There would really be a fine mess if Santa were to lose track of all the good and bad deeds being done.

Well, as matters stood, the good deed Good Deed Account Keeper had been out of synch for a while on account of root rot. The little elf’s father had, however, managed to remove the water mould that had caused the root rot and the machine was now healthy once again. They little elf spent hours on end happily viewing scenes of children at play in parks, on swings and seesaws, or wielding baseball bats at balls pitched by friends and rivals. He cheered each time a boy or girl did something remarkable and laughed when anything amusing took place. Elves have a very fine sense of humour!

It was really good fun viewing the GDAK. The little elf loved to see the kinds of presents being asked for. On this year’s Christmas wish lists, it was mainly electronic gadgets like smart phones, computer games, tablets, e-readers and so on. It had been much the same last year. Hey! But what’s this?The little elf came across three entries which had been marked by question marks. Inquisitive as all elves are, he asked the machine to explain the reason for the question marks. The GDAK promptly switched on its mirror display and a worried-looking boy appeared in the mirror. He was reading an email from his father who worked as a roustabout on an oil rig. He had asked for a new baby brother or sister, either of which would do. His parents, however, were not really thinking along these lines as his father was on the verge of losing his job.

“That’s Christopher. His father works on an oil rig belonging to the World Wide Offshore Drilling Corporation,” came the voiceover from the machine. Now that it had recovered, it was ready to answer any questions put to it. “The company is going through a financial crisis, for they have been unable to find oil for a long time. Things have gone so bad that the owner plans to sell his idle rigs and retrench his staff.” At this point, a visual of an oldman appeared in the mirror. He looked as Scrooge-like as a person in the 21st century possibly could.

“But-,” said the machine and paused for dramatic effect. It seemed to be in a good mood, nothing like building up a bit of suspense!

“Go on!” said the little elf excitedly.

“No need to be so impatient,” replied the machine. “I am going on. Can’t I even catch my breath for a moment?”

“All right, all right, you have had your breather. Now tell me more!”

“But,” said the machine, “before you begin to draw conclusions from the appearance of old Mr Larsen, on account of his resembling Dickens’s Ebenezer Scrooge, let me assure you a kinder man never went prospecting for oil. But he is under tremendous pressure from his creditors and the board of directors of his company. His financial advisers have suggested a number of schemes to help him recover his losses. His son among others is of the opinion that a fortnight before Christmas, they should begin to retrench staff and sell off equipment, thereby causing the company’s stock to plummet. Once the stock hits rock bottom, they could pick it up at throw away prices.Next, they announce a recovery package, backed by funds from certain conniving financial institutions. Once the stock peaks, they sell out lock, stock and barrel and thus reap a nice, tidy profit.After that the new major stake holders will be left to deal with the situation as they see fit. Sheer genius, isn’t it?”

 The little elf was horrified by the plan but even he had to admit that it involved a measure of cold calculation that a machine would find impressive. After all, machines, even if they have organic processors, will be machines.

“So the little boy’s father will probably lose his job around Christmas time,” continued the computer. “And what with the high rate of unemployment, it will be a while before he gets a new one. Naturally, this means that Christopher is not likely to have a new brother or sister in the immediate future.”

The GDAK machine now showed the boy’s father on a rig in the North Sea. He appeared worried and rightfully so. His immediate future appeared really dim.

The little elf glanced at the boy’s record. He hadn’t done too badly. More good deeds than bad ones, though he did have a tendency to fib. But then, so did the elf. While the elf was pondering over the fate of the boy, the machine went on to the next entry. It was a young girl named Sarita. In the mirror, the visual of a little girl appeared. She was at her mother’s bedside.

“Sarita’s mother suffered a paralytic stroke last week and has been bedridden ever since. Her father is trying to raise the sum for an operation she requires but has not been very successful. His medical insurance is just not enough for the treatment. He only recently lost his regular job and now works as a janitor.The girl says she only wants her mother for Christmas and nothing else.”

The little elf thought of his own mother, a pleasant faced lady slightly plump as all elf mothers are, and his heart went out to the little girl. Though elves rarely if ever fall ill, he knew that humans are not quite so fortunate.

“The third entry you requested is that of Julian,” said the computer. “His father is a successful brain surgeon. Julian wants a puppy for Christmas.”

“So what’s the problem?” asked the elf.

“He doesn’t have a very good record. Not really bad, kind of indifferent, actually. He is self-centred and doesn’t do a thing that doesn’t benefit him directly. Not that he does anything mean or wicked. He is like any other rich, spoilt child. His father feels that his son is not quite ready to take on the responsibility of caring for a dog.”

The little elf saw the boy in the mirror. He was in a park watching other children playing with their pets.

“He doesn’t have a mother or any brothers or sisters, nor does he have any friends,” added the machine as it closed in on the boy. He appeared lost and lonely. There was no joy on his face, even though the spirit of Christmas was in the air and everyone around him was having such a good time. Such a pity, really!The little elf was moved by these events. He felt he had to step in, so he asked the machine to make entries saying that all three children were to receive the Christmas presents they had asked for. The machine did so. Just then, the boy heard his father approaching and so he switched off the machine and started to tidy up the workshop. His father did not like him messing around with Santa’s machines.

Once the entries were made in the GDAK computer data base, the lives of the three children begun to change. Quite naturally, the GDAK computer took the help of some of the other high-tech, plant-based machines that belonged to Santa, such as the Fortuitous Event Initiator. Leslie, quite naturally, followed up on all that was going on. Each day after school, he rushed to down his father’s workshop and sat glued to the GDAK’s mirror display.

Within a week or so, one of drill ships belonging to the World Wide Offshore Drilling Corporation struck oil and the stock of the company soared sky high. Old man Larsen was so overjoyed that he announced a most generous Christmas bonus for all his employees. This meant that Christopher’s father would return home for Christmas and that a few months down the line, there would be a new arrival in his family.

So far, so good.

Now, let’s take a look at Julian. Driving home after a rather tiring day at the hospital, Julian’s father ran over and injured a small puppy. He stepped out of his car and picked up the whining animal and held him close to his chest. The puppy stopped whining and began to lick the doctor’s face. The sight of the innocent creature brought back memories of the doctor’s own childhood at his father’s farm. He remembered how he and his brother Michael used to throw Frisbees for their dogs to catch. Tears rolled down his cheeks and he telephoned his brother, who promptly invited him over to his farm for Christmas. The good doctor then took the puppy home and handed it over to his overjoyed son. Together, they bandaged the little dog’s paw and fed him milk. The affectionate side of Julian’s nature, which had been suppressed by the early demise of his mother, was re-ignited by the little puppy. He played with him and cared for him as he should. Soon he had made a number of friends in the park and even started to join the other boys in their games.

One day, Julian and his puppy got stuck in the elevator and his father tried to telephone the janitor to help release them. He called him on the on the number written next to the elevator switch but there was no response. At last, he went down to basement and rang the bell to the janitor’s apartment. The janitor opened the door and apologized for not answering his phone. As they were speaking, the doctor caught a glimpse of the janitor’s wife lying in her bed, clearly unwell. He walked in and examined her. He thought for a while and then informed the anxious janitor that he was prepared to operate on her the following day and that the operating expenses would be borne by a charitable trust he was a member of. Soon Sarita’s mother recovered and the little girl, too, got her wish.

Tears of joy flowed down the little elf’s cheeks as he viewed this tender moment on the mirror screen of the GDAK computer. Once the last wish had been granted, the computer announced for all to hear:

“Mission accomplished!”

“What is all this?” asked the little elf’s father. He had come in just as the computer was showing Sarita hugging her mother. Being a machine, the computer explained everything, completing ignoring the little elf, who was desperately trying to signal the machine to be quiet. The little elf’s father was outraged by what he heard, for only Santa was allowed to give commands to the GDAK computer. Seeing the livid expression on his father’s face, Leslie was aghast and simply did not know what to do. His father looked so very stern in his green overalls and with his tortoise shell spectacles perched on the tip of his nose. While the father elf was scolding his son, Santa entered the workshop unobserved and stood listening to what was being said.

“What’s more,” said the enraged father, ”Sarita’s family doesn’t even celebrate Christmas.”

“But we do,” replied the tearful little elf.

“Yes, son, we do. Indeed, we do,” said Santa as he placed his hand over the little elf’s head in benediction, for Santa loves little children and cannot bear to see them unhappy or troubled in any way. Santa then took the little elf to the toy factory to help select Christmas presents for deserving boys and girls. Needless to say, the little elf’s parents were very proud of their son.

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Sandeep Girish Bhatnagar studied literature at the University of Bombay (Mumbai) and plans to carry out research on aspects of Indian Writing. His work has been published in various literary journals such as Himal, Euphony, Shakespeare (a magazine), Kavya Bharati and Avatar Review (an online journal). He is also a professional seafarer and holds a Foreign Going Master's Certificate of Competency.
For more of his writings, check the Archives

©2013 Sandeep Girish Bhatnagar
©2013 Publication Scene4 Magazine

Scene4 Magazine - Arts and Media


December 2013

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