GEORGE’S FATHER WAS all about the plan. He roughed out the
scenario, made to-do lists then commandeered George’s calculator
and worked out the length of the ramps, pitch, slope, and load capability.
Then he designed a track system for the sled that would distribute
the weight and give the reindeer something to follow. George
knew how to do the calculations, but his father was a man who could
create something out of nothing. His plate of sauerbraten was long
gone when he read off a list for his son.
“Here is what we have to do immediately,” he said, holding up
the spiral notebook. “We have to strengthen the roof. I figure nine
reindeer at five hundred pounds a piece with a sled and a man and
whatever else … we need a seven-thousand-pound-load limit. I won’t
know until I get up in your attic what we are dealing with. We have
to make sure the roof is level enough so these reindeer don’t fall off.
The ramps have to be constructed to the specifications I lay out. You
need to talk to a chimney guy who can make it big enough to get
down. You got to get your pulley system set up so you can go down
and back up. You need to find somebody who will give you reindeer
on Christmas Eve. You need a sled, a Santa suit. And somehow you
got to make your sled and reindeer land and take off.”
His father dropped the notebook and raised his eyebrows. “Other
than that, it should be a piece of cake, like flying to the moon. Oh,
and you got ten days to do it in.”
George sat back in the booth and nodded slowly.
“I have a call into a man in Hampshire for the reindeer, and I’m
meeting the chimney guy tomorrow and a director who can handle
the special effects for landing the sled and taking off.”
“George, how the hell you going to do that?”
“Make a goddamn sled land on your roof and take off with nine
George pointed to the drawing.
“Look, we can project an image of Santa landing with a digital
projector. You can project it on smoke, Dad. We have smoke machines
at both ends and some snow machines, and we basically will shoot
this image into the darkness and then through the smoke and snow.
I’ll come out with the reindeer.”
“You’ll come down out of the air? Son, you aren’t on drugs, are
“Dad, I won’t really come out of the air, but it will look like it. I
will be waiting behind the smoke and snow, hidden, and then I will
go forward, say twenty feet, and come to a stop, give off a couple of
HO HO HOs, pull up the sack of presents, go to the chimney and
down, and deliver the gifts. Then I come back up, get on the sled, and
disappear into smoke and snow again and actually go down the ramp
on the other side while the digital image of me flies away.”
His father stared at the drawing then at his son. “And how do
you know how to do this?”
“The Internet, Dad.”
“The Internet? You got this whole idea from the goddamn Internet?”
“But you don’t know anyone who has ever actually done this
“No, but this should work.”
His father rubbed his eyes. “Do you know what this will cost you?”
“I have a fifty thousand dollar line of credit secured by the house.”
“And you’ll need every cent! These ramps alone are going to be
huge! They are like small bridges! We can’t have them collapse with
these animals, and, I assume, men driving them up to your roof and
getting them back down. They will have to be built like that bicycle
bridge you built for a locomotive.”
“I didn’t build it for a locomotive, Dad,” he replied dully.
“Sure could have fooled me. Look, son, this is no small project.
This is a big project that could really go badly if something doesn’t
work the way it is supposed to. In other words, you could get killed.
Now, is your little girl’s belief in Santa Claus worth that?”
“Yes, it is.”
“You have lost your mind, son.” Kronenfeldt Sr. closed his eyes,
speaking down to the table. “And how in the hell are you going to get
the ramps to your house? They have to be constructed somewhere
and brought in. You going to tell Megan you’re building a barn in
“Not a bad idea. But I have a carpenter in mind.”
“A carpenter. One? You’re going to need an army of carpenters to
build this thing, take it apart, then put it back together … and these
reindeer, how much is that going to cost you?”
“I’m talking to the reindeer man tomorrow.”
“The reindeer man,” his father scoffed. “And what if these reindeer
don’t stop? What if you goose them, and they run off the roof with
you in the sled?”
“I won’t let that happen,” George replied calmly.
“Have you ever driven reindeer before? What are you, Jack London
“And all this movie equipment, snow machines, smoke machines,
digital projectors … this sounds like a lot of money for these things,
and you’ll need people who know what they are doing to run them.”
George breathed heavy. “I told you, I’m meeting with a movie
director tomorrow as well.”
“Oh, that guy is going to cost you some bucks. He’ll see you
coming a mile away.”
“He’s a friend of Mary’s.”
His father shook his head.
“Don’t you think there is an easier way to do this, son? Give her
a car. Give her a trip to Disney World, but this, this is nuts!”
George powered down his laptop and closed it.
“No. I’m going to do this, Dad, whatever the cost.”
“Jesus! You are so goddamn stubborn!”
“Takes one to know one.”
Kronenfeldt Sr. picked up his hat and breathed heavy.
“Alright, when do we meet the chimney guy and the carpenter
for these goddamn ramps and the movie guy?”
His father frowned. “I’m not going to let you do this stupid-ass
Santa Claus thing alone. It’s too big, and you’ll need an engineer who
can keep all these bozos in line and on spec.”
“I have thought this through, Dad. I am an engineer.”
“Yeah, well a lot of engineers get themselves killed,” his father