George, Kronenfeldt Sr., Bill McGruff, and Dean stared at the sled,
with its large red velvet cushioned seat, plenty of room for payload,
winking lights on the front, and curled runners slicked with wax
and wood gleaming the color of a ship’s cabin. The nine reindeer
harnessed to the sled turned their heads and stared at the humans
in the clearing.
“Aye, got her on eBay, and she shines up right nice. Haven’t used
it in a couple of years, but I think she’ll do yer just fine,” McGruff
“STUPENDOUS! This will look fantastic in the movie!” Dean
McGruff looked at George in his Santa suit.
“Where’d yer get the suit?”
George looked down. The boots pinched his feet, the pants looked
like he was waiting for a flood, the sleeves didn’t reach his wrists, the
vinyl belt was cracked, and the suit had faded to a light pink. It took
a lot of Spray ’n Wash to overcome the vinegary cat piss from the
last owner’s cat. His father had gotten in the car, sniffed once, and
said, “Did a cat piss in your car?” George had stood in the bathroom
mirror and thought he looked like a homeless man.
Now he was staring at nine reindeer standing in McGruff’s fenced
in pasture with snow falling on their backs. While he was watching,
two of the reindeer pumped out large brown turds. Another one shot
a brown stream into the field that sizzled and made his eyes water.
Dean was already filming with his handheld camera.
“Just getting some B roll here, mates,” he announced, squatting
McGruff nodded his beard peppered with snow. “Had to scramble
a bit to get all nine together, but I did it.”
“These goddamn animals stink,” George’s father declared, waving
“Aye, one of them has the squirts.”
As if on cue, two other reindeer let fly.
“I didn’t think about manure,” George murmured as another
“They eat all the time and shit quite a bit. I would have a man
with a shovel and a garbage pail on site,” McGruff told him.
Dean stood up with his camera.
“No problem, mate. I’ll handle that and edit out their shitting.
Now I need you to get in the sled and take the reins, and if you can,
get the sled to move a bit, mate. This will be the footage projected
onto the scrim. We’ll edit out the background, and we’ll have our
McGruff eyed Dean. “Yer going to do all that with that little
He held up the camera with the large lens.
“Digital, mate. Super high def. State of the art!”
“Son, I don’t know if I would get in that sled behind those reindeer,”
his father grumbled.
George turned to his father in his floppy hat and parka.
“Dad, they’re reindeer,” he scoffed. “They hardly look dangerous.”
“What if they bolt?”
McGruff shook his head. “Aye, they don’t bolt, Mr. Kronenfeldt.
They can gallop a good clip, but reindeer aren’t like horses. They
usually start slow then get up to speed.”
George’s father shrugged. “Like I said at the beginning: your funeral
“Thanks for the vote of confidence, Dad.”
“You’re welcome, son.”
Dean positioned himself in front of the sled.
“Alright, George. I just need you to get in the sled. The first shot
will be of you just sitting there holding the reins, mate. Then I’ll want
you to get them moving, and we can get a nice lot of B roll of the
reindeer pulling you in the sled. Then I’ll shoot from behind for the
exit projector. Shouldn’t take us long at all.”
George looked at McGruff.
“Anything I should know about getting them to move?”
McGruff shrugged. “Aye, just slap the reins on their back, and
they’ll start moving. Nothing real sudden, just call out to them and
let them know.”
“I have sound,” Dean yelled. “Maybe we can get a few HO HO
HOs, mate, and call out the name of the reindeer to set the scene.”
“Jesus,” George’s father muttered.
George stared at the reindeer standing as if they were on Valium.
They just stared straight ahead and didn’t seem to care about the
humans. This gave him confidence. The most that would happen is
the sled would move across the snow-covered field and Dean would
have what he needed. George pulled on his big red mittens he had
been keeping in his back pocket. The one nice thing about the Santa
suit was it did have a pocket.
“Alright then … here I go,” he murmured.
George stepped into the sled and sat down. He gingerly picked
up the leather reins. McGruff nodded.
“Aye, now wrap them around yer mittens there.”
George carefully wrapped the reins and stared at the furry,
snow-crusted animals. Dean walked around slowly with the camera.
“Mate, could yer take off your glasses?”
George handed his glasses to his father, and suddenly the world
beyond thirty feet was a snowy white haze.“STUPENDOUS! Okay … action, mate! Do a few HO HOs for me!”
"Ho. Ho. Ho."
“Mate, you sound like yer dying! I need some real HO HO HOs.”
George nodded. “Sorry, I’ll try again.”
“Okay … action!”
He inhaled deeply and shouted, “HO HO HO!”
Two of the reindeer looked back at him sleepily.
“Alright, perfect, mate!” Dean held the camera down. “Now, do
yer think we could get them to move a bit?”
George looked at the reindeer. “I’ll give it a try,” he muttered.
“Just give the reindeer a gentle snap with the reins,” McGruff
“Alright, Prancer, Vixen, Comet, Cupid, and Blixen … let’s go!”
George flicked the reins. The reindeer just stood with their heads
low. One reindeer farted. Another one let go with some fresh diarrhea.
“God, these animals stink,” his father muttered.
Dean held the camera low.
“We need them to move, mate.”
“I know,” George grumbled, flicking the reins. “Giddyap!”
Another animal defecated.
“I think you are telling them to crap, son.”
He looked at his father. “Thanks, Dad.”
Dean frowned. “We really need them to go, mate. I need the
footage for our projectors.”
“Just snap it a little harder on their backs there,” McGruff called
George snapped the reins three more times, but the reindeer
“What kind of shitty reindeer are these?” his father wanted to
“’Tis not the reindeer, Mr. Kronenfeldt, ’tis the driver. They have
to know who is boss, or they won’t go,” McGruff replied.
“Let’s go. C’mon, giddyap! Let’s go!”
His father shook his head. “Son, if these reindeer don’t move, you
will never get them on your roof.”
Dean held his camera down again.
“Mate, we need these buckaroos to do something, or we won’t
be able to pull this off you know.”
The snow was coming down harder and it was getting cold.
McGruff shook his head. “Like I said, they have to know who
George breathed heavy, feeling the frustration of his torn-up
home, his diminishing finances, his kids’ hatred for him, and on top
of all that, that it was Christmas Eve in three days. And he was sitting
in a forest in a sled with nine reindeer he had paid five grand for so
they could shit all over the place.
“Son, I told you this thing was nuts,” his father called out.
George stared at the fur-covered backs, breathing the heavy ammoniac
scent of fresh manure. He raised the reins high and brought
them down as hard as he could, shouting at the top of his lungs.
“C’MON, YOU BASTARDS!”
George fell back with a jerk and lost the reins as the reindeer
bolted. The world started whizzing by with the reins trailing outside
the sled. George grabbed the sides like a man bracing for a horrible
accident. The snow filled his mouth and blinded him. He couldn’t
even wipe his eyes for the fear of being pitched out.
“HELP! HELP ME!”
The thunder of the nine reindeer pounding through the snow
filled his ears. George stared at the cleaving muscles of their backs
rolling up and down as they followed the fence. He saw his father
then McGruff then Dean whiz by.
“STOP … THESE … BASTARDS!”
George then saw his funeral. There were Mary and Megan with
their heads bowed and people sniffing as they lowered him into the
ground. The minister spoke of his tragic death behind a herd of reindeer,
and his father called out over the gathering, “I told him it was
a stupid idea! I told him he would kill himself!” George felt the sled
turn then bang off the fence as he fishtailed back toward the center
of the corral. Snow sprayed back into his face. The reindeer galloped
head down as his beard flipped up.
“Mate! Mate! Slow down!”
Dean’s voice ran up then went away. George shouted, gripping
the sides while the nine animals galloped full-out. He saw his father
shaking his head and McGruff motioning to him.
“Grab the reins. Grab the reins!”“I CAN’T!”
Dean had now gone to the center of the field and was turning
George wondered if the reindeer would tire. They showed no
signs of fatigue but seemed to have increased to a frenzied gallop.
The sled began fishtailing crazily back and forth through the snow,
whizzing around the white fence again. George saw his father then
McGruff then Dean then his father then McGruff then Dean then
his father then McGruff. He was whizzing in circles and now he saw
McGruff had come out into the field, waving a stick at the reindeer
that veered suddenly and shot the sled around like someone waterskiing.
The g-force pulled George’s grip loose as he was launched like
a man shot out of a cannon.
Like Charlie Brown he went straight up and came down flat on his
back. The reindeer bolted to the far side but the sled had flipped over.
The reindeer came to a slow galloping stop and turned back into the
phlegmatic shitting, farting animals of before. George raised his head
as Dean crunched over through the snow with his arms straight up.
“STUPENDOUS, MATE! JUST BLOODY STUPENDOUS!”
Real Santa....it's rough being Santa Claus
"If somebody doesn't make a movie out of this book, there's something wrong with the world. This could have been played as an out-and-out slapstick comedy, but instead the author approaches the story like a character study: a portrait of a man with the best intentions in the world watching those intentions collide with reality. It's a steamroller of a story, starting small, with George's idea, and getting bigger and bigger as George tries to put the elements together, as his obsession takes him further and further away from reality. Beautifully done."
David Pitts Booklist
"The author marries the everyday dramas found in the novels of Tom Perrotta and Nick Hornby to the high camp of Carl Hiaasen or Dave Barry. Adults looking for a funny holiday-themed tale that doesn't lose its sense of wonder in the face of realism will find a treat here. A lovingly crafted comedy about the madness that fatherhood inspires."
Best-selling author Hazelgrove (e.g., Ripples; Tobacco Sticks) captures the human need to believe in something good. This book will satisfy readers looking for a happy Christmas story.-- Library Journal
"Hazelgrove's lively improbable narrative will appeal to the readers in the mood for holiday fiction."