BY NORM ROSOLEN
Copyright is held by the author.
“MY NAME is Rudolf and I’m an alcoholic”. He gazed out at the crowd and smiled. He felt confident and strong. But he knew that for many in the audience it was their first time at an AA meeting and they probably felt uneasy. “This is my story.” He was ready for it now after six months of sobriety. His voice was raspy and his nose was still bright red — though much better.
“I was a hellion when I was a fawn. I was naturally rebellious. I wasn’t interested in a career pulling a sleigh. I wanted more, I wanted to be the sleigh driver not the puller. The other fawns didn’t think much of that idea so they laughed at me and called me names. So I got into trouble. I looked for a place that would accept me on my own terms.
“I started hanging out at the pool hall and got mixed up with some badass elves. One thing led to another and soon I was drinking and smoking. Santa had made the pool hall off limits to any of his crew, so we were all outcasts. We lived on the fringes and made a living by providing things to the upright goody-goodies that they weren’t supposed to have. The hypocrisy just fuelled my anger even more. And the anger fuelled my drinking. I was on the road to perdition.”
Rudolf’s voice cracked. He still smiled but a tear forced its way to his lower eyelid and he gulped.
“That road was straight downhill. My coat became shaggy, my antlers dull and my nose began to redden and glow. I was living in the park grabbing any bits of grass that I could get just to stay alive until my next drink. I was a teenager then and, because of my glowy nose, an easy target for the other reindeer who used to call me names. Instead of names though, they started heaving snowballs at me. They were wrong to do that but I forgive them. Some of them are my best friends now.”
He heard a sob from the audience. There were Donder and Vixen, who was holding a handkerchief up to her eyes. He smiled at them. Maybe they had learned as much from his misfortune as he had himself.
“They say that you have to hit rock bottom before you can be saved. Well, I sure was at my lowest point. Christmas was coming soon and I saw the reindeer getting decked out, the bags and bags of toys hauled onto the loading ramp and I just wished, wished that I could be redeemed. That I could be part of that noble enterprise. But hell, there was no way. I burned my bridges long ago. No redemption, no chance — then a miracle happened.”
Rudolf looked up at the intensely bright stars that cradled the North Pole and paused. There was silence punctuated by a few scattered sobs. Rudolf saw Santa at the far back wipe his sleeve across his eyes.
“To be honest, I’m no believer in miracles, but whatever you want to call it, a lucky break, someone’s misfortune turned out to be my salvation. I’m sure that most of you remember last Christmas. How could you not? Maybe it was something to do with El Nino, but whatever, it was warm and foggy. Nothing moved. You could walk into a wall six inches in front of your face. That is, everyone but me. The glow from my nose cut right through that fog. A driving light, Santa said later.”
They all knew the story, but this was his telling and they were paying rapt attention. He took a breath and picked up the glass of water to have a drink. He chuckled. It was frozen. He turned it upside down. Good to break the tension. The audience relaxed a notch and laughed along with him.
“The word was out. For the first time in 500 years, Christmas delivery was going to be cancelled. Everybody was yelling and screaming. They were running around bumping into each other until they got near me. Maybe within 100 or 200 feet and they could see. And I could see the answer to Santa’s dilemma. Would they let me in? Would he let me explain it to him? I shouldn’t have worried. Santa knows whose being naughty or nice and that includes reindeer. I watched him walk right towards me with that harness, silver bells and all, and right then and there, I knew that I had been saved.”
The sound started slowly. Some claps, some hoof stomps, a whistle or two and then everyone was cheering. They didn’t need to hear the rest, they knew it all. Rudolf turned and cantered calmly off the platform.