‘Twas the Night Before: Chapters 16-17: The Claus Clan
So the elves bring Tom to the Claus cottage. Mrs. Claus appears:
A rosy-cheeked woman in robe, slipper, and nightcap bustled out, whispering in a vibrato that never dropped below high C.
Mrs. Claus explains why Tom can’t understand the elves when they speak, but he can understand her:
“They speak the language of the place,” she said quietly. “We understand each other. Father and I speak a universal language for our kind, so the occasional mortal can understand.”
Well…that clears things up. I guess.
Then Santa shows up!
Tom pushed himself up with his good arm. This couldn’t be real. Snow-white hair, big beard, twinkly eyes, half glasses low on his nose. A cherry-wood pipe.
I just love that the pipe gets its own special sentence. And that Tom is able to identify the wood.
“Convinced we’re figments of your imagination?” Kris asked.
Kris smiled. “Is there a mortal without pride? Your imagination is responsible for only so much of what you see.”
Nice to see that the arrogance and condescension of Jenkins’ characters continues apace.
We are here introduced to the basic conceit of the place: it’s real, but the particulars depend on what you, the visitor, think when you think of Santa. There are reindeer when Tom shows up, but there aren’t always–they’re just there because he associates reindeer with Santa.
More snideness from Jolly St. Nick:
“We’ve hosted Western mortals before, but none has had the wherewithal to conjure Rudolph.”
Nice. Sorry to disappoint you, Kris.
They take Tom to a comfy bedroom, and he sleeps it off. His injuries, I mean. Sorta.
This starts a minor theme of this story: Tom conking out whenever the Clauses tell him.
Back in Chicago, Noella learns of the plane crash. She takes off her necklace in remorse.
Jenkins tells us that Noella had decided just before hearing the news that she would “admit her fantasy” to Tom and give up the Santa-belief.
WOW GOOD THING SHE WON’T HAVE TO NOW, RIGHT???
(Only Jenkins can use the phrase “admit her fantasy” without a wink.)
Tom wakes up with some of his injuries seemingly healed, and Mrs. Claus won’t even let him leave the bedroom (saaaay…):
She brought him stacks of flapjacks and a creamy fruit mixture that hit him like a narcotic. He fell asleep eating, and when he awoke, it was nighttime again.
Can I be the only one freaked out by the fact that they’re keeping Tom drugged and incapacitated? It’s starting to feel like A Very Misery Christmas.
Kris is back to talk to him:
“When does this fantasy end? I have so many questions?”
“That’s why you’re here.”
“Where is ‘here’? The Black Forest?”
“You came to us through the Black Forest. You could have found me at home or in England, France, Russia, Holland–”
“You’re an idea, a spirit.”
“I am Santa Claus.”
“My former fiancee believe you are real.”
“I know her well. A Christmas Eve baby with a lovely name.”
GUYS, IT’S THE BIG REVEAL
NOELLA WAS BORN ON THE 24TH, NOT THE 26TH
“Sir, she was born the day after Christmas.”
“Begging your pardon,” Kris said, “’twas the night before.”
And we have a title.
Now, this is the novel’s big revelation, though I myself feel that it rather pales in comparison to the following facts:
1. Tom was transported from the Black Forest of Germany to FAIRYLAND
2. Santa and Mrs. Claus are REAL
3. Nobody gets sick or hurt in FAIRYLAND, and time doesn’t really pass, which means that the elves have been
kept in slavery mining platinum for Kris Kringle’s stupid necklaces FOREVER
But I guess that’s just me.
And NOW things start to suck.
Let that sink in.
You see, when Tom arrived in Germany, Jenkins called it “following a rich journalistic tradition to update the Santa myth.”
And now Jenkins is keeping up a long tradition of making Santa Claus unintentionally creepy:
“I do not visit every home. One doubter will keep me away. I get things to believers, sometimes through skeptics, but I visit only the rare home where belief in me is unanimous.”
OH THAT’S NICE
Sorry, Tiny Tim, I know you were hoping for a new crutch this year, but your older sister doesn’t believe. Ha! Sucks to be you, I guess.
So it turns out that Noella was right when she said that poor kids could get gifts if only their parents believed.
In his own way, Santa is worse than TurboJesus. At least TurboJesus doesn’t force people to remain unsaved because their siblings are unsaved.
And on that depressing note, Santa makes Tom fall asleep again. (Well, he has been awake for nearly twenty minutes.)
Tomorrow, Tom joins Santa in the
sweatshop workshop. Stay tuned!