All Is but Toys

“Hello hello hello, everybody.” The big man taps the mic. “If you could please take your seats, we can get started. Thank you.”

Now he shouts, “Ho! You folks over there by the windows. Yes, you. If you could move away from the windows. That’s good. We wouldn’t want to lose any of you prematurely. They’d have an easy chance at you if you stayed there. Not that we’re in a danger zone, but you never know. One might jump up and bite you. Maybe even drag you off. So ho, be careful if for some reason you end up outside. It’s no Jurassic Park here, folks, but keep an eyeball peeled.”

I wonder what he’s talking about, this chubby man with the long white beard. Looking around, I check to see if anyone else appears a little uncomfortable with this introductory tidbit. It’s hard to tell; we all wear smiles from birth, and they stay with us for life. I don’t have to look in the mirror to know that. All of us little, permanent smilers. Who’d think we ever worried about anything?

We’ve all answered the call, saw the coded posters on shopping center bulletin boards, and the innocent tear-away tabs on telephone poles, disguised ads on TV and Facebook, the buzz in chatrooms exclusively for our kind.

And here we are, culled out, the wheat separated from the chaff. The cream of the crop, we are the very best of the best cheerful, hard-working ones, not too short, but not too tall.

I can’t say I dig these multi-colored pointed caps and tights that pull a little tight in the crotch. But hey, the money’s good even if those huge reindeer are roaming free. Who’d have thought he’d turn them into carnivores? He says it’s to take care of anyone who comes up here searching for this place. Bye-bye outsiders. How jolly.

What’s the attrition rate, I wonder, either through simply giving up due to long hours, or being snatched up as snacks by those meat-eating hulks? Me, I’m sticking no matter what. One year up here and you make enough gold to take care of yourself and your family for a couple of years. And if you want to come back and work another year somewhere in the future, with a good track record, you’re in. And at a higher pay grade than the first time. Heck, if you decide to stay on, like many of the unmarried ones do, you could even move up the supervisory chain. First a section head, then a division. Some of the long-timers oversee thousands of us. Maybe that’ll be me someday.

“Ho, folks, okay. Let’s get started. You all know what you’re here for, and what I’d like you to do is count off, one through fifty, to be assigned to your work factory. There are fifty groups of you for my fifty factories because the toys fall into fifty divisions. Once you get to your factory, you’ll be broken down into smaller groups to work on specific items, such as athletic equipment, dolls and accessories, bikes, and so on. Starting with you here in front, please count off.”

It’s me. I’m the first number one. It is a factory, but it’s also a floor number. Down. I’m on the first floor below us. All of his factories are underground to avoid a huge footprint that might be seen by passersby or flyovers and satellites. On the outside, this place looks like a farmhouse with some grazing animals – the aforementioned carnivorous reindeer taking care of intruders.

These carnivores aren’t the stars. You know Donner and Blitzen and the rest. They’re vegetarians. We wouldn‘t want to be traveling south with a bunch of huge meat-eaters. That could cause problems when the big man encounters humans.

No, the stars have their own ranch in an undisclosed location. It’s so secret only he knows where it is. Him and the Missus. And, of course, the biggest star, Rudolph, chooses his place to live. Even the big man asks Rudolph not to tell him where it is. When December twenty-fourth comes around, Rudolph just shows up here, they say. He takes his lead job very seriously. A real responsible guy, apparently.

Anyway, I’m off now, headed downstairs for eleven months. Each floor has everything. Dorms, stores, theaters, restaurants, gyms, pickleball courts, schools, libraries, you name it. He’s thought of everything. Not that there’s a whole lot of spare time. But we do have some, and when we do, I understand we’re a very serious bunch of partying elves.

“Hello hello hello, everybody.” The big man taps the mic. “If you could please take your seats, we can get started. Thank you.”

Now he shouts, “Ho! You folks over there by the windows. Yes, you. If you could move away from the windows. That’s good. We wouldn’t want to lose any of you prematurely. They’d have an easy chance at you if you stayed there. Not that we’re in a danger zone, but you never know. One might jump up and bite you. Maybe even drag you off. So ho, be careful if for some reason you end up outside. It’s no Jurassic Park here, folks, but keep an eyeball peeled.”

I wonder what he’s talking about, this chubby man with the long white beard. Looking around, I check to see if anyone else appears a little uncomfortable with this introductory tidbit. It’s hard to tell; we all wear smiles from birth, and they stay with us for life. I don’t have to look in the mirror to know that. All of us little, permanent smilers. Who’d think we ever worried about anything?

We’ve all answered the call, saw the coded posters on shopping center bulletin boards, and the innocent tear-away tabs on telephone poles, disguised ads on TV and Facebook, the buzz in chatrooms exclusively for our kind.

And here we are, culled out, the wheat separated from the chaff. The cream of the crop, we are the very best of the best cheerful, hard-working ones, not too short, but not too tall.

I can’t say I dig these multi-colored pointed caps and tights that pull a little tight in the crotch. But hey, the money’s good even if those huge reindeer are roaming free. Who’d have thought he’d turn them into carnivores? He says it’s to take care of anyone who comes up here searching for this place. Bye-bye outsiders. How jolly.

What’s the attrition rate, I wonder, either through simply giving up due to long hours, or being snatched up as snacks by those meat-eating hulks? Me, I’m sticking no matter what. One year up here and you make enough gold to take care of yourself and your family for a couple of years. And if you want to come back and work another year somewhere in the future, with a good track record, you’re in. And at a higher pay grade than the first time. Heck, if you decide to stay on, like many of the unmarried ones do, you could even move up the supervisory chain. First a section head, then a division. Some of the long-timers oversee thousands of us. Maybe that’ll be me someday.

“Ho, folks, okay. Let’s get started. You all know what you’re here for, and what I’d like you to do is count off, one through fifty, to be assigned to your work factory. There are fifty groups of you for my fifty factories because the toys fall into fifty divisions. Once you get to your factory, you’ll be broken down into smaller groups to work on specific items, such as athletic equipment, dolls and accessories, bikes, and so on. Starting with you here in front, please count off.”

It’s me. I’m the first number one. It is a factory, but it’s also a floor number. Down. I’m on the first floor below us. All of his factories are underground to avoid a huge footprint that might be seen by passersby or flyovers and satellites. On the outside, this place looks like a farmhouse with some grazing animals – the aforementioned carnivorous reindeer taking care of intruders.

These carnivores aren’t the stars. You know Donner and Blitzen and the rest. They’re vegetarians. We wouldn‘t want to be traveling south with a bunch of huge meat-eaters. That could cause problems when the big man encounters humans.

No, the stars have their own ranch in an undisclosed location. It’s so secret only he knows where it is. Him and the Missus. And, of course, the biggest star, Rudolph, chooses his place to live. Even the big man asks Rudolph not to tell him where it is. When December twenty-fourth comes around, Rudolph just shows up here, they say. He takes his lead job very seriously. A real responsible guy, apparently.

Anyway, I’m off now, headed downstairs for eleven months. Each floor has everything. Dorms, stores, theaters, restaurants, gyms, pickleball courts, schools, libraries, you name it. He’s thought of everything. Not that there’s a whole lot of spare time. But we do have some, and when we do, I understand we’re a very serious bunch of partying elves.

So Merry Christmas to all of you. If you have kids, make sure to tell them that we’re on the job now, starting every January first. And we’ll make enough toys to drop off to every one of you on Christmas Eve so you can pretend you’re the big man himself and put them under the tree.

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