Eclectic Voices

Fiction, Monologues, Plays & More

Blitzen Reflects

Vintage Christmas 61 pictures from christmas decorations photosPart of the Eclectic Voices Holiday Issue
By Taylor Ashbrook

Today is a good day. She can’t stop herself thinking about what she will say. She’s getting her 15 year chip tonight. Another chip to hang amongst the bells on her harness for the Special Day this year.

Her story is pretty unique. She is the only one of Santa’s Reindeer (S-Deer for short) that ever had to join AA. Sure, there are lots of Elves in the Program, but there are a lot more of them, and they have to deal with more corporate-like crap, and more issues… More bullshit, Blitzen supposes. Certainly she’s never met one who doesn’t drive her crazy at any given moment. Imagine how much they drive each other crazy. No wonder so many of them drink.

But Blitzen knows she owes a lot to the Elves. Starting with the ETC (Elf Transportation Committee) for picking her to join the S-Deer back in 1822.

Santa had been making his deliveries alone until that year. Who knows how long. Blitzen wasn’t much on history. After Christmas 1821, Mrs. Claus put her foot down. Sure, Santa, was immortal, but his age was fixed at fairly old to start with, and the population that observed Christmas with a visit from Santa had grown dramatically in recent decades. And spread over more and move of the planet, too. Santa was taking a beating each Season. And taking longer to recover.

Mrs. Claus is responsible for his caretaking and, in case anyone ever wonders, she doesn’t give a hoot that she serves a somewhat stereotypical role in their relationship. December 30, 1821, she let the Elves know, in no uncertain terms, that Santa needed help. Santa had to make the deliveries himself, there was no question about that, but carrying the gift bags and all the travel, well, the Elves needed to come up with a plan to help Santa out.

The ELC (Elf Logistics Committee), previously only responsible for organizing the travel routes for Santa each Season, spent six months working on it. Ultimately, they decided on a sleigh and reindeer. Magically enhanced, of course, but that’s typical Elf thinking. Even though they can see the future, after considering many advanced technological options, and a lot of input from the EPRC (Elf Public Relations Committee), they understood that Santa needed something as magical as he was himself.

So, the ELC designed Santa’s Sleigh and turned the reindeer requirement over to the newly formed ETC (again, Elf Transportation Committee). Blitzen really had no idea how she’d been selected in that initial round. She was big and strong and smart, but her consciousness didn’t begin until she was already selected, and she hadn’t ever been curious enough to ask the Elves to explain that process. Which continued to this day, but that was during S-Deer Hibernation each year. There was quite a bit of turnover on the S-Deer team. Blitzen was the only original Flyer still on the Active Team, and even she’d had a few Seasons when an alternate had covered for her.

So, the ETC coordinated Santa’s magic to create the first conscious, verbal S-Deer team for 1822. The story didn’t get out until 1823. Most people think that’s just part of the “myth” in the “poem” ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas, which was published “anonymously” in 1823, although there was some brouhaha later between two guys who both claimed they’d written it. In truth, all the stories about Santa – whether poems or songs or TV shows or movies – all that “fiction” has actually been strategically distributed by the EPRC. And, honestly, some of it has truly been fiction – the EPRC figures they need to modernize the story now and then, but their perspective is that the story should maintain a mystique – and how better to manage that than with false and varying stories, right? But, hey, the S-Deer have always joked that the EPRC should be the EPC instead: Elf Propaganda Committee is more accurate than Elf Public Relations Committee.

Anyway, part of being S-Deer means you age very slowly. S-Deer hibernate for about 8-9 months each year, and they don’t age during that time. They sleep and grow antlers. Wake Up might be staggered, but Blitzen usually woke up mid-October to begin training for the Season. Bulking up. Exercising. Studying the latest maps and current events that might impact their travel routes on the Special Day. After all, Christmas Eve is actually 24 hours – only 24 hours, depending on your perspective – ask any Elf – but it’s always night somewhere on the planet during those hours, so that’s 24 hours of continuous travel, with many, many, many stops. It’s a physical and mental challenge.

Sometimes emotional, too. Some areas are dangerous. Soldiers on battle grounds. Disaster areas can make finding their families difficult. They always think of them as their families. That’s the way Santa rolls, and the S-Deer roll right with him.

Blitzen had only missed three Christmas trips over all her years. Once, in 1902, when the Active Team all came down with Antler Rot and Mrs. Claus insisted they were benched to allow the ERRC (Elf Reindeer Resources Committee – seriously, the Elves have committees for everything), responsible for the health and welfare of all Santa’s Reindeer – Active, Alternate and Retired. That year, the Alternates Racer, Pacer, Fearless, Peerless, Ready, Steady, Feckless, and Speckless took the trip on the Special Day. That story was attributed to Frank L. Baum, believe it or not.

The other two Special Days Blitzen missed were 1940 and 1941. Dark years for Blitzen, but after her lowest year, although she had to drink herself even lower before she was able to face the fact that she needed help.

It was 1939 that she experienced her greatest shame. The year she bullied a young S-Deer in training named, Rudolph. You most likely know that story. They didn’t call it bullying back then. The EPRC didn’t entirely cover it up, but the story they released went easy on the bully-ers. Especially Blitzen.

She’s thought about it a lot over the years. Even has vague recollections of dreams about it during Hibernation. It was a rough decade for her, true, although there was no good excuse.

Blitzen had come from Germany. In fact, Blitzen means “lightening” in German. And the horror of World War 1 and Germany’s part in it had been hard on Blitzen. WW1 broke her heart for the first time. She’d aged into her late 20’s by then, and although she’d seen war before – not that she ever understood it – WW1 rocked her faith in mankind.

In 1939, when she woke up in mid-October, she learned WW2 had just started the month before. Germany was doing it again! It was horrible. And her name was even similar to that of the horrible catalyst, Blitzkrieg.

Well, Blitzen started drinking more than she had before, although she’d always been a little bit wild, a bit of a party Deer. Now drinking distracted her. Numbed the pain. But it somehow also sparked her anger. And shortened her patience.

Rudolph was in the wrong place at the wrong time one day. Blitzen had a wretched hangover and was leading a High Speed training flight for the Active Team. Just learning to fly that season, Rudolph would always struggle with navigation, even with that superhero nose of his. He was solo and off course and Blitzen had to do some serious maneuvering to avoid a violent and potentially deadly collision. Rudolph never even realized it. He hadn’t yet learned to fly with enough speed to recognize High Speed flight going by – admittedly, it was hard to see, even for Santa, and it was his magic that allowed it to happen.

Blitzen about had a heart attack. She trembled for hours after landing, safely. And she puked several times. Blizten really, really hated to puke.

Well, that night Blitzen tied one on. She rallied her pals to join her, they tracked Rudolph down and… well, they were horribly cruel. Blitzen was a star and the other S-Deer looked up to her, so it all resulted in Rudolph being snubbed and bullied. You know, bullying is a hot-button topic these days, but back then it was… tolerated. And Blitzen had all that anger and all that alcohol fueling the flames. She thought it was easing her pain to see Rudolph suffer. And she didn’t care how it made Rudolph feel.

So, when the weather – worldwide mind you, something that had never happened before – was frighteningly bleak going into the Special Day, and Rudolph was asked to use that super nose of his to save Christmas 1939, Rudolph was a wreak. He’d lost all confidence in himself, and he had lost his passion for training, convinced he’d never make it to the Active Team since all the S-Deer hated him. He was trembling and crying, utterly terrified, when Santa came to ask for his help. And it broke Blitzen’s heart for the second time in her life.

Of course, Blitzen had sobered up before the Special Day that year, so she was clearer than she’d been in weeks. With Santa and Mrs. Claus’s help, Blitzen helped get Rudolph together to lead the Active Team. Rudolph wasn’t strong or experienced enough to take one of the eight regular spots, so they added him to the front of the entire Team. Blitzen moved from her usual position in the back near Santa to the position behind Rudolph on his right, so she could help him stay on course.

It was the worst Christmas trip of Blitzen’s entire career. Rudolph struggled and suffered horribly the entire time. There were times when his tears would freeze and fly back into Blitzen’s face. Blitzen welcomed the sting. It helped distract her from the shame, which was more painful than she wanted to acknowledge. She spent the entire 24 hours doing everything she could to help Rudolph, trying to make up for all the nastiness they’d put him through, knowing it was going to take a lot more. Not knowing if she would ever be able to forgive herself.

The After Party, a week of eating and celebrating Mrs. Claus and the EHC (Elf Hospitality Committee) host each year, was unusually subdued in 1939. Blitzen made sure that everyone gave Rudolph credit for saving Christmas. Convinced Santa to make a speech in Rudolph’s honor. Stayed by Rudolph’s side for two solid days until she was sure that all the other S-Deer knew it would no longer be acceptable to tease or bully Rudolph. And then she poured herself into a bottle and didn’t look back. She shed her antlers and her self-respect and drained herself into Hibernation, grateful for the oblivion.

The next year, 1940, Blitzen started drinking the minute she woke up and didn’t stop. Her training was bad. Her mood was black. So, Santa benched her for the Special Day. At the time, Blitzen decided that just meant more time to drink.

And then she did something none of the Active S-Deer had ever done. She didn’t show up for Hibernation. She worked it out with a couple of Elves who were still fans to stay in a shed behind the main Toy Factory and just kept drinking. And drinking. It was around that time the term “blitzed” became popular for describing someone who was drunk.

October 1941, Rudolph decided enough was enough. He’d turned his life around, become a permanent part of the Active Team, always at the front, and he’d ultimately found respect and love as part of the community. He was wise beyond his years. So, when he woke up and discovered Blitzen passed out, antlers in horrible condition (it looked like she hadn’t shed them from the previous Season), he went to Santa, and they organized an intervention.

As it turned out Blitzen was ready. She’d hit bottom somewhere along the line, she just hadn’t been able to figure out how to get back on her feet. Rudolph went with her to her first AA meeting. One for Elves, which was hard for Blitzen to swallow, but she was the only S-Deer who ever developed a drinking problem. It helped her find her “humble” having to meet with Elves to talk about her problems. And it helped her get past her intolerance of Elves, too. They would continue to drive her crazy at times, but she understood much better the kind of pressure they lived with. She even came to admire many of them.

So, here Blizten is, sober for fifteen S-Deer years now. And they all want to hear her story. Again. She is grateful she’s alive to tell it. And she looks forward to her 188th Christmas Special Day delivery trip, too. All the other Active S-Deer have been replaced at one time or another. Some due to chronic injury. One death (Donner’s death was the third time Blitzen’s heart was broken). Mostly retirement. It was a tough job and most eventually felt they were ready to pass the harness to a younger S-Deer after about 20 trips. But not Blitzen. Although the EPRC had decided to leave everyone in ignorant bliss about the changes. Humans could have a hard time with change. They had proven quite attached to “Now, Dasher! Now, Dancer! Now, Prancer, and Vixen! On, Comet! On, Cupid! On, Donner and Blitzen!”

Blitzen would never retire. Mostly, she liked to keep an eye on the training of upcoming S-Deer, especially those the magic gave special gifts to, many with glowing super noses like Rudolph’s. She was a champion of talent and worked tirelessly to encourage and develop every young S-Deer to reach their full potential.

Rudolph had become a dear friend over the years, and Blitzen spent most of her time during After Parties with him and his family. S-Deer were only able to have a family after retirement, so Rudolph had adopted her into his as honorary Aunt Blitzen. She even stayed with them during Hibernation.

So, tonight, she’d remember to thank him. And Santa and Mrs. Claus, of course. And all her fellow addicts – Elves, every one. Who would have guessed, all those years ago?

Blitzen checked her antlers in the reflection of a window as she passed. She stopped and took a good look. Took a breath. Said, out loud, “Hi, my name is Blitzen, and I’m an alcoholic.” She thought for a few moments. “And I’m the luckiest one of Santa’s Reindeer.”

Okay. She was ready now. An attitude of gratitude makes all the difference.

Oh, and she’d have to remember to throw in the EPRC’s latest published joke: “For every Christmas tree lit before Thanksgiving, an Elf drowns a baby reindeer.” You had to admit, those Elves did have a sense of humor.

_____________________________________________________

Taylor Ashbrook’s current favorite quote about writing: “Words are sacred. They deserve respect. If you get the right ones, in the right order, you can nudge the world a little.” By one of her favorite playwrights, Tom Stoppard. A born and bred “Theater Geek,” Taylor aspires to write more than she actually manages to put words down on paper. Having written mostly with partners for live theater projects, she hopes to someday write a novel she would enjoy reading. Currently, she’s working on a dark, full length play – sans partners – just to get it out of her head. Except she takes a lot of breaks to direct, act and produce. Taylor has been a Member of The Eclectic Company Theatre, except for a couple brief years, since 1990.

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4 comments on “Blitzen Reflects

  1. emilykarn
    December 16, 2013

    Loved it! Poor Blitzen, at least she turned her life around.

  2. emilykarn
    December 16, 2013

    Loved it! Poor Blizen, at least she turned her life around.

  3. Ken Patton
    December 19, 2013

    Wow! I really loved this one… the narrative voice is compelling and intriguing, and the research you did — oh, my lord… the research! Such a rich story… this was absolutely fabulous!

  4. taybrook
    January 14, 2014

    HAha! You know, I meant to dedicate this one to you and Paul and Biff: Paul was the one who told me what Blitzen means in German; I’d just read your interview here that mentioned “always research!” – and Biff suggested it could be about bullying… From there, especially after doing some research, it just took on a life of its own! Thank you for the inspiration!!!

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This entry was posted on December 16, 2013 by in Fiction and tagged , , , , , , , , , , .
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