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Dec
19

hard-nosed seasonal fare

This time of year everybody is searching for a good holiday story. Magazines are packed with heartwarming reminiscence and the shelves of your local bookstore are choked with anthologies promising to spread good cheer.

What you won’t find much of is hard-nosed seasonal fare.

I’d like to change that if you have a few minutes to spare. I know that might asking a lot this time of year, what with all the hustling and bustling going on, but I feel that it’s important to keep perspective on things. One minute you’re decking the halls and the next you’re living in a cardboard box if you don’t keep your head on a swivel.

The following tale I’d like to regale you with is about a little girl named Greta.

Why Greta?

Well, Greta is an ugly name and I thought I’d throw a bone to girls with that moniker as a way to make up for the fact that they’ve had to drag it around all their life. I’m just thoughtful like that. They might even feel indebted to me. Years from now people might say “You know, those Gretas sure are devoted to Manion.”

So this little girl Greta wanted to know why Santa seemed to favor rich kids over poorer ones. After doing a little research on the topic she found that wealthy children got a lot more toys than boy and girls from impoverished areas.

To say that she was fuming over this would not be putting too fine a point on it.

Her parents tried unsuccessfully to explain it to her. Her teachers tried unsuccessfully to explain it to her. Her friends were so annoyed by her ceaseless questioning that they stopped talking to her altogether.

It took two burly mall security officers to drag her off the Santa sitting outside the food court. Decorum prevents me from relating much of the subject matter she discussed with the as-jolly-as-can-be-expected-for-$12-an-hour old elf. The one word that will stick with most of the emotionally-scarred children who witnessed the confrontation is “despicable”.

Greta decided the only way she was going to get answers was to meet the ‘big man’ himself. To that end she ran away from home and tried to make it all the way up to the North Pole.

Let me just interrupt here and warn you that if you’re holding a mug of warm cocoa, listening to Bing Crosby sing a classic tune and filled to bursting with the spirit of the season than you might want to stop reading here. I certainly don’t want to be the turd in your holiday punchbowl … because beginning next paragraph I have dropped trough, I’m perched over the aforementioned bowl and open for business.

Fueled by the apparent injustice of it all and driven by the ruthless determination that most kids possess Greta made it all the way into the Alaskan wilderness before she froze to death. Her last hours spent trying to find warmth in an unforgiving clime. Delirious, her hands, feet, ears and nose black with frostbite, she dropped the charts and graphs she had dragged along showing the discrepancies in ol’ St. Nick’s gift distribution and fell face down in a snowdrift.

I wish I could say that’s how authorities found her but anyone familiar with that area of the country knows that there are too many large predators for a meal like Greta to go to waste. An hour after she finally expired a pack of wolves found her frozen corpse and tore her limb from limb. Aside from a few scraps of bloody clothing there was nothing left for her grieving parents to identify.

It’s at this point that I’m having some second thought about naming the little girl Greta. What seemed like a nice idea at the time now has me wondering if the Gretas reading this will appreciate their namesake being devoured by wolves. It might undo any good will I might have created and actually make these women annoyed with me.

You know how people say a crowd can “get ugly”? Well, in the case of a crowd of Gretas they start off ugly and I’m not anxious to find out where they go from there.

Certainly not a group I want showing up to a book signing in the future.

Like most holiday stories, there are a lot of morals you can gleam from Greta. The most obvious is that frostbite is not given enough respect in most of the TV specials. Elf or not, Hermey would have been dead in a matter of hours after leaving the cozy confines of Santa’s workshop. If we as a society are going to go on perpetuating careless winter behavior than the large predators of the North have no fear of starving to death, I’ll tell you that much.

Perhaps a holiday special about Santa slipping down chimneys and redistributing gifts more fairly to the children of the world might be a good place to start.

Greta would have liked that.

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