“Come in Blitzen.”

I mule-kicked the door shut behind me, sleigh bells crashing to the floor on the other side. Flaring my nostrils, I was still steaming from the news. Retirement my ass. I knew exactly who was behind all this.

The freak.

Before I could get a grunt out that red-faced plumper held up a chubby hand. “I think I know what this is all about,’ he said, peering just over those wire framed glasses. They’re not even prescription. Just like the blue eyes—contacts. Such a phony.

“Now, I understand you’ve been speaking with the rest of the team. It seems you have a problem with Rudy?”

Rudy. Oh Jeez. More nostril-flaring. Don’t even get me started. The whole thing was a farce. All the way down to the snow storm. Hello, it’s the freaking North Pole, not exactly sunny Florida, to say we needed help with the sleigh in those conditions is like saying Fat Man here needed a hand with the cookies. I tapped a hoof. Swallowed it down. I couldn’t let on that I wanted to boot his ample ass back to Caribou.

“Well sir, it’s just that, well, Rudolph isn’t even the best on the team. In fact, he’s the weakest link and…”

The hand went up again. This guy, some nerve I tell ya.

“I’ll save you some time, Blitzen. Rudolph is our guy. He’s the one who gets the kiddies excited. After all, they still air the television special after fifty years. And I must say, I look quite good in that version. Fit and slim. Anyway, he’s got a twitter feed, a street team, stuffed animals and cartoons, you name it. And now, with Slash coming into his own, well, he just signed a deal with Red Bull! It’s got wings! I love it!”

He would. I always knew the guy was a sellout, but to hear him come out and say it just made my antlers burn. I’d slid closer, but just as I edged up enough to take a bite out of his sugar plumb ass Dancer burst in the door.

“Hey Blitz, come on. Time to go.”

I sneered at Santa. “Slash, really? With his rap music and flashy reins. The guy is a joke. A joke! It doesn’t even work with the song. You can’t just replace me. I’m one of the original eight. Eight! Not nine you bloated bag of gas!”

“Blitz.” Dancer said, nosing me along. I started out the door, but I couldn’t let it go. “I’m from champion pedigree. My ancestor was Borghild, the great Norwegian Warrior!”

Dancer leaned in close. “Man, would you just give it a rest. Wait until you see your new gig.”

I followed him through the gate, still griping about my replacement. About Rudy, and his jolly-red-nose act. We trotted out to the pasture, past the team quarters to a newly constructed stall out in the forest. I only followed because Dancer and I had been through it all together. But the guy was uncharacteristically quiet, and as we neared my new facility I felt an incredible writhing down in the wedding tackle regions. Instinct took over my movements. I sneezed and snuffed, my reflexes kicking like I was a calf again.

“Relax, stud.” Dancer snickered.

Inside I Dance led me to my new quarters. By then I was intrigued, not to mention feeling a little bad about the way handled things. The fat guy had come through though, the place was heaven. Bales of golden hay were stacked high and crisp. The temperature was a balmy 22 and a pail of apples sat overturned and spilling. I looked at Dancer and he winked. “So long, Blitz. Enjoy. I’ll be training with the young bucks.”

I sniffed around, still a little worked up when I heard some rustling over by the door. I looked up, half expecting ye of old shiny snauzer to show up when perhaps the finest looking doe I’d seen since that summer vacation in Alaska years back sashayed into the shed. She blinked a few times, running a hoof in the dirt.

“So you’re Blitzen? she shyly, her voice like a sheet of silk over my neck.

I swallowed hard, fighting the urge to hop right up on my hind legs. “Yup”

Maybe retirement wouldn’t be so bad.

–Pete Fanning/2014


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