THE night rain splashed onto the pavement as the yellow cab pulled up outside the club. The reflection of its brake lights glowed an ominous crimson in the puddle, before being shattered by a shiny black boot, as the old man climbed out.
He stopped for a moment, his green-gloved hand resting on a fire hydrant, which was next to a Walk/Don’t Walk sign, which was next to a baseball player, who was next to a cowboy on a horse. Then he walked to the head of the queue and addressed the doorman.
“I’m here to see Red,” he said.
The doorman snorted and asked the old man’s name.
The old man answered, fixing the doorman with his steely blue eyes.
The doorman snorted again. Perhaps he had a cold. “Look, buddy, you ain’t coming in. I got a list, and your name ain’t on it…”
“Is that so?” said the old man, pulling the red fur-lined hood back off his face. “Well, I’ve got TWO lists. Your name’s on one of them. I could move it to the other…”
The doorman blanched. And snorted. It was definitely a cold.
“Now look again,” said the old man. “According to the array of cultural signifiers I have encountered since the beginning of this story, I am definitely in America, so I might be down under Santa Claus.”
The doorman checked. And snorted. He needed a tissue. “Oh, sorry, Santa.”
“Father Christmas to you,” said the old man, as he swept past him into the club. He stepped into a cavernous room. It was just like his grotto, except instead of elves making toys, it was full of people disporting themselves in a louche and immoderate manner best suited to a documentary on BBC Three.
All the club was lit red, and the source of the light was a plush booth in the far corner. Christmas picked his way through the sunglasses-wearing throng towards the booth. Sitting at the table was a reindeer with diffuse beams streaming from his nose, painting the club scarlet. He was sipping a cocktail through a straw, and surrounded by three women with morals as loose as their dresses were tight.
“Ho, ho, ho,” said Father Christmas.
“That’s not very nice,” said the reindeer. “Actually, it’s downright misogynistic.” The women took their handbags and left.
“So, ‘Red’, huh?”
“What do you want, old man?”
“I want you back on point,” said Father Christmas. “It was foggy last Christmas Eve and I didn’t have a clue where I was going.”
“So what happened to your sat-nav?”
“That’s not important. Look, come back, please? It was nothing personal,” said the old man.
The reindeer gave a bitter laugh. “Nothing personal? You genetically modified me so I would have a massive red glowing hooter. I was mocked by my peers. You weren’t interested until I became useful to you, and then you dropped me at the first opportunity. No wonder I went on a laser beam-based rampage and ran away.”
“Where did you go?”
The reindeer drew on his straw. He needed it because you can’t pick up a glass if you are a reindeer. “I tried to live within the normal reindeer community, but it’s difficult for a flying reindeer with a laser nose to integrate, though I did have some early success as a super-hero.
“I drifted for awhile, got a job as the red light for a house of ill-repute, and ended up here. This is my joint.”
“Please come back.”
The reindeer eyed the old man suspiciously. “What’s in it for me?”
“All the carrots you want.”
“So you’re saying your carrot is a carrot?”
“And a song!” the old man floundered. “You can have a song about you.”
“I like the sound of that…”
“You’ll go down in history, Rudolph… We’ll just airbrush out the rampage and the brothel.”
“All right,” said Rudolph. “I will come back. I don’t like it here. They have Fox News and they don’t know how to spell the word colour.”
The old man and the reindeer walked out of the club together.
“So what did happen to the sat-nav?” asked the reindeer.
“Upgraded to Apple Maps, didn’t I?” said Father Christmas. “I was still making deliveries in July.”