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"No More Mister Nice Santa." 

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Bubbles, how could you be so irresponsible? You stupid little elf! You’re in for it this time and boy, do you deserve it. Christmas is ruined and it’s all your fault!

 

I’m sitting on the big chair outside Santa’s office, giving myself a mental tongue lashing as I stare down at the bells on the curly toes of my shoes. Jack and Jangles walk by, snickering about me as they go. They know what big trouble I’m in. The whole of the North Pole probably does by now. The thought of what Father Christmas will say has me shivering like a shaved reindeer on a roof. 

 

Warm tears brim and nestle along the line of my lower eyelashes. I look out the window at the whirling curtains of falling snowflakes. Soon I’ll be out there with them. Little ol’ Bubbles, jobless and broke, trudging through a blizzard without a friend in the world to lean on. No more hot cocoa for me, no Sir. No carols at the tavern. No smooching under mistletoe. No presents, no honey-glazed ham, and no Home Alone on repeat at the North Pole theater. Nothing but freezing to death all alone beneath the aurora-streaked sky. I bet even Frosty won’t want anything to do with me out there. 

 

“BUBBLES! You were supposed to be watching the factory floor! What in the blitzes were you thinking, girl?! We’ll never get all these shipments out on time now!”

 

I’d never seen Ms. Sugar Plum-Buns, head elf and manager of the toy factory, quite so heated before. She’s strict on the best of days, click-clacking back and forth across the floor at a terse pace in her tight pencil skirt and ruby-red heels. But when she saw me on the security footage lounging in the breakroom, idly scrolling through Elfstagram on my phone, more steam came out her ears than a boiling tea kettle, boy howdy. The veins in her forehead looked about ready to pop.

 

Scary as she is, I’ve always respected Ms. Plum-Buns and tried to get in her good graces. She was my ticket to an eventual career in management. Was. That’s all over now though. It’ll never happen. Not after what I did today.

 

It was wrong of me to stop supervising the toy machine. I knew it at the time, too, as I walked away to play on my phone. One snag or misplacement and the whole thing can go haywire if not caught and corrected soon enough. The snag went on so long this time that the machine got all clogged up, overheated, and a fire broke out. There arose SUCH a clatter, seriously! Every elf on the floor had to run to put it out before the whole factory burned down. Someone… everyone… could have been killed because of me.

 

Gosh, I’m a terrible, horrible, BAD little elf! I just don’t know what got into me! 

 

Well, I mean… that’s not totally true. I kinda do. 

 

I’m not the only elf who’s lost their passion for the trade lately. In fact, morale’s never felt lower. For the first time this year in the history of Christmas, the Naughty List has more names than the Nice List. More boys and girls than ever are throwing tantrums in stores and not cleaning their rooms and being rude to their elders and all sorts of awful shenanigans. What’s the point of making any toys at all? The nice kids will all eventually turn naughty too, I know it. Humanity’s going to Heck in a handbasket (pardon my French) and I’m honestly about ready to give up on all of them. 

 

“Little jerks,” I mumble, picking at the red felt material of my dress.

 

I’m not the only one. All the elves grumble about it while they work. Everyone’s lost hope. No one’s whistling or jigging or feeling inspired like they used to. This job used to mean something. Now working at the North Pole is just a meaningless slog. In a few years after all the kids have turned naughty, we’ll be out of a job and have to go work in the coal factory. What kind of career is that?! 

 

Humbug.

 

“Bubbles? Santa’s ready to see you now.”

 

My heart leaps into my throat and a blanket of ice prickles across my skin. Swallowing my pride, I hop down from the chair and trudge into his office, stopping in the center of the room in front of his desk. I stare at the floor, unable to look him in the eye as his secretary softly closes the door behind me.

 

“Bubbles.”

 

His woody, baritone voice fills the room, seeping into every crevice, all the way up to the rafters. My lower lip quivers uncontrollably and I see two fat tears fall and splatter on the floor by my feet.

 

“Young lady.”

 

“Y-yes, Father Christmas?” I whisper.

 

“I’m talking to you, Bubbles. Look at me.”

 

It takes all the bravery I can muster to meet his gaze. There he sits, my jolly old boss himself, sitting at his desk in his red velvet suit looking decidedly unimpressed. His kind eyes twinkle with a sheen of concern and disappointment. 

 

My heart cracks and I sob, blubbering apologies.

 

“Oh, I’m sorry, Santa! I just wanted to take a break! I didn’t th-think that would happen. I’m sorry! I didn’t m-mean—”

 

“Now, Bubbles,” he admonishes, cutting me off as I sniffle and heave, “you know very well this behavior has been a pattern lately. Don’t think I haven’t noticed you and the other elves dragging your feet on the factory floor. It seems to me you’ve all forgotten what the spirit of Christmas is about. What are we going to tell all the little girls and boys who wished for toys this year?”

 

I cry harder, wholly ashamed of myself. Even if I worked nonstop until Christmas Eve, there’s no way I’d ever be able to get so many toys made on time. Not without the machine. And the other elves certainly won’t be helping me now. 

 

“Bubbles,” Santa says, voice softening a bit, “come here.”

 

I shuffle around his desk and look up at his mighty frame with tears streaming down my cheeks. To my surprise, he picks me up and sits me on his thigh like he does with the kids at all the malls.

 

“You used to be one of the peppiest elves at the North Pole. You were the pride of this factory. What’s gotten into you this year, Dear?”

 

I drop my gaze and gulp down tears, wondering how honest I should be. I guess it doesn’t matter now. There’s nothing to lose. May as well tell the truth.

 

“It’s the kids, Sir,” I sniffle. “They’re just so bad these days. I mean, the Nice List is shorter than ever! Why should we make them toys when all it does is spoil them? These kids don’t care about anything but their video games and their stupid social media on their stupid phones, and—”

 

“You mean like the stupid phone you were staring at when the toy machine caught on fire?”

 

I stop mid-sentence and shut my big mouth. Drat.

 

“Yes, Sir. Like that one.”

 

I’m a snooty judgey hypocrite.

 

“Bubbles. You know it’s been a hard few years for the humans. We can’t expect the children to be at their best all the time. Why, that’s what we’re here for! To spread Christmas cheer during the darkest, coldest days and remind everyone of the warm feelings that bring us together. Who will teach the children to be kind and loving if not Santa and his elves?”

 

I wipe my nose with my sleeve and nod. 

 

“You’re right, Father Christmas. I don’t know why I lost hope.”

 

“Well, something must be done to set this right, young lady,” he says firmly, patting my back and looking down into my eyes. “I’ve clearly been too soft on you elves, letting mistakes slide and allowing phones on the floor. Seeing you all nodding off and taking breaks whenever you please. Why, just yesterday I caught Jack and Jangles out by the dumpster, drinking eggnog from a flask during their shift! Those rascals.”

 

My eyes go wide as I grasp the seriousness of the situation. What a bunch of dreary slackers we’ve become. Drinking nog on the job, really! That’s a Christmas disaster waiting to happen.

 

“It’s gotten bad, Sir. You’re right.”

 

“Well,” he huffs, stern with resolve. “No more Mister Nice Santa. This hurts me more than it hurts you, Bubbles, but I’m going to have to make an example of you. The elves of the North Pole need to know I mean business!”

 

“Oh, please, Sir!” I sob, grabbing Santa’s wispy white beard in my hands in a panic. “Please don’t fire me! I have nowhere else to go! I’ll make it right! Honest! I’ll do anything!!”  

 

He hugs me close and rubs my back as I wail against his chest, smearing tears against his crushed velvet jacket, despondent like a toddler. 

 

“Shh sh sh, Bubbles. I’m not going to fire you,” he finally says.

 

I sniffle and look up at Kris Kringle, wiping my eyes. “You’re n-not?”

 

“No, of course not, Dear. We all make mistakes sometimes and you’ve got a promising future ahead of you. This factory needs your plucky spirit and your smile. And I need them too.”

 

Exhaling in disbelief, I feel that smile that he loves lift the corners of my mouth. My heart beams inside my chest, more grateful than it’s ever been for anything. I’m not gonna get fired! I’m not gonna freeze to death in the snow! There will be hot cocoa and candy and carols once more!

 

“Oh thank you, Santa! Thank you!!” I exclaim, hugging him tightly. “You’re the best boss in the world!”

 

“You’re going to be punished though, Bubbles,” he says, with that low, woody tenor. “I’m going to hold you accountable.”

 

I nod, still sniffling. Fear seeps from my belly up into my chest. I’m sure he’ll have me mopping the factory floors or some other dull job no one else wants to do for a while. Take the cost of the damage out of my paycheck too, maybe.

 

“Yes, Sir. I understand.”

 

In a low voice, speaking slowly, he unveils my fate.

 

“We’re going to go out to the floor, you and I, stand on the stage by the fireplace, and you’re going to apologize to everyone you put in danger today. Then, I’m going to put you over my knee right there, and you’re going to get a spanking.”

 

Every single train of thought rushing through my mind comes to a screeching halt. I stare up at him blankly, blinking as every tiny hair lining my elven skin stands at its root.

 

He can’t mean what I think he means, can he?

 

“A… s-s-spanking?”

 

“Yes, Bubbles. Just like the humans do.”

 

I feel myself frown, mouth agape. He does mean that. 

 

THAT.

 

THAT THING.

 

I can hardly process the idea of it. Spanking. That’s what some of the humans do to naughty kids (and naughty adults, too). They bend them over and smack their bottoms hard. Really hard, many times. Sometimes they even take their pants down!

 

I’ve never gotten a spanking. The very suggestion of it is almost laughable. Elves don’t spank. This is a merry place and hitting is certainly not allowed. Some of the humans who get spanked cry. It looks like it hurts a lot. It makes the cheeks of their behinds redder than mistletoe berries. Redder than the shiny balls hanging from Santa’s Christmas tree in the corner. Redder than the big bow on the wreath on the door. Really red!

 

“Will it hurt, Santa?” I ask, suddenly very aware of how small I am, sitting on his knee.

 

“Yes, Bubbles,” he says sympathetically. “Spankings are supposed to hurt. That’s the point.”

 

My bottom lip starts uncontrollably quivering all over again. I can’t think of anything scarier or more embarrassing. Maybe dying out in the snow alone would be my best option at this point.

 

“Now come, Dear,” Santa says, patting my back once more with his insanely HUGE hand. Holy moly. “Let’s get this over with. After this, I have no doubt you’ll stay focused during your shifts.”

 

Before I can respond, Father Christmas sets me down and begins guiding me toward the door in front of him. His broad left hand spans the whole of my upper back, lightly urging me forward. My feet carry me as my mind struggles to catch up to what’s happening. My destiny’s rapidly unfolding, engulfing me like a whirlpool, but my voice can’t find the words to protest.

 

I should run. 

 

I should hide.

 

~*~

 

Standing tall on the wooden stage built into the corner of the factory floor, Santa pulls the cord that sends the big whistle blaring. The elves who haven’t yet paused what they’re doing freeze and look, heads turning toward us. Their eyes all land on me. Some snicker and sneer. Others look on with quiet concern. The hot flames of the factory fireplace sizzle at my backside. 

 

Dumb little Bubbles. She’s in trouble.

 

They all know what happened. They all know it was me.  

 

“Everyone!” Santa booms, voice filling every inch of space in the room and silencing the air. “Bubbles has something she’d like to say to you.”

 

He then looks down at me expectantly, giving me the floor. I stare out at them all, frozen and terrified. Tiny knives prick my insides and an invisible hand wraps around my throat. I can’t believe this is happening. What’s about to happen. I open my mouth to speak. Nothing comes out.

 

“Go on, young lady,” he says sharply, making me jump. “Speak up!”

 

“I—I’m sorry!” I pipe up, sobbing all over again. “I’m so sorry! I was irresponsible and put everyone in danger! I’m so sorry to you all! Please forgive me, please!”

 

They look on, faces softening as I bawl. Even Jack and Jangles. Even Ms. Sugar Plum-Buns. I cover my face, vulnerable and ashamed. There’s nothing more I can say. If there was, I would.

 

For a few moments, I hear nothing but my own sniveling. Finally, I feel Santa’s massive hand at the base of my neck, patting gently. It kind of feels good to cry.

 

“I think we can all agree,” he says loudly, “that Bubbles has made a big mistake and we can’t have this sort of behavior at the North Pole. Not the week before Christmas. Not EVER!”

 

Every elf in the room jumps at the thundering roar of his voice.

 

“Now, lately I’ve been noticing the very attitude that got little Bubbles into trouble. There’s been lots of goofing off and lazing around. Going home early and coming in late, thinking of no one but yourselves. This is unacceptable. I won’t have it.”

 

Some of my co-workers blush and fidget. Especially Jack and Jangles.  

 

“We have a job to do here at this factory, and that’s to ensure every boy and girl gets what they deserve at Christmas! So now—”

 

He pauses and turns to look down at me, putting attention on his plans.

 

“You’re all going to start getting what you deserve, starting here with Bubbles.”

 

With his giant hand, Santa reaches down as I shrink away. He scoops me up effortlessly, circling my waist in the crook of his arm. I squirm, unable to help resisting, but can’t wiggle free.

 

“No! No!!” I screech, absolutely panicking. 

 

The elves begin to murmur as Santa moves toward the wooden chair a few feet away. I assume he’ll take a seat and put me over his lap, but he doesn’t. Instead, he reaches down with his free hand and pulls the footstool on the floor toward us. He then lifts his left knee, setting his black leather boot flat on the stool, and places me over his thigh.

 

Suspended several feet in the air, I kick my dangling legs and try to push myself off. I shouldn’t fight Santa, but I can’t help it. I’ve never been more frightened in my life. I feel his huge left hand cover my lower back, tightening like a snake around my waist. My hips are bent right at the apex of his thigh, jutting my round bottom into the warm air. 

 

Time slows down. The fire crackles behind us. Every elf in the room stares with open mouths and eyes the size of snowballs. They all know what a spanking is, but have never seen one in person.

 

Santa’s free hand takes the hem of my dress and flips up my skirt, revealing the green and red-striped tights hugging my bottom. In the corner of my eye, I see his right hand rise high into the air before crashing down with a sharp SMACK!

 

I would yelp, but the impact knocks the wind out of me. I inhale with a gasp, catching my breath as he spanks me again. And again. And again and again and again and again and again. 

 

Santa goes on and on, covering the whole of my bottom with his hand. It hurts. I’ve never felt this kind of pain! My life is all candy canes, gingerbread, reindeer rides, and presents. This is the worst moment of my life.

 

I cry and cry, then cry some more. Flailing, watching my tears pool on the floor, I try to escape but can’t budge. My pint-size stature has nothing on his strength. Every rapid slap of his palm cracks fire across my cheeks and just when I think it can’t get worse, it does. His thumb hooks into the hem of my panties and tights. Before I can react, he tugs them down, baring my naked bottom in front of all my friends and co-workers.

 

I gasp in shock, covering my mouth with both hands. Everyone else does too. I’ve never seen so much fear in any of their eyes. This is unthinkable. VERY off-brand. The heat of my bare cheeks meets the heat from the fire behind us and I start to beg, needing this to end now.

 

“No, please! I’m sorry, Father Christmas! I’ll never do it again! I’m sorry! No!!!

 

He raises his hand high in the air and starts spanking once more, smacking my bare bottom with ear-splitting, sonorous blows. 

 

Smack! Smack! Smack! Smack! Smack! Smack! Smack! Smack! Smack! 

 

I lose all composure, writhing and practically howling. I bet everyone in the village can hear it, even the elves at the cider tavern down the street. No one’s snickering anymore. They huddle together, heartbroken. Some stare with tears in their eyes. How could Santa do this?

 

He goes on swatting ceaselessly, laying on the guilt and admonishment while I bawl.

 

“You are a naughty, BAD little elf, Bubbles.”

 

Smack! Smack! Smack! Smack! Smack! Smack! Smack! Smack! Smack!

 

“You will NEVER do that again!”

 

Smack! Smack! Smack! Smack! Smack! Smack! Smack! Smack! Smack!

 

“If I catch you slacking off, I’ll put you right back over my knee in an instant, young lady!”

 

Smack! Smack! Smack! Smack! Smack! Smack! Smack! Smack! Smack!

 

“I’LL NEVER DO IT AGAIN!!” I scream, face soaked with tears. “I PROMISE!!!”

 

Smack! Smack! Smack! Smack! Smack! Smack! Smack! Smack! Smack!

 

My begging has little impact and Santa goes on spanking until I’ve tired myself out. I wail and give up, limp over his thigh, resigned to my punishment and the humiliation accompanying every pair of eyes currently glued to my burning tush. 

 

Finally, after what feels like an eternity, Father Christmas stops spanking me and abruptly sets me on my feet, facing our audience. I hiccup sobs and rub my roasted rump, positive that the color of the cheeks on my face matches those I can’t see. I’ll never live this down.

 

“Now then,” Santa says, speaking to the crowd once more, “do you all forgive Bubbles for what she’s done today?”

 

Snapping out of their stupor, they blink and nod quickly, mouths still agape, staring in shock. None look angry anymore. I’m relieved to have their forgiveness in spite of it all. 

 

“Good. Let that be a lesson not only to Bubbles, but to you all. Things are going to be very different around here from now on. We have less than a week ‘til Christmas and as Rudolph as my witness, we’ll have every toy out by Christmas Eve. And if I see ANY of you dawdling, you’ll be bottom-up over my knee until you’ve remembered why you’re here in this factory.”

 

The elves glance at each other in terror and disbelief. The party’s seriously over. Everyone’s getting spanked if they’re naughty, not just me!

 

“DO I MAKE MYSELF CLEAR?” he bellows. 

 

“Y-yes! Yes, Sir!” they squeak, shrinking back and hugging each other tightly.

 

“Good. Now, I want every manager and department head in my office immediately. The rest of you, get the toy machine repaired, online, and running as soon as possible! There’s work to do!”

 

With a clap of Santa’s hands, the elves scatter back to their stations, hastily striving to look busy, focused on their tasks. He then picks me up and sits me on the footstool, facing the hot fire. My punished, cherry-red bottom faces the factory floor, on display for all to see. I reach back to cover my cheeks with my hands, but he moves them to my lap.

 

“You sit right here like a good little elf until I say you can move, Bubbles. I want everyone in this factory thinking about what will happen if I don’t see some changes around here.” 

 

Santa disappears into his office with all the head elves in tow. I wonder what they’ll talk about, but can’t think about it too deeply. I don’t know who’s behind me looking. Maybe everyone… and they can all see everything

 

I sit in shame, bare bottom hanging out, until Santa and all the managers emerge and get back to work. He finally walks onto the stage and sets me on my feet, helping me pull up my panties and tights. I lower the skirt of my dress and smooth it out, biting my lip and blushing.

 

“Will we be having this conversation again, young lady?”

 

I shake my head. “No, Sir.”

 

“I expect you to do your very best from now on.”

 

“Yes, Sir,” I say, nodding. “I will.”

 

“Good. Now hop to it.”

 

~*~

 

Things have certainly been different at the North Pole since my spanking. 

 

After their meeting with Santa, all the managers started carrying around big, thick, lollipop-shaped paddles. Any sign of laziness and elf undies come down. I’ve never seen so many round, reddened bottoms in all my life! Why, yesterday I saw Ms. Sugar Plum-Buns dragging Jangles from outside by the tip of his pointy ear. She lowered his britches and swatted the dickens out of his bottom while he sobbed in a squall. 

 

“The paddlings will continue until morale improves, young man!”

 

And I thought she was scary before. Any excuse to spank will do for her, it seems. Even a dull look or bored sigh will earn you a pants-down round of managerial attention, bent over that tight pencil skirt, kicking and screaming as her ruby-red heels glint in front of your eyes. 

 

Every time I pass Santa’s office, I hear the sounds of sobs and smacks ringing on the other side of the door. Sometimes he leaves it open, lecturing extra loudly for all to hear while we peer to catch a glimpse. Elf spankings have become a very public affair.

 

The thing is… it’s working. The toy machine got fixed lickety-split and we’ve tripled productivity. At this rate, we’ll have the remainder of the shipment ready for Santa’s sleigh by tomorrow. I have a feeling the paddlings won’t be stopping anytime soon.

 

I expected the other elves to be real sour at me for a while, but they actually seem more cheerful than before. After work, we all hop to the cider tavern as usual and sit gingerly on our sore bottoms, singing carols with more glee and gusto than I’ve heard in years. It’s like the darkness has been lifted and we all feel lighter. We’ve opened our hearts to let the spirit of Christmas shine through once more.

 

Sometimes hard work simply has to be done for us to share wonderful moments together, even when times are bleak. I’m happy to have rediscovered that magical twinkle of inspiration. Father Christmas is always keeping his eye on what’s best for us all. 

 

THE END.

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