By Kevin Low, Yale-NUS College ’17
‘Twas three nights before Christmas, and all were asleep;
The silence slept softly; the dark dozing deep.
Young master James was tucked in his bed,
While sugar plum fairies got oppressed in his head.
But all of a sudden, the sound of a boot
Striking the walls of the dank rubbish chute
Clattered so loud that the sleeper awoke,
And what he saw next almost caused him a stroke:
A great, balding man, with flowing white beard,
Sweating and panting as he slowly appeared
Clad in red winter clothes with fluffy white trim;
He lifted his head to shout, “Hey, Sonny Jim!”
“I’m terribly sorry for disturbing your nap;
But give me a hand, lad; now there’s a good chap.
I think I sampled too much local cuisine,
And I seem to be stuck, if you know what I mean.”
Confused and befuddled, and clutching his sheets,
James pulled the man out and set him on his feet.
As he brushed himself off, almost on cue,
James finally asked, “Who the hell are you?”
“I guess,” said the man, “you could call me the Ghost
Of Christmas Presents – or maybe, Christmas Gifts, at the most.”
The man smiled at him, with a twinkle in his eye,
“But a shave and some shades and I’ll look just like PSY.”
“You’re coming with me, lad, and quick as a lark.
Don’t waste any time: my sleigh’s double-parked.
You heart has lost faith in the whole human race;
To fix that, I’m bringing you across time and space.”
“A sprint through the year, right before the year’s end;
An annual recap, to heal and to mend
Your cynical outlook and derisive world view
Before your time on this planet is through.”
James stared dumbfounded, and before his jaw closed,
Santa winked sharply and fingered his nose.
And with lots of shake, some roll and some rattle,
The pair shot away like stampeding cattle.
They fell in their seats, and Santa did mush
The reindeer, which rocketed off in a rush.
Their heads lifted upwards as they aimed for the stars,
And before you knew it, they both were on Mars.
James did peer out at the barren landscape,
And in the dust, made out a metallic shape.
“Why are we here?” asked James, with a quiver.
“It all looks so empty, and the cold makes me shiver.”
“Well,” Santa said, “we might just be machines
Designed thus by nature just to pass on our genes.
But some people think we have higher purpose,
Unique to each person and highly diverse-”
“I don’t mean it that way,” said James, interrupting.
“Why are we here while my sleep you’re disrupting?
There’s nothing at all here but desert and rocks,
And that large metal thing, that wheels-on-a-box.”
“That,” Santa said, “is the latest Mars rover,
It’s enthralled the world’s people a thousand times over.
A witness to human achievement and brain;
Our latest foray into uncharted terrain.”
But while they were talking, a small cloud of dust
Appeared, and out popped a creature coloured rust.
It was small and furry; feline as a cat,
With large eyes like Garfield, and almost as fat.
“Amazing!” Santa yelled, as he spotted the creature,
“We’ve proved life exists, that it’s one of Mars’ features!
We’ll learn so much just from these off-world discoveries,
And then so much more from the data recoveries!”
Just then, the rover came online with a whir,
While the cat-thing just sat there, licking its fur.
And before they could stop it, history was rewritten,
As the rover rolled out and ran over the kitten.
Santa stood shocked, expression aghast,
When James, unaffected, sarcastically asked,
“Was that part of your plan, the thing going ‘splat’?
Did Curiosity just kill the proverbial cat?”
Santa just sighed as he put down his reins,
And buried the rest of the broken remains.
Without a word, he got back in his sleigh,
And with a quick signal, they were off and away.
The flight took them back to the heart of a city,
And they landed in front of the steering committee.
“We’re here,” Santa said, “at the Olympic Games!
The most famous of sports, the most famous of names!”
“The noble endeavor of undying spirit;
The fiery passion of the torch brightly lit;
Coming together in friendly competition;
The Games are one of mankind’s oldest traditions.”
He turned James to face the iconic five rings,
And they both felt the majesty and glory it brings.
When a small, hunchbacked man, skinny little fellow,
Jumped out and grabbed the one that was yellow.
“My preciousss,” he crooned, and he ran as he wailed,
Since a dozen-odd dwarves were hot on his tail.
Followed by an old man with sleazy low-cut top,
Obscenely short robes and facial hair like a mop.
He yelled as he ran with his staff topped with bras,
“Run, you fools,” and also, “You shall not pass!”
“Okay, time to go!” Santa said, turning pink.
“You don’t want to see him once he’s had a few drinks.”
As he hurriedly rushed James back into his seat,
James asked, “Who’s that guy in the torn, unwashed sheet?”
“Just someone,” said Santa as they went on their way.
“We call him Old Gandalf the ‘Fifty Shades of’ Grey.”
“That just about does it,” said James in a huff.
“I’ve had it with you; I’ve seen quite enough.
You can’t persuade me with this Christmas cliché.
Nothing more you can do, nothing more you can say.”
“C’mon, kid,” Santa pleaded. “Just give me a chance!
I’m down-and-out in terrible circumstance.
When stores started taking my toys off the shelves,
I couldn’t make ends meet to feed all my elves.
“I tried to go through the technology route,
But Apple slapped me with a copyright suit.
My workers couldn’t take it; they all took a hike.
They walked out on me and they went on a – wage dispute.
“I ran for my office, but in the vote drama
I didn’t do quite as well as that Obama.
I tried to give up, but like the Higgs boson,
I’m too fundamental, and my life just goes on.”
James said, “That confirms it – the world is a mess,
If someone like you can have this kind of stress;
If typhoons and hurricanes can devastate regions,
If kids can be killed for no bloody reason;
“Then it’s all just meaningless, there’s no point to live.
They’ve taken it all; I’ve got no more to give.
I’d rather wash up on some distant shore;
I don’t want to live on this planet anymore.
Meanwhile, the path of the reindeer had curled,
And the sleigh was now floating on the roof of the world.
Depressed and dejected, James made one last pledge,
Climbed out of his seat, and stood on the edge.
“Great Scott!” Santa cried, as he tried to grab hold,
“You can’t kill yourself now; you’re not even that old!
The world is not hopeless, there’s no need to dread;
Do us a favour and get back in the sled!”
But James blankly stared at the rolling white sphere:
“I wish you could see what I can see, here.
Sometimes you have to be up really far,
To understand just how small you are.”
His foot had gone airborne when Santa shouted, “Wait!
Look at the time! No, look at the date!
It’s past twenty-first, and we’re still going strong!
The world hasn’t ended; the Mayans were wrong!
“We haven’t been hit by a wandering planet,
And no solar flares have disrupted our magnets.
There’s no rain of fire; the sky didn’t fall;
Nothing that major has happened at all.”
“It’s all still here now, the good and the bad;
We get to look forward, not just at what we had.
And if that’s not reason enough to live on,
Then good men have done nothing, and evil has won.”
James stood for a moment. Santa watched him think.
Then slowly James pulled back his foot from the brink.
“I’ve got to admit – I have to confess –
You’re making some kind of a point, I guess.
“It sure does look pretty with the lights all aglow,”
He muttered as he peered at the globe down below,
“I suppose there’s something in every day,
And we’d have to confront it, until come what may.”
Santa smiled warmly as James slid in his seat,
And conjured a blanket to warm his cold feet.
While their engines cooled off and before their hooves froze,
The reindeer rode off as the dark night arose.
Then up on the rooftop arose such a clatter,
As the sleigh crash-landed in the satellite platter.
James got his baggage and moved to alight,
His heart not so heavy, not so full of spite.
He turned back to Santa and humbly said,
“Thank you for taking me out of my head.
I’d better get back so I don’t scare my wife,
But thank you again for gifting me life.”
Santa just said, with a smile oh so slight,
“Thank you for flying Air Reindeer tonight.
Please stow your tray table and your seat back upright.
Merry Christmas to all! Hope you had a good flight.”
And in an instant, the long beard was gone;
His wore a tuxedo and had sunglasses on.
With wrists crossed, legs splayed, and knees slightly bent,
Cried, “HAAAAY, SEXAAAY LADY”, and away he went.