Mankiewicz

Mankiewicz

A Story by Chopstix
"

Prompt: Santa is incapacitated, missing in action, or otherwise unable to suit up and deliver all of his Christmas gifts. Who steps up and how do they solve the problem?

"
Mankiewicz in Crisis


Mankiewicz recognized his crisis, but refused to panic, for Panic never helped any situation.  He searched through each of his desk's drawers, cabinets and cubbies for any name bearing official document: a pay stub, retirement check, utility bill, service receipt, tax filing, anything.  His former employer provided accounting services which took care of all such things, and his former employer's son, the young Master, continued this perk after his father's death.  Besides a large ink blotter, a phone, a box of writing paper and a few pens, his desk contained only memoir notes in which he simply refers to himself as “Mankiewicz,” no help in remembering his first name.

Fear of Alzheimer's almost drove crisis to panic.  Mankiewicz poured hot water, from a small tea pot, over Darjeeling tea bags resting in his favorite coffee mug.  Aromas revived memories of his first day in the young Master's father's employ, the last day anyone, other than his wife, called him by his given name.  Ever since, he became mono-named like Madonna, Prince and Cher.  Given male mortality in that group, he became apprehensive until he recalled Bono, Edge and Sting; all three are alive. A simple resolution to contact the young Master's lawyer Monday morning quelled this crisis.  No need to panic.  Surely divorce papers will contain his first name, perhaps his middle name as well.  If not, the lawyer should be able track down Selma.  She still receives alimony.  A simple matter unless it involves that new accountant who never takes Mankiewicz's calls.


Mankiewicz on Deck


“Atrophy, not  Alzheimer's,”  Mankiewicz mused aloud.  “I lost my name from lack of use, not loss of memory.  Good.  Now let's check the score.”  

Mankiewicz looked up to a muted TV currently playing the evening news.  In large black letters on a ten percent gray background, news producers displayed and alarming tweet.
@realonion - ozone depletion blinded @SantaClause and all reindeer.  No #XMAS presents this year.
The tweet shrunk and occupied the top sixth of the screen revealing Mattias Chung, a handsome, suited male news anchor and his counterpart, Ingrid Gedela, beautiful, blonde and cherry-red bloused.  Mankiewicz un-muted the TV.

“It has been re-tweeted over ten million times.  America is not taking this news well,” Mattias reported.  A short film clip of protesters throwing stones at All Saint's Episcopal Church's stained glass windows;  more protesters holding hastily made signs conveying slogans like, “Without Christmas, what's this all about.”  and “No Christmas, no Christ.”  

“Discord spread to malls as well,” Ingrid followed.  Scenes of looters exiting Tommy Hilfiger, Foot Locker, Sun Glass Hut and American Eagle carrying looted goods. “Even on the home front.”  A mother's failed attempts to comfort her daughter in their driveway.  A father scolding his nine year old son.

Mankiewicz held his hand over the phone awaiting his young Master's call.

“Retail sales have already slowed.  Many stores closed to protect employees from danger.  Even charitable contributions have ground to a halt,” Mattias said over images of a Salvation Army Santa packing up his tripod, sign and kettle.  “This may be ...”

The phone rang.  Mankiewicz muted the TV and snatched the handset.

“Do you see this on TV, Mankiewicz?”

“Yes, young Master.”

“This Santa situation is a disaster, a huge disaster.  The President is going to bungle it, he's just going to bungle it.  I tell you, when I'm president, I won't let things like this happen.  Things like this just can't happen.  It's a mess, a big mess.  Something has to be done.  Do you hear me, Mankiewicz?  Something must be done.”

“Yes, young Master.”  Mankiewicz hung up the phone.


Mankiewicz in Action


Mankiewicz rose from his desk and moved to a leather clad sofa in front of the TV.  Still muted, he flipped through channels looking for inspiration.  He heard his office door creak, and little Benjamin, his grandson, waddled in.  He climbed onto the sofa and snuggled his nose into his grandfather's sweater vest.

“Is it true, Zaidy?”

“If it's on TV, little one, it's true.” Mankiewicz wondered, for just a moment, if his name was “Zaidy,”  but what cruel parents would name their child, “Grandfather?”  “Why does it bother you?”

“Because, if there is no Christmas, I won't get any presents.” 

“Don't be silly, Benjamin.  It's not our holiday.  You never get Christmas presents.  What do you get instead?”

“Hanukkah gelt.”  

“How much gelt?”

“A penny the first night.”

“Yes, go on.” 

“A penny and a nickel the second night. A penny, a nickle and a dime the third night. A penny ...”

“How much in total?”  

Benjamin scrunched his face before resorting to fingers and toes.

“Sixty-one dollars and twenty-eight cents, Zaidy.”

“A tidy sum for eight nights.”

“Why don't my parents give me all the money on just one night, like Christmas?”

“And deprive you your true Hanukkah gift?”

“Zaidy, you said I get gelt, not gifts.”

“The true meaning of Hanukkah, it's true gift, is a simple lesson.  God made one night's Holy oil last for eight.  Such wisdom!  Every year, our children watch a single penny turn into … what was that again?”

“Sixty-one dollars and twenty-eight cents.”

“A miracle!  Now let's see if you learned Hanukkah's lesson.”

“Okay.”

“What do you do with your sixty-one dollars?”

“And twenty-eight cents.”

“And twenty-eight cents.”

“I buy myself a toy and put the rest in the bank.”

“Where it earns interest.  You see, that's the lesson.  God made one days oil last eight.  With wise investing, you can take part of one day's earnings last eight in your old age.  As a child, you hear the miracle of Hanukkah and the Maccabees.  You also witness the growth of your Hanukkah gelt.  If you learn this simple lesson, you will make wise investments your entire life.  That's what your Zaidy did.  That's what I taught my young Master.  My time invested in him has not been wasted.”

“But, Zaidy.  What happens if Mommy and Daddy can't give me my gelt?”

“Why wouldn't they?”

“Well, tonight, they are in the city.”

“And they left you with me?”

“Yes.”

“Don't worry, little Benjamin.  If tonight were Hanukkah, I'd fill in.  I'd do my part.”

Benjamin expressed his gratitude while Mankiewicz flipped through TV channels landing back to Ingrid Gedela reciting Santa discord statistics.  He wrapped his arm around Benjamin's shoulder, gave his grandson a squeeze and reoccupied his desk.

“Zaidy?”

“Yes?”

“I want to play.”

“Go ahead and play.”

“Not here.”

“Then play downstairs.”

“I want to play outside.”

“It's cold outside.”

“I don't mind.”

“It's dark outside.”

“We'll stay near the house.”

“You can play inside.”

“I want to play in the real world.”

Mankiewicz returned to the sofa and picked up the remote control.

“Why go outside when TV brings the real world, the whole, wide world, into our warm bright home.”

“But, Zaidy.”

“Benjamin.”  Mankiewicz passed the remote control.  “You should watch TV.  I have some important calls to make.”

“Saul, I have plan.”  Mankiewicz began.  “You know those donation cards.  The ones people fill out and post on store walls.  How soon can you flood markets with them?”

“Two weeks.”

“Two weeks?!  No, two days.  It should be two days.  Nothing fancy.  Just the phrase, 'Don't worry Santa, I'll do my part' and a line for their name, perhaps a box for testimonials, comments, you know.”

“It can be done.  What color?”

“Merchant's colors.  Blue and yellow for Best Buy, red and white for Target, red and yellow for McDonald's and such”

“Fast food?”

“Yes, fast food.  Taco Bell, WhiteCastle, Sonic, KFC, all of them.”

“This will be big.”

“This will be huge.”

“What's in it for me?”

“Twenty percent.  We'll ask a dollar donation;  twenty cents to you for production and distribution;  twenty cents for merchant's; ten cents for my young Master's foundation to cover accounting and such and fifty cents to buy presents for orphans, needy children and the like.”

“Those are small cuts.”

“Think volume.  One hundred million families in America.  I'm thinking forty to fifty million in sales, perhaps more.”

“Okay, Mankiewicz.  I'm in.”

“Oh, Saul.  One small thing.”

“Anything.”

“Do you know my first name?”

“Do you know my last name?”

“No.”

“Then why should I know your full name?”

Mankiewicz hung up and called every major store chain.  He called restaurant chains, Krespy Kreme, Winchell's and Dunkin' Doughnuts.  Every national and regional chain he could imagine and many more those on the other end of the calls suggested.  He next arranged for a televised music and comedy fundraiser based on 'Don't worry, Santa.  I'll do my part.'  Bruce Springsteen, Barbara Streisand, Adele, Beyonce, Pink, Kanye West, Dave Chappelle and many more committed to perform.  Mankiewicz caught his breath before placing one last call.

“Make it quick, Mankiewicz. I have a lot to do.”

“Yes, young Master.  I think I solved the Santa problem.”

“Think?”

“I solved the Santa problem, but I need you to do something.”

“You work for me. I don't work for you.”

“Yes, but there's something you need to do, something you want to do, something you like to do.”

“What is it?”

“You need to use that tweeter thing.  A simple tweet.  Don't edit, don't embellish.  Stay on point.  Are you ready?”

“Shoot.”

“Tweet, 'Don't worry, Santa.  I'll do my part.'”

“That's it?”

Mankiewicz explained the plan, all of it, to his young Master.  The donation cards, celebrity concert, marketing blitz and revenue distribution.”

“So, I make ten percent?  How much is that?”

“We project four to six million.”

“Not terribly much, but I better make money while I still can.”

“Yes, young Master.”

“Good plan, Mankiewicz.  Very good work. Anything else?”

“I was wondering, young Master, if you remembered my first name.”

“You know, when I was a boy I called you Guv'nor.  After that, I only knew you as Mankiewicz.  That's it, Mankiewicz.”


Mankiewicz at Rest


In large black letters on a ten percent gray background the TV news showed the young Master's tweet followed by scenes of happy shoppers filling out donation cards, their walls, interior and exterior covered by them.  Major retailers including Best Buy, Walmart and Toy's R Us donated their twenty percent, and charities, including Toys for Tots, New York Cares and Operation Christmas Spirit, reaped over twenty-five million dollars to help needy children.

“It's no surprise,” Ingrid Gedela informed, “that Barbara Streisand, Bruce Springsteen and Heart pulled out of the Don't Worry Santa concert after the president elect offered to MC it.”

“You'd think they should be more gracious after he saved Christmas.”  Mattias Chung editorialized.

“Zaidy.” Benjamin grew restless after watching TV since breakfast.

“Yes.”

“Is Santa better, now?”

“Look at the TV.  See, it doesn't matter.  Everybody is happy without him.  They even pay a dollar extra.”

“Because now they will get Christmas presents?” 

“Yes.”  Mankiewicz muted the TV.

“Will I get a present, too?”

“No.  You get Hanukkah gelt.”

“I don't understand.”

“Do you think Santa builds all his gifts in his North Pole factory?”

“I saw it on TV.”

“Your friend Johnny got an iPhone last year, yes?”

“Yes.”

“iPhones are made in China.”

“Chinese elves?”

“No Chinese people.  You see, they all do their part.  They are all Santa's elves. Chinese make affordable gifts.  When do you think Johnny's parents bought him his iPhone?”

“Black Friday!”

“And if too many other elvish parents beat them to all the good deals?”

“Cyber Monday!”

“So, Benjamin, do you see it now?”

“If everybody does their part, nobody needs Santa.”

“Very good.”

“So you didn't need to work so hard last week.”

“Of course I did, just look at the television.  Happy people spending their money.  Without my work, that would not happen this year.”


Word Count(WDC) : 1950 

If you enjoyed this story, or even if you didn't, you should check out my new novel on Kindle at:
Justin Theret's Guide to a Better LIfe  

Note: This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents either are products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events or locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.  

Any resemblance to any president elect, past, present or future is not meant to represent any president elect from the past, present or future.  Especially overly litigious ones who sue journalists for telling truths.  This is fiction, any truth found within is purely accidental and intended to entertain and amuse.  If you are not amused, the author recommends you read something else.  Really.  There are millions of works of amateur fiction.  Quite of few of them are found on writing.com, so browse.  There should be something here you would like.

© 2017 Chopstix



Author's Note

Chopstix
A WDC reviewer said this take on Santa turned her stomach. What do you think.

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Added on February 4, 2017
Last Updated on February 4, 2017
Tags: Christmas, Blind Santa, Saved, President Elect, Fiction, Fake News, Twitter

Author

Chopstix
Chopstix

Los Angeles, CA



About
In high school, I wrote lyrics. I started college writing poems and switched to short stories. After college, I discovered I could write computer programs, but I could not finish a novel (kept editi.. more..

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