“I raise you, ten gingersnaps and three candycanes.” We were playing Texas Hold’em. There was a six, four, three and two showing. Dasher looked over-eager and pleased with himself, so I was pretty sure he had the straight. Normally I might have just given in, I had all kinds of conflict, but I was in the Christmas spirit and the eggnog was going to my head. And I had a flush.
After everyone else at the table had folded, I pushed my whole stack of treats in the middle and said “All in.” Dasher’s jaw dropped. I couldn’t contain my smile, which made him even angrier. He rechecked his cards. I could see his lips moving as he recounted, “two, three, four, five, six….” If he had fingers he would have used them. Reassured that his straight would take the pot, and I was just being stupid or bluffing, he called. Then he flipped over his cards to gloat and was just about to get up and do a victory dance, when I turned over mine.
“Nothing – you’ve got NOTHING!” he cackled, his eyes lighting up.
“Flush,” I said calmly. I had 2 spades in my hand and there were 3 more on the table. Dasher’s joy turned surprise, then anger.
“Cheater,” he grumbled.
I’m Rudolph. I know you’ve heard of me. I hear you singing that stupid song every year when the weather gets cold and all the hot chocolate and cookies suger-rush your brain into feelings of euphoria. But there are some things you don’t know. Like how I got this damn red nose.
Maybe you looked up my history on Wikipedia and it told you I was made up by Robert L. May in a 1939 as a way to help Montgomery Ward sell more shit at Christmas, but was nearly rejected because in those days a bright red nose was closely associated with chronic alcoholism and drunkards. You know what else debuted in 1939? The daily newspaper Superman comic strip. You might think this is random – as in, a bunch of writers started to think beyond the limits of natural science and create characters with total miraculous abilities, who could do anything.
But it’s not random: in 1939, humans were beginning to wrap their head around nuclear fusion.
It started when Hans A Bethe (German) recognized that the fusion of hydrogen nuclei to form deuterium releases energy. Then Frederic Joliot demonstrated the possibility of splitting the atom of uranium isotope 235, and Lise Meitner and Otto Frisch of Austria announced the theory of nuclear fission.
On January 13th, Otto Frisch detected fission fragments in an ionization chamber and adopted the term “fission.” On January 25th the first experimental fission in the U.S. takes place at Columbia University.
On January 26th, Niels Bohr announces discovery of fission at a conference in theoretical physics at George Washington University in U.S. Upon hearing about the discovery of fission, Robert Oppenheimer immediately grasps the possibility of atomic bombs.
On July 3, Leo Szilard writes to Enrico Fermi describing the concept (uranium lattice in carbon) for creating a chain reaction, and on August 2nd, Albert Einstein’s first letter to President Franklin Roosevelt leads to the formation of the Committee on Uranium. The letter, originally drafted by Leo Szilard, states, “that the element uranium may be turned into a new and important source of energy in the immediate future. Certain aspects of the situation which has arisen seem to call for watchfulness and, if necessary, quick action on the part of the Administration.” Einstein would later say with regret, “I could burn my fingers that I wrote that first letter to Roosevelt.”
On September 1, 1939, Germany invaded Poland, and World War II begins.
That’s right, my history shares a timeline with Superman, World War II and the atom bomb.
And I’m far more involved in those events than you would think.
It all started when Santa, cheapskate and tinkerer that he is, quick to leap on any new trend to boost production output, broke into a few top secret labs and returned to the North Pole with the plans and ingredients to build a nuclear reactor that could power the toy factory year round. The elves pretty much run things anyway, so Santa has a lot of free time to focus on R&D (research and development) – most of which isn’t productive at all, but the elves are happy to have him out of the way.
The North Pole has been running on coal for as long as anyone can remember, which means a lot of elves spend all their time down deep mine shafts, and come up with miner’s lung, and die hundreds of years too early. Which is really a downer for everybody. We try to keep things light and happy, and sing songs and eat cookies and all that, but we depend on power like everyone else. It was easier when the elves made wooden toys and all we needed was wood to keep the stoves warm, but all the toys nowadays need batteries, and each one needs to be tested, so that’s a lot of juice.
You might have noticed that we reindeer, even though we can talk and fly, don’t have any hands. That paired with the fact that we’ve got nothing to do 364 days of the year mean that we’re bored stiff all the time, which can lead to pettiness, pranks, lots of sexcapades and drug and alcohol abuse. Santa had radios put in early, and has a whole legion of elves whose sole purpose in life is to keep us entertained and out of trouble. He even tried putting us into a forced hibernation, but we were so pissed when we woke up we went on strike and he had to swear not to try anything like that again.
Something you should know about me: I wasn’t very popular.
Santa’s reindeer team was meant to be made of couples: a guy for every girl. Think about it, Dasher and Dancer, Prancer and Vixen, Comet and Cupid, Donder and Blitzen. Four couples. And then me? Where the fuck did I fit it? What you don’t know is that there were ten of us originally. Her name was Splendor, and she was the most magnificent creature in the world. I fell for her hard, but she never liked me back in that way. We all hung out together as kids, but I was a little shy and socially awkward. I’d pick her flowers or send her little notes that the elves would write for me. We had our moments. We were friends. But then one day she disappeared. Santa wouldn’t talk about it. I demanded to go after her, and spent most of the year looking, but a few weeks before Christmas I gave up and came home.
Since then I’ve pretty much been the odd one out. Sure they let me chill with them (I think Santa’s behind it) but they can’t help the occasional snigger at my expense… I’m not nearly as cute as you think I am. Robert L. May based my image after a deer – and not just any deer, the cute baby dear from the 1923 Austrian novel written by Felix Salten – Bambi (although, Disney’s 1942 movie version of Bambi may actually have been modeled on May’s illustrations of me!).
But that’s not at all what I look like. I’m a huge, knobbly kneed, long-necked, buck-toothed Cervidae. And while Dasher is strikingly proportionate, a natural leader, a perfect specimen, I’m just… awkward. If you’re wondering how I know all these facts and history and stuff, it’s because I spend most of my time alone in the library reading,
I started writing this tonight just for fun – what do you think, should I turn it into a full story in time for Christmas?
I’m a philosophy dropout with a PhD in Literature. I covet a cabin full of cats, where I can write fantasy novels to pay for my cake addiction. Sometimes I live in castles.