It was three weeks before the big night and Saint Nicholas was going over The List again. Much of the work was done by computer these days, but he reserved this part to himself. Finalizing moves from naughty to nice was satisfying and heartening work.
There was a distinctive knock at the door; centuries of knowing his staff told him who it was.
“Come in, Vixen.”
The young reindeer came in and stood before the desk, shuffling her hooves and clicking her knees nervously. Finally Santa broke the awkward silence.
“Is something bothering you, dear?”
Words gushed out. “Well sir, it’s about the job opening. I know nobody wanted the accident, and losing Rudolph is a blow, but the work must continue. That’s what you tell us every year. I like the new Dasher and Comet, they’re both great, but I noticed you haven’t placed the new Rudolph yet.”
Santa knew what was coming, but Vixen would have to say it herself. “And…”
“Uh, I’d like to apply, sir.”
“You know the job of Rudolph is traditionally held by a male reindeer.”
“Yes sir, but I think I could do better. For one thing, we won’t repeat the debacle of 2007 when we had to go back and do the deliveries a day late in Prague because Rudolph wouldn’t ask for directions. And working with him gives all of us a reputation as his herd, which can be a bit awkward around mating time given his uh, inclinations.”
“Well, my dear deer, I…”
“I know the risks, sir. The noseglow lichen is specifically enchanted to work on male reindeer, but the elves could develop a new strain. It shouldn’t take more than a year or two, and even if it takes longer I’m willing to take one for the team. I don’t really want to be butch, but if it means I can get the lead job…”
“And the fame?”
“Oooh, trample the fame. I just want to show that I can do the job as well as any male. I’d even take the name Rudolph if I had to, though I’d prefer Ruby.”
“Ho ho ho! Now girl, I’ve been…”
“Please sir, try it for just one year! You have to give me a chance!”
“Calm down girl, let me speak. I’m going to grant your request. Frankly, the current candidates for Rudolph have all been a bit too eager for the glory. I need someone whose first focus is on the job and it sounds like you’re it. I’ll give you a try this year –just this year, mind you– and if it works out, there’s an option for continuing. And I’ll call you Rudy, not Ruby. Do you understand?”
“Yes sir. Thank you sir. I won’t let you down sir.”
“See that you don’t. Now, do you have any suggestions for the girl who’s going to be Vixen this year?”
“Well sir, I’ve been making a list and checking it twice…”