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Excerpt from Beneficial Murders


"Rudolph, instead of sending coal to the naughty people for Christmas, Iíll be launching ICBMs. Theyíll be heading south in ten minutes." I slapped my knee. "Haw! Everything is south from here."

Rudolphís red nose glowed bright. "Sir, we have nuclear missiles? Nuclear missiles? How did we acquire nuclear missiles?"

"My furry friend, what do you think my elves build in their workshop every January and February? They do a good job. Every one of my missiles can strike anywhere in the world." My hands traced a blossoming mushroom cloud.

Rudolph shook his antlers. "No sir, donít do it. I take great pride in guiding your sleigh every year. You know how you love giving gifts to all the nice kids. Maybe you are just having bi-polar issues."

"No," I said, "Iíve been taking my meds."

"Santa, Sir, things are not so bad," said Rudolph, "you shouldnít be so cranky."

"So cranky. So cranky," I said. "I have great reason to be cranky. The Elves are on strike, demanding I stop outsourcing jobs to India. I might have to move to the South Pole because of global warming. Mrs. Claus has gone to Peru to get in touch with her inner self and Prancer has just come out of the closet."

Rudolph nuzzled me. "Still, thatís no reason to nuke the world."

I sighed. "No, my friend, thatís not the real reason. I used to put "caught being good" marks by most peopleís names whenever I spied on them. Now people for whatever reasonĖ-drinking skim milk maybeĖ-design perpetually jamming printers and fire surface-to-air missiles at anything that flies by. Why, last Christmas, I couldnít even fly my sleigh through the night skies without a little F-16 escort from my friends at NORAD."

"Oh," said Rudolph, "I think youíre exaggerating. Iíll bet there a lot more nice people than naughty."

"Oh yeah," I said. I turned on my Little JohnnyTM computer and brought up my Santaís Naughty or NiceTM software. I pointed toward the monitor. "Look, look. Over four billion people are naughty and fewer than two billion are nice."

Rudolph did peruse the screen. Indeed, many more naughty acts were being caught than good ones by my extensive global network of satellites.

As Rudolph said nothing, I continued. "If people want any more presents from me, heck, if they want merely not to be nuked, Iím going to need to find at least as many nice folks as naughty by Christmas Eve. But I doubt if I can. Thatís why Iíve set the launch times."

"Wonít you miss the milk and cookies that the good little boys and girls will give?" asked Rudolph. "Can you really break their little hearts? Substituting nuclear winter for seasonal snow?"



I sighed. "If only two billion more people were nicer. You know, gave to charities, opened doors for little old ladies, read a story to a toddler, or brushed their teeth, Iíd cancel the launches."

Rudolph thought for a minute. "Itís a bit much to expect that many people to change so quickly. How about a test case? How about if just one chosen person changes the world for the better by Christmas Eve, would you stop the launching of the nuclear missiles?"

"For the sake of that one person, I would," I said.

"Whom will you choose?"

"Sam Mollusk," I said. "Heís kin."

Rudolph raised the deer equivalent of an eyebrow. "Sir, does Sam have to be good to make the whole world better? Couldnít he just buy more Liíl PathfinderTM cookies? Or maybe eliminate a bit of evil here and there?"

I slapped my knee. "Rudolph, youíre a genius. Killing naughty people would make the world a nicer place. Yes my friend, if Sam Mollusk kills enough naughty people I promise you there will be a happy, missile-free Christmas after all."

Rudolph coughed. "I wasnít proposing such a solution."

"Ho! Ho! Ho! Youíre being too modest, my red-nosed friend. If only people would help out their friends and neighbors with a little beneficial murder here and there."

Rudolph shook his furry head. "Sir, how do you know Sam Mollusk will commit these beneficial murders?"

I beamed with pride. "Heís a good kid."

"But sir, lots of good kids never commit murders of any sort. How are you going to get him started?"

"Rudolph, he comes from the same bloodline as I do. The Claus line has always wanted to bring joy to the world, sometimes by giving, like me up to now, and sometimes by killing, like my kin Wyatt Earp.

"Besides, my furry friend, Sam Mollusk drives a tiny Prius. Trust me, heís ready to kill."

I, Santa, pushed the button to watch coverage from my satellites orbiting over Poway, California. I said to my monitor, "Ah, Mr. Mollusk, I will be following your every move. You have thirty days to commit thirty beneficial murders. Will you do it?"

I, Santa, laughed. "All right my friend, Iím such a softie. Twenty nine in twenty nine it is."