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My ol’ man was working late in the toyshop the other night. He had been putting in much longer hours than usual, even now at holiday crush time, and missing meals too, unheard of for his lardship. So being the attentive daughter that I am (and trying vainly for a few last-minute nice list brownie points) I trudged on down with a tray of moms’ tastiest goodies. I entered to find the big guy alone, most of the lights off and a blusey B. B. King Xmas CD moaning on the stereo. Daddy was putting the finishing touches on a stick monkey, one of those old time toys that moves up and down and squeaks when a kid pulls a string. With expert hands he moved the string back and forth, adjusted a loose peg, and painted the smile on the monkey’s face. He looked it over with perfunctory professionalism, but minus his usual joy. Daddy sighed, tossed the monkey on a pile of identical toys, leaned back and wearily rubbed his eyes. He looked every one of his seventeen hundred-odd years, which ain’t too pretty, especially when he’s got a funk on. He never even glanced up when I plopped the loaded tray in front of him.

"Yo." I said, snapping my fingers, trying to elicit some sign of life. "Moms said you needed cheering up, so here I am with a slab of her persimmon pudding." Daddy didn’t respond, so I waved the dish under his nose. "Mmm-mm. Your fave. Smells great. I wanted some but moms said no way. It’s all for you." The ol’ man waved me away. "Oh great. Now what’d I do?" I groaned.

"Nothing." Dad quietly replied, taking up his paint brush again.

"You don’t look so good." I said, noticing the uncharacteristically morose expression on his face. "What up?"

He shrugged as he listlessly started to paint another monkey. "This has not been a great year."

"Amen to that." I agreed as I hopped up on the bench across from him. The North Pole is not exactly the hub of the world, but there was no escaping the events of the past four months. The attacks, the fear, the war and every heartache that went with them. Truth to tell, I wasn’t feeling too merry myself, and hadn’t been for a long time.

"You know as well as I do Jingle, that people are hurting down there." Dad said. "I’m the ultimate gift-giver, but this Christmas I don’t think there’s a thing I could give that would wipe away the sadness. I wish I could give them something more. Something meaningful."

I had seen dad like this before. 1916, 1941, most of the ’60s. The downside of jolly isn’t very pretty and when Santa gets the blues, there ain’t no one happy. See, everyone’s a kid once, and that’s how the big guy remembers them. Regardless of how old they get or where life takes them, they’re still his kids, even more than I am I suspect, which makes for some interesting fodder for our family therapy sessions, but that’s another story. The upshot was the ol’ man was bummed and needed a jolt.

"I feel completely useless." He sighed.

"That was the word I’d have picked." I nodded.

"Foolish, even." Dad continued. "A silly old man delivering candy canes and idiotic toy monkeys to people who need much more. I’m a joke!"

"Pretty much." I agreed, as I reached for dad’s plate.

"An outdated holiday icon completely irrelevant to the times."

"No denying." I answered through a full mouth of persimmon pudding.

"Maybe this is the year I just pack it all in. Retire. Call an end to this whole meaningless Christmas charade and…"

"And we move to Malibu!" I screamed. "Woo-hoo! Adios, frostbite city, fun in the sun at last! Where do you keep the Boogie boards?"

He shot me a familiar annoyed glare. "You don’t have to be so blasted happy about it." He glowered.

"Look dad," I said, "You’re beating yourself up because you feel you can’t give any meaningful gifts. Things like comfort, reassurance, or the strength to face one more uncertain day. But you forget, those are gifts most people already have, and whether they realize it or not, they exchange them with each other every day. When they help each other, when they listen, or smile, or even just leave each other alone. I don’t think you can give anything more meaningful than that. I don’t think anyone can."

My hand strayed toward the pile of toys on the table. "As far as the big ticket items go, I think they’re pretty well set. Still, if you want to give something extra, I hear a little foolishness ain’t bad. God knows there are a lot of kids down there who’d like to see there’s still one adult who remembers how to laugh. I’m pretty sure most of them would welcome a visit from a not so irrelevant, not quite outdated holiday icon," I picked up one of the stick toys and squeaked it in dad’s ear. "And his idiotic toy monkeys."

The ol’ man smiled, gave my hair that annoying ruffle he always gives me those rare times he’s not cheesed off at me, and turned back to his CD player. Out went King’s "Lonesome Christmas", in went Louis Prima’s "Shake Hands With Santa Claus." Prima is good. Daddy settled back to work with a lighter heart. Santa call it quits? Not this year, pally. No way. I headed for the door, glad I had seen daddy smile for the first time in four months. I just hoped I could make it back to my igloo before he noticed I had snaked all his pudding.

Jingle Belle
The North Pole
Christmas Eve, 2001


A candid conversation with Kris Kringle's teenage daughter about the trials and tribulations of life at the North Pole.

I fought my way across wolf-infested tundra for this interview. Eluded marauding polar bears and sidestepped charging musk oxen to reach my destination. Sadly it is not the brightly-colored, Kremlin-like castle currently radiating with warmth, joy and Christmas carols, but the ramshackle igloo posted with "Keep out — Dad!" signs in the castle's snowy back yard.

She answers the igloo door on the eighth knock. Lowering the cellular phone a fraction of an inch, the elfin blonde shouts "Didn't hear ya" over the Limp Bizkit CD played at ear-splitting volume. "Can't imagine why" I holler, but it is lost as the girl turns her attention back to the voice on the other end of the phone. Telling her friend Gretchen she'll call back in five, the girl clicks off and waves me in. I follow the diminutive figure into a teenager's tangle of discarded clothes, stuffed animals and spent pizza boxes, all the while wondering who delivers this far north. She waves me toward a beanbag chair in the shape of a narwhal as she hops demurely onto her unmade bed, startling her pet arctic fox snoozing in the sheets. So begins my introduction to Miss Jingle Belle Kringle, the long-rumored, but until now never interviewed daughter of Santa Claus.

CBG: If you're truly Santa's daughter, why has the world been unaware of your existence for so long?

JINGLE: Bad press, dude. Just 'cause I'm a kid and I screw up now and then, dad's always sticking me on his naughty list. They only make holiday specials about happy reindeer, jolly snowmen and pukey singing elves. Surly adolescent punks like me they don't show in the cartoonies. We don't even get a song.

CBG: There’s "Jingle Bells".

JINGLE: That’s not about me, that’s about some loser wrecking his sleigh while trying to cop a feel! Besides, I had the name Jingle Belle long before the song was written. I’ve been ripped off. Someone owes me a butt-load of royalties.

CBG: Wait, if you were around before the song, that would make you close to two hundred years old.

JINGLE: Two hundred and twenty-four to be exact, but don’t print that. (Winks playfully) I know nineteen is your magazine’s cut-off point.

CBG: Huh? Uh, right. So after all this time, how is it you still look sixteen?

JINGLE: Gee, I dunno, Brainiac. Maybe the immortal parents had something to do with it, ya think?

CBG: I guess. So let me get the genealogy down for our readers. Your father is Santa Claus and your mother is…

JINGLE: I guess she’s come to be known simply as Mrs. Claus, but way back when she was Queen Mirabelle, leader of the northern elves.

CBG: Which makes you part elf, too.

JINGLE: I didn’t pick up these ears at a Star Trek convention.

CBG: Do you share your folks’ passion for toys?

JINGLE: By "passion" do you mean the visceral thrill I get when smashing a doll or wagon to bits with a baseball bat?

CBG: Not really.

JINGLE: Then I’ll have to give you a "no".

CBG: Oookay. Maybe you’d like to explain to our readers why you hate Christmas so much.

JINGLE: Let me clear up a misconception. I don’t hate Christmas, I just hate my parents.

CBG: Oh come on, how can anyone hate Santa Claus?

JINGLE: Every day of my life it’s been "Ho, ho, ho! You better be a good little girl! Santa’s got his eye on you!" Because His Lardship makes the rules, he feels he has to be harder on me than he is on any other kid. I get out of line, even a little, and BAM! Right on the naughty list I go! I’ve got so much coal in my closet I could open my own chain of Pig Stands. Being a teenager in this holiday wasteland is no bed of mistletoe, especially as I’ll be a teenager for a long time to come.

CBG: And the reason you’re doing the new JINGLE BELLE mini-series with Oni Press is to set the record straight?

JINGLE: Exactly! Now for the first time a completely authentic document of my life story will be told! (Smiles coyly) Of course, the other kinds of exposure I’m hoping to get from your magazine will reveal lots of my better qualities, too.

CBG: (Confused) : Uh, sure. Maybe you’d like to tell us who’s working on your series.

JINGLE: ‘Kay. The artist is Stephen De Stefano, the brilliant cartoonist who drew ‘MAZING MAN for DC and was a contributor on INSTANT PIANO and HELLBOY Jr. for Dark Horse. He’s got a way cool style that really captures my world. Doesn’t hurt that he makes me look pretty cute, too. We’ve also got covers by ROSWELL’S Bill Morrison, Lynne Naylor and Alex Ross, as well as swell pin-ups and gag pages by Sergio Aragones, Evan Dorkin, Jill Thompson and Barry Caldwell.

CBG: Sounds good. Who’s writing?

JINGLE: Some doof. I think he writes cartoons.

CBG: Well, thanks for sharing some insight into the project with us.

JINGLE: My pleasure. (Blows kiss and lets one strap of her overalls drop down saucily over one shoulder) And, be sure to tell Mr. Hefner if he wants a more uh, detailed piece for his magazine, I’d be thrilled to oblige, if you know what I mean.

CBG: Mr. Hefner? You don’t mean you think this piece is for PLAYBOY?

JINGLE: It’s not?

CBG: No, it’s for Comics Buyers Guide.

JINGLE: Comics Buyer’s Guide?!? I’ve wasted all this time talking to the (deleted) rinky-tink (deleted) (deleted) Comics (deleted) Buyers Guide?!!!? What a gyp!

Follows a string of verbal abuse so venal it would get any sailor and most rap artists banished to Santa’s naughty list for life. Jingle Belle’s pet fox leaps snarling for my face and I have a vague flash of Jing reaching for an aluminum baseball bat. The Canadian Coast Guard finds me later, bitten, bruised and coated in what appears to be fruitcake batter as I float unconscious on a melting iceberg in Baffin Bay.

Jingle Belle™ © 2004 Paul Dini, all rights reserved