She’s a Red-Nosed Reindeer
Humans are idiots. It’s 2018 – they have access to the internet. If they did a second of research, they’d realise that male reindeers spend the whole time hibernating over Christmas. They shed their antlers over winter and are weak and feeble, hiding in the shadows, waiting for us females to look after them.
But why would humans research this? They love ‘Rudolph’s’ story – it makes sense to them. Males have all the power over there; it’s called the patriarchy and it’s existed for hundreds of years. That’s right, I did my research (unlike some).
I live in Lapland, the happiest place in the world. It’s a magical land where the snowflakes are perfectly symmetrical – they look like those paper cut-outs human children make on Christmas and hang on the walls. The snowflakes dance to the ground, shaking and gyrating with the effortless flair of the only human I can relate to, Beyoncé Knowles. When they land on the ground, they sizzle and sigh, relieved to finally be home.
But recently, even the dancing snowflakes haven’t been able to cheer me up. I feel heavy; loaded down by something weighted – and no, it’s not all the carrots I’ve been eating. It’s a feeling of little self worth, of not being able to share my own identity, of having to pretend I’m someone that I’m not.
My name is Rue the Red-Nosed Reindeer. I’m a female, and you stupid humans are finally going to start paying attention. This is going to be the year that I save Christmas.
It’s the first of December, and I can hear Santa singing ‘Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer’ from four streets away. I knock on the door and he opens it, red faced and flustered, beer trickling down his snowy beard.
‘Oh, hey, Rue! I wasn’t doing anything’. He kicks his karaoke machine out of sight. ‘It’s OK Santa, I know it’s your favourite’.
‘It’s just such a catchy tune. Those humans really are talented’.
Santa’s sweet. He loves the humans. I know... I’m confused, too.
‘So, what can I do you for my dear? Fancy a night-cap?’ He says.
‘Not today, Santa. I want the world to know that I’m female.’
‘Oh Rue, I don’t know why this bothers you so. You know I love the humans, but they make up all kinds of silly stories. I’m still waiting for the day that imaginary Mrs Clause comes bumbling through the door. She’d give Anthony and I a great old scare’.
Anthony is Santa’s partner. We refer to them as Santhony, and they throw wicked parties. ‘I hear she makes great cookies, though’, I giggle.
‘Yes, we’d quite like those. Listen, people can be whoever and whatever they want to be here. There’s no judgement in Lapland, no ‘normal’ or ‘weird’. That’s why it’s the happiest place in the world’.
‘I’m not happy though, Santa. These humans, they need to be educated. Why aren’t they changing? Why aren’t they learning to accept each other?’
Santa stares at me through his beer goggles. There’s nothing he hates more than hearing that a friend isn’t happy in Lapland.
‘Alright then, I might be able to pull a few strings, if that’s what you really want. But you have to do me a favour in return’.
He pulls out the karaoke machine and hands me the microphone, grinning.
The evil Karaoke Monster sticks to his word. I spend the weeks running up to Christmas Eve in a mad frenzy, doing everything I can to make the plan come together. I barely have time for carrots, my absolute favourite food in the whole wide world.
Finally, Christmas Eve arrives and it’s a foggy one. I guide the sleigh like I did on that historical night many years ago, and it reminds me that so much has changed in Lapland since then. I was bullied and teased by the reindeers who are now my closest friends, and no one has been bullied since. Not even the elves who, quite frankly, are a bit funny looking.
We land on the first roof, a quaint little house in Canada. Santa pulls a book out of the sack. It’s written by me (alright, you got me – dictated, reindeers can’t hold pens), but this is the first time I’ve seen the printed copy. It’s called ‘Rue the Red-Nosed Reindeer’, and Santa’s going to deliver it to every house in the world.
Santa bends down and gives me a gift. I unwrap it with my teeth. It’s a phone.
‘You have to use this to share your story too, Rue. It’s the only way young humans communicate these days. But be careful of Snapchat’, he adds. ‘I hear some of them use it for some horrific things’.
Before I can decide what that means, we soar off into the night.
The next day I wake to a horrible buzzing sound and a pounding head. I have the traditional Christmas hangover after too much whiskey, carrots and karaoke at Santhony’s.
The noise gets louder and louder, drilling into my head and making my brain pulse. It’s that horrible phone. I grab it and try to unlock it, but the stupid touch screen won’t respond to my hooves. Once again, I resort to my best resource: my nose.
It’s awful. The humans hate me. I’m like the Grinch but worse – I have forced political correctness on them, instead of taking away their presents.
Prancer sneaks up behind me, making me jump.
‘Rue should get back to the stable? What is this, the 90s?’
‘It’s horrible, Prance! This was all a huge waste of time’.
‘Ignore them. They’re just trolls’.
‘Trolls wouldn’t do such a thing – they’re lovely. Especially the one living in the bathroom’.
She’s called Trudy. Sometimes she sings whilst I do my business. I find it very soothing.
‘No, Rue. Human trolls – internet trolls. They’re horrible sorts. Full of anger and hatred and judgement. They’re probably all really insecure underneath it all’.
I didn’t know about them, but I remind myself to speak to Trudy more often.
I spend that evening at Santhony’s, desperate to put the whole sorry state behind me, but the stupid phone won’t stop buzzing. How do humans put up with this? I’m close to throwing it in the bin, but Prancer snatches it off me. She reads, and nearly chokes on her carrots.
‘Rue! You’ve got an email from the Queen of England!’
‘Yeah right’, I say.
‘No seriously. Well, not from her directly, obviously, I bet she doesn’t even know how to turn a computer on. But from her staff. They say she really enjoyed your book and wants you to come to Buckingham palace right away, to celebrate Christmas with some special important guests. This is so exciting! Let’s find you something to wear!’
My carrots come back up into my mouth.
‘I don’t think this is a good idea, Prance’.
It happens. I throw up on Santa’s karaoke machine. He might just kill me.
Luckily, Lapland is a place of forgiveness. Like every good friend, he sits down beside me, brushes my back and tells me that I have to do this for the sake of humankind. He also has three spares in the basement – it’s not only the human children that get presents, you know.
The next few hours are a blur. Prancer whizzes me out of Santa’s house and drags me to her walk-in stable. She pulls out a beautiful red bow that compliments my nose and offers me some very important advice.
‘Be polite, eat what you’re given – ‘What if it’s not carrots, Prance?’ ‘And don’t poo on the carpet’.
These humans ask for a lot, don’t they?
It’s OK, though, because I’m a hit. The humans love me. I’m so overwhelmed I poo on the carpet, but the butler tells me it happens a lot. Humans poo when they’re nervous, too.
I wake up with hangover worse than the previous one. Dame Judy Dench parties even harder than Santa. I think back to the evening, but all I can remember is flashing lights, shrieking humans and lots of banners. I drag myself to Santhony’s for a breakfast gossip session.
‘Do you want the good news or the bad news?’ Prancer asks.
Everyone gasps. We aren’t used to the word ‘bad’ in Lapland. It’s the human equivalent to the word ‘Voldemort’ or ‘Brexit’.
‘Bad news first, I guess’. I say, like a human. These people have clearly rubbed off on me.
She brandishes the phone. There are pictures of me everywhere, in my beautiful red bow. The headlines are awful:
‘RUE LOOKS CHUNKY IN TACKY RED BOW’ ‘THE RED-NOSE REINDEER SHOULD BE RED-FACED OVER HER AWFUL BOW’ ‘SHE CAN GUIDE SANTA’S SLEIGH, BUT CAN SHE GUIDE THAT BOW TO A BIN?’
Yet again, the humans disappoint me. They don’t care about my words. They don’t care about my story. They care about what I look like.
‘Is this what it’s like, being female?’ I ask. ‘Constantly having to wear the right things and look the right way, just to get your voice heard?’
‘I guess so’, Prancer says. ‘But it’s OK. Look’.
She passes me the phone. It’s an email from a fourteen-year-old girl in London called Melanie who loves my book, and says she wants to adopt me as her pet. I’m a little affronted, but I’ll let her off.
‘Well, that’s great’ I say. ‘But it’s just one girl. Everyone else hates me. Or doesn’t care’. ‘Keep reading’, Prancer replies.
Melanie has made some changes to the song and is starting a petition. All her friends love me too, which means a lot because Melanie is clearly one of these weird popular teenagers who hasn’t had an ugly phase. The song is going viral.
‘You have to keep fighting, Rue’. Prancer says. ‘These girls, they’re fighting. And boys, too. They’re changing. The world is changing.’
‘OK’, I say. ‘I will’.
Prancer clicks on the link, and the song plays. We listen.