I recently read a blog post where the author re-posted an actual office memo prohibiting the employees to engage in “holiday decorations and practices” that would make others feel “excluded.” Invite people to “share” in the “spirit of winter” instead, it suggested helpfully. Translation: Pretend there’s no such thing as Christmas, or else.
I immediately thought of The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe. When the beavers tell the children about the White Witch, they say “She’s the one who’s made it always winter and never Christmas.” Sound familiar? So, I’ve created a modern tale in which the White Witch figure is the female head of the Office of Diversity, which is exercising an iron rule over any employees who dare to display specifically Christmas-related signs of celebration during the Christmas season. Her official title would probably be Director, but I’ve chosen to call her a Chairwitch because that just sounds great. I’ve based this scene on the excerpt where the Witch comes upon a group of animals celebrating with gifts from Father Christmas and turns them into stone, only here I’ve made it plastic. A weak-willed but sympathetic manager plays the role of Edmund. There are a few other changes too. Enjoy.
While making her diversity inspection rounds one day, Chairwitch Chillbourne, her goon, and one of the managers named Smithers came upon a most unusual scene. She barked “What have we here? Stop!” and they did.
Crowded together in employee Jones’s office sat a merry party—Bean and his wife with their children, and two friends and little Charlie and old soon-to-be-retired Foxworth all in borrowed office chairs around a desk. They were all laughing and singing loudly, so that they could be heard clear down the hall— “We Wish You a Merry Christmas,” “Christmastime Is Here,” “O Christmas Tree” and at the moment they were even daring a carol: “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen.” Smithers could hardly believe his ears. Around the office and on the door had been pasted messages saying things like “Jesus is the Reason for the Season” and “Glory to God in the Highest,” and “Peace on Earth, Good Will Towards Men.” He couldn’t quite see what they were eating, but it smelled lovely and there seemed to be decorations of holly and he wasn’t at all sure that he didn’t see something like a fruitcake. At the moment when they stopped outside the door, Foxworth had just risen to his feet, holding a styro-foam cup of eggnog in his right hand as if he was going to say something. But when the whole party saw Miss Chillbourne, all the gaiety went out of their faces. Mr. Bean stopped eating with his plastic fork half-way to his mouth, and another stopped with his fork actually in his mouth, and the kids squeaked with terror.
“What is the meaning of this?” asked the Chairwitch. Nobody answered.
“Speak, vermin!” she said again. “Or do you want my goon to find you a tongue with his whip? What is the meaning of all this gluttony, this waste, this exclusive celebration? Where did you get all these things?”
“Please, your Chilliness,” said Foxworth, “we were given them. And if I might make so bold as to drink your Chilliness’s very good health –“
“Who gave them to you?” said the Chairwitch.
“F-F-F-Father Christmas,” stammered Foxworth.
“What?” roared the Chairwitch, taking a few strides nearer to the terrified partiers. “He has not been here! He cannot have been here! How dare you – but no. Say you have been lying and you shall even now be forgiven.”
At that moment young Jones lost his head completely.
“He has – he has – he has!” he squeaked, beating his stapler on the table. The manager saw the Witch bite her bright red lipstick lips so that a drop of blood appeared on her white cheek. Then she raised her wand. “Oh, don’t, don’t, please don’t,” shouted the manager, but even while he was shouting she had waved her wand and instantly where the merry party had been there were only statues of people (one with its plastic fork fixed forever half-way to its plastic mouth) seated round a plastic table on which there were plastic plates and a plastic fruitcake.
“As for you,” said the Chairwitch, giving the manager a stunning blow on the face as she turned to stride out, “let that teach you to ask favour for spies and traitors. Move along!” And Smithers for the first time in his life felt sorry for someone besides himself. It seemed so pitiful to think of those little plastic figures sitting there all the silent days and all the dark nights, year after year, till the mold grew on them and at last even their faces crumbled away.