A Truth Universally Acknowledged

This month’s #blogbattle prompt is the word ‘Tender’. I’ve based this on a short story I wrote a while ago, though it’s quite different

‘So, have you managed to clean the tender?’

‘Er, no, chief. He’s still sitting on it.’

‘What? We’re the fire brigade, not an effing bus shelter. I told you to get him to move on. We’ve training today and we need that tender or it’ll be another bollocking from on high.’

‘He says he can’t.’

‘What do you mean? He can’t?’

‘It’s a bit of a long story.’

‘Aren’t they all? Go on, try me. It’s Christmas and I’m feeling generous.’

‘He did say we wouldn’t believe him.’

‘So, what is it? A badly timed stag prank that has left him superglued to our truck? Some jilted girl tricked him?’

‘He says he’s a real Santa and—’

‘Yeah, come on, Chris. If we had a quid for every loon and lush who gets trolleyed on his stag night and ends up chained to something and then tries on the ‘I really am Santa Claus’ we wouldn’t be playing the lottery, would we?’

‘Did you buy the ticket, by the way?’

‘Don’t tell me you forgot again? It’s your turn. Please don’t—?’

‘Nah, just kidding you, chief. Anyway, of course he’s making that bit up, but you play along, don’t you? Ok, Santa, I says, where’s the reindeer and the sleigh and all that good stuff?  And he says the sleigh is a mythical construct created to fit a supernatural narrative that accords with the psychological development of the receiving population at the time of the Claus Conundrum.’

‘You’re making that up too, aren’t you?’

‘Nope. He said no one would believe me so I might as well write it down.’

‘I still don’t believe it.’

‘He said that too. I wrote it down as well. Here—’

‘Ok, so he’s some kind of arrogant know-all science pillock who wants to baffle you with gobbledygook. That doesn’t explain what he’s doing here.’

‘Seems something went wrong, and he’s now stuck.’

‘Patently. It’s minus five and he’s been freezing his arse off for five hours, but that doesn’t explain why he refuses to get out of his stupid suit and come indoors. Just tell him not to be a prick.’

‘Electro-magnetic molecular something or other. That’s why he’s stuck.’

‘Look, I’m a fireman not a physicist, but even I know you need metal for a magnet to work and that suit is 100% a man-made fire hazard and not metal. Tell him—’

‘I don’t know, chief, do I? All I know is he says he can’t leave the truck. You speak to him if you don’t believe me. Oh, and he has a bit of a voice thing.’

‘Such as?’

‘It’s sort of squeaky, like he’s ingested helium. He got well angry when I laughed.’

‘Ok. Grab us a coffee and I’ll talk to him. What’s he answer to? Claus? Nicholas? Kris?’

‘Claus. He said he’s not the only—’

‘Just get the coffees.’

‘Right, Mr. Claus? I’d like you to come indoors. You’ll freeze out here.  And we could really do with our truck back.’

‘I realise I will have to keep explaining until this is resolved so I apologise if I do it the quick way. There.’

‘But you didn’t say… Oh.’

‘Precisely. You know, don’t you?’

‘How did you do that?’

‘Thought implantation. Unless you block it, it is easy, like hacking an open Wi-Fi link.’

‘You’ve been in my mind? Just like that?’

‘It’s much quicker if you think your questions. Go on try.’

‘No look, that’s not right. Stop it.’

‘Hey, good. That was a decent attempt at a block. Trouble is you’re not telefit so you’ll be exhausted in about twenty minutes if you keep trying.’

‘Right now, you are violating a piece of local government property, and interfering with an emergency service, and I could have you arrested.’

‘In theory, yes. In practice, neither you nor I can get me off this blasted truck. As I’ve explained.’

‘No, hold on. Is this ethical?’


‘I don’t know what you are. Some sort of mind-reader, I suppose, but don’t you have a code? You know – only with consent?’

‘Yes but—’

‘So, don’t go inside my head.’

‘It really only applies to Clausians but, given that I shouldn’t be here at all, I will do as you ask. Speaking really is the most old-fashioned way of communicating. Like you using smoke signals. To reiterate, I and my rather pathetic suit are stuck to your truck and there is nothing you or anyone you could call upon can do to release me.’

‘If you’re really Santa Claus, then surely you have a way?’

‘Yes and no.’

‘You could be a politician, not answering. Please come inside. We have donuts.’

‘What I meant is, yes, I am what has been called Santa Claus over the centuries since we were first spotted. But no, I’m not some omnipresent pogonophile with a penchant for chimneys and red suits that you think of when the name ‘Santa Claus’ is mentioned.’

‘Coffee, chief. How’s it going?’

‘Slowly. I think you should call Sergeant Martin. I’ve a feeling we are going to need the police.’

‘Can you not do that please? I understand how your bureaucratic minds work – you have a problem and rather than try and solve it, you pass it on to some other authority who keeps passing it on. It’ll only make it a longer process of rehygening.’

‘Are you going to explain?’

‘I did. Go and think in your recently learnt files and—’

‘Just say it. My officer hasn’t heard it yet.’

‘You won’t be believed when you try and explain what you’ve heard and seen so we will cleanse your memories to avoid problems.’

‘I thought you said it was unethical?’

‘…to interfere with Clausians yes, not lesser species.’

‘Hey, come on.’

‘Oh grow up. What’s the next most intelligent species to humans? Gorillas? Whatever it is, you’re happy to keep them in cages and take them away from where they’re comfortable and poke sticks at them. At least we treat you with respect. We clean your memories for your own safety.’

‘How’s that making us safe?’

‘Do I have to speak? Can’t I—?’

‘Just say it.’

‘Can I have a sip of your coffee?’

‘You like coffee?’

‘Ha, so you’re beginning to accept I’m not human.’

‘No. You just look like a tea drinker.’

‘Oh, give me a break.’

‘Will you explain why we’d be unsafe knowing our minds might be cleansed?’

‘So, here we have proof of a higher lifeform who’s been involved in your planet for a couple of your centuries and you think everyone’s going to go ‘Oh goody, now when’s the sport on?’’

‘I suppose. Look, it’s still hard to believe. Do you meet humans often?’

‘Nope. This is a first for me and there will be a stink.’

‘But it does happen?’

‘That’s why we have this whole Santa Claus thing. Back when we first found Earth we weren’t expecting any sort of intelligent life and it was primitive. But next time we came back, the dinosaurs had gone, and we felt guilty we didn’t try and help them. By then humans were developing rapidly. So, we stayed, did a few surveys and realised you needed help. Unfortunately, our camouflaging wasn’t very advanced, and we spent stupid amounts of time trying to clear up. In the end it was easier to spread a story, to explain our presence.’

‘Sleighs? Red suits and beards? What’s that all about?’

‘Back when we started it was just a stranger who gave a present – we gave them things they’d never seen. But as you became more sophisticated and sceptical we added the nonsense. If it sounds childish people ignore it, don’t they? We installed a few implausible stories and allowed the balance of cynics and believers to fight it out.’

‘I need to sit down. You are an alien, aren’t you?’

‘That’s rather pejorative. We are visitors who happen to be a different species.’

‘And you’re here all the time?’

‘Hardly. The last survey was twenty-five years ago.’

‘Why then?’

‘Remember 1989?’

‘Erm? The Bangles, Eternal Flame?’

‘The Berlin Wall came down. The Cold War was getting out of hand, so we gave things a nudge. We understand Armageddon and try and prevent it. Same with pandemics.’

‘Weren’t so hot in 1918, were you? Or 2022.’

‘No, first time we were distracted with elections. The second there was this thing. You’d think of it like reality TV. The Great British Bake Off.’

‘A cooking show!?’

‘It was about planet making but there’s a baking element in there. Anyhoo, we missed it. And the foreign aid budget always takes a hit at these times and we were on an austerity drive after the Betelgeuse dilemma.’

‘I don’t want to know, do I?’


‘Ok, if you’re so all powerful, why are you stuck on that?’

‘We’re not really omnipresent you know, just highly manoeuvrable. And this is a practical joke gone wrong.’

‘How so?’

‘I’m getting married. My friends saturated my brain with pleasure particles and when I was away with the space dust they conjured up this outfit, brought me here and embedded me in your truck.’

‘It’s a tender.’

‘It happened to me. I was tender.’

‘Shut up, Chris.’

‘No, seriously. It happened to me, chief, remember? They handcuffed me to a lamppost.’

‘Same the universe over, hey, only they changed the molecular structure of my trousers and bottom so I’m actually part of your fire engine. Tender. Whatever. Until I get hold of the genetic coding I’m only going where this vehicle goes.’

‘But why aren’t you hiding from us?’

‘When you were handcuffed to the lamppost, Chris, did they leave a key? A phone?’

‘No way. Stripped me naked, painted my balls blue and left me to rot, really.’

‘Same with me. No way back. So, what did you do?’

‘I kicked up such a stink, the police released me to stop me corrupting public morals or something.’

‘And that’s what I’m doing.’

‘Right. I see. Only I don’t actually. You seem to be making no sound and… Oh, I get it; you’re screaming inside their heads. That’s—’

‘No, I said. We know how to shield ourselves. It’s a first lesson, up there with toilet training and self-replication.’

‘Self…? No, don’t tell me. Look if you can’t scream inside their heads and, frankly you’ll do well to be heard in the canteen let alone another galaxy with that voice, how will you get them to rescue you?’

‘Oh, they’re on their way. I took down my shield, so they know I’ve been seen. They’re monitoring everything you’ve said and will be here any time.’

‘They care about you then?’

‘Not so much. What they really want to avoid is the real disaster.’


‘Everyone finding out that Santa Claus is real.’

About TanGental

My name is Geoff Le Pard. Once I was a lawyer; now I am a writer. I've published several books: a four book series following Harry Spittle as he grows from hapless student to hapless partner in a London law firm; four others in different genres; a book of poetry; four anthologies of short fiction; and a memoir of my mother. I have several more in the pipeline. I have been blogging regularly since 2014, on topic as diverse as: poetry based on famous poems; memories from my life; my garden; my dog; a whole variety of short fiction; my attempts at baking and food; travel and the consequent disasters; theatre, film and book reviews; and the occasional thought piece. Mostly it is whatever takes my fancy. I avoid politics, mostly, and religion, always. I don't mean to upset anyone but if I do, well, sorry and I suggest you go elsewhere. These are my thoughts and no one else is to blame. If you want to nab anything I post, please acknowledge where it came from.
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21 Responses to A Truth Universally Acknowledged

  1. Awww, what a wonderful imaginative story. :-)) xx Michael

    Liked by 1 person

  2. noelleg44 says:

    GREAT punch line! Glad Santa likes coffee!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I knew. I always knew! Wait…………………….Does that mean……………?!!!!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. JT Twissel says:

    The truth is out! I do agree with that the term alien is misapplied. We’re the aliens.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Love it! Great last line.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. willowdot21 says:

    Brilliant as ever!

    Liked by 1 person

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