The time: 8 a.m. Christmas morning.
The place: Santa's house, the North Pole.
Mrs. Claus (turning on light in Santa's bedroom and opening door loudly): Riiiiise and shiiine! Time to get up, sleepy head!
Mrs. Claus: What's that, Nicky?
Santa (voice muffled by pillows): Hymmprh mmhprph hmmph ...
Mrs. Claus (pulling covers back, removing pillow from over Santa's face and peering down at him with cheerful smile): What'd you say?
Santa (squinting and rubbing forehead): I SAID, you've GOT to be kidding me.
Mrs. Claus: Why would I kid? It's 8 a.m., an hour past the time you normally get up. We've got things to do.
Santa (still lying on back, dumbfounded look on his face): Wha- (blinks, scratches head) ... what could I possibly have to do today?
Mrs. Claus (turning to open shades): Oh, there's lots to do.
Santa (sitting up, looking at Mrs. Claus with puzzled expression): I'm sorry, I must've mistaken you for my wife. Because my wife would remember what last night was.
Mrs. Claus: Yes, yes, Christmas Eve. Toys down the chimney and all that.
Santa, incredulous, just looks at her.
Mrs. Claus: What?
Mrs. Claus: Well what?
Santa: Well, I'm kinda tired!
Mrs. Claus: I let you sleep an extra hour.
Santa (rolling eyes and lying back down): This is not funny. I'm going back to bed.
Mrs. Claus: Noooooo. There are decorations to take down, the workshop has to be cleaned, the sleigh washed - too much to do.
Santa (sitting bolt upright): Too much to do?! (jumping out of bed) Too much to do?! Do you know I visited over half the world last night? Millions of homes. Squeezing down all those chimneys - I'm not getting any thinner, you know.
Mrs. Claus: If you'd ever once tried that Tae-Bo video I gave you for your birthday last year, maybe those chimneys wouldn't be so tight.
Santa: Tae-Bo? It's the morning after Christmas, the big one, my busiest night, and you want to talk to me about Tae-Bo?
Mrs. Claus: Look at what it did for the elves. We had our largest production run ever this year. (Walks away)
Santa (following her into the kitchen): Yeah, our largest ever. The big night gets bigger and bigger and bigger-
Mrs. Claus: Like your belly.
Santa (ignoring her): I'm just saying, you know, I'm one man. Granted I'm the man when it comes to Christmas, but still ...
Mrs. Claus: But still it's your job, and you've been doing it for hundreds of years, and you should be used to it by now. (Hands him a cup of coffee.)
Santa: Used to it? When we started this deal there were only a few thousand kids. There are 6 billion people on earth now.
Mrs. Claus: And a great many of them are adults or naughty.
Santa (sipping coffee): Yeah, but there are still millions of kids who I have to visit. And the reindeer aren't getting any younger, you know. Comet blew out a hoof about 2 a.m. and had to land on three legs the rest of the way. Then Rudolph's nose went dim over Florida. Right in a fog bank, too. Do you how hard it is to find a place that's open at 5 a.m. on Christmas morning that sells red light bulbs?
Mrs. Claus (mock affection in her voice): But honey, it's a labor of love, delivering all those gifts for everyone, getting just the right toy for each girl and boy.
Santa (knowing expression crossing his face): This is about the vacuum cleaner, isn't it?
Mrs. Claus: Nooooo. What gives you that idea? I'm sure I will cherish it for years to come.
Santa (nodding his head): Yep, that's it. You didn't like the vacuum cleaner and now you're torturing me for it.
Mrs. Claus: No, honey. I love it. It's so much more practical than the diamond earrings I left you pictures of every day for the past month.
Santa (pointing a finger in the air): Aha! A month. But you've complained for a year about the vacuum not working right.
Mrs. Claus: Yes, it does seem like you would have fixed it before now. But I have to trust you, don't I? After all, you're the man when it comes to Christmas.
Santa (head hanging, shoulders drooping, sighing): OK. I get it. What do you want me to do?
Mrs. Claus (handing him a clipping from a newspaper): This store has a very fine jewelry department, and it just so happens that they have a Christmas Day sale.
Santa (reading ad): California? There's nothing closer?
Mrs. Claus shakes her head.
Santa: The reindeer aren't going to like this very much.
Mrs. Claus: I think you'll find them quite agreeable to the journey. By the way, you'll also be stopping at a special store there that makes custom clothes for animals and chocolate deer feed. Rudolph knows the way.
Just then, Rudolph noses his way through the door.
Rudolph: Hey, fat man! Get your red suit on. The team's all ready. (Turns around, heads back out, singing) Cal-i-forn-ya here I come, right back where I started from ...
Santa: Merry Christmas to me.
E-mail Nate McCullough at firstname.lastname@example.org. His column appears on Fridays.