SANTA\'S RETIRED Twas the night before Christmas and one thing was clear... that old Yuletide spirit no longer was here. Inflation was rising; the crime rate was tripling; the fuel bills were up, and our mortgage was crippling. I opened a beer as I watched TV, where Donny sang "O Holy Night" to Marie. The kids were in bed, getting sleep like they should or else they were stoned, which was almost as good. While Ma with her ball-point was making a fuss, 'bout folks we'd send cards to who'd sent none to us. "Those ingrates," she thundered, and pounded her fist. "Next year you can bet they'll be crossed off our list!" When out in the yard came a deafening blare. 'Twas our burglar alarm, and I hollered, "Who's there?" I turned on the searchlight, which lit up the night, and armed with my handgun, beheld a strange sight. Some red-suited clown with a white beard immense was caught in our eight foot electrified fence. He called out, "I'm Santa! I bring you no malice!" Said I, "If you're Santa, I'm Telly Savalas!" But, lo, as his presence grew clear to me, I saw in the glare that it just might be he! Called off our Doberman clawing his sleigh and frisking him twice, said, "I think he's ok." I led him inside where he slumped in a chair, and he poured out the following tale of despair; "On Christmas eves past I was jolly and chuckling, but now 'neath the pressures, I fear I am buckling." "You'll note I've arrived with no reindeer this year, and without them, my sleigh is much harder to steer. Although I would like to continue to use them, the wildlife officials believe I abuse them." "To add to my problem, Ralph Nader dropped by and told me my sleigh was unsafe in the sky. I now must wear seatbelts, despite my objections, and bring in the sleigh twice a year for inspections." "Last April, my workers came forth with demands, and I soon had a general strike on my hands. I couldn't afford to pay unionized elves, so the misses and I did the work ourselves." "And then, later on, came additional trouble... an avalanche left my fine workshop in rubble. My Allstate insurance was worthless, because they had shrewdly slipped in a 'no avalanche' clause." "And after that came an I.R.S audit; the government claimed I was out to defraud it. They finally nailed me for 65 grand, which I paid through the sale of my house and my land." "And yet I persist, though it gives me a scare, flying blind through the blanket of smog in the air. Not to mention the hunters who fill me with dread, taking shots at my sleigh as I pass overhead." "My torn-up red suit, and these bruises and swellings, I got fighting muggers in multiple dwellings. And if you should ask why I'm glowing tonight, it's from flying too close to a nuclear site." He rose from his chair and he heaved a great sigh, and I couldn't help notice a tear in his eye. "I've tried," he declared, "to reverse each defeat, but I fear that today I've become obsolete." He slumped out the door and returned to his sleigh, and these last words he spoke as he went on his way; "No longer can I do the job that's required; if anyone asks, just say, 'Santa's retired!'"