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MAKING PLANS

It is now the next morning, as B.Z. and Towzer walk through a large, totally empty garage --- the one area on the B.Z. Headquarters property not tightly locked up. Towzer is wielding a briefcase containing some sort of mysterious element; B.Z. is beside himself with an unprecedented degree of happiness. "Look around you," chortles he, "no strikes, no smelly workers, no payroll --- it's practically paradise!"

"Still, giving this toy away for free---," Towzer protests. An ingratiating toad by nature, Towzer is nonetheless B.Z.'s closest link to what sadly passes for a voice of reason. And this time, Towzer's reason has to do with the fact that, as Towzer himself sees it, simply giving this toy away --- and for free, no less! --- is the equivalent of committing financial suicide.

"That, Dr. Towzer, is why I am a Captain of Industry, whereas you are an insignificant schlepper," the toy mogul responds disdainfully. "Sure, we start with giving it away free the first Christmas. But on the next one, we'll say, 'So you want it again, huh? Bigger? Better? Well, this time it's gonna cost ya.' " All the while, B.Z. chuckles, cracking the knuckles of his fists (which to him is the most pleasant sound in the world).

"How much?" asks Towzer, finally understanding B.Z.'s methodology.

"$100? $200?" B.Z.'s eyes glitter with further glee.

"Where would they get that kind of money?"

"What difference does it make where they get it, as long as it comes rolling in?" Now the two men have reached the far door, where the sounds of pounding, hammering and clanging emerge from the mysterious room on the other side. "What's he building in there?" Towzer wonders.

"I'm not sure," B.Z. explains. "He says it's the 'delivery system.' " He, of course, is Patch --- and, having insisted upon the strictest secrecy, even from B.Z. himself, he isn't about to let anyone find out what this delivery system of his can do --- not just yet, anyway. But he has requested something in the way of samples; and accordingly, B.Z. has decided to fulfill that need.

Quickly, Patch responds to the knocks on that secret door. "Yes?"

"We've brought the prototypes for, uh.... it," says B.Z. Towzer then opens the briefcase. There are four lollipops contained in the valise, each rendereed in perfect glass: a round one, a long thin one, a huge all-day sucker, and a very small one. Their respective colors and flavors vary. Patch briefly considers for a moment before choosing the small one.

"What color?" asks Towzer.

"Well, what color do you like?"

"I like puce," replies Towzer. "You would," grunts B.Z.

"What's puce?"

"It's like fuchsia, but with a shade less lavender, and a bit more pink," Towzer explains. "Sometimes I wonder about you, Towzer," responds the humorless B.Z.

"Fine, puce then --- so long as it tastes good," says Patch, who then shuts the door in the Mortals' faces. Towzer is somewhat embarrassed, but proud nevertheless of his role in Patch's plans: "If this works out," he comments wryly, "we might come out with a liquid version: puce juice." B.Z. is clearly not amused. Where is this guy's funny bone?

AND, BACK UPSTAIRS AT NORTH POLE HEADQUARTERS:

We return to Santa's house, as we find our Knight of Christmas sitting pensively by his fireplace, whittling at a block of wood. Anya enters the scene from her personal kitchen, drying her hands on her own apron. "Oh my! An elf-portrait," she says, her eyes wondering in amazement. "Y'know, you haven't made one of those since ---"

As her voice trails off, the realization strikes her: indeed, Claus has not made any kind of toy with his own two hands since the very first day they came here to the Top of the World. "It's for Joe," he explains as he continues to carve. He hasn't lost his touch in the intervening aeons; rather, his artistry seems more remarkable than before. "He's never had a present his whole life, and he's too proud to even ask for one. In fact, he makes me think about what our son might've been like, Anya."

Yes, this truly is a very special toy, for one very special child. It's the image of a wooden Elf. Taking it tenderly from her husband, Anya examines it more closely. "Why, it's Patch!" she exclaims suddenly.

Claus' face reddens a little. "No, it can't be .... it might just resemble...." In the end, as usual, Claus gives in to what his heart is saying deep inside. "My good ol' Patch," he murmurs. "I just hope he's all right."

WE'LL BE RIGHT PATCH!

A few days later, we find Patch, with Towzer, and a few somewhat scantily-clad female "Elves" --- the, er, Patchettes, let's call them, for lack of a better term. The historic Patch commercial, wherein the Elf will star, is about to go live before the four corners of the world. "I don't really know about this," a reluctant Patch is complaining. "It isn't what the North Pole looks like at all."

"Look, B.Z. knows what he's doing," Towzer tries to reassure his new co-boss. "He knows how to grab the people."

"But this isn't real."

"The public doesn't want reality," Towzer snaps a bit nervously. "They want the dream!" And moments later, the dream, such as it is, comes spectacularly true! With the Patchettes vocalizing in the background, our Elfish hero reads from the strange camera-like thing placed before him .... that which we in the business call a teleprompter.

"From the old North Pole/Where the Elves make toys/Here's a Christmas treat/For you girls and boys! Oh, my name's Patch,/And, as you can tell,/I'm an Elf myself,/So let's give a yell!"

Needless to say, Patch's recitation airs on every last television network on Earth --- and the Planet's children, Joe and Cornelia among them, are clearly mesmerized! And yet, Santa's two young Mortal friends are a little bit shocked and saddened by what they're seeing. Patch, meanwhile, just presses on:

"Well, the patchwork present comes from me./You'll find it under the Christmas tree;/And best of all, you will agree,/Is that it's absolutely FREE!"

Back in Corny's townhouse, we continue to watch with the young girl as her stepuncle's toy commercial featuring this rather strange fellow reaches its climax. Her thoughts are soon interrupted by the voice of Miss Tucker. "Your stepuncle has just stopped by for a minute. Go on in and wish him a Merry Christmas."

We follow Corny as she reluctantly steps into her unc's library. "Merry Christmas, Uncle," she mutters politely.

B.Z. --- her stepuncle --- swivels around in his chair, and grins triumphantly. "It certainly should be," he cackles, as he immerses himself in the thrill of having just pulled off the biggest promotional gimmick of his -- or anybody's -- lifetime!

Even those at North Pole Headquarters --- the ones with the true closest ties to Patch --- observe the situation from a tiny television monitor in Dooley's study. Santa and Anya, Dooley, Puffy, Boog, Honka and Vout all witness the scene .... with grim thoughts --- and, for Santa, at least, a somewhat heavy heart. "Well, at least he's all right," the Knight of Christmas murmurs when he finds the strength to speak again. He finds it somewhat hard to believe that he has truly driven Patch -- to this!

"What are you going to do?" asks Dooley finally.

"It's Christmas Eve, isn't it?" growls Santa. "I'm gonna do my job ---- the way I always do." And, saying no more, he storms out of the room.

THE PATCHMOBILE TAKES FLIGHT!

Christmas Eve: Towzer, Grizzard and Ms. Abruzzi are standing before a mysterious dais, framed by patriotic red-white-and-blue tinsel, along with dozens of twinkling lights. Several additional technicians, brought into this unusually crafted "set" for just this evening, are working on ---- something. Now, all that remains is for B.Z. to make his entry. This he does, rubbing his hands in eager anticipation. The stage is now set for the unveiling of Patch's 'big surprise.'

"WHERE IS HE?" bellows the mogul, not interested in the 2 immense, closed doors at the building's far end, behind which is hidden.... the aforementioned something. "Up there, sir," replies Ms. Abruzzi --- but then the lights immediately blaze on all around the quartet of Mortals. And just at that moment, the tinsel curtain parts. The four can only breathe in the very wonder of what they are now witnessing.

Behold, then...... THE PATCHMOBILE!

Blindingly yellow in color, its bright-red radiator grille is topped by a chrome-plated figurine depicting his beloved Donner. Its hood literally resembles a jigsaw puzzle; its headlights, the drum heads of four toy soldiers standing on each front fender, ready to play; the pistons, toy mushroom caps; the tires, overinflated beach balls with red and green stripes. Two antennae protrude from the turrets of two crimson castles, tipped by giant pinwheels; several huge spinning tops balance over the motor; and the rear of the car is a large rumble seat, filled now with an enormous pile of patchwork-wrapped lollipops. Patch --- dressed in his familiar Elven regalia, with a pair of pilot's goggles pushed up on his forehead --- himself sits behind the wheel of this, his new "delivery system," ready to take off into the night.

Next to the car is a red-white-and-blue gas pump shaped like a robot, with a plastic dome for the head, and long, silver hose-arms. Inside the pump is Patch's remarkable 'secret ingredient,' which, mingled with high-tech fuel, created the juice needed to make this baby run.

Once the fuel gauge reads full, Patch activates the ignition, and the car springs to life like an animatronic toyshop window!

B.Z. and company are really liking what they see now; this is undoubtedly the greatest moment of the toy mogul's megalomaniacal life. "Knock 'em dead, kid --- KNOCK 'EM DEAD!" he bellows, as his three associates join him in cheering on their new hero. Finally, the engines rev up to full power, and Patch, virtually swimming in confidence now, stomps that pedal down on the floor. In a shower of sparks, the exhaust pipes flood with puce smoke. And the Patchmobile zooms forward, as the hangar doors open automatically, revealing the New York night sky in all its glory. Roaring forward up its lighted, specially constructed ramp, the Patchmobile crosses the distance --- and launches upward into the twinkling darkness! On it thunders into the night, in direct imitation of a certain other Christmas Eve flight --- which even now is already in progress!

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