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Santapedia: The Story of Guido (a.k.a. Prancer)

Prancer’s battle with mental illness, lost love, and his search for redemption.

My most vivid memory of my evening with Prancer is not his admission that he was a murderer. Though unnerving it was consistent with his obvious paranoia. The most vivid memories are of what happened when I committed the faux pas of offering Prancer chopsticks with his General Tso’s chicken.

Prancer was volatile. He could be aggressive one moment, but gentle and submissive the next. How I wound up eating Chinese food with him in an alley behind Wong Foo’s one Christmas Eve is a bit of an unusual story. I remember it like it was yesterday…..


I was drunk. My ex had taken the kids out of town for the holidays, my love life was nonexistent, and I was coming home from a local bar. On the way home I decided to wish Benny a Merry Christmas. He was a homeless man who frequently slept in the alley behind Wong Foo’s Chinese restaurant. Suffice it to say that I was a bit tipsy as I ventured way up the alleyway.


As I neared the dumpster where Benny usually hung out I saw what looked like an animal sniffing around. “Damn,” I thought, “the coyotes are really getting bold around here!” I moved in closer.

“Shoo, Mr. Coyote!” I said. “Go away! I wanna talk to Benny.”

The coyote turned and looked at me. He had funny things on his head. “Wow! You’re the biggest coyote I’ve ever seen!” I exclaimed.

“Coyote?” the animal replied. He came closer. “Does this look like a coyote’s nose, numnuts? Do these look like a coyote’s antlers? I’m not a coyote. I’m a reindeer!”

I tried to clear my eyes to get a good look. He was about five feet high at the shoulder. His antlers were at least four feet long. He walked right up to me!

“I must be hallucinating,” I said aloud, “or I’m maybe dreaming.”

“Wrong and wrong!” the reindeer declared. “Want me to prove it?”

“Sure,” I responded.

He lowered his head and jabbed me between the legs with an antler!

“Owww!” I screamed.

“Did that feel like a hallucination, numnuts?” he asked.

“No,” I said. “That felt real.”

Then he jabbed me again!

“Owww! That hurts!”

“Did that wake you up from a dream?”

“No, it didn’t,” I said.

“QED! There’s the proof! I’m real,” he proclaimed. “Maybe I’ll start calling you numb-nuts now instead of numnuts!” (I later learned that a fondness for alliterative homosapien homonym humor is, of course, characteristic of aggressive personality disorders.)

I was sobering up quickly.

“You may not be an hallucination, but you definitely are an ass!” I said. “I’m going home to sleep this whole thing off whatever it is.” I turned around and started to walk home. But the reindeer quickly ran past me and blocked my exit path.

“Wait,” he said. “Please wait. Please forgive me. You’re right. I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have done that. It was uncalled for. I apologize.” Suddenly he was quite contrite.

“I know that sometimes I can be a jerk,” he continued. “Look, this is no excuse, but it’s been a bad Christmas. I lost my girl, I lost my job. And I haven’t eaten all day. I get grumpy when I don’t eat. I’m sorry. I really am sorry.”

“I still can’t believe this is real!” I muttered.

“Are your nuts still sore?” he asked.

“Really sore!” I confirmed.

“If they’re really sore, then I’m really real!” He had good points, literally and figuratively.

It suddenly dawned on me that his life situation was similar to mine. I was also unemployed and alone. In a way we were kindred spirits.

He extended his front left foreleg. “No hard feelings?”

As a young boy, I had often heard my grandfather say, “Never reject a reindeer’s offered hoof.” So I shook it.

“I’m Guido,” he said. “Nice to meet you.”

“Guido the Reindeer?”

“No, Guido the Cockatoo! I’m just dressed like a reindeer for Christmas! What do you think?”

“No,” I said, “I mean, do you have a last name, or are you just Guido the Reindeer?”

“Guido Marucci,” he replied. “But you can just call me Guido.”

“O.K.” I said. “My name is Jeff Monroe. You can call me Jeff.”

“Nice to meet you, Jeff.”

“I know what you mean about it being a tough Christmas,” I said. “Mine isn’t too great either. Get laid off from your job?”

“Nope, I quit!” Guido said. “You see, I am actually the famed Prancer! That’s right! Santa’s beloved and adored Prancer! Or at least I was until I quit. And before you ask…..sorry no autographs.”

“No autographs?”

“No,” he responded. “I find that so… plebeian!”


“Yes, plebeian Jeff.” Suddenly he glared at me. “Do you have a problem with that, Jeff? Are you surprised that a reindeer knows a word like plebeian?”

“No,” I said. “not particularly.”

“Are you one of those people that automatically assumes that all reindeer are lazy and stupid, Jeff? That reindeer don’t read? Damn it, Jeff. Are you a specie-ist?”

I was really offended. “A specie-ist? That’s ridiculous!” I replied. “I have known a lot of animals in my life, and not a single one has ever accused me of being a specie-ist!”

“Do you have any idea how stupid that sounds, Jeff?” Guido asked.

A good point, but I ignored it.

“What’s ridiculous is talking to a reindeer named Guido!” I said. “Santa didn’t have a reindeer named Guido! Prancer and Donner and Blitzen yes, but there was no Guido!”

“Please Jeff,” Guido said, “take a deep breath and calm down. Give me a chance to explain everything. Once I do everything will make sense. But first a favor? Please go into that restaurant around the corner and get some food? It’s the only place open for miles. I am soooo hungry. I couldn’t even find anything in the garbage dumpster.”

“You like Chinese food?”

“Love it!” Guido said. “How about some General Tso’s chicken, maybe some spring rolls, get some extra sauce and rice…..”

So that’s how we wound up chatting together in the alley behind Wong Foo’s restaurant on Christmas Eve. I brought the food back and put Guido’s down in the alley on a paper plate. General Tso’s chicken for Guido, and moo shu pork for me.

“Want chopsticks?” I asked.

Guido scowled.

“What do you think I’m going to do with chopsticks, Jeff?” he asked. “Do you see an opposable thumb on my hooves? I’m not a Disney cartoon. I’m a reindeer!”

“I’m sorry,” I answered. “There’s no need to be sarcastic.”

“I’m not being sarcastic, Jeff,” he said. “How about this? I grab the back end of a chopstick with my mouth, stab a piece of food with the tip and impale it, fling my head back and flip the food into the air. Then I spit out the chopstick and catch the food in my mouth as it falls back down. Think that would work, Jeff?”

“I get the point,” I replied.

“Do you, Jeff?” he asked. “You know, at the North Pole you could be food. For a polar bear. Would you want a polar bear to hunt you down and impale you on a stick, Jeff? Then throw you up in the air and catch you on the way down in his mouth? He could, you know. Do you think you would like that, Jeff?”

“I’ll assume that you don’t want a plastic fork either,” I said.

Guido mumbled something under his breath that sounded like “Go get a fork yourself.”

And then we both started eating and he seemed to relax. We enjoyed our food a bit, and then Guido looked up from his plate and dropped his bombshells.

“Jeff,” Guido explained “there are things that you don’t understand.”

“Things that I don’t understand?”

“Yes,” he continued. “Jeff, do you believe in reincarnation?”

“Do I believe in reincarnation?”

“Yes, Jeff. Reincarnation. The recycling of souls.”

“Recycling of souls?”

“You know, you have this annoying habit of repeating everything I say as a question! Stop it, or I’m going to kick you where I pronged you!”

“You’ll kick me? Ooops… please forget that I said that,” I begged.

“You see, Jeff,” Guido continued, “the souls of people… especially very, very, very bad people… are often recycled. The ex-person is demoted to a lower life form and has to earn their way back up the phylogenetic scale to get a second chance at a decent afterlife. I was one of those bad people, Jeff. Many years ago I was demoted to a grub. Then I was a Dung Beetle.”

“What was it like being a Dung Beetle?” I asked.

“I hung out in a cow pasture,” Guido explained. “Never worried about my next meal. After the Dung Beetle I was a moth, pigeon, hawk, and eventually I worked my way up to this flying reindeer gig.”

I was transfixed.

“All the other reindeer are in a similar situation, Jeff. Reindeer names … Prancer, Donner, Blitzen… they are all just aliases! Kind of like stage names! Donner is actually Joey Lifshitz, an ex-bookie from Jersey. Blitzen is some strange, quiet scary German guy that keeps to himself that no one really knows much about.”

“Guido, why were you demoted? Exactly what did you do in your prior life that was so horrible? You’re not exactly Mr. Charming, but you don’t seem that bad to me.”

Guido looked down and just stared at the ground for a moment. Then he looked back up at me.

“In Sicily, many years ago, I was Guido Marucci. Don Guido Marucci. And in the vernacular of today’s modern athlete, I made some bad life choices back then. Really bad,” he explained.

“How many bad choices did you make?” I asked.

“Well,” Guido said, “if you don’t count Mario because Vincenzo actually pulled the trigger, forty-six”


“Oh come on, Jeff. That was a very long time ago. Trust me. I never want to be a Dung Beetle again! The reason that I’m here in this alley has nothing to do with that.”

“Well why are you here?” I asked.

“Because,” Guido explained, “of an affair of the heart. A lost love. I was jilted.”


“Yes!” Guido exclaimed. “I know. The oldest story in the book. Reincarnated reindeer serial killer meets reincarnated moose, reindeer falls in love, moose rejects reindeer, and reindeer’s heart is broken. You’ve heard it all a thousand times before.”

“You’re a reindeer! How can you fall in love with a moose? You should be falling in love with another reindeer!” I pointed out.

Guido just looked at me and shook his head.

“Jeff, Jeff, Jeff,” he said, “you humans have so far to go. It’s not what’s on the outside that counts. It’s what is on the inside that matters. Everyone at the Pole knows that anyone can fall in love with anyone. Heck, even some of the trees are spirits at the North Pole. We had a male woodpecker who fell in love with a female evergreen tree!”

“How did that work out?” I asked.

“They broke up after the first season. She said she just got sick of seeing the same pecker day after day.”

“Is Santa a spirit too?” I asked.

“Well, he is very spiritual,” Guido explained. “He’s a friggin’ alcoholic. It’s why his cheeks are always so red and he’s ho-ing all day long. But that’s another story.”

“Wow!” I said. “I had no idea.” There was a moment of silence while I let everything sink in.

“So why didn’t it work out between you and Ms. Moose, Guido? What happened?”

“Sally,” Guido said. “Her name is Sally. She was once a dealer in Vegas a long time ago.” I could see the sadness in his eyes. “Well,” he said, “she’s a moose. She thought I might be, shall we say, inadequate. She said size does matter.”

“Ouch,” I opined.

“After Sally rejected me I got depressed,” Guido explained. “And tonight I just didn’t feel like hauling that old red-suited fart’s drunken butt around the globe! So I cut out. And I wound up here.”

Then Guido really lost it! He started banging his head against the dumpster near where we were standing. It’s a good thing that reindeer have hard heads!

“Oh man, what am I’m gonna do, Jeff? I really blew it! No girl. No job. I know one thing. I’m not going back to that stinking cow pasture again! I’m never going back to that cow pasture!”

“Calm down, Guido.” I said. “We’ll work it out. It can’t be all that bad. I mean, look how far you’ve come! From a lowly, slimy grub to someone who feels, who loves, who cares. That must count for something.”

“I wasn’t a lowly and slimy grub! I was on the top of the grub heap! I had to beat off all the grubettes with a stick!” Guido explained. “There was a lot of splendor in that grass!”

Then he began to calm down. And after he did, I could see that he was truly moved by what I had said. He walked up close and looked me right in the eye.

“Jeff,” he said, “you’re a decent guy. I think that stuff about feeling and caring might be the nicest thing anyone ever said to me. Thank you.”

I patted his nose.

“Not the nose! Scratch behind the ears, man. Reindeer nose rubbing is only for the most intimate of friends! And it can be unsanitary! Rudolph’s nose is red because of chronic infection.”

“O.K.,” I said as Guido lowered his head and I scratched his ears, “here is what you are going to do. You are going to head back up there, rejoin Santa’s crew, and apologize. And after all the deliveries are over, you’ll go back to the North Pole, find Sally, and tell her what you told me. That what counts is what is on the inside, not the outside. That you love her, and want to be with her, and will do whatever you must to make her happy.”

“Whatever I must? Isn’t that a bit extreme, Jeff?”

“No, Guido. You tell her that. And I bet that things will work out fine.”

Guido raised his head and looked at me. And then he took his nose and rubbed it gently and affectionately against my hand!

“I wish you hadn’t sneezed before you did that,” I said.

“Sorry. But thank you, Jeff,” he said. “I will never forget you. You may be the first real friend that I ever had. Good-bye, Jeff.” And suddenly he was gone!

I looked around everywhere but couldn’t find him. Then I turned to walk back home and almost fell! I had slipped when I unknowingly stepped into Guido’s poop. But I regained my balance, scraped off my shoes, and made it back to my apartment.


That was all many years ago. The encounter was life-changing for me. I stopped drinking afterwards, and eventually went back to school and obtained a doctorate degree in biology. My widely acclaimed thesis documented the life of the Dung Beetle. Today I teach a course at the local community college just for fun since I retired long ago.

Age and arthritis have taken their toll. What remains of my hair is gray now, and I need a cane to walk. But I have never stopped wondering what happened to Guido. Every Christmas Eve I feel compelled to return to that alleyway with some General Tso’s chicken and some moo shu pork. I take the chicken and some rice and mix it up in a little dish. I manage to bend over and put the dish down in the alley. Guido’s dish. And I eat my moo shu pork while I think about our past encounter.

And this year something amazing happened! I was standing by the dumpster eating and I saw a gray rodent stick his head out from under a piece of cardboard that was sitting in the alleyway. When he saw me staring back at him he ducked back beneath the cardboard. But then he poked his head out again.

Our eyes met. Suddenly he ran right up near where I was standing and sat on his hindquarters next to Guido’s dish. Then he looked up at me, and I heard a squeaky soft voice said, “Hey, Buddy. Can I borrow your chopsticks?”

“My gosh! Guido, is that you?”

“Yep,” he said, “it’s me! How are you, Jeff? It’s so great to see you again! I was hoping to find you here!”

I was overcome with emotion. I managed to bend over and gently rub his nose.

“My old friend, what happened?” I asked. “Why are you a rat now?”

“She happened!” Guido said. He let out a squeak and out from beneath the cardboard came a much larger rodent but with long eyelashes and red lips! She sat down next to Guido.

“Jeff,” Guido said, “meet Sally!”

“It’s nice to meet you, Sally,” I said.

“Likewise, I’m sure Mista.” Sally squeaked. “Guido talks about ya all the time!” She batted her eyelashes at me.

It turns out that Guido had followed my advice to the letter. He and Sally had gotten together after all. But Guido had left out one important part of Sally’s background. Not only was she once a dealer in Vegas, she was a crooked dealer! After Guido promised to do whatever he had to do to make her happy, Sally demanded that he help her run a rigged blackjack game. They had screwed the elves and dwarfs out of a lot of money. Now they were suffering the consequences, working their way back up the phylogenetic scale together.

“I’m sorry, Guido,” I said. “I’m so sorry. I gave you bad advice.”

“Don’t be sorry! You gave me great advice!” Guido replied. “First, just take a look at her!” Sally was slurping up some of the General Tso’s chicken from the dish. But she stopped to look at me, bat her eyes again, and wiggle her butt.

“Whatever happens, Sally and I will always be together!” Guido said. “That’s part of our punishment. And as long as we’re together, we can always heat up the night together! Get my drift? And that, my friend, I owe to you!”

“Well,” I observed, “you’ll be o.k. as long as you’re not both turned into amoebas.”


So there is the story of Guido the Reindeer/rodent/Dung Beetle whatever. I say a little prayer for Guido and Sally every night.

There are two things that continue to haunt me, and probably will haunt me until the day that I die. Firstly, I have never figured out if there is any moral to be gleaned from this story. And perhaps more importantly, I still haven’t figured out whether the ending is a happy one or a sad one!

© 2013 All rights reserved.

This story is protected by International Copyright Law, by the author, all rights reserved. If found posted anywhere other than with this note attached, it has been posted without my permission.

Copyright © © Lee Goldberg 2011, 2012, 2013. All Rights Reserved. Contact info:

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