It’s two weeks before Christmas and the official Santa Claus of the small town of Yuleboro is retiring. Bookstore owner Gregory has long dreamed of taking over the role. However, he’s not the only one, as tree farmer John has been waiting his whole life for this opportunity. Alongside a host of other competitors, they’ll battle their way through a tournament designed to test the skills of any would-be Kris Kringles, and find it takes more than a belly and a beard to wear the red suit. And as Gregory and John go head to head in the first-ever Great Santa Showdown, it’s not just the competition that heats up!
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Here is an excerpt:
At the rear of the store, two lamps lit two plush, plum-colored couches. The couches had seen better days, with worn cushions and more than a few little rips here and there, but nothing made Gregory happier than seeing readers ensconced in them for the afternoon with a good book. He popped a hardback copy of A Christmas Carol and Other Stories into a paper bag and handed it to a customer. “A good choice,” he said. “Happy Holidays.” At the door, Floyd stood aside to let the customer leave. He took off his red-and-white striped bobble hat and handed over a piece of paper. “Have you seen this?” Gregory read it, mouth agape. Under a photo of John looking -- to be fair -- amazing, were the words, Vote John Fox for Santa. The wise man’s choice. Gregory’s eyes narrowed. “Where did you get this?” “Right outside,” Floyd said. “He’s handing them out to everyone.” Gregory brushed past him and stormed out of the bookstore, waving the flyer over his head. Across the street, John was riding around on the back of a vintage pickup truck decked out to look like a sleigh. “This is cheating!” Gregory said. John smiled at him. “That’s a very serious accusation.” “It’s cheating and you know it.” John banged on the side of the truck, and the driver -- a man around John’s age wearing reindeer antlers -- slowed to a stop. Gregory peered in and recognized Seamus Byrne, the owner of the Jolly Olde Lodge, so he smiled and waved. Then he remembered that he was angry. John lowered the trunk flap and hopped out. “There’s nothing in the rules against canvassing for support.” “It’s ... it’s ...” “Yes?” “It’s against the spirit of the competition,” Gregory said. “Which, I might add, doesn’t even start until tomorrow?” John smiled and handed out a flyer to a passer-by. “The competition started the moment we signed our names on that form, and you know it.” Gregory’s dander was up and that meant his tongue became untethered. “You’re too short to be Santa.” John’s eyes flashed and his soft cheeks flushed. He pulled the Santa hat from his head and squared up to the much-taller Gregory. “I’m not too short,” he said. “I’m five-eight!” “You’re five-five in heels,” Gregory said. “Pah. If anything, you’re too tall! Santa Claus is an elf.” Gregory bellowed out a laugh. “Santa’s not an elf!” John held up one finger. “Come with me.” He beckoned Gregory to the bookshop. Floyd had been watching from the doorway and quickly stepped aside to let them in. John looked along the holiday section -- an entire bookcase holding nothing but volumes with red or green covers -- pulled out a copy of ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas and opened it. “It says right there that Santa Claus arrives on, and I quote, a miniature sleigh pulled by eight tiny reindeer. And, and, he was chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf. It says it right there. Elf.” John slapped the book closed and put on what must surely have been his smuggest smile. “Santa Claus is an elf.” “He’s got you there,” Floyd said. Gregory crossed his arms and sniffed. “That’s not canon.” John frowned. “I beg your pardon?” “It’s not canon. It’s not official Santa Claus lore. It’s ... fanfiction.” John rolled his eyes. “I’m leaving. You can keep the flyer. When I’m voted in, I’ll sign it for you. To Gregory, you’re getting a lump of coal this year. Love, Santa.” He grinned and let the door slam close behind him, vigorously tinkling the little bell above. Stockings stuffed with paperbacks hung from the store counter on which Gregory now leaned his forehead and groaned. “Maybe I should just let him have it. I can’t compete with this.” He crumpled up John’s flyer and threw it into the waste paper basket. “Oh, please,” Floyd said. “One little flyer isn’t going to win the competition. All you need to do is get on his good side. Make friends with him, you’re good at that.” Gregory lifted his head. “I am?” “Of course! Making friends is what you do! So get on his good side, get his guard down, then when he least expects it, throw him under the bus. Or under the sleigh, I guess.” Gregory’s cheeks puffed out, quite of their own accord. “I can’t do that!” “Sure you can!” Floyd patted Gregory’s wide chest. “You can do anything you set your mind to, big guy.” “I mean I won’t do it.” Gregory crossed his heavy arms. “Give me one good reason why not.” “Because it’s ... it’s ...” “Yes?” Gregory snorted. “It’s not what Santa Claus would do.”