Rudolph stared into the mirror. His nose shone like the
brightest star in the sky.
     "Shit," he mumbled.
     He pawed through the medicine cabinet, until he came up
with a tube of tinted Clearasil in his hoof. He slathered
out a generous dollop and went to work on the nose. But
immediately, he realized it wouldn't work. Wrong color,
first of all, so it looked totally unnatural. And anyway,
you could still see his nose shining. In fact, you could
even say it glowed.
     Rudolph stomped down the hall to his bedroom, and
rummaged through his art supplies until he found a black
magic marker. These were supposed to be permanent. He wiped
off the zit cream with a fetlock, and started drawing. But
again, no soap — the ink just beaded up on the vinyl-like
surface of his nose. One wipe, and it smeared right off.
     "Goddamn," he said, wondering for the 100th time why
God would have cursed him with this ridiculous lighted nose.
What kind of God would do a thing like that? Surely not a
merciful, loving God — some kind of mischievous bastard of
a God, that was for sure.
     The door burst open. "Rudolph—" his mother began. She
stopped and looked down, at the magic marker in his hoof.
"Oh, Rudolph," she said disdainfully, "what have you been
     "I told you to call me Rudy!" Rudolph screamed, and
pushed his mother out the doorway. "Rudy! RUDY! RUDY!!" He
slammed the door behind her, and threw himself on his bed,
sobbing uncontrollably.

     Rudolph was a gangly, introverted little reindeer, for reasons
you well know by now. The nose, though, came in handy in some
ways — he was never without a flashlight in the dark, for
one thing. His parents could never keep him from reading
under the covers. And, it was natural, perhaps, that he
would take up photography as a hobby.
      But overall it was a curse, an albatross. The others
thought he was a total freak. Girls wanted nothing to do
with him. About the best he could do were chat rooms, but
before long he got busted by the parents, and they took away
his account.
     Rudolph sat at the edge of the playground, on a bench,
his bright nose buried in a book. He heard the clop-clop of
hoofbeats, and looked up to see Mr. Sturm, the guidance
counselor. Mr. Sturm nodded at Rudolph, and sat down next to
     "Hiya, Rudy," he said.
     "What's going on, pal?"
     "Nuthin'. Reading." Rudolph tried to concentrate on the
     "Umhmm." Mr. Sturm gazed across the playground, toward
where all the other reindeer were busy playing reindeer
games. "How come you aren't over there with the others?" He
wondered aloud.
     "What do you think? They won't let me. They don't
want some retard with a glowing nose." He turned it on
briefly, sarcastically, for emphasis.
     But Mr. Sturm had long since passed the point of being
surprised at the nose. "Look, Rudy," he said, "at some
point, you're going to have to accept the fact that you're
different, and try and find your place in life."
     "I got a place in life. Right here on this bench."
     "You know what I mean."
     Rudolph sighed. Mr. Sturm was always trying to get
stuff out of you, feelings and stuff. "I'm sick of
trying," he said. "I'll just screw up or something. And then
my nose'll go on, and everybody'll laugh."
     "And call you names."
     "And call me names, right."
     "Rudy, you ever heard the expression — 'sticks and
stones may break my bones, but names will never hurt me'?"
     " you have."
     "Yeah, but...wull...that's no good. It's wrong."
     "It is?"
     "Names do hurt. What if people called you
Mr. Can't-Pull-A-Sleigh, or Old Veers-To-The-Left or something?"
It was well known that Mr. Sturm had been in line for Meteor's
spot many years before, but had lost the position to Vixen —
a woman, no less. It was said that, though he put up a
good front, Mr. Sturm had never been quite the same since.
     Mr. Sturm sighed. "Rudy, I've gotten over that kind of
thing. I've found a life now, a life where I can give back
to the community. Where I can help people, where I can give
of myself. I wasn't cut out to pull that Sleigh...and I've
 learned to accept that. And one of these days, you're gonna
have to accept your special gift as well."
     "Gift." Rudolph's voice dripped contempt.
     "Exactly," said Mr. Sturm. "Your special gift. The
thing that makes you different from all the others. You're
the only you there is, you know. Think about that." He
nuzzled Rudolph on the shoulder, then got up and cantered
     Rudolph watched his fluffy tail as he receded into the
distance. Easy for him to say, he thought bitterly. He'd
never been called the old Rednoser, or Beaconface, or
Laserbeak, had never gotten up to give an oral report and
been suddenly faced with a roomful of snickering kids
wearing cheap sunglasses.
     "I'm never gonna fit in," Rudolph mumbled. He went
back to reading his book, and tried to ignore the tears
dripping onto the pages.

Then one foggy Christmas eve, the phone rang. Rudolph
was upstairs rolling up some D&D characters, and wishing he
had somebody to play with.
     "Rudolph!" his mother shouted from downstairs. "Come
down here, quickly!"
     There was something in her voice that made him hurry.
He galloped downstairs. His mother stood in the foyer, phone
in hoof, staring wide-eyed at him. She covered the
     "It's for you — it's Santa," she hissed.
     Rudolph froze. "Santa," he mumbled reverently.
     Rudolph's dad had come up behind him. He nudged the
boy. "C'mon, son, let's not keep the man waiting," he said.
     Rudolph dutifully went to the phone, feeling like a
reindeer on his way to the firing squad or something. This
couldn't be anything good. Santa was probably calling him
to tell him that due to his ridiculous lighted nose, he'd
have to leave the North Pole and go live in Lapland instead.
     But so what? What was so great about the North Pole?
The weather sucked, and the whole six months of night, then
six months of day thing was a complete bummer. The incidence
of Seasonal Affective Disorder was appalling, and melatonin was
expensive and in short supply.
     So a move away wouldn't be so bad, Rudolph realized.
Maybe he could hitchhike to L.A., get some work in
the theatre or something. Nice climate, and he'd just blend
right in with all the other California weirdos.
     "Hello?" he said.
     "Rudy? It's Santa Claus."
     "Yessir." Rudolph felt instantly at ease. Santa wasn't
gruff and testy, the way he sounded sometimes on those
public service ads on TV. His warm voice filled Rudolph's
ear with fatherly affection. Rudolph realized with a start
that he'd loved this man since birth, and would do just
about anything for him, if asked.
     "Rudy, I've got a real favor to ask of you," said Santa.
     "Welp, it's real foggy out there tonight. And
wouldn'tcha know it, my radar's on the fritz. They tell me
it's gonna be a week before the right parts come in, but we
just can't wait that long. We gotta get this show on the
road now. Tonight."
     "Yessir..." said Rudolph, hardly comprehending anything
Santa was saying.
     "What I'm trying to say here is this: look, I've heard
tell that you've got a heckuva nose, I mean..." Santa
started to chuckle. "...A real shiner! Like a lighthouse!"
     Rudolph instantly felt sullen and defensive. Even
Santa! It was all he could do to make a noise in the
     Santa sensed the change in mood. "Whoa, hey, don't get
me wrong, Rudy m'boy, don't get me wrong — why, I need the
brightest nose I can find! Yessiree! I need a laser beam of
a nose, I need a lighthouse of a nose, I need a nose that
can deliver candlepower like nobody's business! I need you,
Rudy. I need you to guide my sleigh tonight."

     "You'll go down in history!" shouted Tommy.
     "You're awesome!" yelled Billy.
     "Rudy, cool move, man!" called Joey.
     "Okay, okay," said the teacher. It was January 8th,
time for school to get underway again. But as first period
began, the other reindeer were noisily effusive in their
     Finally, the teacher got some quiet. She stood up at
the front center of the classroom and said, "I would like to
take a moment to give voice to something that I think I've
heard on all of your lips this morning: the fact that we all
owe a huge debt of gratitude to somebody sitting right here in
this room. Let's everybody give a round of applause for...
Rudy's good work on Christmas!"
     The peculiar crackling and clopping of reindeer
applause was heard for a solid minute.
     "Speech! Speech!" they began yelling.
     "Yes," said the teacher. "Rudy, why don't you come up
and share with us?"
     Rudolph walked up to the front. His nose beamed, and
maybe they all thought it was with joy and pride. They all
commented on it to each other. Rudolph heard them telling
each other how cool they always thought the nose was, how
each one had been the only one to secretly wish that Rudolph
wouldn't get picked on so much, that each one had been the
single reindeer who had known all along how cool Rudolph was,
and would've stopped teasing him in a heartbeat — long as
everybody else stopped too, of course.
     At the front of the class, Rudolph waited for the
whispering to stop, and then, when there was quiet, he said:
     "Fuck you. Fuck all of you."
     In the silence that followed, Rudolph strode back to his
seat, satisfied for the first time in his life. His upraised
nose shone like the brightest star in the sky.