He wasn’t scheduled for retirement until the end of the universe, but he was just so damn tired.
The world was very different than when he’d started. Expectations had grown and grown and grown until he could no longer keep up with the demand placed upon him by his customers.
When he first noticed that his work was being supplemented by parents, he breathed a sigh of relief. But then they started doing more than supplementing. They started wearing his clothes and using his name, all without ever asking his permission — not to mention the thought of proper compensation.
He began pushing his employees to work longer hours and to increase their output, but eventually they began pushing back. And the worst part was he couldn’t even blame them. There were some lean years when strikes hurt what he could deliver, but he noticed the world didn’t seem to notice at all.
His wife had what could best be described as a conniption fit when he first broached the idea of early retirement. It was his purpose, his reason for existence! But he had been feeling more and more like it was his cross to bear instead, and he was ready to set it down.
She packed her bags and left, in an attempt to teach him a lesson, and while he missed the comfort of her warm embrace, at least it was one less set of expectations weighing upon his shoulders. He soon announced layoffs for all but one of his employees. He would keep his valet around as long as the funds were there to pay him.
The money ran out faster than he expected, but he could live frugally. All he needed was a sleeve of cookies and a gallon of milk, and he could get by for a week. His favorite red suit was reduced to threadbare tatters a few years ago, but he found he could blend in quite well in the thrift store clothing that his budget allowed.
Every once in a while, a child’s eye would land on him, and he would see the curiosity, the expectation, the hope. Every time, his heart swelled, wondering if it was time for his return. But every time, the parents pulled their children along, with no recognition, no memory of the magic they had once shared.
Another year had passed, and December 25th was so near he could quite literally feel it in his bones. Every year, he and his valet still surveyed the world, and every year everything changed, but never in their favor. The world simply grew more and more astute at meeting their own constantly growing expectations. And every year, his heart broke a little more, because Christmas looked less and less like him.