Reviews, whether good or bad, are extremely important to all authors. The good reviews let us know that even though we may think it 100 times a day, we don't entirely suck :)
The bad ones, or I should really say critical ones, give us (hopefully) some things to consider working on or ways to make our future work better. That is, as long as they aren't ripping the author apart on a personal level.
I have been standing on my head trying to get reviews for my book. People are buying it without them now, but oh how nice it would be to have a few of those people actually give me even 10 words saying how much they loved it. Or hated it. Or felt nothing at all about it.
Today I was the recipient of a fantastic editorial review by SPR Book Review, which I will link below. They get the story! I LOVE that. To have someone who isn't my wife or my cover designer or my editor say they like and even enjoyed my book is a really freaking awesome feeling!
"Hayes really gets into the details about the North Pole in a fun and oftentimes funny way. He creatively paints each scene, and even parents may just end up believing in Santa Claus by book’s end."
See?? How cool is that?
Now there was ONE critical point in the review, and I understand where they were coming from, but for the record, it WAS a stylistic choice ;)
Here is the link for the full review and a reminder that my book, The Year Santa Stubbed His Toe is FREE on Amazon until midnight on Christmas Eve. :) - WMH
In the spirit of Christmas and the Season of Giving, my first book, The Year Santa Stubbed His Toe (ebook), is going to be FREE on Amazon from 12/21 until midnight on Christmas Eve! Grab a copy!
I want to thank you for giving a new author a chance and hope you enjoy my story!
Happy Holidays, Merry Christmas, and Happy New Year! - WMH
There is still time to order a copy of my first book, The Year Santa Stubbed His Toe!
If you would like to order a paperback copy, it is available on Amazon; it makes an AWESOME stocking stuffer. Just curl it into a scroll and shove it down into the bottom of the sock! ;)
It's also available on Kindle for $2.99 or free on Kindle Unlimited. - WMH
Hey Everyone!!! I finally created a blog!!! For my very first post, I thought I would give you the first two chapters of my first book, The Year Santa Stubbed His Toe, for FREE!
When Santa injures his toe so badly he needs the aid of his four best elves to make the deliveries to the world on time, it seems like a simple solution to what could be a potentially disastrous Christmas, right? Wrong! Four elves who haven't been away from the pole in decades are thrown into a situation they could never begin to fathom. What could possibly go wrong?
If you would like to order a paperback copy, it is available on Amazon; it makes an AWESOME stocking stuffer. Just curl it into a scroll and shove it down into the bottom of the sock! ;)
It's also available on Kindle for $2.99 or free on Kindle Unlimited.
I believe anyone age 9-90+ will enjoy kicking back after opening their presents on Christmas Day, in their favorite chair, and taking in the tale of what happened The Year Santa Stubbed His Toe.
Copyright © 2016 William M Hayes
All rights are reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced, scanned, or distributed in any printed or electronic form without the written permission of William M Hayes. Any violation of the international copyright law is subject to criminal prosecution, fines, and/or imprisonment.
This book is licensed to the original purchaser and for personal enjoyment only. It may not be re-sold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each reader. Please do not participate in piracy of books or other creative works. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.
This book is a work of fiction. While reference may be made to existing locations, the characters, incidents, names, and places are products of this author’s imagination. Any resemblance to persons living or dead is completely coincidental.
The Arctic Ocean
The North Pole, the place where Santa lives … his home. And to all the nonbelievers out there, it is true. An undiscovered landmass in the middle of the Arctic Ocean exists, hidden under an enormous glacier at the North Pole. A crescent-moon shaped crack at the top of the glacier the size of Manhattan Island lets in the light from outside. Above the massive glacier, the sunrays shine in brightly during the day. And as the sun fades away, the stars and moon become incredibly bright from above the private-glacier world—pulsing white light down into the secret land from the night sky. Deep inside the glacier, where it is cold but not nearly as cold as the North Pole, a place never seen before by the outside world exists. A white land of hills and valleys where exotic fruits and trees grow. A place where Santa and those close to him work so hard all year long so they can spread happiness to the world. Working for that one-night Christmas voyage to bring peace and harmony to the people of the world. However, on this one particular year, the elves, toymakers, and all who help Santa get ready for his big night out came up with an idea. Why can't Santa, for just one year, feel how it is to receive a present? Yes, Santa always says that his gift is bringing joy to the people of the world. But wouldn't it be nice for Santa to feel it for himself? The gift giver to all in the world receiving a few gifts from the people living at the North Pole who loved him so much. And so the elves, toymakers, and all who resided at the North Pole worked that much harder to surprise Santa that year.
The year Santa stubbed his toe …
The Light from Above
As the light streamed through his cottage window, a smile widened over Santa's face before he opened his eyes—feeling the warmth coming from outside. Lifting his two-foot-thick red comforter off his chest and setting it aside, Santa stretched his arms out in the air and placed his feet over the side of his massive bed. With his red thermals rolled up at the sleeves, Santa's arms revealed a bit more muscle than stories have portrayed about the legendary man in past tales. However, Santa was still somewhat overweight. Feet on the floor, there was definitely a little jiggling going on where there shouldn't be as he swaggered over to the window at the side of his bed to get a view outside.
From his window, Santa looked out at brilliant beams of light shining down from the night sky. Then, from above, a basket of blue fell from the sky, landing in front of his cottage. Santa smiled at the sight outside with a grateful look on his face. The beams of light outside started to pull back toward heavenly-lit clouds above in the night sky. Santa then spoke to the light fading away in the sky.
"Thank you for another year."
Later that day, the last light from the sun slowly slipped away from a structure of steel shaped like a Christmas tree made up of red, green, and silver giant glass domes protruding from its side. The colossal structure that Santa told each one living at the Pole, "Just appeared one day", was given the name Big Tree. The domes on the side of Big Tree were workstations, filled with the loving people who helped Santa get ready for his big night out.
Inside Big Tree at Silver Ball Station 5, busy elves frantically ran around with gifts in their hands to make sure this year's shipment would be ahead of schedule, running toward chutes labeled in glowing white for each country in the globe. A frantic mission by the elves to get all the presents up the chutes as fast as they could. That way, Santa would have a good three minutes to spare before he had to leave and be on schedule for his Christmas Eve run.
Above Silver Ball Station 5, Elfon overlooked the operation below. Elfon was a seven-foot elf with a thin face and a narrow nose that made his huge green eyes pop off his face and was by far the biggest elf the North Pole had ever seen. He stood with his arms crossed over his chest, satisfied with how everything looked below. Elfon then reached for a gizmo attached to his belt that looked like a cell phone colored in candy-cane stripes and placed a call to Santa.
Sitting in his private chamber, Santa looked over last-minute changes on a blue-glowing scroll with the night's deliveries on it. A soft three-stroke chime echoed in the room and lifted Santa's attention away from the scroll. Santa then asked a question to the empty room.
"Yes, what is it?"
Elfon's voice streamed into the room. "Elfon here at Silver Ball Station 5, Santa. I just wanted to give you a little peace of mind tonight—"
"Not a piece of yours, I hope," Santa quickly said. "Last year, you had me deliver girl's underwear to a fourteen-year-old boy in Edmonton who needed an athletic cup supporter for hockey."
A pause came from Elfon—just the sound of his breathing filled Santa's private chamber.
Elfon's voice then returned sheepishly. "Yeah ... messed up on that one last year, Santa."
Placing the scroll on his desk, Santa pinched the bridge of his nose and closed his eyes for a moment, taking a breath. "Sorry. Didn't mean to snap like that, Elfon. What was it that you wanted to give me peace of mind about?"
Elfon's voice eagerly answered back. "We are ahead of schedule, Santa. For the first time, you're not waiting for us—we are waiting for you."
Santa smiled. Darn, this was a first. With all that the elves and toymakers have to do to be ready on this night, it always came down to the wire. Because on this night, there was only so much time allotted to make all the deliveries—a small window of time.
To be ready so early, how hard they all must have worked, Santa thought ... and it touched his heart.
Elfon's voice excitedly boomed in Santa's private chamber again. "So maybe you can get home early this year and enjoy Christmas Eve for yourself, Santa!"
Santa stood and walked over to a large glass window inside his private chamber. Outside the window, Santa gazed at the spiral staircase leading down, lined with happy elves and toymakers all looking up at Santa, all waiting for him.
Elfon's excited voice exclaimed over the room once more. "We tried really hard this year, Santa. If you leave now, you might have enough time for an eggnog or two when you get back before passing out from exhaustion."
Santa took in a deep breath and nodded, proud of his gathered family here at the Pole who had worked so hard for him this year. He then walked out of his private chamber and made his way to the top of the staircase as the elves and toymakers beamed up at him.
At the bottom of the staircase, with a circle of elves behind him, Elfon glanced over his shoulder to make sure everyone was ready for the real reason the elves and toymakers worked so hard this year for Santa.
"Okay, here he comes! Keep a tight circle. Don't let him see."
And just then, Elfon noticed an elf with his red hood covering his face dragging a wrapped present for Santa toward the others forming the tight, secret circle. Elfon hurried over to the elf in distress, looking down at him. "He's on his way. You're going to ruin the surprise!"
Jack-nass looked up at Elfon from under his red hood. An elf with moonlit eyes, orange hair, and huge red cheeks. He looked up at Elfon with pleading, piercing eyes.
"Help me. Please!"
"What's wrong, Jack-nass?" Elfon asked.
Jack-nass looked at the present behind him. "It's too heavy. I can't carry it anymore."
From the circle of elves and toymakers, two elves joined Elfon and Jack-nass to see what was going on. Bulb approached first. Dressed in green, the bangs of his black hair curled out from under the red hood hanging over his head and face—the hood reaching down to his lips. Following Bulb was Frosted-nog with his blue eyes, blond hair, and blond goatee. The handsome elf—with a distinct voice pattern—inquired in a normal speaking voice to Elfon and Jack-nass, "What's—" Frosted-nog started to say. Then a high voice came out of Frosted-nog, as he said, "going on—" Ending in a low voice. "here?"
"Help me move it, 'Nog," Jack-nass pleaded to Frosted-nog.
Looking down at the gift behind Jack-nass, Frosted-nog asked in a high voice, "What did you get him, 'Nass?"
"Something he really loves. I just can't move it anymore."
Assessing the situation, Elfon did what he was supposed to do as head elf—take command. He looked over the three elves and ordered, "Okay, everybody grab an end."
As all of this was going on below—at the top of the staircase—Santa took a step forward as a hand rested on his shoulder. The hand touching his shoulder belonged to December, Santa's head toymaker. Wearing white overalls and a white shirt, December's long white hair reached the ground. Her beautiful face was a shade of deep red, and her eyes looking back at Santa were the color of the sun setting over a pumpkin patch.
She gave Santa a beautiful smile, an angel's smile that warmed the soul with its purity and radiance. December then looked away from Santa and glanced down with an odd look on her face.
"What is it, December?"
Before December could get the words out, Santa took another step. His toe collided with the banister of the staircase leading down from his private chamber. With all that was going on tonight and the surprise of being ahead of schedule, Santa forgot to put on his boots. A short howl escaped Santa as he placed his hand over his mouth, not wanting to upset the others below who might think he was badly hurt. But darn—it really hurt. And as he looked up from his toe, all the elves and toymakers below Santa looked like they were about to bawl at any second.
"It's okay. I'm fine," Santa said softly to the gathered elves and toymakers below.
Santa turned to December by his side, whispering to her, "December, be a doll and find my boots in my office. They should be by the fireplace."
December ran off for Santa's boots. As she did, Santa decided to test how badly he had stubbed his toe. He gently put his stubbed toe forward and smiled. The smile from Santa relieved a little tension from the elves and toymakers, as they all looked up at him.
"Here we go," Santa said confidently.
Santa started to walk down the stairs. The elves and toymakers on the staircase walked backward, not wanting to get in Santa's way. Three elves, clearly more upset than the rest, tripped over one another and fell down the stairs. Before they hit the floor below, Santa was there in the blink of an eye, catching and comforting them in his arms.
"You three okay?"
The three nodded with a trance-like look on their tilted faces looking up at Santa. Santa set the elves on the ground gently. "All right, you're okay now. On your way."
The three elves nodded at Santa and then were gone, running away in a flash of movement. At the bottom of the steps, Santa tested his toe again as December joined him at his side. Santa then announced to all, "It's fine. Nothing to worry about." He glanced over the elves and toymakers who made a wall in front of him as if hiding something.
"Why are you all bunched together like that? Go on, make a path. I do have a few things to do tonight."
The elves and toymakers parted at the middle to reveal a small Christmas tree decorated in red and white fluff much the way Santa dressed on his big night out to make his deliveries. Presents of all shapes and sizes filled the blanket placed under the red and white tree. December smiled at Santa as Elfon made his way through the gathering of elves and toymakers and stood in front of Santa. With a confused look on his face, Santa asked the two, "What is all of this?"
With Santa's boots in one hand, December reached out with her other hand and led Santa toward the tree. "This is for you, Santa."
Elfon put a hand on Santa's shoulder and spoke. "You always say you never want a present for Christmas. That giving gifts to the world is your present. But for once, we wanted you to feel what it's like. That's why we worked so hard to be ahead of schedule this year, Santa. So you could have your own Christmas Eve here before you go out and spread Christmas joy to the world."
Emotion caught Santa off guard as he was about to say something … but could not ... taken aback by the gesture in front of him. Santa smiled at all those gathered, smiled at Elfon and December, and then made his way over to the tree as so many giddy girls and boys do on Christmas morning.
A foot away, Jack-nass, with his head down, struggled alone to place Santa's gift under the tree. Not seeing the elf, stubbed toe and present collided. And after taking a second blow, Santa's big toe shot out of his gray sock—ballooning twice its size, colored in a shade of tree-ripe apple red.
"What the frozen flipping fig did I hit my toe on now?" Santa shouted. Santa then looked down at Jack-nass looking up at him with his weepy moonlit eyes.
"My present for you this year, Santa," Jack-nass whimpered. "I'm sorry I was late getting it under the tree ... it was just so heavy after I got it all wrapped … I had a hard time getting it here by myself. I should have done a better job planning with such a gift. The others helped when I got here, but once you flew down the stairs like that to help the elves who tripped, I was on my own."
The pain Santa was feeling subsided as he looked down at the almost-weeping elf. Santa knelt next to Jack-nass, smiled, and then opened Jack-nass's gift first … staring down at four bowling balls.
"They're very nice, Jack-nass … but why would any man need four balls?"
"Because you love to bowl so much—take a look. They are colored for each season of the year!"
Unable to stand back up after unwrapping Jack-nass's present, Santa was put on a gurney and taken to the nurses' station.
Inside the nurses' station, the head nurse at Big Tree, a big burly woman with black pigtails, much younger than Santa, rushed out from behind a red curtain. Santa sat himself up on the gurney and looked down at his toe. The nurse looked down at it as well, taking in Santa's protruding toe sticking out of the sock on his injured foot.
"Oh, my ... you got a bad toe there, Santa. A real bad one."
"I'm aware of that, Linda-boo. Can you fix it? It's getting late. I have to go."
Nurse Linda-boo looked up at Santa and then looked back down at his toe. "I'll get right on it, Santa. You can count on me."
Linda-boo hurried away as Santa reached into his coat pocket and took out an hourglass like no other, 24-hourglass. Inside the top of the six-inch cylinder, blue-glowing crystal beads dropped down to the near-empty bottom of 24-hourglass. The blue crystals fell one at a time with a sort of grace, as if carried by a slight breeze, landing at the bottom like an autumn leaf.
Linda-boo returned as Santa slipped 24-hourglass back in his pocket. Holding a first-aid kit in her hands, she placed the kit on the gurney, taking out red gauze, tape, and other medical supplies to patch the toe. Linda-boo worked on Santa's toe with hands that were precise and professional. In just under three minutes, Santa smiled at Linda-boo taping the last red bandage in place. The toe was wrapped and ready to go.
"Well done, Linda-boo. Thank you."
Santa stepped down from the gurney, placing his good foot on the floor first. He then placed his foot with his stubbed toe on the floor and recoiled in pain.
"Ouch, ouch, ouch! Not good."
Tears welled up in Linda-boo's eyes and her lower lip began to tremble. Linda-boo looked down at Santa's toe for a moment … and then she looked back up at Santa.
"I have failed you," Linda-boo blubbered.
"No, dear. You did a fine job on my toe. Please, stop crying."
"Okay. I'll stop."
Linda-boo held back her sobs. Doing so, her face started to redden and her body began to shake, trying to hold back her tears.
Santa then shouted at her. "Breathe!"
And she did, taking one deep breath in after another. She half-smiled at Santa, looked down at his toe, and began to bawl all over again. Linda-boo then buried her head into Santa's chest and sobbed hysterically. Already late, on this night of all nights, Santa looked down at his toe and shook his head. A toe that was starting to look like a clown's nose pushing through the bandages … as the toe swelled and swelled.
"I'm sorry I failed to fix your toe, Santa. I've failed you, I've failed you!" Linda-boo wailed.
Santa rolled his eyes to the heavens thinking--this is all I need now. He held Linda-boo in his arms and hugged her without saying a word for a moment, calming her. When Santa spoke, he did so softly. "Okay, now. Easy... easy there, Linda-boo."
The elves and toymakers waited outside in the hallway to Nurse Linda-boo's nurse station. Many had their hands clasped in prayer. Others seemed to be in shock—standing wide-eyed and waiting. The door opened and Santa hobbled out on a candy-cane crutch. In unison, all that waited smiled at Santa and then all looked down at his toe. The ballooned toe actually seemed to have a pulsing heartbeat. A collective gasp came out of the elves and toymakers gathered. At the sight of the toe, four slim elves fainted and fell to Santa's right. Santa let out a sigh.
"Can someone help them off the floor, please?"
And as the elves were helped back to their feet, Santa tried to reassure the ones gathered in front of him. "I'm fine, everybody. Nothing to worry about. Just a little sore is all."
Arriving late, December made her way into the hallway and stood next to Santa. She looked down at his toe and then back at Santa. December was a bit better at controlling what she was really feeling—unlike the rest. She smiled at Santa and then looked at the others in the hallway to do the same. All gave a forced smile back at Santa, as two more elves to his left fainted and fell to the floor.
"Oh, for Saint Peter's sake, will somebody help those two off the floor now," Santa said. He then turned to December. "December, come with me, please."
Santa hobbled with December at his side, passing a teary-eyed Jack-nass at the end of the hallway. Santa gave Jack-nass a pat on the shoulder as he walked by. The door to the hallway slowly closed, and Santa and December were gone. Jack-nass then turned to all the elves and toymakers who were now staring back at him. One by one, they made their way out of the hallway, some glaring at Jack-nass. He could hear mumbled words by a few who passed like, his fault, he did it, dumb elf.
Left alone in the hallway, Jack-nass dropped to his knees and sobbed in his hands.
A Decision to Make
In his private chamber, Santa sat with his leg propped up on his desk, staring at his toe. December stood before him. She did not look as confident as before; she looked worried like the rest. Santa then looked up at her. "We have a situation here, December."
"Yes, Santa. We most certainly do."
"I won't be able to do it tonight. I will not finish on time," Santa said.
December's head slowly dropped. Santa grunted and ran a hand through his long, white hair. He took another look at his toe and then looked back at December.
"December, find Elfon and bring him here."
She nodded and left Santa's private chamber. Now alone, Santa removed a gold key from inside his coat pocket and unlocked a drawer at the side of his desk. He pulled out a tattered stone tablet with glowing blue lettering on it. Santa looked over the glowing blue words for a brief moment and then read the blue-lit words on the tablet aloud to the empty room.
"You have been given a great privilege to bring happiness to the good people in the world. A night, like no other, for you to bring gifts of joy to the kind souls in the world. Each year you will receive a list; all homes on the list must receive their gift or gifts before the end of the night. If you cannot carry out the honor of this blessing you have been chosen for, chosen because of the goodness in your heart, this privilege will go to another."
A knock at Santa's door startled him a little. He placed the tablet back into his desk drawer and locked it with the gold key.
Elfon entered Santa's chamber followed by December. Standing in front of Santa's desk, the two waited for Santa to speak. Santa looked at Elfon, studying the elf for a moment, and then spoke earnestly to him. "You're coming with me tonight, Elfon."
"I am? Holy sh—"
Santa held up a hand for Elfon to be careful about what word was about to come out of his mouth.
"I mean, holy sugar cookies, Santa ..."
"And not just you, Elfon. I am going to need at least three more. Jack-nass, Frosted-nog ... and I'm thinking Bulb. Find them. I need to speak with each one of them alone to prep for tonight's run."
"Um ... Bulb, Santa?" Elfon asked quizzically.
"Yes, Bulb—hurry now, Elfon. Go!"
And Elfon did—running out of Santa's private chamber.
Elfon paged over the loudspeaker, called their private talkies, and searched all over Big Tree for the elves, but could not find the three elves Santa wanted. He ended his search in the Lava Room at Big Tree. A room where a steady stream of lava flowed in and out of the room, coming from the outer core of the Earth, to keep the room warm. It ran through clear glass cylinder tubing along the walls around the entire room. The tubing made from glass at the North Pole was impenetrable. At the end of the room, three elves covered in ice sat in front of a long tube of lava. They were warming themselves from being out on this night when the temperature had drastically lowered.
Elfon walked over to the three elves and asked, "You three have been out tonight? You have any idea how cold it is out there?"
One of the three elves seated by the flowing lava had the ability to turn and look up at Elfon; the other two were motionless, still trying to thaw their bodies. The elf who looked up at Elfon was Bocohoonies. He was a good worker at the Pole who would pal around with Jack-nass sometimes over games of Cheknopolly (a game like checkers, chess, and Monopoly all in one). He looked up at Elfon sadly with his deep green eyes, brown skin, and hair frozen and standing out from the side of his head caused by the cold he’d endured. He answered Elfon as best as he could through his chattering teeth.
"Yes … we have. We … we felt bad about Jack-nass being out there alone in … in … in the cold. We tried to get him to come back in ... but it got too cold, and—"
"He's out there! Where?" Elfon shouted.
"He's by the last nassapple tree before the path to the North Forest. He blames himself for what happened to Santa tonight," Bocohoonies was able to say in a more understandable voice, his chattering teeth slowing somewhat.
Elfon turned and walked out of the room in a huff. Further down the hall, he made his way inside a room lined with skis. He strapped on a pair of skis, reached for a tablet on the wall, and pressed a button on the touchscreen. The wall in front of him slid up to reveal wind whipping snow outside. Elfon pressed a button on the side of the tablet and ordered it to take him two hundred yards east of the North Forest. The skis then raced Elfon off to where he requested to go, leaving a puff of snow behind him.
With a small fire in front of him, Jack-nass sat shivering under a nassapple tree surrounded by scattered blue-lit cores from the nassapples he had eaten. A warm fruit, Jack-nass took another bite into the red-ripe nassapple in his hand and then another to warm his insides … the blue core of the nassapple glowing back at him. He looked at the glowing core inside the nassapple for a moment and then heard the sound of air-boosted skis moving over the snow behind him. 'Nass turned to see Elfon racing his way toward the tree he sat under. He tossed the nassapple aside and waited for Elfon to reach him.
Pulling himself to a stop by the tree, Elfon looked down at Jack-nass and then to all the blue-glowing cores from the nassapples that Jack-nass had eaten. Elfon rubbed his face to get some feeling back from the cold and then nodded his head, understanding how Jack-nass must feel. He then lowered to his haunches so he could look Jack-nass in the eyes.
"Gonna get a bellyache eating all these nassapples, 'Nass."
"Good. I deserve it for what I did to Santa's toe."
"It was an accident, Jack-nass, that's all."
"Have you seen his toe? He can't make all his deliveries tonight. I destroyed Christmas this year!"
"Santa asked for you—he wants you back right now. I have to gather up Frosted-nog and Bulb. So get back to Big Tree and stop feeling sorry for yourself."
Elfon turned and blasted away in a white puff on his skis. Jack-nass watched Elfon fade away toward Big Tree in a mist of white. My fault, the words repeated in Jack-nass's head, haunting his mind and soul. He stood up and walked forward. Ahead, the North Forest with its tall black branches intertwined like barbed wire waited for Jack-nass to enter … as he walked toward the forlorn forest.
It was later when Elfon knocked on Jack-nass's cottage door without getting a response that he knew something was wrong. He gave the door a kick, and it opened. Inside the room, Elfon walked over to a desk lit in candlelight and looked down at a letter written by Jack-nass. He read the letter and gasped. "Oh, my!"
Elfon ran out of the cottage as fast as he could—his long, gangly legs whipping through the snow, eating up the distance between Jack-nass's cottage and Big Tree. Entering a side door to Big Tree, Elfon ran past scattered elves and toymakers, running toward the stairs that led up to Santa's private chamber.
Santa sat at his desk with December at his side going over last-minute arrangements as three hard knocks pounded on the door to Santa's chamber. Santa and December looked at each other, as Santa bellowed, "Come in!"
Elfon entered the office with Jack-nass's note in his hand. "Santa, I found this letter left behind by Jack-nass. He says in the letter that he is leaving."
Elfon lowered his head. "Santa ... Jack-nass writes in the letter that he is heading to the North Forest. That he no longer belongs here."
With the mention of the North Forest, Santa's eyes widened with fear—fear that one of his own dared to enter the cursed land. Rising from his desk, Santa grabbed his candy-cane crutch and quickly made his way to the door of his private chamber. Opening the door, he looked back at Elfon and December. "Come with me," Santa sternly said to the two.
Outside Santa's private chamber, the three hurried past curious elves and toymakers. They made their way over to a huge shaft elevator, entered, and slid the two massive doors shut. With the clank of the last pin locking into place, the three traveled to the bottom of Big Tree so fast that Elfon's ears wiggled, December's hair wrapped around her head, and Santa's beard filled his face.
The elevator reached the bottom and the doors opened. Santa, December, and Elfon entered the underground of Big Tree. The enormous open space built under Big Tree had every mode of transportation one would need to navigate the North Pole. The underground room with its red brick walls and white marble floors was lined with mounted skis, snowboards, and kalactights (an elf-made snow tube with a steering wheel and brakes). Also inside the vast underground room was a battalion of snowmobiles and three helicopters toward the back. All ready to go.
With Elfon at his side, Santa looked over the selection of transport that would find Jack-nass as fast as possible. Unsure, Santa looked over the options once more, and then turned to Elfon and gave the order. "Get me the snowmobile with nitro, Elfon."
At Santa's request, Elfon hurried away to retrieve the snowmobile Santa wanted. Elfon then returned to Santa with Black Laser—the fastest snowmobile at Big Tree. At times, the snowmobile was unpredictable because of its speed … dangerous. Santa mounted Black Laser and placed his candy-cane crutch over his back. He hit a red button on the handlebar controls and Black Laser fired up. The back of the snowmobile lifted, angling Santa down at the controls in front of him. Santa tilted the wheel to the right, as twin doors at the far side of the underground room opened. Black Laser slowly followed a path toward the open doors, and Santa looked back at December.
"December, make sure all is ready by the time I get back. If I am not able to leave shortly, I ..."
And that was all Santa was able to say, unable to continue, but she knew. One tear fell from each of December's beautiful deep orange eyes, and then she said confidently, "Yes, Santa. All will be ready when you return."
Santa hit the nitro on Black Laser and was gone in a flash of orange and black-lit flame. He blazed over the snow-covered land in front of him, leaving behind a path of melted snow.
At the open doors to the underground room, December made her way over and watched as Santa raced across the snow. Elfon joined her, looking out at Santa fading away in his search for Jack-nass.
Santa raced across the Pole as Black Laser blasted through huge windswept drifts of snow. Santa gave Black Laser a little more throttle, almost to the max, and then he could see it ahead—the North Forest. A land of leafless black and twisted trees with sharp-as-spear branches all interwoven together, making it impossible to see what was inside the dark forest.
And then Santa saw him. Jack-nass had reached the tip of a snow dune ahead—about to breach the right side of the North Forest. Hearing the stories about Black Laser being dangerous when unleashing all she had, Santa dismissed the thought in his head. He opened it up and Black Laser frigging flew.
Ahead of Santa, Jack-nass inched closer toward the North Forest. He took two more steps and then Jack-nass saw it, the snow on the ground ... it was turning gray and soon would turn black. So the stories were true, he thought. No one who lived at the Pole was allowed to venture this far out toward the North Forest. Jack-nass lifted his head and faced the forest in front of him. Leafless black branches intertwined together make it impossible to see what is inside the forest, the tale went … and it was true; it was in front of him. A chill entered Jack-nass—a sudden coldness he felt slithering around his bones and heart like a snake. But he didn't care—Jack-nass believed he deserved this fate for what he had done to Santa's toe. What he had done to Christmas.
"I deserve this. I destroyed this year's Christmas," Jack-nass said aloud. He took another step and a blast of snow hit the side of his body, knocking him back a couple of feet into a snowdrift, landing on his backside. Jack-nass looked up from the gray snow to see Santa on his snowmobile staring down at him.
"Stop right now, Jack-nass!"
Jack-nass stared at Santa with eyes ready to spill over with tears.
"Where do you think you are going?" Santa then calmly asked.
The tears spilled down Jack-nass's face and started to freeze on his cheeks. He wiped away the frozen tears and answered Santa. "I destroyed Christmas. I deserve to be inside the North Forest."
Santa reached for his candy-cane crutch and eased himself off the snowmobile. He hobbled over to Jack-nass and knelt in front of him, placing a hand on the side of Jack-nass's face. Santa then brushed away gray flakes of snow from Jack-nass's shoulders. The snow that fell to the ground was like fireplace ash after the fire had died out for the night.
"It's all right," Santa said. "You did not destroy Christmas. It's going to be okay tonight, son."
Wiping away the last of the frozen-crusted tears from his cheeks, Jack-nass looked down at Santa's battered toe. He then shook his head, not understanding.
"How is everything going to be okay, Santa? I mean look at your toe ... it looks like a red balloon ready to pop. Everybody at the Pole is saying it. That you can't do it; you won't be able to make all the deliveries this year."
Santa looked down at his toe. "I guess they are right, Jack-nass ... I cannot do it alone tonight."
"So I really did destroy Christmas …" Jack-nass sadly said.
Santa took a deep breath as he glared down at his walloped toe. He then looked back up at Jack-nass. "No, you did not destroy Christmas ... but you're going to have to help me save it. Understand, Jack-nass, for those in the world who are on the list to receive a gift, if even one does not receive some form of a present from the Pole, my time as The Giver of Gifts will end."
Jack-nass shook his head, crying once more.
"But how—how can I be of any help, Santa?"
"No more crying now. You are coming with me tonight. You are going to help me with tonight's deliveries."
A frown turned to a smile. Ice tears on Jack-nass's face melted with the warmth he felt inside at the mission Santa had in store for him on this night. Jack-nass's eyes beamed at Santa.
Santa smiled. "Yes. You, Jack-nass—and others who I think will be able to help with tonight's run."
Jack-nass hugged Santa, burying his face into Santa's over-the-belt belly. Santa gave Jack-nass a soft pat on the back and then looked out at the North Forest. " … 'Nass, never—I mean never—come this close to the North Forest again. Do you understand me?"
Jack-nass looked up at Santa. "I do. I'm sorry, Santa. I just felt … I just felt I deserved the fate of the North Forest because of what happened to your toe."
Santa patted 'Nass on his head. "Come on, son, we have a lot of work to do."
Santa and Jack-nass walked back to the snowmobile and strapped themselves in as Santa looked out at the North Forest once more. He then looked down at Jack-nass seated next to him. "Jack-nass, I don't care how bad you felt or ever feel—stay away from this place. If you had entered the dark land, you would have been taken at once by Abomonopolis, never to be seen again."
"I thought maybe that would be better after doing what I did to you and ending Christmas this year."
Santa started the snowmobile and revved it up. "You didn't end anything, 'Nass. I think this might be a good thing to have some help making all the deliveries to the world this year. Maybe I can relax a little bit like all of you planned for me tonight."
The two smiled at each other.
"Let's do this," Santa said confidently to Jack-nass. The two then raced across the snowy landscape on Black Laser, heading back to Big Tree.
Twenty minutes later, Santa sat behind his desk in his private chamber with his battered toe, along with the other four digits on his foot, resting atop a red beanbag. With the door to his private chamber slightly ajar, it moved a few inches inward without a sound. However, Santa noticed the movement at once. Not only did he know about all those in the world who were naughty and nice, but he also had the eyes of an eagle and the ears of a wolf.
Through the crack of the chamber door, spiked blond hair started to make its way through and then suddenly stopped. Santa stared at Frosted-nog's spiked mane poking its way inside the room for a moment and then rolled his eyes.
"Frosted-nog—what are you waiting for?"
'Nog's spiked hair disappeared for a second, and then Frosted-nog walked inside. "Hey, Santa, you wanted to see me?" Frosted-nog said in a low voice.
Santa leaned back in his chair. "Yes, Frosted-nog. But let me ask you something … before we get to why I asked you here."
Frosted-nog, as always, tried to act cool and under control. "Sure, Santa," Frosted-nog said in a regular voice. "Ask away."
"Were you just trying to spy on me?"
Knowing now that Santa must have spotted him spying at the door, Frosted-nog confessed in a high voice. "Okay, yeah—but just a little bit. I was nervous being called in here alone. Did I do something wrong, Santa?"
"Besides baking a cake on your own last Tuesday when everybody was sleeping and not sharing it with anybody. Then four nights ago, painting Nurse Linda-boo's face in marmalade while she slept and placing chocolate chips all over her cheeks and forehead for giving you a measles shot. And last, but surely not least, stealing elf Barry's toilet from his room last night. Other than that, Frosted-nog, you have done nothing wrong. You have been an angel."
Frosted-nog's head dropped and his spiked blond hair faced Santa. Santa shook his head and then continued. "You are a wild one, 'Nog, but I can live with that. But why, 'Nog, why in the name of all that is white at the Pole would you steal a toilet? Please—even with time growing short tonight before I have to leave—please explain to me why you would do something like that …"
In a low voice, 'Nog said. "Because I could. And I thought it would be funny when he tried to go to the loo in the middle of the night and not be able to—" Frosted-nog's voice then hiccupped into a high voice, as he completed his sentence "… find it, Santa."
Santa held back a laugh, trying not to smile. Looking down at a file on his desk with Frosted-nog's profile and performance at the Pole, Santa glanced back up at 'Nog, who was now nervously waiting for what Santa had to say.
"I have your file here on my desk from the Pole's yearly evaluation. And what it says inside is a little of what I think I will need tonight."
Frosted-nog tilted his head. "Need tonight, Santa?" 'Nog questioned in a low voice.
"You are coming with me tonight. You are going to help me with the deliveries."
Eyes wide with excitement, Frosted-nog screamed in a low voice, "Holy sugar-tip cookies, Santa! I'm coming with you?"
Santa held up a hand at Frosted-nog to calm down. "Yes, Frosted-nog ... you are coming with me. Your world language is excellent and your sneaking abilities will be advantageous tonight."
Frosted-nog's smile widened and his eyes seemed to glow a brighter blue. "I'm going to be advantageous to you, Santa? That's awesome!" 'Nog said in a normal voice.
"I hope so, Frosted-nog. Now, do me a favor and bring Bulb to see me. Elfon has him waiting in the Ribbon Room. He is coming with us too."
Frosted-nog stood where he was and just looked at Santa.
"You okay there, 'Nog?" Santa asked.
In a regular voice, Frosted-nog said, "The word going around tonight was that you would need help—and I am so grateful you picked me for this mission to save Christmas. But are you sure you want Bulb on this, Santa?"
Santa placed his injured foot on the floor, reached for his crutch, walked over to Frosted-nog, and stood over him. "You have something to add to my decision of having Bulb join us tonight, Frosted-nog?" Santa said calmly, but also with authority, his questioning eyes narrowed at Frosted-nog.
In a low voice, Frosted-nog said, "No. I love his dopey ass."
"Did you just say ass?"
"No, no, no!" Frosted-nog's high-pitched voice came out so high Santa reflexively put his hands over his ears to muffle the sound of 'Nog's voice. Santa then lowered his hands from his ears, waiting for an explanation from Frosted-nog.
"I said 'Nass, Santa. I got confused for a second here who we were talking about," Frosted-nog said in a normal voice.
"Good!" Santa blasted back at Frosted-nog, knowing full well 'Nog said the word ass. "Now, go find Bulb and tell him I need to see him, please."
Frosted-nog turned away from Santa in a flash, not wanting to stir the ire of Santa any more than he just did. He slipped through the door to Santa's chamber as the quick patter of his steps faded away. Santa sat in his chair ... as a minute passed. The sound of footfalls coming closer suddenly came to a stop outside the door to Santa's chamber. Santa waited. After a moment, Santa looked at the half-open door to his chamber and threw up his hands.
"Bulb—are you out there?"
From behind the door, Bulb replied, "Yes, Santa."
"Didn't Frosted-nog just tell you to come see me?"
"Then why are you just standing in front of the door?"
"I'm scared I did something really wrong this time and you are mad at me."
Santa shook his head and ran a hand through his white hair. "You didn't do anything wrong, Bulb. Come in now, hurry."
Through the crack in the door to Santa's chamber, Bulb entered with his red hood covering his face.
"Bulb, pull your hood back," Santa said.
Bulb waited for a second with his hands on his hood and then slipped it onto his shoulders. A medium-sized elf with big deep brown saucer eyes, Bulb's left eye drooped a little, a bit like a Saint Bernard. He had black hair and red as strawberry lips that strongly contrasted against his snow-white face.
"Sit down, Bulb. I need to talk with you. I need your help tonight."
"You need me to empty the garbage bins?" Bulb asked.
"No, Bulb. You're coming with me tonight to help with the deliveries. I need your special talents, along with a few other elves I have asked to join me with their gifted powers, to try to pull this off tonight. I cannot do it alone with my toe the way it is. Go back to your cottage and get yourself ready for a long night's journey. Go on, hurry."
Without a word, Bulb was gone, leaving Santa alone. Santa gave a last look at his toe and then stood up with the help of his candy-cane crutch, as he made his way out of his private chamber.
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Thanks so much for reading! Hope you enjoy the story! - WMH