So I am sitting here in front of my fireplace in NY and wondering what happened to the 50-60 degree weather we have been having. Weather reports are calling for possibly 2 feet (YES I SAID TWO FEET) of snow for next week and I am fairly certain my wife's flowers are not gonna make it through the storm. She already hates the winter so she will be LESS than pleased by this I can tell you that much LOL!
Anyway, I realized that I haven't given you guys any more chapters of my first book to read since early December and thought I would remedy that now. Below are the first 3 chapters of my first book, "The Year Santa Stubbed His Toe". It is currently available on Amazon, BUT I just hit Publish on the Nook version so that will be available SOON!! I am also working on an iTunes version.
I am currently doing preliminary edits on my second book and thought you might like to know the title. It is called "Save Him" and it is a VERY different story from my first book. I will most likely post some chapters of Save Him once I am through the initial edits. (not sure if it will be before or after it goes to my editor though).
© 2016 By William M Hayes
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.
Inside a large hangar at the Pole, the elves Santa selected to partake on the night's historic journey sat in green chairs behind a large glass window being pelted with large snowflakes. The enormous hangar with its white floor and red walls was empty—just the four chairs that the elves sat on were inside.
At the far end of the hangar, a door opened. The wind and the snow from outside swirled inside, followed by December and Santa. December closed the hangar door as Santa made his way over to the elves, limping with his candy-cane crutch. December hurried over to Santa, joining him by his side and then slowed with Santa's pace. As Santa hobbled over to the elves, Jack-nass lowered his head, still feeling guilty.
"Head up, Jack-nass," Santa said.
Jack-nass looked up and met Santa's eyes; the other three elves had their eyes locked on Santa once he had entered through the hangar door. Santa looked over the four.
"I have chosen the four of you to come with me tonight. All four of you have special talents that might make this night a possibility. With my toe dinged up the way it is ... I will never be able to make all the deliveries before the Earth is put back on its normal rotation."
A sound, like a massive steel door opening, shook the hangar. Santa, December, and all the elves looked up.
Lowering on twisted green and white iron garland supports, Red Eye lowered from the ceiling above the hangar. An enormous red jet with two v-shaped wings at either side. Red landing gear popped out from the belly of the craft, as Red Eye softly touched down on the ground. The garland supports snapped off Red Eye and rose back up toward the ceiling.
The elves looked at Red Eye in awe. A door near the cockpit opened and a staircase reached the ground. The outline of a standing reindeer appeared at the top of the staircase backlit by red light. He looked down below with hooves crossed across his chest, "Are these the morons responsible for us having to sit on our tails all night, Santa?" the red-shadowed reindeer asked.
Below Red Eye, Santa gave a stern look up for the deer to watch his tone. "Easy there, Moss. It has been a rough night for a lot of us, the elves included."
Santa looked back at the elves and smiled at the four. "Okay, boys. This bird is loaded. Let's get going."
The elves made their way up the staircase into Red Eye. December then walked closer to Santa and placed a hand on his shoulder as he turned to face her. December looked to make sure the elves were out of earshot and then whispered to Santa. "All these years of you being Santa … the best the globe has ever seen … may be lost forever. I am so sorry."
Santa shrugged his shoulders. "We've had a pretty good run. Who knows, December ... maybe we can pull it off tonight."
Smiling at Santa, tears fell from December's orange eyes. "I hope so, Santa. The elves you picked for the journey are some of the Pole's best. But put them out in the world with people ... and all that the elves have not seen for so long?"
"Yes, like a kid in a candy store," Santa said.
"Like a kid who has never tasted candy before, Santa."
December placed a hand on Santa's face, holding back the tears welling up again in her eyes.
"My heart and prayers are with you tonight."
The two shared a half-smile, knowing the night ahead was dire, and then the two embraced. Facing each other, Santa touched December's face and then quickly turned away, hobbling up the staircase to Red Eye. At the top of the staircase, Santa turned and waved at December as the door to Red Eye closed.
Inside, Santa made his way down the fuselage where the head reindeer was holding back the elves; the deer's arms and hooves spread out at either side. The sixteen-point buck stood over the elves with his steely blue eyes looking down at them and his massive gray-tinted chest puffed out. At the sight of Santa looking at him with eyebrows raised, Moss crossed his hooves over his burly chest, giving the elves room to pass. Satisfied, Santa hobbled the other way, entering a door at the other end of the fuselage.
As Moss stood staring at the elves, three more reindeer made their way down the fuselage behind him. The three reached Moss and looked over his shoulders, glaring at the elves with angry brown eyes.
Elfon, being the head elf, knew he had to be the one to walk over to the obviously angry reindeer and ease the tense situation brewing—to try to make peace. He made his way over and stood in front of the head reindeer.
"Hello, Moss. I can see that you are angry, so let's just clear the air here. Santa stubbing his toe tonight was an accident. Santa said it himself to Jack-nass that it was not 'Nass's fault. Santa's words, Moss."
Moss gave a look over his shoulder at the other reindeer and then stepped two hind hooves forward, eye-to-eye with Elfon, as he tilted his head for Elfon to explain more.
Elfon then continued. "We all know how much you and the other reindeer look forward to flying Santa around tonight on the sleigh—"
Moss held up a front hoof for Elfon to stop talking.
"Red Eye has only been used when you guys mess up. Like when we all got sick from the cookies you stupid elves made for us ten years ago and we were too weak to pull the sleigh."
Elfon nodded at Moss. "We apologized for that, and we are apologizing now about tonight's circumstances. Accidents do happen, Moss. Okay?"
Moss let out a grunt and turned his back on Elfon, walking toward the cockpit, as the other reindeer followed. The backsides of the deer jiggled as they walked away. The last reindeer to walk away had a little more junk in his trunk than the rest. At the sight of the last deer's jiggle-wiggling butt walking away, Frosted-nog, always one to say what he thought needed to be said without much use of discretion or restraint, stepped forward and yelled in a low voice at the last deer walking away.
"Yeah, well, rumor has it," Frosted-nog's voice started to rise, "it's your fat cabooses having problems getting off the ground year after year that is the real reason we need to use Red Eye tonight!"
Elfon's eyes widened and his mouth went agape at Frosted-nog’s remark.
The reindeer with the flabby caboose slowly looked back at Frosted-nog. He understood he had a bit more girth on his rear end than the rest of the deer. Therefore, he knew that Frosted-nog had intended the jibe for him.
The deer and his wiggly buttocks dropped to all fours and charged at Frosted-nog—his fat butt flapping side to side behind him as he ran.
Behind Frosted-nog, Elfon, Bulb, and Jack-nass scattered, diving between continent-titled Christmas bags at the side of the fuselage for cover. Frosted-nog decided to turn and make a run for it—trying to outrun a reindeer. And that ended up not being the wisest of choices, as the pursuing reindeer caught up with Frosted-nog in seconds. No matter how much added baggage was on the backside of a reindeer—you were not going to outrun him on just two legs.
Passing Frosted-nog at his side, the reindeer turned and stood in front of 'Nog before he could escape, grabbing 'Nog with his front hooves. The deer lifted Frosted-nog up and stared him in the eyes. Frosted-nog looked down at his dangling feet and then looked back up at the deer holding him off the ground.
"It's just what I heard!" Frosted-nog said in a high voice, as he tried to lighten the situation he found himself in with the deer.
The deer holding Frosted-nog turned to see Santa standing behind him not twenty feet away leaning on his candy-cane crutch. Frosted-nog tilted his head around the massive deer with a look on his face to Santa saying--please help me. Daniel stared at Santa with Frosted-nog trapped in his hooves. I have an elf's head in my hooves. So … might as well hold onto the fat caboose calling wise guy until Santa says so, Daniel thought.
Santa hobbled over to the two.
"What is going on here?" Santa asked impatiently.
Daniel looked at Frosted-nog and then back at Santa. "He said I had a fat caboose, Santa."
Santa looked at Daniel for a moment, not sure he’d heard him correctly.
"I'm sorry, he said what?"
Embarrassed about the extra baggage on his back end and not wanting Santa to think he didn't have what it took to get the sleigh off the ground each year, Daniel dropped Frosted-nog from his hooves. The deer then looked down at the floor feeling embarrassed and frustrated—still upset with Frosted-nog.
"Nothing. It's nothing, Santa," Daniel said.
"Well, it sure looked like something," Santa snapped. Santa then gave the two a look for a moment as Daniel and Frosted-nog stared down at the floor.
"Listen, I need everybody's best tonight if we are going to pull this off! If I cannot count on you two and the rest to help me tonight—I will go myself. I may not be back until Halloween if I have to give it a go alone tonight—but one way or another, all of these presents will be delivered!"
Frosted-nog quickly spoke up. "I'm sorry, Santa," Frosted-nog said in a low voice, and then his voice went high. "You are right. We all need to work together. Daniel and I had a disagreement, and I want to apologize to him."
Frosted-nog looked up at Daniel and extended a hand to the reindeer. Daniel looked at the hand held out in front of him, as Frosted-nog waited for a hoof in return. Daniel just continued to glare down at Frosted-nog's hand.
"Daniel, whatever happened between you and Frosted-nog, he is trying to apologize now ... okay?" Santa said calmly to Daniel.
Daniel looked at Santa and then glanced back at the hand held out by Frosted-nog. Daniel looked at Santa once more, still upset with the elf in front of him. Santa raised his eyebrows and nodded his head at Daniel to be the big deer here. The deer grunted … and then hand and hoof shook. Slipping his hoof away from 'Nog's hand, Daniel headed back to the cockpit. Frosted-nog then ran off to join the other elves, leaving Santa alone with his thoughts as he spoke them aloud.
"Never a dull moment when elves and deer get together."
Santa hobbled down the fuselage. Reaching the elves, he made sure they were seated and strapped in … checking each safety belt. Santa then made his way back to the cockpit and entered. Inside, four standing reindeer stood at attention as Santa entered. Moss was at the wheel standing alongside his copilot, Molee.
Molee, the smallest out of the four reindeer, had just the biggest nose you have ever seen on a buck. The black snout on his face looked like one of Santa's bowling balls—if he had gotten one in black from Jack-nass. Across from Daniel (the loose caboose deer) at the controls to the radar was Dog—a skinny deer with an eager-to-please face and a tail that constantly wagged behind him like a hummingbird's wings.
Santa hobbled over to Moss at the wheel. "Let's take a look at tonight's flight plan, Moss."
Moss flipped a switch with his hoof and a circling blue-lit holographic rotating globe appeared with red dots covering the continents. Santa looked at the globe for a moment and then turned to Moss. "Okay, Moss ... get yourself seated and then hit the Earth with Eve's Dust."
Moss hit a button on the control board in front of him, as chairs sprang up from the floor of the cockpit with safety belts. Moss looked down at the chair with dread, as did the other standing reindeer. Noticing the obvious mood swing of the deer as the chairs popped up, Santa approached the situation with his talent to command his troops sternly and to have an understanding of their plight. Santa's tone of voice was both stern and gentle on selected words and sentences.
"I understand, deer. I know how you can't stand to sit on your tails. And I am sorry for the discomfort that it brings you. However, we have a job to do tonight. And all are going to have to rise up and be strong when these obstacles test our resolve, like when deer, proud standing reindeer like the four of you, have to sit on their tails."
Santa's borrowed speech, spliced together from many speeches spoken before, got the deer in the cockpit motivated. Santa rolled his eyes secretly to himself for a speech of his being so lame—but it seemed to have worked.
Moss turned to his fellow deer and was more than inspired—he was possessed with the goodness of Christmas and the task to complete by the end of the night.
"Okay, boys, let's get this over with. Everybody take a seat," Moss said to the three reindeer staring at him. Looking down at their seats and then over at Moss, the three reindeer under Moss's command eased into their seats, sitting on their tails.
"Oh, no, no—not good," Molee muttered.
"Not good at all," Daniel said, agreeing with Molee.
Moss took in a deep breath as his massive gray chest puffed out. He then let the deer know who their leader was and when to listen—that time being right now—as Moss shouted at his fellow deer.
"Toughen up, you two! We've got a lot more to worry about than being a little uncomfortable."
"It's a little more than being a little uncomfortable, Moss," Daniel said.
"Enough! And I mean now," Moss bellowed out. He then looked over at Dog. "You, too, Dog—quiet."
Dog shrugged his shoulders. "But I didn't say anything …"
"Yeah, well, you were about to—or you would have sometime on this trip. I don't want to hear it! Understand? Not another word, Dog—shut up!"
"But I didn't say anything—"
"Shut your mouth, Dog—shut it! Santa needs our best tonight, and we're gonna give it to him."
Moss looked over at Santa. "We will not let you down, Santa. Never."
Moss then hit a red and white button on the control panel in front of him.
Over planet Earth, a green and red burst of dust rained down on the continents. The Earth spun to the left and then to the right ... and then back to the left. Since not all countries celebrate Christmas Eve at the same time, the magic of Globe-rotation made it possible for Santa to deliver the presents to the world on one night. The splash of green and red dust moving the Earth to the left, right, and then back to the left again aligned the world to share the same night of Christmas Eve without any man, woman, or child on the planet knowing the difference. The entire world was under Christmas Eve's spell.
The planet Earth was now ready for Santa and the ones he gathered together to try to pull off Christmas this year without letting the world know that Santa was more than a myth. Not letting the world know he really existed. That extra present under the tree; favorite toy car that Mom and Dad forgot; a little more candy in the stocking. And for the ones less fortunate, a warm meal ... or maybe even a warm house … it was all Santa's doing.
Inside the cockpit of Red Eye, Moss turned to Santa standing by the door to the cockpit, ready to leave and not leave it seemed.
Moss then updated Santa on Dust dispersal. "Eve's Dust has been dispersed, Santa. Globe-rotation has all nations celebrating Christmas Eve for 24-hourglass hours. All homes on the list are under Christmas Eve's spell."
Santa nodded but seemed to be in a different place, deep in thought, as he stood by the door to exit the cockpit. The deer in the cockpit all looked over at Moss, noticing Santa's glassy eyes. Moss stood from his seat, wiggled out the bad feeling of sitting on his tail, and walked over to Santa.
"Santa ... you okay?"
Santa turned to Moss and just looked at him for a moment.
"What is it, Moss?" Santa asked the deer in front of him.
"Eve's Dust has settled over the world. The clock is ticking, Santa."
Santa continued to look at Moss and then looked away … glancing over the faces of the other deer in the cockpit. Santa then placed a hand on Moss's shoulder.
"Yes, Moss. The clock is ticking. I pray we are successful tonight and I do not lose my beautiful gift of bringing joy to the world on this one, beautiful night."
And with that said, Santa turned and exited the cockpit.
Walking down the fuselage, Santa joined the elves all strapped in and ready for the ride. Glancing up at Santa, they all looked a little fearful now that it was actually happening. Santa took notice of how nervous the elves were, as he walked over to his big red rocker. He sat down easily in his rocker, careful with his toe, and then looked over at the elves with their backs to him. "Everybody still buckled in—no lavatory runs or eavesdropping by the cockpit door while I was gone?" Santa asked the four elves.
The elves all shook their heads earnestly.
"That was a little joke—I would have heard you if you did."
Santa tapped a button on his big red rocking chair and a screen dropped down in front of him. He studied the blue and red screen before him with a list that scrolled upward with all the good boys and girls in the world.
"Cake with honey on top … that is a long list. A lot of good boys and girls out there this year," Santa said. He then let out some of the tension in his neck by rolling his head side to side with his eyes closed as the scrolling list finally came to an end.
The one-word command from Santa printed out a scroll from the bottom of the screen that landed in his hands. He then leaned over and spoke into his armchair intercom to Moss in the cockpit. "Okay, Moss, let's get this thing off the ground." Santa eased forward in his chair, studying the elves with their backs to him, tilting his head to get a look at their faces.
"You boys ready?"
They all nodded.
"Okay. Europe is first."
Above the hangar, the roof parted as Santa's Red Eye started to rise, slowly climbing toward the open roof. As Red Eye made its way clear of the hangar’s open roof, the nose lifted toward the sky, aligning itself like a rocket ready to shoot straight up into space …
Inside the cockpit of Red Eye, Moss looked over his crew with a smirk that stretched his snout across his face.
"Anybody care to wager which elf loses his cookies on takeoff?"
The three deer looked at one another with sly smiles as Molee was the first to wager. "I bet a six-pack of Moose-juice that it will be that pain in the butt Frosted-nog."
Daniel shook his head and raised his hooves at Molee. "Did you have to say pain in the butt, Molee?" Molee nodded, realizing his bad choice of the word butt.
"But, yeah, I bet a sixer on Frosted-nog as well," Daniel agreed.
Dog smacked his hooves together, making a loud clanking noise to get the attention of Daniel and Molee. "Stop saying butt, you two! Like we're not already uncomfortable sitting here on our tails!"
"I didn't say butt," Daniel said.
And then Dog repeated verbatim what Daniel had just said. "But, yeah, I'll bet a sixer on Frosted-nog as well—"
"I didn't mean that butt, I meant but—"
"How many times are you going to say 'butt', Daniel? What is wrong with you?"
Having heard the word butt enough times as well, Moss slammed his hooves on the arms of the chair he sat in at the controls of Red Eye.
"Will you three shut up already!"
And they all did, spinning their chairs around and facing their post inside Red Eye's cockpit. They were silent, but twitchy, squirming in their seats and trying to get comfortable sitting on their tails ... tails that were never meant to be sat on by a standing reindeer …
Inside the fuselage, Santa sat in his huge command rocking chair looking at the four strapped in elves in front of him that did not speak or move an inch as Red Eye's engines started to roar. The elves started to look at one another, and then they glanced over their shoulders at Santa.
"You boys okay?"
The elves all nodded their heads. However, their eyes told another story. All four looked like lost puppies. Santa eased forward in his rocking chair and smiled at the four elves. A warm smile from Santa always put all at the Pole at ease when he used it.
"I know you're all nervous. Just try to relax. Takeoff is the hardest part of the journey. After that, it's all cocoa and pie."
A blast of light from outside the windows of Red Eye filled the fuselage. Then the sound of steel expanding and booming sounds going off one after the other outside the craft shifted Red Eye from side to side.
"I think I have to go to the lavatory, Santa," Bulb screamed.
"Not now, Bulb. Hold on!" Santa yelled back.
Above the roof of the hangar, Red Eye shot off into the night sky filled with brilliant stars. Red Eye left a red stream lingering behind from its powerful jets, making it appear as if the sky had just caught on fire in two tiny strips that blazed on and upward toward the heavens.
Inside the cockpit, Moss looked out the side window to his left. And as Red Eye veered to the right toward its programmed route to London, Moss could still see the blaze that Red Eye left behind out the window as they rocketed ahead. He then turned to Daniel. "Weather, Dan?"
"Just as forecasted so far, Moss. We're good."
Moss nodded and then looked out at the sky ahead of him. Bursting white stars above and wisps of clouds rushed by Red Eye from the cockpit window. Moss smiled. Not like being out pulling the sleigh, seeing it and feeling it ... but this would do. It is truly beautiful from where I sit … Moss thought, it never gets old.
Where he sat? He was sitting! He was sitting on his tail!
The uncomfortable, unnatural feeling of sitting on one's tail hit Moss all at once, as he almost jumped out of his seat. With his tail tucked up where no tail was ever meant to go, Moss steadied himself. He then looked over at the other deer in discomfort.
"Tough it out for ten more minutes, boys, and then we can get off our tails," Moss said to the three deer in a reassuring tone. The three all nodded back at him. Moss turned and looked out the window again. With the clouds thickening in front of him, one cloud he noticed was shaped like the tail of a deer. A fluffy, puffy white deer tail made out of a cloud right in front of him.
Moss squirmed in his seat at the image outside, muttering to himself.
"Son of a—"
Santa stood up from his rocking chair in the fuselage and winced in pain. He looked down for a brief moment at his beaten toe and then quickly looked away. Santa then called out for the elves. "Boys, come on over here and join me. We need to talk."
Unbuckled and out of their seats at once, the four elves made their way over to Santa who was leaning on the arm of his command rocking chair. The elves stood in a half-circle around Santa and eagerly waited for him to speak.
"Need to give you all a quick rundown of what to expect tonight—and what to watch out for. Okay, children—a very small number—will be awake at some of the homes we deliver to tonight. Dust works on almost all children. However, some are immune. If you encounter a child—call me."
"What about adults?" Jack-nass asked.
Santa shook his head. "I have yet to have a problem with adults when Dust is dispersed over the globe. On top of most being overworked and stressed out at this time of the year, just a dash of Dust and most are out cold for the night."
"Where does Dust come from, Santa?" Bulb asked.
The question from Bulb to Santa had the other three elves' mouths open like a tunnel in surprise. Noticing the reaction of his fellow elves, Bulb looked at them for a moment and then turned back to Santa.
"Was I not supposed to ask you that, Santa?" Bulb asked, knowing he must have messed up once more. Like now, when he just blurted out the first thought that entered his mind without thinking for just one single second about the words and their consequences. Bulb was about to look down at his feet like he always did when his mouth couldn't keep the words in—but then he caught a smile from Santa. Bulb's mood immediately changed, smiling back at Santa.
"No. It's just that nobody has ever asked me that before, Bulb," Santa said.
Elfon tried to address and handle the situation as he always did. "Forget it, Santa. Bulb didn't mean to speak now. His mouth just went off by accident like it sometimes does."
Santa sat down in his rocking chair, propped the leg with his injured toe on a pile of red ribbons the elves had placed before his chair, and waved Bulb to move closer to his chair. Bulb eagerly made his way over to Santa in his big rocker and stood at his side, smiling.
"Every year, Bulb—a light awakens me that the blinds on my window cannot keep out. A light that seems to throw a shadow over all the other cottages at the Pole to make sure that you all stay asleep. Outside my cottage, Dust falls from the sky wrapped in a beautiful cloud-like basket, landing at my door, lit on the way down by beams of light that are so bright, but at the same time, do not hurt my eyes. A beautiful, warm light. Before I know it, the light is gone, I am back in bed again and it is still night, as if I had just slipped under the covers. I go back to sleep … and sleep the most peaceful and sound sleep I have ever known."
Santa placed a hand on Bulb's shoulder. "So, Bulb ... where do you think Dust comes from?"
Bulb's beaming smile across his face looking up at Santa said it all; he understood. "I think I know now, Santa ... and that is just the coolest thing."
"It is, Bulb."
A quick smile down at Bulb, and then Santa got back to the night's task to save the night of all nights from being lost. He gave Bulb and the rest of the elves a quick and assertive look.
"You are all now ambassadors of the Pole. Give and in no way receive. Like one of you trying to slip out with the family cat because you think it would make a nice pet at the Pole."
Elfon, Jack-nass, and Bulb all turned to Frosted-nog. 'Nog finally noticed after a moment that the three elves were looking over at him.
"What?" Frosted-nog said innocently in a high voice.
Santa raised an eyebrow at 'Nog and then continued in a firm voice, "And stay away from people’s possessions. Now, do you all understand my instructions?"
The elves in front of Santa nodded. Santa carefully rose from his rocker, lifting his battered toe off the bed of red ribbon, and pointed for the elves to follow him. Santa limped down the fuselage and came to a stop as the floor before him suddenly opened.
Joining Santa, the four elves surrounded the opening and looked down to see a white glowing ladder leading downward that had magically melted its way through the roof of a London flat below.
Santa put a finger to the lips of Frosted-nog. Looking up at Santa, who had both eyebrows raised, Frosted-nog shrugged his shoulders at him. Santa drew back his finger and folded his arms over his chest.
"I didn't say it, Santa," 'Nog said in a low voice.
"You were about to."
"Sorry," Frosted-nog confessed in a low voice. Santa gave one last you-little-stinker look at Frosted-nog, then turned away from him and continued to the other elves, as 'Nog listened at Santa's side.
"White Ladder has the ability to enter any household. So all you have to do is carry the presents down, put them under the tree, and get out. Understand?"
The four elves nodded at Santa. Santa then hobbled over to one of the enormous Christmas bags that lined Red Eye at either side. He looked in one of the bags for a moment and dug around with his head and hands inside the huge bag. Santa came back out holding four red minuscule presents with red ribbons in his open hand. He hobbled over to Elfon and handed the presents over to him. Elfon looked down at the tiny gifts in his hand that looked like playing pieces used in a Christmas version of a board game. Elfon stared at the presents in his hand, looked at Santa, and then looked back down at the gifts. He was joined by his fellow elves who made a circle around Elfon, looking at the presents in his huge hand.
Jack-nass then looked up at Santa. "So small, Santa. Is there nothing but a shard of coal in these little boxes for some naughty children?"
"Don't be a dim bulb, Jack-nass—"
Santa froze up after what he had just said, as did the three elves, with the exception of Bulb who continued to stare down at the tiny presents in Elfon's hand. Bulb noticed the silence in the fuselage and looked up from Elfon's hand, glancing over at Santa and the elves.
"Did I miss something again?" Bulb asked the four.
Santa and the elves all quickly shook their heads. Santa then turned to Jack-nass.
"The presents have been sprinkled with Blue Dust, Jack-nass."
"Blue Dust?" Jack-nass asked.
"How do you think I get all the presents on the sleigh or here inside Red Eye? The presents reach their normal size once delivered inside the home. It's the Final Process."
"I thought the Final Process was wrapping the gifts?" Jack-nass said with a confused look on his face.
"Me too," Frosted-nog added in a low voice.
Santa quickly waved a hand at the elves. "Never mind that now. Put the presents I give you in your pockets and let's get going. Are there any more questions?"
"Maybe when we get back to the Pole you can put your toe through the Final Process," Bulb said to Santa. "Get it back to its normal size."
Santa looked at Bulb for a moment. The other elves just rolled their eyes at Bulb's grand plan.
Santa then started to hand out more presents as he answered Bulb. "Yeah … I'll give that some thought, Bulb," Santa said, and then gathered the four together in a huddle, looking down at them, all except for Elfon who towered over the four.
"And lastly ... you have all been given Red Candle Light. You all know what it can do, correct?"
The four elves nodded.
"Use it only in an emergency—you can use it only so many times before it burns out." The elves again nodded at Santa and seemed eager for the night ahead. Santa broke free from the huddle with the elves and took two careful candy-cane crutch steps back, distancing himself from the elves.
It was now, for the most part, their night.
Frosted-nog and Elfon stared down at the opening in Red Eye where White Ladder waited for them. The two could not hide the fascination and anticipation of what was out in the world as their bodies shook like jackhammers cutting into stone. Before the elves lowered, Santa gave a final reminder to the four.
"And be careful of the presents! Once your feet touch the floor in the home you deliver to, you only have a ten-second window before the presents adjust to their normal size."
All four elves looked at Santa and then looked down at White Ladder and the home below.
"Okay, boys. Get going," Santa ordered. The elves moved out. The four lowered down White Ladder lit by its brilliant white light and made their way to the home below.