Congratulations Sheila Mary Taylor with her entry
"A Christmas Puzzle".
“Dear Santa . . . I can explain!”
Santa took a big gulp of the beer Joe’s mum and dad had kindly left for him on the shelf above the fireplace, grimacing as he realised this was his 10,000th gulp since he and his reindeers had left Lapland just six hours ago.
“I don’t want explanations, Joe. You know the rules. You’re supposed to be in bed fast asleep when I come down this chimney.” He dusted the coal-dust off his snowy-white beard and took another gulp. This wasn’t a bad brew, he thought. Better than all that frothy stuff he’d had in England. You’d have thought they could have perfected their ales by now, what with all those Brits drinking beer. But unfortunately that was the route he had to take to get all the way down south. It wouldn’t be fair to leave anyone out.
“But, Santa . . . all these years you’ve just been someone I thought wasn’t real. Okay, I know Mum and Dad insist that you are real and that you would be angry if I asked for anything that cost too much, but it just didn’t seem possible that you could come all this way from the frozen north. I mean, really, how could reindeers survive in this heat? So you see, Santa, I really had to find out for myself. I’m ten years old and it’s time I did things for myself, and made up my own mind about all these fairy-tales parents tell their kids to keep them quiet.”
Santa smiled as he lowered his heavy bulk into the armchair next to the fireplace, and bit into the apple that had accompanied this excellent beer. He took another sip and looked at Joe over the rim of the pewter mug they had also thoughtfully provided.
“Ho ho ho!” he said. “You know, Joe, I think if there were more kids around like you, I wouldn’t have such a dull life. I like kids with enquiring minds. Come and sit on my knee. I don’t think Rudolph and Dasher will mind waiting. There’s plenty of straw for them on my sleigh.”
Joe looked at Santa and his mouth dropped open. He still thought he might be dreaming, but maybe if he actually touched this jovial man and felt him to be real flesh and blood, it would finally clinch the argument he had every Christmas with Mum and Dad and he would have to say he was sorry.
Gingerly he walked closer to Santa. He bit his lip. Suppose it was a trap. Suppose he really was real and was only enticing him to come closer so that he could give him the hiding he would have had anyway if Mum and Dad had caught him down here before dawn.
Another step and he’d be there, close enough to touch him. He stopped for a moment. Took a deep breath, and just then Santa stretched out his hand and patted him on the head.
Joe froze. He closed his eyes, waiting for the blow. Either that or when he opened them he would find nobody sitting in the chair, and then he’d know for sure he’d been right all the time – that it was just one big scam cooked up by the shops in town to get grown-ups to buy big expensive presents for their kids.
When he was almost bursting he took another breath and slowly opened his eyes.
Santa was nodding his head now. And he had a twinkle in his eyes. As he hoisted Joe onto his knee he gave him a little hug and turned him round to face him. “You said you could explain, Joe. Don’t you think it’s time you did.”
“But . . . but I did, Santa. I told you I wanted to know if you’re real . . .”
Joe could feel the layers of fat wobbling as Santa chuckled. This was turning out to be a much bigger puzzle than he’d anticipated.
“No, Joe. That’s no explanation. What was it that really made you come down here and sit up all night waiting for me? Come on – tell me. Wasn’t it just because you couldn’t wait to see the racing bike you asked me for? And the Great Dane puppy? And the iPad?”
“No, no it wasn’t anything like that! I told you. I just wanted to know if you were real.”
“And am I?” Santa asked quietly, raising his busy white eyebrows, still dotted with grains of soot.
Joe nodded and smiled. “I guess you are, Santa. I wish you could stay here with me always,” he said wistfully.
“Ho! Ho! Ho!” laughed Santa. “So that I can give you all the presents I’ve got in my sack?”
“No, Santa, just because, well because you’re really nice. I like you.”
“Okay, sonny, then why don’t you go to the fridge and bring me another cold beer. And while you’re doing that, I’ll get your presents ready for you.”
Joe slipped quickly off Santa’s knee and ran to the kitchen to get Santa’s beer, hoping his Dad hadn’t drunk them all last night. He couldn’t wait to get back and see if his presents were all there. When he’d written the letter he hadn’t really expected to get all three – just one would have been plenty, but Santa had definitely said ‘presents’, like there was more than one.
Running back to the sitting room he heard a strange scuffling noise. As he came hurtling through the door his eyes were riveted to the shiny red racing bike propped up against the fireplace. Next to it was the cutest little Great Dane Puppy that cocked its head and looked at him with big brown eyes. And on the floor was a big box with iPad written on it.
“Oh, Wow!” Joe whispered, snapping the top off the beer bottle.
But of Santa, there was no sign.
Sheila Mary Taylor and a work of her choice will be featured for the month of January 2012 on this blog.
My thanks to all those who participated.