The Christmas Present
Published by Alexander McCabe
Copyright Alexander McCabe 2015
The right of Alexander McCabe to be identified as the author of this work has been asserted by him in accordance with the Copyright, Designs, and Patents Act 1988.
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in, or introduced into a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form, or by any means (electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise) without the prior written consent of the author. Any person who does any unauthorized act in relation to this publication may be liable to criminal prosecution and civil claim for damages.
This is a work of fiction and, as such, any reference to any persons, alive or dead, is purely coincidental.
The author accepts no responsibility nor liability for the information contained herein including, but not restricted to, any and all persons, websites, places, work premises, and establishments. The inclusion of such does not, in any way, constitute an endorsement or association by or with the author nor the content, products, advertising, or other such materials presented by such persons, websites, places, work premises, and establishments.
Not yet old enough to understand the wondrous joys of Christmas but, when he does, I hope it never leaves him
For his elf’s sake…
The Great Escape
“I hate you!”
The front door was the only escape from both my mum and yet another pathetic Christmas that she had planned for just the two of us. As I ran down the path and out into the street, every window that I passed had a beautiful tree that held sparkling fairy lights and shiny tinsel wrapped all around it. Small chocolate Santa’s seemed to be hanging heavily from each branch. I could only imagine all of the wonderful presents that were under each of these trees.
That only made me madder.
The tears burned my eyes but they were cold by the time they reached my cheeks. I kept running, faster and faster. I wanted to be far away from here. Far away from my mum. Far away from our house. Far away from all these bright and shiny windows and their all their happy and joyful trees.
I hate it.
I hate it all.
You can keep your Christmas. I’m almost ten. I know that there is no Santa Claus. I know better than all these other kids in my class and in my school who still believe in Him. If he was real – Santa Claus – he would have given me better presents. Bigger presents. More expensive presents. I wouldn’t need to be making paper chains with colored pieces of card, glitter, and glue with my mum. No, the real Santa Claus would make sure we had tinsel, and fairy lights, and chocolates hanging from every branch of our tree.
I was the unluckiest kid in the world, the only one who didn’t have any of these things.
It was only then that I realized that I was no longer running. I was standing right under the very last street light at the very edge of our village. Through the heavy snow that was falling all around me and five miles away in the distance, I could see the town where my dad and his new family lived. This street light was my boundary. My mum had made it very clear that I wasn’t allowed to go beyond this point.
Well tonight was different. She didn’t matter anymore. I was going to find my dad and live with him and his new family. His new family had everything I could ever want. They would have a great Christmas with a nice tree, fantastic presents, and a big turkey dinner with all the trimmings.
We would have chicken.
Slowly and deliberately I walked beyond the lamp post. Carefully looking all around to see if anyone was watching me. Only when I was certain nobody could see me, I took a brave step beyond the circle of light that was spread all over the fresh snow that covered the pavement and the road. Into the darkness. I wasn’t scared. Not really. I jumped quickly back under the light and looked back down the street in the direction of my house.
And my mum.
Unusually, the village seemed to be deserted. Well, except for the army of snowmen who were lazily standing guard in every garden that I could see. I knew they wouldn’t, and couldn’t, tell on me. This was my chance. There was nobody else watching and so there was nobody who could tell my mum that they had seen me leaving. By the time she realized, I’d be with my dad.
His new family would be my new family too.
The happy thought pushed me back into the darkness and the bright lights of the town pulled me towards them. Slowly at first, but with each step I expected to feel my mum’s hand on my collar and pull me back into the village. After what felt like forever – it must have been five whole minutes – there was still nobody around and I began to relax. There, in the distance, like a big cake with the most beautiful candles on top, I could see the town. My dad’s town.
My new town.
My new home.
The snow crunched under my feet and the cold started to come through my sneakers. I should have worn my shoes. Not to worry, Dad will buy me a new pair when I see him. He buys my school shoes every year. In fact, I was due a new pair anyway. The shoes he had bought me in the summer had been too big for me and I hated them. ‘Good school shoes that you can grow into’ was what my mum had said when we bought them, but now they were too tight. Anyway, the sneakers would make the journey quicker too.
I’ll be at Dad’s in no time.
Then I saw the lights. Two individual beams dancing in the distance but coming straight towards me. Whoever it was, they were heading to the village and they would definitely know my mum. Everybody in the village did If they saw me, they would stop and take me back. I couldn’t go back. I didn’t want to go back.
I knew then that the simplest solution was not to be caught.
However, that was easier said than done. There was no time to hide in the fields and, anyway, they would see me there. At this time of year, the fields were flat and only covered in snow. Staring directly at the car, I could see that it was fast coming towards me. Just ahead, on my left, there was a high hedgerow and, behind it, there was a small forest. Well, maybe not an actual forest but there were enough trees to make it scary.
It was certainly scary to me.
Yet there was no choice. If they caught me, they would see that I’ve been crying. I’m almost ten, I’m far too old to be crying. Crying is for babies. I need to be a big boy, and big boys aren’t afraid of anything.
At least that’s what my dad told me.
Well, that’s what he told me a while ago. Maybe two or three visits ago. He keeps promising to see me each week but, then, something always seems to come up. It upsets my mum, but I understand. He has a big important job to do but it’s great when he can make it. We talk on the phone though when he always asks if I’ve been a good boy. I always say ‘yes’ even when there are times that it isn’t quite true.
Mum never tells him any different.
Today I haven’t quite been good but I can be brave and be a big boy. He will understand when I tell him. It won’t be long now, and quicker still if I manage to avoid being caught by whoever is in the car heading towards the village. Heading towards my mum.
I run as fast as my sneakers can carry me over the snow to where there is a small gap in the hedge that welcomes me into the forest. Crouching down, the twigs and branches hide me from any unwanted attention but also gives me the perfect view of the road. As the car gets closer, a scary thought races into my head.
I hope it’s not my dad’s car.
The car seemed to slow as it got close to me and all I could do was hold my breath and close my eyes as I listened to it crawl passed me. It was only when I couldn’t hear it anymore that I dared to open my eyes. Well, actually, it was only one eye. I kept my left eye firmly closed and peeked through my right. Making sure there was nobody else on the road, I let out my breath and watched it disappear through the hedge and follow the direction of the car back to the village. As I went to step back through the gap and back onto the road, away from the scary forest that I had absolutely refused to look into, I heard a twig snap behind me.
I froze and was instantly terrified.
Whatever it was, if I couldn’t see them, they couldn’t see me. Isn’t that what my mum had always said when I told her there were monsters under my bed? Only, this wasn’t my bed. At that moment I suddenly wished I was in my bed. I’d be all warm and cozy, safe and secure with Mum ready to fight all the monsters, those that were real and not so real.
“Shhhh, we don’t want to scare him, do we? That would never do. What would Santa say then? I’d be in so much trouble if we scared him.”
Whoever was talking – actually, they were whispering but their words were so clear in the silent night that they nearly deafened me – whoever it was, they were very close behind me. Too close. My whole body was still and my eyes firmly fixed upon the car taillights as it disappeared slowly into the distance. It was only a few seconds but it felt like forever before I found the courage to just jump out through the gap in the hedge and back out onto the empty road. Only when I had crossed to the other side did I stop running and turn to see if there was anyone following me.
“Are you happy now? You scared him. Santa is going to be so cross with me. He won’t be cross with you. Oh no, not you. Of course not you. You, as EVERYBODY knows, are his favorite.”
“Santa? What are you talking about, Santa? Santa isn’t real. THAT is something that EVERYBODY knows!” I bravely shouted this back into the forest as now I could see where to run, straight towards town and to my dad’s house. Whoever they were would have to come out after me. They would never catch me because I can run fast. Very fast. The second fastest boy, and the fourth fastest overall, in my whole class. There were only eleven kids in my whole year but, still, I was fast enough to run away from this scary voice in the forest.
Although I had no idea why I wasn’t running now.
“Wait…, stop…, where are you going? Come back here at once!” As the voice came out of the forest, I could hear the twigs snapping as something was moving.
I don’t think I’ve ever been more afraid. Not even when I was very young and tried to help Mum with decorating the house and I painted the television. She got so mad. Her voice went all weird but she didn’t shout. No, she was very calm as she sent me to my room – “… and get out of my sight” is what she said, very calmly – but I knew she was angry. That was as scared as I have ever been.
Well, until now.
Now I really wish I was in my bedroom. Or running very fast and far away from here. Yet, oddly, all I can do is stand here and stare at the gap in the hedge where I had been hiding a few moments ago. It soon became clear that I was looking in entirely the wrong place.
I should have been looking at the top of the hedge.
“Come back here!” The scary voice cried out from somewhere in the trees.
“I will not and you can’t make me. I shall stay right out here.” My voice sounded far braver than I felt.
“I’m not talking to you.” The voice replied.
“Well, who are you talking to?” This was most peculiar.
“I’m talking to him, silly. Would you come back here, please!” Another twig snapped. Or maybe it was a branch breaking. Whatever it was, something was definitely moving around where I had just been. I peered into the gap but still couldn’t see anything.
“Who is ‘him’, if you don’t mind me asking?” Now I was rather more curious than scared.
“I would have thought that was obvious, given that I have already said that he is Santa’s favorite.” The voice didn’t sound quite as scary now. It sounded like me when I was being smart with my mum.
I really didn’t like it.
“How can it be obvious if Santa isn’t real?” My question was already out of my mouth before I could stop it. Mum doesn’t like it when that happens. It usually means that I’m in trouble. Again.
“You take that back! Who says Santa isn’t real? Now look what you’ve done, you’ve gone and upset Rudolph! Whoa boy, whoa, he didn’t mean it, he was only joking…” As he was speaking, I could hear a little commotion. It was happening right behind the hedge.
Then it happened.
In my curiosity, I had slowly walked back across the road and was now right beside the hedge, looking through the gap. It was totally black and so I couldn’t see anything. But I could feel something.
Something’s warm breath was blown right down my neck.
“Aaaaaarggggggghhhhhhh!” I screamed and jumped back into the road, I didn’t even have time to look and see if anything was coming. Mum would be so upset with me if she knew. Every time we cross the street, she says ‘Safety first, always look left and right as you go.’ Yet, even now that I remembered, I still couldn’t check. Although there was a very good reason. A very good reason indeed. One that even Mum would understand.
There, staring at me over the hedge, was…? No… Surely not…
“Rudolph? Rudolph the…, the…, the… RUDOLPH THE RED-NOSED REINDEER? Is that really YOU?”
“Well, of course it’s Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. Who else could it be?” The voice was still talking to me from behind the hedge but that wasn’t where I was looking. “You do know it’s rude to stare?”
I could feel my mouth and teeth getting cold and slowly realized it was because my mouth was hanging open. I quickly closed it. The voice was quite correct, I was staring, and I did know that it was rude. Not that I could tell him, for my attention was quite firmly fixed upon the huge reindeer that had its head hanging over the hedge. It also seemed to have the biggest smile I have ever seen.
Oh, and a very, very bright red nose.
“Excuse me? Hello?” As the voice was talking to me, I was still watching Rudolph – not staring, because that would be quite rude – there was a tug at my trousers, just below my knee. It was only after I was tugged for a second time did I manage to stop gazing at the massive reindeer and look down to see what was demanding my attention.
My mouth immediately fell open.
“Ah, I have your attention now, do I? Don’t tell me you’re going to start staring at me now. I hope not. That is so very rude. Santa marks staring on his ‘naughty’ list, just so you know. Although you running away from home, and upsetting your mum, has you very high on his ‘naughty’ list already.”
“Are you an… an…?” I really couldn’t bring myself to ask as I was afraid that this might also be rude. There was no point upsetting Santa any further. Or my mum.
I also couldn’t quite believe what I was seeing.
“An elf? Is that what you are asking?” The voice came from a head that barely reached my knee. I have never seen anyone so small before in my life – almost a full ten years! As he asked me the question, all I could do was nod my head. Yet my mouth was still open so, as I nodded, my teeth banged together as my head went up and down.
I must have looked so silly.
“Well of course I am an elf. What did you expect? However, I am not just any old elf. I am your elf. That’s why I am here.” He stabbed his finger into my knee as he pointed up at me. It was quite sore but I didn’t let him see that he hurt me at all. I was, after all, a brave boy.
“My elf? What do you mean, you are my elf? I didn’t even know that I had an elf.” Really, I didn’t.
“Everybody has an elf. From the very second you are born, Santa allocates every single child, all over the world, their very own elf. We are responsible for watching you throughout the year to see if you have been naughty or nice, and reporting directly back to Santa. Then he and Mrs. Claus decide what gifts you will receive from your list, based upon how naughty or nice you have been. That’s when we get to work, making all your presents and wrapping them up, all ready for Santa to deliver on Christmas Eve.”
As the elf was telling me this, he had stopped poking me with his little finger and was feeding a carrot to Rudolph.
“So, what is your name?” It would definitely be rude to call him simply ‘elf’. Even if it wasn’t, I couldn’t risk it. Suddenly I very much wanted to be off the ‘naughty’ list and back on the ‘nice’ list.
“Oh, that is an easy one but you should already know the answer.” He had poured some milk into a saucer and had laid it on the ground in front of Rudolph who was quickly licking it all up. I would really like some milk too, but I didn’t want to ask.
“I should? Why? I mean, how should I already know the answer?” This was very confusing.
“Every elf is given the exact same name as the child that they are allocated to watch. So my name is the same as yours. Although, I wish I could say that it is very nice to meet you, Gabriel.” Both he and Rudolph were looking directly at me.
“But it’s not…”
“Why is it not nice to meet me? What have I ever done to you?” I could feel the tears swelling heavy in my eyes but I was determined not to cry. Big boys – brave boys – don’t cry. Ever.
That’s a fact.
Everybody knows that.
“It’s not nice to meet you because you say you don’t believe in Santa Claus. Do you know what happens to ME when YOU stop believing in Santa Claus? No? I didn’t think so. That’s why we are here, to tell you exactly what happens.” Gabriel the Elf had his hands firmly on his hips and his head was on its side. His mouth was all crumpled up with his bushy eyebrows so far down his face that they seemed to join together. His beady eyes were looking up at me from under them and his face was not happy. I immediately wondered if he had ever smiled. He wore a green hat with a red pom-pom that looked as if it would fall off his head at any moment.
I was ready to catch it, if it did.
“You see, Santa…” As he started speaking, he seemed completely unaware of the headlights coming towards us. Only, this time, they were heading back towards the town from the village. The snow had briefly stopped but was now falling heavy again and causing the car to go even slower than before.
“I’m sorry, I truly don’t mean to be rude but I really must hide. You see, if that car sees me, then they will tell my mum and I’ll be in even more trouble.” As I pointed towards the car’s headlights, Gabriel the Elf completely ignored me.
“…and don’t get me started on poor old Doris. She was banished after only five years. She never, ever came back because big Doris grew up and never had any children of her own. Well, that meant she never grew up to believe in Santa Claus again. Poor old Doris…”
The car was making its way slowly through the snow and around the last of the bends before it would definitely see us. How could it not? We were the only people here and we were stood right beside the road. Rudolph was happily resting his head on top of the hedge, staring at Gabriel the Elf and seeming to understand every word he was saying.
I wanted to ask if his staring was rude but I was too concerned with the car.
There was no other option, I had to hide. If the car sees Gabriel the Elf and Rudolph, then it was up to them to explain why they were here. Then whoever was in the car would just take me home. Back home to my mum. They would definitely not take me to my dad, and that’s exactly where I wanted to go. No, there was no other choice, I had to hide. As I went to move back into the gap in the hedge, Gabriel the Elf stepped in front of it and blocked me. Rudolph had moved slowly behind the hedge and I could now see his long legs through the gap.
Gabriel the Elf was still talking.
“I’m sorry, can you please move?” I was asking the question as I tried to move around him and into safety of the scary forest.
“So you see, it was the story of old Doris that brought me here. You understand that, don’t you? I just had to come. I don’t want to be banished and never heard from again. I have friends at the North Pole, I love it there. We have so much fun, watching all you children, and Santa and Mrs. Claus are just the best. Ask anyone! Aren’t they just the best Rudolph?”
I thought my eyes must be going wonky as I’m sure I saw Rudolph nod in agreement as he looked at Gabriel the Elf and then at me. I didn’t have time to ask if he understood. “PLEASE! Can’t you see the car? I have to hide. If they see me, they will take me back to my mum and I want to go to my dad.”
“What’s wrong with going back to your mum?” Gabriel the Elf looked me straight in the eye as he asked the question. Almost staring at me. He seemed really concerned and wanted to know. Nobody ever listens to me so why would he care? It didn’t really matter as there was no time to tell him. I was about to be caught and taken back home.
The car had come around the very last bend and now had us in its headlights. I closed my eyes in the hope that it wouldn’t see me. I could hear the engine getting closer and closer. Any second now, it would completely slow down and stop.
“Well? She’s a lovely woman, your mum. Her Elf is also lovely, well matched those two…” He was still talking and totally ignoring me.
As I heard the car get closer and closer, I closed my eyes tighter and tighter. Then the strangest thing ever happened. Well, the second strangest thing ever. The strangest thing ever happened only a little while ago when I met Gabriel the Elf and Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. The second strangest thing that ever happened was when the car drove right passed us.
“So, what’s wrong with your lovely mum?” I hadn’t noticed that he had been quiet and impatiently waiting for my answer. He seemed to be rather cross although I had no idea why.
After all she was my mum, not his.
“The car, why didn’t it stop?” The taillights disappeared around another bend on the way back to town.
“Why would it stop? They can’t see us. Only very special people are allowed to see us. Now you, being in the shadow of Rudolph and myself, well that means that nobody can see you either. So, are you going to tell me, what is wrong between you and your mum? You see, us Elves, we know that it’s good to talk. ‘A problem shared is a problem halved’ that’s what Santa always says. Isn’t that right Rudolph?” Again Rudolph just nodded as he looked between Gabriel the Elf and myself. “If you share your problem enough, and it get’s halved so many times, then it’s no longer a problem. Do you see?”
“It doesn’t matter. You won’t understand.”
“Of course, I don’t understand. That doesn’t mean that I won’t understand. There is a big difference and that is, after all, why I’m here to see you!” Rudolph had been looking at me and happily nodding with everything that Gabriel the Elf had been saying. Yet, when he stopped talking this time, Rudolph suddenly looked a little cross. He turned and bit the Elf’s pom-pom and took it clean off his head.
“Hey! What are you doing? Give that back to…” Gabriel the Elf was jumping as high as he could, trying to reach for his hat when he saw the look on Rudolph’s face. It was then that he understood why he had taken it.
“I’m sorry Rudolph. I should have said that is why WE are here to see you! Are you happy now? Can I please have my hat back?” Rudolph gave the biggest smile as he dropped the hat and, leaning over to me, he gave me a big sticky lick on my cheek.
The Snow Globe
“Christmas is rubbish. Every year I get rubbish presents and it’s always because we have no money. Some of the other kids at school tell me we are poor. I don’t think we’re poor but I’m not really sure what being ‘poor’ really means. I thought it meant we have no money but, when I asked my mum, she said that’s not what being poor is at all. But then, she also told me that I was the richest little boy in the world. Now I know that isn’t true so I don’t really know what to believe.” It was only when I stopped talking did I realize that I was now sat on the ground.
In the snow.
My bottom was freezing.
Gabriel the Elf and Rudolph were now staring at me and not saying a single word. They just let me talk. Now that I had finished, there was silence. They seemed to be waiting for me to say more, but I had nothing more to say.
“So this is your problem? That your mum has no money and your dad does? So, if you go and live with your dad, then your problem will be solved?” Gabriel the Elf had been right and now he seemed to fully understand. It made me happy. Maybe he was right, sharing my problem with him and Rudolph had now split my problem in three pieces.
I now only had one-third of a problem and it did feel so much better.
“Exactly. I’m so glad that you understand. I didn’t know if you would. I wish my mum was as understanding as you!”
“You should know that there is a big difference between understanding and agreeing. This is one of those times. I understand what you think is your problem, but I certainly do not agree that it is a problem. Especially when your mum is correct. You certainly are the richest little boy in the world. You are also one of the luckiest.
I think it’s time we showed you why. What do you think Rudolph?” Gabriel the Elf turned to the huge reindeer whose red nose seemed to have suddenly got brighter and brighter with every word that the little elf had spoken. He was nodding very enthusiastically at the suggestion from the tiny elf.
“Look here.” Gabriel the Elf held a snow globe in his hand. Although not exactly in his hand, more floating above his hand. It really was rather large and I had no idea where he got it. I quickly looked around, trying to see where it had come from.
“What are you looking for? Have you lost something? You’re supposed to be looking into this…” He pointed at the snow globe “…not around us. You don’t need to know where it came from. That’s part of the magic.”
It’s like he could read my mind.
“I’m sorry.” I really was but I wasn’t sure why. It was either because he had caught me looking around or because he had caught me not looking into the snow globe. Maybe both. Either way, I was sorry. I also felt rather silly that he had caught me at all and, strangely, that he knew what I was searching for.
Maybe he actually did just read my mind.
I decided that it was better to do as he told me so I looked straight into the snow globe. Although I couldn’t help but wonder how it was able to just float in the air like that. Maybe he really could perform magic. Just as this thought came to me, I saw my dad and his new family in their living room.
All inside the snow globe!
“What is this? What is happening?” I was very confused.
“You think everything will be better at your dad’s new house, so I thought we would go and see.” Gabriel the Elf was looking at me as I was staring into the the snow globe.
“Go and see? What do you mean?” I was becoming even more confused.
“You need to look inside. Really look inside.” Gabriel the Elf was using his other hand and pointing into the very center of the snow globe. As I bent forward to get a better look, something very strange happened.
Very strange indeed.
Suddenly, we were all inside the snow globe and standing in my dad’s living room.
“Is that your dad? It looks like he is getting ready to leave for work.” Gabriel the Elf was right. My dad was very smartly dressed in a uniform with a shiny hat. It wasn’t a cool hat with a pom-pom, and certainly nowhere near as colorful, but his has a badge and only special people have them. Like Policemen and Sheriffs.
“He works in a bank. My mum told me that he has a very important job there. He protects people’s money and keeps it all safe from bandits, thieves and highwaymen. I don’t really know what bandits and highwaymen are but thieves steal things and he stops them. He must be very important if he needs to work on Christmas Day.”
It made me very happy to see that Rudolph was nodding in agreement. Gabriel the Elf wasn’t paying any attention to what I was saying. Instead, he was looking at the two children in the living room. They were older than me and their mum was Dad’s new wife.
They were all Dad’s new family.
“So you want to live here, away from your mum, and with them? That seems rather odd to me, if you don’t mind me saying. It doesn’t look like much fun, does it?” Rudolph was shaking his head but still seeming to agree. I thought that you only nodded your head when you agree? Maybe I was wrong, but not as wrong as Rudolph or Gabriel the Elf. They were so wrong. So very, very wrong. Living here would be great fun!
“What are you talking about? Can’t you see what they have? Can you not see what they are doing?” I could and it was amazing. “The girl is playing with her brand new cell phone. I mean, it’s a brand new cell phone! Mum won’t allow me to have a cell phone, it ‘kills the art of conversation’ according to her. Whatever that means? Look at the boy, that is a brand new laptop he has. Can you not see the empty box by the side of his chair? Their mum is watching the biggest television that I think I have ever seen. This would be the best house ever to live in!”
“I must be missing something. All I see is your dad saying goodbye to his new family so that he can go off to work on Christmas Day, and yet everyone is ignoring him.” Rudolph was nodding again. I’m guessing he was agreeing because everything Gabriel the Elf had just said was absolutely true. Dad was standing at the living room door with a bag in his hand and saying ‘Goodbye’, and yet nobody paid him any attention. He disappeared around the corner and out of the house. I watched through the window as he walked through the snow and away into the distance.
Nobody else in the living room knew he was gone.
“So, if you lived here now, your dad would be gone and you would be doing what? Playing on your own with a cell phone or a computer? That doesn’t sound like fun to me! Rudolph and I, in fact everyone that lives at the North Pole with Santa, is encouraged to play and talk and have fun. That’s what we do, all day, every day!”
Rudolph gave Gabriel the Elf another big lick. I really wouldn’t have minded if he had given me one, too.
“You don’t understand. Cell phones and laptops are just awesome!” As I watched the boy and the girl playing with theirs, I was thinking about what Gabriel the Elf had just told me, and I didn’t really believe what I was saying but I couldn’t tell him or Rudolph that though. That would be to admit I was wrong and I really wasn’t. Cell phones and laptops are awesome. Maybe just not as awesome as I first thought.
“Rudolph, do you think that this is maybe what happens to the banished elves? They have to play with cell phones and laptops all day in the South Pole?” Gabriel the Elf seemed very concerned by the thought.
Once again, Rudolph was nodding in agreement but he looked sad.
“The South Pole? What do you mean the South Pole?” Everyone knows that Santa and his elves and the reindeers all live at the North Pole, not the South Pole. Don’t they?” It was my turn to be concerned. I was also confused.
“Well that’s what happens to the elves when the child they are allocated to stops believing in Santa Claus. They are banished to the South Pole until the child believes in Santa again. Sometimes this is very quick, and they are only gone for a very short time. Other times, they are never seen again. The elves that have come back tell us that it’s not very much fun at the South Pole and they far prefer being in the North Pole.
They aren’t allowed to tell us anything else about their time there or they could be sent back. However, now that I have seen what happens with cell phones and laptops, I can only imagine that they have lots and lots of them at the South Pole.”
“If that’s true, then I wish I lived in the South Pole.” It must be absolutely fantastic there, although I did say this without really thinking.
“Don’t ever say that! It’s a horrible place, all the elves that have ever come back from there say so. Nobody talks with each other or plays together. I don’t ever want to go there, that’s why I am here. To assure you that Santa is very real. And so am I.” As he finished talking, Rudolph once again bit his hat and took it off his head. Only, this time, he shook it so hard that all of the bells around his neck began to chime. It was a nice sound, I really liked it. It sounded like ‘Jingle Bells’ but I couldn’t be sure. What was certain was the drool that he left on the hat. It seemed to be soaked through.
“Ok, ok, I’m sorry. Of course, you are very real too. Now, can I have my hat back please?” Rudolph dropped the hat and Gabriel the Elf had to take a second to wring it out. There was a whole lot of drool in the hat and I tried really hard not to laugh but I couldn’t help myself. It was just too funny. Especially when I looked up at Rudolph and he smiled and winked at me.
“So you think that having lots of money to buy lots of toys and other things would make you happy? That you would then have no worries at all?” Gabriel the Elf was asking me the questions but I really couldn’t talk, so I just nodded. His hat was hanging down over his face and there was some of Rudolph’s drool just hanging from the end of the red pom-pom. He obviously didn’t know about it or just didn’t care. It was still funny to me and if I tried to answer him, I’m sure I would have started to laugh again.
Now I know how really rude that would be.
“Ok, well let’s just see if you are correct.” Once again, as if by magic, he suddenly had the snow globe in his hand. I really had no idea where it came from. As I was looking all around trying to figure it out, he clicked his fingers to draw my attention back to him.
“Just look in here…”
“Where is this place?” We had been pulled back into the snow globe and were now in a totally new room. There were pictures on every wall. Not like the pictures in our house, they were mostly pictures of me when I was much younger. Not recent pictures of me all grown up, now I’m nearly ten. No, these pictures were of really old people who looked very important. The walls didn’t have wallpaper, but were made of wood.
Yet that’s not what I first saw.
There, sitting in the window and looking outside at the snow, was a little girl. I’ve never seen seats that go around a window before but I really liked it. These seats would be a great place to sit with all my friends. It would be just perfect if there was a table in the middle and we could play cards and board games right there. We would never need to move as we could eat at that table too.
It would be just awesome.
“Do you know why the little girl is crying?” Gabriel the Elf was looking straight at her and I could see the tears in his eyes. Rudolph’s too. I hadn’t noticed she was crying at all. Now that I did, it made me sad too.
“No, why is she crying?” Now I really wanted to know as I really could see no reason for her to cry. She had the best playroom in the world.
“Don’t you see the unopened presents under the tree?” Gabriel the Elf pointed towards the corner of the room, next to the fireplace. The fire was beautiful, really big and bright, but I really struggled to see the tree because of all the presents. They weren’t really under the tree. Rather, they seemed to be everywhere. They were built all up and around it. It was only at the very top could I see the smallest branches with the Christmas fairy nearly touching the ceiling.
“Why doesn’t she open her presents? They look AMAZING!” They really did and I wouldn’t know where to start opening them all.
“She doesn’t want the presents.” Gabriel the Elf seemed to know what she was thinking, although I have no idea how. Maybe he could read her mind too.
“What? Why? That’s crazy!” Who wouldn’t want all these brilliant presents? Even if they were for a GIRL.
“She has nobody to share them with and she is looking out the window, waiting for her parents.”
“Waiting for her parents? Is that not her mum sitting there?” There was another woman in the room, sitting on the other side of the fireplace.
“No, that’s her nanny. That is the person that looks after her instead of her mum and dad. Her parents are outside, skiing, but have promised to come back to see her open her presents. She was still asleep when they left in the morning so now she must wait for them to return before she is allowed to open them. The nanny will be fired if she let’s her open even one while they are gone.” As he finished speaking, Gabriel the Elf took off his own hat and blew his nose into it. He turned to Rudolph and held it up for him, he blew his nose into it too. Then he just placed it back on his head, throwing his pom-pom behind one of his big ears.
At that very moment I really wanted one of those hats. Instead, I had to just wipe my eyes and nose on my sleeve. I didn’t really notice that I had been crying too but it wasn’t really crying. I was just sad and my eyes leaked a little. My nose too. It was only when I’d finished did I see that they had been watching me. Both of them then looked at each other and started shaking their heads.
“What?” I asked the question but didn’t know if it was rude or not.
“That’s disgusting. You really need a hat.” Rudolph was enthusiastically nodding in complete agreement with Gabriel the Elf.
“Well I don’t have one, I only have my sleeve so that will have to do.” I was just glad they hadn’t thought that I was crying. After all, that isn’t what big boys do, is it? “So this little girl must just sit here and wait for her mum and dad after already having waited ages on Santa?” It seemed like Santa was everywhere I looked for as long as I could remember. On every television, on every radio, in every store.
“Yes, but it looks like her wait is finally over.” Gabriel the Elf pointed to the door that was slowly opening into the living room. It probably wasn’t that slowly but it just seemed that way to me.
Much like Christmas… and waiting for Santa.
I guessed it was her parents as it was a man and a woman that came into the room. They didn’t seem very happy and I could hear the man say ‘We shouldn’t have bought Christina so many presents. It will take such a long time for her to open them all’. The woman replied, ‘Yes, I know, but it is Christmas darling. This will only take a few minutes then we can get back to having our holiday. She goes back to boarding school in a few days, so not too long.’
“Is the little girl’s name ‘Christina’? Surely they aren’t talking about her?” My mum would never talk about me like this. She would never want to get rid of me so she could have fun without me.
“I’m afraid so. What’s worse is that they think that Christina doesn’t know, but she does. She is like you, very clever.” I didn’t want to ask how he knew I was clever. Actually, he said I was ‘very clever’. Whether I was ‘clever’ or ‘very clever’, it didn’t really matter, it was the nicest thing anyone has ever said to me.
Except, of course, my mum.
“I think we should go as we don’t have the time to wait for Christina to open all of her presents. By the looks of things, it is going to take even longer than her mum thinks.” Gabriel the Elf drew my attention away from her parents and back to the little girl.
She hadn’t moved.
“Why isn’t she rushing to open her presents?” If it was me, as soon as my parents opened the door, I’d have run straight into the middle of the mountain of presents that surrounded the Christmas tree.
“As I said, you are very clever. Take a second and think about it.” Gabriel the Elf took off his hat again and felt that it was still soaked with a mixture of both his and Rudolph’s drool. He placed it back on his head and turned his back to me, thinking I couldn’t see, but I did.
He had wiped his nose with his sleeve.
I didn’t say anything but it did make me smile. As I was thinking about Christina, I felt something on my own sleeve. It was Rudolph. Wiping his nose!
“She doesn’t want the presents; she just wants the time with her parents!” As I said it, I realized that Gabriel the Elf was right. I was clever. Very clever.
“Correct. That is all she wants for Christmas, to spend the time with her family. So now you understand. You don’t need money to be rich.” Gabriel the Elf was rummaging around in his pocket again. This time, I knew what was happening.
As he pulled out the snow globe, I looked straight into it.
“You must have made a mistake. This is my home. Why would you bring me here?” It had only been a short time ago that I’d ran away from here and it just looked the same. A weak fire looked even smaller in the large fireplace. Our sparsely decorated Christmas tree sat proudly in our window with only a few presents underneath. Every one of them for me.
I hadn’t noticed before that there wasn’t a single present for my mum.
“Oh there is no mistake, not at all. Just wait a minute. There is something you need to see.” Gabriel the Elf was watching the door intently. So was Rudolph. After a few seconds, my mum came through from the kitchen with a cup of tea.
It looked like she had been crying.
“Why does she look so sad?” My eyes were instantly stinging from the tears that had suddenly appeared. “Mum…! Mum…!”
“She can’t hear you. She can’t see you either. As long as you are with us, nobody can see or hear you. Don’t you remember?” Gabriel the Elf’s voice was very soft and quiet and Rudolph gently rested his head on his shoulder. It seemed to me that he was giving the little elf a hug. Gabriel the Elf simply raised his arm up and wrapped it around Rudolph’s head.
I felt really left out and could really have used a hug.
“Anyway, what do you care? This is how your mum is going to be spending her Christmas when you go and live with your dad and his new family.”
“I never knew my mum would be so sad about me going.” I truly didn’t. But then, I had never really thought about it.
“Of course she would be sad. You are all she has. She doesn’t even have a present under the tree. She doesn’t want nor need one. Do you know what I have here?” Gabriel the Elf dug deep into his pocket and pulled out a little piece of paper.
“No, what is it?” It was too small and tattered to be anything important.
“It’s your mum’s Christmas Wish List for Santa. Here, read what it says.” He handed me the piece of paper. She only asked for one thing.
All I want is for my son, Gabriel, to be the happiest little boy in the world.
“She didn’t ask for anything for herself, only for me. Why would she do that?” I didn’t understand and was very confused.
“Oh that’s easy. She only wants you to be happy because she is your mum!” Rudolph seemed to understand what Gabriel the Elf meant as he gave him another big lick on his face. Then he gave me one too.
It was the best lick I’ve ever had.
“I think there is one last place you need to see. All you need to do is have another look inside my snow globe…
“Gabriel…? Gabriel…? Are you awake? Santa’s been and left you lots of presents!”
“Mum? Is that you? Can you see me?” I quickly opened my eyes and saw that I was in bed. My own bed. At home. My back was to my mum and I was facing the wall.
“Of course I can see you, silly goose! Are you coming down to open your presents? They won’t open themselves you know.” My mum sounded so excited.
“Are Gabriel the Elf and Rudolph still here? Can you see them?” I didn’t want to move in the hope that they were still here with me, but I just knew that they weren’t.
“Gabriel the Elf and Rudolph? No, they aren’t here. It sounds like you had the best dream though. Or maybe you met them when Santa dropped off your presents?” I knew from Mum’s voice that she didn’t believe me but I liked that she pretended that she did. “Speaking of which, are you coming downstairs to open your presents? I really want to know what Santa brought you. If you don’t come quickly, I may have to start opening them on my own.” With that, Mum turned and closed the door and I heard her making her way downstairs.
I knew she would never really open my presents but, still, I couldn’t risk it. I jumped out of bed and raced downstairs and passed her in the hallway before she made it to the living room door.
I saw she was smiling when I ran passed.
When I entered the living room, everything looked different. The Christmas tree was bigger and brighter than what I remembered. The fire was roaring and filled up the whole hearth. Then there were the presents under the tree. There were so many.
“Santa really has been, hasn’t he Mum?”
“Yes, he really has. He drank some of his milk that we left for him, and he ate all the cookies. Rudolph even had some of the carrot.” As I looked at the table, I couldn’t believe my eyes.
“Mum, is that drool on the end of the carrot?” It was shining in the firelight.
“Why yes, I think it is.” She was smiling at me but I knew it was real. “So, what present shall you open first?”
I looked under the tree and picked up the present at the very top of the pile. It was perfectly wrapped in paper of such bright and wonderful colors and all tied up in a bright red ribbon. As I untied the ribbon, all the wrapping paper just fell away. There in my hand, was a…
“What is that?” Mum asked the question as if she had never ever seen this before. “It’s absolutely beautiful.”
“It’s a snow globe.” I looked deep inside of it and could see Gabriel the Elf and Rudolph playing in the North Pole. It was then that I knew exactly what to do. “It seems that this had my name on it by mistake. This is a present for you, Mum.”
As I handed it to her, she started to cry. “Are you sure this is for me?” She was holding the snow globe in her hand when I suddenly saw a face inside it. There, I could clearly see Gabriel the Elf and Rudolph at the North Pole. Rudolph gave him another big lick and Gabriel the Elf took off his hat and wiped the drool from his face. He put it back on his head and threw the pom-pom behind his big ear. Then his face filled the whole snow globe and gave me a wink and a huge smile.
Then they both vanished.
“I don’t think this is for me. Are you sure?” Mum was as happy as I have ever seen her. She was looking so deeply inside the snow globe that I thought for a second that she might suddenly disappear. Then I realized that was just silly.
Or was it?
“I am absolutely sure it’s for you. It’s the most perfect present ever for the most perfect Mum. Merry Christmas.” She didn’t say a single word as she reached around and gave me the best hug ever.
“You are the best little boy any mum could wish for and I love you.” She kissed the top of my head and I squeezed as hard as I could around her waist.
“I love you too, Mum.”
To my son Gabriel who inspired this tale and who owns my heart xxx.
To my wife Marie, who believes and understands my imaginative madness. I love you xxx
To Scott Tait (7), there never was a more enthusiastic nor better beta reader – ever! Thank you, young man, I really appreciate it.
To Rory Tait (10), there never was a more enthusiastic nor better beta reader. Well, maybe with the exception of your brother. JOKING! Thank you for your feedback, I’m so glad you both enjoyed it.
To the rest of the Tait family – Laura, Mark and Andy – thank you so much for the continued support.
Finally, THANK YOU so much for reading and I would wish you and your family a very MERRY CHRISTMAS and health, wealth, and happiness for the coming year.
After graduating with a couple of useless degrees in law, I left my Scottish homeland and wandered nomadically around the globe to experience the rich diversity of culture that the world has to offer. Along the way, I met my wonderful wife. Between us, we have managed to extend our family with the addition of our little boy, Gabriel.
For the moment, we call Toronto ‘home’, although that is always subject to change…
Check out my website for the latest updates on current projects
I have a little secret to tell you that not many people know. Something that maybe your mum and dad don’t even know! You see, at the very moment you were born, Santa allocated you an elf. It’s true! Your very own elf who watches to see when you have been naughty and nice. Every year, just before Christmas, your elf reports to Santa so he can decide what presents you can have from your list. Yet there are some people that don’t believe in Santa. I know, I know, it’s crazy… but it’s true! Once those people stop believing in Santa, then their elf’s are sent away from the North Pole and only allowed back when they start to believe in him again. Gabriel the Elf is very worried. His child is beginning to think that Santa isn’t real. Gabriel the Elf doesn’t want to be banished from all his friends at the North Pole, so what can he do? There is only one thing he can do. He must prove that Santa is real.