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Home | The 15 Days of Christmas

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Part I: Candy Cane Kid Creates Commotion

Santa leaned back in his rocking chair and sighed. He had a large stack of papers balanced on his lap- the famous Christmas List. Unfortunately, the list-writers had only finished with it yesterday, and he still had to check it once before he could even begin to think about checking it twice. He still had a lot of work to do until Christmas, and he had only fifteen days left. He needed to make sure all of the toys were finished, sorted, and wrapped. He needed to help the mech-elves finish fixing his sleigh, after that horrible goose collision over Norway last year. He had to schedule trips to the malls down south. He had to make sure the reindeer were ready for the exhausting flight around the world. And he had to start with this list.

Before he began, he thought about how far behind they were this year. At this time last year, the list had already been checked twice. The sleigh hadn't needed repairing, and the Elves had been finished with their toys since Thanksgiving. Mrs. Claus' gingerbread men had been baked and in their packages for quite a while, and he'd even had time for a long winter's nap. This year, though, it didn't look like he was going to get any sleep between now and Christmas.

He opened the first page of the list and peered down at it. The new list-writing Elf they had hired had horribile handwriting... why had they picked him again? This was going to be more difficult than normal.

He hadn't gotten any father than Abred, Alan when there was a knock on the door. "Come in!" he bellowed. The door swung open, and a tiny Elf with a bright red nose tottered in. She was wringing her hands nervously. "Hello, Holly, what can I do for you?" Santa asked. It was his policy to be friendly with every Elf, all the time. He didn't want another rebellion like the Elf revolt of 1823.

"Santa, I think you'd better turn on the television. The Candy Cane Kid is making trouble again," Holly O'Mistletoe said. Santa sighed again and picked up the remote from the table next to his rocking chair. He pressed the large red button shaped like his hat, and the TV across the room whirred to life.

Santa saw the characteristic split screen of a news interview. On the left sat a man in a suit, behind a desk. On the right stood a reddish little creature, with a microphone in front of him. Santa scowled; it was the Candy Cane Kid, the impish little being with the red and white striped eyes who lived in the Candy Cane Forest, next to the Wintercastle. He was in charge of harvesting candy canes, and he was always causing trouble for Santa and the others.

"Santa is a miserable old Elf," the Kid said. "He hates children, and the only reason he makes his Christmas flight every year is because the job benefits are too good to pass up." Holly gasped, covering her mouth with her long, slender fingers.

"Santa receives job benefits?" the anchorman asked, looking a bit disturbed to be speaking with an imp. "Yes! From the International Association of Childhood Dreams... the same company that employs the Tooth Fairy and the Easter Bunny," the Candy Cane Kid said. "Santa's a big fat fraud... emphasis on the fat."

"That's not very nice," the anchorman said, and Santa cheered quietly to himself.

"Well, it's true," the Candy Cane Kid insisted. "So here's what I suggest. Since Santa doesn't like you kiddies anyway, how about you boycot Christmas? Take a year off, see if you can live without old Pere Noel. Don't go see him at the mall, don't go to your local firehouse's Breakfast with Santy Claus, don't write him letters. He hates his job, so let's do him a favor and put him out of his misery."

Santa turned off the television and looked at Holly, who had a panicked look in her eyes. "Santa, what are we going to do?" she asked, voice cracking.

"I'll tell you what we'll do," Santa said, eyes twinkling. "We'll give them the best Christmas they've ever had. So go tell all the toymakers, I want every toy finished by tomorrow night." Santa grinned. "I want wrapping done by Thursday. I want the sleigh fixed tonight, and I want a plate of cookies and a gallon of milk." Holly nodded, swallowing hard.

"Yes, Mr. Claus," she said. She turned to leave.

"Oh, Holly?" Santa said. The Elf turned around.

"Yes, Mr. Claus?"

"Better make that two gallons of milk. I've got a lot of reading to do," Santa added with a smile.

"Yes, Mr. Claus."

Snowball McJinglebell stood up from his seat by the computer and stretched. He was the head of the Human Division of the Reindeer Games, newly appointed. He'd spent the last two hours checking over lists of Christmas carols, and was more than ready for a break. He needed a cup of hot cocoa, and he needed it fast.

He walked down the hall toward the kitchen, stopping to look in the toy factory as he passed the window. A huge assembly line stretched from one end of the vast room to the other, beginning at the Carving Corner and finally ending at the Wrapping Wroom. Everyone was busy; the mid-December frenzy had taken hold, and they were all working as hard as they could.

Snowball pushed open the door to the kitchen and was met with the overpowering smell of gingerbread. Mrs. Claus was bustling around the kitchen, cooking fifteen different dishes at once. She was in charge of the Christmas feast they held every year to send Santa off on his circumnavigation of the globe; she started cooking in February each year and didn't stop until an hour before the meal.

Now, the gigantic ovens which covered an entire wall of the kitchen were filled with tiny gingerbread men. Mrs. Claus's gingerbread men were legendary; she baked enough each year for every Elf and every creature near the North Pole to have two.

Snowball yawned, worn out from a long day of puzzle checking. Mrs. Claus whirled around, surprised at the sudden noise. "Oh, you poor dear," she said, catching sight of the handsome Elf who stood by the doorway. "You must be exhausted!" Snowball nodded, trying to surpress another yawn. "How are the games coming, dear?" Mrs. Claus asked.

"Very well, thanks," he said. "The people down south are loving them. I get more and more players every day! Which, of course, means more work for me... but I love it!"

Mrs. Claus smiled, stirring a barrel of cranberry sauce on the stove. "Santa is so glad you've put this together, Snowball," she said. "He thinks he might want to do it again next year."

Snowball said, "If we do, I need some help. I can't check those emails all the time. Say, Mrs. C, you wouldn't have time to make me a cup of cocoa, would you? I suppose I could make it myself..."

Mrs. Claus smiled again. She reached into one of the many cupboards around the room and pulled out a still-steaming mug. She handed it to the Elf, directing him to sit at the table to drink.

"Thank you so much," he said, taking a sip. It warmed him right up to the tips of his ears, and filled him with energy.

"Oh, you're welcome, dear!" "How are the gingerbread men coming?" Snowball asked. Mrs. Claus didn't hear him, because she was standing next to a huge teakettle which had decided to whistle "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen" rather loudly in her ear. Snowball asked again, and when she didn't answer, he stood up.

He walked over to one of the ovens, dodging a mouse who was stirring a cauldron of egg nog in the middle of the floor. Snowball stood on his tiptoes and reached up to the handle of the oven, and pulled it open.

Hundreds of tiny golden-brown men leapt out, giggling wildly. Snowball gave a shout and fell backwards, and he was immediately overrun with gingerbread men.

Mrs. Claus turned around and put a hand to her forehead. "Oh, dear," she said. "That's not good... not good at all."

Snowball stood up and shook a gingerbread man out of his hair. The tiny army shook their little fists at him, high-fived each other, and ran from the kitchen shouting, "Run, run, as fast as you can! You can't catch us, we're a mob of gingerbread men!"

"Snowball..." Mrs. Claus said. Snowball looked up at his boss's wife, eyes wide.

"I forgot!" he said. "I'm so sorry... I forgot!"

Mrs. Claus grinned. "Oh, don't worry your little ears about it," she said. "It's not a big deal. We'll just invite the Bumble over for a light snack, shall we?"

Snowball blushed. "I'm sorry, Mrs. Claus." He walked back over to the table and sat down, sipping his hot cocoa silently.

The door to the kitchen burst open, and Holly entered. "Santa wants two gallons of milk and some cookies, and why are there hundreds of little gingerbread men running around the castle?" she panted, out of breath.

Snowball waved at his friend. "My fault," he said. She looked at him in surprise, and then laughed. Then her face grew serious.

"Did you hear about the Candy Cane Kid's TV interview?" she asked. Mrs. Claus shook her head, lips pressed tightly together. "He wants everyone down south to boycott Christmas... says Santa hates children and only does his job because the IACD tells him to."

"What a load of reindeer manure!" Snowball exclaimed loudly. "Santa loves children!"

"Gee, you think?" Holly said. "But anyway, it's ok. He said to tell everyone we're going to give them the best Christmas they've ever had!"

Mrs. Claus handed Holly a plate of cookies and a huge mug of milk, and the little Elf ran out of the room. She darted down the hallway, up a golden spiral staircase, through a large cloud of what seemed to be cotton candy, down a smaller staircase, rode a large toy train, and ran through the double doors marked SC.

"Here's your milk and cookies, Santa," Holly O'Mistletoe said. Santa looked up at her, startled. Then he smiled.

"Set them here, Holly dear," he said. "Do you happen to know why I hear shouts of 'you can't catch us' from downstairs?"

"Snowball peeked," Holly giggled.

Santa gave a big, jolly chuckle. "So now there are little gingerbread men running all over the Wintercastle. Very good, very good," Santa said. "Now, if you'll excuse me..."

"Yes, Mr. Claus," Holly said, ducking back out of the room. She found her friend Tammy Baum outside, and the two walked together back to the workshop, talking about their plans for this Christmas.

Out in the stable, the Elves were switching shifts.

Norman Twinklestar walked out of the stable and waved at the heavily bundled Elf walking in, who waved back. Norman was very tired; Prancer and Vixen had decided they couldn't be in stalls next to one another, and Dancer and Comet had locked horns. Twice.

He was glad to be off, which is why he didn't notice that the Elf entering the stable had red and white striped eyes...

Posted by Marcus Treelight

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