A Short Story with Richard Bleil
“WHO DID THIS?”
Santa didn’t usually get upset, but sometimes it’s warranted, like when somebody paints “SANTA RULES” on the sleigh, and so close to Christmas. Now the slay will need to be sanded down, repainted, the paint set, and new pin stripes applied. The way elves work, it might take an entire second or even two if they detail it, but that’s not really the point. Vandalism is just wrong.
Of course, Santa never really yells, but you can tell by his tone when he’s disappointed, and the one thing you never want is for Santa to be disappointed in you. Millions upon millions of children around the world work very hard to be sure Santa is not disappointed in them. Elves try even harder.
Mrs. Claus, on the other hand, held back a smile when she saw the sled. “Oh, Martha, what am I to do?” Santa asks her not realizing that she’s really not upset at all.
“I have faith in you, Kris,” Mrs. Claus says. “You’ll figure it out.”
The rash, if you can call it that, of vandalism seems to be on the rise. Of course, the rash is now up to three incidents since it began a month ago. It started with someone decorating the North Pole Northernmost Pole which is a real pole with tinsel, which is probably the most damaging act since it ended up getting blown around and clogging up the Mint Aroma Air Distributor. It smelled like plain air for three whole days, and the lack of the smell of mint caused a strain on the mint candy distribution center. Then somebody dyed the reindeer red and green as they slept, very festive, but hardly appropriate for reindeer. Comet was livid, especially since the red was so hard to get out that all it did was fade, inspiring the elves started calling him “Pink” and almost causing a copyright infringement lawsuit from a wonderful American pop star who dropped the suit because she’s just that cool.
“Get me Cedric, the detective” Santa said to the head elf.
As far as detectives go, Cedric was not very good. The reality is that there just aren’t many things to investigate in the North Pole, because nobody ever wants to do anything bad. Mostly, Cedric investigates things like who ate the cookie, and it’s almost always a walrus.
Meeting with Santa, Cedric puts the pipe to his mouth as they consult and casually blows out a few bubbles. “It seems to me, Santa, that we are talking about a gang of roving and disgruntled elves. Have you received any expired milk lately?”
“Ho, ho, no,” Santa says. “If it was a gang, wouldn’t there be some indication of it?”
“Good point,” Cedric says. “So, YOU did it!”
“Ho, ho, no, Cedric, I didn’t.”
“Hmmm…so if you didn’t do it, and we’re not talking organized elves, then perhaps we are talking about one single elf. Wait, did I do it???”
“Ho, ho, you’re off the case, Cedric,” Santa says.
Mrs. Claus, on the other hand, had a plan. She had the elves build a bridge, passing over the workshop to provide safe passage for animals who were moving from one side to the other, but she made sure they didn’t have enough time to paint it. Surely, a bridge as glorious as this would be a prime target for the kind of vandalism they’ve been seeing. She stayed up, watching the bridge through the window, by the fire drinking hot chocolate through the night as Santa slept.
She found it difficult to keep her eyes open, it was getting to be so late, but, surely, what’s that dark figure scurrying up the bridge? She watched, carefully, as the words appeared, one letter at a time…S…A…N…T…A…R…O…C…K…S. As the vandal made it back to the rope, he was surprised to find Mrs. Claus waiting for him at the bottom of the rope.
“Go ahead dear,” Mrs. Claus encouraged as Santa sat looking very disappointed at the little elf.
“I…I’m sorry, Santa,” Milford stuttered. “I didn’t mean any harm”
Milford is one of the youngest elves, not that elves have many children. Living for several hundred years, the elves only have children every fifty years or so, and always in batches. Milford is one of the elves from the most recent batch, and will be among these “rookies” until the next batch about seventeen years from now. In human years, he’s certainly old enough to know better, but he’s barely a schoolboy by Elf standards, too young to even have a job assignment yet.
“Well?” Santa says sternly, “Explain yourself, if you can!”
Milford hangs his head in shame, and seems to be holding back a tear. “I…I don’t know,” he almost whispers.
“You don’t know?” Santa asks gruffly. “You don’t know what?”
“Oh, dad,” Mrs. Claus interjects, “he’s just a boy.”
“And what does that mean?” Santa asks harshly.
“He’s still growing, Santa. Children often don’t know why they do the things they do, and often don’t think about the consequences. But look at what he did. He tried to make the pole more festive and wrote endearing comments about you. If you take a moment to put yourself in his shoes, I’m sure you’ll see that he meant no ill will and was trying to make you happy.”
Santa sat back. He thought about what the boy had done and thought about why he might have done these things. “Is this true, Milford? Were you trying to get me to notice you?”
Milford nods shyly.
“You’ll have to make up for it,” Santa says. “I’m going to give you work to pay off the cost of cleaning up the damage you caused. Agreed?”
“Oh, Kris,” Mrs. Claus says.
Milford just nods.
This is why today, if you see cheerful posts online, or seasonal advertisements spreading joy, you can just smile and know the Milford is on the job!