This year, I bring you something a little bit different...12 Holiday Excerpts and Flash Fiction!
Today, I bring you a story by RJ Downes...
Christmas Times, They Are-A-Changing
by RJ Downes
Elf Doyle had been so excited. Forty years in the toy factory and finally this December 25, he was on the sleigh, guiding the reindeer and sitting next to Numero Uno.
It was snowing hard that night. Visibility was low. Taking off from a house, the sleigh runner caught on something. The front of the sleigh lurched downwards, sending Doyle, Santa, the giant bag of presents and the reindeer crashing into one another and careened violently towards the street below. After that, Doyle had only seen darkness.
When he came to, another elf was standing over him, poking him with a large candy cane and asking if he was okay. He was stunned and a bit dizzy, but otherwise intact. Santa, however, had broken his leg in three places and was being rushed to a private facility at the North Pole. Three reindeer had to be retired.
It was decided by Elf Management that all active-duty elves would divide up the gift list and take over deliveries for the evening. It was tight, but they could still make the Christmas deadline.
Doyle was assigned the neighborhood where the accident had happened. His Christmas Eve training had been strictly sleigh driving, but his years in Santa’s employ were many. He knew the basics. A tug of his ear sent him down the chimney, a finger to the side of his nose sent him back up just as quickly.
The first couple of houses were easy. Enter the house, check the list, place presents under the tree, move on to the next. It was the third house where things got weird.
A small girl in pajamas was waiting for him at the foot of the tree.
“You’re not Santa.” She had a surprisingly stern voice for such a young human.
“Santa had to…go back to the north pole to deal with business. He sent us elves out to make sure you all got your presents.” Doyle lied. He just hoped she hadn’t heard the crash just down the road.
“All right then,” the girl said with a smile. “Make with the present.”
Doyle was a bit taken back by the abruptness of her tone, but he set down his bag and consulted his list. There was little time to argue.
He was at 5 Landmark Lane. There were gifts in his bag for two adults, Sheryl and Mike Jenkins…but no mention of anyone else.
“What’s wrong?” she asked.
“You don’t seem to be on the list. What’s your name?”
“Sally Jenkins. I asked Santa for a Robo Pal. The new robot that follows your commands and learns on its own.”
Doyle knew the toy well. It was the most asked for toy that year. Children certainly liked high tech gadgets these days. Not like in the days when he’d started in Santa’s workshop. Doyle knew for a fact he had twenty or thirty in his bag. But none with Sally’s name on it.
“I just want one so much. I waited up to see Santa so I could thank him personally.”
What was Doyle to do? He couldn’t leave this poor girl without a present on Christmas. And there was no time to contact HQ about the mistake.
Doyle panicked silently for a moment and then reached into the bag and brought out a wrapped box. Sally’s eyes lit up.
Doyle smiled. “One Robo Pal, as requested!”
She reached for it. In a split second, without Sally seeing, Doyle removed the tag that bore the name Mary Fischer. He crumpled the tag behind his back. He would deal with that problem later.
“There you go,” he said. “Just an oversight. Merry Christmas, Sally!”
She sat staring at the box. Her eyes were large with excitement.
He placed the presents for Sheryl and Mike under the tree and headed back to the chimney.
“Just don’t open it before Christmas morning.” Doyle smiled. “You should go to bed.”
“I will,” yawned Sally, setting her present under the tree. “I am really tired. You wouldn’t believe how long it took to string up that cable to catch the sleigh.”
Doyle froze and looked back at Sally.
“What did you just say?”
Sally spoke as she walked over to him. Even though she was small for a child, she was technically taller than the elf. “I had to do something. Last year I didn’t get anything. I was on the naughty list. So I spent this year planning and studying. I learned how to get my name removed from all of Santa’s lists and I learned how to rig up a sleigh catching device. When you know the parental password on the computer you can find out all sorts of things.”
“Why would you do all that?” Doyle stammered.
“To get my Robo Pal, silly.” Sally chirped. Then she leaned in close next to Doyle’s ear and whispered. “I get what I want.”
She reached out and touched the side of his nose sending him back up the chimney. She closed the flue behind him, locking him out of the house.
Doyle found himself standing alone on the cold rooftop of the house, holding his bag of presents, now one lighter than it should have been. From where he stood, he had a bird’s eye view of the area where the sleigh had crashed about half a block way. Only now did he notice the child sized boot prints that crisscrossed the snowy roof near where he stood. A chill ran through his small body, which had nothing to do with the weather.