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Santa's Kid Crew

by Scott Kelley 4 months ago in Adventure
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A children's tale of adventure, daring-do, and Christmas

My son and I and Santa on the Polar Express

Santa’s Kid Crew

By Scott Kelley

“Goodbye, Little Guy,” Emily says to a happy puppy as he leaves with his newly adopted family.

Emily found Little Guy abandoned on the doorstep of her parent’s animal shelter. She posted “Found” fliers around the small Alaskan town where she has lived her 10 years of life. No one claimed the puppy. Next, Emily posted “Needs Home” fliers around town. That did the trick! A farmer who lived outside of town took the puppy home. “My grandkids will love Little Guy,” he tells Emily with a gap-toothed smile.

Of course, finding a puppy a home is easy. Wild animals are a different story. They can be downright ornery if they arrive at the shelter, especially if they're injured. Emily thought back to Hoot, a skinny barnyard owl that arrived at the shelter a year earlier with a broken wing. Every day, Emily fed Hoot frozen pinky mice she purchased from the local pet store. In a manner of weeks his skinniness had turned into portliness, and his wing healed and grew strong again. It was a proud moment when Emily opened Hoot’s cage, stood back, and watch him flap his wings and launch into the sky. She even had to fight back a tear when Hoot circled overhead a few times as a sign of thanks before flying away into the mountains. Yes indeed, success stories like that made her work at the family animal shelter worth it. Emily knew she would need all her wild animal nursing skills for the newest addition to the shelter – Big Fella.

“Mom! Dad! I’m checking on Big Fella!” Emily announces. She steps into the cold Alaska air and walks to the stable. There, in a corner room reserved for the occasional horse or pony, stood a reindeer.

“Hungry?” she asks.

Big Fella looks at her with eyes so intelligent that Emily is certain he wants to speak. Instead, he nods yes.

“You sure are lucky,” Emily says, as she fills his trough with oats and watches him eat.

A few weeks before, she had gone outside to shovel snow – an Alaska annoyance if there ever was one – when she saw in amazement a reindeer standing outside the shelter’s backyard fence. His body was covered in burns and cuts. He still had muscle, so his injuries must have just occurred. “Oh no,” she had whispered, approaching the reindeer cautiously. “What happened to you?” She guessed he had probably walked into an electric fence. Farmers sometimes electrified the fences of their hen houses to keep wolves away. Emily had walked to the backyard gate and opened it. Injured animals can be dangerous, but she coaxed him through the gate, across the background, and right up to the stable’s front door with not a problem at all. Even more peculiar, when the cold caused her fingers to fumble with the stable’s latch, the reindeer leaned forward and opened it for her with his black, wet nose. Yes, a very peculiar and intelligent reindeer indeed! She gave him the name Big Fella because, well, he was big! Much bigger than your typical deer. In any case, after Emily told her parents what happened, they gave her permission to nurse him back to health until he could return to the wild. Checking on Big Fella had become a nightly chore but Emily didn’t mind.

“My Christmas present is to make sure you’re strong before you return home,” she now promises, scratching his coarse, fuzzy reindeer ears as he chomps oats. Little does she know wow wonderfully true her words are.

--------------------------

Alex is very smart. He dreams math, thinks science, and reads Greek poetry. His teachers whisper “protégé” when he stands in front of class to recite Shakespeare from memory. Sometimes, Alex gets teased for being too smart. He doesn’t have many friends. When the school bell rings, he runs straight home. Mom works a lot, but Alex is self-sufficient. He makes his own dinner. He cleans house. Then he settles into a chair by the window and reads books that take place in faraway lands. There are no bullies to interrupt his reading.

One day, while his mom sings Christmas songs and gets ready for work, Alex asks, “Mom, when do I get to travel to a faraway land?”

“You know we can’t afford to travel,” she says, wiping her wrinkled brow. “When you’re old enough for college, that’s when you get to travel. Just keep those amazing grades up!”

“No problem,” he replies, leaving the room.

Alex loves his Mom but wishes there was money for just one adventure. He opens his newest library book, about a girl who follows a yellow brick road to a magic kingdom. He falls asleep dreaming about Dorothy, the Tin Man, Scarecrow, and Cowardly Lion. Little does Alex know that his trip to a faraway land is about to begin.

--------------------------

“Clink Clink! Pap Pap! Chik Chik!”

Michael sits behind the counter of Riverside Toy Store, where he works with his Dad. He is busy fixing a robot that was damaged when two customers grabbed it at the same time.

“People sure like you,” Michael tells the robot while gently tapping its leg back into place.

He knows toys better than anyone thanks to many years in the store. He can build, fix, and sell toys like a pro. Suddenly, the store’s door goes, “Ding-aling-aling.” Another customer!

He peaks above the counter and sees a petite, elderly woman walk inside. “Hello, ma’am,” Michael calls out. “May I help you?”

“I’m looking for a gift for my grandson,” she confesses. “He loves trains.”

Michael runs to the back of the store and returns with a battery-powered freight train. “Your grandson will love this,” he says, handing her the train.

“Such a wonderful boy,” she smiles, while handing him some money. “I hope Santa Claus notices.”

Michael nods, then rushes to help another customer who’s just entered the store. Fortunately for Michael, Santa has noticed.

--------------------------

Far to the north and nestled in a snowy valley is a magical city of cottages, cafeterias, stables, and workshops. Rising in the center is a Christmas Tree Building, filled with offices. It’s here, on a large video screen inside a high-tech control room, that Santa Claus and an Operator Elf named Radar watch Michael busy himself about the store.

“How many Riverside Toy Store customers has he helped?” Santa asks.

“1,999,” Radar replies.

Then they watch Michael help a Dad seeking clothes for his daughters.

“Number 2,000,” Santa whistles in admiration. “He’s perfect. Send an Offer Elf.”

“Yes sir.”

“What about Alex, Emily, and the others?” Santa asks.

“Offer Elfs en route!”

“Excellent!” Santa replies, getting out of his chair. “This year’s Crew is our most talented yet!”

He leaves the building and walks across a cobblestone courtyard. “Hi Santa!” Elves shout as they rush to and fro. Santa smiles, but doesn’t stop. He needs to meet Lantern, his most trusted Elf, one final time. There is much to do. Christmas Eve is just days away.

--------------------------

Emily stacks bags of cat food until she hears a commotion outside. All the dogs in her shelter start barking.

“What now?” she wonders, donning her coat and walking outside to investigate. No sooner does step onto crunchy snow when an invisible door suddenly appears right in front of her! Before Emily can squawk in amazement, the door opens and a small, colorfully dressed, very wrinkled Elf with large ears steps out the door.

“Hello, Emily!” the strange Elf says with a bow. “My name's Igloo! Each year, Santa invites children to the North Pole, to help out on Christmas Eve. Will you join this year’s Santa’s Kid Crew?”

“Why me?” Emily asks in amazement.

“We need help with our reindeer this year. If the answer is ‘yes,’ please ask your parents for permission.”

Work with Santa’s reindeer! Does a duck tread water! Emily rushes inside. “Mom! Dad! Can I help Santa at the North Pole!”

Her parents exchange glances. “Of course, dear,” Mom consents. “Have fun.”

While Emily gets ready, Igloo uses Elf magic to put her parents to sleep. Then he rushes through the shelter to unplug appliances, set the temperature to a cozy mark, and places a note on the front door that reads, “Closed.” Then he and Emily walk outside and toward the door.

"Where does the door lead?" she asks. On either side of the frame is the animal shelter backyard.

"With a mirthy grin, Igloo opens the door and that same wash of warm air pours out. "Santa Airlines!" Igloo proclaims. Emily steps inside and does indeed find herself inside an airplane cabin - one that is filled with excited children. The mood is festive thanks to blinking holiday lights and holiday music. Igloo shows Emily to her seat and hands her a cup of hot cocoa. She feels a gentle shoulder tap, and looks back at a smiling boy.

“My name is Michael. What’s yours?”

“Emily.”

“Nice to meet you,” he responds, handing her a business card for Riverside Toy Store.

Emily turns to an excited boy across the aisle. “What’s your name?”

“Alex!” he smiles. “What an adventure!”

All the children nod their heads. Just then, the music stops, and Igloo calls for their attention. Silence fills the cabin.

“Welcome, most honored members of Santa’s Kid Club! We’ll be meeting Santa Claus soon. He chose you because you possess skills and talents that are needed on Christmas Eve. Your work will be exciting. When you return home tomorrow, you’ll do so with new friends, wonderful memories, and lots of presents!”

Applause fills the cabin. As the plane begins its final descent, faces press against windows. Greeting them is a courtyard filled with cheering Elves, and a fireworks display that illuminates the night sky.

“Thank you for flying Santa Airlines,” Igloo announces, as children unbuckle their seatbelts and rush outside.

They are overwhelmed by celebratory sights and sounds. A sea of waving Elves. A large Christmas Tree Building at the far side of the courtyard. Christmas decorations everywhere. But, something is missing.

“Where’s Santa?” Michael shouts over the din.

“He must be somewhere,” Emily cries out.

“There he is!” Alex exclaims.

They Santa emerging from the crowd. He’s wearing his familiar red and white suit, shiny black boots, and belt. His beard frames ruddy cheeks and a warm smile.

“Gather ‘round, children!” Santa calls.

Why, you never saw legs run so fast! The children almost knock Santa over in their rush to hug him. The Elves cheer and laugh.

Santa motions for calm. Then he shakes hands with each child, thanks them for coming, and asks how they are doing. Satisfied, Santa suddenly raises his arms, looks into the sky, and shouts, “Ho Ho Ho! Merry Christmas!”

Cheers rock the courtyard. Christmas Eve has begun!

Alex is astonished that he’s at the North Pole. Talk about exotic places!

He and the others follow Santa to the Christmas Tree Building, where Mrs. Claus awaits. “Please, come inside,” she beckons.

They enter and pass down a hallway lined with window. Alex pauses to look, and sees a room filled with computers, video screens, and operator Elves. The Elf nearest him has a nametag that reads: RADAR.

“Do you like my control room?” a voice asks.

Alex turns and sees Santa smiling at him. “It’s very high-tech. Is that where you see who’s naughty or nice?”

“Yes, it is,” Santa admits. “It’s where I learned you were a brilliant boy who longed for adventure.”

“Sometimes, I wish I wasn’t brilliant,” Alex confesses.

“Everyone has gifts,” Santa explains, leading him down the hall. “Never turn away from your gifts. They’ll take you far.”

They enter a richly-decorated room. The centerpiece is a large, wood table covered with delicious food.

“Eat up!” Mrs. Clause orders in a grandmotherly voice. “You’ll need the energy.”

Dinner table sounds fill the room. While everyone eats, Santa addresses the room. “Thank you for spending Christmas Eve in my service,” he says. “I know you have many questions, so...”

Hands go up. Santa points at Emily. “Lady’s first. What’s your question, child?”

“Why the North Pole?” Emily asks.

“Privacy,” Santa replies. “Although, technically we’re in Greenland. The true North Pole is floating ice, and not practical for a city.”

Michael asks, “How do you give gifts to all children in one night?”

“I’m a Saint, blessed by God.”

Emily asks, “How did you meet Mrs. Claus?”

“I was in Norway, giving a sermon on God’s love for humanity,” Santa says, smiling at Mrs. Claus. “She winked at me from the front row.” Everyone laughs.

“I must leave and get ready,” Santa concludes. “Lantern will announce assignments.”

A tall, balding Elf steps forward. “Michael,” Lantern says, “Inspect toys and reject any that don’t meet your standards. Alex, follow Santa upstairs and brief him on the world’s children. Emily, Santa’s reindeer are sad, so please cheer them up.”

Emily wants to ask why they’re sad, but Lantern has already moved on to the next assignment. Emily enters a large, wood building, and is guided by an Elf to where Santa’s reindeer are being outfitted for their trip.

“Hello, Master Emily,” a reindeer says. “My name is Donner.”

“I’m here to help,” Emily replies. “But first, I need to know why you’re sad?”

Donner sniffs back tears. “Rudolf is missing. He went on a scouting mission, and never returned.”

“Oh no,” Emily whispers. “I’m sorry to hear that.”

She steps forward and gives Donner a great big hug. Slowly, his sobs subside. Emily knows the other reindeer need cheering up, so she gives Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen, Comet, Cupid, and Blitzen loving hugs.

“Thank you,” Blitzen, the final reindeer, says.

Kaylie picks up a brush and goes down the line, brushing each reindeer’s coat. While doing so, she thinks about Big Fella. Maybe he could live at the North Pole? She decides to ask Santa tomorrow, when he returns from his gift giving.

Everyone is so busy that they don’t notice a strong wind blowing outside, from a powerful storm approaching from the south.

--------------------------

Michael is working hard in Santa’s Workshop. Each time he approves a toy, cranes lift millions of that brand into Santa’s Sleigh. The storm outside is worse. Snow swirls. Wind howls. When Lantern orders all workshop doors and windows closed, however, everyone resumes their work. Soon, Michael has approved toy boats, cars, dolls, games, puzzles, sleds, trains, and trucks for distribution. Only one toy is rejected, an air rifle that looks too real. The rifles are pulled from circulation and the efficient loading of toys continues.

“Just a few more hours!” an Elf says, pointing at a clock on the wall.

Unfortunately, with the workshop doors and windows shut, no one sees what’s happening outside. Silent figures, dressed in gray and armed with snowball guns, are entering the city. They scale the outer walls, emerge from the underground sewer system, and rappel from hovering helicopters. They are called Urchins, and the storm hides their movements. Their leader is a powerful wizard, named Grouch, who has trained them on how to destroy Christmas. Their H-Hour is now.

--------------------------

“I’ve never seen Santa’s Control Room so busy!” Radar groans. “First, it’s Christmas Eve, then this storm hits, and now reports of strange tidings?”

Radar finishes a report from Chef Elf at Santa’s Kitchen, who complains about missing sewer covers causing a frightful smell. Then, a new call from an Elf who reports strange figures surrounding the Christmas Tree Building.

Radar watches the storm on his computer’s weather map. Then, he notices a cluster of dots approaching the building.

“Sir!” Radar exclaims.

Lantern walks over. “Yes? What is it?”

“Look at those dots! Aircraft?”

“I’ll tell Santa,” Lantern replies. He picks up a phone, but the line is dead.

“The elevator?” Radar suggests.

Lantern nods, and enters the elevator. The moment he leaves, the Control Room door explodes. Radar dives to the floor, and watches as a dozen Urchins with mean, nasty faces run inside, shouting orders and grabbing Elves. Spotting an air vent, Radar crawls inside, and narrowly escapes into the building’s ventilation system. His buddies have been captured!

--------------------------

“Children love hand-held electronic devices?” Santa asks. He sits in his office in different part of the North Pole. It's quiet where he sits, but not for long.

“The kids at my school all want them,” Alex says, hiding the fact that he can’t afford one.

Santa tells a Secretary Elf, “Expand Elf Electronic Manufacturing next year.”

Suddenly, a muffled boom shakes the building and stops the conversation. Alex is worried, but Santa seems calm, especially when the elevator doors open and Lantern appears.

“Lantern!” Santa says in a jolly voice. “What on Earth was that noise?”

“Sir, you need to see something,” Lantern replies, grabbing Santa’s hand and leading him onto a balcony.

Alex stands to watch. Suddenly, shadowy figures land on the balcony, place a hood over Santa’s head, and push him to the floor.

“Urchins!” Secretary Elf cries. “We’re under attack!”

Alex dives to the floor. He watches Urchins flood the room, while Lantern stands to the side, laughing. Alex is good at escaping bad guys. Spotting a nearby air vent, he stays low and quickly crawls inside. Before escaping into the building’s ventilation system, he hears a voice hiss at Santa, “Christmas is mine!”

--------------------------

Santa sits in a chair, still hooded. Pacing in front of him is Grouch, flush with victory.

“How long I’ve waited for this moment!” Grouch exclaims. “Santa arrested. His Elves defenseless. His reindeer scattered. His Kid Crew is hiding!”

“Why?” Santa asks in a muffled voice.

“Greed,” Grouch admits, removing Santa’s hood. “Your sleigh toys are worth billions! Your toy making machines are worth more!”

“Those toys belong to good boys and girls,” Santa reminds him.

“I’m not keeping them,” Grouch smirks. “I’ll sell toys to anyone who can afford my 300% mark up!”

“What happened, brother?” Santa asks, shaking his head.

“Jealousy,” Grouch growls. “Your star rose too fast.”

Grouch orders his Urchins to take Santa away. When they’re gone, he turns on an intercom system and speaks, in a mean voice, to the North Pole:

“Attention! This is Grouch, and Santa is my prisoner! I’m the boss. From now on, we’re selling toys, and using the money to build a glorious and powerful North Pole. Join me or enjoy this reward! Oppose me, and face arrest!”

His words tremble across a silent, still landscape. Grouch finishes his speech and laughs. “Capturing Santa was easy. No perimeter defenses. No bodyguard. He’s gone soft.”

“That’s why I’m helping you,” Lantern replies. “Santa is stuck in his ways.”

“You’ll be paid well,” Grouch replies.

He orders Urchins to secure the building, and sends Lantern outside to turn the courtyard into a runway.

Left alone, Grouch settles into Santa’s chair. He remembers when he idolized his older brother. When Nick spoke about God, Grouch believed him. When Nick became Saint Nicholas, and traveled north to spread the word, Grouch joined him. Grouch grew jealous of his brother’s fame and stole toys to gain attention. Instead, Santa banished him from the North Pole.

Grouch snorts in anger, then goes outside to watch the courtyard clearing. “Soon, my cargo planes will land,” he grumbles. “I’ll take Elves, toys, and equipment, and then abandon this dreadfully cold place.”

Grouch isn’t staying. He prefers to run his toy empire from a tropical island. As for Santa and his Elves? A century in prison will teach him a lesson! Grouch’s mean-spirited laugh fills the room.

--------------------------

Michael tries to protect Santa’s Sleigh, but Urchins shoot icy snowballs that force him to flee, with other Elves, to a nearby warehouse filled with rejected toys. Seeing Igloo in the chaos, Michael asks, “Who are those guys?

“Naughty Elves,” Igloo explains. “We heard rumors they were up to no good, but didn’t expect an attack on Christmas Eve!”

Then they listen to Grouch’s broadcast, which upsets everyone.

“What now?” Elves cry out.

“We need intelligence,” Michael explains. “Igloo, go outside and see what’s happening.”

When Igloo returns, he reports, “Grouch and Santa are in the top floor of the Christmas Tree Building. Urchins are moving toys and equipment to the courtyard, which is being cleared of snow. Lantern is helping them.”

“They’re abandoning the North Pole,” Michael realizes. “We need to stop them.”

Michael asks Igloo to return to the courtyard and spy on the Urchins. After he leaves, worried Elves ask how they are going to stop Grouch.

“There’s only one way,” Michael replies. “We have to rescue Santa!”

--------------------------

Emily sits by a campfire in a forest outside the North Pole. She is a refugee from the Urchin attack, along with Santa’s reindeer and many Elves from the city.

“What happened back there?” Emily asks Cupid, who sits nearby, licking his wounds.

“Urchins,” he grimaces, explaining the entire story.

“Christmas is doomed if we don’t do something,” she concludes ruefully.

“What can we do?” an Elf in the crowd squeaks. “We’re toy makers, not fighters.”

“I wish Rudolf was here,” another moans. “He’s saved many a Christmas. He would know what to do.”

This catches Emily’s attention. “What does Rudolf look like?” she asks.

As the Elf describes Rudolf, Emily can barely contain her excitement. Finally, she blurts out, “I know where he is!”

She describes Big Fella, and this causes Elves to cheer and reindeer to stomp their hooves.

“Climb on board!” Cupid says, his wounds forgotten in a rush of excitement. “Lead the way.”

He and Emily soar into the night sky on a mission to fetch Rudolf. At the same time, Elves and reindeer discuss rescuing Santa. The shock of the Urchin attack has worn off. Saving Christmas is on everyone’s minds.

--------------------------

Alex crawls through a dark ventilation shaft and collides with someone. He starts kicking what he thinks is a Urchin, until, “Master Alex! Stop! It’s Radar!” stops him mid-kick.

“From Santa’s Control Room?” Alex asks.

“Yes!” Radar grins, rubbing his head. “Santa chose you for you soccer skills, not your smarts!”

They laugh, until they hear Urchin voices.

“Let’s get out of here,” Radar suggests.

Crawling some more, they eventually find an empty office. Settling under a desk, they trade escape stories. Finally, Alex suggests they contact the outside.

“Phones are dead,” Radar replies.

“We can signal,” Alex says, pointing at an unlit candle on the desk. “I know Morse Code.”

Radar is glad Alex is smart! They look outside and see Urchins in the courtyard. Scanning the surrounding buildings, they spot an Elf on a rooftop. Alex lights the candle and signals: “ITS RADAR AND ALEX. WE AVOIDED CAPTURE. ADVISE NEXT STEPS.”

Fortunately, the Elf on the rooftop is Igloo, who knows Morse Code from his Santa Airlines job.

Igloo rushes back to Michael, then returns to the roof with a flashlight. He signals back: “DISTRACT GROUCH. CAUSE PROBLEMS INSIDE BUILDING.”

--------------------------

“Find them!” Grouch shouts.

“We’re trying,” AN Urchin commander replies. “They disappear before we arrive.”

“My planes are en route!” Grouch says, shaking with anger. “The last thing I need are two troublemakers…” They hear crashing sounds. Rushing to the window, Grouch sees broken furniture littering the courtyard and blocking the runway.

Several stories down, Radar pushes a chair out the window, before escaping back into the building’s ventilation system. In another office, Alex sets off the fire sprinkler system with his candle. He smiles knowing that Grouch is getting wet. Radar and Alex do a great job distracting Grouch and the Urchins while Emily and Michael organize their rescue operations.

Indeed, Grouch has so many problems that he doesn’t see the biggest one of all. Santa is winning his Urchins guards over to his side.

“I was wrong to expel you,” Santa tells them. “Will you forgive me?”

The Urchins nod their heads. They love Santa. They don’t like tropical islands. They want to come home. Santa hugs each Urchin, then says, “Let’s end this.”

Michael leads Elves carrying air rifles and fireworks to the courtyard. They arrive to find chaos. Water seeps from the Christmas Tree Building. Furniture litters the courtyard. They hear Grouch yelling and see Urchins running in all directions.

“Load!” Michael orders. Every Elf loads a firework. “Aim!” Air rifles point at the building. “Fire!”

With a dramatic, “WOOOSH”, fireworks fly over the courtyard and burst against the building in a rainbow of “POP POP POP” explosions. Smoke fills the courtyard.

At the same time, the reindeer fly toward the building. Clutching tightly to their backs are Emily and dozens of determined Elves. Rudolf’s glowing red nose guides them through the smoke.

Igloo sees their approach. “They’re here!” he shouts.

Michael nods his head, then yells, “Prepare to charge!”

Before they can rush the building, the familiar, grandfatherly voice of Santa comes on the intercom. “Cease fire, North Pole! Cease Fire!” reverberates across the cold night.

The command cuts through the noise of battle like a knife through Christmas pie. Silence settles over the courtyard like nap time at an elementary school. When the smoke finally clears, everyone is amazed to see Santa Claus, waving from the balcony, alongside smiling Urchins. Confused, Michael and his rescue force pause in the courtyard. Emily and her rescue force hover just beyond the balcony. All eyes are on Santa.

“Expelling Grouch without hearing his grievances was wrong,” an emotional Santa begins. “I divided our North Pole family. I am sorry.”

Urchins applaud.

“I knew Grouch was planning an attack,” Santa continues. “I asked Lantern to switch sides, and Rudolf to get shot down, to encourage this attack.”

Surprised gasps fill the air.

“Why did I do this?” Santa replies. “A family fight is like a gentle knock on the door of a lonely person. It can open the door to forgiveness.”

Elves and Urchins nod their heads. They know that a North Pole divided cannot stand. Despite a few bruises, it did feel good to release a century’s worth of tension.

“The key to all of this was my Kid’s Crew,” Santa continued, smiling at Emily and winking. “Removing myself, Lantern, and Rudolf from the scene left the North Pole leaderless. I chose Alex, Emily, Michael, and the others for their ability to inspire a rescue operation.”

Elves, Reindeer, and Urchins cheer.

“What happens now?” Igloo asks.

“Christmas!” Santa shouts back.

Working as a team, Elves and Urchins refill Santa’s Sleigh, clear the courtyard of debris, and reboot the Control Room. In record time, everything is prepared for Santa’s historic flight.

It’s a happy moment for everyone when Santa steps into his sleigh. Well, almost everyone. Grouch watches the scene under heavy guard. He is tied up and angry that his plan for control of Christmas is over.

After Santa and his reindeer fly away, the drama of the previous 24 hours quickly catches up to everyone. Soon, the North Pole is filled with snoring Elves, Urchins, and Santa’s Kid Crew members. Even an exhausted Grouch falls asleep. Only Radar and Lantern remain awake. They monitor Santa’s progress as he delivers presents, and greet his return just as the Sun rises above the surrounding glacial mountains.

“Merry Christmas,” Santa tells them.

“An amazing Present Delivery Rate,” Lantern replies. “30 million kids per hour! That’s a 5% increase from last year.”

“We pushed ourselves,” Santa acknowledges. “However, there is one more trip to make. We’re taking Santa’s Kid Crew home this year.”

And so it was done.

--------------------------

When Emily awakens, she finds a beautifully decorated note next to a stack of presents.

The note reads: “Dear Emily, thank you for taking care of me. Your generosity inspired me to adopt every animal in your shelter. Please visit next Christmas Eve. In the meantime, check out the shelter. Love, Rudolf / Big Guy.”

Emily rushes to the shelter, and finds it stocked with new blankets, food, and medicine.

Inside every cage and pen are, “thank you” notes from the animals she had taken care of for so long. Emily is so happy. She has received the best present she could have ever wished for – homes for her animals.

When Michael awakens, he finds a festively decorated note next to a box of tools.

The note is covered in dusty. Michael shakes the dust off, then reads: “Dear Michael, to honor your heroics at the North Pole, I have renamed my workshop after you. Please visit us next year to inspect our operations. In the meantime, enjoy your workshop. Love, Santa.”

Michael rushes outside. He finds his Dad staring at a large, newly-built, state-of-the-art workshop that occupies half of their yard.

“I must have been really tired to have slept through this!” his Dad says with a yawn. “Where did it come from?”

Michael laughs, and says, “Dad, have I got a story for you!”

When Alex awakens, he looks at his bedside table and sees a stack of roundtrip airline tickets for he and his Mom. The destinations span the Globe: Athens, Beijing, Berlin, Cairo, Hawaii, Hollywood, Jerusalem, London, New York, Paris, Rome, and Sydney, among other. Alex looks around his room, and sees that it’s filled with travel books, backpacks, new clothes, and adventure accessories. Then he picks up a note, that reads: “Dear Alex, you displayed a remarkable talent for having adventures. I hope you enjoy going on adventures this year with your Mom. Take care of her. I’ll see you next year. Love, Santa.”

Alex hears his Mom jumping up and down, and clapping her hands in excitement. He rushes into the living room, and nearly trips over a present. He’s amazed to see presents filling every nook and cranny in the apartment.

“Merry Christmas, Mom!” Alex says.

Her reply is a powerful, loving, Mommy hug.

It’s the week after Christmas, and Santa is pleased that most of the North Pole damage has been repaired. He watches several Urchins run past. “Hi Santa!” they squeak.

“Ho Ho Ho!” Santa merrily replies.

The Urchins’ have made remarkable progress. They’re being nice and respectful. Their hard faces are softening, and soon they’ll look like Elves again. Most have already traded in their brown tunics for the standard green and red tunics of their Elvin brothers and sisters.

“Speaking of brothers, I should check on mine,” Santa realizes. He enters a spacious workshop and walks past a long line of Elves and reindeer that snakes to the far end of the room. At the front of the line and tied to a chair sits a very grumpy Grouch.

“How are you doing?” Santa asks him.

“Go away!” Grouch snaps.

Santa is sad, but he knows Grouch’s progress will take time. Nodding at the next Elf in line, Santa says, “Proceed.”

The Elf tells Grouch, “I love you.”

Then Donner trots forward. “I forgive you,” he says.

An Elf is next, and says, “Peace be upon you.”

Santa has ordered that Grouch hear nice words like this for as long as it takes. It might take weeks or even years, but eventually the anger inside will go away and Grouch will need a new name. Perhaps Jolly? Or Helpful? As Santa walks away, the cheerful voices of elves and reindeer – interrupted by the occasional grumble from Grouch – fills his ears like Christmas music.

Adventure

About the author

Scott Kelley

My life has been non-stop adventure and drama .... with many ups and downs during my journey that spice things up. I try and convey all of these experiences in my writing. Not sure if I do a good job, but it's fun to try!

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