The Real Santa
A short story by Regina-Holm Stockley
This morning, it was finally time. My little helpers had wrapped all the presents and packed them in my large sacks. The reindeers stood impatiently and proud in front of the sleigh. I had dressed myself in the warm red overcoat which was lined with white fur. I even had my warm hat on, extra long, red, fur lined with a white ball fitted at the end. For extra safety, I had fitted my customary hat over a fireman’s helmet and attached a light so it would be easier to read the children’s long list of wishes, not to forget my heavy safety boots.
Before setting off, I checked my list to see who had been naughty and who had been nice. I normally tried to commit this to memory but the last few years my memory seemed to be less reliable. My wife suggested that I save the list on a Tab or an iPad. Whatever the world was that? I mean, I saw these things on the wish lists all the time and wrapped up in shiny paper but if one should happen to land at my feet, I would have no clue as to what it was or how to use the thing. I really should get a bit more up to date with technology but I am a bit of a technofobe, if I have to be honest.
I climbed into my shiny red sleigh, which, I am proud to admit, was upgraded last year. It now has a row of multicoloured LED lights running along the edge of the sleigh. I sat down comfortably and set off with the customary crack of my whip and a loud “HO HO HO,” ready for the best day of the year. It is hard work to be sure, but well worth it when you see how happy the kids are.
Realizing that I was running late, I cracked the whip another few times to speed up my trusty reindeers. That was when I got the best idea of all… I knew exactly how I would get all the presents delivered on time. I pulled the reins tightly and changed the course. Descending rather a bit too fast, I pulled up in front of the fire brigade, spraying snow all over the garage door. I jumped out quickly and pulled the garage door open. I had the brilliant idea of delivering the presents with the fire engine, blue lights and siren going. This way I was certain that I could catch up on the lost time and get all the presents out in time. Unfortunately, I had not expected to meet a very uncooperative fire chief, who insisted that right should be right and that I must comply with all rules and regulations.
The fire chief loudly informed me that my sleigh was parked illegally and that it must be moved immediately. Additionally, I was told that the all the LED lights on my sleigh were not regulation and that the thread pattern was way too low. With my patience already frayed, I tried to explain that the thread problem was immaterial as it was a sleigh and they do not have wheels but runners which are made of iron. I begged him to at least let me off on this one day as I was Santa Claus and I needed to deliver my presents quite urgently.
Believe it or not, I had to listen to him going on about how immaterial it was who I was, I still had to comply with the rules.
“And as for Santas,” the fire chief said, “this year there are way too many Santas around.”
A bit low in spirits, I started walking down the road. It was icy and slippery, obviously the gritters were elsewhere, most likely locked up in a garage and their drivers at home, warm and cozy. I looked up as I passed a notice board in the village. One of the notices caught my eye: Santa Costume for Rent. I just shook my head and walked on. A man came walking down the street and when he walked past me, he slapped me friendly on the shoulder.
“Hello my friend, are you from the ‘Rent-a-Santa Service’ too?” he said with a big grin. “By the way, you need to get a proper job. Playing Santa is not a proper job, only working in the winter, although, I wouldn’t mind spending the summer sitting on a beach under a palm tree, but mate, this job really will not make enough money for you to do that.”
He started walking down the street laughing. “By the way, great costume and mask. It is really impressive how life-like it looks.”
I walked on, deeply concentrated on not slipping on the ice when I saw a Beach Buggy racing down the street with a man dressed in a blue Christmas costume. He skidded to a halt right next to me.
“Well, I am Santa Claus,” I mumbled.
“Me too.” He laughed.
“What?” I said in amazement. “Do you honestly expect parents to be happy with you, a stranger, giving their kids presents?”
The fake Santa just laughed and said “I have been to several houses, rung the bell and either none are at home or they have laughed till I left. Now, enough is enough, I am going home.”
And with that he sped down the road. I was shocked! But this was not the end of what was turning out to be a very strange evening. The blue fake Santa had not left my sight before I saw two more Santas. They were holding each other’s shoulders, walking, or rather staggering, down the road. I could smell the alcohol on them from a distance. When they passed me, both of my feet skidded on the ice. My legs flew into the air in different directions and I landed right on my tailbone. When I put out a hand, trying to get up, my hand slipped and I banged my head on the road. Wow, was I happy that I was wearing a helmet under my Santa’s hat.
The two youths staggered over to help me up. They reached out a hand each, but both were so drunk that they stumbled and landed right on top of me. Giggling and laughing, they slipped around on the icy road and finally got to their feet.
“Hey, always happy and smiling, just like we have learnt in the Santa school,” one of them said.
“You will not get any work looking so grumpy,” the other one said laughing and pulling a bottle of vodka out from under his coat. “Cheers Santa, have a drink, it will steady your legs!”
I slowly got up again and walked on with my sack on my back. I finally got to the first house. Nobody home. The second house, the same. At the third house, the door was slammed in my face after someone said:
“Piss off, no more Santas tonight.”
What a night! I walked on up the path to the fourth house, rang the bell and waited. I was certain that there were people here. I could hear the music playing loudly. I rang the bell a second time and put my best smile on while I waited for the door to be opened. Right I was, for not long after, the door was opened by a rosy-cheeked young lady.
She grabbed my coat and shouted, “Girls, the Santa stripper is here.”
I got so scared that I turned around and ran straight down the stairs, sliding out through the gate and completely forgetting my sack of presents which I had put down by the door. There was no way I was going back up there. I recalled having seen a guitar factory a bit further down the street. The light had been on earlier. Maybe they would help a Santa in distress? I walked down the street, yes, the lights were still on. I could not believe my luck. I knocked on the door and was let inside. It seemed the whole staff was gathered.
One of them shouted, “Woohoo, Santa is here with more presents for our Tombola.”
Another said “About time, I already called the Rent-a-Santa Service and complained about your colleagues, they promised to send a replacement.”
“You are late!”
I tried to explain that I was the real thing but without my sleigh and presents no one believed me.
“Go pull the names out of the hat,” what I took to be the Boss commanded. “Get on with it, we do not have all day.” He huffed. “Never mind, I will do it myself.”
“But I am The Real Santa,” I tried again.
However, by now no one was listening so I decided to leave. I turned around walked around the back of the people and slipped quietly out of the door. I walked across the street. I had no more presents so I thought I might as well just make my way home.
Crossing the street to my sleigh, deep in thought, I did not see the small boy in his pajamas and slippers waiting right next to my sleigh. I climbed up and sat on the seat. I reached out, took the reins in one hand and cracked the whip with the other.
“Giddy up, lazy reindeers!” I shouted but they did not move at all.
As I looked out over the side of the sleigh it quickly became clear that the hooves of my reindeers had been clamped!
“Now that is it, I have had enough,” I mumbled.
Just then, I heard the quiet shy voice of the child. “Hello Santa, why are you so sad?” he asked.
I told him that I had lost all the presents and he just smiled and handed me a Christmas cookie.
“It does not matter, Santa,” he said and climbed up to sit on my lap. “Please will you take me home? I am tired.”
I lifted him up and walked to his house. His mother opened the door.
“Hello Santa,” she said. “Come in and have a drink with us.” She hugged me.”Thank you for bringing Junior home,” she said. “Tough day?”
“You have no idea,” I answered.
“Come,” she said. “There is something I want to show you.”
She lifted her son up and took my hand, led me to the pitch-black fire station, through the door and into the training room. Suddenly the light went on. In front of me was the whole fire brigade with all my presents.
“Come on Santa, we are late,” somebody roared.
“What is going on?” I asked.
“Well,” the fire chief said. “We really thought you were another fake Santa. We have no end of fake Santas and enough is enough. The whole neighbourhood has been warned not to let any fake Santas into their houses, but then we saw how much bad luck you had and when you ran away from that hen party, we knew you were the real thing, so we called in all the firefighters to help you deliver the presents in time.
“Come on Santa, we need to hurry. Off to the fire engine so we can get these presents out.”
I was the happiest Santa in the world. My wish came through tonight. I got to ride in the fire engine.
“HO, HO, HO,” I shouted happily as the fire engine pulled out from the fire station with the blue lights and the siren on!
Other posts by Regina Holm-Stockley can be found by using the handy-dandy Search This Blog function in the right-hand margin or by clicking on the Regina-Holm Stockley label