I strain my ears in the darkness, hoping to hear the jingles and clops of reindeer landing on the roof. It’s one in the morning on Christmas day and Santa Claus has not visited my house yet. I’m beginning to get nervous.
I’m not worried about Santa’s well-being, in case anyone’s wondering. No, I’m nervous because if he doesn’t show, all my preparing and scheming will have been in vain.
I snuggle deeper into my sleeping bag, gazing at the tree through half-closed eyelids. The lights wink at me from between the branches. Rotating slowly, glittery ornaments throw bits of colored radiance around the living room. Humming a carol to myself, I resolve to stay awake until Santa arrives. My plan won’t work unless I am ready to move when he gets here.
On Christmas Eve, before camping out in front of the tree, I left some nasty gifts for Santa around the house. Several drops of sleeping potion lurk in the milk set out for him, powerful enough to make a man drowsy in less than a minute. Jacks are scattered across the carpet, their sharp tips yearning for an unsuspecting foot. And, finally, a snare attached to the rafters. Step in it, and you’ll be jerked off the ground, dangling upside down from the ceiling.
Listen, I’m a good kid. Look on the Nice List and you’ll find my name, Elise Larkin, right at the top. That’s how it’s been in the past, anyway. But I’m afraid that I might have become naughty this year, thanks to a haywire science experiment that ended up killing several butterflies in cold blood. There’s no way I’ll be getting presents this Christmas after committing such a serious offense.
So I’ve decided to take matters into my own hands.
After staring absently at the star topper for what must have been hours, something upsets the gentle stillness of the night. The pitter-patter of tiny objects falling, the sound of crusty ash raining from the chimney as someone wiggles their way down.
Santa is here. The fun can begin.
Slowing my breathing to a steady pace, I pretend to be asleep. Through one open eye, I watch silently as a large man creeps into the room. The front of his bulging scarlet jacket is streaked with soot from the fireplace. He notices the traps laid out on the floor — in plain sight, I realize, too late. Carefully, he tiptoes between them, lugging a giant sack behind him.
Santa reaches the table where the gingerbread cookies and poisoned milk are on display without accident. Grabbing an iced cookie with callused fingers, he takes a big bite, spewing dark crumbs onto his snowy beard. Once the gingerbread is all gone, he hungrily snatches up the cup of drugged milk and chugs it down.
Refreshed, he gets down to business, extracting trinkets from his voluminous sack and tucking them into the lined up stockings. There are stuffed animals and candy canes and plastic toys and other wonders that cause my young heart to fill with glee.
As Santa moves toward the sparkling Christmas tree, he suddenly pauses and presses a hand to his great belly, the other on his head. Behind his circular glasses, his eyes flash with discomfort. My sleeping potion is doing its job.
Santa stumbles back, so dizzy that he can barely control where his body goes. Unable to avoid my traps this time, he slips on the jacks, yelping. Then, pitching forward, his thick black boot gets caught in the snare. With another holler, he’s swept off his feet. My prize — his sack — waits for me just out of his reach.
I spring out of my sleeping bag and lunge for the bag. Giving Father Christmas an innocent smile, I drag it over to the tree and dig in. Presents done up in festive paper and shiny bows stack up around me.
It seems like Santa is trying to tell me something, but his words, muffled by his beard and slurred from the potion, are impossible to make out.
I give him a cheery wave before turning back to the gifts. Counting them in my head, I quickly realize that there aren’t enough for me and all of my sisters. This just won’t do.
I march over the Santa and jab at his stomach. “Hi, Mr. Claus, I’m Ellie. Big fan of yours,” I say sweetly, tugging on my braids. “So I was wondering, do you think you could get a few more presents for my family? Christmas will be just awful if we don’t all get something.”
Hanging by his ankle, he spins in slow circles. Sometimes I’m speaking to his face, then to his back. It’s rather disorienting.
“Naughty!” he sputters from beneath his beard. Then he promptly falls asleep.
As he twirls upside down in lazy circles, something wriggles out from under his belt and thunks against the carpet. It’s a phone with a tacky case.
I frown at it. Who would Mr. Claus ever need to call?
Ah. I scoop it off the ground and scroll through his contacts until I find what I’m looking for.
Calling Mrs. Claus . . .
In the North Pole, a high-pitched elf exclaims, “Mrs. Claus, Mrs. Claus!” Lilliputian feet scuttle across the kitchen and the elf holds up a phone, from which “Jingle Bells” is playing. “Call from Santa,” the elf explains, offering the device to the rosy-cheeked woman.
“Hello, dear!” Mrs. Claus chirps into the phone, setting down a tray of hot cookies. “I’ve baked some treats for you, whenever you get home. Gingerbread, your favorite.”
“This isn’t your husband,” I tell her coolly. Keeping the thrill of talking to Santa’s wife out of my voice is a struggle. “I have him tied up and I’m keeping him for ransom. If you want to get your dear Saint Nick back, fill a sleigh with as many presents as will fit and deliver them to my house before morning.”
I end the call.
Tucking the phone back into Santa’s belt, I imagine what must be going on in the North Pole right now. Mrs. Claus is pacing the reindeer stables, observing the elves as they load a spare sleigh with gifts for me. She has a soft hand pressed to her mouth, chewing on her nails as she worries about her husband.
Once the sleigh is stuffed, she climbs in and the reindeer take to the sky.
An hour later, I hear scuffling on the roof again. Down the chimney comes Mrs. Claus. She gasps when she spots her husband ensnared in my trap. Crying, she slashes the rope and catches him in her trembling arms.
“Will the elves be bringing down the presents?” It may sound like a question, but it’s really a demand, and Mrs. Claus knows it.
She nods weakly, cradling a drowsy Santa against her chest. “You naughty girl,” she spits at me. “I’ll see that you get coal the rest of your life!”
The Clauses are whisked away, replaced by mounds of alluring gifts. I sit cross-legged in front of the tree, admiring how beautiful they are and how clever I am, to have gotten so many presents straight from Santa’s workshop.
As the sun rises on Christmas day, I sigh contently. I rip the snowflake wrapping off the first box, singing to it, “Baby, all I want for Christmas is you.”
Merry Christmas from Happy House of AG! I hope you have a good one. :)