~*~*~ Advent Calendar ~*~*~
* Day 7 *
Summary: Sometimes, it’s better to not know what you are getting yourself into . . .
Word Count: 3,095
The morning dawned bright and beautiful. A lifetime of rising early for chores wasn’t a habit easily broken—even on Christmas morning. Little Joe saw the first rosy beams illuminate the snowy mountain peaks visible from his bedroom window. Joe intended to honor a lifelong custom—rousing the entire family early for Christmas presents. Hoss could give him grief about letting a man sleep in a bit on their day off. Adam could lift that sarcastic eyebrow and remind Joe that he was 23, not 3 years old. Didn’t matter. Pa would understand, and Joe knew that his brothers were happy to celebrate like kids on Christmas morning, even if they were too pig-headed to admit it.
Joe could get ready for the day quickly when he had the proper motivation. He was dressed and knocking at Hoss’s door within five minutes of waking up. Hoss was snoring loudly, but when Joe nudged the door open and peeked inside, he saw the big faker was already awake and pulling on his trousers.
“Merry Christmas, brother.”
“Merry Christmas, punkin. Now get out of here and let a man have some privacy.”
Next stop on Joe’s Christmas reveille tour was his father. He softly knocked on Pa’s door and received an answer almost immediately.
“I will be right down, Joseph.”
Excellent. This was going easier than he expected. Now to rouse the Yankee granite-head.
Joe never pussy-footed around at Adam’s door. Eldest brother tended to just ignore tentative knocks saying if you couldn’t approach with confidence, it could probably wait.
“Adam,” Joe knocked confidently (he hoped—what was a confident knock, anyway?) No response. Joe knocked again. “Adam, get up. It’s Christmas.” Not a sound. Huh. Their custom was that Joe woke Adam early on Christmas morning so that Adam could fuss and tease him for a few minutes before agreeing to come downstairs. Joe dared to open the door a mite. The curtains were open, casting the room in sufficient dim light to see. The bed was neatly made, and Adam was not there to yell at him for coming in without permission. Eldest brother must already be downstairs.
His Christmas duty accomplished, Joe headed downstairs. Hop Sing was already up (Joe had never had to wake him up.) and the mouthwatering aromas of hot cakes, biscuits and ham were mingling with the scent of pine and beeswax emanating from the huge Christmas tree by the fireplace. Joe was itching to start lighting the tree’s candles, but he knew Pa wouldn’t appreciate using up the candles before the evening’s Christmas supper.
“Merry Christmas, Hop Sing!” Joe ambled up to the dining table as Hop Sing was laying out the plates and cups. When Hop Sing stepped back from the table to survey his work, Joe stepped in and honored another Christmas custom – “give Hop Sing a big hug.” Joe wrapped his arms around the smaller man and squeezed tightly as the cook fussed and put up a token struggle.
“No time for foolishness,” Hop Sing sputtered. “Must get breakfast on table for family.” Joe hung on stubbornly until Hop Sing gave him the annual Christmas pat on the back and smack on the rump for bothering him while he was working.
“Merry Christmas, Hop Sing!” Hoss shouted from the staircase with Pa close on his heels. “That all smells wonderful. I’m so hungry my belly’s touchin’ my backbone.”
Hah, as if. In the spirit of Christmas, Joe left the obvious comeback remain unsaid.
“Everything looks wonderful, as always, Hop Sing. Merry Christmas.” Pa circled the table to his chair. “Joseph, I thought I could count on you to get everyone to the table on time this morning. Go and ask Adam to come join us.”
“He’s not in his room, pa.”
“Perhaps he’s taking care of the barn chores,” Pa replied, smoothing the napkin over his lap.
“Not seen number one son this morning.” Hop Sing bustled in with plates of steaming food.
“Maybe you was still asleep . . .” Hoss stopped mid-sentence at Hop Sing’s glare. “I meant, maybe you was busy and didn’t notice him.”
“No, have not seen since I get up at 4 o’clock like always.”
“Thank you, son. Hoss, go check his room again, please. Maybe your little brother was so excited about Christmas morning that he didn’t see Adam.”
It turned out that Adam wasn’t in the barn, the smokehouse, the root cellar, the outhouse – and of course, he wasn’t in his room. (Joe had already told them that.) Their playful Christmas morning was fast becoming frantic. Where could he have gone?
“Boys,” Ben beckoned them toward the pile of presents underneath the tree. “Come look at this.”
Beneath the spreading boughs, in a space that had been cleared away a bit, sat a fair sized package wrapped in ornate paper and tied with velvet ribbon. Atop the box was a scroll of parchment paper, tied in the same velvet ribbon with a tag lettered, “To My Family”
“Have either of you seen this before?”
They all stood there for a few minutes gazing at a package that had appeared unexpectedly when all they really expected was to have the whole family together, including Adam.
“Pa,” Hoss broke the silence. “Maybe we should just read that. Could be from Adam.”
“You’re probably right.” Ben lifted the package and scroll from the floor. “Hmmm, this is a little heavier than it looks.” He settled down into the blue chair and gestured for Hoss, Joe, and Hop Sing to sit as well.
With shaking hands, Ben pulled the scroll loose from its velvet tie. Scanning the script inside for a moment first, he began to read.
Dear Pa, Hoss, Little Joe and Hop Sing,
I imagine you’re wondering where I am. It’s actually an interesting story. But before I begin telling it, you need to remember that it’s all right, it’s all true, it all happened.
Last night, I expected nothing more than a decent night’s sleep and to be interrupted in the dark hours of the morning by an overeager kid brother.
I’m not sure I have ever mentioned to you all that I sometimes have difficulty sleeping – too many thoughts running around in my head, and it takes some wrangling before they all settle down. Last night was like that. The thought of facing Christmas was pleasurable, but also a bit nerve wracking. After all, holiday or not, chores have to be done, and there’s always a crowd coming for dinner, and . . . Well, perhaps you understand.
In any case, it took me some time to get to sleep, and when I finally did drop off, I was awakened abruptly by a couple of hard thumps and scuffles just over my head – apparently on the roof.
Naturally, I assumed Little Joe was taking one of his midnight jaunts – I know he has been cozying up to Joyce Millhouse, and perhaps she had promised him a special Christmas present.
“Pa, I don’t know what he’s talking about. I would never . . . “
In any case, given the weather and that it was Christmas, for pity’s sake, I figured it was prudent to encourage him to stay home. Peering out my bedroom window did no good. I couldn’t see anything, but I continued to hear scuffling on the shingles.
I pulled on my shirt, trousers, and boots as quickly as possible and crept downstairs. Little Joe isn’t the only one who can move silently around the house. I eased open the front door, and tiptoed into the yard. Lord, it was cold last night, and I hadn’t stopped to grab my coat or hat before venturing outside.
I circled around the house, determined to catch Little Joe in the act of dropping down into a snowbank. Instead, I saw someone fooling around on the roof. In fact, I saw more than just someone. It looked like some numbskull prankster had pulled an entire sleigh onto our roof.
At this point, I suspected that Little Joe wasn’t the only brother capering on the rooftop. This looked just like one of Joe and Hoss’s hare-brained schemes. What I couldn’t figure out was how they had gotten the sleigh on the roof. Luckily, the ladder was propped up near the porch. (Little Joe, you were supposed to have put that back in the barn!) I leaned it against the side of the house and climbed up carefully.
A big man in a red suit was bent over the back of a fancy sleigh I didn’t even know that we owned. He was so intent on what he was doing that he didn’t hear me. Mindful that at least Pa and Hop Sing were still liable to be asleep, I called out, “Gotcha!”
The big man in the red suit was so startled that he jerked upright and let go of the side of the sleigh. His boots started slipping on the frosty shingles and despite wind milling his arms, he slid straight off the roof and hit the ground with a thud.
I don’t mind saying that I was terrified thinking I had caused Hoss to fall off the roof. I got down that ladder a lot faster than I went up and hurried over to my brother.
But when I turned the big man over, I quickly saw it wasn’t Hoss at all. It was an old man I had never seen before in my life with long curly white hair and a full white beard. The suit wasn’t just a red suit. In fact, it was constructed of the fanciest red damask velvet and edged on the collar and cuffs with ermine. He had a matching cap atop his head. I shook him hard trying to rouse him. After a few moments, his eyes fluttered open. He was alive! I started to get up to wake up the household to help bring him inside when the old man grasped me around the wrist and spoke his last words.
“Put on the suit. Get in the sleigh. Good luck.” And, Pa, he didn’t die – he vanished. He disappeared. I mean, he disappeared. His clothes – the fancy red suit and hat were still right there in front of me as if he had melted out of them into the snow.
You can imagine that I was surprised. I can admit that I was on the verge of hysteria. A man dressed like Father Christmas fell off our roof and vanished into thin air after telling me to wear his clothes and get into his sleigh.
I thought about waking you all then and there, but I was beginning to doubt my sanity. If I could get the sleigh off the roof, at least I could show you some proof of what happened. In the meantime, putting on the velvet suit wasn’t a bad idea. It was bitterly cold, and I was only in my shirt and trousers. I grabbed that red velvet suit and put it on without much consideration that it was still warm from the previous owner.
The red suit fit surprisingly well. I had thought the old man was round and husky like Hoss. But, as soon as all of the buttons were done up and the belt fastened, the clothing fit as if it had been tailored for me.
Nothing for it now but to climb the roof and see what I could do about the sleigh. I made it up the ladder fast enough, and you can believe I was extra careful walking along those icy shingles.
I hadn’t realized until I got to the sleigh that the vehicle wasn’t the only thing on our roof. In fact, it was attached to . . . I swear this is true . . . reindeer. Eight of them harnessed in brightly decorated colors and sleigh bells. They looked at me with interest but without spite. I climbed into the seat in hopes of finding something, maybe a document that would explain the identity of the old man.
I had barely clambered into the sleigh when the head reindeer snorted, shook the bells attached to the bridle, and we, well we took off. I mean off the roof. And not off the roof onto the ground; off the roof and into the air. We were flying.
Remember what I told you . . . it’s all true, and it all happened.
I don’t think I was actually screaming, but I know I wanted to be screaming. At least at first. Within a few minutes of flight, it was apparent I was safe enough and it began to feel like a bit of a lark. I had never seen the Ponderosa from this point of view. Let me tell you, fellows, it is glorious.
Before very long, the sleigh made a turn and slowed down, heading for the Gale homestead. Those reindeers knew exactly where they were going and how to get there. They landed on that roof as soft as a feather. Once we were stopped, those animals gave me a hard look which I threw right back at them. What did they expect me to do?
What I was expected to do was soon made apparent when a bulging sack disengaged from the rest in the back of the sleigh and floated toward me. It seemed I had been hired as a delivery service.
I climbed out as carefully as possible with the sack slung across my back. Now what? A shimmering cloud of diamond-bright snowflakes swirled around me. I couldn’t see anything but darkness for a moment (and my stomach felt a bit queasy), but suddenly my sack and I were inside the Gale house on the fireplace hearth. The small Christmas tree was nearby, and I’m not too thick-headed that I didn’t understand I needed to remove the presents in the sack and place them around the tree.
When the sack was emptied, the same swirling snow appeared once more, and I found myself back on the rooftop next to the sleigh. I least I know now how Santa gets down chimneys.
This happened over and over again. We visited every house on the Comstock, and then we visited every house in the world. Somehow the sleigh never ran out of sacks of presents until the deliveries were made.
“Okay, that’s enough,” Joe sputtered. “Adam’s around here somewhere. Come out, eldest brother. You’ve had your fun.”
“Hush, now, brother. I want to hear the end of it.”
This had to be the most fascinating night of my life. It was definitely work, and if I took advantage of some of the milk and cookies laid out, who could blame me?”
Dawn was creeping over the horizon when the reindeer team took a northward trek. We traveled for some time in which I only saw water and ice. Luckily, the reindeer knew their way, and I thought I could see where they were heading. I couldn’t do any more than hang on for dear life as they swooped down at a most fantastic rate of speed into a picturesque village.
It occurred to me that I might not be welcomed. After all, how could I explain wearing the suit and driving another man’s vehicle. Instead the crowd of gaily dressed small people seemed to take it all in stride. They helped me out of the sleigh and led me inside an actual palace where I was offered food, drink and a soft bed in which to rest.
Pa, time works differently here at the North Pole. In the hours you all have spent sleeping on Christmas eve, I have spent a week in Santa’s castle. I am just going to come out and say it: I am Santa now. In the pocket of the suit, I found a card detailing in the smallest print possible that by putting on the suit, I had entered into contract as the newest Father Christmas.
I know you aren’t convinced. If I were in your positions, I would be convinced either. But it all happened. Every word I have written is true. The Santa who fell from our roof was 300 years old, He’d replaced the previous Santa under somewhat similar circumstances. It’s actually a good story. Remind me to tell you sometime.
Pa, Hoss, Little Joe – I know this is unexpected. I certainly didn’t expect it. But I have what might be one of the most important jobs in the world now. I saw the entire world in one night! I am in charge of the most interesting, complex industry possible. I’m needed here, and I did put on the suit.
I won’t be seeing you all for a while. There’s a lot to do, and a lot for me to learn. But it’s all right. I’m fine. I’m more than fine. Please open the package I left for you. You’ll be able to see me whenever you want. Of course, I will be able to keep my eye on you all as well.
With my greatest loving regards,
P.S. Don’t worry! I will come and visit now and then. Just tell people I have left to see the world.
Ben stopped reading. He handed the scroll to Hoss and allowed the boys to read the letter for themselves. Pulling apart the fancy wrapping, Ben revealed a large snow globe mounted on a silver pedestal.
“Boys! Look here!” He gave the globe a good shake and as the sparkling beads cleared, they saw Adam in his familiar black trousers and shirt. His hair color was starting to change from black to silver, and he was cultivating a bit more hair on his chin and somewhat less on the top of his head. He was standing in the midst of a small crowd of workers in an ornately decorated work room.
Ben couldn’t help himself. “Adam!” No sooner had the cry passed his lips than Hoss, Joe and Hop Sing shouted with him, calling their loved one’s name. Inside the snow globe, they saw Adam pause and looked toward them. He waved and smiled—looking happier and more satisfied with himself than they had ever seen.
Finally, they left him in peace to go about the business of being Santa Claus.
“Pa,” Little Joe asked. “Are you all right?”
Ben nodded and gave his family a sincere, if trembling smile.
“It’s all true. It all happened. It’s all right.
XXXXXXX THE END XXXXXXX
Link to 2019 Advent Calendar – December 8:
Other Stories by this Author
- Morning Star aka Stealing Christmas (by Belle)
- All Through the Night (by Belle)
- Aunt Agnes’s Dilemma (by Belle)
- The Christmas Hostage (by Belle)
- The Adventure of the Antique Opera Glasses (by Belle)