Rudolf tapped on the ground impatiently with a hairy hoof, and waited. Prancer jerked awake at the sound. Sharing a stall with a diva had its drawbacks! Prancer peered at his companion and noticed that, once again, his nose was red, swollen and sore. Prancer tried to suppress the silent joy that welled up in him. After all, it wasn't charitable to take pleasure in someone else's misfortune, even if it was Rudolf's!
Instead he said brightly, "Gee Rudy, you have a cold!" His words were greeted by a disdainful huff and a gruff "State the bloomin'...hic choo...obvious, why don't you?!" Prancer smiled inwardly, and closed his eyes again.
Just over an hour later Norm, the bespectacled elf appeared, "Sorry I'm late boys! Been a bit hectic upstairs..." Rudolf said nothing, but noted the elf's change in clothing. The usual comfortable brown over shirt had been replaced by a green and red apron. On it were embroidered the words ‘The North Pole welcomes the Festive Season'. "Festive, my arse!" Rudolf muttered, and began to munch his hay.
Just then, Mrs Clause appeared in the doorway with her hands on her hips. Her face was pinker than usual. Norm wandered over to her and draped his arm around her shoulders. The Reindeers exchanged glances, ‘Aye, aye, what's going on here then?' From the doorway they clearly heard the words "Christmas is OFF!"
Much later the Reindeers were still in shock. Rumours, whispers and speculation suddenly abound. Had the placid, loving, long suffering Mary Clause finally had enough of her husband? Was she going to leave the North Pole with a certain bespectacled elf? "Let's face it..." Rudolf interjected between sneezes, "He's Brad Pitt by comparison!" The other reindeers sniggered, but no one could avoid the dark clouds of doom that seemed to be gathering over the North Pole.
It was just before dawn the next day, when a large man wearing faded jeans and a crumpled shirt that was two sizes too small wandered aimlessly into the stalls. Rudolf failed to recognise him at first, but as he came closer the long white beard gave him away. A beard which contained pieces of cornflake, traces of tomato sauce and if Rudolf wasn't mistaken, chocolate cake. ‘So this is what Santa Clause looks like on his days off is it?' Rudolf mused, ‘Charming!'
Santa pulled up a stool and perched beside Norm, who, for most of the night, had been sitting reading a novel. Rudolf watched. ‘There may well be fisticuffs. What would happen then?!'
The two men sat in silence for a while. It was Santa who spoke first eventually. "I'm too big for the sleigh" he said simply, "I know..." Norm responded, putting his book down, "...She did warn you Clause. She tried to change your diet, bought you one of those ‘Wii' thingies to help you exercise more. She knows how much you love your ‘Play station'. "Yes" came the soft reply.
Rudolf listened to the anguished conversation. A moment ago, he had nudged Prancer awake and now they stood alert, uncertain and hardly daring to breathe.
It was true that Rudolf hated Christmas. He hated the chaos, the long, seemingly endless journey and he hated his constant...hic choo...colds, even if they had helped make him famous, he thought smugly. But he loved Clause. They all did. Rudolf caught Prancer's eye, and they knew they had to do something. For now though, captive audience that they were, they carried on listening.
"...You kept on eating, sneaking food when you thought no one was looking..." Norm was saying matter-of-factly, "...and that ‘Wii' thing is still in its box!" Santa nodded sadly. "There must be another way..." Santa said quietly, "We can't just cancel Christmas. Think of the children!"
Despair crossed his features, as he thought of children around the world, that he, he would let down. "Someone could go in your place..." Norm said brightly, trying to sound hopeful, but he knew what Santa's response would be, and he was right. "It's against the rules!" Santa replied, his voice gruff with emotion. Norm stared at the floor, and thought for a moment. Suddenly, an idea struck him. A magnificent idea! "We could make the sleigh BIGGER!" Norm exclaimed excitedly.
The little elf began hopping from foot to foot as enthusiasm took hold of him, and his imagination ran riot. Santa looked over at his friend, "We could, but there is just not enough time Norm!" Santa sounded helpless. "We have just over a week"...Norm replied, shaking Clause by the shirt in excitement ... "IT CAN BE DONE!"
While the workshop hustled and bustled, hammered and sawed, the reindeers went into conference themselves,
"I see we weren't consulted about any of this!" Dancer commented, between bites of carrot. All the other reindeers turned to him, "SHUT UP!" they cried in unison, "Was only sayin'" Dancer muttered, "Well, don't!" Rudolf replied, hammering a hoof on the ground with authority. "Hey man, you had a visit from the ghosts of past, present and future or somethin'?!..." Dancer questioned, tilting his head to one side ..."You hate Christmas!" Rudolf was ruffled, "I hate...hic...choo...Christmas, but I don't hate Clause!"
There was silence for a moment while the other reindeers looked at Rudolf with new eyes. Maybe he wasn't as selfish and egotistical as they all thought he was, perhaps they had judged him unfairly.
"We need to contact ‘The Reindeer Council'"... Prancer spoke up ... "There won't be enough of us to pull the... uh, new sleigh." "Consider it done!" Donner called from the back stall. The reindeers, a short time ago filled with such uncertainty, now found themselves bursting with a new sense of optimism and camaraderie.
As dusk descended on Christmas Eve, the Pole was alive and buzzing like never before. In the workshop dishevelled looking elves, lead by an ecstatic Norm, tested and retested the extended sleigh. Its front had been widened and painted beautifully with gold, red and black paints. The pieces of metal that held the contraption together had been replaced, buffed and polished. In short, in shone and gleamed like a new penny.
Rudolf stood proudly at the front ready to lead his friends and the large group of ‘agency' reindeer on their journey. "Hic..." "Uh oh!" Donner said from the back,"CHOO!" completed Rudolf. "I wish I could shake off this cold..." he commented, "It's really beginning to get under my fur..." "Or up your nose!" Prancer retorted from behind him.
After finishing what was left of his salad, Santa kissed Mrs Clause goodbye. She touched his cheek affectionately, "Remember what I said, NO mince pies!" Santa groaned, "Which leaves me with?..." Mary Clause smiled, and looked deliberately toward the door, "Rudolf's carrots!" she said loudly, knowing that our favourite reindeer would hear. The sound of chortling and the distinctive sound of a hairy hoof hitting the ground told her he had!
With his wife and the elves watching from the windows, Santa saluted them all, and climbed aboard his brand new sleigh. "Here we go boys!" Santa said, taking the reins and shaking them.
The ecstatic reindeers and a smiling Santa took easily to the air. He waved at his family once more, and watched the Pole fade into the distance, as they began their journey.
Christmas was once again ON!
(Image Courtesy of Google)