This year, for my annual Christmas story, I had the story trigger to write something about Santa Claus. So, I did. I recorded my process and progress on Twitter using the hashtag #RLWriting. Below is the fruit of that labor for your Christmas enjoyment.
One note before we begin. I made 8 allusions to a popular TV program. I also made some overt references to more than two TV shows as well. Your mission, should you chose to accept it, is to determine which of the overt allusions is the one I used, and what are the other seven allusions I made. See if you can locate all eight for that TV show. On or shortly after Christmas, I’ll provide the allusion key so you can determine how many you found.
And now, for the story:
Dad eased back in his comfy chair. “And this is one of my all time favorites.” He flipped a couple of pages in his well-worn book as the fire crackled, casting smoke up the chimney. The four stockings hung from the mantel, competing with the Christmas tree for their attention.
Samantha drew her knees to her chest and propped her feet against the edge of the couch. She knew what was coming. The same song that always followed that comment: Santa Claus Is Coming to Town. He sort of sung-read it William Shatner style every Christmas Eve that she could remember. Dad had all of Mr. Shatner’s records. She, being fifteen years old, had listened to Dad’s rendition around fourteen times. He must have sung it when she was a baby too.
Samantha glanced at her younger brother, Andy. His freckled face lit up and he sat tall in anticipation of what was to come. At least he was eager to hear it again. But he’d only heard it nine times so far. Then again he watched the “Ninja Force” movie over—
“Santa Claus Is Coming to Town!” Dad smiled as he studied their faces for a reaction. He had the uncanny ability to act like this was the first time he’d ever read it to them. He seemed to enjoy it more than they did. Mom was noticeably absent.
Andy clapped. “Yay! Read it like Captain Kirk.”
Well, maybe not more than Andy.
Dad smiled as he glanced down at the book, as if he didn’t have it memorized word for work years ago. He read in his baritone, sing-song voice, “You better watch out, you better not cry, better not pout, I’m telling you why.” Dad’s eyes scanned the book’s page. “Santa Claus is leaving . . .” Dad’s forehead wrinkled and his mouth fell open. “. . . our planet?”
Samantha straightened her back and widened her eyes. The big guy had actually done it.
Dad rechecked the front book cover. He reexamined the rebellious text. “How did this get changed?”
Andy sighed. “Dad, he has to come before he can leave. Besides, a planet is cooler than a town.”
“But that’s not what it’s suppose to say. Someone’s changed the words.” He ran his fingers through his salt and pepper beard. “This must be someone’s idea of a joke. And I can guess who might be behind it.” He rose from his chair. “Sally!” He paused, waiting for a reply that didn’t come. He was not amused. “Sally!” he yelled louder as he headed for the door.
He turned to his children before he exited the room. “You two go to bed now.”
“Aw, Dad!” Andy blurted out.
Dad pointed at Andy. “Bed. Now.”
“Yes, sir,” they both responded in unison. When Dad was like this, one argued with him only if they enjoyed pain. Besides, mom didn’t change the words; Santa did. If Samantha didn’t have so little time, she’d entertain the thought of slipping to their bedroom door and listen in on the ensuing argument.
Dad left the room. “Sally!”
Andy fell back in the couch, slapping his left hand on the armrest. “No fair.” He scooted to the edge and prepared to head upstairs.
“Andy?” Samantha flipped her hair over her shoulders.
“I have a mission for you, should you choose to accept it.”
“A mission? Can we do this later? What if Dad comes back and finds us still here?”
Samantha glanced at the door. “Dad will be busy arguing with Mom for at least thirty minutes. Besides, this can’t wait.”
Andy scooted back on the couch. “Alright, but it will be your fault if we’re caught. So what is this ‘mission’?”
“It involves Santa.”
He laughed. “Santa? Like you’ve met him?”
“Last Christmas morning. Woke up early and caught him eating the cookies.”
“Really?” Andy leaned in.
She cast a who-dares-question-my-words roll of her eyes to the ceiling. “Yes, really. He gave me a mission should he end up taking an offer. He didn’t say how he would convey that he’d taken it, but the change in the song’s words are obvious.”
Andy huffed. “What’s obvious?”
Samantha shook her head and sighed. “That Santa Claus has left Earth to start Christmas on a planet far, far away; and he wants me to do the mission he gave me.”
“What mission? You don’t mean you’re going to deliver presents all over the world for him?”
She chuckled. “Hardly! I’m not Santa Claus.”
“Then who’s going to do it for him if he’s not here?”
Samantha shrugged. “He said he’d already taken care of that. Don’t know anything more.”
Andy cocked his head. “Then what did he want you to do?”
Samantha scooted closer to Andy and leaned in. “He said it was top secret, and that I should tell no one.”
Andy crossed his arms and squinted his eyes at her. “Really? You can’t be serious.”
She gazed at the ceiling. “Of course, if you help me on this mission, then I suppose I’ll have to tell you.”
He frowned for a moment. “How can I do that not knowing what it is? What if it is hammering a nail into a toy on Santa’s assembly line? Boooriiing!”
She huffed. “Okay, I can tell you this much. I’m going to be a present.”
The corners of his mouth turned up. “Does that mean I get to tape you into a box?”
“Something like that, about the size of a phone booth, I’d suspect. Plus you’ll get to ride in Santa’s sleigh.”
He grinned. “Cool! I’m in!” His eyes grew beady. “Are you going to be a slave for someone?”
“A slave?” She shook her head. “Get real! I’m going to be a friend to someone.”
“Don’t know. He said I’d find out when I arrive, but I’m sure it will be someone I can be best friends with, who shares a lot of my interest and desires.”
“You mean someone like you.”
Samantha stared at the floor. “Is that so bad?”
Andy sighed. “I suppose not.” He hopped off the couch. “So when do we go?”
“Sometime tonight. The sleigh will come for us. That’s why we need to get ready now. No telling when it will show up.” She rose from the couch and headed to the stairs.
Andy followed, but then stopped, glancing at the door their dad had left through “But what about mom and dad? Won’t they freak out when we aren’t here in the morning?”
Samantha face-palmed her forehead. “Did you forget? Santa’s sleigh is like a time machine. Santa could be the Doctor for all we know.”
Andy nodded. “That would explain a lot.”
“From dad and mom’s perspective, it will be as if we’d never left.” She waved for him to follow her. “Now come on. Let’s get ready.”
The sister and brother headed to their rooms.
RAP, RAP, RAP!
Samantha jerked out of her dreams and focused sleep-laden eyes toward her window. A small but worn and bearded face, topped with a green and white-trimmed cone-hat, smiled at her. The elf waved.
“Santa’s sleigh is here!” She bounded out of bed, tied her shoes, slipped on her coat, then headed to the door.
RAP, RAP, RAP!
Samantha turned toward the elf. He waved for her to come.
She held up one finger. “I’ll be right back. My brother’s coming.”
The elf frowned. She dashed down the hall and knocked on Andy’s door.
His door swung open to reveal a boy clothed with thick jeans, a coat, and heavy shoes. He smiled. “About time.”
She grunted. “I guess you knew.”
He pointed to the ceiling. “All that clatter woke me up.”
“Well then, let’s go.”
They returned to Samantha’s room. The elf stood with crossed arms, staring impatiently through the window. Though she couldn’t see his feet, she could tell one was tapping.”
Andy’s eyes bulged. “Wow! A real elf!”
She unlocked the window and pulled it open.
The elf swung his right arm wide and bowed. “Enter the sleigh, please.”
As she stepped out, the shiny vehicle—reflecting metallic reds, golds, and greens—appeared much like it had been depicted in so many stories and movies. It hovered above the ground at her second story window. Toward the front floated a long line of reindeer. Holding the reins sat a big man wearing a red coat and cap with . . .
Samantha squinted. “Hey, wait a minute. Santa?”
The driver turned around.
Samantha smiled. “It is you!” She rubbed her head. “But I thought you’d left the planet?”
He belched out a rolling laugh. “In a way I have, and yet I’m here.” He raised a hand into the air. “Time is a squishy, slimy reality. Has to be for me, you know.”
Andy stared bug-eyed at Santa once he’d stepped into the sleigh, as if in shock.
Samantha scratched her forehead. “I’m confused. If you’re here, what do you need me for?”
Santa held up a finger. “You misunderstood. But that is to be expected. Not everyone is as smart as me.”
“Or thinks like you.” Samantha winked.
“Touché. But I didn’t need you because I was gone. I needed you because I was going.”
Samantha blinked. “What?”
He pointed into the sky. “You’re coming with me.”
Her mouth fell open. “Say what?”
Andy blurted out, “We’re going to another planet?”
Santa nodded. “Now get a seat and hold on. This time-warp stuff gets a little tricky.”
“Awesome!” Andy landed in a seat and buckled up.
Samantha sat down, still processing what Santa had said. Did some lonely human on a distant planet need a friend like her? Must be.
“Here we go!” Santa whipped the reins. “On Donner, on Blitzen . . .” The sleigh lurched forward, slowly at first, but rapidly gained speed as they headed toward the clouds. They entered and plowed through the clouds for a few seconds before breaking into the clear moonlit sky above them. Santa pulled a lever, flipped a switch, spun a couple of dials, and then banged on the dash. Lights flashed randomly across the console. A huge tube, swirling with every color of the rainbow, materialized before them. Santa flew into it without hesitation.
Samantha couldn’t believe what had happened. “Surely I’m still sleeping at home safe and sound in bed. This has to be a dream,” she mumbled.
“Dream on, young one. Dream on.” Santa’s “ho, ho” laugh resounded in her ears.
What might have been seconds, minutes, hours, or days—Samantha couldn’t tell in the no-man’s-land of time—ended when Santa spun a few dials, pushed down on a foot petal, then pushed the lever back up. The tube of swirling colors ended, dumping them out into a reddish sky and green clouds. Santa banked the sleigh to the right and headed downward.
As they drew closer to the ground, Samantha spotted a city lying among a forest of burning-orange foliage. The city’s tall spired buildings and bluish-tinted windows impressed upon Samantha the foreignness that they had dived into. If ever she knew what feeling like a fish out of water was about, this was it.
Santa guided the sleigh to a halt before a big building. Various aliens scurried around, glancing at them with big eyes, long necks, and lanky legs.
“Where are we?” Andy asked.
Santa turned to face the back. “Oir in the southern province of Alva. Their name for their planet is unpronounceable in English, but you would know it as Alpha Centauri. And in there,” he pointed at the building beside them, “is your mission, Samantha.”
Samantha stared at it. “What do they do in there?”
“It’s your equivalent of a cancer hospice ward. Now go on in and make a friend. I’ll wait here.”
She started to step out, but paused. “But we’ll have nothing in common with them. We don’t even speak the same language. How am I supposed to befriend anyone in there?”
Santa threw up his hands. “Why do people focus on differences to the loss of communion? Believe me, they have many of the same desires, fears, and needs you have. Especially the need to be unconditionally loved, no matter the differences. Besides, I believe they’ll understand you better than you might think.”
Andy leaped out of the sleigh, stood by the side of it, and held out a hand. “Santa’s right. I’ll help you.”
Santa nodded his head. “And a child shall lead them.”
Samantha stepped onto the foreign soil.
“And remember . . .” Santa paused for effect. “. . . you’re not only giving them a gift, you’re getting one. This is, after all, my Christmas gift to you: the experience of true love and friendship.”
Samantha nodded. With Andy’s hand in hers, she stepped into the unknown future of love.