… With just under three weeks to go until Christmas. Yippee! I like Christmas.
You’ve probably noticed (assuming you’ve visited my site before) that I’ve kind of let the whole blogging thang slip a bit, but what with it being that time of year when I have traditionally posted daily in the run up to that day I thought I really should offer up something, however modest. There will almost certainly be a few more new items added before the 25th, and if you type ‘Christmas’ into the sites search engine you’ll find tons of older posts too, so please do pop back if the fancy takes you.
This little story was written for my writing group’s annual Christmas Countdown this year. I hope you enjoy it.
THE BEST PRESENT EVER
Santa scratched the top of his head, frowning. He pressed the button on the intercom on his desk. ‘Tinks, give Alf a shout and get him up from the workshop,’ he said.
Alf arrived a few minutes later. He didn’t look very happy.
‘This had better be important,’ he said, ‘one of the injection moulders has gone tits up and blown hot plastic everywhere. We’ll have Elfin Safety on our backs again if we don’t get it sorted.’
‘It shouldn’t take long,’ said Santa, handing over Nikki’s letter. ‘I just wondered if you could help with this?’
Alf scratched the top of his head, frowning. ‘Nope. Haven’t a clue,’ he said.
‘So it’s not a new video game or toy or something like that then? You know how the toy manufacturers are for whipping kids up into a buying frenzy at this time of year.’
‘My gawd,’ said Alf, ‘don’t I just! Who could forget the Harry Potter Wizarding Wandset riots of 2004? I tell you mate, we’ve been monitoring all of the big manufacturers this year, and if any of them had produced anything called “The best present EVER” we would be all over it.’
‘So you think this kid, Nikki, means it literally then?’
‘She must do.’
‘Bloody hell! Any suggestions?’
‘Not a clue, mate. You’re on your own with this one. Let me know what you decide, though, and if we have to knock something up from scratch I’ll get Gruntwiffle on it.’
Gruntwiffle was best toy designer Santa had ever employed, a strange little elf who hardly ever came out of his laboratory. If anyone could come up with the best present EVER it would be Gruntwiffle.
When Alf had left Santa pressed the intercom again. ‘Hi Tink, I’ve got a letter here from a girl called Nikki. Can you run a DNA scan on it and get me every bit of information we have on file.’
It took Tinkerbell twenty minutes to run the scan and collate the information.
‘So what do you think?’ asked Santa. ‘Anything there to go on? What would Nikki think was the best present EVER?’
‘Sorry,’ said Tinkerbell, ‘I’ve got nothing.’ She scratched the top of her head, frowning. ‘I’ve run a full psychological profile and cross-referenced it with all the data on her home-life; background; previous present lists; Facebook profile and preferences; education; sports and hobbies; – everything. I think she was just being lazy – she probably couldn’t think of anything she really needs or wants so left the ball in your court.’
‘Great,’ said Santa, ‘Bloody marvellous. And if I get it wrong she’ll spend the next three months giving her parents stick for letting me ruin her Christmas.’
After Tink had left Santa phoned Mrs Santa. ‘Bloody cheek!’ she declared when he had explained his dilemma. ‘I blame the parents – don’t they check these letters before they let their kids go sending ‘em up chimneys?’
‘You would think, wouldn’t you,’ said Santa.
Between them Mr and Mrs Santa ran through dozens of options, rejecting every one. There were lots of things an eight-year-old girl might like for Christmas, but no definitive answer as to what an eight-year-old girl might consider the best present EVER. Even world peace didn’t seem to fit the bill, despite all the press attention it got: let’s face it, if world peace really was that big a deal for the people who claimed to want it then sheer strength of numbers and collective will would have made it a reality centuries ago. No, Santa knew that people as a rule were far more selfish than they pretended, and thought it would be unwise to assume Nikki was an exception.
‘There’s only one thing for it,’ Mrs Santa finally concluded, ‘you’re going to have to go on a recce.’
And so it was that three nights later Santa found himself climbing down Nikki’s chimney a full two weeks ahead of schedule. Having subdued the family with sleeping dust he searched the house from top to bottom, looking for clues as to what Nikki might mean by best present EVER. He found zilch. He was just about to give up, having decided that if push came to shove he would give Nikki an Amazon voucher, when he spotted the family photo album sitting on the coffee table. He sat on the sofa and started leafing through. And then he smiled…
The monkey, an ugly looking ragdoll with a moulded plastic face, was in every photo of the toddler in the book. Beneath the pictures were captions identifying the toddler as Nikki and the monkey as “Jeffry”. Whether playing in the park or sleeping in her cot Nikki clutched Jeffry constantly to her chest, the monkey showing increasing signs of wear and tear as Nikki grew taller. Santa guessed Nikki’s age in the later monkey pictures at around four years. After that, there was no more Jeffry, just Nikki, looking slightly lost and vulnerable even in those photos where she was playing with other children. Subsequent photos of her captioned “first day at school”, and “first nativity” showed a happier child adjusting to her loss, but Santa could imagine the sleepless nights and rivers of tears suffered in the months between. He wondered if Jeffry had been lost or whether he had simply fallen apart, literally loved to pieces. Either way, he felt certain he had found Nikki’s best present EVER, and pulling his phone from his pocket he quickly took photos of the photos in the album for reference.
Back at the workshop the elves spent days getting everything just right, matching the material of Jeffry’s clothing and the precise shade and length and texture of his fur perfectly. Reproducing a mould for Jeffry’s face proved trickier: Jeffry it transpired was a very old doll originally owned by Nikki’s grandmother, and the manufacturer had ceased trading almost half a century earlier. If casts did still exist Santa had no luck in finding them. Despite this Gruntwiffle did an amazing job, and comparing Jeffry Mk.II with photographs of the original Santa was hard pushed to detect any difference whatsoever. The final item was ready just two days before Christmas, and Santa rubbed his hands in glee as Wobblebottom, his finest gift-wrapper, created a stunning black and silver presentation box…