A Christmas story
A pair of tiny hands pulled back the curtains, and a sleepy voice broke the silence.
"So, it's time, is it? Give me another five minutes and I'll get my boots on."
"Okay, Santa. Your breakfast is on the bedside table. Sausage sandwiches with mustard, and piping hot tea in your favourite mug."
"Oh, in that case I'll get up now."
His long sleep over, Santa sat up in bed and rubbed his eyes. He reached up to a small hook set into the wall next to the bed and took his glasses, settling them comfortably on his nose.
"How's the weather?" he asked the small elf.
"Not much snow, and it's not very cold. They say people are complaining that it isn't like Christmas this year," Larna told him.
"Oh dear. Well we can't do anything about the weather, can we? Not like Christmas? How can it not be like Christmas when it's Christmas? Christmas is about love and joy, not about ice and snow. People can be hard to please sometimes."
"Indeed they can, but we like them." Larna said. "Enjoy your breakfast, and I'll see you in The Great Hall when you're up."
"Okay, Larna. You make great sausage sandwiches. Thanks very much."
Santa ate slowly, enjoying every bite. The bread was lightly toasted, making it just a little bit crunchy.
"I think I enjoy the sound of the sandwiches as much as the taste," Santa said to Rudolph, who was lying on a rug at the side of the bed. "What do you think, Rudolph old pal?"
Rudolph didn't respond.
"Rudolph? Are you still asleep? Rudolph! Wake up, it's time!"
Santa looked at Rudolph for a moment, then jumped out of bed and grabbed a handbell from a shelf.
Clang! Clang! Clang!
"Rudolph is sick! He won't wake up, and it's time!" Santa shouted.
He rang it as loudly as any handbell could be rung, and the bedroom quickly filled with elves of all description.
Clang! Clang! Clang! Clang!
Larna had to shout to be heard above the din of the bell.
"They're here, Santa, you can stop ringing now. I said YOU CAN STOP RINGING THE BELL, SANTA!"
Santa threw the bell on to the bed.
"Where's Borloff? Get Borloff, quickly! Rudolph's sick! He won't wake up, and it's time."
In a second, the room was again empty but for Santa, Larna and poor Rudolph on the rug.
"The elves will find Borloff in no time. Don't worry, Santa. He'll know what to do."
Santa sat on his bed, out of breath and with a worried look on his face. Rudolph had never once been sick in all the years he and Santa had been together.
"Hello, Borloff. Where are we?"
"We're in your dream, Rudolph. I would have knocked, but there isn't a door."
"In my dream? What am I dreaming about?"
"About Christmas, Rudolph."
"Oh, yes, I remember now. I'm dreaming that Christmas has come to an end. Dreaming about a world without it, and how horrible that would be."
"Yes, Rudolph. You've seen many changes since you first pulled Santa's sleigh. You've seen that it hasn't been full of traditional toys in recent years."
"That's a fact, Borloff. It gets filled with mobile phones, laptops, computer games and plastic things which make stupid noises. The sleigh's getting heavier every year, and it's crammed with things that aren't Christmassy at all."
Rudolph's big, brown eyes were wide open as he asked Borloff:
"Is Christmas coming to an end?"
Borloff leaned forward and stroked Rudolph gently on the nose.
"Let's go and see, shall we?"
Borloff gripped Rudolph's antlers tightly as they soared up and away, leaving behind the snowy wilderness of the North Pole to head for the places where the People lived.
They came to a brightly lit town. Rudolph flew low to see the cars, the buildings, and the people hurrying along the streets.
"There they go, Rudolph. Shopping as if there's no tomorrow, as if they didn't have enough stuff already. But they don't only shop, Rudolph, they do other things as well. Go lower, head over to that park. Stop by the fountain near the gates."
Rudolph was surprised to see a man sleeping on a park bench.
"Why is he sleeping here, Borloff?"
"He's homeless, Rudolph. He had no friends, no family, and no place to call his own. There are many like him. There always have been."
"Borloff, there's someone coming. We must hide."
"Don't worry. Nobody can see us. We're in a dream, remember?"
"It's a man, Borloff, and he's putting a box on the man's bench. What's going on?"
"That man was safe and warm at home, and he watched a documentary about poor people in modern towns and cities. The Spirit of Christmas is powerful, Rudolph. He realised there was something he could do to help, and he decided to do it."
"What's in the box?"
"Oh, just a few things to make life more pleasant for a while. Some chocolate, a jar of peanut butter and a loaf of bread, a bottle of milk. Oh, I nearly missed them, they're under the bread. A pair of new socks. Simple things, Rudolph, that most People take for granted."
"He's a very kind man, Borloff."
"Indeed he is. Now let's fly over to the other side of town. There's a place I want you to see."
On the corner of quite a dark street was an old ice cream van. A crowd of people stood at the side of it, chatting and laughing and telling funny stories about their lives.
"I didn't know that people bought ice cream on the street in winter, Borloff."
"They don't. This van isn't selling anything. The three people in it are giving hot meals to the people on the street. Some of them are homeless, some have personal problems, but all of them need help. The people in the van have worked hard for many days to prepare the food. They haven't taken any money for that work, for they are volunteers."
"Volunteers? I've never heard of that word."
"A volunteer is someone who works for free to help others. They are all over the world. Some are in Africa, and work hard to provide people with clean water."
"So, volunteers are people who don't think only about themselves?"
"That's right, Rudolph. Some give children in poor places an education. Many volunteers do something extra at Christmas, to help as many people as possible feel the Spirit. Are you feeling the Spirit, Rudolph?"
"You know, Borloff, I do believe I am."
"Then wake up, and get busy. You have a lot to do."
"Am I a volunteer, Borloff?"
"Everybody is a volunteer, Rudolph."
"Rudolph! You're awake! I've been so worried about you. I thought you were sick. All the elves are out and about looking for Borloff. Are you hungry? Do you want something to drink? Oh, Rudolph, my dearest of friends. How good it is to have you back. We're going to have a wonderful Christmas!"
Merry Christmas, everyone.
© Paul Drury, 2015