Sherri Lupton Hollister

The Naughty List

While decorating the Christmas tree, my grandson Jack and I started talking. This story is from that discussion. I hope you enjoy it. 

Santa’s Naughty List (a family story)

Nick rocked the chair back and forth, struggling against his restraints as Noel strode towards him holding out the magical snow globe. “I’m sorry Nicky but the only way I can be Santa is if you are unable to fulfill your duties.”

He stared at his sister, he’d known for years she wanted to be Santa. Noel was the one who’d taught him what it meant to wear the red suit. She’d taken him to meet each elfin the North Pole. He’d been fascinated by every job and would often become distracted. At three, he’d wanted to be a painter, but that changed to a carver by the time he was five. As a teen, he’d longed to learn mechanics and electronics and dreamed of building robots and radio operated crafts. He’d sit with the experts for hours watching as they worked. Noel had only wanted to be Santa, she was a natural born leader, but girls couldn’t be Santa. “They’ll never let you be Santa, Noel. They’ll give the job to Clarence.”

She smiled showing off her bright teeth. “Ah, but as his wife, I can serve as Santa if something happens to him.”

He darted a glance at their cousin, Santa’s former heir and wondered what she had in store for Clarence. Clarence was besotted and seemed unconcerned by Noel’s plans. He would get no help from him.

His attention was returned to the globe. It crackled with electricity as lightening flashed in the glass bubble. The globe was one of the North Pole’s secret weapons. If someone became a threat to Santa or his operation, the snow globe could be used to erase their recent memories.

Clarence chuckled. “We found a way to increase the globe’s power. You won’t even remember your name.”

Nick noted how Noel held the globe away from her body. The velvet gloves that covered her to the elbows were not just a fashion statement.

“Candy canes!” Nick swore and began rocking the chair with more enthusiasm. He may not want to become Santa but he didn’t want to forget who he was. The chair crashed to the floor and he kicked the chair leg with his heel. Yanking his leg free he shoved his sister backwards. Noel stumbled and screeched as she was pushed aside by the arrival of a squad of iron soldier-elves. The mechanized soldiers clanked,their gears grinding as they marched heavily across the workroom floor destroying everything in their path. Nick freed himself from the chair debris,leaping to his feet as Clarence dropped to his knee beside Noel. In a voice thick with grief, he ordered the elves to attack.

The heavy snow globe shimmered against the pale skin of Noel’s chest. The angry lines around her mouth softened to a sleepy smile. The furrow between her brows smoothed. There wasn’t time to see about his sister as the elves were closing in. Nick looked around the workroom for something to use as a weapon. He grabbed a mallet from the nearest workstation and swung it upward under the attacking elf’s chin. His iron head swung back but it did nothing to stop him. Nick was shoved back into another workstation as the elves pushed and clanged forward.He climbed on top of the table. Scrambling across the half-made toys he found areal hammer and swung hitting the iron soldier with the reverberating ring of steel on iron. The noise was deafening in the tiny workshop.

The iron men continued, crowding around him, threatening to surround him. He leapt from one workstation to another throwing whatever he could to slow the advancing soldiers. Nick was thankful for his workout routine, years of lifting weights,running, and sports had all been tools to relieve the fear of failing his family. He knew he wasn’t cut out to be Santa Claus and after being captured soeasily, he was ashamed to return home. Maybe I should have just let Noel erase my memories, it would be better than living with this shame. He shoved that thought away. Regardless of whether he was Santa or not, he’d not go down without a fight.

Bright light filled the room. Nick blinked and nearly toppled from the work desk.

A battalion of elves slid down golden ropes, their black uniforms trimmed with Santa red.These were Santa’s elite, North Pole Special Forces. Nick stifled a groan. They shot blasts of water at the iron soldiers. The gears and joints of his attackers quickly rusted and soon they were all as still as lawn statues.

Crystal, Santa’s majordomo and head of his special forces greeted him with a salute.“Glad to see you, sir.”

Nick sighed and nodded. “Thanks for the rescue.”

She gave a stiff nod and ordered his sister and cousin apprehended.

“Be careful of the snow globe,” he warned.

***

Nick stood before the council of magic folk waiting to give his testimony. His father, dressed in his best suit, presided over the court.

Easter Bunny said with derision, “I think they should be exiled into the human world.”

“What kind of punishment is that,” demanded Tooth Fairy.

Father Time spoke thoughtfully, “I believe both should have their memories wiped…”

“No!” Nick shouted. “Don’t you see? It is your fault and mine that Noel chose this path. She would have made a better Santa than I, yet because she was born a girl, she could not inherit the suit.” Nick paced. “I know I failed by allowing myself to be tricked and captured…”

“You were rescuing the elves trapped in the burning toy factory!” His mother argued.

Santa scowled.

She glared in return, but silenced, sat.

“They set the toy factory on fire to entrap you,” Bunny said, not unkindly.

“We were planning to rescue the workers ourselves,” Clarence spoke up. He reached out and squeezed Noel’s hand. “We’d not expected Nick to be a hero. Though I did warn her he might. We’d planned to swoop in and save the day and make Nick look like a chump. But it backfired. The fire got out of hand and so we improvised.”

“But you already had a plan in place,” Santa nodded towards the snow globe.

Clarence flushed. “We’d already planned to make Nick forget he was to be Santa.”

Noel brightened. “Santa? Is Santa coming to town?”

Clarence patted her hand.

Nick spoke up. “I know they didn’t do things right. They put people’s lives in jeopardy,they destroyed property, they used magic without sanction…”

“If you’re trying to help us, please stop,” Clarence muttered.

Nick glared at him and Clarence clamped his lips closed and faced the council. “But they were shoved aside, ignored and treated as if they didn’t matter all because of me.” He flushed. “As the long-awaited heir, I was treated different. I saw how it hurt Noel and Clarence. It’s one of the reasons I’ve never wanted to be Santa. I do not deserve it. They worked hard for a morsel of respect and all I had to do was show up. That’s not fair.”

Santa frowned and said, “I believe it’s time the council made a decision. If you will excuse us.”

Nick lowered his head feeling the burden of their decision heavy on his shoulders.

The sound of chains rattling alerted him of Clarence’s approach. “You’re wrong, you know.”

Nick glanced up.

“You earned their respect. Your kindness to everyone, your willingness to do even the most menial job, it shows you are truly the one who deserves to be Santa. Thank you for standing up for Noel and I.” Clarence held out his hand.  

Nick took it. “I’m afraid it’s not enough.”

Clarence shrugged. “We will accept whatever the council decides.”

Santa returned leading the other magical beings.

“Will the accused rise?” He bellowed.

Clarence pulled Noel to her feet. Nick rose as well.

Santa met his son’s defiant gaze and nodded. “It is the decision of this council that the elves, Clarence and Noel Claus be stripped of their rank and magic.” Nick started to protest but Santa held up his hand. “They will be allowed to work in Santa’s village and may live as husband and wife, but they will be under the scrutiny of the council until such time as determined they are indeed reformed.”

Clarence embraced Noel.

She smiled confused her mind still muddled by magic.

“As for my son Nick, the council has determined that he has indeed exhibited great promise with his heroic deeds and kind acts. It is our decree that he be declared, Santa Claus.”

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