A New Children's Adventure Book
Chapter 1 & 2
Dr. Robert Spalding
1225 Taft Hwy Signal Mt., TN 37377
Approx. length: 16,000 words
What is your favorite time of the year? Is it summer vacation? Maybe it’s your birthday. That’s always pretty exciting. Perhaps you’ll agree with the millions of children who think that there’s one holiday that tops them all.
Ahh, Christmas. It doesn’t matter if it’s warm or cold where you live, there is magic in the air when December rolls around. Everybody smiles a little more, kids make their Christmas lists, families put up lights and decorate the tree; even your teacher gets into the spirit and doesn’t give you as much homework! It’s a pretty special time of year.
Have you ever wondered how it’s done? How do Santa and the elves manage that big trip from the North Pole each year? It’s not easy, let me tell you. It takes plenty of organization and cooperation. And one of the keys to that success is Mrs. Claus. That’s right! I bet you thought she just sat around making cookies all day, didn’t you? Oh, no—she does much more than that!
tell you about the year everything changed at the North Pole. The ice caps were
melting, the workshops were flooded, the reindeer had fleas and Santa had the
flu … Mrs. Claus really had to work fast to save Christmas!
But I’m getting ahead of myself. Turn the page and let’s begin.
Chapter One: Charlie the Mall Santa
The Tennessee North Gate shopping mall was busy. It was December and the stores were packed with shoppers carrying heavy bags. Beautiful red and green decorations were everywhere, and colored lights twinkled prettily in store windows. Christmas carols blared over the loudspeakers. (The funny thing about Christmas music is that a little of it makes people happy, but hours of it makes them kind of grouchy.)
A crowd of children and parents were waiting impatiently in line to see Santa Claus. Eager faces were anxious to tell Santa what they wanted for Christmas. Lists were in hand, hopes were high and tired parents fussed with their cameras to make sure that they captured this magic moment to share with all their relatives. Some kids were crying, some were chattering excitedly and others just looked around in amazement and didn't say a word.
Charlie looked out over the noisy, milling crowd and sighed. It wasn’t that he didn’t love his job, because he did. He’d been working as the North Gate mall ‘Santa’ for several Christmases and it made his heart happy to bring the Christmas spirit to the children of this town. He loved seeing their faces light up and hearing their timid whispers but just now, listening to “Jingle Bells” for the hundredth time was giving him a headache and he wished he was home in bed with a good book.
No time for second thoughts though. Here was the next kid in line, and there was an hour yet to go before closing time. He smiled his friendliest smile through the artificial, curly white beard and held out his hand to the little girl in the shabby dress looking up at him.
“And what do you want for Christmas, darling?”
“Oh, Santa,” she whispered. “I would like to have a computer, but what I truly want is for my Daddy to get a job. He really wants one but he can’t find one anywhere. Can you fit a job in a stocking? You can do anything, can’t you?”
Charlie didn’t answer for a moment. It always made him sad to see the children who were obviously less than well-off. “What’s your name, honey?” he asked kindly.
“Kathy.” She answered quietly.
“Well, Kathy, I can’t promise anything yet, but if you believe in the magic of Christmas and always have hope in your heart, I’m sure things will work out for your father.” He didn’t know what else to say. She smiled at him, so he gave the girl a hug and watched her wander off alone into the crowd. Where’s her mother? he wondered to himself. He was just about to get up when another child approached. Santa pointed to a mall security person to follow the little girl who just left to see if she was with her parents.
“Santa—SANTA!” A pudgy boy in designer clothes was pulling on his sleeve. With a sigh, Santa bent his head again.
It was nearly 11:00 p.m. when Charlie stumbled into the staff locker room at North Gate Mall. At this time of night the mall was empty of shoppers and littered with trash and the only people around were security guards who looked at you suspiciously. Pulling off his hat, wig and beard, he started to unzip his Santa suit, struggling to pull out the pillow he had stuffed around his middle. I wonder if Santa’s job is as hard as mine, he muttered to himself.
“Excuse me, mister,” came a voice at his elbow, so unexpectedly that he jumped.
Charlie turned, and there, beside his locker labeled “Charlie Winters” stood a little man, barely three feet tall. He was dressed mostly in green, with a splash of bright color here and there, and his face was small and brown with a keen expression.
He swept off his forester’s cap and made a theatrical bow. Charlie noticed with surprise that the man’s ears were decidedly pointy.
“I’ve been trying to get a hold of you, but you wouldn’t answer your cell phone,” the visitor explained.
“I don’t answer my cell phone while I’m playing Santa,” Charlie snorted. He just wanted to go home. “It’s here in my locker. What do you want?”
“Oh, I’ve got orders to drop you off at the Polar Train Station. There’ll be someone else waiting for you there. Come along; my ride’s just outside.”
“What makes you think I’m going with you? I don’t know you.” Charlie protested. The elf just grinned. “You may not know me, but we know you. Charlie Robert Winters, age 60. Widowed, no kids. Lived in Tennessee all your life. You’ve been a shopping mall Santa for five years now. Always wished you could travel the world. Anything else? Oh yeah, when you were ten-years-old you wanted a Super Speedy Red Road Rocket go-cart.” He chuckled as Charlie’s jaw dropped in surprise. “Now come on, we have to move it if I’m going to get you to the North Pole in time for your meeting. No one is ever late for the Kringles, you’d end up on the naughty list!”
Charlie didn’t know what to say so he just followed the man. Out in the back parking lot, he saw, to his surprise, a small helicopter. The little man opened the door.
“Hop in,” he said. “And don’t forget to buckle up. It’s a wild ride.”
Charlie climbed in. His chauffeur took the controls and a moment, later, the helicopter shot up into the air. Charlie was glad he had buckled up. The aircraft went so fast and the driver took such sharp turns to avoid skyscrapers and other planes, he was surprised they didn’t get contacted by the control tower. Then Charlie noticed: there were no controls in the booth at all; no radio, no dials, nothing. Just a simple joystick and a radar screen.
A while later, they touched down at a quaint train station that reminded Charlie of a place in a movie he’d seen; he couldn’t remember which one. The little man helped Charlie down just as an old-fashioned steam engine with a jolly red caboose came chugging up and screeched to a halt, releasing great puffs of white smoke.
“There you go; the driver’ll take you where you need to go. Enjoy your stay at the North Pole! Ennie will take good care of you and don’t worry, Mrs. Claus is a great boss. I’m off! Merry Christmas!”
The helicopter rose straight into the air, wobbled a moment, then turned and headed straight south. Charlie stared after it, open mouthed. He was a little dizzy after that hair-raising flight, and he could hardly believe this was happening to him. Perhaps he had fallen asleep in the locker room? But no, the cold was too real, and besides, there was a very real touch at his elbow.
When he turned around, there was another strange man, slightly smaller than the first, dressed in red with a green feather in his peaked conductor’s hat.
“You ready? No luggage?” The little man’s friendly face wrinkled into a welcoming smile. “Climb aboard.”
Now Charlie was a little confused. “What do you want with me, exactly? I don’t understand why I’m supposed to go to the North Pole. I would like some answers before I get on that train!”
The little man looked astonished. “What? Chamon didn’t tell you? What was he thinking! If you ride up in the engine with me, I’ll fill you in as we drive. You’re my only passenger,” he added, opening the door. “The Express is making a special stop, just for you. My name’s Ennie, by the way.”
Before long, Charlie was comfortably settled in the cab of the engine and listening with astonishment as the train driver told him a mind-boggling story.
“Everything’s gone wrong at the North Pole this winter. You see, my boss, Santa Claus has not been in the best of health for years. He normally pulls through all right, but he just came down with a rip-roaring case of influenza.” The elf nodded reassuringly as Charlie raised his eyebrows in concern. “Oh, don’t worry—he’ll recover in good time, but it will knock him out over Christmas.
“The reindeer aren’t doing too well, either. There’s been an outbreak of deer mites, and they spend all day scratching their itchy backs against trees instead of practicing their flying. Sara—that’s Mrs. Claus—is working with the best veterinarians in the country to find a cure. If somebody can’t cure them in the next couple of weeks, we’ll have no reindeer for the sleighs.
“And that isn’t all! We don’t even have a good supply of toys ready.”
“How could the North Pole run out of toys?” Charlie was shocked. “I thought …”
“It’s worse than that. The reason we’re low on toys is because the polar ice caps are melting, and several toy workshops on the coast have been flooded and had to be shut down. The ones that are still working are crippled with serious water damage and are only partially functional.
“Fortunately, we’ve got Mrs. Claus, the greatest boss on the planet, to help us out. Only she can’t do it alone, and we elves aren’t really supposed to leave the Pole. We cause too much excitement when we show up down there.” The engineer jerked his head in a southerly direction. “So she’s calling for deputies; assistants to help with the big delivery on Christmas Eve. You’re the first one, I hear.”
Charlie was stunned. His eyes were wide and he didn’t say a thing as he stared first at the elf in the red suit and then out the window at the snow-fields flashing by as the train rolled over deep, craggy valleys bridged with trestles and through cloud-high mountains peaked with ice and snow. The tracks wound out of sight both in front of the train and behind.
At last, Charlie began to see signs of civilization. Lights—red and green mostly—twinkled on the horizon. One tall, triangular scaffold of metal towered above the skyline. Lights and decorations made it look almost like a Christmas tree.
“That’s Sara’s cell tower, so we can use mobile phones,” the driver explained confidentially. “Santa didn’t want it put in at first, but with the ice melting, our telephone landlines kept breaking and the repair elves couldn’t keep up. Sara insisted that communication with the rest of the world was too important and we couldn’t risk losing it, even for a day. This is the first Christmas it’s been up, and the decorating team sure did a nice job, don’t you think?”
Charlie could only nod. He was too overwhelmed to say much. Finally, he managed to thank the elf for all the information. “I don’t know how I can help, though,” he said, a little puzzled.
“Don’t worry. Mrs. Claus has got something in mind for you,” Ennie said confidently. With a puff and a squeal, the train pulled to a stop in front of a large, brilliantly lit building that was slightly reminiscent of Union Station in Washington, DC.
“Welcome to the home of the Polar Train,” the conductor said. “The Kringles don’t allow helicopters like Chamon’s to fly directly over the Pole. Something in the exhaust speeds up the melting. Come on, I’ll show you a few of the sights on the way to Sara’s office.”
“Isn’t it kind of late? Is she still seeing visitors at this time of night?” Charlie ventured to say timidly. It was eleven o’clock at night when he left the mall. It had to be at least 2:00 a.m. now.
“Late? It’s early!” the elf said laughing. “You know we can’t deliver toys until all the kids are asleep, so our work day starts at midnight. Those of us who need to sleep— very few, I’ll tell you—take a short nap in the afternoon. I for one can’t see why anyone would want to waste time in bed.”
A short time later, Charlie had seen and admired many of the unique buildings in the downtown section of the North Pole. He gaped at the largest, oldest toy factory in the world. He walked wide-eyed through the official Christmas tree nursery, where every young Christmas tree was first sprouted and then carefully transplanted into forests around the world. His elf guide told him sadly how the increased use of artificial Christmas trees had greatly diminished the demand for Christmas seedlings and how a whole troop of elves had had to be laid off.
“Don’t worry; we sent them to the Black Forest to train under the wood elves there. But it’s always sad when we have to send Polar elves away from the ice cap.
“Here we are!” he announced proudly. “The official Santa and Company office building. Sara’s office is on the top floor.”
It was a high-rise building with red plush carpet and glass elevators manned by short, pale elves in bellboy suits.
The ride up the elevator was breathtaking. When they stopped at the 25th floor, Charlie paused a moment to look out over the whole city of North Pole, dancing with Christmas lights and radiating holiday cheer. You would never know that so many things were amiss.
“Mrs. Claus will see you now,” a sweet-looking girl said with a smile. She doesn’t look much like an elf, Charlie thought.
Just as the door swung open to admit him to Sara’s luxurious office, Charlie realized that he was still wearing his Santa suit, half unzipped, over his regular clothes.
Chapter Two: Meet Sara
Sara Kringle had been in her office since 10:00 p.m. At midnight on the dot, she signed into her email, obviously waiting for something. After a couple of minutes, she heard the familiar jingle, “Merry Christmas! You’ve got mail!”
Adjusting her glasses on her nose, she opened the email entitled “North Pole: Daily Report.” Scanning the first few headings quickly, she shook her head and sighed.
“My goodness,” she exclaimed, “Things just keep getting worse and worse!” But there was a smile on her face. Nothing could fluster Sara Claus; she actually enjoyed the challenge. She pulled out a notepad and began writing out a list of everything that needed to be done, all in lovely, loopy cursive.
The first order of business was her husband, of course. Sara grabbed the telephone on her desk and listened for a dial tone.
“Oh, I forgot,” she muttered. “Line’s dead.”
Instead she pulled out her cell phone and punched in the number for the pharmacy down the street.
“Hello? Yes, this is Sara. Is the flu medicine in yet from our lab on the South Pole? Wonderful! Can you run some down to my house and fix Kris up? I know, he hates needles. Maybe if you give him a candy cane to suck on, he’ll let you give him the shot. Tell him I love him, and I’ll be calling him in a couple of hours to see how he’s doing. What’s that? Oh, tell him not to worry. I’ve got everything under control. Thanks. Talk to you later.”
Sara put a big red check mark by the entry at the top of her To Do list: Check up on medicine for Kris.
“One thing done,” she smiled.
Now she turned back to her computer and scrolled down to the second page of the email report. This problem was not so easily solved.
Factory Flooding Continues: Polar elves have had to shut down yet another factory, two miles inland this time. The cracks in the ice are spreading and some buildings are being evacuated in fear that a large chunk of ice will break off and join the ice floes heading south. All production of North Pole computers, gaming devices and MP3 players has been suspended until another workshop can be built. Factory workers will require new job placements immediately.
Sara pulled down her fluffy white braid and pinned it back up in a large bun on the back of her head. She was thinking hard. Turning back to her computer, she clicked over to Google Earth and studied the satellite image of the polar ice cap. She could see the cracks that the report had mentioned. There was no way that workshop could be saved.
Her mind made up, Sara reached for the buzzer beside her desk lamp. She paged her daughter, who worked in the office as her secretary. “Sarah Joy, is Neemar in his office? I need to talk to him. Thanks, honey.”
Five minutes later, an elf dressed in a business suit rapped on the door and came in. It was Neemar, head of the newly-formed relocation department.
“What’s up, boss?” he said.
“We’ve got a problem, Neemar,” Sara said, shaking her head. “Fifty more elves are out of work and need new jobs. Any suggestions?”
Neemar scratched his head, pulled out a portfolio and flipped through some pages. “What skills?”
“They’re tech-trained,” Sara replied. “Computers and electronics. What are you thinking?”
“We’ll keep ‘em here at the city. We’ll need some help setting up the radar system for the new control tower.”
Sara smiled, relief on her face. “Perfect! You’ve done it again, Neemar. Get them housed as soon as you can, and tell them they’ll be back to work in a week.”
Neemar shook hands with Sara and headed back to his office to take care of the necessary business. Sara sighed and checked off another item on her list—another executive decision that had gone smoothly. She was glad that these elves could be put back to work again so quickly without leaving their home.
Next she called up the distribution manager and informed him of the problem. “The electronics workshop had to close down. We won’t have time to set up another one before Christmas. We’ll have to talk to our other suppliers in order to get enough electronics for the gifts this year.”
“Now for the reindeer,” she murmured, dialing again on her cell phone. “North Pole Veterinary Service, please.”
It took some time for her to talk to the vet, order the necessary lotions, and set up an appointment for each reindeer at the health spa. The only solution for getting rid of nasty deer mites was regular steam baths and daily applications of smelly pink lotion. The reindeer hated the treatments, but it was the only thing to do. The problem was this: Christmas was only two weeks away and it took three weeks to cure an epidemic of mites.
Sara smiled. That meant it was time to reveal her secret transportation system. Over the past few years she had been quietly developing it as an emergency back-up. A stable full of sick reindeer before Christmas certainly qualified as an emergency! Santa is going to laugh when he finds out, she thought with a grin.
The next item on Sara’s list was the new deputy system, which was sure to make future Christmas seasons less stressful for her darling Kris. Some things couldn’t be solved by phone calls and technology. Santa needed human hearts and human hands doing the work that he could no longer do by himself.
Sara got a text from Ennie, her train driver, telling her that Charlie was on his way and would be there in 20 minutes. Just enough time to call Kris, Sara thought. He probably needs a little love after his shot.
She fired up the chat program on her computer and plugged in the webcam. A moment later, Kris Kringle’s rosy face and huge white beard popped up on the screen. He did not look very well today.
“Hey there, honey! How you doin’?” Sara crooned, looking lovingly at her husband. “Did you eat your soup?”
“Yes, it was good. Thanks, Sara,” he croaked, stopping to cough every few words. “The doc said I’ll be back on my feet in ten days, but that’s not nearly soon enough. There’s so much to be done. Did you contact the Fu Fus? They haven’t gotten back to us about our order. And who’s going to pick it up? The island of Fu is a long way out there; the regular route driver couldn’t do it ….”
He would have gone on, but Sara hushed him with a finger on her lips. “Don’t worry Kris, I’ve got everything taken care of. The Fu Fus are all set, and we’re working on a pick-up schedule. Now you need to go take your nap.”
“But I can never sleep,” Santa complained. “I feel too uncomfortable. This influenza is the nastiest bug yet!”
“Then put your feet up and watch your favorite Christmas movie. It’ll make you think of the old days when everything was so simple. Hey, do you remember what’s happening tonight?”
Santa smiled at last. “Kris Jr. will be home from college. I’m curious to see if he’s grown up at all. His big sister’s doing great, isn’t she? Just like her mother.”
“We’ve got wonderful children, Kris,” Sara said lovingly. “Now go lay down, okay?”
“All right, bye! Signing off ….”
Sara shut down the chat just as the intercom buzzed on her desk. It was Sarah Joy, telling her that the first deputy, Charlie Winters, had arrived.
Sara straightened her velvety red dress and smoothed down her furry white collar. “Send him in, honey.”
Charlie looked exhausted as he came into the office. He did look comical half in and half out of his Santa suit, but Sara had too much tact to smile.
“Here, sit down. I’m Sara Kringle and you must be Charlie. It’s nice to meet you. Did you talk to my daughter Sarah Joy? She’s a wonderful secretary, couldn’t do without her. Care for marshmallows in your hot chocolate?”
While she talked briskly, Sara was pouring Charlie a cup of exclusive North Pole hot chocolate. She handed it to him in a motherly fashion and settled back behind her desk. Even though Charlie had only taken a few sips, he already felt warmer and more awake.
“So, tell me why you chose to become a Santa?” Sara began. “It’s a demanding job and takes a very special kind of person—I should know,” she added with a smile. “What keeps you at it?”
“I guess because I don’t have children of my own, this is my way of bringing some happiness to lots of them for a short time each year. I like to think a little Christmas cheer can go a long way. I love to make the children happy,” Charlie said slowly. “To see their eyes get so bright and sparkling when I sit them on my lap … to hear their secret wishes and dreams, and sweet 'thank you's when I give them a candy cane to take home. But lately it’s been really hard. I just don’t know what to do.” He paused. Sara nodded encouragingly. “There are so many children out there who don’t have as much as the others,” Charlie went on. “So many children that aren’t going to have a merry Christmas this year. I don’t understand it. The ones with so little are always concerned for other people, and the more privileged children—there are exceptions, mind you, but as a rule, the rich children are rude and only think of themselves. I wish there was something I could do, but I’m just a shopping mall Santa.”
Sara was very serious as she spoke. “Please don’t say that. You have a big heart, Charlie. You bring hope to children who need it. You remind them that with hope, magic is possible. And when people believe in magic, they can create it in their hearts and share it with others. You give that feeling to them when you play the part of Santa. It’s a real gift. Without shopping mall Santas like you, Christmas time would not be as merry.”
Charlie looked down at his feet. “I thank you for your kind words, Mrs. Claus, but you know I can’t make sure they have a merry Christmas any more than pigs can fly.”
Sara’s eyes twinkled and she laughed out loud. “Then you’re in for a surprise, Charlie. And please, do call me Sara. How would you like to be one of the ones responsible for making sure that these sweet children do have a merry Christmas?”
“I would do anything to be able to do that, Mrs. – er, Sara,” Charlie said earnestly. “Especially that little girl I saw at the mall yesterday. She so wanted a job for her daddy. Can you make jobs at the North Pole?”
“You’d be surprised,” Sara said kindly. “Let me explain the plan ….”