The Elf Master stopped tut-tutting over his long list. “How do you mean?” he asked.
“His eyes have lost their twinkle. His cheeks are quite pale, and,” Mrs Claus took a deep breath, “He hasn’t ho-ho-hoed in three days.”
The Elf Master folded the list carefully.
“That’s serious.” He frowned and rubbed his chin. “Come to think of it, he hasn’t told any new jokes since Tuesday. Not since the one about the elf-abet.”
“We have to do something. Christmas Eve is only two days away. I don’t know what we’ll do if Santa can’t deliver all these presents.”
Mrs Claus heaved herself up from her chair and looked around the Great Toy Hall. The room was abuzz with elves, laughing and singing and whistling and humming, while they hammered and glued and painted and wrapped. In one corner a huge pile of presents rose towards the ceiling like a tower.
The Elf Master unfolded the list and ran his knobby finger down the page.
“We’re on schedule.” He looked over the top of his glasses. “We’ll finish the Australian lot today, and get onto the bicycles for Japan and the dolls’ houses for Scotland.”
The heavy wooden door to the Hall groaned open. Santa trudged into the room. The elves stopped chatting and singing and laughing. They stared at Santa. He sighed and shoved his hands into his pockets. He looked at the present tower and sighed again. He looked at the tables covered with half-made toys and sighed even louder. The elves looked at each other. Some of them frowned.
The Littlest Elf skipped over to Santa.
“What’s wrong, Santa? Why are you sad?” he asked in a very small voice.
Santa sat down on a stool at one of the worktables.
“All these presents,” he said, “And there isn’t one for me.”
The elves gasped and Mrs Claus clutched the back of the chair.
“But you always say that the best gift of all is giving, dear,” she said.
Santa shrugged. “Just something little.”
The elves whispered to each other. “What about a new red scarf?” one said. “No, no, a box of chocolates, I reckon,” said another.
The Littlest Elf looked up at Santa and smiled. Then he climbed onto Santa’s lap, threw his arms around Santa’s neck and planted a big sloppy kiss on Santa’s nose. Santa’s cheeks turned pink. He laughed and his eyes twinkled.
“Thank you, Littlest Elf. That’s exactly what I needed.”
Mrs Claus clapped and the Elf Master wiped his brow.
“Now, then,” said Santa, rubbing his hands. “What’s a snowman’s favourite food?” He chuckled. “Iceberger, of course! Ho, ho, ho!”
©Caroline Christie 2011
Bedtime Stories downloadable tales for children are an AWO initiative, run in support of the National Year of Reading 2012. We encourage you to print and read these stories with your kids, and revel in the joy a wonderful story can bring. All stories are original and have been penned by established and emerging Australian authors. Every month, we will publish four stories running to a central theme, each on a Monday morning. See here for more.