Most kids want to be Superman or Taylor Swift. Jimmy wanted to be Santa Claus.
Nobody wanted to be a fat old man living in the frozen north, but the way Jimmy saw it, this guy had a legion of elves to make him whatever toy he wanted, got to live in a sweetass workshop, had a bunch of pet deer, worked one day of the year (in which he used superpowers to deliver presents at light speed while wearing his pajamas), feasted on cookies, got to make out with everyone’s hot mom, and was always in a good mood. Who wouldn’t want that life?
Jimmy would stay up late every Christmas–not to prove Santa wasn’t real, like a lot of kids his age were doing, but to meet him in the hopes of convincing him to let Jimmy be his apprentice. For four years he did so, and Santa never showed. Only his Mom, sleepily arranging wrapped boxes Jimmy would later identify as “from Santa.” He was starting to doubt in the magic of Christmas.
It wasn’t until his eighth birthday, when he seriously doubted Santa Claus was real, and only stayed up late out of tradition (and to steal cookies), that he heard the bells.
Tiny ones–little fairy bells, like someone’s kitschy shop door was opening. Except they were coming from…
Jimmy stood up from his hiding spot behind the chesterfield. He thought about secretly observing–after all, he was always told that Santa never came to boys and girls who were looking for him–but he wanted to be an apprentice. That meant presenting himself.
Slowly, one by one, two black boots emerged from the top of the chimbley, settling among the ashes, spewing black soot everywhere. The chimbley looked to be spitting the man out, and the laughter that came through echoed like the throat of a stone snake. The man inside crouched, and his long soot-blackened beard swept the floor. Two twinkling eyes peered directly at Jimmy.
“There you are.”
The man chuckled some more, and squeezed out of the chimbley, his red-and-white suit dirty like a mechanic’s overalls. The roof thumped as though dozens of hoofed feat were shifting the snow.
Santa smiled, the bell on the end of his red hat jingling as he stood to his full height, looming like a jolly fat tower over Jimmy.
“Come out, now, Jimmy,” Santa boomed.
Jimmy, eyes saucered and mouth even rounder, stepped out from behind the chesterfield.
“I received your letters,” Santa said smilingly, mitted hands on his broad belly. “You have something to ask me?”
It took a moment for Jimmy to work up a voice. He nodded first, his dry eyes needing to blink but he didn’t want to lose sight of this miracle even for a millisecond.
“Yes,” he croaked.
Santa laughed Clausishly. “Well?”
“I…” said Jimmy, wringing his hands. “I wanted… I want to be like you. I want to be the next Santa. I mean…”
More laughter, whiplashes of sound. “Of course, Jimmy, of course. You’ve been such a good boy. How could I deny your one Christmas wish?”
Jimmy’s eyes lit up. It was real. Christmas miracles were real.
“You mean it?” he asked. “I can… I can go to the North Pole with you? Meet the reindeer? Learn how to create Christmas?”
“Of course,” said the Claus. He knelt down and opened his arms wide. Jimmy flung himself into the old man’s red embrace, laughing and cheering like a little kid again. Then he started crying, the tears staining the suit, moistening the soot, smearing it on his cheeks.
“Why are you crying, dear boy?” Santa asked, pulling Jimmy back to see his weepy face.
“I just… I never thought…” Jimmy choked out, sobs interrupting his words.
“There there, little elf,” said Saint Nick, producing a snow-white handkerchief and wiping away Jimmy’s tears. “You’re with Santa. Everything will be jolly from here on out.”
When Santa Claus finished dabbing Jimmy’s cheeks, he stuffed the handkerchief back into his deep coat pocket. “Now…” he said, and his hand came back out of his pocket with a pair of scissors. “Let’s see those ears.”
Day 250’s three random writing prompt categories were, “Santa Claus,” “A magnificent beard,” and, “Don’t blink.”
Merry Christmas, kids!