It was just another frosty and foggy December night and I was all alone at home amidst my work. My work, a research project on inventory management, much like any regular college project work, required truckloads of research, a zillion references and a task of interviewing some ‘n’ number of specialists to gain some real time insights. With papers, on whom I had written tit-bits collected on the topic from numerous libraries and books strewn around me, here, there and everywhere, I sat biting my fingernails staring blankly at the computer waiting for some God –made humans some half the globe across to accept my proposal for a mini interview for my project. Ah! Projects are always so strenuous.
I had kept the window behind me open, to let the cold air in. The gentle touch of freezing air against the hot headedness my work required was always so pleasantly welcoming. The gentle rustle of leaves outside and an occasional bark of the neighbour’s dog made up for a real Ruskin Bond novel like backdrop.
Suddenly, my phone buzzed and the neighbour’s dog barked. With much anticipation, I checked my phone. It was a call from my sister, Jane, instructing me to hang her stocking near the Christmas tree for Santa. Some people decidedly never grow up, I thought!
Crossing over the living room to reach the tree, I was reminded of the good old days when I was a little kid and when innocence was surely a bliss. On the Christmas morning, I would find all of my stockings that were hanging on the washing line, filled up with toffees and cookies. When I grew up a little, I remember having found a set of sketch pens under my pillow, as a gift from Santa. On another occasion, it was a pair of pink sandals. Those used to be the carefree kidhood days when I actually thought Santa was for real. Ha!
As I settled back comfortably in the epic mess that I had so prudently and painstakingly created, nostalgia took the better of me and I started going down deeper into my memory lane and suddenly, I started feeling very cold. I turned around to check if the window was still open. It was. It was time to slam it shut. As I approached the window, I knew dad was already home. He was near the porch. I could hear his breathing in the eerie silence of a winter night. Sound of footsteps followed. I would have to run to open the front door to let him in. But why didn’t he ring the bell?
I remember hearing the breathing and the footsteps. The bell did not ring. I can testify all this, just as much as the fact that when I opened the door, I found no one. Where was dad? Why was he behaving so odd?
I decided to walk till the kitchen garden to see if he were there. Yeah, I could hear some movement. What was dad doing in the kitchen garden at 11 p.m. on the coldest of winter nights? I called out to him and received no reply. Well!
With the lights switched on, I could see that there was no one, but a red something was poking out of the corner of the wall of the house. What was that?, I guessed. A red this bright at home, was probably just Jane’s doll’s frock, and this wasn’t that. Mom and I hate reds. With scare engulfing every body part of mine, I decided to check what the red thing was. It was a person in a red coat.
“hmm… shhhh… sorry sorry. Please be silent. I won’t harm you. Please.”, he whispered in a distressed tone.
“What exactly are you doing here dressed as Santa Claus, Dad??”
“Shhhhhh….. please. Noonooo noise please. I will be discovered.”
“It is OK… Jane…. is not at home right now.” Who was this man, by the way? This person here dressed as Santa Claus wasn’t dad. No he wasn’t. Dad was the last person to do such buffoonery as to dress up like Santa and hide behind a wall when Jane wasn’t even home, carry a big sack of heaven-knows-what and then fear being discovered.
“Who are you?”, I demanded in my sternest and loudest voice. “Who are you?”, I repeated.
“I.. I am Santa Clause… The official one… The main one... From North Pole... Rudolph’s out there, but you won’t be able to see it… I’ve .. It.. It is invisible.”
“And you think I will believe you, you rascal…”
“Shhh… I.. I am the real Santa. Please don’t be so loud. I can prove that I am the real one…. You are
Paula, 20 years old and when your sister asked what you wished Santa to give you this Christmas, you had casually mentioned you wanted a brand new door bell and a set of cookie moulds. Jane wanted a new doll and the entire Famous Five series by Enid Blyton. I have brought all this for you girls… Merry Christmas”
There was a pause. A rather long and an uncomfortable one.
I had mentioned these things, and at the dead of a particular night weeks and weeks ago. “How do you know we wanted these things?” I interrogated dominatingly.
“This is the way Santa Claus works. This is the way I work. Sorry, I did not wish to be discovered. This has happened for the first time in the 34 years that I have been holding this post. None of my predecessors were discovered when they were on duty, either.”
“So it is a post you hold…” This was turning out to be interesting. Somehow I had some inkling that this man was genuine and he was Santa only. But I couldn’t lose my guard. As I stood towering upon this tiny potbellied gentleman, he took out two packages, each with our names on it and handed out to me.
“Here are your gifts. Merry Christmas.”
“Oh! Thank you Santa! Wish you a very merry Christmas!.. Do come inside. Taste our home made plum cake.”, I offered politely.
“Oh! Thanks a lot.”
We failed to pull in his sack of presents through the front door, though. I made him sit in the living room, and served him our plum cake, which he liked very much. He cleared my misconception of growing up that Santa was not for real, but rather a make belief by benevolent daddies and mommies.
Additionally, I asked him where from, he sourced all the presents that he was to distribute that night and how he managed the volumes. Inadvertently and by my sheer good luck, I had found a perfect interviewee for my project on inventory management.
Of course, in the project, I had to include his views as someone who “did not wish to be named” for saving myself from ridicule (no one would believe in reality of Santa, just like I never did before the encounter) and prevent his discovery from being made public. For knowing what he actually told me, you would have to go through my project report.
Renee : What a complex Christmas story with several subplots to increase the interest level! Your story also uses lots of alliteration, metaphors, hyperbole, body language, and sensory imagery to place your reader in the story with your characters. However, my favorite part is how you tied the research project requirement in the introductory paragraph with Santa’s inventory management in your conclusion. I always wondered how he kept the toys and children organized! I hope Paula gets a good grade on her paper! You can improve this story by observing the rules for dialogue punctuation. You only need one punctuation mark before the dialogue tag. For example, “Who are you?”, I repeated should become “Who are you?” I repeated. This story will appeal to younger readers who are just beginning to question the existence of Santa!
Sandhya : An interesting story. I liked the way the stage was set for Santa to arrive – the atmosphere, the inventory project. The bit about Santa being upset over having been discovered on his job, the first time that it happened, was a nice touch. As was the part where Santa clears the writer’s misconception about Santa not being real.
The end of the story, though, did not continue at the same pace that the first two parts did. It somehow felt as if it was hurriedly composed. Maybe you could work a bit more on that?
Very well written. Keep writing and reading.
Neha : There is ample use of dialogue though less characterization. The scenario is very well built up with good descriptions of weather and the surroundings. Plot construction is good. The story line becomes very interesting what with inventory management being learnt from Santa, though how and why he gets caught by the narrator is not very clearly developed.
There are no glaring errors but an overdose of adjectives and idiomatic words and phrases.