Kid Joey dove onto the school bus and sat with Ro, eager to see where Elfie would be hanging out today. For an "Elf on the Shelf," she sure never spent much time on any shelf! Except of course the kitchen cabinet where Mom kept her little bucket of soft mints. Elfie was hooked on 'em! One of the first clues that Elfie was real, was when Kid Joey and his sister Ro came into the kitchen to grab some breakfast before Ro went to the bus stop and there Elfie was, hung over the little mint bucket, frozen in place – mint wrappers all over the counter! She was so totally busted! They'd laughed all through breakfast and their friends had even laughed on the school bus that morning.
But this afternoon Elfie was nowhere to be found.
Until Ro got to her room. "Hey Joey! C'mere!" she called out.
Kid Joey hurried to Ro's room to see what was up.
There on Ro's pillow sat Elfie – and she was moving! She blinked, pulled her legs up to pretzel them, and patted Ro's bed, inviting Ro and Kid Joey to join her. And she was petting Kato's snoozing head, since he'd already been there and napping when Elfie had shown up.
After exchanging startled glances, Ro and Kid Joey crawled onto the bed, their eyes never leaving Elfie, and waited politely to see what she had on her mind.
"Hi, Ro and Kid Joey. I know you guys had fun at your Christmas parties today at school. I know you've been helping Mom and Dad get ready, too. You both have been very, very good this year, and that's why, when Santa was looking for a friend to help him out with a favor, I mentioned you."
Ro and Kid Joey gasped. "You mentioned us to Santa?!" Ro said, astonished.
"Of course! Not the first time, either! Kid Joey, you and your sister and your friends Sir WHIP and Kato go out of your way to be kind and helpful. We noticed you helping that little kitten, Smudge, and your friend Cindy. And giving Sir WHIP a nice house to live in and helping him control his fire – very kind and helpful! So when Santa mentioned a glitch to me during rollcall…"
"Elves have rollcall?" Kid Joey asked, amused.
"Well of course, silly! How do you think Santa knows if one of us is sick?"
"Elves get sick?" Ro asked, eyes wide.
"Not often, but there's the occasional tummy ache…"
"Like when you eat half a bucket of soft mints?" Kid Joey teased.
"Be sure to thank your mom for me. The Tums she left on the kitchen table helped a lot. See what I mean? Your whole family is kind and helpful."
"So how can Ro and I help Santa?"
"Well, his sleigh is way heavy this year. He and all the elves have all pitched in every glittery speck of our magic dust, and still the reindeer can't get that sucker up into the air."
"We don't have any fairy dust, Elfie. We aren't magic," Ro said softly.
"You guys are more magical thank you think, and you are forgetting about your very magical friend, Sir WHIP."
Kid Joey's eyes lit up, getting Elfie's drift. "He can fly."
"And he's bigger than all the reindeer, Santa and his sleigh put together," Elfie added.
"Santa wants Sir WHIP to pull his sleigh instead of the reindeer?" Ro asked, appalled by the very thought.
"Of course not! The reindeer can never, ever be replaced! They are part of Santa's family. Christmas simply would not be Christmas without them.
"But they could use a little help. Like that foggy Christmas when Santa tapped Rudolph to join the team and lead the way with his shiny, glowy nose. So do you think Sir WHIP will help?"
"Well duh! Of course I will!" Sir WHIP called from his house under Ro's window, coming out onto the little patio Ro and Kid Joey had made for him out of a kitchen floor tile they'd found in the garage. "On one condition."
Elfie was aghast. "You're daring to quote a condition to Santa Claus? Seriously?"
"I'll have you know my magic goes back just as far as Saint Nicholas' does, young lady! As a matter of fact, my ancestors were there when he was born, and sent him his first iron bed frame that they forged with their fire! So don't presume to…"
"Okay, okay! Don't get all bent out of shape, you just surprised me is all. What's your condition?"
"This might be easier if I spoke to the round guy myself," Sir WHIP said, and took flight from his patio to Ro's bed.
"Ro, would you be so kind as to open your window, please?"
Ro did so, and Sir WHIP flew out it, calling back to her, "Thank you! You can close it! Give me four hours and then open it back up. That should give me plenty of time to get to the workshop, talk to Santa and get back," Sir WHIP said, hovering.
"You're going to the North Pole and back in four hours?" Kid Joey asked, surprised and highly impressed.
"Yeppers! See ya!" and Sir WHIP was off. Within seconds he was long gone, out of sight, and Ro closed the window and checked the clock. Four thirty. She set her alarm for eight thirty. She would make sure to be at her window a little early to let Sir WHIP back in.
"I wonder what in the world Sir WHIP's condition is?" Elfie said to her charges, looking a little worried, but knowing Sir WHIP was a very good, very special dragon.
"Was Sir WHIP's family friends with Santa's family?"
"Oh yes! And they really did make his first bed! It was solid silver. Beautiful thing! He still has it, as a matter of fact. Mrs. Claus keeps it all polished up. It's too little for Santa now, of course, but he lets the elves take turns napping in it. It's a magical bed, you see, that brings amazing Christmas dreams to whomever sleeps in it. We elves love to nap in it because we dream up awesome new toys whenever we do."
"That's so cool!" Kid Joey said, his eyes sparkling.
"You know you can't talk about any of this with anyone, right?" Elfie said to both children, and Kato though he was asleep with all four paws up in the air and his tongue hanging out the left side of his mouth, dreaming of peanut butter cookies that Dad and Ro had made last night.
"Right. We get it," Ro said, zipping her lips and turning the key in the lock of the invisible zipper.
At eight thirty on the dot Ro opened her window and in flew Sir WHIP with several snowflakes and the scent of cinnamon and cocoa. He landed on Ro's bed, where Kid Joey and Elfie and Ro waited, excited to hear about what Sir WHIP and Santa discussed way up at the North Pole.
"Santa said to wear the heaviest coat you've got, your snow boots with two pair of socks, two hats, two sets of mittens, and two pair of pants. He also said you'll only need all that at the North and South Poles. By the time you get to Florida and then the equator, you'll be in tee shirts and shorts – which you will wear under everything else."
Ro and Kid Joey's eyes were wide. "We're going?" they both said at the same time.
"Well of course! And Kato too! Did you think I would go on such a grand adventure and leave my best friends behind? Sheesh! Can your Mom get Kato a doggie coat and boots? Rooftops are slippery."
Kid Joey and Ro stared at Sir WHIP in awe for several moments.
"Well?" Sir WHIP brought them out of their daze.
"Sure!" Ro said.
"You can't tell her why."
"Mom and Dad will never let us go out all night," Kid Joey said, his eyes clouding.
"Wow. You guys have no idea who you're dealing with!" said Elfie, and Sir WHIP smiled. He knew, for sure and watched the cute little elf go into action.
She hopped onto Ro's shoulder as the children, accompanied by Sir WHIP on Kid Joey's shoulder, wanting to watch the fun, and by Kato, all finished with his nap by then, but still wanting Ro to go to sleep so he could snuggle up for the night. Boy was there ever a big surprise in store for him!
Mom and Dad were watching a movie, and thought Ro and Kid Joey were coming to say goodnight.
That was when Elfie flung Elf Dust over them. When Ro told Mom all about Kato needing a coat for an adventure to the North Pole, Mom went over to the gifts already beneath the beautifully decorated and light-sparkling Christmas tree and pulled out a gift from the pile. She held it down to Kato, who tore the paper off it.
Nana Terri had crocheted a gift for Kato.
"It's a thick coat with booties to match!" Kid Joey said, a big smile on his face, and Kato yipped, excited.
"It's red and white like Santa's suit!" Elfie said, laughing. "It even has a hat like Santa's!"
The kids decked Kato out in his new snuggly clothes after following Sir WHIP back to Ro's bedroom.
"How long will the Elf Dust last?" Kid Joey said.
"Until Christmas morning Then you can wake your Mom and Dad up like usual to go open gifts – whatever they remember will seem like a dream."
"Cool!" Ro said.
They all went into the back yard after bundling all their winter clothes over shorts and tee shirts as Santa had told them. Ro suggested packing snacks, but Elfie said, "Oh, you won't be needing snacks. Mrs. Claus packs 'em for Santa and the reindeer and she knows all about what little boys and girls and doggies and even magical dragons love to eat. Trust me; she's a great cook! When she met Santa he was a skinny little dude! Plus, don't forget that children all over the world leave snacks out for Santa and the reindeer, and they always share.
Everybody laughed at the skinny dude comment as they climbed aboard Sir WHIP's ample back.
Then off he took carrying his friends into Adventureland!
Now here is where my story must have gaps, because Santa's flight is top secret. Every now and then a weatherman catches sight of his sleigh in flight, but only for a second or two, and then poof! It disappears.
How he gets down chimneys, and even more puzzling, how he gets into houses with no chimneys that are all locked up tight is, always has been, and always will be, a huge mystery.
But I can tell you that Santa hung medals of honor around the necks of Kid Joey, Ro, Kato, and Sir WHIP early on Christmas morning, before the sun even peeked up over the horizon in Pennsylvania. That happened just before he dropped everyone off at Kid Joey's house from the empty sleigh, except, of course, for Kid Joey and Ro's family's presents, the last to be delivered.
Now what I can tell you, is that Kid Joey and Ro hurried into bed for about an hour's sleep before they woke up Mom and Dad and Brie for Christmas.
They went to sleep fast, as their travels on Sir WHIP's back as he helped the reindeer pull the sleigh (and it really was very, very heavy!) all over the world.
As the sun turned the early morning sky all purple and pink, Ro got up, Kato following closely and went into Kid Joey's room.
"I had the weirdest dream," she said to Kid Joey. "It started with Elfie talking to us in my room."
"And asking Sir WHIP to help the reindeer pull Santa's sleigh!" Kid Joey picked up the story.
"Did it really happen?" Ro said. Kid Joey pointed at Kato, who still had on his Santa hat. And they looked around the house. Elfie was gone, as usual, for when Santa delivered presents, he collected up all the elves who stayed in little kids' houses in December and took them back to the North Pole with him.
But the weird thing was, when everyone opened presents, Kato's sweater and booties were all wrapped up, under the tree, all except for – you guessed it! – his Santa hat!
TD – 12/19/2015