As they pulled up, the big man frowned and scratched his head.
“Are you sure this is the right place?”
The elf beside him tapped at a small machine and nodded. “Yes, Mr Claus, sir, this is the right address. I followed the directions.”
Santa looked unconvinced. “Hmph,” he muttered. “I don’t trust those new gadgets. Whatever happened to a good old fashioned map?”
The elf looked up at him. “How many times has the map blown out of the sleigh and left us guessing? This is digital, sir. Wireless, connected to the internet, with all the most up to date maps, satellite images and even weather information. What’s not to trust?”
With a sigh, Santa picked up the bag and jumped down the chimney. The room he found himself in was much like most sitting rooms in this part of town; small and pokey, with a drab little plastic tree in one corner lost under the weight of too many cheap plastic baubles, draped with lights that started and stuttered as if trying to trigger a seizure.
Santa picked up one of the cards on the mantlepiece. “I’m sure this one was on the naughty list,” he muttered.
The door opened and a young boy in blue pyjamas walked in, a smile on his face.
“Hello, Santa,” he said. “Happy Christmas.”
Santa folded his arms and looked down at the boy over the top of his spectacles. “I know you,” he said sternly. “You’re definitely not on the good list.”
The boy shrugged. “Well, yeah, obviously. Anyway, sorry I had to rig your GPS, but you wouldn’t have come otherwise. This is urgent.”
Santa blinked. “More urgent than delivering presents to deserving, good children on Christmas Eve?”
The boy nodded. “Definitely,” he said.
Santa shook his head. “No,” he said. “You’ve been on the naughty list for far too long, and I am not going to waste my precious time on you.”
“But Santa,” the boy pleaded, stepping forward to try and grab at the big man’s sleeve.
“No buts,” Santa said. “I have been watching you, you know. You hit other children. You insulted and swore at your teachers. You’ve stolen more things than I can list. I have actual good children to deliver presents to, and you are wasting my time.”
“It won’t take long,” the boy said quietly. “Please. I just want to show you something. I mean, you’re here already. Please?”
The elf looked up at Santa. “It’s going to take me a few minutes to fix the GPS anyway, Mr Claus. You might as well look.”
Santa rolled his eyes, but gestured towards the door.
He followed the boy along a short corridor to a door at the end. The boy opened the door quietly and crept in, one finger on his lips. Santa, no stranger to moving quietly, followed him in.
A woman lay in the bed, her skin pale and sweaty, her breathing raspy and painful sounding. The bedside table was covered in medicine bottles, and above the bed a string held up by drawing pins displayed a line of get well cards.
“It’s my mum,” the boy whispered, with tears in his eyes. “I know that I’ve not been good but… But she’s really ill, Santa. I just want her to be well enough to enjoy Christmas. Really.”
Santa looked at the woman in silence for a little while, then turned to the boy and knelt down to look him right in the eye.
“All right,” he said. “But on one condition.”
The boy nodded. “Anything.”
“I never, ever want to see you on my naughty list again. Understood?”
The boy drew a cross over his heart. “I promise,” he whispered.
Santa patted him on the shoulder and left the room as the woman’s breathing eased.
“I’ve fixed it, sir,” the elf said as his boss returned to the sitting room. “All done here?”
“Yes,” Santa said with a nod, looking around the room. “Mark this boy down on the list for special monitoring next year, will you? And… remind me, from time to time, that even naughty children might deserve a Christmas miracle once in a while.”
© Kari Fay
(Author’s note: I’m using the Write Anything Fiction Friday Challenge again – to include the line “Sorry I had to rig your GPS, but you wouldn’t have come otherwise. This is urgent.” Since there’s only nine sleeps till Christmas, I decided to put a seasonal twist on my tale. I hope you enjoyed it.)