Rescued from the Naughty List

I’m not feeling well tonight. I don’t think that I have any ideas bouncing around upstairs right now, so I’m going to take this opportunity to add another of my creative writing exercises from the journal I found yesterday. This would have been a good one to post a couple of weeks ago, but I guess that now is as good a time as any. Maybe I won’t end up on Santa’s naughty list. I wrote this on January 3, 2017:

The Only Gift that Mattered

Crystal Howard looked at the man in the red suit doubtfully. He was supposed to be fat and jolly, and the Santa in front of her was neither. He was big though — towering over the tallest man in the line by at least three inches — with rippling arms that left all the moms imagining washboard abs under his coat rather than a belly that shook like a bowl full of jelly. Crystal’s cherubic face peeked out at him from behind her mother’s coat. His face was hardened and his iconic laugh was harsh — not the chuckle of a jolly, old elf at all — more like the bark of a vicious dog.

Crystal shrank a little every time the line moved. She really didn’t need to see Santa. The yearly letter would do. At least, with a letter, she wouldn’t have to see the disappointment that would surely be in his eyes at the sight of her. Her mother squeezed her hand tight and looked down with a reassuring smile. Crystal took a deep breath. She was next.

The pleats in her dress were neatly pressed. The ringlets in her hair were bouncy and perfect, but it was nothing more than a costume to the scared five year old. Christmas was the one time of year that she was allowed to get one of the nice dresses at the thrift store. It gave her the chance to pretend that they weren’t currently living out of her mom’s old Thunderbird, but Crystal felt that everyone around her knew the truth. She was an impostor.

“There are picture packages starting at $10,” said the elf.

“No, thank you. She just wants to tell Santa what she wants for Christmas.” Crystal looked sadly up at her mother. She knew that her mother would love to have that picture, but any extra money that they had — plus some — went to her pretty, red and green, plaid dress.

The little boy ahead of her must have had a list as long as the Bible. Crystal nervously tugged at the pleats, thinking of the only gift that mattered to her. A tear ran down her cheek. The boy smiled for the camera and hopped off Santa’s knee, skipping away with confidence. That was the look of a child that would be getting everything he wanted for Christmas — Crystal had no doubt of it.

She swallowed hard as the elf led her up to see the big guy. She wanted to run away. Santa looked more imposing with every step, but the more she thought about it, the more she realized that this was one request that needed to be made in person. His face had hardened, thick lines but, though he had looked mean at a distance, she saw nothing but kindness in his clear, blue eyes as she sat on his knee.

“My child, you look like you’ve been crying. Are you scared of Santa Claus?”

Crystal slightly nodded her head. “A little.”

“You’re very brave to admit that,” he looked at her kindly, “and what would you like for Christmas?”

Crystal looked down and rubbed her hands together. “It’s not for me. I’ve been bad.”

“Surely you haven’t been that bad,” he said as he tilted her chin up to look at him.

Her eyes watered. “I took momma’s wedding ring out of the console of the car. It was too big for me, so I put it in my pocket and went to play by the lake.”

“You lost it?”

“In the lake. It flew out of my pocket as I went to catch a snowflake.” She didn’t try to hold back the tears. Crystal looked pleadingly into Santa’s eyes. “Dad is gone — he lives in heaven now — and the ring was special to mom. She cried when I told her I had lost it. Could you please bring it back to her?”

“That’s a tall order, young lady. Some things that are lost cannot be found, not even by Santa.”

The child cupped her hands over her eyes and wept.

“You lost it in Smith Lake?”

“Yes. That’s where we’re living right now… Smith Lake Park, near the playground. It’s empty this time of year, so we park there.”

Sadness swept across Santa’s face for a brief moment. “And that’s all you want?”

“Yes.”

A glimmer came to Santa’s eyes. “I can’t make any promises, but if it can be found, I know just the elves to look for it.”

~~~

Christmas morning came and there was no ring. Bundled up in the back seat of the Thunderbird, Crystal’s mom was holding her tight. “He didn’t find it!” Crystal cried.

“What do you mean, sweetie? Santa brought you this pretty doll.”

“I didn’t want a doll. I asked for your ring back.” If Santa wasn’t going to bring it back, then she was. She flew out of the car, running for the lake, her mom chasing after her. There had to be at least twenty men and women in wet suits combing through the water. Crystal nearly fell over as her feet stopped abruptly, her mind’s energy spent marveling at the sight. “U.S.A. Navy Seals” was written on their sleeves.

“I found something,” someone shouted.

There was a lot of excitement as the man took his finding to the largest man in the group. The muscular man inspected it for a while, then smiled, and looked up to find Crystal gawking. The smile grew bigger across his face. “Is your mother’s name Molly?”

“How did you know?”

The giant man walked over to the child and reached out his hand to give her the newly found treasure. “Santa said you were looking for this.” A glimmer of joy shown in his clear, blue eyes. It was a ring. The inscription inside read “Jason and Molly Forever.”

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