Christmas story – Jon Oxtoby Writes

Christmas story

I often write short stories in the run up to Christmas, adding a new chapter each day with the starting line inspired by my advent calendar. This year, I’m asking my friends, family and network to vote on what each day’s chapter should start with – and adding each new chapter here for everyone to read. I hope you enjoy it – and have a Merry Christmas!

Chapter 1

“It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas in here,” Mrs. Claus said, hands on hips.

 

“Bugger,” muttered Father Christmas.

 

After thirteen days of self-isolation, the flat the Clauses were staying did resemble the aftermath of a particularly vigorous present-opening session. That is, if the main gifts people had given each other were takeaways, pyjamas, and socks.

 

“We’d better think about getting home,” Mrs. Claus reminded Father Christmas, “we’re out of isolation tomorrow and we’ll need to make sure that everything’s all right back at the North Pole.”

“Why we came to Weybridge,” Father Christmas muttered, “I will never know.”

Chapter 2

“Bah humbug!” cried Elvis, the Chief Elf.


“Sir!” cried his elfretary. “No swearing in the workshop!” Elvis threw his arm up in the air.


“Well I mean, what’s the point? We might as well just cancel the whole thing this year.” The elfretary’s face went white.


“You can’t say that, sir! It’s bad for morale!”


“Bad for morale?!” Elvis shrieked, “I’ll tell you what’s bad for morale! The Christmases having to self-isolate on holiday and missing the toy factory opening! The elves are miserable! I’m miserable!”


“It’s all right sir,” the elfretary said soothingly, “they’ll be home any day now.” 

Chapter 3

“Pass the eggnog,” Father Christmas mumbled morosely.


“Not just before we set off dear,” Mrs. Claus began – but stopped with a sigh as Father Christmas pulled a bottle out of the thin air before him.


The problem with being married to the embodiment of Christmas, she thought to herself, is that you’re really married to thousands of years of tradition. Which means you’re not often listened to. She settled instead for a warning glare as Father Christmas drained the bottle, his hat falling off his head.


She just had to get him home.


“Now,” she said brightly, “where’s the sleigh?”

Chapter 4

“Hang up your stockings and rest for a moment,” the elfretary said soothingly to Elvis as they led him to the toy factory’s break room. “It’ll all be OK. You’ll see.”

 

Elvis subsided, wheezing, into a plush armchair.

 

“It’s just…” he started, “it’s been such a horrid year. I was counting on Christmas to save the year, but even that’s not gone to plan.”

 

“Things don’t always go to plan, but that doesn’t mean they’re ruined,” ventured the elfretary.

 

“It does with Christmas!” Elvis sobbed. Abruptly he looked out the window.

“Is that the sleigh?” he asked. “Who’s driving it?”

Chapter 5

“Jingle bells!” exploded Elvis, “there’s nobody at the reins!”

 

The reindeer continued to make a beeline for the North Pole.

 

“This is a disaster!” Elvis screamed.

 

“They’re flying much smoother than usual,” muttered the elfretary.

 

“So now Father Christmas is stuck in England somewhere, with transport all locked down… what are we going to do?!”

 

“I always thought it was the sleigh that made them wobble all over the place,” the elfretary mused. Elvis rounded on them.

 

“Tell me how this isn’t going to ruin Christmas!”

 

“The sleigh won’t have any scratches on it this year,” the elfretary said brightly.

Chapter 6

“How much tinsel is too much tinsel?” a young dad asked Mrs. Claus with a worried expression. She sucked in the cold train platform air, pondering.

 

“Only,” the young man said, “I’m not sure he can breathe under all that.”

 

“What?” Mrs. Claus said. She looked to her left and saw Father Christmas, wrapped in all the tinsel the local WHSmiths had to offer. “Oh, don’t worry about him dear,” she said, “it just helps keep him calm.”

 

“Where are the reindeer?” came a muffled bleating from under the tinsel. Mrs. Claus and the young man looked at each other.

Chapter 7

“Fa-la-la-la-la, la-la-la-la!” Mrs. Claus blurted. The knowing look on the face of the child in the young dad’s pushchair said that he understood exactly what the extra emphasis on the ‘f’ had meant.

 

Just then the train pulled in, and the Christmases bundled on the 9.27 heading to Gatwick Airport.

 

“Going away for Christmas?” the young dad asked.

 

“More like going home,” Mrs. Claus said, flashing a winning smile at the child to compensate for her aggressive carolling earlier.

 

“Where’s home?” Dad asked.

 

“Tromsø, in Norway,” Mrs. Claus replied after only a moment’s hesitation.

 

The child’s knowing look remained unchanged.

Chapter 8

“Who’s your secret Santa?” asked the Dad.

 

“I beg your pardon?!” Mrs. Claus yelped. Panic akin to realising you’ve missed an appointment flooded her body.

 

“I just meant, you know, for the work Christmas party,” the man said. “You’re going on the thirteenth, right?”

 

Mrs. Claus’ mind raced. “I… uh…”

 

“Oh, come on,” said the Dad, “I know that you lot in accounts don’t get out much, but when it’s a Zoom call you’ve really got no excuse, Dora! It is Dora, isn’t it?”

 

“Um… yes,” Mrs. Claus said weakly, “Dora, that’s me.”

 

“Are we there yet?” asked Father Christmas.

Chapter 9

“He’s making a list, he’s checking it twice; anyone without a valid ticket will have to pay a price.”

 

The train guard’s attempt at humour, Mrs. Claus thought, was rather weak.

 

She glanced over at the young man with the child. Why he’d mistaken her for a colleague, she didn’t know. At least he hadn’t worked out who her husband was.

 

“We will shortly be arriving at London Gatwick,” the guard said. “Please ensure you have all your belongings with you.”

 

Inside, Mrs. Claus debated whether a luggage trolley would be the best way to get Father Christmas through customs.

Chapter 10

“We three Kings of Orient are… unsure if we can do that, Mr. Chief Elf.”

 

The elfretary watched Elvis’ eye twitch as he stared at the elaborately robed monarchs.

 

“I just need you to find him and bring him home,” Elvis repeated.

 

“Isn’t that more of a shepherding job?” Asked one king.

 

“They don’t have camels,” Elvis countered.

 

“He’s in the UK!” Another king exclaimed.

 

“We don’t have an air corridor with the UK!” the third added.

 

“We do,” Elvis shot back. “It’s in The Sun.”

 

“Our camels don’t fly!” Elvis’ smile was manic

 

“We can fix that,” he purred.

Chapter 11

 

“Where are you spending Christmas?” The check-in attendant asked.

 

“Tromsø,” Mrs. Claus answered. “Actually, a bit North of there.”

 

“Wonderful,” he said. “I’m staying home myself. Don’t want to give mum and dad ‘rona by mistake, you know?”

 

“What a bother this virus is,” Mrs. Claus said with a lump in her throat. The man nodded, handing Mrs. Claus her tickets.

 

“Gonna put your feet up on the second seat, are you?”

 

“What?”

 

Mrs. Claus looked round. Father Christmas had gone. Behind the check-in desk, she saw a flash of tinsel disappear into the bowels of the luggage conveyor belt.

Chapter 12

“Hark! The herald angles sing!”

 

“It’s angels, Raj”

 

“What?”

 

“Angels. Not angles. Didn’t you do carols at school?”

 

“Mate, that was years ago. Can’t expect me to remember all the words.”

 

Through the glitter of tinsel, Father Christmas could see men in high-vis jackets chatting. Where was he? What was in that eggnog?

 

Why was he covered in tinsel?

 

Before he could gather his wits, he was picked up and bodily thrown into a dark space, landing on what felt like a (now broken) guitar.

 

“That’s all the luggage for this flight. Let’s go get warm. You ever had eggnog?”

Chapter 13

“Gaudete, gaudete Christus est natus,” sang the drunken carollers in first class. Mrs. Claus smiled, wondering if Father Christmas could hear them. She wasn’t worried about him – he managed in the sleigh at sub-zero temperatures after all – and she was enjoying the extra leg room.


From Tromsø, it wasn’t far to a North Pole Outpost, where they could get a sleigh ride the rest of the way. They just had to get there in time.


Just then, something flew past the window in the opposite direction. Mrs. Claus blinked. She couldn’t be sure, but it had looked like three camels.

Chapter 14

“Oh, the weather outside is frightful!” said the elfretary as Elvis start out the window. “I hope the Three Kings make it to the UK safely.”


“We gave them enough magic dust to circumnavigate the earth twice,” Elvis responded, “and they’ve each got robes on about a foot thick. They’ll be fine.”


The Chief Elf’s office was silent for a minute.


“Of course,” the elfretary said, “If the Clauses have tried to get home themselves then there’s no telling where they are right now. They could be anywhere!”


Elvis was silent, but the elfretary saw his hands shaking a little.

Chapter 15

“How’s the Christmas cake coming along?” PC Humberton asked as they stood in the cold, watching the street.

 

“Oh it’s a corker this year,” Replied PC Edgeworth. “Even after the dog-“ she stopped as they saw, riding around the corner, three robed men on camels.

 

“What the blazes…” PC Humberton trailed off as the trio made their way down the street. They seemed to be looking for a specific house.

 

“What do we do?” Asked Edgeworth. Humberton sniffed and hitched up his belt.

 

“Follow protocol,” he said. Striding forward, he opened his mouth.

 

“Ello, ello ello! What’s going on ‘ere?”

Chapter 16

“Let’s go carolling!” Mrs. Claus said as they left Tromsø airport.


“Why?” grunted Father Christmas. Mrs. Claus had retrieved him from the baggage carousel unhurt, but still grumpy.


“It’ll be good for us,” she said simply.


“Oh, alright.” He snapped his fingers and suddenly they were on a quiet, snowy residential street.


“How did you do that?” Mrs. Claus asked.


“I am wherever Christmas spirit is,” Father Christmas replied loftily.


“So why, “Mrs. Claus asked, keeping her voice even, “have we spent all this time travelling by train and plane?”


“It never seems to work over water,” Father Christmas admitted.

Chapter 17

“The holly and the Ivy aren’t nice plants, really,” Father Christmas commented over the sound of carollers. “One’s prickly, the other takes over your garden.”

 

“Don’t fret, dear,” Mrs. Claus replied. “Just look, and listen.”

 

They did. Father Christmas saw carollers, socially distanced, singing in unison.

 

“But nobody is together,” he muttered, “where’s the Christmas spirit in being alone?”

 

“Are they?” Mrs. Claus asked, pointing to the houses. Here and there, lights in the windows revealed people figures standing, listening, their faces lit with joy.

 

“It’s not the same…” Father Christmas said.

 

“… but it’s still Christmas,” Mrs. Claus finished.

Chapter 18/19

“Step into Christmas please, sir,” said PC Edgeworth.

 

“I beg your pardon?” The first king replied indignantly.

 

“Oh – sorry, I mean the van,” replied Edgeworth. “It’s not much fun arresting folk this time of year, so we rename things to make them more festive – the cuffs are called crackers, the station is the North Pole – you get the idea.”

 

“We’re under arrest?!” Exclaimed the second king.

 

“’Eavens, no!” PC Humberton replied. “We just want to ask where you’ve come from?”

 

“The North Pole,” the third king replied.

 

“And when did you get ‘ere?”

 

“About ten minutes ago.”

 

“Right.” Humberton frowned. “Are you aware that you’re required to quarantine for 14 days after arriving in the UK?”

 

“Oh, no,” muttered the first King.

 

“Look,” sputtered the second, “we’re on an important mission. We can’t stay shut up for two weeks!”

 

“Are you getting this down on the naughty list, constable?” asked Humberton.

 

“Every word,” replied Edgeworth, pencil scribbling in her notebook.

 

“Now hold on!” the third King exclaimed.

 

“I must ask you to make immediate arrangements to quarantine,” Humberton continued, “or I will be forced to throw you in the back of Christmas and take you straight to the North Pole.”

Chapter 20

“Can you stop the cavalry from getting their muddy feet on the carpet?” Elvis shrieked.


“I don’t really see why you’ve summoned the entire 9th Mounted Elf Guard,” the elfretary replied.


“It’s obvious,” Elvis said, drooling slightly, “if we lose the Three Kings, the 9th will invade the UK and rescue Father Christmas.” Elvis turned and started addressing the troops gathered on the Toy Factory floor.


The elfretary was starting to realise that the Chief Elf was not well. And, she thought as the Elf Cavalry galloped from the factory, he might need someone to rein him in a bit.

Chapter 21/22

“I believe in Father Christmas!” a junior policeman piped up from behind a desk.

 

“Shut it, Perkins,” PC Edgeworth growled. She continued to stare at the Three Kings sat in the interview room. Three hours they’d been interviewing them; their impossible story remained the same.

 

“This is going nowhere,” PC Humberton sighed, “what a waste of time.”

 

“Better than being out there enforcing Tier 4,” Edgeworth countered. A grunt of assent from Humberton.

 

“True. Well, what shall we do with them?”

 

“If they won’t quarantine, then we’ll have to keep them here,” Edgeworth said. “Perhaps Father Christmas will rescue them.

The elfretary’s phone was ringing. They picked it up.


“North Pole Tromsø outpost here – we have the Christmases!”


“You’re sure?”


“Who else wraps their husband in tinsel but Mrs. Claus?”


Having discovered Elvis’ browser history recently, the elfretary elected not to answer that.


“Get them here, fast as possible!”


“Right away!”


“Elvis!” the elfretary shouted over the hubbub of troops arming themselves, “the Christmases are on their way! They’re in Norway!”


“LIES!” screamed Elvis as he applied festively green camo paint to his face. “The enemy is sending us misinformation! We need to attack now, while their guard is down!”

Chapter 23/24

Simply having a wonderful Christmas time, Father Christmas reflected, was a misleading statement.


As their elf-driven skidoo neared the North Pole, he thought on the people, and the places, they’d been on their journey home. This year, having a wonderful Christmas was no simple thing.


Mrs. Claus had reminded him, when he mentioned this, that it’s not that simple even without a global pandemic, depending on who’s cooking.


They could now see the entrance to the Toy Factory – thronged with people.


“Is that the 9th Mounted Elf Guard?” Mrs. Claus asked.


“Looks like Elvis is addressing them,” Father Christmas observed.


They were now near enough to hear Elvis.


“…and we will smite down those who keep Father Christmas from us, and we’ll get him home… and everything will be like it was… yes, like it was! Haha!”


“Elvis!” Father Christmas shouted, “I’m here!” Elvis stared.


“No!” he screamed, “Santa would never ride on a skidoo! You must be a fake!” He pointed. “Guards, seize this-“


His sentence was cut short by a stocking full of snow thwacking into his head.


“Sorry, sir!” the elfretary called, “he’s been a bit upset since you didn’t come home!”

The Clauses stared.


“Dear,” Mrs. Claus nudged her husband, “I think you might need to take charge.”


“What? Oh, oh yes,” Father Christmas rumbled. He strode through the elf cavalry, up to the podium, and had a hurried conversation with the elfretary. Then, he turned to the throng and boomed,


“Ho ho ho! Come on now, everyone! I’m back, and we need to be ready to fly tonight! People are counting on us to spread a bit of Christmas magic, now more than ever. So get off those horses and get loading the sleigh!”


The elves rushed into action, chattering amongst themselves.


“Morris,” he said to his chief elf navigator,” factor in an extra stop at Weybridge police station, please – and bring some extra magic dust. Three camels’ worth.”


Mrs Claus snook up to her husband and squeezed his hand. “Well done dear,” she whispered.


Father Christmas replied with a kiss and whispered back, “thank you for getting me back in one piece my dear. I’ve been all out of sorts this year.”


“We all have my love,” said Mrs Claus with a watery smile, “but it’s going to be all right.”

Photo by Sapan Patel on Unsplash

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