Copyright 1995 Jimmy Patterson. License is granted for noncommercial distribution of this story on the World Wide Web. All other uses are reserved. For more information or to recieve copies of "The Happiest Elf," please e-mail JPatterson@basinlink.com.
One day this past October, just when the air was turning crisp and theleaves on the trees were changing into bright shades of yellow and redand gold, Jovy the Elf walked into Santa's office.
"Boss," Jovy said. "I am tired."
"Well," said Santa, "take a couple of hours and get some rest. Take anap. We have a long day ahead of us tomorrow and --"
Just then, Santa looked up and saw Jovy shaking his head and wipingaway a tear from right in the very corner of his eye.
Santa Claus knew then that Jovy meant he wasn't tired just because hehadn't slept well the night before. Santa knew that Jovy was gettingold. He had told Santa once before that he would soon like to startspending more time at home with his wife Rebecca.
"It will make me sad when you leave your job," Santa told Jovy. "Youhave always been my hardest-working elf. You have always been an elfthat I am proud to have my other workers look up to. Nobody has beenwith me on as many Christmas Eve sleigh rides. I will miss you, Jovy,but you deserve happiness all the days of your life, and if it isstaying at home with your Rebecca that makes you happy, then so be it."
"I will miss you, too," Jovy told Santa. "But I love my Rebecca verymuch. We are getting old and we would like to be able to spend moretime with one another."
"I understand," Santa said.
"But what will you do, Santa? How will you be able to find someone totake my place in time for Christmas?"
Santa told Jovy he would be fine. "Don't you worry, Jovy. I will go tothe newspaper tomorrow and ask them for some help finding another elf."
Secretly, Santa was worried. But he didn't want Jovy to know. Itwasn't long until Christmas and Santa wasn't sure if he would be ableto find another elf, especially one as hard-working as Jovy, a veryspecial elf who also knew the real meaning of the season.
The next day, an advertisement appeared in the North Pole Gazette. Itread:
"Help wanted at famous North Pole toy factory. Hard-working elf neededto help Santa Claus make toys for good little boys and girls. Any elfwho would like to have this job needs to be a good, trustworthy helperwho is willing to work long hours so that children around the world canhave a Merry Christmas."
That afternoon, there was a knock at Santa's front door.
Santa went to the door an opened it. Standing there was a tiny elfholding a copy of that day's North Pole Gazette.
"Hello," Santa said. "Can I help you?"
"Yes sir. My name is Lucky. I am an elf who would likevery much to have the job that you have available. I am trustworthy andhard-working and, well, I love toys, too!"
Santa told Lucky all about Jovy and how hard he had worked for him inall the years he was at the North Pole. Lucky had heard all about Jovyand knew he had a big job ahead of him.
"Gosh, Santa. Those are some mighty big slippers to have to fill."
"Yes they are, Lucky. But I will give you a chance if you think youcan do the job."
"Oh yes, Santa. I know I can do the job. Just point me to the toyfactory and show me where I can start. And, thanks, Santa."
Santa was glad someone wanted the job so quickly. It seemed like Luckywas going to be a good worker who would also enjoy his job.
There was going to be only one problem as Santa would later find out.
Santa led Lucky to the factory where all the toys were made.
As Lucky walked into the gigantic room, his mouth dropped open and hiseyes sparkled with magic.
Never, ever, ever had Lucky seen so many toys. There were bikes anddolls and animals and games, trikes and sandboxes and puppets andtrains.
There were toys everywhere. Everywhere, that is, except for one cornerof the room whereThe Happiest Elf there sat a big stack of neatly-folded clothes. Therewere big shirts and little shirts, long pants and short pants. Therewere dresses and p-j's and overcoats, too. And at the very tip top ofthis humongous stack of clothes, there was one great big sock, red andblue with yellow stripes, too.
Lucky looked at the stack of clothes and scratched the top of his head.
"Hey Santa ... why all the clothes? Why are they here in your famoustoy factory?"
"Well, I expect you'll learn about that soon enough."
Lucky shrugged his shoulders and again stared at all the toys. "So,where do I get started?"
Santa put Lucky to work hammering nails into toy boxes. Santa noticedthat Lucky was a good worker and that he finished his tasks quickly.But Santa also knew that he was going to have to teach Lucky a littlebit more about what Christmas really meant.
Santa returned to his office to begin the long, but mostly enjoyabletask, of reading the letters that children from all over the world hadsent.
Santa always chuckled when he read letters from children who wantedbright new bikes or beautiful new baby dolls. What made Santa evenhappier was when he could take a big bag of those toys right down agreat big chimney on Christmas Eve.
When Santa was able to visit the houses where all the children werehappy, he always left with a smile on his face thinking about howsurprised and thankful they would be the next morning.
But when Santa opened letters from children who neededthings much more than toys, it would always cause him to become verysad.
Letters from children who needed clothes or food or warm blanketswould often begin, "Dear Santa, I usually ask you for toys, but thisyear mom and dad said they don't have much money this Christmas."
Santa hoped that a Christmas would come some year very soon when hewould no longer have to open letters like those, but he also knew therewould always be kids who would need so much more than just toys.
Santa folded up a letter and remembered how Jovy had always packed thebags filled with clothes and shoes and blankets with special care andlove. But before closing those bags, Jovy would always put a fewsprinkles of candy, and some Christmas cookies baked from the heart byrs. Claus.
It was 2 o'clock in the morning when Santa looked up at the clock. Hewas very tired from spending the whole day reading letters from boysand girls.
"Maybe just one more," Santa said to himself as he rubbed his eyes.
Just then, there was a knock at Santa's door.
"Come in," Santa said.
It was Lucky.
"My goodness, Lucky, what on earth are you still doing up?"
"I have been working all day putting toys together," Lucky told Santa."I think everything is almost finished and we will be able to leave ontime." Christmas was just one short month away.
Santa chuckled softly. He knew Lucky meant well. But Santa and hiselves still had quite a lot of work to do before Rudolph could be toldto start the Christmas Eve journey.
"What about the clothes in the corner?" Santa asked Lucky.
"What about them?"
"Before we go anywhere, we must get the clothes ready to go," Santasaid.
"But where will we be able to fit them on the sleigh, Santa? And whymust we take clothes?"
"Here," Santa said. "Read this."
Lucky began reading to himself.
"Dear Santa," the letter said. "My name is Jennifer. It's been a hardyear for us. We lost our farm because we had a lot of rain and itwashed away all the corn daddy was growing. Now, daddy says we mightlose our house, too. Santa, I usually ask for toys, but this year mymom needs some new shoes, and my daddy really could use a new work hatand some work gloves. I suppose I need a new dress, but only if youhave enough room in your sleigh. Thank you Santa. Love, Jennifer."
Lucky looked sad. He never knew that children had to ask for clothesat Christmas. He had always thought that Christmas was a time to spreadjoy with toys and other happy presents.
Lucky never knew until this very moment that some children needclothes and shoes and jackets even more than toys. Lucky suddenlyrealized this was all the happiness some kids would ever know -- orever want.
Lucky put down the letter and turned to walk away.
"Are you OK?" Santa asked.
Lucky had a sad look on his face. But it was a look that told Santathat Lucky was beginning to understand about the real Christmas spirit..
A week passed by. Then two weeks. And finally three.
Lucky worked hard in the toy factory. Santa noticed that instead ofnailing together toy boxes and building bicycles, Lucky was extra busyputting clothes in bright, shiny bags for children who were in need.
Santa realized that teaching Lucky the real meaning of Christmas maynot be as hard as he first thought. He could see that Lucky was a fastlearner.
Although Lucky hadn't yet learned to put a special surprise insideeach bag full of clothes,he was happy Lucky had learned how important it was to get the clothesready for Christmas Eve.
Santa's long journey was only one night away, and for the first timesince seeing Lucky standing outside his front door, it felt like hewould be able to leave on time and make it to all the children's housesbefore the sun rose on Christmas morning.
The hardest work was now behind Santa and his helpers. All that wasleft now was loading the sleigh and making sure the reindeer were inworking order.
Vixen needed a few extra oats.
Donner always had to have his hooves sharpened.
Blitzen and Dancer always wanted a couple of extra glasses of Grade Areindeer milk before the trip, while Comet and Cupid usually insistedthat their antlers glisten brightly.
Dasher had to have a few extra hours of sleep while Prancer set hisalarm 20 minutes early so he could get an extra lap around the reindeertrack just to strengthen his leg muscles.
And Rudolph, of course, always had to have his nose checked out justto make sure it was as bright and shiny as it had been on all thejourneys of Christmas Eves past.
With all the reindeer taken care of and all the presents snugglytucked into Santa's overflowing sleigh, the only thing left to do wasfor Santa to get a few hours rest himself.
He was about to lock up his office when there came another knock atthe door.
It was Lucky again.
"Santa?" Lucky took a deep breath. "I know you don't normally allowthis, but I was hoping you could change the rules just once and let mecome along with you on your Christmas Eve journey. I was hoping topersonally give some of the children bags of clothing that I packed forthem this year. It would mean a lot to me."
Santa removed his glasses and scratched the long white whiskers thathung from his chin. He was proud of Lucky.
"You have come a long way since you first knocked on my door, Lucky. Iwill take you with me. I could use a little extra help. It's not aseasy getting down chimneys as it used to be."
"I'll be there for you, Santa."
"I know I can count on you, Lucky."
"There's one other thing I was hoping for, Santa. Jennifer, the littlegirl who lives on the farm ... can we stop by her house early in thenight? I'd like to meet her."
"We'll see," Santa said. "We'll see."
A bitter, winter wind howled and curled around Santa's North Pole toyfactory. It had always been cold on Christmas Eve, but Santa couldn'tremember it ever being quite this cold. He was glad Lucky had asked togo on the journey with him. He would need the help.
With the cold wind whirring down his neck, Santa made sure all thereindeer were safelystrapped to the sleigh, a sleigh joyfully brimming with toys, goodies,and, of course, clothes for Jennifer and all the other kids who neededthem.
Lucky had made sure the bags full of clothes were strapped in tighterthan all the other packages.
With a gentle snap from Santa's wrists and a merry "Ho, Ho, Ho,"Rudolph and his team of eight reindeer leaped into the air andmagically began to fly. Their journey had begun. It was officiallyChristmas Eve!
Lucky was buckled in next to Santa and the two kept warm by singingChristmas carols as they quickly made their way to North America.
A few minutes later, Santa looked down and saw the farm where Jenniferhad said she lived. Lucky was excited to learn that Jennifer's housewould be their first stop of the night!
Rudolph set the sleigh down gently on her roof top.
"Here you go, Lucky," Santa said. "I'll let you take care of thishouse."
Lucky grabbed Jennifer's bag full of clothes and started toward thechimney. He swallowed hard and felt just a little nervous. He had neverbeen given quite so much responsibility.
Lucky noticed there was a light on in the house. He was hoping to findJennifer awake when he slid down the chimney.
Lucky landed with a soft thud at the bottom of Jennifer's chimney. Hebrushed the ashes and soot from his suit and looked all around thedarkened room.
There, in one corner of the room, was a chair. Beside it was a smalllamp with a dimly lit light bulb. And sitting there, next to the chairand underneath the lamp, was Jennifer.
Tightly clutching a raggedy, old teddy bear in one hand and a blanketin the other, Jennifer had fallen asleep on the floor, waiting forSanta Claus.
Lucky tip-toed over to where Jennifer was sleeping.
"Jennifer?" Lucky said softly, hoping to gently wake, but not startle,the little girl.
Jennifer slowly opened her eyes and looked up at the elf. She rubbedthe sleep from her eyes and stretched a little, looking at Lucky withsudden wonder.
"Hi!" Jennifer said. "You must be one of Santa's elves."
"Yes, I am. My name is Lucky and I have a few gifts for you."
Lucky then reached down and pulled out a brand new pair of dark blueshoes that looked to Jennifer like they would fit her mom perfectly. Inhis right hand, Lucky held a work hat and a pair of work gloves thatJennifer just knew were for her dad.
"Wow!" Jennifer said. "Thank you, Lucky."
Lucky next reached in his bag and pulled out a pretty red and greendress with lots ofribbons and bows.
"Is this for me?" Jennifer asked.
"Yes, it is."
"Thank you so much, Lucky. It's what I've been dreaming of. And pleasetell Santa Claus thank you, too. I felt a little selfish asking forsomething for myself and I almost started to write you back again and-- "
Just then, Lucky reached down into his bag once more and pulled out abeautiful hair bow. It was pink with speckles of silver and gold, andsoft streaks of red and green. It would make Jennifer's blonde hairlook extra pretty on this Christmas Day.
A few tears came into Jennifer's eyes as she stared at the simplebeauty of the new hair bow.
"I ... I ... I thought you might need a little something to go alongwith your new dress, Jennifer," Lucky said. "You didn't ask for manythings, yet you need so much. And you deserve to be happy. Next year,maybe I can bring you a bag full of bright, shiny toys and dolls andgames."
"Next year," Jennifer said as she sniffled gently, "if you just cameby and said 'Merry Christmas' to me, that would make me the happiestgirl alive. Just like I feel tonight."
"And it would make me the Happiest Elf," Lucky said. "Like I feeltonight, too.
Lucky turned and walked toward the fireplace. Now that he had metJennifer, he would be able to finish the night with a warm feeling inhis heart.
"Merry Christmas, Jennifer."
"And may you have all the happiness in the world, Lucky. Merry Christmas."
Sunday, December 16, 2018
Days until Christmas:
Copyright © 1999 - 2018 by Fred Oldfield. All rights reserved.