“One last stop and I’m done,” Chris muttered as he pulled into the mall parking lot. “This holiday traffic is ridiculous. Thank goodness it’s not like this on Christmas Eve. I’d never get anything delivered.”
The parking lot was full and Chris found himself forced to drive around and around, looking for an empty spot. Eventually finding one by a side entrance, he pulled to a stop and climbed out. “This isn’t such a bad spot,” he murmured. “I believe the dry cleaners is at this end of the mall anyway. I should be able to get in and out in the wink of an eye.” He looked down at his watch. “And I’ll need to be quick. The Missus said the dry cleaners closes early each night.”
As Chris reached for the mall entrance door, he noticed an ‘Employees Only’ sign. “REINDEER PELLETS! If I have to walk around to the front of the mall, I won’t make it to the cleaners in time.” He thought for a moment before grabbing hold of the door handle. “But I really can’t see my using this entrance will do any harm.”
“Thank goodness you’re here!” a young woman exclaimed as she hurried down the mall corridor. “There are kids lined up halfway down the mall, all waiting to tell you what they want for Christmas.”
“Ho, ho, ho,” chuckled Chris. “You have me mistaken for someone else, Miss. I’m just here to pick up my…”
“Never mind that,” she scolded. “We need to get you over to the Santa’s Workshop display, pronto. She tugged on Chris’ jacket sleeve, pulling him along.
“Nice costume, by the way,” she commented. “That’s not mall issue, is it? Feels like a better quality… ah… ah… ah… ACHOO!” and she sneezed. “Is that jacket, wool? I’m allergic,” and she sniffed before adding, “The mall costumes are a nice hypo-allergenic polyester,” under her breath. “ACHOO!”
Chris was half pulled, half pushed, down the main thoroughfare of the mall, right past the dry cleaners he so desperately needed to visit. Out of the corner of one eye, he saw the owner of the shop turning the open sign to closed. “The Missus is going to serve me my whiskers on a platter,” he muttered.
“What’s that?” the young woman, whom Chris now recognized as Noelle, asked. Chris smiled at the memory of reading her last letter to him, asking for a baby doll that cried and wondered if she perhaps still had that doll, tucked away somewhere at home.
Arriving at Santa’s Workshop, Noelle thrust Chris into Santa’s chair and he landed with a thud. “Santa’s here!” Noelle cried out with a cheery voice. “Now everyone, please line up in an orderly fashion and we’ll get started.”
A young man dressed up as an elf suddenly appeared beside him. “New guy, huh? Don’t worry, you’ll get the hang of it. Just ask them what they want and remind them to be good for the next couple of weeks. You’ve got to be careful with the screamers, though. Nothing worse than a kid screaming in your face because he’s afraid of the big guy in red. Oh, and be careful with any in diapers. Last year, a leaky one ruined Santa's suit.”
“I’ll do my best,” and Chris smiled to himself. “Thanks for the tips, Joey.”
“We don’t use our real names here, Santa. Against mall policy. Hey, how did you know…”
“THAT’S NOT THE REAL SANTA!” a man in his fifties and dressed in a cheap polyester Santa costume declared, towing mall security behind him. “I don’t know what he thinks he’s up to, impersonating Santa Claus and all, but I’m betting whatever it is, is no good. Maybe he’s one of those… you know…”
Then moments later, a chill travelled down Chris’ spine when he heard an angry and very familiar female voice saying, “Christopher Kringle, what do you think you’re doing. Did you pick up your spare suit at the cleaners? DID YOU?”
The children in line stood mesmerized by the sight before them. Two Santas and one Mrs. Claus arguing in the middle of Santa’s Workshop and surrounded by several mall security officers.
“Now, now Billy,” Chris said to the man in his fifties wearing the polyester Santa suit.
“Don’t you now, now me,” and Billy took a swing at Chris with his fist landing in Chris’ face. “And how the hell do you know my name, anyway?”
Joey the elf cried out, “I told you! We don’t use our real names here at Santa’s Workshop! IT'S AGAINST MALL POLICY!"
“Don’t you DARE hit my husband,” cried out Mrs. Claus, as she kicked Billy in the shin. “Take that, you big bully.”
“Why…” and Billy staggered back.
“ENOUGH!” cried one of the mall security officers. “We can’t have Santas punching one another in front of the children.”
“I kind of think that ship has sailed,” Joey the elf muttered, causing the children at the front of the line, and within earshot, to snicker.
Chris looked about, taking the mayhem surrounding him, in. “Jason, Thomas, Rhett,” he said, speaking directly to the security officers. “There will be no more trouble here. Mrs. Claus and I will be on our way home now. Billy, you take over for me at Santa’s Workshop. And Joey…”
“What did I tell you before?” Joey wailed. “No real names at Santa’s Workshop! It’s agai…”
“I know,” smiled Chris. “It’s against mall policy. I’m sorry about that. I just wanted to tell you to keep up the good elf work here at the workshop.”
Then with a twinkle in his eye, Chris placed a finger on the side of his nose and holding Mrs. Claus’ hand tightly, he and she disappeared before everyone’s eyes.
The children, the mall security officers, Joey the elf and Billy in the cheap polyester Santa suit all stared in astonishment at the spot where Chris and Mrs. Claus had once stood.
And off in the distance, almost like an echo reverberating throughout the mall corridors, they could hear Mrs. Claus’ voice chastising Chris. “Oh sure, now you use your Christmas magic. You couldn’t have used a little of that magic before and managed to pick up your spare suit from the cleaners? I don’t know what I’m going to do with you, Christopher Kringle. And where DID you park that sleigh?”