Arwin found that driving the “Santa Special” was more of an adventure than she had expected! Grappling desperately with the brakes, the gearshift, anything she could find that would bring the bus to earth, a crash seemed imminent. I don’t want to die in December! was Arwin’s last thought as the “Santa Special” met the snow with a thunderous roar.
(meanwhile, at the North Pole..)
“Ouch! My head hurts!” St. Nick grumbled to herself. “And I’m so tired! They should rename me ‘St. Nap’. And I swear I spend more time shoveling reindeer
%$# than I do making toys!” She sighed and added 5 pennies to the curse jar (whose idea had THAT been anyway?). She was in a foul mood, more like a December 24 mood than a December 7 mood. It usually didn’t catch up with her this early in the month - NOT a good sign.
She activated her HOHOHO gesture, maybe that would help. And DEactivated her grumble. There, that was a little better. Brushing the snow away from her shoulders, she headed for the stables to see if Reindeer Master Hijinks had fed and groomed the little darlings. Oh they were prima donnas in December, yes they were, but they had to be catered to or there’d be hell to pay on Christmas Eve. (Grrr, 5 more pennies gone!)
What was wrong with her anyway? She just didn’t feel like herself. Maybe she’d inhaled too many fumes in the stables. “St. Sloshed” she giggled to herself, then stopped in horror. I NEVER giggle! she almost said it out loud. Maybe she should go take that long winter’s nap a bit early this year.
As the scent of reindeer excrement (does that count for the curse jar? she wondered) reached her nostrils, she saw RM Hijinks petting Dasher, crooning a melody that seemed to calm all of the moody beasts. She’d have to learn that song! Reading her mind, Dasher looked over at her and shook his head, as if to say, in your dreams St. Tin Ear. Really, they were just beyond the pale, she’d have to look into alternate forms of transportation. There was only so much abuse she could take.
With an attaboy aimed at RM Hijinks and NOT the snotty creatures he was tending, St. Nick went back to her office and sat down to google ‘circumplanetary travel’. Nothing. Next she tried ‘alternatives to Santa’s reindeer’. Lo and behold - a hit! She clicked on The Santa Special, and found herself looking at a picture of a bus. Not quite what she had in mind. She clicked the back button, but the page didn’t change. Damn I hate when they do that she fumed, as she threw pennies in the direction of the curse jar. She typed in another search criteria, ‘planetary sleighs’, and came up with, The Santa Special again! Really fuming now, she restarted her computer. When it came back on, The Santa Special was staring at her. St. Nick glared back.
Time to step awaaaaay from the computer. She went to the elves’ workshop, that should calm her down. She loved seeing what they came up with. Her decision to allow them to work on their own projects had turned out to be a good one, as their ideas were creative and diverse, certainly better than the rut she’d been in. She peered at the builds taking place on their little workbenches. Hmm, a bus, that was...creepy. Had the elves been spying on her? The next one also had a bus, at a different stage of completion. St. Nick felt herself hyperventilating. Every single elf was working on a different manifestation of a bus! She sank into a chair, feeling dizzy. The elves gathered round. “What’s wrong? What’s wrong?” they asked in their little elf voices.
“Why are you all making buses?” St. Nick could barely speak. Her head was killing her. The elves crowded closer to her in order to hear. Then they started looking really worried, and turned to each other with a distressed elven buzz. The buzz grew louder until St. Nick couldn’t stand it. “Tell me why you’re all making buses!” she practically yelled at them. The buzzing stopped, and Head Elf McJob said apologetically, “But Santa, we’re NOT all making buses. Would you like us all to make buses? I’m almost done with my Magic Apple (it turns a PC into a Mac!), and I could certainly get to work on a bus if you wish. What kind of bus would you like? Shall I have it turn into a bicycle? Do you want it to fit under a Christmas tree? Maybe it could be a color-changing bus - St. Nick interrupted (she knew they could be there for hours otherwise) - “I need to go lie down,” she said firmly. “Please, everyone, continue with your building. I’m just tired.”
St. Nick walked wearily to her cabin. Had someone spiked her cider with those mushrooms she’d seen growing on the reindeer dung? That would explain the hallucinations. Another reason to rid herself of those insufferable animals. She wondered how hard it would be to make reindeer jerky.
An hour later, feeling refreshed, she went back to her office, deciding to tackle the problem of the disrespectful deer once again. The Santa Special hadn’t left her monitor. With a sigh, she clicked on it. And immediately had the sensation of flying through the air! Looking around she realized it wasn’t just a sensation - she WAS in the air, inside The Santa Special, traveling at a speed that would make most people vomit. But it was quite comfortable and warm, and she only had to think about a change of direction and it happened, with no jerking or arguing from eight reindeer who all wanted to be Rudolf.
Could this really be the answer? What about tradition? Digging in her pocket for more pennies for the curse jar as she responded to that question in her head, St. Nick had a wonderful idea. A wonderful, awful idea. Could it work?? She landed The Santa Special (oh so smooth!) and practically ran to the elves’ workshop.
“McJob! Over here please!” The Head Elf ran up to her. St. Nick hustled him away from the ears of all the other elves. “I need you to work on a secret project for me. Will the technology in your Magic Apple work for other things?” McJob smiled. “I haven’t yet discovered its limits!” Santa whispered into McJob’s ear. His face went from puzzled to horrified to excited. “I’m sure I can do it Santa!” he said, and ran back to his workbench.
St. Nick started humming to herself, “Santa got one over on the reindeer” and the giggling started again. As she walked past the stables she felt the reindeer glaring at her (could they really have heard her?) but she didn’t care. While visions of buses that looked like reindeer danced in her head, she went back to her office to google jerky recipes. Really, it couldn’t be that hard.
Arwin woke up just in time to brake for the dog that ran across the road in front of her bus. She sat there for a moment, wondering how long she’d been driving while asleep. Little bits of an odd dream started coming back to her, she must have had Christmas carols on the radio. The kids were being their usual after-school selves, noisy but not fighting thank goodness. Nobody seemed to be crying that she hadn’t made their stop. Arwin started the bus up again, promising herself to go to bed early that night. As she drove away, she caught a whiff of something that smelled like a stable.