The crash had thrown Billy into some storage shelves resulting an awful racket as cans of paint fell one after another around him.
“Billy, are you okay?” Jack, one of the elves in shipping, said as he leaned over Billy who was sprawled on the floor.
Billy rubbed his head. “Yeah. I think so. Yeah. I’m fine.”
“I’m really sorry,” Jack said, “But I couldn’t see you with this cart all loaded up with toys.”
“It’s okay,” Billy replied. “No harm,” Billy started to say and then spied Santa’s suit in a heap. “Oh, no, please no,” Billy gasped.
Jack looked at where Billy was pointing. The unthinkable had happened. Some of the cans had opened, and now Santa’s suit had huge splotches of yellow, green, orange and purple paint on it. Billy thought he was going to have a heart attack
“Do not say one word to anyone about this, Jack,” Billy whispered as he quickly gathered up the suit. Jack nodded his head in solemn agreement.
“What can I do to help?” Jack asked, his eyes wide with fear.
“Nothing. Thanks. Just pretend like nothing happened,” Billy said as he staggered out the door with the ruined suit. He stuffed it in the snowmobile, jumped in the driver’s seat and took off at full speed. Maybe if he could get to the cleaners before the paint dried, the paint spots would come out.
Billy came to an abrupt halt in front of the cleaners, grabbed he suit and raced inside. He was so upset and talking so fast, it was difficult for Ms. Ginger Bread, the owner of the shop, to understand what had happened.
“Billy, slow down. Breathe. What are you talking about?” Ms. Bread said.
Billy took a big gulp of air and told Ms. Bread the whole awful story. He ended by pleading, “Do you think you can get the paint out? Please, please, please?”
“Let me take a look,” Ms. Bread said. She turned it over and over, held it up to the light, and dabbed at the spots. Billy was standing so close to Ms. Bread that she could barely move. He looked at Santa’s suit and then at Ms. Bread’s face, hoping for a sign that all would be well.
Finally, she looked at the scared elf. “Billy, I’ll do my best. Give me an hour. You can wait here. How about some hot chocolate?”
Billy took the mug, but he was too nervous to drink it. Instead, he paced and wished with all his might that those dreadful spots would disappear. It was the longest hour of his life. Finally, Ms. Ginger Bread emerged with the suit. The look on her face told Billy that his wish was not going to come true.
“I am so sorry, Billy. I’ve cleaned the suit and tried everything, but those spots won’t come out,” Ms. Bread said. “And because it’s special fur, I can’t dye it red.”
His heart sank. Billy’s was sure his first big assignment was going to be his last. He had blown it. Ms. Ginger Bread handed him the package with Santa’s suit wrapped up inside.
“Thanks for trying, Ms. Bread. I’m sure I’ll figure out something,” Billy said as he headed out the door. But at that moment he had no idea what it would be.
Billy drove slowly back to the workshop, parked and sat in the snowmobile trying to figure what he was going to say to Santa. He was so lost in thought that he didn’t hear his friend, Jimmy, come up behind him.
“Hey there, buddy. What are you doing?” Jimmy said.
Billy nearly jumped out of his skin. “Gee whiz, Jimmy, don’t sneak up on me like that.”
“You look like you’ve seen a ghost. What’s wrong?” Jimmy was really concerned because he had never seen Billy look like this before.
Billy just kept moaning and shaking his head back and forth. Jimmy looked at his friend and said, “Come on, Billy. It can’t be that bad.”
Billy put his face in his hands and sighed, “You have no idea.”
Jimmy knew Billy couldn’t keep things to himself so he figured if he just waited Billy would eventually tell him. And he was right. Billy spilled the whole story about Santa’s ruined suit.
Jimmy just stood there, speechless. Finally, he was able to blurt out, “Billy, you are going to be in so much trouble. What are you going to do?”
Billy said very quietly, “I haven’t got a clue.”
Now Jimmy was really scared. This was bad, really bad because Billy always had ideas, lots of them.
Suddenly, Jimmy had an idea. “Hey, maybe you can buy Santa a new suit?”
Billy looked at Jimmy like he had lost his mind. “And how am I supposed to do that? I don’t have that kind of money,” Billy said, as his voice rose about an octave. “Besides, even if I did, it’s not like there is a store in the North Pole where I can just walk in and say, ‘Could you show me something in red and white fur in an XXXL, please?’ ”
“No…no, I don’t suppose you could do that,” Jimmy said quietly.
Billy thought for a while. Then his face brightened and he said, “You know, I’m thinking about this the wrong way.” His face lit up with a big bright smile. “This isn’t a disaster. This is an opportunity! It’s all in the marketing.”
Jimmy was stunned. “How are you going to turn, ‘Hey, Santa, I took your good suit to get it cleaned, but it ended up with big paint splotches all over it, and they won’t come out’ into an opportunity?”
“Yes, Jimmy, this is a tough one,” Billy nodded solemnly. “This will be my biggest presentation challenge ever, but I can do it!” Billy was beaming now, proud of his ability to think on his feet. He didn’t look worried anymore.
Billy stood tall, picked up the package with the ruined suit and headed towards the workshop. Even though he hadn’t quite worked out all the details, Billy was convinced he would come up with a plan that was close to being genius.
Jimmy couldn’t believe Billy’s confidence. “Good luck, Billy,” he shouted. Billy didn’t hear him add, “You’re going to need it.”
Billy was working on the fine points of the presentation, knowing that everything depended on sounding upbeat and positive. He was so deep in thought that Billy didn’t see Santa coming towards him. And Santa didn’t see Billy because he was watching the production line. They ran right into each other. They said “sorry” in unison as the brown paper package containing Santa’s suit dropped on the floor between them with a thud.
To Be Continued
© Lynn Wyvill 2011