Santa was shocked. The elves gasped, and then began talking all at once.
“Isn’t that the new elf?”
“How did paint get all over Santa’s suit?”
“Santa can’t go out like that. It’s just not right.”
“Billy didn’t do this. I heard someone broke into the workshop and did this, somebody who doesn’t believe in Santa!”
“Do we have time to make a new suit?”
“What is Santa going to do? He only has an hour to get ready.”
“Christmas is ruined!”
The noise in the workshop was almost deafening by now. So Santa said in his gentle, deep, resonant voice, “Everyone calm down. Billy, what happened?”
Billy took a deep breath, stood tall, and told the truth about how Santa’s suit came to have big paint splotches all over it. When he had finished, he hung his head. “Santa, I am so sorry. I feel just awful.” Billy thought he’d try one last time to save the day. “Santa, I know this looks bad – very, very bad. But don’t look at this as a problem. Think of this as an opportunity!”
“An opportunity?” the elves and Santa said in unison.
Just then Mrs. Claus walked in. She looked at all the elves and Santa. Then she saw the suit. She took it from Santa and looked at it front and back. She didn’t gasp or cluck. As a matter of fact, Mrs. Claus looked very calm. Billy and Santa started to explain at the same time. The other elves chimed in and the din in the room was deafening.
Mrs. Claus didn’t say a word; she just made intense eye contact with Santa, Billy, and the other elves. The room fell silent. Mrs. Claus adjusted her glasses, put the suit over her arm and began in a firm, confident voice. “Now… all of you listen to me. Right now, it doesn’t matter how this happened. Billy, you tried to do a good job, and there was an accident. Things happen. But all is not lost.”
Mrs. Claus smiled lovingly at Santa. “Santa, your suit was getting a little snug – maybe too many cookies? And this suit has seen better days, what with you sliding down chimneys and in and out of the sleigh and well .…” Mrs. Claus paused and then laughed. “Santa, I made you a new suit. It’s your Christmas present from me this year. You can still wear your traditional red and white suit, but in a more comfortable size.”
Billy was so relieved. “Oh, Mrs. Claus, this is terrific. You are so right. Santa already has a brand and market recognition.” Billy was chattering now. “Everyone knows Santa, and they look forward to seeing the familiar red and white suit. Why would we want to change that? Well, I think this is working out nicely for this year, don’t you?”
Mrs. Claus chuckled. “Yes, Billy, this is working out just fine. As far as the suit is concerned, all is not lost. We can use it next year.”
The other elves thought Mrs. Claus was referring to a makeover for Santa, just like Billy had suggested. So that started a lively debate among the elves who started talking all at once.
“You mean we’re going to rebrand Santa next year?”
“You know change can be a good thing.”
“Well, I think we need to get a committee together to discuss this.”
“Maybe do a consumer survey.”
“We don’t need all that. Can’t we just make a decision?”
“You’re kidding, right? Remember the discussion about whether or not Rudolph’s nose was bright enough for bad weather?”
“Oh yeah, I thought that meeting would never end.”
The elves were working themselves into a frenzy. Mrs. Claus cleared her throat and looked over her glasses at everyone, her signal that everyone should be quiet. She said, “This suit actually has a nice pattern. All these colors would make lovely fabric for some cute stuffed animals,” Mrs. Claus said as she ran her hands over the fur. “You could make some puppies and bears that children could cuddle as they fall asleep with something soft against their sweet little faces. What do you think?”
The elves all agreed it was a great idea. Santa gave Mrs. Claus a big hug and said, “Mrs. Claus, what would I do without you?”
She laughed and said, “You would have been wearing a red and white suit with colorful polka dots all over it this year.”
Santa said, “All right, everyone, let’s get moving. We don’t have a minute to waste.” And with that, all the elves went back to work.
As Billy was walking away, Santa said, “Hold on, Billy.” Billy’s heart sank. He thought Santa was going to fire him. “Billy, I have another very special job for you. I’d like you to hitch the reindeer to the sleigh for tonight’s big trip.”
Billy figured this was a sign that Santa had forgiven him for the ruined suit. So he eagerly said, “Yes, sir, Santa, I’d be happy to take care of that for you. I’m very good with the reindeer. I’ll have them ready to go in no time.”
Billy started to the door and then turned and said, “You know, Santa, I was just thinking, rather than the usual harness, I could …”
But Santa interrupted him, “Biiiiiilly …”
“OK, Santa, I got ya. This is not the right time. I totally understand,” Billy grinned. “But once you get back and have a chance to rest, I’d like to schedule a meeting with you to discuss some other ideas I have. Nothing too radical, just a few things …”
Santa chuckled, shook his head and gently said, “Billy, the time?”
Billy looked at the big clock on the workshop wall. “Right you are, Santa. Time to move, move, move.” And with that Billy was out the door, his head bursting with great big ideas for Santa.
© Lynn Wyvill 2011