By Jesse V. Coffee
The headlines blazed!!
Grocery stores report empty cookie shelves!
Bakeries have no cookies for Christmas!
Children cry, Christmas is ruined with no cookies for Santa!
The woman was dressed in a warm, ermine lined dress. Bobble earrings, shaped like tree ornaments, dangled from her ears. Her steel grey hair was swept over one shoulder, trailing down in a braid. Granny glasses perched on her nose. She held a stuffed toy poodle in the crook of one arm while holding the latest North Pole Gazette in the other hand. She swept into the room in a flourish of flannel.
“Oh, Nicky! It’s terrible! What are we going to do?”
The corpulent man didn’t even raise his head. He wore his own glasses, going over an endless list of names. He was dressed in red fleece as well, the same ermine lined outfit but pants instead of her skirt. Instead of the warm slippers that matched her clothes, he wore thick sturdy black boots.
“Nora, my love. I am a bit busy. Dealing with deadlines, you know.” He reached for his martini glass of warm cocoa and whipped cream. “Do give me a hint, yes?”
“It’s on the news. All over the world.” She brought a knuckle to her lips. “The cookies.”
“Yes. All the cookies. Every bakery, every store. Even the cookie sheets in every home, everywhere. The cookies have been stolen!”
The jolly fat man leapt to his feet; the list was conveniently forgotten. One eyebrow arched as the smoke from his pipe billowed from his lips. “Cookies, you say? Stolen?”
“Oh yes, Nicky,” she gushed, looking down at her pet. “All of those children are so convinced that Santa will hate them. That Christmas will be cancelled! We can’t let that happen, Nicky.”
The old man whipped off his robe, donning a black thick coat to cover him and keep him warm. He whirled on his wife, hands on hips.
“We have a case, my love,” he bellowed in a deep basso voice. “We must find the cruel miscreant that would do this to the children. We must find the missing cookies!” He gave a flourish of his head, gazing off into the distance. “I won’t let the children down. It’s their ritual as much as it is mine!”
“Oh, Nicky,” she gushed again, but this time in admiration and relief. He would come through. He would make things alright again. He always did.
“Change, my dear. We must be at it.”
“Oh yes, my hero.” She grabbed a full robe of black that looked and felt like fur but wasn’t, throwing it on over the one she already wore. “St. Nick and Nora Claus are on the case of the missing cookies.”
Every country and city they searched, it was the same. The cookies were gone. And the children were disappointed. Fearful. They wept. And the trails had gone cold with no hints of who had done this. No leads to help them catch the cookie thief. Nick grew more convinced that whoever it was, that evil meany-pants wanted to end Christmas. He told himself that he had to find those cookies. Before his ride tonight. They traveled the earth as fast as they could, always arriving too late. That is, until they arrived in England, landing in London as the last place to search. Hoping against hope.
“Nicky! What are we going to do?” Nora stroked the toy’s head. “How are we going to find this cookie thief?”
“We talk to these merchants, Nora,” he added tobacco to his pipe. “Someone will have seen something. You’ll see.”
“Nicky, you are so smart!”
The old man puffed out his chest, blowing out more smoke from his pipe. “Of course, darling. Now….” He waved at some children, staring in the window of a bakery. “You. Children. Have you been here long?”
The littlest of them nodded back, her lower lip quivering. “Oh sir,” she answered in a bit of a Cockney accent. “I saw that man who stole them cookies. Mean man he was too, sir. He took it right out my ‘and, he did.”
Nick got down on bended knee. “Don’t you worry now, sweetheart. We’ll find those cookies. And we’ll make sure you get another one.”
“Oh, it was for Sanna, sir. I wanted to give Sanna one o’ my favorite cookies.”
He patted her head. “You’ll get it, sweetheart. I promise. Now, which way did that very bad man go?”
All three children pointed in a direction. Nick stood and nodded. “You tots head home now. And make sure you put the milk out. I’ll get the cookies for you. Santa knows.” He put his hands on his hips again, chest puffed out again. “Don’t worry. I am here!” He waited until the children had made their dash home before turning back to his wife. “Nora! Cookies wait for no one!”
“Nicky! I think that bad man went that way. There are other cookie shops.”
The couple made their dash, the snow beginning to fall. Making it hard to follow a trail of any kind, let alone that of a cookie thief. But they were able to follow the dastardly meanie by the now empty cookie shelves. With each step, Nora was growing more and more discouraged. But Nick was ever so sure that he could find the thief.
“Nora! Look! A trail of crumbs.”
“Nicky. You think…this could be it?” She hugged her stuffed poodle tightly to her chest.
“Yeeeeees,” he answered pompously! “We follow the crumbs to the crumby miscreant.” He laid a finger aside of his nose and flipped at her. “Come! The time is a-wasting. We follow the crumbs!”
Nick took off at a dash, his belly jiggling as he ho, ho, ho’ed his way through a back alley. The crumbs, like diamonds in the moonlight, lead them along. It wasn’t long before he and Nora smelled the scents of vanilla, cinnamon, fruits, and custard. The smell of warmed dough was heated, cooking the circles until they were golden brown and delicious. All were his favorites too. The smells were almost too much for his salivating mouth. But with a nod to Nora and his finger against his lips, they slipped inside the door and made their way to where they found him. And the cookies.
The wiry figure of an elf danced in the middle of the fire heated room, plates and boxes and bags of lovely cookies all around the room. So many cookies that there was almost no room for that little man to dance but dance he did. Kicking up his heels and whirling in place. Cackling to himself and singing a nonsensical melody but with all too clear lyrics.
“Santa gets no cookies; Santa makes no toys. And all the bratty boys and girls will get no wretched joys. I haaaaaaate Christmas. I haaaaaate Christmas!”
“Blowhard McNaughtypants,” Santa bellowed, shaking his finger at the naughty elf. “I should have known it was you. Why, Blowhard? Why?”
“I don’t like you,” McNaughtypants declared. “Those terrible brats break all the rules. They torment each other and their parents. They steal things and are mean. Why should they get presents? They never apologize. They never try to make things better. So why reward them? Hmmm? Santa Claus is nothing but a sentimental fool!”
“How can you say that?” Nora cried out, hugging her toy.
“No one ever cared for me,” Blowhard answered. “I hate Christmas.”
“You’re a nasty tempered little man,” Nick told him. “All you had to be was nice. You had friends who loved you. They love you still if you’d just come home. And be a little nicer to them.”
“I gave presents to my so-called friends. They never gave me anything. I hate Christmas.”
“So, you took the cookies? Too many children of the world? Why them?”
“Yes I did,” McNaughtypants said proudly. “I wanted cookies. I have them now. I can eat all I want, so there!”
Nora shook her head and knelt down in front of Blowhard. “If all you wanted was cookies, I would have made them for you. All you wanted and more. And…” She smiled kindly. “I would like to give you a present. Right now. Because it’s Christmas.”
Blowhard’s eyes opened wide as Mrs. Claus held out the stuffed toy poodle. “For me? For…me?”
“Of course.” Nora nodded and put the toy in his arms. “Will you be my friend, Blowhard?”
As the elf hugged the doll, the darkness lifted in smoke away from him. The grouchy look on his face melted away until he was a sweet young elf again. He jumped into Nora’s arms. “Yes, please. Yes, please.”
“Blowhard,” Nick interrupted. “The cookies.”
“Oh, sir. I’ll take them all back. I’ll use my magic to send them all back and I’m really sorry.”
Nick patted the little elf on the back. “I forgive you. But now, you have to ask the children to forgive you. And that will take a little bit more magic.”
“Yes, sir. I will get them all the cookies back and more besides.”
“Good man. And I think it’s time you had a new name. Blowhard McNaughtypants. Not a proper name for an elf friend of Mrs. Claus.”
“How about…Herbie,” Nora suggested.
The newly named Herbie nodded. “Thank you, Mrs. Claus.”
“Come on then. Let’s return these cookies and I’ll help you,” Nick replied. “And we’d best be quick about it. You’re going to help me deliver toys tonight too, Herbie.”
And so, the case of the missing cookies was solved. They were all returned. The toys were given out to all the boys and girls of the world. And Herbie stopped being a crabby old meany-pants and started his own therapy office for elves with attitude problems and anti-Christmas sentiments. With Santa’s blessing.
And all was right again.
(ho ho ho)
Jesse V Coffey lives and writes in Lexington, KY. She currently has three books available for sale – A Wager of Blood, Illusions & Reality, and The Savior. She can be found on Facebook at (20+) Jesse’s Coffeyhouse | Facebook and on her blog at http://www.jessevcoffey.com