The Misunderstanding: A Christmas Story

To all those who celebrate it, Merry Christmas!!

Here’s a short story I wrote whilst at a festive high on Christmas Eve. It’s not the most polished, and relies mostly on dialogue – which is odd for me, but I really enjoyed writing it. Take a look, and let me know what you think!

I hope everyone has a lovely day, packed with good food and delightful company 🙂


 

The Mistake

*North Pole*

“Why do we always leave this bloody paperwork to the last minute?” muttered Chipper, thumbing through the same 300 pages he complained about each year. He glanced at the clock and winced. Only an hour until the sleigh was due to set off, and he hadn’t even begun to review Santa’s contract.

“Because it’s pointless,” replied Twinkle, rolling her eyes.

“Well, not pointless. He doesn’t have his licence to spread the gift of Christmas or something if we don’t put his name down in ink.”

“Just leave it, I doubt anyone will even notice we’ve missed it.”

Chipper sighed and began to scan through the first couple of lines; it was just the same as last year. He took another look at the clock and knew there was simply no way he would get his list of tasks done in the next hour, not after being blinded by all the small print.

“Do you really think it won’t make a difference?” he whispered.

“Of course not! And if you’re that wound up about it, just get the temp to sign it. If there’s any problems, it’s his name that’s on it.”

Chipper considered Twinkle’s idea for a moment, and after ignoring the angel on his shoulder, thrust the contract in the direction of a timid-looking elf who jumped at the contact.

“Right, Bubbles. I suppose whilst you’re here you should learn how to properly sign things off,” said Chipper in the most authoritative voice he could muster.

“Oh yes, sir, absolutely, sir.”

“This contract is the same each year, it’s just used to ensure that it’s Santa himself fulfilling the Christmas duties. We just write Santa’s name on the front page here, sign it, and it’s good for another year.”

“That’s a lot of pages to review, sir. A lot of words.”

“Yes, Bubbles, but not to worry! You don’t need to go through it, just sign it off and hand it back to me.”

“Just… just sign it off…” echoed Bubbles.

“And hand it back to me, yes, thank you,” said Chipper, starting to grow impatient with the small elf’s hesitance.

Bubbles paused with the pen, bringing the nib close to the paper and then pulling it away again, his brow furrowing slightly.

“There’s no need to tease the paper, Bubbles, I can assure you making it wait isn’t good for anyone. Just write Santa and sign it.”

Bubbles cowered at Chipper’s stern tone, but nodded, and hastily scribbled across the page.

“Brilliant,” said Chipper, snatching the contract from him. He barely gave it a second glance, before dashing off through the snow to hand it in.

The Realisation

*North Pole*

Nicholas Claus had just sat down to his third whiskey of the evening and had only had one drag of his new cigar when there was a brisk knock at his office door. He shut his eyes and had a moment of quiet irritation to himself before calling out, “Come in, if you must.”

What followed through the open door was a taller-than-average elf named Tootsie, dressed in a crisp business suit and a sneer. In his hands were the 300 pages that had been dropped off by Chipper, mere minutes ago.

“Mr Santa, sir-”

“Before we go any further, call me Nick. ‘Santa’ sets my teeth on edge these days.”

“Of course, sir. Now-”

“It would yours too if you had kids screaming it at you every damn year.”

“I absolutely agree. But Nick, I came here today because there was… somewhat of an issue with your yearly contract.”

“Oh yeah? Lay it on me.”

“It would appear that a certain temporary employee in the Candy Cane Department named ‘Bubbles’ has signed it off this year. He’s dyslexic.”

“And that’s my problem, how? Slide a dictionary under the tree for the kid.”

“It might be a little too late for a dictionary, Nick.”

“Get to the point, I really don’t have time today.”

“…Well. He didn’t put your name.”

“What?”

“Here, take a look.”

“You’re fucking kidding me.”

The Story

*Hell*

“You’re telling me what now?” laughed The Devil, pouring his new friend, Tootsie, a glass of champagne.

“I’m saying- Ah, none for me thanks, I’m working.”

“Ugh isn’t everyone?” The Devil scoffed, and pushed the glass into the elf’s hands, spilling a drop that dissolved in the heat of his presence before it could hit the ground. “They may be frittering their Christmas bonuses on boring old wine up in Heaven, but down here it’s all about the bubbles. Honey, I’m the Devil for a reason, now drink your damn champagne.”

Tootsie took a sip.

“Now, Mr Satan, sir-”

“Oh wow, people aren’t still calling me that are they? How embarrassing, my cheeks are positively burning.”

“What do you prefer?” sighed Tootsie, willing his good temper to stay steady as he took in the being before him.

“Lucifer. But only my friends and close enemies get to call me Luci.”

“Alright. So, Lucifer, there’s a contract that enables Nick, formally known as Santa Claus, to be able to enter a child’s room whilst they’re sleeping without being put on some sort of list,” Tootsie began, taking a gulp of his drink to give him to courage to say the next part. “Unfortunately due to an admin error, the elf filling out the forms wrote… ‘Satan’ and not ‘Santa.’”

Tootsie took yet another mouthful of champagne, appreciating how much it was helping him out at this current moment. He knew it had been a mistake to stop drinking. He examined Lucifer’s reaction, which was entirely unimpressed. The notable lack of rage encouraged the elf to continue. “Since the contract is not re-workable, it means you’re going to have to be the one to fulfill Santa’s duties. Does this sound like something you could do for us, sir?”

Lucifer topped up the elf’s glass and swirled his little finger around his own, making his drink fizz and pop in the gap of silence. He had never really understood the point of Christmas, yet he always had an underlying curiosity for it. He knew the Son of God had been born, something he would never be able to forget. His invite to the celebratory party ‘getting lost in the post’ still stung. But why that birth meant a retired man and his furry pets should be able to sneak into people’s houses, he couldn’t quite put his finger on. But, this could be his chance to find out. To really experience the joy that was Christmas.

“Well, alright then. I suppose it wouldn’t hurt to leave the pad for a little while,” he murmured. He downed his champagne and stood to leave. Tootsie, who had somehow found his way to his third glass, followed suit and hiccupped in gratitude.

“Santa- I mean Nick, is really, really going to appreciate this, Luci,” Tootsie said, wiping the saliva that had dribbled down his chin with the cuff of his sleeve.

“He had better. And it’s Lucifer, please don’t make me remind you. I don’t need to pack do I?”

“It wouldn’t hurt to take a scarf, sir.”

“Hm. Lilith, darling?” Lucifer called over to a red-haired lady, who was busy stroking a serpent. “I’m popping out. Could you be a dear and keep an eye on things for me?”

Lilith stopped her petting, which her reptile did not appear to be pleased with. She looked over with raised eyebrows and replied, “Of course. Where are you going?”

“A dinky little place called the North Pole, have you heard of it?”

“I have, dear, yes,” she laughed, “and how do you think you’re going to survive up there?”

Lucifer chuckled, and as he began to walk, allowing Tootsie to lead the way, he called over his shoulder, “I suppose you’ll have to pray for me.”

*North Pole*

“This suit itches. When was the last time you washed it? Oh, I forgot how much red clashes with my skintone,” grumbled Lucifer, tugging at the red velvet that sagged around his body. He already loathed this suit and he had only been wearing it less than a minute. But, he had to admit, it was keeping him warmer than if he stood amongst the snow in all his natural glory, so it was a keeper. “Do people not have central heating here?” he asked Tootsie, who seemed to be completely unaffected by the cold.

“No. We usually keep ourselves warm with the joy of helping others etcetera, etcetera,” the elf drawled in a monotone, beginning to sober up, much to his displeasure. “Right, all you have to do is get in the sleigh, visit every house all over the world, and leave a few gifts behind. Can you manage that alone?”

“You mean that oversized trough? With the mooses tugging on it?” Lucifer said warily.

“They’re actually- just- yes, that’s the one. I think I’ll come with you. To keep an eye on things.”

*London, England*

Once Tootsie had convinced Lucifer onto the sleigh with only minor threats, the two were well on their way and actually ahead of schedule. After hitting his first few target houses, Lucifer felt to be in the swing of things. Aside from a couple of mishaps.

“Oh, sorry about those last couple of places. When you’re The Devil, it’s hard to land in a fireplace without accidentally setting it alight. You don’t need to come down the chimney with me this time,” he said with confidence.

Tootsie, who was slightly charred at this point, replied “Thank you for the consideration.”

As Lucifer shuffled his way down the chimney alone this time, and carefully trod his way over the coals, he looked around the living room he had stepped into. It was a large, warm room, decorated top to bottom with things that sparkled, glittered and shone. There was a magnificent Christmas tree in the corner, alight with colourful bulbs and gleaming baubles, underneath which were gifts and treats galore, all wrapped in gaudy paper. Lucifer shuddered. His eyes hadn’t been this abused since he first saw the flickering flames of hellfire. He shook his head, and decided to get on with the job, tossing a few giftboxes under the already packed tree.

As he began to get back into the fireplace to join Tootsie, he heard a rustle behind him. As slowly as he could, he turned around, only to see a small girl dressed in flannel pyjamas, her bare toes curled into the carpet, and her eyes wide. Lucifer froze, unsure of what the official policy was here. He decided the best option was to wait it out, and see who would break first. It turns out, it was the girl.

“Are you Santa?” she asked, having the good sense to whisper.

“Erm,” Lucifer faltered, having a problem with lying for the first time in his life. “You’re… lexically close.”

“Did you leave us presents, Santa? Did you eat the mince pies?”

“Yes, I left you presents. No, I didn’t eat the mince pies. They’re disgusting. Don’t know why everybody leaves them out for me, have they not heard of chocolate?”

The girl padded over to the new gifts that were lying under the tree, already littered in discarded pine needles. She bent down and stroked the shiny paper, not willing to go any further.

“That means I’ve been a good girl! Doesn’t it Santa?”

“Mm, well everyone has a moral compass, and it doesn’t just point in one…” Lucifer began, but as he saw the girl staring at him with a vacant expression, he decided to just humour her. “Yes, you’ve been a good girl.”

“That’s good. Thank you for deciding I was good this year, Santa, I didn’t want to go to Hell.”

Very few times Lucifer had been so shocked that he had nothing to say. This was one of those very rare occurrences.

“Mummy and Daddy say there’s a Good List and a Naughty List, and if you’re on the Naughty List, then God will punish you,” the girl continued, “so I have been trying my best to be nice and good all year.”

“Right. That’s… sweet, but wholly inaccurate. You really think Santa has a say in that Heaven and Hell business? Wow, schooling is going downhill,” Lucifer muttered, watching the girl stuff one of the mince pies into her mouth, oblivious to his attempt at education.

“Thanks again, Santa. And Merry Christmas!” she said, her words muffled around the food. She walked over to him, and before Lucifer could do anything to stop her, she was hugging him.

“Oh don’t get the pie on the suit, I’m renting- oh, and there it goes, it’s on the suit. Alright then. Merry Christmas, ya filthy animal.” Lucifer patted the girl on the head in what could be perceived as an almost tender moment. Before he got bored, and tried to pry her clinging fingers from his jacket.

After ensuring the girl got back to bed without any interruptions from angry parents, Lucifer made his leave. He successfully made his way up the chimney without inducing an accidental inferno, and joined Tootsie on the sleigh.

“Everything go to plan?” asked the elf, now having abandoned his singed suit jacket and settled in a more comfortable position.

“Not quite. But I made it work,” said Lucifer, “Now, onwards. I hear I have quite a few houses to get round.”

Tootsie nodded, and the sleigh took off once again.

*North Pole*

Much to his surprise, Lucifer re-entered the North Pole to the sound of applause, cheering, and the faint melody of a jazz musician’s jaunty cover of Jingle Bells. As he stepped off the sleigh, he was immediately taken aside by Nick, who caught his hand and shook it eagerly.

“I have to thank you for tonight, Lucifer, I really needed the break,” he managed to huff out, his breath stale with cigar smoke, “how do you feel about this becoming a regular deal, eh?”

“Mm, I can imagine it must be exhausting working one day a year. Unfortunately, I wasn’t looking for anything more, I think this should have been just a one-time thing. Sorry to break your heart,” Lucifer said, already beginning to pull the red jacket off his shoulders. “Though I have to admit, I rather enjoyed leaving the kids my special gifts.”

“What?”

“My presents, the ones I brought from home.”

“But when- what were in these gifts, Lucifer?” Tootsie chimed in, a mask of worry holding his face.

“Oh just a couple of luxuries. Severed heads, tortured souls, the wrath of a thousand angered wasps. All giftwrapped, of course.”

“You’re not serious?”

“Are you calling me a liar?” Lucifer smirked, shaking off the last of Santa’s suit. “Anyway, I really need to get back, I’m sure there’s tonnes for me to catch up on. Feel like escorting me back, elf?”

Tootsie paused in massaging his temples and with resigned exasperation, agreed he would.

“Let’s go to Hell.”

*Hell*

“Well thanks again for your… help, Lucifer,” Tootsie said, sweating profusely in the heat of the underworld.

“It could have gone worse, couldn’t it?”

“Did you enjoy it?” queried the elf, genuinely curious.

Lucifer paused before answering, taking a moment to think back to the little girl that had caught him.

“I suppose. I learnt that my domain still strikes terror in the hearts of children, which was somewhat comforting. I have never spawned my own little devils, I suppose I’ve never been the broody type. And it made me realise my place is definitely down here. I’m the King of Hell, babe, there’s nobody else who can do my job,” he grinned, shrugging in nonchalance. “Christmas was sort of beautiful yet entirely disgusting. It’s all well and good for those who like familial cheer and heart-warming epiphanies, but really, I think I will be staying where I belong.”

“Thank God,” breathed Tootsie.

“Oh please, don’t thank him, he gets the credit for everything. One more thing, you don’t have access to this so-called Naughty List, do you?”

“Santa’s Naughty List?”

“Yes. Let me have at least a peek. I have a feeling those kids will be coming to stay in a few years.”

Tootsie smiled and shook his head. “You know I can’t do that.”

“Ugh, you’re far too good for my liking.”

“Goodbye, Lucifer.”

“See ya, Toots.”

*North Pole, one year later*

“Why do we always leave this bloody paperwork to the last minute?”

“Just get the temp to-”

“Nope.”

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