Many thanks to Gold Fever Press for publishing a longer (by 500 words!) version of this story on their site. They were a pleasure to work with and it was an honor to be showcased on their site!
How Grandma Saved Christmas
“I used to have two hands, like most people, until the year I saved Christmas.”
A dying fire and the intermittent blink of colored tree lights lit the room. On the couch a seven year old boy curled at his grandmother’s side. In his hand was the Iron Man action figure he’d opened earlier. He used it to climb the metal curve of his grandmother’s prosthetic hand.
“Santa’s sleigh broked down. You delivered toys in your snowmobile!” he prompted.
“Broke down,” she corrected, “This was when I was even younger than your mommy is now. I drove my snowmobile to the North Pole. Not this North Pole, in Alaska. Not our home, but the real North Pole in the heart of the Arctic Ocean. It was a dark Christmas Eve just like tonight. My Ski-Doo was flying back to camp, barely touching the ground. I almost didn’t see them.”
“Rudolph and Santa’s reindeer!”
“A faint, red glow through the fog slowed me down. I saw Rudolph first and then the rest, all harnessed together. And behind them, on its side, was the sleigh. Its right runner was broken clean in half.”
“And Santa, lying in the snow,” the boy whispered with studied horror.
“He was sprawled on the ground, face down, not moving. Thankfully he wasn’t badly hurt, but neither he nor his sleigh could deliver gifts.”
“And Santa asked you – ”
“Santa didn’t ask. He told me.” The timbre of her voice took on a deep authority. “‘Abigail Margaret Yates,’ he said, ‘You have to load those presents onto your snowmobile and deliver them to all the good boys and girls for me.’ Well, I’m not going to argue with Santa, so I said, ‘Yes, sir! Just tell me what to do!’”
The boy squirmed impatience as his grandmother leaned forward and clamped the metal hook around her mug of cocoa. He allowed her one, careful sip of the steaming liquid before urging, “And Santa gave you an elf!”
“You’re jumping ahead,” she scolded. After another deft sip, she replaced the mug. “We harnessed the reindeer to the snowmobile, put Santa and the bag of presents onto the back, and took him back to his workshop. It was then that Santa assigned me a helper. He was an elf named Turna Kett.”
“All elves have a particular magic and Turna’s was slowing down the fast flow of time. That way, all the gifts could be delivered around the world in just one night.”
“Santa’s reindeer were still a little shaken up, so when we headed north and hit open water, I worried about making them fly. Luckily a pod of narwhal were nearby. They surfaced, heard that Christmas was in jeopardy, and offered to whisk us over to Russia to get those deliveries over quickly.”
“Narhwals have pointy unicorn horns!”
The grandmother smiled with pride. “That’s what we held on to as they swam. As we left shore, they began to sing. Seals and walrus joined them and began to sing, too. When we reached Russia, we realized their song had called all the artic animals. Tens of thousands of snow-white animals had gathered on the shore to meet us. Foxes and wolves, rabbits and ermine, snow geese and eagles! And each one took a brightly wrapped package to deliver to the homes of the children in Russia, Finland, and beyond.”
“When we distributed the last gift, we knew we had to get back to the North Pole. There were still thousands of gifts to deliver and Turna couldn’t slow time forever.
An orca let us hop on his tail and we rode him back like slippery surfboard. By that time the reindeer were feeling better. They rocketed us around the world in my snowmobile like we were flying a jet! That old Ski-Doo made it through the night, but never started again after that.
“But all the presents were delivered before Christmas morning!” the boy cried happily. Iron Man took a victory turn around the couch.
“Yes, Christmas was saved.”
“And Santa said you could ask for a special present that year for helping him!”
“Yes, he did.”
“And you asked for a pirate hook and a new, black snowmobile!”
“But you sold the snowmobile when my mommy was borned.”
“But you weren’t sad because you knew that one day I’d be born and we would play pirates together.”
“Let’s play pirates tomorrow.”
“After you open presents.”
“Yes, after that.”
“It’s a deal.”
The boy pressed a kiss to his grandmother’s soft cheek, leapt from the couch, and flew Iron Man up the stairs to his bedroom. She followed his progress on the landing before her smile turned to the adjacent chair.
With a roll of the eyes, her twelve year old granddaughter declared, “I’m too old for that story.”
“Yes, I believe you’re old enough to hear the real adventure now. Come sit beside me?”
The grandmother tucked the girl’s legs over hers. “There once was a girl whose heroes were Admiral Peary and Ralph Plaisted. This girl dreamt of being the first woman to lead an expedition to the North Pole. She grew up, bought a snowmobile, and mastered it. Years later, this woman was trying to beat Plaisted’s long distance record in one day. She didn’t slow into a turn. Her Ski-Doo flipped. Her arm was badly hurt and a friend had to apply a tourniquet. That tourniquet bought her time. It saved her life. But the surgeons couldn’t save her hand. She had to have a prosthetic.”
The hook gleamed in the firelight as she lifted it for both to consider. “I got this on Christmas Eve when I was twenty-three. I could have chosen anger, but I didn’t. I lost my hand, but I never lost my dream. I did get to the North Pole, just not the one I expected. Sometimes you have to decide what life gives you is a gift.”
WHAT THE JUDGE(S) LIKED ABOUT YOUR STORY ……I really like the approach you took with this story and you utilized the prompts very creatively. It’s also fun to discover the real story at the end……..A charming mix of hominess and action. Grandma’s narration of her initial story is exciting and silly at the same time. ……I like how this is an adventure story, modern fairy tale, and morality tale all in one. You do a great job of creating a unique story mixing multiple genres.
WHAT THE JUDGES FEEL NEEDS WORK ……I love this badass grandma. She’s awesome. That being said, I kind of wish that the real story was a little more developed and the christmas story was a little simpler. That could definitely be a matter of taste…Did you try making the christmas story and the real story parallel action? (As in telling them at the same time, but going back and forth?) It could be an interesting way to take the audience on a journey, making us unsure which one is the truth. ……………The turn, when Grandma tells her second story, feels a bit abrupt. Perhaps nesting even more elements from the second story in the first could counteract this. You could also consider having her tell both version to the same child, who is skeptical after the first. ……Some more physical descriptions of things–the grandmother and her home included–would help bring them to life. Most of this is told by the grandmother and so keeps the reader at a distance, but at least help the reader to see her in the telling of it to bring the reader closer to the story.