SEARCH FOR SANTA
Hi, how’re you all doin’? I’m doin’ okay, I guess. I mean, I’m doin’ okay now, but it gotta admit I wasn’t doin’ so hot a few days ago. What? Why? Whaddya mean why? Can’t someone have some issues without everyone suddenly jumping all over him? Just because your life is all hunky dory doesn’t mean you have to start buttin’ in on my business.
Oh, uh, sorry about that. It’s just that things’re goin’ okay now and I don’t wanna jinx it by bringin’ the subject up. But, since we’re talkin’ a little about it now, and nothin’ ain’t happened so far, and it’s Christmas and all, I guess it’d be okay to talk about it just this once. Besides, I gotta admit, I’m dyin’ to tell someone about it.
I mean even now I don’t hardly believe it. It’s kinda like somethin’ outta a dream. Okay, so I’m gonna tell you, but don’t go askin’ if it’s true or did I make it up or nothin’ like that. ‘Cause I’m tellin’ ya, this is the gosh honest truth. Okay, here goes nothin’.
First, I gotta tell you a little bit about myself. The name’s Little Jumbo Twofeet, but you can just call me L.J., which is what everyone else calls me. Oh, now don’t start already. Don’t look at me like that. Little Jumbo is my name. Why’re you laughin’? It’s a perfectly good name for any respectable gnome to have.
What, again with the laughin’? What’s so funny? Oh, you don’t believe I’m a gnome, huh? You think gnomes have high squeaky voices and are shy and timid? Hah, shows how much you know about gnomes. We gnomes have one of the most important jobs you could ever want to have. We help people.
Didn’t know that, huh? I didn’t think so. Lotsa people don’t. Yeah, well here’s somethin’ else ya didn’t know. We also help Santa.
No, we don’t make toys! We ain’t elves. The elves make all the toys, get all the glory, sit on shelves. Yeah I know all about them. Everyone knows all about them. But that’s all they do. Kinda one-dimensional, don’t ya think?
Now, we gnomes are much more important, but we don’t get no publicity like. It’s okay, that’s the way we like it. Ya see, while the elves are busy makin’ toys and bein’ cute, gnomes are busy doin’ everything else.
Whaddya mean, like what? I mean like everything. We take care of Santa’s sleigh, feed the reindeer, polish the tack, and muck out the stalls. Gnomes take care of the grounds around Santa’s magic castle. We plow the driveway and shovel the walk, decorate the trees outside and change the bulbs on Santa’s Christmas displays, and brother, does he have a bunch of displays!
Then, there’s Santa’s magic castle and workshop itself. We make sure everything in Santa’s workshop is workin’ and runnin’ smooth—conveyor belts, workbenches, paint cans, toolkits. We chop wood for the fire for Santa’s fireplace. We cook the meals, wash the dishes, and help Mrs. Claus bake Christmas cookies.
So, like I said, even though the North Pole is one of the happiest places on earth, we’ve still had our share of hardship, just like everybody else. But all them bad times rolled inta one ain’t nothin’ ta compare with what almost happened just a few days ago. It was horrible, and it almost brought Santa, his magic castle, the elves, the gnomes, and the whole kit and caboodle crashin’ down on us. We was that far from hangin’ up an outta business sign. I’m tellin’ ya, it was that close.
It started just a little over a week ago. I was walkin’ down the old mill path, just enjoyin’ a nice winter walk. The mill stream was frozen over, snow was on the ground. It was a real winter wonderland, just like always here at the North Pole. I was just walkin’ along mindin’ my own business, enjoyin’ a little free time, which is real rare this time of year.
So, I’m walkin’ along, when all of a sudden I see some smoke comin’ up from beyond Blitzin’s Ridge—off in the direction of the Ghostly Woods. It wasn’t a homey lookin’ smoke like the white smoke that comes out of a chimney. This smoke was black and dangerous lookin’ and there was a whole lot of it.
Now, you can imagine I got real worried in a hurry. First, smoke is always a bad sign, and second, nothin’ good ever came from the Ghostly Woods. In my granddaddy’s day, when Santa was just startin’ out, there were a lot of bad creatures that was livin’ up here at the North Pole.
Before he could set up shop, Santa had to clear all of them out. He signed an agreement with the gnomes to help. The gnomes beat the creatures back, out of the North Pole and into the Ghostly Woods. They were beaten so bad, that none of them creatures dared show themselves for more than 1,000 years.
What? Huh? Oh, what sorts of creature were they? Oh lots of nasties, I can tell ya. There were bats and wolves, abominable snowmen and trolls. And goblins. Oh, the goblins were the worst. I’d rather meet an abominable snowman than a goblin any day. Luckily, goblins have become few and far between. We don’t hardly ever see any these days. Or at least we didn’t, but I’m gettin’ ahead of myself.
Like I was sayin’, I saw smoke comin’ from the direction of the Ghostly Woods—not a good sign. So I hoofed it over to Santa’s workshop as quick as I could. I had to find the big guy quick, and this time of year, he spends most of his time over at the workshop doin’ quality control, because that’s what ya gotta do when you got elves on the job, sorry to say.
When I got there, though, Santa weren’t nowhere to be found. Nobody’d seen him since he went for a little stroll just before lunch. This was bad. First, Santa had precious little time for a stroll, and second, Santa never, and I mean never, missed a meal. I knew something was terribly wrong.
Quick as anything, I rounded up a few of the lads—Tommy Tingle Crowsfoot, Jingle Jangle Gobsmacker, and Hulu Wahoo Nederlander—for a search party. Quickly, I told ‘em about the smoke I’d seen out Blitzen’s Ridge and they all agreed that somethin’ must be goin’ on in the Wood.
Now you can imagine that we didn’t wanna upset Mrs. Claus by tellin’ her ol’ Santa was missin’. But, we still had to ask her for permission to take the food and tools that we needed for the expedition.
It was here that the elves helped us out. See, elves ain’t much good for anything but makin’ toys. There is one other thing that they’re good at, though, and while it’s usually annoyin’, this time it came in real handy. Of course, I’m talkin’ about makin’ mischief. Elves always like a good joke, especially when it’s at the expense of someone else.
I was able to convince a few of ‘em ta play a joke on a couple of the gnomes that were workin’ in the castle. They poured boilin’ water down the backs of their shirts. Well, that set off a good knockdown, dragout brawl that kept Mrs. Claus busy for the better part of an hour—plenty of time for me and the boys to get what we needed and scram.
Once we were all outfitted okay, we headed on over to the ridge. The smoke was still risin’ as we climbed to the top of the hill and looked out over the Ghostly Woods. It was just like I thought. The smoke was coming from right in the middle of the woods. We knew we had to move quick. There was only a coupla hours of daylight left, and nobody wanted to be stuck in that haunted forest after dark.
It was then that I spotted somethin’ lyin’ in the snow about midway between the ridge and the woods. We all slid and slithered down the backside of the ridge as quick as may be and trotted on over to it. We stood in a circle around it, hardly daring to touch it.
Lying in a circle of churned up snow was a big black boot. Only one person we knew wore a boot like that. I picked it up and checked inside. Size 18 EEE. Sure enough, it was Santa’s boot. Now things was lookin’ black indeed. Santa missin’, one of his boots in the snow, signs of a struggle, and black smoke comin’ from the Ghostly Woods. We didn’t know what was goin’ on, but it sure as heck couldn’t be good.
After talkin’ things over with my associates, we decided that the only thing to be done was to check out the woods for ourselves. This ain’t somethin’ we chose to do lightly. I mean no one goes into the Ghostly Woods on a lark. None of us had ever been in there. But we knew that it was the heart of evil in the North Pole, and while evil had been contained fairly well in most places here, in the Ghostly Woods it was said that it ran rampant.
But this was an emergency. It looked like Santa had been taken into the woods, whether alive or dead we didn’t know. All we knew was it now fell to us to try and get him back. I made the decision in an instant.
“Hulu Wahoo, go back as fast as you can and bring help. The rest of us’ll go into the woods and scout around,” I said. “We’ll find Santa and look for you to help get us out.”
Hulu Wahoo nodded and dashed off, as fast as his stumpy little legs could carry him. Tommy Tingle and Jingle Jangle and me turned and headed toward the woods. As we got closer, I could feel a powerful wave of hate comin’ outta the woods. It was like somethin’ was tryin’ to keep us out.
I looked at the others. They were lookin’ at me. They didn’t seem too keen on goin’ in there. To tell the truth, I wasn’t either. But we had to, like it or not. Santa needed us. So, we all turned toward the woods and moved forward into the trees.
It was dark inside, and the feelin’ of hate was even stronger. I looked around, imaginin’ dozens of pairs of eyes watchin’ us. No doubt about it, the whole place gave me the creeps.
“How…hhow’re we gonna find Santa?” Tommy Tingle asked. In the oppressive silence of the woods, it sounded like he was shouting.
“Don’t know,” I said, shrugging. “We’ll just have to trust to luck, and hope we’ll get lucky.”
“We gotta head toward the smoke,” Jingle Jangle said. “I’m guessin’ whoever took Santa is makin’ the smoke, too.”
That Jingle Jangle always had a good head on his shoulders.
“Do you think they’re fixin’ on eatin’ Santa?” Tommy Tingle asked.
“Could be, that or burn him up,” Jingle Jangle said, frowning.
“Then let’s get motorin’” I said, and picked up the pace.
A little later, we struck what looked like a path. It headed deeper into the interior, so we decided to follow it. I didn’t say what everyone was thinkin’. Who had made the path?
“I thought I heard someone on the path,” says one.
“Arghh, you’re hearin’ things again, Will,” says another.
“Am I smellin’ things, too, Stan? Don’t tell me you can’t smell anything amiss,” says Will.
“Let’s say for a second that I can’t, what do you smell, Will?” Stan asked, his red eyes narrowing.
“Why I smells gnome, that’s what I smells,” Will snarled, licking his lips.
“Gnome? Why there hasn’t been a gnome sighted in these woods in nearly a thousand years,” Stan said.
“Aye, well I smell what I smell, and I’m tellin’ ya I smells gnomes,” say Will, stamping a huge clawed foot.
“Could be a few stumbled in here lookin’ for the old man.”
“Aw, you’re daft. No one knows the old man’s gone. They’re all too busy with their toy foolishness to have missed him yet,” Stan spat.
“All the same, they’ll miss him soon. Then it’ll only be a matter of time before they’re at our door with an army I’ll wager,” Will said.
“What of it? That’s the plan ain’t it? Grab the old man then wipe out the whole lot, toys and all,” Stan said.
“Seems like things’re goin’ accordin’ to plan.”
“Yeah, well maybe they is and maybe they isn’t, I don’t know nothin’ ‘bout that. I leaves that to me betters I does,” Will spat.
“Well, one thing I knows, we’d best stop jawin’ and be off on patrol before our betters has our guts hangin’ on a tree,” Stan growled.
Will gave the air one last sniff. “Right, then let’s be off boys!”
With that, Will, Stan and the other goblins rushed off down the path toward the edge of the woods.
My friends and I let out a big sigh of relief. That was close, and very alarming.
“Hey L.J., who do you s’pose the old man is they was talkin’ about?” Tommy Tingle asked.
Jingle Jangle looked as annoyed as I must have looked. “They was talkin’ about Santa, lunkhead,” Jingle Jangle said.
“Oh, so do you think the goblins kidnapped Santa?”
“That’s exactly what I think,” I said.
“We gotta get him back,” Tommy Tingle said. That’s why I like ol’ T.T. He ain’t the brightest bulb in the string, but he’s brave and he’ll stick with you through thick and thin.
We decided to take the route that the goblins had come from. We figured we could follow their path through the trees. If we went nice and quiet like—gnomes ‘re good at that—I figured we’d be able to hear any goblins comin’ before they saw us.
It worked out okay. The goblins had left an easy trail of knocked down trees to follow. I was hopin’ their path would lead us right to their lair, and Santa. We got lucky. We didn’t see any more goblins.
That is, until we got to the center of the Ghostly Woods. Remember that I mentioned smoke? Well when we got to the center of the woods, we found out what was makin’ the smoke. Right in the center of the woods there was a clearin’. In the middle of the clearin’ some goblins had made a great big bonfire. There must’ve been almost 50 goblins dancin’ and signin’ and carryin’ on.
Yep, you guessed it. We’d found Santa. Those goblins was fixin’ on roastin’ jolly ol’ St. Nick for their Christmas dinner. Now, we were in a fix and no mistake. Here we were, three gnomes in the middle of Goblin Nation, and our boss trussed up on a spit and about to be roasted on a humongous bonfire.
It did not look good, not good at all. But did I worry? Nope. Well, okay, maybe a little, but not much. You see, I had faith. I knew it was close to Christmas and we were at the North Pole, Christmas Central. I knew that somehow, everything would come out okay. I guess you could call it faith.
Lookin’ at my comrades, though, I could see they didn’t share my optimism. In fact, both T.T. and J.J. looked downright worried. And lookin’ at them, it kinda made me worried, too. I mean, we were in a bad fix and how were we gonna get ourselves, and Santa, out of it?
So I started to look around for somethin’ that might help us out. It’s okay to have faith, but you can’t just sit around waitin’ for somethin’ to happen. I didn’t know what I was lookin’ for. I figured I’d know it when I saw it. Then, all of a sudden I did see it. Lyin’ right there on the ground just inside the ring of trees was a great big goblin sword. One of ‘em must’ve dropped it.
Now we was gettin’ somewhere. Now we had some hope. See, like I might’ve mentioned before, goblin hides’re tough. Just about the only thing that can pierce one is a goblin sword. You may have noticed that we left without any weapons at all, so findin’ a goblin sword alone and unclaimed is a very good thing when you’re just three gnomes surrounded by a bunch of goblins.
Still, one sword against 50 or more was pretty long odds. I wouldn’t put much money down on them odds at all. What we needed besides the sword was a plan. I looked at T.T., who shook his head. No luck there. T.T. wasn’t much good at plannin’.
Then I looked at J.J., and I saw that he was thinkin’ hard. Hey now, I thought, we just might have somethin’ here. J.J. was a pretty good planner. He just might come up with somethin’.
“I think I’ve got it,” J.J. whispered.
“What?” I asked.
“How far away do you reckon we are from that platform?” he asked.
“I don’t know,” I said, scratching my beard. “Maybe 60 feet or so.”
J.J. nodded. “That’s about what I make it to be, too. Now how would it be if T.T. and I split up, circle around and distract the goblins. Now some may go off to the left, and some to the right. They chase us. When they do that, you go right up the center with the sword and cut Santa loose. If we’re lucky, Santa will have somethin’ up his sleeve to get us out at that point.”
I looked at T.T. and he looked at me. It wasn’t much of a plan, to be honest. But I didn’t let on. If T.T. thought I had faith, then he’d follow my lead, come snow or blizzard. I smiled and nodded. T.T. smiled and nodded too.
“Good, then let’s get goin’,” J.J. said.
He went to the left and T.T. went to the right. I waited. Soon, there came a whoopin’ and a squawkin’ from both sides of the clearin’. All the goblins stopped doin’ what they were doin’ and looked around. Some looked left and some looked right. All of them drew their swords. Then, some went left and some went right. But some also stayed right where they was.
Oh well, havin’ to deal with some is better than havin’ to deal with all. Still, there was five or six of ‘em standin’ over Santa and droolin’. I felt bad for poor ol’ Santa. Goblin drool ain’t the most pleasantest of things.
Right, I thought, time to get movin’. So I moved out, hopin’ that T.T. and J.J. was leadin’ the rest of the goblins on a merry chase through the Ghostly Woods. I snuck up to the platform as quiet as I could, hardly darin’ to breathe, and hoped I was downwind of them goblins.
Turns out, I could’ve marched right up to ‘em with a brass band and they wouldn’t have paid me no mind, so intent were they on fixin’ up a Santa supper.
When I reached the platform, I scurried underneath. Now I had to take a second and think. How was I gonna get Santa away from them goblins? I was right under them, with the fire right in front of me. Boy, was it hot.
“Argh, I’m so hungry I could eat a Minotaur,” says one. “Let’s throw the old man on the fire now.”
“Now you just hold your horses, Jed. We’re ta wait ‘til everyone gets back,” says another. “There’ll be heck ta pay if they come back and we’ve done ate him.” He said something worse than heck. Goblins talk like that, I’m afraid.
“I ain’t talkin’ ‘bout eatin’ him raw, Nate,” says Jed. “I just wants ta get started with cookin’ him, like.”
“No, we gotta wait,” says Nate. “He ain’t prepared proper yet.”
“I’ll prepare him right now,” says Jed. “C’mon boys, who’s with me?”
The other goblins were grumblin’ and mutterin’, but I could tell that none of ‘em was too keen to go against Nate. It was then that Santa spoke up.
“Army, what army?” asks a goblin.
“Why, my gnome army,” says Santa. “I’ve left standing orders with my gnomes that if I’m ever missing more than two hours they’re to mobilize and attack.”
The goblins got real jumpy at this point, until Nate spoke up. “Yeah? And how will they know where ta find ya? No one knows where you’ve been taken.”
“Well now that’s not strictly true, old boy,” Santa said. He talks a little fancy. “It just so happens, that I have a GPS device hidden on my person that will pinpoint my exact location.”
Now this was very clever of Santa, and shows what a quick thinker he was. Actually, there was no standin’ orders and he didn’t have no GPS on him, but it was a good idea, and I made a note to set up somethin’ when we got back. If we got back.
“A GP…what?” Jed asked, clearly confused. Goblins ain’t much good with technology.
“Don’t worry none about that,” Nate said, alarmed. “He’s got somethin’ that’ll lead them gnomes right to us. We gotta round up the boys.”
“But maybe that army’s got ‘em already,” Jed said, looking around.
All the goblins froze at this. The woods was deathly silent.
“I don’t fancy this much,” Jed says. “I’m gettin’ outta here before them gnomes come for us.”
“You ain’t goin’ nowhere, Jed,” Nate says. “We’re stayin’ put. We got our orders. Stay here with the old man until everyone gets back, then roast him.”
That stopped ‘em for the moment, but I could tell Jed and the others was getting’ agitated. So was I, because I figured T.T. and J.J. couldn’t keep the other goblins occupied for much longer. I knew I had to do somethin’ soon, but what?
Turns out Jed and his pals helped me out. “You can stay here ‘til the whole gnome army comes, Nate, but me ‘n’ the boys’re getting’ outta here, ain’t we?”
The rest of them goblins growled agreement and started to move off the platform.
“Hey, where’re you cowards goin’?” Nate asks. “Get back here, or I’ll have your guts for garters I will!”
He leaped after the others and collared Jed. That set off a real knockdown, drag out fight that ended with all them goblins rollin’ right off the platform and onto the snow. Well, right there I realized that this was my chance, so I scampered up the other end of that platform and started cuttin’ Santa loose with the goblin sword.
I no time flat, I had Santa untied. Them goblins was still scufflin’ on the ground. It looked like we was home free. But then it happened. The goblins come back. T.T. and J.J. had led them on a merry chase through the woods and they was all tuckered out. But they all perked right up when they saw Santa and me standin’ on the platform and rushed right at us with a roar.
Now I don’t know about you, but bein’ rushed by a hoard of goblins ain’t the way I like to spend my Christmas Eve. I looked around and saw Tommy Tingle and Jingle Jangle wavin’ at us from the edge of the clearin’.
“C’mon Santa,” I says. “It’s time to go.”
“Quite right, Little Jumbo,” he says. “It’s high time we were off.”
So we hoof it down the platform stairs and out of that clearin’ lickity split. Santa runs good for a big guy. Must come from goin’ up and down all them chimneys.
Anyhow, the four of us was runnin’ for our lives through the woods with the whole Goblin Nation hot on our heels. Now this is where I figured Santa would have some sorta gadget to get us outta there, but apparently he’d left his gadgets in his other suit. Ain’t that always the way?
So I figured it was up to us to save the day. But how? It’s hard to run for your life and think at the same time, but I did my best.
It was then that I remembered Hulu Wahoo Nederlander. I figured it was just about time for him to be showin’ up with the rest of the gnomes. But how could we tell him where we was? We couldn’t run forever.
I looked over at T.T. and J.J. They were lookin’ just as tired as I felt. I looked over at Santa. He was still keepin’ up pretty good. Then I saw somethin’ shiny swingin’ back and forth from around his neck.
“Hey Santa,” I gasped. “What’s that around your neck?”
Santa looked down, kinda startled, and grabbed it. “Oh I say, how stupid of me,” he huffed. “I forgot all about this.”
He put it to his lips and blew into it. I didn’t hear nothin’.
What is it?” I asked.
“Reindeer call,” he said as he ran. “Frightfully silly of me to have forgotten it. They should be here at any moment.”
Sure enough, they was. They came swoopin’ down, sleigh and all. Not only that, but they led all of Santa’s gnomes to us, too.
The gnomes charged into the goblins and there was a good old-fashioned donnybrook right there in the Ghostly Woods. They really stuck it to the goblins, but we didn’t hang around to watch. We hustled Santa into the sleigh and got him out of there as quick as we could.
When we got to the magic castle, Mrs. Claus was there waitin’ for us. We had quite a bit of explainin’ to do, and so did Santa. It seems the goblins came upon him unawares as he was sizin’ up the Ghostly Woods.
You see, Santa had been thinkin’ for quite a while over what to do about them and all the creatures that live inside, but he couldn’t make up his mind. While he was puzzlin’, the goblins snuck up on him, knocked him on the head, and carried him off.
Once he’d settled down the missus, Santa set about makin’ sure that the Ghostly Woods wouldn’t be a problem anymore. The gnomes beat the goblins pretty badly, just like they had all those centuries ago. That gave Santa the chance he needed.
He led the gnomes (the elves showed up late, but not too late to be in all the pictures and the victory party) on a campaign to clean up the Ghostly Woods. Now we don’t have no trouble on that front. They’re not half as scary as they was.
In fact, they were renamed. We’re gonna call ‘em the Holly Woods, because we’re gonna plant holly trees. Yeah, I know it ain’t really original, but hey this is the North Pole, who’s gonna complain? Anyway, from now on, every Christmas we’re gonna have a big bonfire in the center of the woods, and a feast to celebrate Santa’s return from his Christmas Eve journey. We’ll be singin’ Christmas carols and givin’ gifts. It’s gonna be a great place to celebrate the most important day of the year.
So next year, if you’re in the neighborhood, stop by. We’d love to see you, and I’m sure Santa would like to see you too. Have yourself a very merry Christmas!