He began to shout, you girls and boys won't get any toys if you don't help me out!
“I’m bored.” He said, letting the tinsel fall to the floor.
“Bored? How can you be bored?” Her eyes were wide. “It’s Christmas Eve – tomorrow’s a day of joy and happiness.”
“Yeah, I know. It’s just it’s always the same; there’s no… no oomph in Christmas anymore.”
“But you’ve never complained before.”
Joe sighed. “Well, I’ve never really thought about it before. Christmas is just giving and getting, talking about nothing and pretending to like what you get and ignoring the complaints about what you give.”
“You do get things you like sometimes.”
“What about those socks with Santa on them? They light up when you press his nose.”
“What possible use could I have for them? Do you expect me to go into work and when they have a power cut I bend over and press the annoying button on my socks?”
Mary didn’t respond.
“No, I’d look like a right prat.”
There was silence. There always is silence at Christmas. Doesn’t matter where you go, once the conversation runs dry there is just silence.
“I’m going out,” Joe announced.
“I’m going to that Santa’s grotto round the corner. Perhaps that’ll cheer me up.”
“See if you can get a job when you’re out. Christmas is boring because you haven’t earned it.”
The grotto was bright and colourful with fake snow covering the floor. A large seat placed in the centre of the room drew the attention away from the shoddily painted sleigh behind it.
Joe wandered around the grotto looking for someone to talk to. As he did this, a quiet cough came from the sleigh.
“Hello,” he said.
“Are you the bored one?” The voice said.
A lady leapt out of the sleigh and landed with a ‘flump’ next to Joe. “I knew this day would come. Oh, joy to the world, the lord is come!”
“Sorry… who are you?”
“I’m Carol and finally let Earth receive her king!” She threw her voice out as she spoke with changes in pitch and duration for each word.
“I’m sorry, but who do you think I am?”
“You are Him. Let every heart prepare him room.”
“Him? I’m just plain old Joe from around the corner. I came here because I was bored. If you’re expecting someone I can just leave…”
“But you must wait and let Heaven and nature sing, and heaven and nature sing, and Heaven, and Heaven—”
“I get it you want nature to sing to me. What does ‘sing’ mean?”
Carol gasped. “So it is true. The Earth has been ripped. Changing pitch and duration of words to a tune is called singing and,” her voice started to ‘sing’ again, “We need to make your blessings flow, far as the curse is found.”
“My what do what and how far now?”
“Far as the curse is found. Far as… far as, the curse is found.”
“I’m sorry, but I think you’re expecting someone else.”
“It’s my husband, you need to help.”
“I don’t want to cause a ding-dong or anything.”
“Ding-dong merrily on high…”
“If you like—”
“In heaven bells are ringing…”
“Ding-dong verily the sky.”
“What’s happening to the sky?”
“Gloria.” She held on to this word as she said it, her pitch fluctuating.
“Seriously, now, what do you want?”
“My husband – Santa – has got himself stuck up a chimney trying to break into a bank vault.”
“…and I need someone who has noticed Christmas is boring to help him out.”
“On second thoughts, I think I can cope with Christmas.”
Carol placed a hand on Joe’s shoulder. “You’ve never liked Christmas, have you?”
“Not really. How do you know?”
“Before I explain, I need you to come through here.” She motioned at a door that hadn’t been there before.
Joe knew he shouldn’t go through, but his interest stopped him declining. He walked to the door with Carol, who opened it. They both stepped through and immediately felt a chill.
The space they had entered was dark, with the only source of illumination directly above them lighting only a small circle. A noise came from above them.
“What’s that?” Joe asked.
“It’s music.” This ‘music’ changed pitch in a similar way to how Carol’s voice did.
Carol turned to face Joe. “The reason Santa is trying to break into the bank vault is because Christmas Joy has been taken by the head of Festive Audits, Jack Frost.”
“And what’s that got to do with me?”
“The reason Frost took Christmas Joy is because he found an error in Santa’s delivery list between the years 1996 and 2000.”
“I was ten in ninety-six.”
“Exactly, and between ten and fourteen you received no presents. You are the boy that Santa Claus forgot.”
The music grew louder and additional sounds joined the original. Joe felt an over-whelming sensation; he wanted to sing. “I watched every other girl and boy that Christmas.”
“Their laughter and their joy…” Carol sang too.
“…They found with each new toy.”
“You’re the little boy that Santa Claus forgot.”
“Yeah, and goodness knows I didn’t want a lot.”
“You sent a note to Santa…”
“…For some soldiers and a drum.”
“It broke your little heart when Santa didn’t come.”
The music died down to a quiet background noise. The small circle of light expanded until Joe could see far in all directions. He was standing on crisp, white snow glistening in what he assumed was the sun’s light.
“It’s beautiful.” Joe whispered.
“It’s the North Pole.” Carol replied nonchalantly.
“The North Pole.”
“The North Pole. Do you want me to say it any clearer?”
“You could go tell in on a bloomin’ mountain and I still wouldn’t believe you.”
“Fine.” Carol grabbed my arm and the ground began to shake.
“What are you doing?” Joe asked.
“I’m not doing anything. It’s your legs that are shaking.” She smiled. “Three… two…” Music started to play and Joe’s legs shook more, “…one!”
The music boomed down from the sky and Joe ran forward, ending by skidding in the snow on his knees. “Go tell it on a mountain,” he started to sing. He leapt up onto his feet and swivelled round to face Carol. “Over the hills and everywhere!”
Carol winked at Joe and a mountain grew under their feet.
“I’ll tell it on a mountain,” She sang. “That we are in the North Pole.”
Joe couldn’t help but continue singing to the catchy tune. “When I was a youngster, I sought both fun and joy.”
“You asked Santa to gift you,”
“But he refused and bought not one toy.” Joe resisted and eventually the music stopped and the mountain sunk down into the ground. After Joe had calmed down, he spoke, “What just happened?”
“You sang and I might even have called it dancing. Does it ring any bells?”
“Vaguely. I think I might remember what happened last Christmas. I think… I think I finally left Fanny Bright... after all those Christmases of torment.”
Carol smiled. “That’s right, you did. When Frost confiscated Christmas Joy all those good memories disappeared.”
“So why is everyone still enjoying Christmas?”
“It is simply a case of them not realising they aren’t enjoying themselves. You have been actively looking for an excuse not to like Christmas since the years Santa forgot you.” She looked at Joe with interest.
Joe’s lips started to quiver. “It’s happening again,” he muttered, “I want to sing!” A gentle music started playing from behind him. Looking round he saw a crowd of people holding what looked like shaped wooden boxes with strings. One man was sat at a bigger box with smaller white and black blocks on it. As they did a variety of actions on these boxes the pleasant music came from them. A metal stand stood in front of the crowd with a tube at the top. At one end of this tube was a ball. A sign flashed above the stand saying ‘Joe, sing into this microphone!’ He walked over to it and naturally put his hand on the microphone.
The gentle music seemed to build up volume ready for him to sing. “Last Christmas, I gave Fanny my heart,” he sang, “but the very next day she gave it away. This year, to save me from tears I’ll give it to someone special.”
Carol had found her own microphone and nodded to Joe to continue.
“Last Christmas I gave Fanny my heart, but the very next day she gave it away.”
“She gave it away,” Carol repeated.
“This year to save me from tears, I’ll give it to someone special.”
Together they sang the final line together, “I’ll give it to someone special.”
Carol patted Joe on the shoulder. “I think you’re ready to help me.”
“Let’s do it,” Joe replied with perhaps a little too much enthusiasm.
“Well, the bank is well over two miles away.”
“We better get going then.”
They set off at a jog. Music started playing and Carol couldn’t stop laughing. “Dashing through the snow, in a one horse open sleigh—”
“We’re not in a sleigh.” Joe looked down. “Where the heck did this come from?”
Carol just laughed. “In a one horse open sleigh, o’er fields we go, laughing all the way.”
Joe looked at the sleigh. “Bells on bob tails ring, making spirits bright.”
“What fun it is to ride and sing a sleighing song tonight.”
“I remember! I know this song. Oh, jingle bells, jingle bells jingle all the way. Oh what fun it is to ride in a one horse open sleigh! Jingle bells…”
“Joe, we’re here,” Carol said, chuckling.
The exited the sleigh and walked over to where a large crowd of children were gathered. They were surrounding a bank where out of the chimney a fat man with a blackened beard was singing. It wasn’t the kind of singing Joe and Carol had been doing, nor was it the sort of singing Joe had started to remember, it was more of a musical shout.
The children were also singing, “When Santa got stuck up the chimney, he began to shout.”
“You girls and boys won’t get any toys if you don’t pull me out.” The man sang. “My beard is black, there’s soot in my sack and my nose is tickling too… Atchoo! Atchoo! Atchoo!”
Joe laughed. He leant over to Carol. “So, what am I supposed to do?”
“Well, I’m going to help the girls and boys pull Santa out—bless you, Santa—and you need to go to speak to the Frost to see if you get Christmas Joy back.”
Joe took a deep breath. “OK, I’ll see what I can do… where is Frost?”
“You’ll know him.” She smiled as Joe left. “Oh, Joe?”
“As you get closer to Christmas Joy you’ll start remembering things. You may have to restrain yourself from bursting out.” She winked at him and he left.
Joe was on the other side of the bank building when he felt something bite his nose. He looked up and saw a pale man nipping at his left nostril. The man quickly got up and seemed like biting noses was the most ordinary thing in the world. “Joseph, I assume?”
“Yes. Jack Frost?”
“Yes.” They stood in silence for a moment. Obviously Frost had realised the oddness of biting somebody’s nose and the atmosphere turned a little awkward.
“I’m here about getting Christmas Joy back. I’m from Earth—”
“We’re both from Earth, you nit-wit. The North Pole is at the top of it.”
“Well, yes. I suppose it is.”
“There’s no ‘suppose’ about it.” Frost tutted. “But, I guess you’re here to make a deal.”
“If possible.” Joe nervously replied.
“How about this: I’m going to quiz you on Christmas related topics that you would have known before I confiscated C.J.. If you get the answers right then you, as the cause of the confiscation, get to release C.J. back to the rest of the world.”
“I wouldn’t say I was the cause…”
“Well, had you not been born, Santa wouldn’t have forgotten you, would he?”
“I suppose not.”
“There’s no ‘suppose’ about it.” Frost tutted again. “First question: Can you name all of Santa’s reindeer?”
Joe thought for a moment. Some names were coming into his head; he must’ve known these before. Behind Jack the man with the large box with white and black blocks appeared. He started making music.
“Well,” Joe started to sing, “I know Dasher and Dancer.” He counted them on his fingers. “And Prancer and Vixen, Comet and Cupid, and Donner and Blitzen.”
Frost cackled. “Wrong! You missed one—”
“I’m not finished.” Joe interrupted, smirking. “But do you recall, the most famous reindeer of all?”
“Of course I do.”
“Rudolph the Red-Nosed reindeer, who has a very shiny nose, and if you ever saw it—”
“Then you could even say it…”
“…glows. Yes, well done.” He replied bitterly. “Don’t forget that was only question one of three.”
“Bring it on.”
“Question two: what can you tell me about my Dad?”
“Not telling you,” Frost replied with spite.
“Hmmm.” The man at the large box was joined by a woman with one of the smaller boxes with strings. The two of them started making music and Joe suddenly remembered. “Frosty the snowman was a jolly happy soul.”
“I suppose he was,” Frost muttered.
“No ‘suppose’ about it,” Joe replied. “With a corncob pipe and a button nose, and two eyes made out of coal.”
“Good, but that’s not the whole story.”
“Well, Frosty the Snowman is a fairy tale, they say, he was made of snow, but the children know how he came to life one day.”
“Oh how clever of you. But you still haven’t finished the tale. Why did he come to life?”
The music grew to a crescendo. “There must have been some magic in that old silk hat they found, for when they placed it on his head, he began to dance around.”
“Very good, very good. You know my Dad’s tale.”
“I suppose I do.” Joe said, suppressing a fit of giggles.
“There’s no ‘suppose’… oh forget it. This final question will take it right out of you. I always receive the same presents over the twelve days of Christmas. Without all your massive build-up tell me what I’m getting this year.”
Joe was struggling to think of them. He couldn’t let Frost know that, though. “Easy—”
“Not so fast, sonny-boy. You don’t think I got my job for being nice do you?”
“I suppose not.”
“Will you stop saying that?”
“I suppose I could.”
Frost’s eyes widened slightly. “Tell me what presents I’m getting… all in one breath.”
The whole group of people with wooden boxes had gathered behind Frost. A man with a stick had even joined them. He waved the stick four times and the music started.
“You’re getting,” Joe took a deep breath. He started out slowly, but sped up to get it all in. “Twelve drummers drumming, eleven pipers piping, ten lords-a-leaping, nine ladies dancing, eight maids-a-milking, seven swans-a-swimming, six geese-a-laying, five gold rings, four Colly birds, three French hens, two turtle doves and a partridge in a pear tree.” He snapped his fingers in Frost’s face like he’d seen some of the teenagers on his street do.
Frost groaned. “I suppose you know what I’m getting for Christmas.”
“There’s no suppose about it.” Joe smiled. “Do you know what I’m getting for Christmas?”
“What?” Frost spat.
Frost rolled his eyes and headed over to the bank door. He waved his hand and the door opened. A woman with long, glowing blonde hair elegantly walked out. Her hair waved in the wind.
“Hi,” she said.
“H…H…Hi,” Joe replied.
“I’m Joy, nice to meet you.”
“I’m Joe. I never knew that Christmas Joy was a person.”
Carol walked over. “Put your eyes away, mister – you’ve got a girlfriend.”
A massive ‘pop’ sound came from the bank roof. Cheers from the children could be heard coming from the front of the bank.
“Santa’s free then.” Joe commented.
The group of box players, or musicians playing instruments as Joe now remembered, were joined by a man with a drum kit. This man produced a drum roll and on the cymbal crash Santa leapt off the roof doing a forward flip in the air before landing. The whole band started playing a rock anthem and Santa started singing, “Light the lights. Ring the chimes. Come on in, it’s party time.” The back wall of the bank fell to the ground revealing a party room filled with flashing lights and a Christmas tree in the middle. “Raise a glass for Auld Langs Sigh. Come on, rock it up for all mankind.”
The band played louder and louder until the snow was jumping up off on the ground. Joe took Santa’s microphone and sang. “It’s good to see friends I know, kissing under the mistletoe.” Santa had grabbed a sprig of mistletoe and thrown himself onto Carol. Joe continued, “I love to hear the children sing.”
The children had come into the bank-come-party-room and sang the last line of the verse, “It looks like Santa’s gonna bring…”
Santa leapt up off Carol, and grabbed the microphone off Joe to start the chorus. “Another rock ‘n’ roll Christmas, another Christmas rock ‘n’ roll…”
“Joe,” Carol whispered in his ear, “it’s time for you to go back.”
They returned to the door via the one-horsed open-sleigh and Carol accompanied Joe back home where Mary waited.
“Joe! Joe! Guess what?” She cried.
“What?” Joe replied as Carol left.
“Suddenly everyone started singing and then we all laughed. It seems we all just remembered what Christmas was missing.”
“I suppose you did.”