a Women Writers' Showcase
The Left Boot
by Susan Scott

“Mama!”  Santa bellowed from inside the hall closet, his face turning red. He pushed aside the extra leaf for the dining room table and scrabbled through piled up jumble in the back; searching through shoes, balls and tools.  “Hey, here’s the hammer I’ve been looking for since July,” he said, then tossed it back.  “Mama!”

“Goodness dear, no need to shout,” Mrs. Clause said from the passageway.  She watched Santa’s fat bottom covered in gray sweatpants as it disappeared further into the closet. “Why all the ruckus?” she dodged a rubber duck Santa hurled over his shoulder.

“Oof!” Santa jumped in surprise, banging his head on a shelf of preserves.  He sat back with a “plop,” rubbing the sore spot and sulking.  “Blast it Daisy!  How many times have I told you not to sneak up on me like that?”

“I wasn’t sneaking,” Mrs. Claus huffed, drawing herself up to her full height of four feet eleven inches.  “I don’t ask for much, but I do hope I can walk around my own home without getting hit by flying carpet slippers and golf balls!”

“Sorry,” Santa muttered, smoothing his beard.  He waved a large black boot with a gold buckle at her, “I can’t find the left one.  Dag nabbit, without that boot I can’t make the rounds this Christmas!”

Mrs. Claus scooted Santa out of the way with her foot, picked up items strewn across the floor and threw them back in the closet.   “Wear your high top sneakers, they’re black and nobody will ever know since they don’t see you anyhow.”

“Sneakers?”  Santa stared at her open mouthed.  “I can’t wear sneakers woman!  Think of my image!  Why, if I wear sneakers, then I might as well go in a bathrobe and skip the red suit too.   The gol blang elves would laugh themselves silly.  Besides, they aren’t…”

“Okay my darling husband, forget I suggested it!  Think, where did you put the boot when you came home last Christmas?  It has to be here somewhere.  A big thing like that can’t just walk away,” Mrs. Claus giggled at her joke.

“Harrumph.  Gonna go for a stroll.  Fresh air and whatnot.”   Santa pulled on his galoshes, got to his feet and grabbed a parka off the coat tree.  He yanked on hand-knitted mittens and marched out, slamming the door behind him.

He waded through the knee-high drifts of freshly fallen snow, towards the toy shop, grumbling and tugging on his beard the whole way.

The toy shop had two stories, the lower for the workroom and the upper for the elves’ living quarters.  The brightly-lit work area kept chills at bay with a large fireplace and space heaters.  The elves, of whom the tallest was about three feet, were bunched around a table set in front of the fireplace, taking a milk and cookie break.

  “I’ve dethawed the final batch of cookies from last year,” Mrs. Claus had said that morning when she brought the platter over, “So eat up! Mr. Claus will be bringing back loads of fresh ones tomorrow night.”

Santa burst in and stood with the door open, glaring at the elves in their sweatshirts and jeans; their uniforms hanging on hooks, dry-cleaned and ready for the big day.  He lowered his bushy eyebrows, growling under his breath, “Bunch of ragamuffins.  Going out tomorrow night… nothing to do?”

When they glimpsed his thunderous expression, the elves dropped half-eaten cookies, set down partly finished glasses of milk, and hurried back to work.

The sleigh sat to one side of the workshop, and a steady stream of toy makers deposited gift-wrapped boxes into the enormous bag on its seat. A team of artists surrounded it, adding designs in gold to its freshly-painted red sides, while still others sharpened and polished the runners so that they’d glide through the air smoothly.  A stable elf examined the reins and leather harness attachments for wear and tear.

“Ahem,” Santa cleared his throat preparing to speak, but the elves didn’t pause in their work.  “AHEM!”

The noise died down as the elves turned to look at their boss warily, knowing a face like that wouldn’t produce good news.

“I, er, my left boot is missing,” Santa said, examining the design on his mittens, his face turning rather pink.  “If I don’t find it by tomorrow night there will be no going out and delivering toys to all the good children of the world.  So, I’d be much obliged if any of you who might have seen it would pipe up and tell me where.”

The elves tugged at their pointy ears or scratched their long noses or rubbed their sharp chins, but none said a word.

“Harrumph.  Well I figured as much, but it didn’t hurt to check.” Santa glowered at the elves, who stood blinking at him.  “What’re you all standing around like statues for?  Hep to!”

He clumped back out into the snow, heading towards the stables.

The stables were warm and smelled of fresh hay.   Elves there groomed the flying reindeer; brushing coats and polishing antlers and hooves. Others mucked out the stalls, and all chattered happily.

Santa walked in and the elves turned to greet him with enthusiasm. Their smiles slipped off when they caught sight of Santa’s face and they remained silent and watchful.  The reindeer smelled Santa’s mood and shifted nervously, pawing the ground and shaking their antlers.

“I wanted to pop by and see which one of you has my left boot,” Santa said casually, warming his hands by the woodstove.

The elves stared at Santa as if he were speaking a foreign language.  He pulled on his beard, frustrated.  “Hang it all!  What use are you pesky little critters if you can’t find a missing boot?”

He marched out the door, bumping smack into Mrs. Claus.  She wore an old parka of his, which trailed on the ground, and carried a large picnic basket over one arm.  “Jiminy!  Is there another woman alive who’s as fond of skulking about as you?”  Santa narrowed his eyes, “What’s in the
basket, Mama?”

“I’m not skulking.  There’s not much in here … Just a little lunch for the elves dearest.”  She tried to squeeze past him but he put his arm out to stop her.

“A little lunch?”  He lifted the lid and peered at the assortment of food inside.  “Good cripes Daisy!  There’s enough food in here to feed a hundred of the shrimpy buggers!”

“Now sweetheart, you know how dreadfully you hurt their feelings when you’re in a temper.  I’m just soothing them with some goodies.”  Mrs. Claus plucked a sugar plum out of Santa’s hand and put it back in the basket, “You don’t want a full-fledged elf rebellion on your hands the day before Christmas eve, do you?”

“Ratsa frassin blasta elves,” Santa muttered under his breath, scowling at his wife.

He stomped back towards the house, trying hard to ignore the sounds of music and high-pitched laughter coming from the workshop.  Glancing in the window, he frowned at the sight of cheerful elves who danced and ate peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and slices of chocolate cake.

He strode straight through the house to his study, where he snatched up the list of children and started marking off, “Naughty.  Naughty.  Nasty brat…”

“Lunch is ready, my sugar lump!”  Mrs. Claus called from the kitchen a short time later.

Santa ignored her, dipping his quill in ink and writing, “So bad he doesn’t deserve a present ever again!” next to the name Ruff, Jimmy.

Mrs. Clause came in and peeked over her husband’s hunched shoulders. “Oh Santa, is that fair?  Just because the child flushed his sister’s goldfish down the toilet...  He’s only eleven after all, and boys will be boys.  Why not give his sister a new fish and let him have a little something too?”

Santa jumped in surprise at her voice, splattering ink all over his desk.  “I’m tying bells around your neck Daisy Louise Wagner Claus!  See what you’ve made me do with your infernal tiptoeing around and scaring the willikens out of me?”

“I wasn’t tiptoeing, love of my life,” Mrs. Claus folded her arms over her ample middle, “And I don’t think it’s fair for you to not give these children gifts because you’re in a foul mood.  Why, I remember your mother telling me about the time you caught a bucket full of toads and put them in your sister’s…”

“Ancient history,” Santa interrupted.  “Nobody’s getting anything if I don’t have both boots!  How am I supposed to get in and out of chimneys without their magic? Have elves tie a rope around my middle and lower me down, then pull me back up?  HA!”  He snorted in disgust.

Mrs. Claus kissed the bald spot on his head and wrapped a measuring tape around his waist.  “I’m going to have to let the suit out a little this year.  You haven’t stuck to your diet at all.”

“Harrumph.  Let me be, I’ve got more important things on my mind!” Santa dabbed at the ink blots with a handkerchief, then resumed, “Bad. Extremely bad.  So naughty this one should be giving me gifts!  And this one… beastly!  I think I’ll take back all the presents I gave her last year.”

By the next afternoon the boot still hadn’t appeared, and time was running short.  Santa called for an all-out search, and elves stopped their last-minute preparations in order to hunt through every inch of the house, workshop and stables.

He posted signs offering a reward for the return of the boot, “No questions asked of the pint-sized thief who took it.”

By three o’clock, Santa had worn a path in the living room carpet from pacing back and forth.  “This is a disaster!  There hasn’t been a Christmas since Christmases were invented that Santa didn’t make the rounds.  What’s going to happen tomorrow morning when the stockings are empty and there aren’t presents under the trees?”

“Don’t fuss, pumpkin.  Everything will turn out fine.  Here, drink this,” Mrs. Claus held out a steaming mug of hot chocolate with whipped cream and a candy cane.  “It’s your favorite.”

Santa ignored the drink, muttering and tying his beard in knots.  Just then a tiny rap sounded on the door.  “Out of my way, out of my way!” He ran around Mrs. Claus and crossed the foyer in three steps.

“Yes?”  Santa said as he flung the door open.  A nervous stable elf stood on the porch holding the missing left boot in trembling hands.

“Tis me, Galan, sir.  I found yer boot under a pile of hay,” the elf said in a quavery voice, “It were pure luck!  I were taken armfuls over to feed Blitzen and Cupid, and seen the gold buckle a-shining.  I grabbed it up and run right over.”

“Holy moley!”  Santa slapped himself on the forehead, “How could I have forgotten?”

He brushed dust off the slightly-gnawed boot and turned it upside down, giving it a good shake.  Bits of moldy food, hay and a well-chewed flannel rag fell out.  Catching the curious looks Mrs. Claus and Galan were giving him, Santa explained, “I kicked it off last Christmas cause I stepped in a pile of reindeer, er… stuff when we got back, and a little mouse family moved in before I knew what was what.  So I gave them the rag and told them they could stay for awhile.”  He hung his head, shuffled his feet and peeked at Mrs. Clause out of the corner of his eye.  “Sorry for being such a bear, Mama.”

Mrs. Claus pinched his rosy cheek gently, “Lovey dovey, hadn’t you better polish that boot up and start getting dressed?  You don’t want to disappoint the kids.”

“Right as always, Daisy dear!”  Santa smiled.  He tossed Galan a bag of gold chocolate coins and headed towards the study, “But first I have to make some changes to my list.”
©2004, Susan Scott

Sue Scott lives in a subterranean cave with her computer and two cats.
She hopes one day to become a famous novelist and buy an above-ground
home.  In the meantime she enjoys complaining and growing mold specimins
in her refrigerator.  Contact Sue.