He came into the hospital in a bright red suit, covered in soot, dirt and missing a big black boot. I didn’t know what to say... he looked like Santa Claus, with the long white beard, the blue eyes and the red cheeks, but he looked like had been in an accident.
“Nurse! Let’s go!” Doctor Carter shouted at me for a third time to get my ass into gear, “He’s a shopping centre Santa who’s been in a car accident... and he’s touch and go. We have children in this ER, and we don’t want them thinking we let them down!”
It was a week from Christmas Eve and I was pulling a double-shift while my family was at home in a crappy house, with a crappy fern for a tree and I had to op-shop my kids’ presents – again – this year.
Yeah, being a single Mum wasn’t what people thought it looked like in the movies. It was hard, it was constant and my kids were never well from one week to the next – they were always bringing home some bug, cold or flu from school.
We worked hard on Santa and finally got him stablised and I walked with the bed upstairs to the ward he was going to be settled into for the night – and the area where I was heading to anyway for the rest of my shift. I felt I needed to watch over him.
As I made sure his cannula was okay, and his fluids were perfect, I noted onto the chart that he had no initial blood type. At first, it was Universal, then it changed to suit the blood they gave him.
Looking up at the sleeping man in the bed, I frowned, “Who are you?” it was then I looked outside and watched at the Christmas Tree across town – which had its lights on from December 1st until New Years Eve – flicker and the lights went out. I put it to a short in the wiring and I shrugged as I signed the chart and put it into the slot at the end of his bed to leave his room.
“Please, it wasn’t my fault. Blitzen and Comet... are they all okay?” he asked.
I turned from the door, walked to his bedside, “Who?”
“My boys, they were pulling the sleigh and we hit an updraft and lost control. Are they all okay?” His twinkling blue eyes stared at me, “Please, Clara, I need to know.”
“How did you know my name?” I asked, “What’s your name?”
He frowned as he struggled to remember, “I, um... wish I could tell you. I must have hit my head.”
“You did... but sleep tonight.”
“I can’t. It’s Christmas Eve, what will happen to the children? Who will deliver their presents?” tears glistened in eyes, and overflowed onto his cheeks, wetting his beard, “Oh my, this is quite a pickle, isn’t it?”
“We saw initials on your underwear.” I said, “S.C... does that mean anything to you?”
“Santa Claus?” he raised his bushy eyebrows, “No, that’s silly.”
“Well, S.C, you get yourself some sleep. Things will look better and clearer in the morning.” I smiled.
I finished my shift a few hours later and went home. My kids were off to friends’ houses and I tried to make their presents look and feel brand new – and my kids knew they weren’t. I felt awful that I couldn’t afford new things around the crappy house we were living in.
As my children arrived home, the eldest saw I was thinking on something as they helped set the table, “Mum, are you okay?”
“Yeah, I just wish I could afford more for you kids. I’m a nurse and when your Dad died, well, there should have been more for you.” I felt the onset of the mourning from my partner’s death weigh on me suddenly and tears came quickly to me.
My son stopped what he was doing and hugged me, “It’s okay, Mum, we’ll deal with Christmas. It’s only been a few years, and we will find a way to celebrate – like we always do.”
“I’m pulling double-shifts all this week. Are you sure you can care for all the kids?” I asked sniffing.
“Sure, I’m studying from home, and I’m sure I can do this to help you.” He smiled. But I could see through it to his pain he was hiding.
Two days later, I was at work again. As I walked across the staff car park, I spotted seven reindeer hiding just beyond the treeline of it. Walking up to them, I saw them with broken harnesses and read a couple of names: ‘Comet’ and ‘Donner’.
“Oh, man.” Taking a few steps back onto the roadway, I heard a car horn blare and spun to be just missed by a red car. As I turned back to the tree line, I found the reindeer gone. Thinking I was seeing things, I walked back across the car park towards the hospital, now late for my shift.
I did my rounds on the floor where Mr. S.C was to find he was gone. When I looked him up, he had been moved to another part of the hospital. So, I went for a walk to see him.
As I walked past the canteen, I found all the Christmas Lights had been switched off, and I stopped and looked at them.
Doctor Carter stopped on his way out the door, “Hi. Oh, the lights. They stopped working all of a sudden. Nobody knows why.”
“Oh... I see. Have you noticed the big Christmas Tree in the town centre has stopped working too?” I said.
“Yeah... that happened a few days ago. The same night as our Santa Claus guy came in.” He said, “Makes you wonder what he was doing out there... and he’s talking more now; he’s been talking about his reindeer.”
“He’s been asking if they’re okay.”
“Doc, I know where they are.” I smiled.
“You’ve seen them too?” he asked.
“Across the car park in the bushes.”
He groaned, “Oh man, I think we have somebody special in our hospital... but who’s gonna believe us?”
Smirking, I whispered, “Our youngest kids?”
“We have to find him.”
We rushed to the ward Mr. S.C. was in to find he had a visitor of an elderly lady. She was in a lovely green dress, with a red overcoat and she turned when we walked into the room, “Well, hello there, Clara and Andrew.”
Doctor Carter took a step back, “How does she know our names?”
I grabbed his arm, “He knew mine too.” Then I turned to her, “You’re a friend of our patient’s?”
Smiling kindly she nodded, “You could say that. I’m Elenore Claus.”
“Claus?” I asked, “As in Mrs. Santa Claus.”
“The one and only.” She cast a worried look at the bearded man in the bed, “We have a big problem, and it is that if we don’t get Santa out of here and back to his reindeers – and soon – Christmas will take on a totally different meaning.”
“How?” I asked.
“Have you ever heard of Krampus?”
My eyes widened, “Oh no, not him.”
“He will take over and make Christmas a thing of the past.” She sniffed, “This means: Santa must not die.”
I looked over at Santa and noticed his beard was no longer white, but grey, “He’s not well. How do we fix this?”
She looked over at me, “That is the easy part. You make a wish; but not just any wish. It has to be a wish of purity and honour and love from your heart and soul. I can’t make one, and Doctor Carter here can’t either.” She looked at the doctor, “I’m sorry, but you have everything you could ever wish for.”
I looked down at the man, and knew there were things I wished for every day. From more money, to better clothes for my children, to my eldest going to a better university; but the one thing I wished for was something I couldn’t give my children – not really, “How do I do this? Do I just say it?”
“No.” She said, “You must whisper it in his ear.”
I bent down and whispered my wish to Santa, first introducing myself and telling him my wish – the one thing I really wished for but couldn’t do – and then stepped back and watched him. Turning, I looked at Andrew and found he had closed the door and locked it, “Good idea.”
First, Santa’s beard turned snow white, his clothing changed from the hospital gown we had dressed him in into his bright red suit and his hat materialised onto his head. His big black, shiny boots showed up next to the bed and he opened his eyes, looked at me and smiled, “I am so happy you told me your wish, Clara Edwards, because you have been in need of such a wish for so very long.”
“What do you mean?” I asked.
“You had that wish inside you and I could heard it calling out, but you had to actually tell me to make it happen. And happen it will!” he grinned, “Now, I’m hungry. Could you please fetch me some food?”
Andrew was the first out the door to grab some food from the tea lady – who was making her rounds – and as I turned to watch him and turned back, I found the bed empty, Mrs Claus was gone and Andrew had returned with the tray, “Hey where’d he go?”
“I don’t know.” I looked at him, then glanced out the window to find the Christmas Tree in the middle of town was lit up again. My phone rang and I pulled from my pocket, not my old Nokia, but a beautiful, big smart phone with my son’s number on it, “Woah!”
Andrew looked at the phone, stunned, “What did you wish for?”
“I can’t tell you.” I smiled, “It won’t stick if I tell you. But can you cover for me?”
He nodded, “Sure. Let me guess, you have to go home?”
I grabbed my purse from my locker and found keys which didn’t look like mine in it. As I walked out to the car park, I found a bright red car parked in the spot where I parked my car. I pressed the keys and it unlocked.
“Oh my God!” Getting in, I started to drive home and found the street I pulled down didn’t look like the street I had left a few hours before. I had a different address in my head. And the house I pulled into the driveway of was lovely... and I had feeling I wasn’t renting it.
My son opened the front door, “Mum, what are you doing home?” he walked out to the car, “And could you tell me what’s going on? I went to school, came home and found this house where our house used to be. The street name is different. Your car is different... what’s happened?”
I smiled, “I made a wish.”