Black Bulbs, The Christmas Story – For My Friends – 2011

We’re elves, but not the ones you’re imagining. We don’t wear the silly hats, or the pointy shoes. We’re Santa’s Special Forces and we don’t make the toys, we make the holiday. We wear the badge on the shoulder of our uniforms with pride.
It’s a single Christmas light, because without us, the rest won’t work. If we’re not doing our job behind the scenes, all those things that you think of when you think of Christmas wouldn’t be possible. My name is Robin. I am the commander of the Black Bulbs.
There are seven divisions of the Black Bulbs: Command, Intelligence, Logistics, Technology, Cryptids, Security, and Miracles. Each is responsible for an important component of Christmas tradition. We’ll find a way to make the stories real. We are the agents between Santa and the rest of the world. We can do the dirty work the other elves can’t.
And what we do can be denied, because, officially, we don’t exist.
 The Intelligence Service is responsible for Santa’s naughty and nice list. They monitor belief in Santa. They receive the letters with your wish lists. They know if you’ve been bad or good and if you got a lump of coal, they know exactly why. 
The following document is the standard form completed after a visit to a mall Santa.
Annex D to IV.4
Name: __John_Rossi_____________________ M: _X_ F:___ Age:__7__
Date: _01/12/2011_ [dd/mm/yyyy]   Time: _15:31_ [24 hour]                               
Naughty: ___ Nice: _X_
Location: __Twin Pines Mall______________ Santa Number: _114(C)__
Elf designate regular/special* Identification: __Charlie 1486864____________
Desired gift from Santa/parents*: __Grown-up bicycle_________________
Desired gift from Santa/parents*: ___________BB gun__________________
Recommend category extra/large/medium/small/coal* Stocking yes/no*
Home address: ___449 South Birch Avenue_____________________
Delivery method chimney/window/stairs/door/vent/other* ___________________[specify]
Notes: ______Says little brother hit him. Broken dish “not his fault.” Pulled Santa’s beard. Does not believe mall Santa is real. Would not sit still for picture. No crying. See also: attached Christmas gift list (FORM IN91)_                                                               

Report completed: Date: _03/12/2011_ [dd/mm/yyyy]   Time: _09:12_ [24 hour]                               

* Delete whichever is inappropriate
Warning: Section 43E of the Ordinance makes it an offence punishable with a maximum of 1 year’s reindeer duty for the first occasion and 2 years’ reindeer duty on each subsequent occasion for any elf who makes a false or misleading statement in a material respect.
Version 8 – January 2008                                                                                                                                            1/1
 The Technology Branch is where Santa gets all his wonderful contraptions. You can’t have Christmas without things like a flying sleigh, time distorters, or weather machines. How else do you think Santa would be able to deliver all those presents on time?
This is a project completion memo.

Building 17, Santa’s Workshop, North Pole
“We never joke about our work.”
FROM:   Chad, Elf 1479377
DATE:         December 9, 2011
TO:         Robin, Elf 146945
SUBJECT:   2011 Model Santa’s Sleigh    
                   and New and Upgraded 
                   Christmas  Gadgets     

I completed the 2011 model of Santa’s sleigh and all new or upgraded Christmas gadgets on December 9, 2011. The sleigh was designed to replace the outgoing model according to order No. F150i dated October 22, 2010 and includes all upgrades outlined by that document while meeting the performance targets specified in the executive memo dated December 26, 2010. All Christmas gadgets have been produced under standing order No. 852 and have passed relevant quality control standards. 
The sleigh is the first all-new model since 2004. A carbon-fibre-monocoque construction reduces weight by 210kg over the outgoing model which will increase maximum speed or payload. The aerodynamic body improves Cd to 0.330 for decreased air resistance and extended range. Ejector seats have been fitted for safety. Counter-detection measures have been enhanced. Initial flight testing of the sleigh from September 12 to September 26 demonstrated an unexpected destructive inclination to “Dutch roll”. This was found to be caused by the incorrect installation of the barge boards. This problem was resolved. Proper installation was found to have a positive effect on the stall characteristics of the sleigh.
For 2011 there are three new or upgraded Christmas gadgets. A new repackaged and automatic rappelling line and winch harness will allow easier entry into homes. The infrared tracking system has been upgraded for increased resolution and now penetrates up to three floors. When used in conjunction with the 2011 model sleigh’s on-board processor the infrared system will be able to designate and follow up to seven individuals. A new model 20 watch laser will be issued to all Black Bulb command staff. This will replace all issued model 19s. However, on December 4 the assembly line was damaged and production has been slowed. The revised target for full implementation of the changeover is January 5, 2012.
As of December 9, 2011 all major projects of Engineering Branch for Christmas 2011 are complete. All wishes for Christmas 2012 must be made in writing to the Branch no later than November 9, 2012.
The elves in Logistics are the unsung heroes of Christmas. They are responsible for the Christmas budget funding and for ensuring that the toy makers get the supplies they need to do their work. They are the unit with the most responsibility in terms of elf-to-human contact as most of their work occurs in the field. Any time a musician releases a Christmas album, Logistics takes a piece of the pie.
These are transcripts from an externally-recorded Christmas-preparation operation that illustrate the department’s important role.
April 15, 2011

So you… You get us the nog[?] and -ah- tow[?].
Yeah. Right.
We need thirty. Maybe thirty-five.
No problem. No problem.
Then -ah- we deliver?
And ship.
And ship? To there?
Yes. Leave me the rest.
Let me know. Ok. The list.
Soon.  And it must be a secret, right? Keep it all quiet.
Yes. Ok.
[end tape 223]

September 3, 2011                                                                         

That’s it.
That’s everything?
From my end.
Where are we on the next shipment?
We are… We are good for next month.
Where’s ours? Same setup?
Goods are in a container. -ah- Shipping to the usual.
What do we have this time?
-ah- Doll parts, balls, toy soldiers, springs… -ah- buttons, and -ah- truck wheels. 
Yeah. Ok. We got train sets?
Train sets. Yes. Yes.
[end tape 226]

October 26, 2011

Will this stuff stay fresh?
Our mistletoe is good.
I don’t want it all dried out. No berries.
No, no. It’s good.
It doesn’t work when it’s-
Yeah. No. We’re good. Ok?
You got your supplies?
You need to ship faster.
It’s not easy to deliver to the -ah- North pole[?].
I know. I know. But we have a deadline.
Ok. What do you need?
We need… -ah- action figure arms, teddy bear stuffing…
Drum sticks
Drum sticks, and sports gear.
That’s a lot.
We’ve got a big crop ready to go. Ready to harvest.
[end tape 227]

November 17, 2011

We’ve got a problem.
Those action figure arms, those are… The number is raising eyebrows.
What do you need?
It’s more difficult. We’re going to need more eggnog. -ah- For this order.
We had a deal.
Yes, but, -ah- to send that amount, without -ah- raising red flags.
Do you think anyone’s on to us?
No. No. We’ve taken all your precautions. Still…
Good. We’re good. We still have the last delivery for you. Top quality for both.
You get us the rest of the supplies. We see you next year… It’s good.
I don’t like it. I -ah- don’t see… 
Or we find someone else.
No. It’s ok. We can send them -ah- with -ah- with the last shipment. 
[end tape 229]

From: Robin Hood, 146945 Special Black Bulbs
To: Santa Claus
Date: December 4, 2011
Subject: Christmas Sweaters

The following is based on the truth, but it’s a falsified truth, so doesn’t that make it a lie?  The answer, of course, is true and of course that is the truth, unless it’s a lie.  It is a brief narrative of the adventures of three young lads, namely Ooryl, El Guapo, and Superon.

El Guapo came from a family which was cleft in twain and betwixt the twain, there was no rest and thus therefore, there was much weeping and gnashing of teeth.  That was how it all began.  El Guapo was a manly man, although his demeanor contradicted this graphically.  He was harsh and belittling and considered no one his equal.

Ooryl was a lad from a land far away.  He was an ex-Russian sniper who enjoyed the company of scantily clad women.  He had a dog, his dog’s name was Monty, and he loved Monty.  His childhood was a sordid tragic tale, full of lost hopes and love.  He was raised on a collective farm in Northern Ireland until he shot both of his parents.  He was a nice fellow, in a degenerate sort of way.

Superon was a brave fellow.  Although he lacked a super-hero suit and moral integrity, he was a fine strapping buck.  He had been abandoned by the world and thus found comfort in the companionship of his two comrades.  He was an avid meat fan, eating only the reddest, fleshiest, bloodiest, and succulent meat.  He could strip a cow with but his teeth in under three minutes. 
These three lads met on one hot day to conquer the vicious mountain, the rock of the beast, commonly known as the lion rock.  This is the strange yet morbid tale of that experience here now begins the story.

Log Entry Number One

Scaling the horrific mountains, we soon discovered that we had been heading the wrong way.  Our informant had let us astray, so we flayed each layer of his skin and dipped it in salt water.  We then fed him to the rabid dogs.  Alack, our manly nature would not allow us to accept defeat, we laughed in the face of danger and spat in the face of adversity.  We pressed on.

Log Entry Number Two

Wild insects are closing in.  Not sure how long our lives will last.  The ubiquitous hum of the insects is ever growing in our ears.  They are closing in.  Water is becoming scarce,  we have but five bottles left.  Sentiments that the insects are ravenous are becoming more real.  Ooryl is caught eating some of his own flesh.  El Guapo fends off the dog monster, controlled (we believe) by the telepathic insects.  The noise is driving us mad, the incessant hum is slowly making us turn on one another and our once close comradeship has been frayed to the breaking.  Superon required restraining as he tried to leap into the cesspool. 

 The Cryptids Department wrangles all the unusual creatures that always seem to pop up around Christmastime. If something escapes from them, it will usually show up on a TV special.
Here are copies from the Cryptid Department’s field manual.
Homo glacialis
Height: 2’ – 5’6”
Weight: 30lb – 350lb
Description: This creature is composed of snow or ice. It is usually seen to have three round body-segments decreasing in size towards the head. Size of the snowman usually varies directly in correlation to the size of the builder. Snowmen are often seen with coal, carrots, hats, pipes, and scarves. The arms of the snowman do not seem to be in proportion to the rest of the body, much like those of the dinosaur, Tyrannosaurus Rex, and scientists speculate as to their usefulness.
Habitat and Behaviour: Rarely seen in the wild, snowmen are primarily domestic beasts seen close to human habitation during times of cold weather. While most snowmen are observed to be static, some have been recorded moving under their own power.
Care and Feeding: Snowmen are not known to ingest nutrients, sustaining themselves by adding material externally. Heat is extremely dangerous to a snowman’s health and all varieties must be kept below 4°C at all times.
Notes: A snowman, if brought to life, will most likely exhibit behavioural characteristics based on form. It is not advised, then, to build “snow goons” of any kind and it is best to fashion them with a smile.
Threat Level: * *
Rangifer aerius
Height: 4’ – 5’
Weight: 200lb – 400lb
Description: Mostly brown in color, this member of the deer family is known primarily for its powers of flight. It is the only known creature that flies without wings or other obvious means of providing lift. This species is also known for antlers on both male and female animals.
Habitat and Behaviour: Santa’s reindeer are confined to the North Pole and immediate area except for one night a year when they migrate around the world. This migration seems to be the only time they exhibit their characteristic flying abilities.
Care and Feeding: Lichen and grasses are recommended, though in quantities in excess of those needed by traditional reindeer in order to keep up energy required for flight. Santa’s reindeer are quite tame and can be kept free-range or in pens.
Notes: This species is thought to be extinct in the wild. Only nine examples are known to exist in captivity. Of those, one displays a mutation resulting in a red nose. It is hypothesised that this specimen could be classified as sub-species of Rangifer aerius. If true, this could well be the rarest animal in the world.
Threat Level: *
Pollus ovalactis
Height: 1’6”
Weight: 4lb
Description: Eggnog chickens have been selectively bred and raised at the North Pole for generations. Similar in appearance to a normal domestic chicken, the eggnog chickens can be identified by their slightly rounder body morphology and red coloring.  The breeding of lower-fat producing versions, though attempted, has been aborted due to irritation.
Habitat and Behaviour: Eggnog chickens do best when kept in coops, out of direct exposure to the weather. They may be able to fly but have never been observed attempting to do so. They are quite social and naturally inquisitive. However, they have been known to seasonally engage in highly aggressive swarming behaviour, likened to the “feeding frenzy” of the Amazonian piranha.
Care and Feeding: They do not need much hands-on care, and provided a proper diet and supervision will continue to produce for up to eight and a half years.
Notes: Can be milked up to two times daily, peaking annually around Christmas time at around 20oz per milking.
Threat Level: *****
Spiritum nativitatem
Height: Varies
Weight: Varies
Description: There is no standard description of a Christmas ghost. They seemingly take shape according to context and the source of the sighting. Most witnesses speak of both male and female ghosts appearing during the same visitation, and a black-robed figure is also a consistent presence in stories.  Accounts suggest delineation into “past”, “present”, and “future” forms.
Habitat and Behaviour: Christmas ghosts inhabit the Spirit World and only occasionally make appearances in ours. They are known to travel in packs and are attracted by those who do not believe in Christmas. Their motivation seems to be the sending of a message.
Care and Feeding: N/A
Notes: Cases of Christmas ghosts causing hallucinations has been reported. Time-travel ability is strongly suspected. If one is accosted by Christmas ghosts, a change of heart is required to dispel them.
Threat Level: ***
Homo arcticus
Height: 8’
Weight: 400lb
Description: Regarded as rare but not endangered, yetis are large, furry humanoids, most often white in color. While variously described as “ape-like” there is no research that confirms this portrayal and evidence suggests that a yeti is at least as clever as a man.
Habitat and Behaviour: Yetis are presumed to be solitary creatures. They are known to patrol vast territories of Arctic or Arctic-like terrain. They do not appear to be hostile in any way and are likely to be more afraid of you than you are of them.
Care and Feeding: It is not advised to attempt to feed, capture, or perform dentistry on a yeti. They should be left alone if encountered.
Notes: Reports of tame yetis should be disregarded and the sources reported at once to Black Bulb command.
Threat Level: ****
Pterodactylus noel
Height: Unknown
Weight: Unknown
Description: The Christmas pterodactyl has been witnessed on only one occasion. It is described as a “super-scary” flying dinosaur, white, or perhaps tan, and black in color. A Christmas-wreath-like growth was noted on the animal’s neck. The attack of the Pterodactyl was captured on film and the tapes are being studied closely.
Habitat and Behaviour: Little is known of the Christmas pterodactyl as only a single, or perhaps two examples have been recorded, with one being blown up before definitive study could be completed. Researchers are now searching for evidence of a surviving animal in its natural habitat.
Care and Feeding: Christmas pterodactyls have been observed to be highly predatory although it is not know if they are purely carnivorous. None exist in captivity.
Notes: Having been first seen only recently, the Christmas Pterodactyl remains the most mysterious of all Christmas cryptids.
Threat Level: ****

 Black Bulb Security is primarily an internal force. They are responsible for policing the rest of the elves. They keep the North Pole secure from invasion by other holidays and safe from discovery by wandering Arctic explorers. They are also responsible for keeping Christmas in its proper place as first among holidays. “Christmas creep” is their most widely recognised accomplishment to date.
Reproduced here is the North Pole security blotter from Monday, December 5th.
North Pole Security Blotter
5 December, 2011
Security has been busy this week with the start of December and the lead-up to Christmas: From a perimeter breach, to a possible yeti sighting, and a dispute in the Eggnog Barn.
• A perimeter breach was discovered late Friday in the South Sector. Agents of other holidays are suspected. Guards have been posted to sensitive areas of Santa’s Workshop.
• A possible grinch or yeti sighting was reported early Friday near the reindeer pens.  Security investigated and found inconclusive tracks. Elves on reindeer duty have been told to remain vigilant and to travel in groups.
• Security was called early Saturday to an incident in the eggnog chicken milking barn. An elf was found trying to dilute the chicken milk with one-third’s part cow milk to increase his quota. Other elves raised alarm and the suspect was detained. Charges of tampering are being considered.
• Early Saturday presents were reported missing from the Sorting Warehouse. There are no suspects at this time.
• Sammy, elf, age 30, has been arrested for public drunkenness and indecency.
• On Friday an elf was brought for questioning from the Toy Factory for listening to out-of-season music during December.
• On Tuesday Security was successful in the recovery of evidence connecting the Black Bulbs with outside sources. It is believed at this time that any remaining links to the North Pole have been obfuscated.
• Security was notified Saturday of a group of elves who are alleged to have made an unauthorized visit to the off-limits area around the Fortress of Solitude. Security has located one suspect so far.
• Calls of a disturbance near the Christmas Sweater Compound were made late Sunday night. Several elves had been reported missing. Security has made a complete investigation and discovered an after-hours Christmas party to be the cause of the disturbance and the missing elves were found to have made their way home early. A security spokeself assured Santa’s helpers that elf safety is a number one priority.
 Command is exactly what it sounds like. It is the most varied of all the Black Bulb divisions. All the other departments report to them. They are responsible for anything that happens “on the night”. They are also in charge of any special projects and new initiatives.
This is a first-hand account of Christmas Eve operations from Top of the World on North Pole Radio 2.
Buddy: Good evening, my name is Buddy. I’m here tonight with Gene, He’s one of the Black Bulb Command elves who flies out every Christmas helping Santa. Now, Gene, the Black Bulbs are somewhat of an open secret here at the North Pole, after all, you’re here with us doing a radio show, but your team doesn’t officially exist. Can you speak to that at all?
Gene: You’re right. It’s hard to keep a secret around here, there’s just too much interaction between us and all the other elves. However, outside of Santa’s Workshop nobody knows about us. Our goal is to keep the external focus on Santa and the regular elves. Christmas seems more special if people believe it’s Santa doing all the work, not us.
B: You seem to imply there that Santa doesn’t do very much at Christmas, tell me about that.
Gene: Well, no. I don’t mean to say that. I don’t want to take away anything from what Santa does or what people think about him. What I mean is that Santa still delivers the presents. He’s still in charge. Christmas would not be Christmas without him, but all that stuff about “reindeer on the roof” or “Santa eats the cookies”, that’s us.
B: “Us” is the Black Bulbs, correct?
G: Yes. Now, let’s be clear, Santa delivers the presents, of course, but even with all his technology and tricks, he can’t pull off the theatrical portion of the evening for every house. There’s simply not enough time. Likewise, Santa can’t do all the work that needs to get done every year during the year to prepare for Christmas.
B: But on the night, Santa visits every house?
G: For sure. That will never change. But then we come along behind him. There are quite a few teams that go out. It makes it easier to get everything done if you spread the workload around a bit.
B: When you get to a house, what does your team do?
G: Santa’s usually been there before we get there. He’s stopped off, shot down the chimney or whatever, and then back up to the sleigh and activated the Time Distorter and off to the next house. Then we come by and go through the process. First we set down on the roof, and we make a whole bunch of noise, on purpose. Then we shimmy down into the house and locate the tree. There are usually four of us at a time who go in. We set everything up, and then back up and on to the next place.
B: Does each elf have a job to do?
G: Oh, yes. It’s very important, actually. Like I said, there are usually four of us inside the house, plus the guy upstairs. Now, his job is to keep an eye out for nosey neighbours, raccoons, that sort of thing. He also keeps us in touch with the Mission Command Center in case there are any updates or warnings.
B: Raccoons?
G: For sure. You don’t want to have to tussle with one of those, I tell you what.
B: I suppose not.
G: So the four elves in the house. The first elf, usually a rookie, will be in charge of eating the cookies and milk.
B: Why a rookie?
G: Because we go to a lot of houses. Nobody wants to eat that many cookies.
B: Do you have to eat them? Why don’t you just bag them up?
G: We have to, otherwise the crumb dispersal isn’t convincing.
B: Right. I hadn’t thought of that.
G: Let me tell you, some people leave out booze, too. It’s a pretty rough draw. Anyway, another elf will stand guard inside. If anyone wakes up, or if there’s any kids waiting around to see Santa, and we’re seen, this elf will hypnotise the target. We feed them a couple of stories. For the little ones, we usually just tell them they fell asleep waiting. Sometimes the older ones you have to tell them they saw Santa. It keeps them believing for another couple years. While the second elf is standing guard, the last two will be laying out the presents. When Santa comes by, he just leaves everything in a pile right by the chimney. Again, he doesn’t have a lot of time. It’s up to us to set them around the tree nicely.
B: Now, I’ve heard that this is something pretty important, who gets to set out what.
G: That’s right. The highest-ranked elf will be in charge of setting out the presents under the tree. The other elf, they’ll do the stockings.
B: Why is that?
G: It’s tradition, mostly. Plus usually the more senior one will have a better idea of how to make it look good. It’s also kind of a reward. We do a lot of work to make Christmas happen, and the guy that sets up the presents is the last link in the chain. It’s a big honour.
B: So is that it?
G: No, actually, the last thing we have to do is cross-reference the house with our list from Intelligence. I’m sure you know that everyone celebrates Christmas a little bit differently, so it’s up to us to make sure all the boxes are ticked for every house. Some people put oranges in the stockings, some people leave a piece of fabric that was “ripped off Santa’s suit”, for some people you have to lay out the presents a certain way, stuff like that. After we’ve taken care of that it’s back up and out and on to the next place.
B: I know there’s only one sleigh, and Santa drives that, so how do the elves get around on Christmas Eve?
G: I hate to say this, but you’re wrong, there. What most people don’t know is that, while there are only nine reindeer and one sleigh that Santa drives with all the presents, there are actually quite a few older model sleighs that we use. All the sleighs fly on their own, of course, but only the reindeer can get going fast enough for Santa to get around. So for the rest of us who don’t need to go as far, the older ones work just fine.
B: Besides the teams that go to the houses, and, of course, Santa’s deliveries, are there any other jobs to be done on Christmas Eve?
G:  There is one more job that needs to be done. Every year after everything is finalised and locked up, Robin, he’s the boss, will go up in the oldest, slowest sleigh, crank the tunes, and fly back and forth for a little while.
B: What is he doing?
G: It’s a newer thing, but now with the internet and TV there are loads of places that “track Santa” as he delivers his presents. It wouldn’t be fun to actually follow Santa, because he’s going so fast and blipping in and out of time, and also it could be dangerous if people knew exactly where Santa was. This way there’s something up in the air that the kids can follow and everything still gets done. I think Robin does it to unwind, as well. 
B: Now, last thing, tell me about the Christmas sweaters, what’s going on there?
G: Come on, Buddy, you know I can’t say anything about that. But they’re going to be great, once we get everything worked out.
B: Alright, I think that answers all my questions. Thanks for taking the time to let us know how you and the rest of the Black Bulb Command help Santa on Christmas Eve. I think everyone has learned something new.
G: No problem. It was great to be here. Thanks for having me on. Goodnight.
 The Miracles Department is where the magic comes from. They have representatives posted in all the other departments and will use any resources or means at their disposal to create a special Christmas for everyone. We’re not often sure how they do it, but they always get the job done.
Merry Christmas!
Tony couldn’t sleep and finally rolled out of bed. It was too hot, and his brain wouldn’t turn off. Nothing around him seemed familiar, the noise the floor made, the pattern of light coming through the window, the walk to the bathroom.
He padded over to a stack of boxes left from the move. They were the last ones not yet unpacked, full mostly of kitchen things, and he still couldn’t find what he was thinking about.
“They’ve got to be around here somewhere,” he said, frustrated by his lack of success.
Tomorrow was Christmas, and he was missing something important.
His sister, Lynne, sat in an airport lounge 2500 kilometres away looking out in the dark over the runway at a vicious snowstorm. 
“Flight 838 has been cancelled due to adverse weather. All passengers booked on Flight 838 please report to the check-in counters located in the International Departures Terminal.” said a voice on the P.A. system.
“At least we’re not delayed anymore,” Lynne grumbled. She gathered her bags and began the long walk from the gate.
There was to be more bad news when she got there.
“I’m sorry, the only other flight that will arrive on time is fully booked already,” said the ticket agent.
Lynne was upset now. “I had a booking on 838, but you cancelled it. If this one is able to go, I need to be on it,” she pushed.
“I’m sure you understand that we’d like to be able to help you, but everyone else from your flight is also trying to rebook at this point,” said the agent. “Oh. That’s weird. My computer just blipped. Must be the storm. The best I can do is put you on standby for the next one. You are…” she typed in a command, “Ok, you are the next one in line, anyway. If the weather clears, and if someone else doesn’t show up, we’ll call your name.”
“Fine. Whatever. Do that then,” Lynne replied. She’d promised her brother she’d be there for his first Christmas away, now it didn’t seem likely she’d be there on time.
Tony gave up his search some time later. He’d looked everywhere and nothing had turned up. He was angry with himself. After hanging on to them for years, he’d lost them now, right when he needed them. He checked his watch. “It’s not like anything else feels like Christmas around here,” he said, frustrated, “So why do the stores have to close?”
The phone rang, he looked around, trying to remember where he’d left it.
“Hello?” he answered.
“Hey, Tony, it’s me,” said his sister on the other end.
“What’s up?”
“I’m still at the airport. They cancelled my flight, so I’m waiting to see if I can get on the next one. But the weather isn’t looking good either. That one will probably be cancelled soon, too.”
There was a loud noise on the phone.
“What was that?” asked Tony.
“Oh, I don’t know. Sounds like something from the next stall.”
“You’re calling me from the bathroom? Gross!”
“I’m not going to the bathroom. It’s the only place in the airport they aren’t blasting the Christmas music. But this call is costing me like eight bucks a minute, so I have to go. I’ll let you know what happens with the flights.”
“Ok, bye Sis, see you soon.”
She put her phone back in her bag and glanced through the crack in the stall door towards the sinks. She didn’t see anyone else. The weird noise had made her rather nervous. It had sounded like someone got hit and then a sort of scuffle-y dragging sound. She kept an eye out behind her as she got some sanitizer on her hands and left the room.
She was waiting in the lounge when the ticket agent approached her.
“We’ve just had a cancellation called in, and we can get you on the next flight. Let’s go get you checked in,” said the agent.
“Is the weather getting any better?” asked Lynne.
“Not yet. It’s supposed to get even uglier, too. But there’s still time before they have to make the final decision, so it’s best if everyone’s all ready to go,” said the agent.
Tony had the rest of his project out by now. He went over it thoroughly, changing the batteries, oiling the wheels. He’d wanted it done to surprise his sister, but it didn’t look like that was going to happen. He glanced at the clock. It was late. Really late. He took one last, long look at his living room, with the tiny plastic tree, and the unfinished gift. Nothing was going to get solved tonight. He went to the bedroom to try to get some sleep. Hopefully Lynne arrived in the morning. Her flight, if it went, got in early.
Just before he fell asleep he thought he heard something strange from the other room. What was that? Probably just the plumbing, he thought as he drifted off.
Christmas Eve at the airport lacked a certain magic, thought Lynne as she tried to nap in the most uncomfortable chair ever made. She decided she’d been waiting long enough.
“Is the flight going, or not?” she asked the man at the gate, “Because I’ve been here all day. I’d really just like to go home now if we’re not getting out of here.”
“We make the official call in five minutes, but really, if you want my advice, the decision is easy, look outside. You can see if the weather is getting any better,” he told her.
Lynne looked.
“Actually, it does seem better,” she said, squinting into the runway lights.
Indeed, the flurries seemed to be calming.
The man turned to look out the window. “I think you’re right,” he said, shocked, “But it’s supposed to be getting worse!”
 A phone rang at the counter. He picked it up. Lynne tried to listen to the person on the other end but she couldn’t make out the words.
“Ok.” She heard the man say. He put the phone down.
“So?” she asked him.
“They said we’re good to go. Seems the storm suddenly picked up speed and is moving away from the airport. All flights heading south are cleared as soon as they get the aircraft de-iced. Weather guys said it’s pretty unusual.”
“But we’re going?”
“We’ll begin boarding in twenty minutes.”
Tony woke up to his phone beeping at him. He checked the message.
“It’s me. The flight is going, we’re supposed to get in about seven.”
He looked at his watch. It was 7:15 now. He ran out the door.
“How’s it going?” he asked her on the way to the car.
“Really?” she looked at him, yesterday’s camp at the airport written all over her.
“Right.” He said. He gave her a hug. “I’m glad you’re here.”
“Me too,” she said. “I hope I don’t have to deal with any snow around here.”
Tony laughed. “Shouldn’t be a problem.”
They got back to Tony’s house and he grabbed her bags to bring them inside.
“Just wait a minute, I have to make a call,” she said.
Tony went inside. He stopped dead in his tracks. Leaning against the wall in the middle of the living room was what he had been searching for all night. He blinked. He quickly looked back at his sister, who was still on the phone. Then he picked up the package on the ground.
It was a bag of plastic dinosaurs, right out in the open. How did that get there?
Lynne entered the room. Tony hid the toys behind his back.
“Nice place you’ve got here,” she said. “I like the tree. Now, when do we open presents?” she smiled.
“You don’t change, do you?” he asked with a grin.
“Well, then, I’ve got something for you,” he said, and went to the back room. He brought out an oddly shaped package that seemed to have been wrapped by a seven-year old. “Be careful when you open it,” he told her.
She looked at it long and hard, trying to work out what was underneath.
“Go on!”
She started to take the paper off slowly, and then she realized what it was. She hugged him.
“I can’t believe you saved this!” she told him.
“How could I not, it was awesome!” he replied.
The wrapping paper revealed a cardboard box on a skateboard. Once free of the wrapping, two mismatched wings unfolded. The sides were decorated with wobbly-drawn arrows and two flashlights were taped to the back.
“It’s not complete without these,” he told her, showing her the plastic bag. “I almost thought I’d lost them.”
“It’s perfect!” she told him. “But, I might have something you’ll like, too.”
There was a knock at the door. Tony looked at her, puzzled. She nodded at the door. He opened it. On the porch was a small black and tan dog with a huge bow around its neck.
“Merry Christmas,” She told him with a hug.
“It might be the best ever, now,” he replied.
They spent the rest of the day playing with the new puppy and the old toys from their childhood. They didn’t notice the snowflakes starting to fall outside, or the single Christmas light bulb that had fallen on the floor and rolled into the corner.
The end.