Cinnamon Bells and the Golden Stocking

The following is a light-hearted, unprofessional short Christmas story submitted by one of our readers. The challenge was that the Reader's family has tasked him with creating a story revolving around two pivotal keywords: "stocking" and "cinnamon". He had three hours to complete the challenge. In addition, his story had to contain a 2.05m tall, overweight Mexican who was a nuclear phsyicist, an athiest, bow-legged and angry. All the keywords and descriptions picked by his family for the challenge, they had secretly drawn from a hat of many alternatives, so no stereotypes were either implied nor intended.

 

It was a cold, misty Christmas Eve, the year of the Great 2020 Pandemic. The world is quiet, as everyone is in lockdown, and only Santa has permission to be out and about after 9pm.

The North Pole is a buzz with excitement as the elves work hard to ready Santa's sleigh for the big take-off at midnight. However, among the chief elves, there is some disquiet, as the misty conditions and the lockdown, left a few countries to issue a warning that anyone violating their airspace will be shot down with a surface-to-air missile. Santa too is concerned. For this reason he takes Rudolph aside.

"You Know Rudolph, what with your red glowing nose, you are normally the best reindeer to lead our sleigh team on a night like tonight."

"I knew it, I knew it, I knew it", sang Rudolph as he jumped up and down in happiness, imagining the envy in his furry friends. "Can I wear the green hat that Mrs. Claus knitted for me this year?"

"Ah.... hmmmm....well you see...", sighed Santa, "I am terribly sorry to tell you this..... but North Korea has threatened to nuke us if we fly over them this year, and what with it being only a little misty in their airspace, there is a strong possibility that your nose will give our position away... and that is a risk I really don't think we can take. I am so sorry, but I think you will have to give this year a miss."

Rudolph just looked up at Santa, his big eyes wide open in disbelief, already filling with tears. With his lower lip quivering, he opened his mouth to protest, but was too saddened and shocked to actually say anything. No words parted his lips.

"Well, we do need someone to keep Mrs. Claus safe while I am away", reasoned Santa, "and if you were here with her, I would feel so much better knowing she had the most loyal reindeer in all of the North Pole looking after her".

Rudolph looked at Santa for a long moment, disbelief mixed with disappointment, and eventually nodded in sad resignation. Dropping his head, he turned around and walked off out into the snow, to be alone.

***

The moment arrived, with the sleigh team are all harnessed in and there is much excitement as Santa boards the sleigh.

"Take care", shouted Mrs Claus above the loud din of the cheering elves and neighing reindeer.

"We will" chimed the reindeers in unison.

All the while, Rudolph stood by Mrs. Claus and tried to smile, though inside, his little fluffy heart was breaking.

With a crack of his whip, and a shake of the reins, Santa issued the command to depart, and with a fluffy of hooves and the sounds of Christmas bells ringing out, suddenly they were gone.

As the elves partied into the night, Rudolph went for a despondent walk in the nearbyforest. He felt terribly sad and lonely. He knew that Mrs. Claus did not need to be protected and that was just an excuse to try and make him feel better... yet here he was, left behind for the first time in 83 years, when he first joined Santa's sleigh team on that famous foggy Christmas Eve.

"Rudolph, Rudolph".

He looked up from watching his hooves as he trotted, and in the distance saw a frantic Mrs. Claus waving her arms and calling for him.

"Oh my", thought Rudolph, "maybe I am needed here after all".

"Rudolph, there you are, come here quickly", exclaimed Mrs. Claus, clearly distressed and out of breath.

"Something terrible has happened", she exclaimed, pausing as she tried to gather her breath. "Santa, was so upset at not being able to bring you on his rounds this year, that his mind was not focused on the job, and he forgot to pack the Golden Stocking".

"OH NO", gasped Rudolph, suddenly his heart racing. All the elves and reindeer knew about the Golden Stocking. It was delivered to the most deserving, kind and thoughtful child of the year, the child that embodies the very special spirit of Christmas. Without the Golden Stocking being delivered to the most deserving child, as the final gift of Christmas, then the magic of Christmas will forever be destroyed.

"What do we do", asked Rudolph, fear causing his voice to waver.

"Well, Santa can't return to pick it up, as the magic only allows him to leave the North Pole once every year. So I can only see one solution. You Rudolph, you must go to Santa."

At hearing this, Rudolph's heart jumped for joy. Not only will he get to meet Santa on his rounds, but he would actually be saving Christmas.

"I will go to him and I will be the fastest reindeer that ever did fly", shouted Rudolph, ill concealing his joy at the task which now faced him.

"Oh thank heavens", sighed Mrs. Claus, "We are so lucky to have you here".

At that, they quickly made their way back to the centre of the North Pole, where the elves had paused their celebrations to bring out the Golden Stocking for Rudolph to take to Santa.

The chief elf placed a saddlebag on Rudolph's back, and then a hushed silence fell over the gathering, as he reverently placed the Golden Stocking in it. The elves erupted in a chorus of cheers and Rudolph beamed with pride.

"I was just on the phone to Santa", yelled Mrs. Claus, "You must meet him in Nuremberg, at the town centre. Also, one last thing.... don't fly over North Korea."

And with that said, the most important reindeer of the moment, snorting in determination and pride, his eyes filled with tears of joy, snorted, stamped his hooves and took to the skies... and blinded by tears, crashed head first into the clock tower. Falling onto the cobblestoned streets below the clock, the crowd of elves gasped in shock.

"That is one idiotic reindeer", extorted the chief elf to Mrs Claus, as he slapped his forehead in exasperation.

"I'm OK, I'm OK" shouted back Rudolph as he rose to his shaky legs. The crowd of elves erupted into a loud cacophony of cheers again. And with that, and somewhat less tears in his eyes, he took to the skies again and made his way to Nuremberg.

***

Meanwhile, in Nuremberg, a little girl lies in bed. Rather than dreaming about Santa, Elise is wide awake, hungry and frightened. Her adoptive father Pablo, who beat her regularly and after such a beating earlier in the evening, had sent her to bed with no dinner.

Suddenly there was a thump on the stairs as she heard his heavy footsteps approaching her bedroom. Being a 2.05m tall fat Mexican, meant his every move around the house could be easily heard and followedfrom her room on the first floor.

A sudden flinging open of her door, signalled more abuse was to follow. This time however, it was different.

"Get up now and get dressed you stupid girl", he shouted at Elise in his normal angry tone. "I have to bring you somewhere".

"But... but, it is Christmas Eve", cried the girl in disbelief, her tear-stained face looking up distraught from her bed, the single frayed blanket she possessed, wrapped up below her chin.

"Do I look like a religious idiot to you", snarled Pablo in his distinctive Mexican drawl, "I'm a phyicist, not a preacher!"

"Now get up, get dressed, or I will beat atheism into you, so you can forget about this Christmas nonsense", he sneered.

At that, he gave her a sour look, then stormed out of the room, down the stairs and into the garage outside. Elise could hear him starting the motor of his second-hand car.

Quickly, so as not to arouse the hyperactive and unpredictable anger of her adoptive father, she got out of bed and wrapped herself in a dressing gown and put on some old slippers.

"Get out here", he yelled from the garden.

A neighbour peeked out from behind her curtain to see who was making such noise at that time of night.

Realising something serious was happening, Elise tentatively opened the front door and met him in the driveway, where he was waiting in his car. She instinctively climbed into the back seat of the car, concern quickly morphing into a very real fear for her safety. With an angry grunt, he accelerated out of the driveway and took the left exit out of their estate, heading south-west at a scarily fast pace.

***

As Santa approached Nuremberg town centre, he turned to Blitzen, the sharpest-eyed of all the reindeer and said,

"Can you see Rudolph anywhere?"

After a moment, Blitzen replied, "He's not there Santa". In fact, I don't think he is even in the city.

"OMG" retorted Santa. "He should have been here".

"Wait", said Comet, who was at the rear of the sleigh team. "Apparently, in Germany, it is very common for people to confuse Nuremberg with Augsburg".

"Ha, that sounds like something Rudolph would do", snorted Prancer, who was always a little jealous of Rudolph's red nose and consequently a little mean to him.

"Well then, we have nothing to lose but to check there", said Santa, "So, Ho, Ho Ho, let us go".

And with a satisfying crack of the whip, they were off again, this time to Augsburg.

 

As they approached the town centre of Augsburg, Blitzen was the first to spot him.

"Blitzen, to Santa, Blitzen to Santa, Rudolph spotted just under the Christmas tree in the town centre".

All the reindeer neighed with happiness and relief.

"Ho Ho Holy mother", cried Santa in disbelief, as he looked down aghast from his sleigh at Rudolph munching on something suspicious.

"Scrumbly Dump" exclaimed Donner, "Rudolf is eating the cinnamon bells, just like back in 1956".

"What are cinnamon bells?" asked a very naive Vixen.

"Well, they are a special cookie, shaped like a bell, made only in Augsburg" explained Cupid, who had a fond interest in Christmas traditions around the world, "and they taste lovely and have loads of cinnamon in them."

"Hold on a second, I thought Rudolph was allergic to cinnamon", stated Vixen.

"He bloody well is" yelled Santa, "and more than that, it drives him insanely psychotic - he kills anything he can find when he eats cinnamon. On Christmas Eve in Iceland, 1956, he ate 12 children, two seals and a parrot. We have to stop him. Faster everyone!"

Just at that moment, to their horror, a car sped round the corner. Seeing Rudolph at the last minute, it swerved to avoid him and crashed into a lamppost outside the backerei across the square from the Christmas tree. Two shady-looking men were crushed between the car and the lamppost.

Rudolph had Crazy Eye. Unknown to him, he had made the classic German mistake of thinking Nuremberg was in fact Augsburg. When he arrived he waited, and waited. But Santa was not there. Having never been a fan of history, he had never even heard of Augsburg's famous Cinnamon Bells. He had just seen some tasty cookies hanging off the Christmas Tree in the town centre. Surely having a quick nibble of the delicious smelling treats would be just fine.

Having had a few nibbles, he suddenly became extremely hungry and had to eat more and more. Soon he had scoffed down all the Cinnamon Bells there were on the tree. Just as he was finishing the last one, he heard Santa's sleigh bells approaching in the distance. As he looked up and was about to wave at Santa as he came into view, a strange sensation swept over him. With a sudden realisation, it hit him, that maybe, just maybe, the cookies had cinnamon in them. He knew what this would mean. His eyes started to get cross-eyed and he felt a terrible anger consume him. He wanted to kill.... AND to eat!

At that moment, just as he heard Santa shout "Ho Ho Holy mother", he saw a car speedpast him and crash into the lamppost outside the backerei. It was too late now, Rudolph hungry. Rudolph want human flesh.

Crazed and out of his mind, he leapt after the only people he could find at that time of the night, in a deserted Augsburg town centre. The inhabitants of the car. Lucky for Rudolph, there was a tall fat Mexican, climbing out of the driving seat of the wrecked car. With a howl of excitement, he bounded over to his next meal.

Pablo had intended to sell Elise to someone he found online. He knew Augsburg town centre would be empty at that time of night, so it was the perfect place and time to hand her over to his criminal contacts, who were the worst kind of people smugglers. What he had not planned on, was meeting a deranged reindeer.

He looked up and saw that all the famous Cinnamon Bells on the Christmas tree had been eaten and that a psychotic reindeer was heading straight towards him. This night was not going as planned. He turned and tired to run out of the square. However, he knew he was too fat to move fast and he was bow-legged, which meant he could not run very well at all. But he tried.

As he ran, being pursued by a hungry bloodthirsty red-nosed monster, out of the corner of his eye he caught movement in the sky. In his panic, he thought has was deluding himself, as it looked like Santa with a team of reindeer. He started to scream at the very unexpected turn of events and the sound of the approaching hooves of death.

His screams went unanswered. Rudolph got him before Santa did. With a few quick bounds, he had pounced on the tasty Mexican and in one giant snap, had bitten his head clean off. Next, he munched the arms, then the torso, then gobbled the legs. Then he devoured the two shady men were were crushed by the car. Suddenly he felt a tug on his tail, and he swung round with one of the victim's feet hanging out of his mouth, to find a big bearded man in a red suit, swinging a giant club.

Thump. Rudolph was knocked out in one swing of the giant club, as it cracked him square on his forehead.

Santa, looked shocked at the carnage caused by Rudolph. Luckily it was only three victims this time. Thankfully, although he had arrived too late to save them, he had nevertheless prevented more damage from occurring.

The reindeers looked both shocked and relieved.

After a few minutes, Rudolph started to regain consciousness.

"Are you OK", exclaimed a concerned Cupid at the slowly waking Rudolph.

"What happened" he said, as he tried to stumble to his feet.

"Hmmm, well Rudolph, it appears you ate the cookie bells on the Christmas tree. Unknown to you, they contained cinnamon".

"Oh my", said the sheepish and still groggy Rudolph. "I am so sorry everyone". And with that he started to cry uncontrollably.

"No, no stop", boomed Santa, with laughter in his voice. "It is lucky you did that. You see, I checked and the guy Pablo you ate and the two other men,are all on the naughty list. Additionally, rather amazingly, the winner of the 2020 Golden Stocking just happens to be the little girl who is currently concussed in the back seat of the crashed car. You see, Rudolph, you saved Christmas yet again. If you had gone to Nuremberg, we would have missed the girl completely."

And suddenly all the reindeers started cheering for Rudolph, and his tears of shame and sadness, instantly changed to tears of happiness. Rudolph had saved Christmas once again.

Elise hadseen the reindeerand instantly recognised its red nose as belonging to Rudolph. But that is all she remembered before her adoptive father crashed the car into the lamppost.

The next thing she knew was regaining consciousness, and looking up into the face of a white bearded old gentleman in a red suit. And reindeers, so many reindeers had surrounded her. And it was all completely surreal - yet she knew it was actually happening.

"Merry Christmas little Elise", spoke Santa ever so softly. "Are you feeling OK?"

"I think so", say Elise in astonishment. "Are you Santa?"

"Well yes, I am indeed. In fact Icame all this way for you specially. You see, every year, one child, and only one child in the entire world is awarded the Golden Stocking. And you have been awarded it for this year, for being the bravest, kindest and most wonderful child of 2020."

"Oh..", and with that Elise started to shake with happiness and excitement.

After a few minutes, she calmed down enough to allow Santa to hand her the Golden Stocking.

"What is in it", asked Elise.

"Well, said Santa, it contains that which you need most. It is different for each child you see. So whatever you need most in life, you will find in the Golden Stocking".

And with that, Elise looked into her stocking, and to her amazement, it contained a simple silver locket, from her mother. Her mother was alive - she did not even know she had a living mother. In the locket, was a photo of the mother she had always wanted. Unknown to her, as a child Pablo had abducted her from her mother, and after many years of searching, her mother had found Elise but had been prevented from seeing her. The silver locket contained a photo on one side and an address on the other. The mother not just happened to live in Augsburg, but also owned a backerei in the town centre. And who at that very moment, was exiting the backerei to see what all the commotion was about.

She looked at the reindeer, Santa and the girl, and her mouth dropped. However, it was not Santa and the reindeers she was staring at, it was Elise. For her, for the first time, she was looking upon the face of her daughter, and recognised her instantly.


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