Tipsy the elf ran down the hall of Santa’s workshop carrying the present. I knew I shouldn’tve had those headphones on, he thought. I wonder how long ago the bell rung. I’ve gotta hurry!
The elf’s little legs were in overdrive as he whizzed past Santa’s workshop office. He stole a glance inside to make sure he didn’t happen to be a little lucky and Santa would be running late. He wasn’t lucky this time. It was something he could have guessed from the vacancy of the once-bustling workshop halls. His little heart raced as he ran with all of his might.
Tipsy rounded the last corner. The door to the center of the workshop where the presents were loaded and Santa launched his sleigh from was in sight when Tipsy’s feet went out from under him. WHAM! He hit the cold polished floor and elf and present slammed into the solid-wood wall. His shoes had flown into the air and landed with a slap on his big nose.
Tipsy laid there for a moment and wondered if being a Christmas Elf was the right job for him. How silly he looked laying there with his shoes on his face and a toe sticking through a hole in his socks. Finally, he rubbed his hip, sat up, and scooted on his bottom to slide on his oversized shoes. The bell on the toes jingled as he fidgeted with getting them on his little feet.
As the elf grabbed the present and stood to leave, a bright red glimmer on the ground caught his eye. He had knocked a small ornament off of a tree in the corner.
Tipsy glanced at the doors then looked back to the ornament. I can’t leave that for someone else to pick up. It’ll only take a second. He sat the present down, gingerly grabbed the ornament, and oh so carefully slid the string over a limb. Stepping back slowly, he watched the ornament to make sure it would stay. He put his hands on his hips, puffed out his chest, and breathed out slowly in relief. As he grabbed the present and turned around, a crash behind him made him stop mid stride, close his eyes, and clench his teeth.
Oh, how Tipsy didn’t want to turn around. He opened one eye to see that the whole tree had fallen and thrown ornaments everywhere.
“What was tha…” Floormaster Jingle stepped out of his office. “Oh, Tipsy.”
“I’ll get it, Boss. Don’t worry.” Tipsy turned around and began to pick up the ornaments.
“Is that a present?” Jingle exclaimed.
Tipsy felt his face flush in embarrassment.
“Santa’s ready to go! You need to get that to the Middle. I’ll get the tree. Go, go, go!”
Tipsy didn’t waste any time. He scooped up his present and held on to his hat as he sprinted to the workshop door.
He burst through the door and held his ear with his free hand as the sound of elves cheering washed over him. Looking up, he caught a glimpse of the back of Santa’s sleigh passing through the opening in the domed ceiling as the doors began sliding shut. One last “Ho ho ho” from the Big Man joined the noise of the cheers as the ceiling closed.
Tipsy felt tears begin to well in his eyes as he thought of how big he messed up this time. Heat rose in his face as he felt a million little eyes turn on him.
“Oh, Tipsy.” Juniper said as they all noticed the present in his arms.
“Great. Now you’ve really done it, Tipsy,” Peppermint said. “Now a child is going to wake up on Christmas morning without a present to open from Santa.”
Tipsy was beginning to feel useless like he did every year, but when an idea popped in his head, he got a determined look on his face. He squeezed the present like a football and dashed toward the front door.
“Where are you going?” an elf asked.
“You’ll never catch Santa!” another shouted from behind him.
Tipsy thought of the disappointed look on a little child’s face and shook his head. “I have to try!”
He burst through the large doors that Santa led his reindeer into after long Christmas Eve nights when they were too tired to fly any longer. Without slowing his pace, he turned the corner and made straight for the stables. She has to still be there.
As Tipsy ran, he kept thinking of that child so he would push on. Heat pressed against his skin from the inside as the sting of the cold blasted against the outside and mist rose from his mouth as he panted. Elves didn’t run this much. Unless a polar bear happened by their fishing hole while they were trying to catch some arctic grayling of course.
He stopped by the stables and put his hand and forehead against the wall as he tried to catch his breath. The cold air sending an aching chill inside his lungs was no help. I don’t have time for this, he reminded himself. Taking a deep breath into his nose, he went into the stables.
The room that was typically filled with the sounds of stable hands working, reindeer munching oats, and the smell of a barnyard was empty of all of these things. Well… it did still smell like wet animals.
Tipsy listened closely as he began checking the stalls. C’mon, c’mon! His heart began to sink as it seemed his idea was going to be a bust until he checked the last stall.
“Astrid!” he shouted as he stood over a reindeer laying on the ground, sides rising and falling with slumber and her tongue hanging out of her mouth. He rushed over and pushed on her side, rolling her slightly back and forth. “C’mon, Astrid! We have to go. We have to take this toy to a young girl or boy, or their Christmas will be ruined.”
There was no response from Astrid.
Tispy scratched his head and looked around the stable for an idea. His eyes shot wide, then he sat his gift down, ran into another stall, and returned with a carrot. He stopped and inspected the carrot, then ran back stuck another in his pocket and a few acorns for good measure.
“Astriiiid. I got a juicy carrot for you.” When she didn’t respond, Tipsy waved it in front of her nose. When that didn’t work, he shoved it into her nostril. Astrid stopped breathing for a moment, then her sides grew large as she took a deep breath, and when she blew out, the carrot shot past Tispy’s ear and stuck in the wall.
Tispy grimaced then wiped his brow before pulling the carrot back out and looking back over Astrid again. “No wonder Santa never uses you.”
Tipsy rubbed the carrot on Astrid’s tongue, and her eyes began to bat awake. She slowly sat up and smacked her lips.
“Astrid!” Tipsy quickly explained his dire situation and there was silence when he finished. After a moment Astrid let out a quiet grunt. Tipsy snapped his fingers. “Almost forgot.”
He rushed over to the front of the stables and grabbed a bag full of dust. When he got back to Astrid’s stable, he sprinkled some of the dust onto her head. She promptly sneezed, and Tipsy frowned as he wiped off his face.
Astrid opened her mouth and instead of a grunt she said, “What do you want, Tipsy? It’s my year off.”
“Every year is your year off.”
“Okay, but that means this year is my year off too. Now give me that carrot so I can go back to sleep.”
“Can’t,” Tipsy said. “I need you for an errand.”
“What could you possibly need me for on Christmas Eve? Isn’t your job finished for this year?”
Tipsy blushed as he turned around, picked up the present, and showed it to Astrid.
“Oh, Tipsy,” Astrid replied. “I would love to help that child get their present, but I can’t. Santa is ahead of us. How on earth would we catch him?”
Tipsy raised a finger and sat the present back down before pulling a scroll out of the pocket inside his coat. He showed it to Astrid. “I have Santa’s flight map. You see, this present goes to Springfield, Missouri. Santa starts here in North Maine Woods, Maine and works his way west. If we went straight for Springfield, we would get there before he does.”
“I can’t fly that far, Tipsy. I haven’t flown in years. I’d be lucky to get you to New York and still have the energy to get back to the North Pole.”
Tipsy rubbed his chin. This wasn’t turning out to be a good plan after all. He just needed a little time to come up with something else. He shook his head. I don’t have time for anything else. I will have to make this work.
“Take me as far as you can, Astrid. I’ll come up with what to do next on our way there,” he said as he rolled up the scroll and stuck it back in his inside coat pocket.
Astrid rolled her eyes as she stood up. “I’m only doing this for that kid. You know that, right?”
“Sure, sure. Just eat this.” He shoved the carrot into Astrid’s mouth and her eyes went wide in shock. She gave him a disapproving look as she munched the carrot.
Astrid’s muscles began to fill out, and her eyes got brighter as the carrot began imparting its magical properties on the reindeer. When her hooves began to sparkle, Tipsy knew the carrot had done its job. He quickly threw a saddle on her, and they took off into the night.
When they had gotten out over the ocean, Astrid looked back and shook her head. “Tipsy, tell me you grabbed the present.”
Tipsy looked around and then looked at his hands. He pulled his head down into his coat to hide his blushing cheeks. “No.”
With a huff, Astrid turned around, and after they had grabbed the present, they made off into the night toward America.
As they rode through the sky, the wind whipping his hair and pointed hat behind him, a multitude of thoughts raced through Tipsy’s mind. Would they make it in time? How was he going to get from New York to Springfield? What is Christmas going to look like out in the rest of the world? (This thought excited him.) What would happen if he didn’t make it to Santa? He didn’t like how that thought felt, so he decided to begin working on a way to get to Springfield.
His first thought was a train. No, that will take days, he thought. Next, he thought of taking a bus. I don’t have any money though. Hitchhiking might get him there. He shook his head. Too dangerous to ride with strangers.
Just then a whirring noise behind him caught his attention. He looked back in time to pull Astrid’s reins to the side and miss an oncoming plane.
Astrid huffed. “Watch what you’re doing back there, elf!”
“What in the world was that?” Tipsy shouted.
“Don’t tell me you’ve never heard of a plane before.”
Tipsy looked at her with raised eyebrows. “Like the toys?”
Astrid sighed. “I guess you don’t see many of the real ones. We don’t have any airports at the North Pole.”
“Do you think it could get me to Springfield in time?”
“How am I supposed to know?”
Tipsy looked down and saw another leaving a long stretch of road next to a building. “Take me down to that building.”
Astrid took a hard turn and came into a spiral descent. Tipsy held the present tightly and screamed in horror. The reindeer’s hooves made a clanking noise as she slid to a stop on the airport’s metal roof. As Tipsy climbed off of her back with his teeth chattering and his eyes glued wide, Astrid chuckled to herself.
“Good luck, Tipsy.” She suddenly steeled her expression. “This is a strange world, so be careful.”
Tipsy nodded nervously and looked around at the wide world around him as Astrid took back off into the night. The snow seemed to have followed Tipsy to New York, but things were so different. The buildings weren’t made of wood, they were made out of steel like his hammers and wrenches. And the buildings weren’t warmed by cozy fireplaces or adorned with multicolored lights, they all had plain old yellow lights that just lit up the rooms. Where were the carollers? Why didn’t he smell cinnamon or hot chocolate? What was that smell? He decided it was best not to find that one out.
Tipsy noticed a metal door that appeared to lead into the building. He was scared, but he summoned all of his courage, breathed in deep to puff out his chest, and pull the door open. He took the ladder inside and came out on a walkway high above people walking about below. After a little searching, he found another door with a stairway that took him out onto the floor with the bustling people.
A man bumped into Tipsy and almost knocked him over.
“Outta the way,” he shouted. For the life of him, Tipsy couldn’t understand why everyone seemed so unhappy. It was Christmas time! The most wonderful time of the year. There wasn’t any merrymaking or people singing or anything.
When Tipsy heard the familiar melody of Jingle Bells playing, he felt some of his fear melt away. Finally, a little piece of home. It didn’t sound like home though. It sounded… electronic. Like one of the toys he put together. It wasn’t deep and rich like the Yule Tidal Waves – his favorite band back home. He would have to make it work for his courage.
As he stood looking for where to go next, a woman in a navy-blue uniform came up to him. Her lips were red, and her face was kind. Her nametag said Alissa. “Hi, little one. Where are your mommy and daddy?”
“Mommy and daddy?” Tipsy said. “Why do you want my parents?”
The lady gave him a puzzled look. “Are you lost?”
“A little. You see, I need to take a plane to Springfield, Missouri.”
“Is that the plane that your parents are on?”
Tipsy realized he must look like a child to such a big person. Instead of taking the time to explain that he was most certainly not a child, he decided to just go with it. “Yep. That’s where my parents are. Can you help me get there, please?”
The lady smiled and offered her hand. “Sure thing. Let’s go find them.”
Tipsy looked at her hand for a moment then decided she seemed nice enough and grabbed it. She led him through the airport from one terminal to the next for what felt like an eternity. Tipsy was beginning to wonder if this was truly going to be any faster than finding that train. Santa’s going to be so disappointed.
As they passed a stand in the airport, Tipsy saw a sign that said, “Free Maps,” and grabbed one. It was certainly going to help him later. Then the lady stopped and looked up at a screen on the wall.
Her eyes searched the letters on the screen for a moment then she smiled and looked back at Tipsy. “Are they going through Atlanta?”
Tipsy didn’t know where Atlanta was, but he smiled and nodded. This was getting messier and messier.
She turned her attention back to the screen and scanned it again. “Then you need to get to Terminal A7. This way.”
Alissa led him through the bustling crowd from one hallway to the next until they finally walked under a sign that said A7. She walked him right up to the front counter and spoke to a lady behind a computer.
“This young man has lost his parents, and we think they’re on this flight.”
The lady began typing on the computer. “Okay, what are their names?”
When both of the ladies looked at Tipsy, he felt himself begin to sweat. Maybe it wasn’t such a good idea to stretch the truth. He thought and thought about what he would say, but he was too embarrassed and flustered to think.
“I… it’s okay. I think I can find them on my own.” Tipsy began to step away and Alissa gently grabbed his hand.
“It’s okay. I’m happy to help you.”
When Alissa touched his hand though, Tipsy panicked. He jerked his hand free and ran toward the exit, leaving his glove in her hand.
Tipsy didn’t know how long it had been since he left the airport, but the ache in his legs told him it was a long time ago. He rubbed his glove-free hand with his other and blew his hot breath on it to try to keep it from freezing as the night grew old. He knew he’d never walk there in time, but he couldn’t just stand there while he thought. At least he was getting closer to his goal. Now if he could just figure out how to get to Springfield by morning.
Tipsy looked around. All he could see was a sea of people walking between the giant buildings of metal. To his right was a huge park, but it didn’t offer much more in the way of excitement or help in getting halfway across the country. A few lights and more angry people. He had tried to ask a few of the people if they knew of a way to get to Springfield, but the nicest ones ignored him or told him to go away. The meanest ones… well, he didn’t want to think of that now.
“How are these people not merrier? It’s Christmas time for Santa’s sake!” Just then a squirrel hopped into an alleyway just ahead of him. “Now there’s someone who would listen to me. If only I were at the North Pole with my…” Tipsy widened his eyes as he remembered. He dug an acorn he had stuck in his pocket out as he followed the squirrel into the alleyway and held it out for it.
The rodent hopped up, stood on its back legs, and sniffed the treat. Tipsy slowly slid his other hand in its pocket. “Go on, little guy. Take it.”
When the squirrel got close, Tipsy threw a handful of the magic dust from his pocket into the squirrel’s face. It sneezed and yelled, “Hey!” in a deep New Yorker voice. Its eyes went wide, raised a brow, and twitched its nose. “What on earth? I can talk.”
“Good ol’ Christmas Magic.”
“Whoa. This is cool. Say, you got any more o’ this stuff, buddy? I got some pigeons down on 5th Avenue I’d like to have some words with.”
Tipsy chuckled. “No, not right now. Right now, I need your help.”
“Look, fella. I can help you, but you gotta help me too.”
“But I did help you,” Tipsy replied. “You are talking, right?”
The squirrel pondered for a minute. “Okay, you got me there.”
“What’s your name?”
“Poot,” the squirrel replied.
Tipsy wrinkled his nose. “Poot? Who would give you such a terr…”
Poot frowned at the elf.
“…rrific name? That’s great.”
Poot continued to frown at Tipsy. “The girl who feeds me is real nice, ‘kay?”
Tipsy cleared his throat. “Anyway. Do you know any way for me to get to Springfield, Missouri tonight?” Tipsy pulled out a map and pointed to where he wanted to go.
Poot scratched his head. “Geez, kid. I dunno. That’s a long way to go in one night. Did you try the airport?”
Tipsy nodded with a frown on his face.
“No luck, huh?” Poot went on. “Well, I would take you there, but unless you can make me grow ten sizes larger and fly…” Poot shrugged.
Tipsy grinned then pulled an acorn and a bit of carrot from his pocket.
“Oo, goodies! Wait. A carrot? What do I look like to you, the Easter Bunny?”
“Just trust me, you have to eat it.”
Poot eyed Tipsy before chewing up the carrot with a look of disgust on his face. Then he immediately scarfed two acorns down before giving Tipsy a puzzled look. “Waitaminute. What’re these gonna do to me?”
Tipsy smiled and shrugged as he stood up and stepped back.
Poot burped and widened his eyes. “What are these gonna do to me?!” His eye grew ten times larger, then his tail, this his back legs. Soon he was as tall as a horse, looking down at Tipsy.
Poot looked down at his hands. “Whoooa. Now I really gotta go pay those pigeons a visit.”
“Later. First I need you to get me to Springfield.”
“Uh, I don’t know if you remember this, Chief, but there were two parts to what I said.” He counted on his first two fingers as he talked. “Big. Fly.”
Tipsy smiled knowingly and climbed onto his back. “Do you believe in Christmas magic, Poot?”
The squirrel looked himself up and down. “Do I have much of a choice now?”
“Well believe really hard and jump into the air.”
“Listen, kid, I don’t know the first thing…”
Poot and Tipsy turned their attention back to the street as a lady stopped and looked down the alleyway. Her eyes went wide, and her mouth opened slowly before she let out a deafening scream.
Tipsy held his ears and Poot winced. “You don’t have time to fight with me about it, Poot. Just fly!”
The squirrel tilted his head and said, “Okay. Here goes!”
Poot leapt into the air and almost collided with a tall building before correcting his course. “That’s it! I’m doing it.”
Tipsy handed Poot the map. “Lead the way, Captain!” And they sailed off into the night.
Triangulating from where they came in New York with the map of the United States and Santa’s flight map, Tipsy and Poot quickly found the house of the present’s owner. And wouldn’t you know it, they landed right next to Santa’s sleigh on the roof when they arrived.
Tipsy was filled with a mixture of excitement and fear. He had secretly hoped he could get the present there before Santa knew it was missing, but he was also excited to be concluding his journey and to see the Big Man again. How had it only been a few short hours since he left the workshop at the North Pole? That seemed like days ago.
After telling Poot goodbye and watching him soar off into the sky, Tipsy looked at the chimney and blew out a deep breath, mist rising from his lips. He just knew he was going to hear it from Santa. He had really messed up big this year.
“Might as well get it over with.” Tipsy threw his leg over the lip of the chimney and climbed down. As he got closer to the bottom, he felt his bottom getting warmer from the fire. He knew, as Santa had said, that the fire would go out as he got there. The Christmas Magic on his and Santa’s clothes was made specially to put flames out. Of course the fire would light right back up when he was out. He still wondered how Santa had figured that formula out.
When Tipsy stepped out of the fireplace, he was taken aback by how warm and cozy the house felt. The multicolored lights on the tree gave the room a warm, Christmasy glow, the garland and wreaths about the living room made Tipsy’s heart feel warm, and the cinnamon scented candle reminded him of his favorite holiday drink.
As he scanned the room, his eyes came to rest on someone familiar. Santa was standing next to the tree with his hands on his hips. Tipsy winced, but he noticed that Santa’s face wasn’t one of anger or even disappointment. Santa was smiling, and his cheeks were rosy.
“There you are, Tipsy. I wondered when you would get here,” Santa said in his deep, jolly voice.
“Y… you were expecting me?”
“Well of course. My bag felt about one present light, and when I found out it was the one you were working on, I knew it would find its way here on time.”
Tipsy furled his brow in confusion. “But if you knew it was missing, why didn’t you come back for it? Why did you make me come all the way here?”
Santa gave Tipsy a knowing smile, the one that always warmed his heart, and squatted down to put a hand on his shoulder. “Do you remember last year, Tipsy?”
Tipsy looked at the floor. “You mean when I tore that arm off of the Tickle Me Elmo, and you almost didn’t get out in time for Christmas?”
“That’s the one. Do you remember what you said when you handed it to me, all fixed up and ready for Sammie?”
A tear formed in the corner of Santa’s eye. “You said it so quietly that you didn’t think I heard you, but you said that you always messed everything up. That you were the worst elf ever, and you didn’t know why you didn’t quit.”
Now Tipsy remembered, and a tear like Santa’s was forming in his eye.
“It broke my heart to hear you say that, Tipsy. So, this year I told myself I was going to help you fix it. I let you go on this journey to let you prove something to yourself.” He put a finger on Tipsy’s chest. “You have the biggest heart of any elf I have ever known. I knew that it didn’t matter what stood in the way, that you were not going to let Christmas be ruined.” Santa held up a finger and almost whispered, “Not even for one little girl or boy. Tipsy, you don’t ruin everything, you bring joy and laughter to everything you do. You caring more about a little girl or boy you don’t know than yourself is what Christmas is all about. My boy, you don’t ruin Christmas, in fact this Christmas you saved it.”
Santa wrapped Tipsy in a big grizzly bear hug, and they twisted in place together for some time. Tipsy now understood. Santa wasn’t disappointed, he wanted Tipsy to know what he saw in him. The elf tingled with joy.
When Santa stood from their embrace, he motioned to the tree. Tipsy stood tall with his chest out, turned on his heel, and marched over to where the presents were. Gingerly, he stooped down, pushed the plush nativity scene out from under the tree a little to make room, and put the present with the rest. Somehow, though the present had been on quite the journey, the shiny wrapping still reflected the glow of the multicolored lights on the tree flawlessly.
Tipsy turned back to Santa with the biggest smile his face could hold, then he let his smile turn to a look of confusion. “Santa?”
“Do a lot of squirrels name their children Poot?”
Santa chuckled and his belly jiggled. “You’ve seen a big, new world, my boy.” He put his hand on Tipsy’s shoulder and led him to the fireplace. “We’ll have plenty of time to talk about it all on the trip.”
As they bent down to go back into the fireplace, they heard a female voice behind them say, “Hello?”
Tipsy and Santa looked at each other then turned back around. There a woman stood in her night robe. She had a kind face and looked very familiar to Tipsy, but he couldn’t remember where he had seen her.
The woman smiled. “Santa, you’re being too loud. You’re going to wake my son.” Santa grinned and the lady looked at Tipsy with a knowing smile. “Now I know why we couldn’t find your parents.”
Just then it hit Tipsy: This kind lady was Alissa from the airport. Tipsy gave her a confused look and asked, “How did you get all the way here?”
“I am a stewardess. I was finishing my last flight before I came home for Christmas.”
Santa put a hand on Tipsy’s back. “Tipsy was at the airport, no doubt, because he was finding his way to your house. The present he had, that was your son’s. So, Tipsy saved your son’s Christmas.”
“Tipsy, how can I ever repay you?”
Tipsy dug his toe into the carpet with his arms behind his back. “It was nothing.”
Alissa held up a finger. “I know just what to give you.” She disappeared into another room for a moment, came back, and handed something white to Tipsy.
“My glove,” Tipsy said as he smiled.
“You left it with me at the airport, and something just told me to hold onto it. Now I’m glad I did.”
Tipsy slid his glove on and looked at his hands. “I’m sorry we don’t have a present to give to you.”
Alissa smiled and winked at Santa. “We parents have a deal with your boss here. Every year we just ask for a merry Christmas for our children. That’s why we don’t get any presents and all the children do.”
Tipsy’s mouth dropped open. “You don’t ask for anything?”
Alissa kissed Tipsy on the cheek and he felt his face blush. “Thank you for saving our Christmas,” she said.
“C’mon, Tipsy,” Santa said climbing back into the fireplace. “If we don’t get a move on, we’ll have a lot more Christmases to save.”
With a wave, the two climbed back out of the chimney and Alissa went to bed. That Christmas every present was delivered, and everyone had a merry Christmas.