Little Timmy learns a Christmas lesson about trying to manipulate Santa’s naughty list in this Christmas short story by Author mischievous Sarah Holroyd.
Santa’s Got a Brand New App
Santa finally got with the times and had the elves create an app for the Naughty List. They named it the Krampus App, after the horned figure who punishes naughty children at Christmas. Santa could scroll through the list of names and swipe right for Nice and swipe left for Naughty.
Armed with his smart phone and the Krampus App, Santa was no longer tied to the workshop at the North Pole for the months of November and December. He could do some travelling and still keep up with work.
Now, Santa had become a huge hockey fan in recent decades, but before the Krampus App, he’d had to settle for watching games on NPTV (North Pole TV, of course). This year, he wanted to be rink-side and experience the game first-hand. He left Mrs. Claus in charge of the workshop and travelled incognito to Washington, DC to see his favorite team, the Capitals, play against the Columbus Blue Jackets.
Santa was having the time of his life, cheering on his team, eating hot dogs, and drinking hot cocoa. (No beer for Santa; he was still working!) Every so often he glanced at his phone and swiped left or right, as the particular case required.
Unbeknownst to Santa, someone had recognized him. Sitting three rows up and a few seats over, Timmy was positive the portly man with the white beard was indeed Santa Claus. He studied this man through most of the first period of the game, and noticed that the man continued to use his phone, occasionally swiping one way or the other. Timmy, being a child of technology, guessed that Santa was somehow updating the Naughty List from his phone.
Timmy thought back through his actions of the last year, trying to decide which direction his case would go on the List, trying to figure out if Santa would bring him that new Lego video game all his friends were talking about. I’ve been pretty good all year, he thought, but there was that time I dropped Katie’s BB-8 Droid in the toilet. But it was an accident! Timmy was worried. Was that enough to get me on the Naughty List? I just have to know!
Timmy watched the man intently. Eventually all that hot cocoa’ll kick in, and he’ll have to go to the bathroom.
Finally, the man stood up. This was his chance!
Timmy grabbed his dad’s elbow. “Dad! Dad!” He shook his dad’s arm to try to get his attention.
Dad, who was focused on the action on the ice, barely glanced down at his son. “What is it, Timmy?”
“I have to go to the bathroom.”
Dad looked at his son. “Now?” Timmy nodded. With a sigh for the action he’d miss, Dad took Timmy to the bathroom.
After doing his business, Timmy made sure to wash his hands at the sink next to Santa. As he soaped his fingers, Timmy glanced over and saw Santa’s phone peeking from the pocket nearest him. Timmy, ever the clever boy, pretended to slip as he reached to turn the water off, and fell against Santa. As he did so, he slipped the phone from Santa’s pocket and into his own waistband, under his sweatshirt.
“Sorry,” Timmy mumbled, apologizing to the man for bumping into him.
The man smiled warmly, with a twinkle in his eye. “Oh, no harm done, young man,” he said. “Enjoy the rest of the game!” And he left the room.
When Timmy and his dad returned to their seats, Dad once again became completely focused on the game, so Timmy slipped the phone out of his waistband and pressed the button on the side to activate the screen. It lit up with the name “Krampus App” at the top.
Timmy didn’t know what a Krampus was, but the rest of the screen contained a list of names. This is it! It’s the Naughty List! Timmy scrolled through the names to the Ts and found his own name. He guessed that, since his name still appeared in the app, Santa hadn’t yet assigned it to Naughty or Nice. I’ll just help Santa out with this one name, Timmy thought, and pressed his finger to the screen. He swiped right.
The screen went blank. Timmy was pretty sure that wasn’t supposed to happen. Then the screen lit up again with the following message: Unauthorized access. Krampus Police alerted.
That doesn’t sound good. Timmy glanced around, but didn’t see any police. He looked down at where Santa was sitting, but the seat was empty! Oh no! Where’d he go? Timmy looked all around, but there was no sign of the man. Then he noticed something odd. No one was moving.
Timmy looked at his dad. Dad stared at the ice, his mouth open in a yell, but there was no sound. Timmy looked down at the rink where his dad was looking. At the boards on their side of the ice two men were frozen in the middle of a fight.
“Dad? What’s going on?” His dad didn’t answer. Timmy grabbed Dad’s elbow to shake him and get his attention, but the elbow felt like rock. Like his dad was a statue.
Timmy jumped out of his seat and looked around wildly, the first fingers of terror working their way up his spine.
Then he heard a familiar sound. “Ho, ho, ho!” It sounded like it was outside the arena.
Timmy looked at his dad again, but he was still frozen in the middle of urging the Capitals player on. He heard the “ho, ho, ho” again from outside. At least he’s not frozen. Maybe he knows how to fix my dad!
Timmy climbed over the rest of the statues in his row and ran for the exit. When he got out of the seating area, he still didn’t see anybody, but he heard a racket coming from outside the building. He pushed through the doors…and saw reindeer in the street!
Three very large reindeer stood in the middle of the street, snorting icy mist and stamping their feet. One shook his large set of antlers and the jingle bells around his neck rang merrily.
Then Timmy saw the elves. At least, he figured they had to be elves. They were with the reindeer, right? And although they were shorter than him, they certainly weren’t children—not dressed in tactical black clothing, with the words Krampus Police across their backs!
One of the elves turned and saw him. “There he is!” he said to the others in a high-pitched voice that almost set Timmy to laughing. But the three elves charging toward him wiped the laughter away. They grabbed his arms and drug him over to the waiting reindeer.
And there was Santa. He was still in what Timmy considered “normal” clothes, but now that he was next to reindeer and elves, Timmy could see that he was indeed Santa. Santa looked down at Timmy sternly.
“Now then, Timmy,” Santa said. “I believe you have something of mine.” He held out his hand and waited.
Timmy’s face burned with shame. He pulled the phone from his waistband and dropped it in Santa’s hand without looking up. “I…I’m sorry, Santa,” he mumbled to his feet. “I…I just had to know where my name was on your list.”
Santa tried very hard to remain stern with this mischievous boy, but it really wasn’t in his nature. He started to chuckle, low and deep.
Timmy wasn’t sure what he heard at first, but then the chuckle grew into a great laugh, Santa’s belly shaking with the force of it. Timmy was astonished. He had done a Very Bad Thing. He’d stolen a phone. And not just any phone. He’d stolen SANTA CLAUS’ phone. And Santa was laughing about it! Timmy’s jaw dropped open.
“Oh, ho, ho, ho!” Santa couldn’t contain himself. The laugh rolled out of him. It was contagious. First the three elves started laughing. Then the reindeer began to paw the ground, toss their heads (making a wonderful racket of tinkling bells) and snorts that sounded to Timmy like their version of laughter.
Timmy couldn’t help himself. He began to laugh along with the others, although he still didn’t know what was so funny.
Finally, Santa settled down to a chuckle, wiping a stray tear from his eye. When everyone had calmed down again, Santa crouched down to eye level with Timmy. “Do you know what you did, son?” he asked.
“And do you understand that it was wrong?”
Timmy nodded, suddenly miserable all over again.
“And do you know what the punishment is for what you’ve done?”
Timmy could only stare, wide-eyed, at Santa.
“The punishment for stealing my phone, for trying to cheat the system and swipe yourself onto the Nice List is…” Santa stood and looked down at Timmy, trying to contain his merriment. “You must come to my workshop and help the elves make presents for other children.”
Timmy’s mouth dropped open. “It…I…What?” was all he could get out.
Santa chuckled again, which threatened to set everyone else off. To stem the outburst Santa nodded to one of the elves and turned and went back into the arena without another word.
The elf took Timmy by the arm and pointed to one of the reindeer. “Up you go!” he squeaked.
Timmy was thoroughly confused by this point, and willing to allow the elves to take charge. With the help of the other two elves, they got him seated on one of the reindeer, then they all mounted up, the head elf riding in front of Timmy.
The reindeer galloped along the street, then Timmy felt the animal’s muscles bunch beneath him, and it leapt into the air with the others pulling the sleigh. For one terrifying instant, Timmy felt he might fall off, but then he realized that some kind of force held him, like a magnet.
He watched Washington grow smaller and smaller beneath them as they climbed into the clouds. He couldn’t see the ground anymore. There was a flash of light all around, and then they started to descend. The elf in front of him called back to Timmy over his shoulder. “We just passed through a gateway. Welcome to the North Pole!”
As they fell through the cloud cover, a world of white blanketed them as far as Timmy could see. He shivered involuntarily, before realizing that he couldn’t feel the cold, or even wind. He was protected from the weather, just as he was protected from falling off.
The reindeer came in for a landing, running along a packed section of snow that reminded Timmy of an airport runway. They trotted toward a hill of snow, and then the front of the hill began sliding sideways. Timmy realized it was actually a building, completely camouflaged in the all-white expanse of the North Pole. A warm, friendly glow emanated from the opening and another elf appeared, ready to help with the reindeer. As the elves removed the bells and put the reindeer back in their stalls (marked Dasher, Dancer, and Prancer…. Timmy realized—he’d been riding on Dasher), the head elf lead Timmy through a passageway into another space.
This large room seemed frantic and chaotic to Timmy, with elves running to and fro, every which way, and in and out of the room. “Jingle Bells” played from speakers placed around the ceiling. He half expected at any moment for the elves to run into each other, but he gradually saw that there was order to this chaos. Every elf seemed to know exactly where to go and what to do, and they were never in each other’s way.
The head elf led Timmy to a small table at the far end of the room and instructed him to sit and wait. Then the elf departed. That left Timmy to watch the industrious elves busy making toys for all the boys and girls of the world. There were dolls and blocks and trucks and horns. There were bears and balls and games and drums. Every toy that he’d ever seen—and many, many more that he hadn’t—were all being made in this cavernous, cacophonous room. He even saw the Lego game that he wanted so badly this year!
Timmy wondered what his job would be.
Soon the elf came back…with a cup of cocoa and a plate of cookies, which he set on the table in front of Timmy. The elf stepped back and looked at Timmy expectantly.
Timmy was confused. “Um…excuse me…uh…Mr. Elf…”
“I…I thought I was supposed to help make toys as punishment?”
The elf laughed. “Oh, no, no! That was just Santa’s way of warning you. We elves work much faster than your fingers could manage. No, your ‘job’ here is to drink your cocoa, eat your cookies…and ponder your actions. Santa has left it up to you to decide if you should really be on the Nice or the Naughty List.” And with that, the elf turned on his heel and hurried off, chuckling to himself.
Timmy was astounded. I get to decide which list? he thought. Why would he do that? Why, everyone would put themselves on the Nice List, if it’s up to them…. Right? He picked up a cookie and nibbled on the edge, confused. But I did steal his phone. That really wasn’t Nice. If Santa decided, I bet he’d put me on the Naughty List for that. He picked up the cocoa and took a sip. It was the most delicious cocoa he’d ever had. He took another sip. I should be on the Naughty List for that, he decided.
The elf returned. “Have you decided?” he asked Timmy.
“Yes,” Timmy said, hanging his head in shame. “It was very wrong for me to steal his phone. I deserve to be on the Naughty List for that.”
The elf nodded. “Very well. Naughty List it is. And now it’s time to get you back.”
The elf escorted Timmy back through the bustling workshop to the stable, where Dasher was waiting for them. When Timmy came up next to the reindeer, Dasher snatched Timmy’s hat off his head and held it out of his reach, pawing the ground and snorting in what Timmy thought of as reindeer laughter. After a stern look from the elf, the reindeer returned the hat with a sheepish look.
A short flight later, the reindeer trotted to a stop in front of the arena. Santa stood at the door, waiting for Timmy. He took Timmy back to his seat next to his dad, who was still frozen, exactly as Timmy had left him.
Santa looked down at the boy. “Have you learned your lesson, young man?”
Timmy nodded, his eyes wide. “Yes, sir. I was very wrong, and it’s the Naughty List for me this year.”
Santa nodded, and without another word returned to his own seat. He pulled his phone out and swiped the screen, and the game resumed below them on the ice.
The next few weeks passed quickly, with Timmy’s family preparing for the big day. They noticed that Timmy didn’t seem as excited about the approach of Christmas as he had been in years past, but they were too preoccupied with plans and parties to wonder why not.
Christmas morning came, and Timmy wasn’t the first one up. He knew there wouldn’t be anything under the tree for him but coal, because he was on the Naughty List this year. He heard his parents and his sister Katie downstairs laughing and talking, but he took his time rolling out of bed, sliding his feet into his slippers, and making his way down the stairs to the living room.
Dad noticed him first. “There you are, son! We were wondering if you were gonna sleep the whole day away and we’d have to unwrap your presents for you.” Mom and Katie laughed.
Katie grabbed a present and ran to him. “This one’s for you, from Santa!”
Timmy took the box she offered him. He knew what this was. It was his coal, the only thing those on the Naughty List receive for Christmas. He sat down on the floor and slowly pulled the paper off the box. It wasn’t coal, it was the Lego game! It was exactly what he’d wanted for Christmas! But, I’m on the Naughty List! he thought. How did this happen?
Katie picked up the piece of paper that had fluttered out of the package when Timmy pulled the paper off. “This was in there,” she said as she handed it to him.
Timmy opened the folded sheet and saw a short handwritten note in an old-fashioned cursive script. He glanced down at the signature: Santa Claus! Is it really from him? Or did my parents do this and just sign his name?
The message read:
By deciding for yourself that your actions should put you on the Naughty List, you’ve proven to me that you learned your lesson, so I decided to give you this instead of the coal you were expecting. Merry Christmas!
P.S. Dasher apologizes for playing keep-away with your hat.
Sarah is a former American expat who has recently returned to the US after spending the past eight and a half years living in various parts of Europe with her husband. She currently operates a freelance business providing editing and book design services to independent authors. Sarah continues to work toward her own publishing dreams, which began with the paid publication of a short story online.