His Christmas Eve ride over for another year, Santa stepped out of his sleigh and stumbled into his wife’s waiting arms. She struggled to keep them both from tumbling into the snow as she called out to the elves to help her.

“Kris? Are you all right? What’s happened?” she asked, once she’d gotten him into the house and settled in his favorite armchair. Santa looked glassy-eyed, his usual lively twinkle nowhere in sight.

“I feel fine, a little light-headed perhaps, but to tell the truth, I feel more than fine,” Santa said with a lopsided grin. “In fact, I’m starving. Have we got any munchies? Maybe some of your wonderful gingerbread cookies? A little eggnog to wash them down?”

Mrs. Claus eyed Santa suspiciously. Something was different about him but she couldn’t put her finger on what it was. She turned toward the kitchen to get him some cookies, and jumped in surprise as Santa playfully pinched her bottom.

“What has gotten into you, Kris? Usually, when you come back from your yearly ride, you’re exhausted, head straight for bed and sleep for days. Something strange is going on here and I want to know what it is.”

Santa laughed and pulled her onto his lap, the cookies clearly forgotten. “I’m not sleepy now, my dear.” With a mischievous twinkle in his eyes, he leaned forward and kissed his wife in a way that made it very clear he meant what he said.

Mrs. Claus gently pushed him away. She wasn’t sure what had caused this particular change in her husband, but knew she wanted to get to the bottom of the mystery. It’d been years since he showed any sign of being frisky.

“Tell me about your ride first.” She smiled sweetly and played with his beard as she perched on his lap. She still knew how to flirt when she wanted to.

Santa pulled her close and sighed. “Well, it was pretty uneventful really. The same old thing, up and down the chimneys, snacking on the usual cookies and milk the kids leave out. A few of them are starting to leave carrots for me along with the reindeer.” Santa harrumphed, indignant. “Why the nerve of them! Don’t they realize, I need my bulk for warmth here at the North Pole?”

“There, there, dear.” Mrs. Claus lovingly patted his belly. “Get back to the story.”

“Anyway, at the last house, there was a big tray of brownies with a note on it saying, ‘Merry Christmas, Santa! I baked these just for you!’ and it was signed, ‘with love, Alice B. Toklas’. They were still warm and smelled so inviting, I ate six or seven brownies right then.” He smiled sheepishly. They both knew what a sucker he was for warm brownies.

“I finished leaving the gifts and went to the roof. Then the strangest thing happened. I looked for the sleigh and for a moment, I saw a hundred other chimneys with Santas coming out of them, all mimicking me, like I was in a house of mirrors. Then Prancer nudged me and all the other Santas disappeared. I got into the sleigh and the reindeer did the rest. It’s a good thing they know the way by heart.”

“What did you do with the rest of those brownies, Kris?” Mrs. Claus asked, knowingly.

“They’re in my sack, I think.”

She kissed him soundly then snuggled in his lap. “Oh good. I’ll have to see if I can figure out the ingredients tomorrow.”

Elise Skidmore ©2020 revision

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