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Max's Christmas Wish (Finished 12/19)

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Happy holidays, everybodies! Over the next few days leading up to Christmas, I'll be uploading this short Christmas-themed story. I hope you enjoy ^^

Max's Christmas Wish

by Mina Taylor

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On December 9th, in his eleventh year, Max Redding listened in dismay as his childhood ended with five little words. For a moment, he just sat there, not sure if he had just hallucinated the words as they came from his father’s open mouth. They didn’t seem real. They seemed to be a direct contradiction… no, a direct attack on everything he had been led to believe. “Max,” his father addressed him as he sat between his mother and father. “Did you here me? There is no Santa Claus.”

Max’s heart sank as he realized he did hear his father, that it wasn’t his mind playing tricks on him. His own parents, the pillars of all his beliefs in the unknown and unseen, especially during Christmas, were siding with the bullies on the school playground, with the taunts of his sister, with everyone that he was absolutely positive were giving him a bunch of bull.

His parents stared at him, and he realized he wasn’t responding, their apologetic gazes were turning more and more concerned the longer the silence went on. Max gulped as a handful of words landed on his tongue and leapt out from between his lips. “Then who brings the presents that say "From Santa"?”

“Those are from us, too,” his mother said. “Your father writes out the ones from us, and I write out the ones from Santa, so you would think they are from different people.”

Max bit his lip, fearing that every new question would pull away the magical veil surrounding Christmastime, but he had to question it. There had to be something they couldn’t explain. There had to be something they couldn’t prove.

“The milk and cookies?”

“Dad ate them,” his mother said.

“The yearly phone call when Santa tells us he got our letter?”

“That’s one of my co-workers,” his father said.

“The… the…” Max struggled, but his mind was blank, not because he had given up, but because he was too afraid to get any more answers. Did this mean there was no Easter Bunny? No Tooth Fairy? He sat there in silence, closing his hands on top of the kitchen table, looking down at his almost-finished plate of spaghetti. His mother reached across to put her hand, warm and gentle, on top of his.

“You’ll still get plenty of presents, Max, but you’re getting older and Rachel told us you got into it with another boy on the bus today because you said you still believed in him… and sweetie, we don’t want you to get picked on. It’s time you knew.”

“Well, how does Rachel know anyway?” Max grumbled, thinking about his nine-year-old sister upstairs, watching TV while he was down in the kitchen having to listen to this miserable truth.

“Rachel came downstairs last year and saw me,” his dad sighed, stroking his temple, likely at the memory of the event. “She took it even worse than you’re taking it now. She wasn’t lying to you. She was right that there is no Santa Claus.”

“Well, not entirely, “ his mother stepped in to soften the blow. “You know about Santa, Max. He’s real as long as we believe in him.”

“Well, you three obviously don’t,” Max spit, the sinking feeling in his heart turning into a smoldering fire, growing in heat and intensity.

“Max, watch your attitude,” his dad warned, but the words poured over him like gasoline and just made the anger worse.

“You just sat there and told me Santa isn’t real, but to keep believing in him anyway? Which is it? Is he real or is he a pile of crap?”

“Max, language!” his mother interjected.

“Up to your room,” his father said, putting down his glass of milk. "Right now.”

“Good, I didn’t want your crappy spaghetti anyway,” Max said, getting off his chair and slamming it into the kitchen table.

“Then you can brush your teeth and go to bed!” his father shouted. “I don’t want to see a single light on either! You’re done for the night!”

Max didn’t care. His father’s shouting hurt far less than the half-hearted admittance of a truth Max had spent the last few years desperately fighting off. Christmas was his favorite holiday. He loved the food, the decorations, the music, and especially the presents, but what he loved most was the magic. There was a sense that anything was possible simply by the means of it being Christmas, and the biggest symbol of that magic was Santa.

He was in all the movies, all the TV specials, all the songs (well, unless they were about Jesus), he was at the shopping mall, in the parades, and Max never cared to wonder why Santa could be in all these places all the time, because he was the embodiment of Christmas magic. If anything could happen during Christmastime, then it was clear to Max, that Santa was capable of making anything happen.

Of course, he always believed he shouldn’t put those beliefs to the test. His parents had told him Santa wouldn’t bring presents if he wasn’t in bed on Christmas night (and, now that he thought about it, he felt like a real sucker). Rachel had always encouraged him to help her catch the big jolly elf, but Max always told her he wasn’t going to risk being a last-minute entry on the naughty list for it.

As he slammed the door to his room, he slumped against the back of the door and thought about what he could do. If his parents were Santa, there had to be a way to test it. “A letter,” he thought, but not any letter. He gulped as he sat down at his desk. He wouldn’t have much time before his dad came upstairs to make sure he was actually getting into bed, so he hurriedly tore out a piece of notebook paper from inside his backpack and grabbed a mechanical pencil. With a few clicks, he put graphite to paper and paused.

“This is the only way to really know,” Max said to himself. “If my parents really are Santa, this can’t possibly happen. But if he’s real… if he’s really real…” he licked his lips as he began to scribble out the letter:

 

Dear Santa,

 

This is Max Redding. I’m 11 now, and even though my sister and my parents say you aren’t real, I know you are. You’re Santa! There is no Christmas without you! Well, I guess that’s not true because of Jesus, but Christmas without you just isn’t the same! I don’t want to put you out, but I have to know if you’re real. I don’t want to see you or your reindeer or anything like that. I’ll be in bed on Christmas Eve like a good boy because it’s very important I stay on the nice list… but if you get this one thing for me, I’ll know you’re real. And… it’s kind of weird, but I know you can keep a secret. In fact, I bet you already know what I’m going to ask for, so here it goes:

 

Diapers. I want diapers, like the biggest size so that they can fit around me. Santa, you’re always watching me so I know you know that sometimes I wish I was a baby again. It’s embarrassing but it makes me happy, and having some diapers to wear when it’s just me in my room would be really nice. But please don’t put them under the tree! Can you maybe put them somewhere secret? Like the hall closet? That way I can get up and check while everyone is busy with the stuff under the tree and it can stay our secret.

 

Santa, I’m really scared about what my parents said, about you not being real. They had really good explanations for a lot of the things I thought were things you did, but I know you're real, and I know you won't let me down. You're Santa after all, and I can't wait for you to stop by our house this year.

 

Best wishes and Merry Christmas,

 

 

Max Redding

 

 

“Max! Lights out!” his dad barked with a sharp knock on the door.

“Just a sec!” Max stammered as he folded the letter and shoved it into his backpack to be sealed in an envelope in the morning. He flicked off his desk light and his bedroom light as he changed into his pajamas and hopped underneath the covers, his heart racing. He was really going to do it. This was going to be the year he asked Santa for diapers, and then he’d know the truth, the real truth.

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great start.  looking forward to the adventure till Christmas.  

 

Edited by babybb
mistake

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Short update tonight. Thank you for all the positive feedback :)

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The next morning, Max fumbled between eating his Froot Loops, apologizing to his parents, and making it to the junk drawer from an extra mailing envelope as the clock ticked closer and closer to the moment he’d be ushered out the door to the bus stop. As his parents made sure his sister had her school project ready to go, Max dashed for the drawer, grabbed an envelope, and scribbled out his return address on the top left and in the middle:

SANTA CLAUS


NORTH POLE


EARTH

He snatched the letter from his backpack and crammed it inside, sealing it up and putting it back in his backpack as he heard a familiar annoying voice ringing out. “What are you doing?"

Max looked up at Rachel, one eyebrow cocked as she looked at him with his hands in his backpack.

“Just making sure I got my homework,” Max lied. Not only was Rachel on his parents’ side regarding Santa, but if she saw it, she’d want to read it, and he’d rather die than let that happen. She couldn’t be allowed to find out about the letter.

“You put your homework in an envelope?” Rachel smirked.

“That’s how the teachers want it when you get to sixth grade,” Max shot back at her. “You’ll have to do it too.”

“I’ve never seen you do that before today,” Rachel replied, not buying it for a minute.

“Well, it’s a new rule,” Max sighed heavily, zipping up his backpack. “I don’t care if you believe me or not.”

He put his breakfast bowl in the sink, grabbed his jacket and put his backpack on. “I’m going to go now,” he said. His parents would be taking Rachel today to make sure her science project made it to class in one piece, so they said their goodbyes and saw him off. As soon as the door closed behind him, Max walked down the driveway, the early December air nipping at his cheeks as he fumbled for his winter hat. Even though it hadn’t snowed yet, it was clearly winter.

He counted with every step he took, getting to 15 when he made it to the end of the driveway. By now, his parents wouldn’t be watching him, but Rachel, and making sure she was getting her jacket and hat. In these precious moments, Max unzipped the pocket of his backpack, slipped around the mailbox, pulled it open and slid the letter in, closing it just as fast. The deed was done. With a sigh of relief, he grinned as he strutted down the street to the bus stop. There were only fourteen more days until Santa came, and hopefully the diapers too.

Max’s happy mood lasted all the way until he went to bed that night, when he realized what a terrible mistake he had made.

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awe so short :)  but still enjoyed it.  cant wait to read more

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Max was in the middle of his math homework, scratching at his mop of brunette hair, when he heard a knock on the bedroom door. “It’s open,” he said as his dad opened it, much calmer than he had been at the same time the night before.

“How’s it going?” he said, sitting down on Max’s bed. Max turned around. This wasn’t good. When his dad sat on the bed, that meant it was time for a “talk”.

“It’s… okay,” Max said, turning away from his homework, nervous what the “talk” tonight would be about. He hadn’t fought with Rachel today. He got good returning grades from his teachers. No fights. Max didn’t know what could be wrong.

“I found this…” his father said, revealing his envelope. “When I put some bills in the mail this morning.

All the blood rushed out of Max’s cheeks, leaving him white as snow as his father played with the envelope in-between his fingers.

“Max,” his father sighed as the boy braced for the reality of what was about to happen. “Can you explain this?”

“It’s a…. letter… to…. S-San….”

“Max, we talked about this,” his dad sighed as he handed Max the envelope. Max reached for it, realizing once it was in his hands that the envelope was still sealed. His dad hadn’t read the contents! His secret was still safe!

“Y-Yeah dad,” Max stammered. “I know.”

Max was so relieved his dad seemed utterly confused. “Well, if you know, then why are you wasting envelopes and stamps?”

“I… uh… put this in the mail yesterday!” the alibi gratefully struck him like a bolt of lightning. “Before you told me the truth. You sent me to my room and I forgot about it.”

“Uh-huh…” Max’s dad said, the same tone Rachel used this morning. “Well, I mean, if it’s something you really want, you can let me know.”

“No!” Max shouted, pulling back as he saw his dad’s face twist up with worry. “I mean, I already gave you my Christmas list. It’s the same thing. It’s fine. I won’t waste stamps again.”

“Okay,” his dad said, clasping his hands on his knees, pushing himself upright. “Good to know. Hurry up with your homework. It’s almost bedtime.”

“On it,” Max sighed as his dad closed the door. He reached for the envelope before he heard the door open again. It was his father again, looking a little remorseful.

“Max?”

“Yeah, Dad?”

“We didn’t tell you this to hurt you. It’s just part of growing up. You can’t be a little kid forever.”

Max’s brow tightened at his father’s choice of words. If this was growing up, even more than before, he wanted no part of it. Still, he did his best to assure his father that he understood. “I know, Dad,” he said curtly, the only words he could manage as his dad nodded and shut the door.

He looked at the envelope on his desk, biting his lip. He couldn’t mail it now. His parents knew about the letter, and he didn’t want to risk them finding it twice and finding out what was really in it, and there wasn’t another place he could mail it from without his parents knowing. Max hung his head in sadness.  There was no way to prove his parents wrong. Santa would always be a doubt in his mind from this Christmas onward.

Admittedly, Max still enjoyed his Christmas season. Decorating the tree with all his favorite ornaments while his dad played Mannheim Steamroller, he helped his mom make tons of spritz cookies, they went to see the downtown lights display, and of course he drank his weight in hot chocolate. Despite the whole Santa deal, Max did enjoy himself all the way up to Christmas Eve. They had just returned from his grandparents’ house and it was almost midnight. Both him and Rachel were asleep in the backseat of the car, jaws slack and heads rested between the window and the little ledge underneath.

As the humming of the car became silent and the radio killed Nat King Cole crooning “The Christmas Song“, he felt the gentle nudging of a hand on his knee. “Come on, you two, time for bed.”

“But there’s no Santa,” Max replied. “So it doesn’t matter.”

“Just because there’s no Santa doesn’t mean you don’t have a bedtime,” his mother said, passing off his smart-aleck comment as sleep talk.  “Come on, into the house and up to bed.”

Max and Rachel dragged themselves up the stairs like a pair of slugs, falling over each other on the stairs to struggle to make it to their rooms. Once inside, he snuggled into his sheets as he heard the rustling of his parents getting everything out. It was 12:05 AM. Max closed his eyes, but the rustling continued, he tossed and turned as he heard presents in wrapping paper being stacked up and stockings being filled. His heart ached a little bit, knowing who was really behind it as he covered his head with the sheets. As the rustling died down, Max sighed and relaxed to fall asleep before his sister ran in at 3 AM to bear witness to the veritable cornucopia of gifts that was surely waiting for them.

Then, in the silence and stillness of early Christmas morning, Max heard something else. A jingle, like sleigh bells. Max thought he was hearing things, looking at his bedside clock. 2:17 AM, it read. His parents were surely done. So who could it…

Max’s eyes snapped wider than they ever had before as his heart pounded. Was this it? Was this really happening? He clutched his bedsheets tightly around him as his instincts kicked in hard. In his eleven years in this world, he had never been afforded such an opportunity on Christmas. He had always sworn he would never peek on Santa, but that was before his parents ruined it for him. There was only one real way to know for sure now, and that was with his own eyes.

Quietly, slowly, like a ninja sloth, he made his way from his bed, grabbing his letter. It wasn’t too late if it was really Santa. He might as well try. If Santa had seen him write the letter, he’d know Max had tried, so this was it.

He pulled the door open as slowly as he could, the jingling a little louder. He looked down the darkened hall but there was nobody there. Rachel hadn’t heard it, neither had his parents, but as far as he was concerned, if they didn’t believe in Santa, this was their loss. They chose their side and Max had chosen his. He was going downstairs to see the big man in the flesh.

Max treated the hallway like a booby-trapped temple, careful not to step on any creaky floorboards, scooting down the stairs on his butt like when he was a toddler to avoid shifting too much weight and making a sound. As he reached the main floor, he could see the glow of the family Christmas tree, but there was nobody there. The jingling had stopped.

“No…” Max trembled, nearing tears. “No, no no no…” he scrambled to his feet and raced into the living room. All the presents were there, but there was no human figure amongst the shadows of the twinkling lights. Just a ton of boxes and one big bag. Max sulked as he looked down upon the gifts, crumbling the letter to Santa in his hands, trying to be thankful for what he had received, but still sad for what he had lost.

“Max Redding?” a deep and calm voice, washing over him like ocean waves, called out to him from behind. “You should be in bed by now.”

Max didn’t believe it. Now that this was the moment, he wasn’t sure it could be believed, but his fear gave way to his excitement as he swung around so fast he lost his balanced. His foot struck the big baggy present behind him, but it wasn’t solid, it was like he kicked an empty bag. Santa’s bag, he realized as he stumbled back onto the bag.

“Max, no!” Santa said, reaching from him but he fell all the same, and he kept falling as the sight of Santa drifted further from him, falling deeper and deeper into the bottomless void of Santa’s magic bag,

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wow this story is amazing.  keep it coming please

 

Edited by babybb
mistake

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Max drifted in the darkness as his mind seemed to warp. He could not focus on what is up or down, what was left or right. The inside of Santa’s bag was all-consuming. Soon he couldn’t find his hands or his feet. Wait, he thought as he tried to do what he thought was reaching out. Where are my hands? What are hands?

Time became like an illusion. Had he been there a few seconds? A few minutes? An hour? Had he missed Christmas altogether? Wait, he thought. If I count; one, two… what comes after two? Why don’t I know what comes after two?

 

His emotions had not left him in the void. He felt like crying, like screaming, but no words came out, just a ceaseless screeching that he scarcely recognized as his own voice. He could feel his throat move as he cried, and the voice was his own. Nothing made sense anymore. What nightmare had he wrought upon himself?

He knew soon enough, as something took hold of him and the faintest shade of a lighter black began to spread out as he was tugged. It felt like a hand, but it was absolutely gigantic, wrapping around his entire wrist. Through the opening, he could hear voices.

“I think you got him, sir,” a high female voice said. “Be careful, something doesn’t feel right,”

When he was lifted, the first thing he felt was the draft between his legs, but even that soon gave way to the blurry sight in front of him. It was Santa, holding him under his armpits, but he has enormous, as big as a house, but… but so was everything else! The tree had become a skyscraper and every present underneath it looked as big as him.

His head swam as he looked down only to see himself several feet off the ground. As he panicked and kicked and cried, reality began to dawn on him. His skinny legs will all stubby and pudgy and bare. He looked at his arms, which were the same, and as he clumsily put his chubby hands on his head, his mop of hair thinned down to a wispy layer made him realize what had happened.

He tried to express it. He tried to say “Did I turn into a baby?” but all that came out was an oscillating set of babbles and guttural sounds that equaled up to complete gibberish. As he looked past Santa’s spectacles into those wintry blue eyes, illuminating as though they had thought they had seen everything, he got his answer.

“Saints alive,” a gasp tripped out of Santa’s mouth as he held the newly-regressed boy in his arms. “Check the bag,” he said, not at Max, but the source of the other voices. Two figures, shorter than he used to be, but taller than he was now in smart green work clothes – elves, Max supposed - and badges that read “Equipment Maintenance”.

The female elf ran a copper-colored wand over the bag as it made a little tinkling sound. “Foreign contaminant,” she said as she pulled a rope on the bag that changed the color from red to white as she opened it up. It looked like a normal bag now, except it had his pajama bottoms, his socks, and the letter he had written inside. “I think we got something here,” the elf said, handing the letter up to Santa.

“I’ve got my hands full, Henrietta,” Santa said begrudgingly, nudging to Max. “What does it say?”

Henrietta took out a pair of reading glasses and examined the letter. “Oh boy,” she sighed pressing on something in her tiny ear. “Naughty or Nice, I need a behavior reading on a Max Redding, 11 years old, American.” There was a pause and then a sigh as she looked up at Santa with disbelief in her eye. “92%, sir, and this letter is a true believer letter. It put him over the top.”

The top? Max thought, not realizing he was drooling on his pajama top that fit around him now like an oversized Snuggie. Santa sighed, wincing like he wanted to pinch the top of his nose in frustration but unable to do so with Max in his possession. “So what you’re saying is…”

“Yes, sir,” Henrietta sighed. “He fell into the bag with a 102% success rate of getting what he wanted… and the letter said he wanted to be a baby again.”

“Max Redding,” Santa addressed him like a disappointed father. “I’m going to put you back in the bag, and you’re going to wish to return to normal, you got that?”

“Sir… “ Henrietta spoke up, tugging at Santa’s leg. “Naughty or Nice knocked his rating down three points for this. Even with the letter…”

“Oh, for the love of…” Santa sighed as he handed Max down to the elf, picking up the bag as it changed back to its normal festive red color. “Take him back to Martha. We’re falling behind schedule every second we spend figuring this out!”

“But sir,” Henrietta gasped. “We haven’t had a child at the north pole in generations!”

“It’ll be fine,” Santa said as he adjusted his plush red cap and dragged the bag to the fireplace. “There’s no stretch of time that would have made her forget how to care for one, and we can’t leave him here unattended. We’ll figure it out when I get back.”

“Will Christmas magic even work on him?” Henrietta asked as she adjusted Max in her arms, barely holding onto him in her arms.

“It’ll work on anyone who believes,” Santa affirmed. “And that child certainly believes.”

He swung the bag upwards into the chimney and up he went with it, gliding along the rough brick surface so fluidly that in Max’s limited cognition, he believed Santa turned himself into water.

“Okay, kid,” Henrietta said, straining as she reached into her pocket and through a bunch of gold glittering dust into the air. “Hang on tight!”

 Max didn’t know what was going to happen until the floor disappeared beneath him. He cried another babyish wail, practically taking his caretaking elf down with him as he shook and shivered in fear. The space around them was all golden and white this time, but it only lasted for a moment before he found himself on top of the elf in front of another group of elves of varying statures and features.

“Henrietta, is that a child?!” the eldest-looking elf, looking like a tiny grandfather, about a foot taller than the other elves, called out, picking up Max. “What were you thinking?”

“Orders from the top,” she gasped as she got to her feet, as though she had just been let out from beneath a crushing weight – and really, she had been. “Take him to Martha.”

“Martha?” the grandpa elf said, looking at Max with bewilderment. Max didn’t know what had come over him, but he felt the need to reach out and grab his bulbous nose and squeeze it. He giggled when he did, almost like a reflex. The grandpa elf sighed begrudgingly. “Alright, I’ll take him to Martha.”

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I am enjoying this story aand am looking forward to more as it comes available. Please don't stop and disapoint your fans. You are an excellent writer and your character, Max deserves to have his story told. 

 

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This is fantastic! :) Please keep up the wonderful work, Mina! :)

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keep it comig :)  love a good Christmas story

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Max babbled and squirmed as Henrietta and the grandpa elf lugged him down a long candy-cane patterned corridor with lots of twinkling candles and ornate wooden columns with large arching windows looking out into a winter wonderland outside of Santa’s workshop. They had been taking turns carrying the literally infantilized boy down the hall, but Max would not stop squirming at every new little thing that moved, his attention span having been brought down to the point that jingling keys would be as fascinating to him as the latest superhero movie.

This made getting him to Martha all the way from the actual workshop quite the chore. It would have been easier to carry him outside, but neither elf would risk the child’s welfare in the frigid outdoors. Even though Santa’s workshop was much warmer than the rest of the Arctic Circle, it was not suitable for a half-dressed child to be carried around.

They had only made it about a little way before Henrietta turned around and ran back for one of the gift carts that wasn’t being utilized now that Santa’s bag had been loaded for the night. They placed Max as carefully as they could into the cart, making due with the impromptu stroller as they carted him down the hall.

“Do you really think Martha will know what to do, Bartleby?” Henrietta asked, unable to remember the last time a child had to come to the North Pole due to some kind of emergency. After all, Henrietta knew Max was not the first child to see Santa and needed to be taken to the North Pole ASAP to be calmed down lest he wake his whole family and someone got a picture. It wasn’t a common occurrence, but never had Mrs. Claus had to get involved, but then again, none of those kids had turned themselves into a baby either.

“If the boss said so, then she must,” Bartleby, the grandpa-looking elf huffed as he pushed the baby along the slick red-and-white floor. It took them a few more minutes but eventually, they arrived at an old heavy-looking wooden door with a rustic placard that read “Home Sweet Home”. The frame and wall surrounding the door also seemed to stick out from the rest of the modern (at least, by comparison) look of the rest of the workshop.

There was a soft rustling as a honey-sweet voice addressed the three, tired and weary – not in the sense that the owner of the voice was physically so, but in the sense that the voice had been through the years and then some. “Who is it?” the voice called out, friendly and welcoming.

“Bartleby, ma’am, from headquarters.”

“And Henrietta, equipment maintenance.”

There was a sliding of an old metal lock as Max watched the heavy wooden door creak open. There was an elderly lady, her skin soft and wrinkled, having a fragile quality to it, with the same powdery blue eyes as Santa. Her silver hair was done up in a simple bun and she wore a ruby red nightgown. She immediately looked past the two elves to Max, raising a frail hand to her trembling lips with the same amount of surprise that Santa had.

“My word!” She gasped as she reached down, thinking nothing of the labor as she lifted Max up, the baby boy cooing and giggling at the lady who reminded him of his nice grandmothers. Of course he knew right away that this was Mrs. Claus. “How on earth did a baby end up here?”

Bartleby raised an eye to Henrietta, who toed at the floor sheepishly. “It’s a bit of a story, ma’am.”

“I’m certain it’s not one I’ve heard before,” she said, cradling Max in her arms, as natural as she could possibly be with him, as though she had done it a million times before. “Why don’t you tell me?”

“His name is Max” Henrietta started. “Max Redding. He tripped and fell into Santa’s bag when it was active, and he had a letter wishing to be a baby again. His nice rating at the time with the letter was enough to put him over 100% success… so he got his wish.”

“I see,” Mrs. Claus said, tapping her finger on Max’s nose, eliciting another high-pitched giggle from the baby boy. “Seems we got ourselves into a little mischief, didn’t we Max?”

“Well, that’s the thing,” Henrietta continued. “It dropped his nice rating so that, with the letter, he’s at 99%. We can’t guarantee he’ll return to normal now.”

“Oh, I’m not so sure about that,” Mrs. Claus cooed, more talking to Max than Henrietta as she played with his little fingers that he eagerly reached out to her. “The nice ratings don’t close until Christmas morning. I think we can get that one percent back if someone manages to be a good boy until my husband returns, don’t you think so?”

Henrietta wasn’t sure who the elderly lady was talking to. “I suppose that might work…”

“For now, it’s the best chance we got,” Bartleby sighed, squeezing the bridge of his nose. “The boss said you could handle him. Are you sure you’re up for it, ma’am?”

“It’s been ages since we’ve had a child this young here,” Mrs. Claus said, with a hint of excitement and longing in her words. “I’d be delighted to keep an eye on the little scamp. Are you gonna be a good boy for me, Max?” she cooed to Max. He was overcome with an infantile desire to squeal happily and let her know how happy he was at the prospect of spending Christmas Eve under Mrs. Claus’s care.

“That’s what I thought,” Mrs. Claus beamed back. “First things first, let’s set this baggy thing aside and get you into some proper warm clothing… oh, but I think a bath might be best first. That will surely warm you up, dear,” she said, paying little attention to the elves as she closed the door behind them.

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really enjoying this a lot.  please keep it coming

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Mrs. Claus laid Max down while she drew some hot water into a large metal basin. She hummed Christmas carols, really old ones like “I Saw Three Ships” and “Bring a Torch, Jeanette, Isabella”, as she added a special glittery bottle of some kind of syrupy liquid into the water, striring it around with her hand until it began to foam and bubble. To Max, it seemed like pure magic as he began to wiggle and cry out, kicking at his seriously-oversized pajama top and getting Mrs. Claus’s attention.

“Oh goodness, you really are ready for bathtime, aren’t you gumdrop?” she cooed as she picked him up out of his pajama top and set him down in the warm soapy water. Though it wasn’t very cold inside Mr. and Mrs. Claus’s living quarters – in fact, it was downright cozy - the warm bathwater sent waves of relaxation and joy through his little body. He looked at the mountains of soapy bubbles and was overcome with a compulsion to bat at them, knocking them over into the steamy water below.

Mrs. Claus shielded herself playfully from the ensuing splash-fest as she reached for a soft washcloth, dipping it into the water and running it over Max. “Oh, you little scamp,” she smiled as she bathed her charge. Max giggled as she gave him a bubble beard. “Oh you look so handsome,” she teased him, kissing the top of his head as she rinsed him off with a cup of fresh warm water. All bathed and clean, she hoisted him from the washbasin and into a snuggly white fluffy towel, swaddling him up like a newborn.

The tightness of the swaddling left Max feeling very warm and secure, and he immediately relaxed from his wriggling as Mrs. Claus cradled him while looking for something for him to wear. “That drafty old top simply won’t do,” she commented as she set it aside. “Oh, but before we find you some clothes, we’ll need to get you a diaper.”

Max’s little eyes lit up like Christmas lights, twinkling with excitement at the sound of that magic word “diaper”. He cooed his approval and Mrs. Claus smiled down at him. “Oh, now don’t tell me you turned yourself into a baby just for that,” she teased him more, and Max was thankful for a moment that he wasn’t able to speak and didn’t have to tell her the truth, though he could tell in her voice she already knew. A light blush crept across his cheeks, though she didn’t scold him in the slightest.

“Well, I don’t want to disappoint, but I doubt these were what you had in mind,” she said as she lifted two puffy white strips of cloth from out of an old trunk and a pair of worn woolen shorts. It took Max a moment to realize what kind of diaper Mrs. Claus did have in mind, and he became very still. His knowledge of diapers were childish prints, sticky tabs, and lacy soft leg gatherings. This was nothing like what he had in mind.

Mrs. Claus didn’t pause for a moment as she unwrapped Max, now all warm and dry and placed him on top of the first diaper cloth, folding and tucking it around his bottom and securing it with two little pins. Max wondered why no baby powder, and then he supposed there would be no reason for there to be baby powder at the North Pole. Judging from the wear of the cloth, he supposed he was the first baby in many years to be wrapped in them. He wondered as Mrs. Claus placed the second layer of diapering cloth around his waist how many years it had been since a baby had been in Mrs. Claus’s care, and he blushed to think that he was so lucky to be the first in generations to be diapered by the most famous motherly Christmas figure of all.

Once his bottom was secure, Mrs. Claus pulled out a simple white linen dress, which reminded Max of a christening dress, but not nearly as ornate, and slipped it over him, pulling his arms gently through the sleeves, still humming the same old Christmas songs while she tied a plain white cap over his head. As she swaddled him in a heavier blanket, Max began to wonder what he must look like, not realizing that he was the picture of an infant from colonial times.

She huddled the baby boy in her lap as she removed the only thing not relevant to the era the rest of the clothing had come in, perhaps if by magic: a little plastic red pacifier with a green button circled by tiny little silver bells. She placed it in Max’s mouth as she began to rock him in an old wooden chair. Max nursed on the pacifier as it made a soft jingling sound.

The festive sound, pulsing softly with every suckle back and forth set the perfect beat as Mrs. Claus began to sing to him as he lay snuggled in her arms:

Just hear those sleigh bells ring-a-ling, ring-ting-ting-a ling too
Come on, it’s lovely weather for a sleigh ride together with you
Outside the snow is falling and friends are calling “yoo-hoo”
Come on, it’s lovely weather for a sleigh ride together with you

Max giggled around the pacifier as she began to bounce him ever-so-softly along with the song.

Giddy up, giddy up, giddy up, let’s go! Let’s look at the show
We’re riding in a wonderland of snow
Giddy up, giddy up, giddy up, it’s grand just holding your hand
We’re riding along with the song of a wintery fairy land

Our cheeks are nice and rosy and comfy cozy are we
We’re snuggled up together like two birds of a feather would be
Let’s take the road before us and sing a chorus or two
Come on, it’s lovely weather for a sleigh ride together with you

Mrs. Claus sang in such a soft, slow, and soothing way that Max could feel his eyes getting heavy. What time was it? Was it almost Christmas morning? Was time even a thing in Santa’s workshop? The questions swirled around in his head and drifted just as quickly, melting away like honey into a cup of tea. The last thing he saw as he drifted off was Mrs. Claus’s smiling down on him, her little Christmas Eve angel.

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