Shorty and Griller spot Santa
When Shorty got back, I were sat on the edge of the sleigh watching the holly where we’d last seen Santa. Shorty started unpacking his “shopping”, but I didn’t take my eyes off them bushes till he yelled at me.
“Griller! You’re s’posed to have been watching.” He blinked furiously and I looked where he were pointing. A bright red coat with white fur were moving through the forest.
“I’ve been watching all this time, Shorty. Honest. There’s gotta be another way out.”
Shorty scuttled off after Santa. “Come on!”
I soon caught him up but when I turned back and tried to remember the way we’d come, I saw two people following us. One was wearing a red suit… and hat… with white fur.
He turned to yell at me, but when he saw the other Santa running after us, his head swivelled from one red coat to the other and back again. The shock must’ve been too much for him; he hadn’t been well. He twitched twice, his eyelids fluttered, and he passed out.
I ran to him. When the two behind caught us up I begged, “Please help him.”
Santa said, “Who are you?”
“I’m Griller. You gotta help Shorty. He needs to download. His head’s too full.”
The other one frowned. “Full of what?”
How could I make them understand when I didn’t understand myself? “He’s got this problem with his eyes. His opti-cam won’t turn off.” I lifted him out of the snow. “He were dropped on his head as a baby.”
Shorty’s face were twitching as if ants was dancing under the skin. “His mobile ran out of battery, an’ if he can’t dump the pictures his head gets overloaded, and he can’t think.”
“I suspect thinking isn’t a strong point at the best of times.” The younger Santa up front had come back to join us.
The one who weren’t dressed as Santa said, “Get the trap, Nicky. We’ll get him to the workshop and hook him up to the network.”
The workshop were like that Aladdin’s cave in the kids’ story, except it had elves. Christie – the one who weren’t dressed like Santa – told me to lay Shorty on a workbench and then pointed to a shelf above us.
“Ella, can you wheel a ladder over?”
I took down one of the headsets from the shelf. “Is this what you need?”
The elves gawped as if I’d done magic. I s’pose they was used to working with normal size people – the two Santas and Christie – but I’m taller than most people and I’ve got long arms.
“Thanks, that’ll do it.” Christie took it from me. “You two have been friends for a long time, then?”
“Years – ever since the Young Offenders’ Institute.”
The kids in there had bullied Shorty before I came. It didn’t seem fair, him being so little an’ all. We’d left at the same time. “He looks after me.”
“You don’t look like someone who needs looking after.”
“Oh, I’m too daft to look after meself. Shorty says I musta bin dropped on me ’ead too.”
“Hmm.” Christie fitted the headset on Shorty. Elves stood on chairs around the table, and a ginger cat jumped up on it. It wandered across Shorty, and it let me stroke it.
The cat at the Young Offenders’ had been black, and it hissed at everyone who came near it. If you got too close it scratched. This one rubbed itself against my arm as if it liked me.
With Shorty’s headset connected to the network, you could see the pain draining away as the images left him. He stopped twitching, and I felt my face relaxing along with his.
The closed eyes began to flutter. “Weren’t me, Miss… No, Sir, the dog ate my homework.”
His eyes were opening now. “It wasn’t me, Your Honour.”
Fully open, they focused on my face. I might have been leaning a bit close.
“You’re back.” I straightened, beaming at Christie. “He’s back.”
The elves clapped.
If Shorty was startled by the elves, the sight of Nick and young Nicky entering, both still in full Santa gear, made him gape.
“Ah, you’re back,” said the younger Nick. “Griller was worried.”
The older Nick said, “You must have another name, Griller?”
“I used to be Guy, when I started school.”
Christie nodded. “That figures. Shall we call you Guy, then?”
“Oh, yes. Thank you.” I felt my face go red and some of the elves giggled.
“And how about Shorty? What are you called?”
Shorty sat up. “Shorty’s fine.”
“His name’s Eustace,” I whispered to Christie and put my finger to my mouth. But the whole workshop was silenced by the roar of Nick the elder.
“So, what were you doing in my sleigh?”