Dealing with Shorty and Griller
Santa Nick looked fierce, like a magistrate passing sentence.
“What were you doing in my sleigh?”
“Waiting for you,” I said without thinking. Then I realised and hung my head, so I didn’t meet Shorty’s glare.
But Shorty bounced back, like always. “Yeah, that’s right. We was hoping you’d give us a job. We’re looking for work.”
Christie raised an eyebrow. I could see Santa weren’t fooled neither. “What did you have in mind?”
Christie added, “Bear in mind that we have plenty of elves, whose fingers are fine and flexible for putting toys together.”
I caught sight of mine looking like a bunch of bananas and hid ’em behind my back.
“You could muck out stables, and chop firewood,” suggested young Nicky. “Or work in the kitchen, maybe – peeling potatoes and washing up.”
“I wouldn’t mind mucking out stables,” I said, but Shorty wrinkled his nose.
“The big fella could help us with humping stuff and stackin’ shelves,” said the elf called Ella. “We spend half our time wheeling them flamin’ ladders around, an’ Eddie ran over Ember with one last week.”
“ ’Sright,” piped up another elf. “Elven safety, innit.”
I gazed around this Aladdin’s cave. “You mean… a job? Like, with money an’ all?”
“We couldn’t pay much,” Christie said quickly, “but you’d get free bed and board.”
It was like someone had shone a light. Then I remembered. “If Shorty wants to stay.”
I looked to Shorty and crossed my fingers – although crossed fingers had never worked for me so far.
“He’d have to work for his keep,” said old Nick, and the light went out.
Shorty shook his head. “You stay if you want, Griller. I’ll go ’ome on the PAC.” He blinked. “If someone could just recharge it… and my mobile.”
I uncrossed my fingers. “I’ll go wi’ Shorty then.”
My eyes prickled. That nice Ella looked sad, and the cat nudged my hand to remind me I’d stopped stroking. But Santa weren’t too happy about us going either.
“You can’t leave just like that. We’ll have to wipe the history on your satnav for a start. And the pictures in your head; you’re not taking those back with you.”
Young Nicky waved a hand at Christie. “Hang on – what about that other job? The one you were thinking of for Nick before the postie job came up.”
Santa said, “What job?”
Young Nicky asked Shorty, “What’s your PAC like?”
“Is it in good condition?” Nicky prompted. “Where did you get it?”
“From the breakers yard,” I answered, keen to help.
“Ah. Probably not up to it then.”
“Up to what?” asked Santa Nick.
“Applicants need their own air transport,” said Christie.
“Us elves can service the PAC,” said Ella. “The mechanics’ll give it an overhaul.”
Nick the elder was getting annoyed now. “What’s the job?”
“Taking aerial photos for Google Earth,” said Christie.
The light flickered again, dimly. “Whaddya think Shorty? It wouldn’t be like work; you’re doing that all the time anyway.”
But Shorty weren’t gonna be pushed into anything. He looked at me and clicked his tongue. “I dunno, Griller. It’s cold up there all day. Remember the trip here?”
“It was December, Shorty.” The cat’s tail curled ’round my arm.
“I’m sure we could sort you some heating while we’re overhauling your PAC,” said Ella.
“Of course,” Christie cut in, “heating will take more energy than solar or lunar power can replace. It’ll need to log into our network every night to recharge.”
Christie didn’t meet my eyes as I tried not to laugh. This would mean Shorty couldn’t make off with the restored PAC. The cat was purring.
He made a performance of thinking it over, but his face gave away his disappointment when he thought of another problem. “I s’pose there’d be application forms. And an interview.”
“I’ll deal with the application – I do them for Nick. Just take some sample pics to show them.”
His face brightened. He could do that. “Okay then. Since Griller’s so keen to stay. Just for a bit.”
The elves cheered. Shorty came off the table and they crowded around him. I could see then that this was gonna work.
For the first time in his life, Shorty wasn’t the shortest person in the room, and he was loving it.
I hope your Christmas was memorable for all the right reasons, and that you enjoy the year to come.
(I’m sure Shorty and Griller will.)
First published in Witch Way (by Cathy Cade) and also found in Jingle Bells and Tinsel Tales (one of two new collections of festive fiction and verse from the Whittlesey Wordsmiths).