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THE MYSTERIOUS MISSING REINDEER.

Not so many years ago, a funny thing happened. The Monday morning before Christmas, Banjo the elf started to sneeze. On Tuesday, Derby and Skip were coughing. By Wednesday, all the elves had runny noses.

Santa stopped by the workroom to give the tired elves a pep talk. "I know it's no fun working when you're not feeling well, and I appreciate what a fine job you're doing with Christmas only three days awah-- awah-- ah--ACHOOO!" Santa sneezed Banjo's hat right off the top of his head. "Uhoh," said Santa.

Mrs. Claus fed Santa Claus chicken soup for lunch. "There is no way I will let you fly around the world in this weather as sick as you are. I won't have you coming down with pneumonia."

"But, my dear, I've expected all the elves to keep at it. I can't very well let them down now, can I?" asked Santa. "Perhaps there's a way...."

Santa called a preflight meeting for nine o'clock the next morning, the day before Christmas Eve. He was shocked when only five reindeer showed up. "What do you mean Dasher and Comet and Vixen couldn't make it?" he demanded.

Dancer pawed the ground and looked at Cupid and Prancer. "Well, um, Santa. They, uh, uh...."

"They had to inspect runway one," Donner interrupted in a rush.

"Yeah, that's right," Blitzen butted in. "Derby said there was a gigantic pothole smack in the middle of the path--right, Dancer?"

All five deer nodded energetically.

"I see," said Santa. "Achooo! Well, I thought if we were to fly at a lower altitude on our rounds, it might not bother my sinuses so much. Then Mrs. Claus might let me go."

"Sounds like a great idea," Cupid said. "We'll tell the others about the change."

"You do that!" Santa said.

That afternoon Santa went to the reindeer barn. Just as he reached the door, Dasher bounded in front of him. "Santa, hey, Santa!" he said. "You should have seen the size of the, er, um, pothole."

Santa looked sternly at Dasher. "It is highly unprofessional to miss a preflight meeting. You know that, don't you?"

Dasher hung his head. "Yes, Santa."

"Now, I need to see Cupid and Dancer. I believe they're in charge of outfitting the sleigh tomorrow."

"Funny you should mention them," Dasher said. "They're resting in their stalls. They said they had chills this morning." He shook his antlers in a nervous way. "I'll help ready the gear. I know what to do."

"Oh." Santa scratched his forehead. He didn't know reindeer could get chills. "Just as long as it gets done."

Friday was Christmas Eve. The reindeer were practicing their takeoffs and landings while Santa watched through the workshop window. Now Blitzen, Prancer, and Donner were missing. He turned to Mrs. Claus.

"There's something fishy going on with those reindeer, and I don't approve one bit," he said. Santa blew his nose so hard he honked like a goose.

Mrs. Claus looked at Santa. "I'll tell you what I don't approve of, and that's you flying sick. One more sneeze out of you and you aren't going!"

There was a rush of activity as evening approached. Mrs. Claus hung out Santa's special suit. The jingling in the courtyard let Santa know the deer were almost ready. There was a knock at the door, and Banjo poked his head in.

"Santa, you'd better come. There seems to be a problem with one of the sleigh's runners."

Santa grumbled. "I should have known." His brows furrowed crossly when he saw all the deer standing in a group, laughing and carrying on.

"He's coming," whispered Donner.

"You tell him, Cupid," said Dasher.

"Come on. We'll do it together," Dancer said.

The deer faced Santa. "Merry Christmas!" they shouted. They moved aside for Santa to see eight lovely packages.

"No one has ever given me a Christmas party before!" Santa wiped away a sudden tear.

"Open them, Santa," said Vixen.

"Are you sure? OK. Yes, let's!" Santa was so excited he could hardly stand still.

The first package he opened had a very large box of tissues inside. There was a pair of goggles, then some battery-operated foot-warming socks.

"I had to go all the way to Japan to find the right ones," said Comet.

Next there was a fuzzy scarf from Scotland and a brand-new set of long underwear.

"Made of pure silk!" Blitzen said proudly.

A pair of red-and-green earmuffs was in the next box. Then there was a thermos filled with steaming hot chocolate.

"I made it myself from the finest Swiss chocolate," Donner said.

And in the last box Santa found a fluffy white kitten with black paws.

"I'll call him Mitzen," Santa beamed. "You dear deer flew all over the globe for presents for me. You really fooled muh -- muh -- muh --." Santa pinched his nose and looked at Mrs. Claus fearfully. Finally he let go and sighed.

ACHOOO! It wasn't gone after all.

The courtyard was hushed. The deer looked at Santa. Santa looked at Mrs. Claus. Mrs. Claus put her hands on her hips.

"Now, listen here, Mr. Santa Claus," she said. "The only way I'll let you go is if you use all these presents you've gotten to keep warm! And you had better hurry it up--you're running late."

"I can hardly wait to try everything on!" Santa went inside.

A few minutes later Santa stepped out. "Well, how do I look?"

Banjo giggled. "Just dandy, Santy."

The reindeer looked at one another. Santa had never looked quite like this before.

"What is it?" Santa asked.

Mrs. Claus held a mirror for Santa.

He looked. He tilted his head, adjusted his goggles and earmuffs, and stepped into the sleigh. "What do you know!" he said, settling Mitzen on his lap.

As the sleigh lifted into the air, Santa's "ho, ho, ho!" was joined by the sound of eight reindeer saying, "Hee, hee, hee!" and "ha, ha, ha!"
COPYRIGHT 1999 Benjamin Franklin Literary & Medical Society, Inc.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1999 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

Article Details
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Author:Romig, Martha
Publication:Jack & Jill
Article Type:Short Story
Date:Dec 1, 1999
Words:995
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