Editor's note: This is part of a continuing, fictional holiday tale that is running daily through Christmas. Parents are encouraged to read along with their children.
At the North Pole, there was an ominous sort of stillness. Dark clouds cast shadows on the snowy hills, and there wasn't a sound to be heard - no reindeer games, no elves singing as they went about their work making toys for all the children of the world, and no jolly "Ho, ho, hos" from the North Pole's most famous resident.
At Santa's workshop, normally a busy, bustling place, all the windows were dark, and the door was barred shut. The workshop looked abandoned except for one, lone elf.
Like his fellow elves, he was quite small. If he met Phoebe and her friends, he'd only come up to their shoulders. He had big, pointed ears and a long, pointed nose, and long, skinny fingers, perfect for putting together the tiny parts that made up children's toys. He wore a warm, green woolen suit and a pointed red hat. This elf, whose name was Tuffy, tiptoed around the workshop, peering into the dark windows, looking for signs of activity.
Suddenly, he saw it - a glimmer of light coming from a basement window. Tuffy scurried over and flopped on his belly to see what he could see.
The window looked into the cavernous basement of Santa's workshop, the place where the elves stored finished toys throughout the year in preparation for Christmas. But the rows of shelves and toys that Tuffy was used to seeing in the basement were gone. Instead, two large metal cages held all of Tuffy's fellow elves and all Santa's reindeer. In another, smaller cage was Santa Claus himself and his loving wife, Mrs. Claus.
Tuffy stifled a gasp and scooted a little closer to the window. As he watched, a skinny, ugly man - who would be very tall if he wasn't so hunched over - entered the room and approached Santa. The man wore a dirty brown suit and a dirty brown cape, and he carried a crooked staff.
"Tell me, Santa Claus," the man said, leering at that jolly old soul. "How does it feel to lose your holiday? All over the world, people have forgotten to put up their Christmas trees. There are no stockings hung by the chimney, and no plates of cookies and milk waiting for your arrival. The calendars go straight from Dec. 24 to Dec. 26. You see, Christmas doesn't exist any more."
The man laughed a thin, cruel laugh, as the elves began murmuring to themselves.
"No Christmas! What about the children?" Tuffy heard them whisper.
The reindeer pawed at the ground and at the bars of their cage, snorting in outrage. Rudolph's nose blinked furiously.
Santa, meanwhile, addressed the man. "Who are you?" he asked. "Why are you doing this?"
"Don't you know?" the man replied. "Haven't you ever heard of Old Floovenhopper?"
Again, the elves murmured, "Old Floovenhopper? What? Who's that?"
"I'm sorry," Santa said. "I haven't heard of you before. You haven't answered my other question, though. Why are you doing this?"
"Oh, I've already told you," Old Floovenhopper said. "But you don't seem to understand. Perhaps if you answered my question - how does it feel to lose your holiday, Santa Claus?"
For the next part of this story, read Monday's Tribune Chronicle.