Editor's note: This 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, Old Floovenhopper returned to the basement storeroom where he had imprisoned Santa, Mrs. Claus, the reindeer and elves. He sauntered over to the cage that held Santa and began cackling madly.
"You old fool," he chortled. "You had such faith in those children. But as I well knew, mere children can't save your holiday now!"
Old Floovenhopper held out his crooked staff and tapped it three times on the ground. A thick cloud began to form at the tip, and it slowly rose and spread across the storeroom. In the midst of the cloud, a picture began to appear, gradually coming into focus.
"What's going on?" the elves whispered among themselves. "What's he doing? Do you see something in that cloud?"
Soon, Santa and the rest of the North Pole's inhabitants, along with Old Floovenhopper, were looking at an image of the playground at John Hanson Elementary School in Warren. Old Floovenhopper tapped his staff again, and the image began to play, just like a video recording.
The elves fell silent as one of the children on the playground began to speak.
"Stephen and Lizzy don't know the words to 'Jingle Bells' anymore!" a boy was saying to Phoebe, Cienna, Brenna and Cate.
The children gathered around Stephen and Lizzy.
"Is it true?" Cienna asked. "You forgot the words to 'Jingle Bells'?"
Stephen scoffed. "'Jingle Bells?' I've never heard of it."
Lizzy, meanwhile, looked troubled. "I feel like I should know it," she said. "But I can't remember how it goes."
"But you both knew it yesterday!" Brenna said. "We were all singing it, and I know you two were, too."
Stephen shrugged. "Whatever. I'm going to go play soccer with Rachel, Paris and Kian." He ran off to join his other friends.
Lizzy shuffled her feet. "I think I'm going to go play with them, too," she said. "I'll see you guys later."
Phoebe, Brenna, Cate and Cienna looked at each other.
"This is really weird, you guys," Cate said.
Back at the North Pole, Old Floovenhopper tapped his staff again and the picture froze.
"They're forgetting Christmas carols!" he crowed. "Those children thought that they could bring back Christmas by singing songs! As if I didn't sing Floovenhopper songs until my throat was sore, trying to get people to remember Floovenhopper Day! And now, those children are just like the rest of them. They will all forgot, and Christmas will be no more!"
Santa looked gravely at Old Floovenhopper. "I told you that Christmas will always live in the hearts of children, as long as they remember its true meaning," Santa said. "While Christmas carols may be a pleasant and fun part of Christmas, Christmas is not just music or cookies or presents. I have every faith that these children will embrace the true meaning of Christmas, and your plan to destroy this holiday will fail."
"Oh, don't you worry about my plan, Santa," Old Floovenhopper retorted. "It's the children you should be worried about. They seem to be running out of ideas, and you're running out of time. In just a few short weeks, the calendar will flip from Dec. 24 to Dec. 26, and Christmas will no longer exist!"
Laughing once again, Old Floovenhopper marched out of the storeroom, banging the door behind him.
Mrs. Claus turned to Santa. "Will the children be all right, Santa?" she asked. "Do you really think they can save us?"
Santa smiled at her. "My dear, they believe in me. What kind of man would I be if I didn't believe in them, too?"
For the next part of this story, read Saturday's Tribune Chronicle.