Unexpected help yields possible plan to return

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Editor’s note: This is the ninth chapter of the 12-part holiday tale “The Snow Elf,” running daily through Christmas morning. Parents are encouraged to read aloud to their children.

CHAPTER 9

Georgie gasped at the sight of the other elf. He jumped out of his chair and wrapped her in a big hug.

“Penny!” he exclaimed, pulling back and grinning. “I can’t believe it’s you. What are you doing here?”

Penny plopped into the chair next to Georgie, helping herself to a cheese fry off his plate. “I was promoted. Now I’m part of the Santa Squad, and I got stationed here. We –“

She stopped abruptly as she realized Anna and Alex were staring at her, listening intently.

“Who are you?” she asked.

“I’m Anna and this is Alex,” Anna said, taking a big slurp of her strawberry milkshake. “We’re helping Georgie get home.” She leaned over the table and whispered, “We rode on flying deer!”

“Helping Georgie get home?” Penny repeated, her eyes widening at Georgie. “You mean, you aren’t supposed to be away from the North Pole? And what do you mean, flying deer?”

Georgie quickly filled Penny in on the events that had led to him to be seated at a table in the food court at the Riverton Valley Mall, munching on french fries. Which, he had to say, really were quite tasty.

“Oh, dear,” Penny said, her face scrunched with worry. “You do need to get back quickly. If the North Pole is buried under a blizzard, Christmas will be a disaster.”

Anna looked at all the kids out enjoying the evening with their parents and her heart felt heavy at the thought that their Christmas might be ruined.

“Well, I think I can help you,” Penny said, lowering her voice, and she winked at Anna. “And it doesn’t have anything to do with flying deer.”

The weight in Anna’s heart lifted immediately and she smiled brightly at Penny as she wriggled in her seat, slurping up the last bits of her milkshake.

“Like I said before,” Penny continued, “I’m part of the Santa Squad.”

“Congratulations on the promotion, by the way,” Georgie cut in, and Penny grinned.

“Thanks,” she replied, then gave her attention to the Berrys. “The Santa Squad has a lot of important duties. Every time a child sits on Santa’s lap, we make sure Santa knows what he or she asks for. And we deliver each and every letter that children mail to Santa.”

Penny leaned forward closer to Anna. “Every city and town in the whole world has a team of elves on duty all year long to watch over all of the children, keeping track of who goes on the nice list and who should be on the naughty list.” She sighed wistfully. “That’s my dream job. I’m working extra hard so hopefully I’ll get another promotion. Maybe in just another hundred years or so.”

Alex shook his head, unable to fathom their odd sense of time. “Just how old are you?”

Penny sniffed. “I bet you’d never guess.”

“Twenty-two!” Anna said, and Penny burst out laughing.

“Try 622,” she said. “Give or take. You tend to lose track after a few centuries.”

“Anyway,” she continued, glancing down at the red polka-dot watch on her wrist, “in about 15 minutes, I’m supposed to help empty Santa’s mailbox at Bennington’s. Now I can’t make any guarantees but if we can get just a moment alone with the mail bag, we can simply pack you guys up and mail you, too!”

“The Snow Elf” continues tomorrow with Chapter 10.

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