Joy helps stop a nutcracker invasion

Editor’s note: This is the fifth of a 12-chapter holiday tale running daily until Christmas. Parents are encouraged to read aloud to their children.

Joy could only watch in disbelief as the line of tall, wooden men marched into the room, oblivious that they were knocking into everything.

“Oh dear,” Santa sighed. “Not again.”

Franklin nodded rapidly, wringing his hand. “I’m afraid so, sir. It’s just like the Great Teddy Bear Situation of 1984.”

Joy swallowed, not sure if a giant army of fluffy teddy bears would be more terrifying, or an improvement over the man-sized nutcrackers.

Santa pressed another button on the side of his chair, and the wall next to the snow-painted double doors extended to cover them.

“Now that the Viewing Room is safe,” he said, glancing sternly at Franklin. “Where is the Toy Security Unit? They should not have gotten this far out of the Workshop Lab,” he added, nodding at the nutcrackers.

The wooden men marched around the room, knocking over everything in their path. Joy pressed herself against the wall, out of the way of their destruction.

“I’m not sure, sir,” Franklin replied. “The nutcrackers were too strong and large for them to subdue, and, well … you see them.”

He gestured out the door, where more of the nutcrackers marched down the hall, mowing down everything in their path. Crashes and clattering mixed with shouting.

Franklin continued to wring his hands. “What should we do?”

“Well, go find them!” Santa said, and Franklin nodded quickly, bumping into the doorframe as he backed out of the room.

“Yes, yes, sir. We’ll fix this, I promise!”

Joy winced as a nutcracker knocked over a glass figurine, shattering it on the ground.

“I can’t believe I’m saying this,” she said, “but … you guys are obviously able to do magic. Why don’t you just … wave your hand and stop them?”

Santa gave a short chuckle. “I’m afraid it’s a bit more complicated than that, Joy Noelle.”

He peered at her over his glasses, stepping aside as a nutcracker crashed into his chair. “Any suggestions?”

Joy threw up her hands. “Are you kidding? I’m 9 years old, I don’t know what to do.”

Santa nodded slowly, stroking his beard. “Hmm, yes, you are. I must say, I’ve had quite a bit of experience with children.” His eyes twinkled. “And one of the greatest things about them is their sense of imagination.”

Joy watched as two nutcrackers crashed into each other, stumbled around, then resumed their marching.

She shrugged. “OK, fine. They’re nutcrackers. So set out a big pile of nuts and let them go to town.”

Santa laughed. “Well, if that isn’t a wonderful solution, then I don’t know what is.”

He picked up a phone on the wall and spoke rapidly, instructing someone to set out every walnut, pecan, chestnut, and every other type of nut available.

Moments later, loud cracks sounded through the air, and the giant nutcrackers all marched out of the room. The cracking intensified, then faded as the nutcrackers were led away.

Joy shook her head in amazement. “Seriously? That was the dumbest idea ever. I can’t believe it actually worked.”

Santa shook his head sternly. “No child’s idea is ever a dumb one. Misguided sometimes? Perhaps. But never dumb.”

“How did those nutcrackers get so big? And how were they moving?” Joy asked. “And why does a train bring your food? How come your paintings move? What’s behind those doors that you didn’t want the nutcrackers messing up?”

Once the questions started, Joy found it hard to stop; she was suddenly intensely curious about every aspect of this place.

Santa laughed and held up a hand. “Plenty of time for questions. I think we should get back to our original matter at hand, which happens to coincide with the answer to one of your questions.”

He pressed the button on his chair again, and the wall blocking the snowy doors slid back into place. The scene on the doors was peaceful, with flurries of snow gently falling onto trees and lit up cottages.

He motioned for Joy to follow him as he pushed open the doors, and her jaw dropped.

The room inside stretched as far as her eye could see, miles and miles long, and was filled top to bottom with shelves of snow globes, mirrors and giant Christmas bulbs. Faces and scenes swam in and out of focus on all of them, and Joy gasped as she saw her very own face on one of the largest snow globes right in front of her.

Read the next installment on Page 1B of Tuesday’s Tribune Chronicle.