by Penny Rogers
glass of milk and two ginger biscuits
Father Christmas was worried. It was obvious to him that Cupid was expecting. She looked at him with her beautiful eyes and sort of grunted. Her expanding tummy told him that there was no way she could fit into the sleigh harness while her demeanour told him she just was not up to the exhausting journey that lay ahead for the whole team. He had three weeks to go before they set off to make sure every child had the right present at the right time.
He went indoors, scratching his head as he always did when he had a problem. Mother Christmas poured him a cup of tea ‘What’s wrong?’ she asked.
‘Cupid’s pregnant. I thought that old whatsit Rudolph was looking even more smug than usual, now I know why. There’s no way she can work on Christmas Eve, I reckon the calf’ll arrive about then. That means I’m one short for the sleigh.’ He took a sip of the scalding tea. ‘It’ll be lovely to have a calf, they’re so pretty, but now of all times.’ He gave up scratching his head and stroked his beard instead. ‘I could talk to the International Space Station, see if they can help. They were very good a few years ago when one of the runners on the sleigh came loose. That nice man Tim Peake fixed it in a jiffy.’
His wife refilled his cup. ‘Well you can ask, but I don’t expect that their orbit is flexible enough to deliver a plush thylacine to Tasmania, an Xbox to Cape Town and a Nerf Gun to Blackpool without anyone knowing, all within the space of three hours.’
Father Christmas finished his cup of tea and went out to the workshop. He needed a reindeer badly, and not just any reindeer, one that was able to fit in with the team and do exactly what was needed without damaging property, frightening children or causing road traffic accidents simultaneously in six continents. He rang a few people; contacts in Lapland, Siberia and Harrods but no one had anything close to what he needed.
Three hours later he went back into the house to see what was for dinner. It was strangely silent, and worryingly there was no aroma of cooking wafting around. All was quiet, then he heard a series of clicks, whirrs and thuds from his wife’s workroom. Too intrigued to even consider scratching his head, Father Christmas opened the workroom door. He was met by a reindeer.
‘What IS going on? What are you doing?’ The new reindeer trotted over to Mother Christmas who was putting something back into a large box.
‘Just tidying up. I’ll put your dinner on in a minute. Will a frozen pizza be OK? I’ve been a bit busy. What do you think?’
‘What the --?’ Father Christmas was rarely lost for words.
‘It’s a reindeer. What do you think of it?’
‘I can see it’s a reindeer. Where did it come from?’
‘I made it.’
Father Christmas sat down on the only chair that wasn’t covered in stuff; it was more than he could take in.
‘I looked in the store amongst last year’s presents that were either returned or not delivered. I found this addressed to 10 Downing Street, England. On it was a note from someone called Theresa to say that she’d asked for it because she needed to make something work. But it was all too difficult so she had decided to send it back.’ Mother Christmas allowed herself a smile of self-satisfaction. ‘It’s a 3-D printer. You can use it to make anything. Anyway, I read the instruction manual and made you a reindeer.’
The animal in question padded over to Father Christmas and peered up at the bemused old gentleman.
‘Er… is it a boy or a girl.’ He asked, struggling for something to say.
‘I didn’t press the SELECT button. I didn’t feel I knew enough about it to make the decision.’
‘Oh, I see, very modern.’ Does it, sorry they, have a name?
Mother Christmas hadn’t thought of this. She turned round for inspiration and saw the printer box.
‘Apple’ she replied, her voice brimming with confidence.
‘It’s got funny fur.’
Mother Christmas’s face fell. All her happiness evaporated, he didn’t like his new reindeer.
‘I must’ve got that bit wrong’ she said in a small voice. I’ll go and put the dinner on.’
Apple pushed past their new owner and followed Mother Christmas into the kitchen. She noticed one of their antlers was a bit wonky, and yes the fur was a funny texture and a bit too orange. But their legs were strong and they had kind eyes. She wiped her eyes, blew her nose and opened the freezer (or back door as we call it in Dorset).
Her husband came into the kitchen. ‘I’m sorry love. I was just so surprised. And amazed. You are so clever. I was gobsmacked to be honest. Apple is the best Christmas present ever. Tell you what, you sit down, put your feet up and I’ll do the cooking. Now, where’s the oven?’
On Christmas Eve the deliveries were going well. Apple fitted into the team, in spite of some unkind comments from Vixen about the colour of their coat and their wonky antler, and proved to be a strong and biddable reindeer. Somewhere over the Isle of Wight, Father Christmas got a text from his wife.
‘~~pid inour and ont blong%’
It was difficult to reply to a text when the only word that made sense was ‘and’, so he just responded with a thumbs-up emoji, one of the elves had shown him how to do this, and kept going, carefully avoiding the Needles as he sped towards Wimborne Minster. He had several parcels of books, paper, printer ink and gin to deliver there.
Mother Christmas was waiting for him when he got home. She had his usual glass of sherry ready and she’d prepared the barn for the tired animals.
‘I see you got my message. It’s happened.’ She grinned at her husband, unable to keep the surprise to herself any longer. ‘It’s a little girl. She’s lovely and Cupid’s fine.’
Father Christmas went to the stall where the mother and baby were dozing. He was quiet and careful, reindeer mothers are very protective, but Cupid allowed him to see her calf before pushing her into the corner and turning to face her owner.
‘Don’t worry old girl. I’ll leave you alone. Thank you for letting me see her. I notice she’s got a lovely pink nose; that’ll be bright red one day.’
He went back in doors, took off his boots and poured another glass of sherry.
‘What was that text you sent me?’
Mother Christmas sighed. ‘I wondered why you didn’t seem interested. She showed him her phone and the message
‘Cupid in labour and it won’t be long.’
‘Gotta think of a name’ muttered Father Christmas before he dropped off to sleep in his armchair.