Joe ran in the house, dropped his backpack on the floor, and dashed up the stairs. As he jiggled the mouse to wake the computer, he paused. Running back down the stairs, he went into the living room where his mother was working at her desk.
“That’s better,” she smiled, “I thought you’d forgotten about me.”
“Nope, never. Can I use the computer for a bit? I have to do some research.”
“What about your homework?”
“I did it on the bus. Just math, a piece of cake.”
His mother put out her hand. Joe ran to his backpack, grabbed his homework, and ran back, handing her the paper.
She ran down the list, checking his work. “Hmm, not bad. You have the mind of a mathematician like your grandfather. Maybe you will grow up and be a pilot like him.”
“I might. I haven’t figured it out yet. I’ll let you know.”
She handed back the paper. “Not to worry, lots of time before you have to pick a career.”
“So, I am good?”
“You are. What’s this research, anyway? Is it a school project?”
“Nope,” Joe yelled over his shoulder as he ran to the stairs. “Just something Grandpa and I are working on.”
Ten minutes later, armed with the information he needed, he dressed in warm clothes and headed back downstairs. The package he got from Kringle’s safe in his pocket.
“Where are you off to?”
“I’m, ah, going to meet Chrissy. Just hang out for a while before supper. You know.”
His mother smiled. “I do Joe, I do. Okay, be home before your father gets here.”
Joe turned to leave.
“If this little meeting involves something your grandfather put you up to, please be careful. Your grandfather is a wonderful man, but a little, ah, a little—”
“Crazy, insane, off-his-rocker, whack-a-ding-hoy?” Joe interrupted.
Laughing, his mother nodded. “I see he’s been filling in your vocabulary. But, yes, he can be unusual. Just be careful.”
Joe ran outside and down the street. Chrissy Snow waited in front of the bike path entrance.
“So, what is this big mystery?” she said.
“I’m not sure, but my grandfather said I needed to get you to help me.”
Chrissy’s eyes narrowed. “This isn’t one of your practical jokes, is it? Because if it is, I will pound you into the ground.” She made a fist and shook it in his face.
“C’mon, Chrissy. You have to admit that the fake snake was funny. I didn’t think your mother could climb a tree that quickly.”
Chrissy chuckled. “Yeah, that part was funny. Still, this better not be one.”
“Oh, it’s not.” Joe led the way down the bike path, then veered off onto the old trail leading to the abandoned barn.
“What are we doing here?” Chrissy said.
“Not sure yet.” Joe took out his mother’s cellphone, pushing a few buttons.
“Does your mother know you took that?”
“Not exactly, but she is always losing it. She won’t notice—.” He held up his hand for her to be quiet. “Yes, could you connect me to room 1225, please? Thanks.” He tilted the phone away. “I have to talk to my grandfather. He said to call when we got here.” Turning his attention back to the phone as a voice came on the line.
“Hi, Grandpa. Yup, we’re here. Me and Chrissy. Un-huh, un-huh, okay got it. See ya.” He ended the call and put the phone away.
Joe reached into his pocket and pulled out the small box.
“What’s that?” Chrissy asked.
“Something we have to build?”
“Build? That small? And it takes two of us?”
Joe shrugged and led the way into the old barn.
“You sure this is safe?”
“Grandpa said we needed to open this inside here, so I think it is.”
“You think so?”
Joe smiled. “Here we go.” He placed the package on the ground and stepped back, pulling Chrissy with him.
“What are you doing?”
“Following instructions. Now please be quiet for a minute, I need to focus.” Reaching into his pocket, he pulled out the crumpled note.
“What once was hidden, let it now be shown, and share the magic we have known.”
“Is this some kind of joke, Joe, cuz I will not be happy if it—.”
The blinding light and sound knocked them back. Smoke filled the room, then swirled out the roof.
Joe stood, staring at the scene. Chrissy held his hand. “Wha, wha, what is that?”
Piled before them were parts of a colossal machine. Red velvet covered some pieces; others were shiny metal. Gold tinsel peeked from its wrapping, and leather straps with bells hung from the rafters.
A book, thick with pages, floated to the ground in front of them. Joe bent down to pick it up.
“What’s that?” Chrissy said, leaning over his shoulder.
Joe held the book up for her to read the cover.
“Operating Santa’s Sleigh: Some Assembly Required.”
“You’re gonna build this thing?” Chrissy asked.
“Nope,” Joe shook his head. “We are both gonna build this.”
(Part IV: Gathering the Herd)
P.S. If you’re interested in the previous one from Christmas Past, here’s a link. Please share this and this new story with all your family and friends.