“We’re gonna what?” Chrissy said, as they admired the finished sleigh.
“Take it for a ride.” Joe slapped her on the back, then walked to the front of the sled. The elves were lining up the reindeer, hoisting the harnesses on their backs, and connecting them together.
“Maybe, you’re taking it for a ride, but not this girl. This girl wants to survive until Christmas not be remembered.”
“C’mon, Chrissy. You’re the one who read the instructions.”
The final step before beginning the loading process is a test flight. All operations of the sleigh are controlled by the onboard navigation system. The front seats must be occupied by a minimum of two volunteers and the rear seat left open until certain conditions are achieved.
“Doesn’t get any simpler than that. Remember what you said about not being afraid or having doubt?”
Several elves came over and handed them fur lined parkas, hats, and gloves. Joe put his on and climbed aboard, aided by the elves. Chrissy was slower to follow.
“I’m not sure about this. What if we did something wrong?”
“We didn’t. Now c’mon we’ve got a test flight around the town to complete.”
Chrissy shook head, took a deep breath, and climbed aboard. Joe handed her the book open to the section on the test flight.
“You read the checklist; I’ll go through the system check. Okay?”
Chrissy shrugged. “Ah well, nothing ventured, nothing gained.”
“What’s that mean?”
“It means I am either gonna die or create one incredible memory. Ready?”
Chrissy ran through the checklist, Joe flipped the switches, tugged the reins, and programmed in the codes to the navigation system.
“Everything seems ready to go. Checklist complete.” Joe handed Chrissy the reins. Her eyes got three times bigger than normal.
“You steer her out of the barn, I couldn’t have done this without you.”
Giving the reins a gentle flip of the wrist, the reindeer pulled the sleigh out into the cold. Joe flipped the last of the switches on the checklist and the heated seats warmed.
“Nice touch, eh? My Grandpa told me how to add it in. Said it would warm his bones although I’m not sure how he’d ever sit here. Okay, anyway, we are ready for takeoff.” Joe took the reins back, hit the button to start the navigation system, then looked at Chrissy.
“As I’ll ever be.” She gripped the edge of the seat as tight as she could.
“Five, four, three—.”
“What are you doing?” Chrissy asked. “There’s nothing about a countdown.”
“I know,” Joe chuckled. “But I always dreamed of being an astronaut. Two, One, blastoff.” Joe shook the reins, hit the engine start control button, and nothing happened.
“Did you follow the instructions?”
“Yup, everything looks good,” Joe said, scanning the dash. “All systems are good.”
Chrissy noticed it first. The reindeer were all looking at them, staring.
“Joe, look at the reindeer. They’re staring at us.”
And then he understood. The story his grandfather told him every Christmas Eve for as long as he remembered was preparing him for this moment.
“Hang on, Chrissy, There’s one more step.”
Chrissy grabbed her seat and leaned back.
“Now Dasher! Now Dancer!
Now Prancer and Vixen!
On Comet! On Cupid!
On Donner and Blitzen!
To the top of the porch!
To the top of the wall!
Now dash away! Dash away!
Dash away all!”
As the words came out, the reindeer as one leaped into the air, the engine came to life, and they were flying.
Climbing up out of the trees, the sleigh settled into a smooth flight path. Chrissy relaxed and looked over the edge, Cumberland High School was right below them. Joe tugged on the reins and the reindeer climbed higher.
Turning from Mendon Rd. they crossed over Nate Whipple Highway, over the small Cumberland Reservoir, heading toward the big Pawtucket Reservoir. As they reached Reservoir Road, Joe took out his list.
“Okay, we have to try a couple of things.” He looked at the note, then handed it to Chrissy. “Here, we go.”
Tugging back on both reins, the reindeer slowed and descended. Leveling out just above the water. Gently releasing his tension on the reins, the reindeer responded and brought the skids of the sleigh lower, skimming the edge of the water and sending up a spray.
Joe pulled back again and the sleigh leaped back into the sky. Climbing higher and higher, they circled Diamond Hill twice, then headed home.
“Chrissy, at the bottom of that list are some numbers, enter them into the navigation system for me.”
“What are they?”
Joe shrugged. “Don’t know. My grandfather said to put them in when we finished the tests and were on the way back.”
Chrissy entered the numbers and they both felt the sleigh make slight course corrections. Close to the barn, they both prepared to land. But at the last moment, the sleigh turned slightly away, descended to tree top level, and slowed near Joe’s house.
Hovering just outside the room over the garage, the reindeer brought the sleigh even with the window and held it there.
“What are they doing?” Chrissy said. “Someone’s gonna see us.”
“And that someone would be me.” Joe’s grandfather stuck his head out the window. “I see you can both follow simple instructions. That’s good.” He made a whistling sound and somehow the reindeer brought the sleigh right to the edge of the window.
Joe’s grandfather climbed into the back seat.
“What are you doing, Grandpa? Mom will kill us both if she sees this.”
“No worries, Joe. In my case it doesn’t much matter and in yours, no one would blame you for taking a tired old pilot on one last flight. Now head for that star and take me once around the world.”
“The world?” Chrissy said.
The old man smiled. “Okay, how about once around the town?”
Joe tugged on the reins and they were off.
“You’re a natural at this, Joe. You’ll do just fine.”
“Fine at what, Grandpa?”
“All in good time, my boy, all in good time.” He leaned back, looking out at the stars and the world, a smile spread wide across his face.
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.