I can tell you one thing for sure. This was the year. Yep. This was the year I was gonna catch him! See, Dad had read me an old fairy tale (he was into that kinda stuff) that if you caught him in the act, he had to grant you one wish. Just one wish but it could be anything you wanted! Every year for the past WHOLE two years I had tried to catch him but he was a tricky old sucker. This year, I, Jimmy Prachett, was gonna catch Santa Claus.
This year I had a plan, a GOOD plan. I had been preparing for this since last year when I missed him and some how he had gotten around the security systems Dad had helped me set up. See, we lived in a house that had a fireplace in the basement, on account the house was a historical one or some such. There use to not have any heat down there in the winter time before we moved in so they had used fireplaces to keep warm. When Dad bought the house he had done some remodeling and had covered up the old fireplace on the main floor when he put in central heat. SO that put the tree upstairs by the big bay window so you could see it from the street and Santa's primary means of entrance (the fireplace) downstairs.
He had all kinds of tricks to get inside of houses though so I had worked up a plan. I covered the basement and watched the fireplace, while Dad kept a lookout on the tree. See, I figured that I would see him first and get the wish, or Dad would catch him coming through the window on his way to the tree and call me. See Dad was to old for his wish to be granted anyway, he had told me so himself. I had ran security traps all through the basement and around the front door. We had string and tin cans and EVERYTHING! There was no way he could get by us. Until Dad fell asleep and he snuck in that is. I guess its my fault. I mean Dad is OLD. He was like almost 30! He just can't stay up that late anymore. He's not as young as me.
This year there was gonna be no mistakes though. See, I love Dad, but he can't be relied on for a mission of this importance. I tried to let him down easy, telling him that I wanted to do this on my own. I think he was okay with it cause he smiled and told me so, but you never can tell with grown ups. This year the plan was full proof. I was a whole year older, I was Eight and a Half now you know. I was smarter to! Mrs. Miller, my teacher, said I had a fourth grade reading level already.
I knew now that whatever place I watched for him to come in, he'd go in another way. And if he had magic to get down a chimney, then he would have magic to figure out any traps I set. So the key was to catch him AT THE TREE. See, he HAD to go to the tree right? I mean where else would Santa leave presents? It was so simple, even a Seven year old could figure it out! So I would hide in the hall closet and leave the door cracked to keep an eye out. When he stopped to eat the milk and cookies me and Dad had left out (a cleverly baited trap Dad had said) I could spring out and catch him. No way could this not work right?
Finally, the night of Christmas eve came. Dad had warned me about me staying up all night, telling me all that stuff about Santa not coming to little boys houses who weren't in bed and that it could put me on the naughty list. I had checked before hand though, when Dad had taken me up to the mall to tell Santa what I wanted for Christmas. See, last year I had made another mistake when I had told him that I was gonna stay up and catch him in the act and get my wish. See, he was ready for me and knew that I was waiting for him. It was a mistake any Seven year old could make. This year, I was gonna be much sneakier.
See, when it was my turn in line, I grilled the guy on whether I was on the naughty or nice side of the list. He had said he was gonna check with my Dad, who said that I HAD been a very good boy at home AND in school. Santa had winked at me, telling me he just wanted to "Check the list twice." So now I knew that he was coming, and I didn't tell him I would be waiting. Pretty smart huh?
Dad had agreed in the end though, telling me that I WAS Eight and a Half now, and that a young man like me oughta be able to stay up if he wanted to. Good thing Dad has saw some reason. So he helped me set up the milk and cookies bait(soy milk cause Dad was lactose intolerant and he said Santa wouldn't mind) and I got into place. I had my flash light and my blanket to stay warm, and Dad had let me borrow the digital camera to take a picture of Santa when I caught him, though I had to promise not to break it. I settled into the closet and closed the door, leaving just enough of a crack to get a good view of the tree.
I gotta say that Dad had really did a good job on the tree this year. All lit up, waiting for Santa, it was only now that I was really looking at it, that I saw it. Lights of red and green and blue and all that tinsel. Oh, and the star on top. Dad had told me that it was the same star that Mom had used when she was a girl, and Grandpa before her. It was old, made of some kind of thin metal, but shone when the lights fell on it. The tree looked just like the one Mom had decorated when I was just a baby, back when I was only Five.
I was still looking at the star several hours later, rubbing my eyes to stay awake, when I heard a noise upstairs. The old house made all kinds of noise when people walked around, but each squeak and creak seemed louder when your alone in the dark in the middle of night. My heart jumped up into my throat as the steps drew closer and I heard them fall on the first step. I could hear the slight groan of the railing as they moved down the stairs. The blood was pounding in my ears and my throat was dry as I nervously gripped the flashlight. This was it!
Finally, I saw a ray of light as it rounded from the stairs and fell on the tree. There was a soft shuffling as I watched the light bob over the tree, Don't jump to soon Jimmy boy, too soon and you may not catch him in the act. The shuffling grew louder as the light turned away from the tree, it was then I heard him speak.
"Jimmy? Son? You still awake?"
Rats, it was just Dad. I opened the door quickly and flicked on the light and motioned him in, whispering, "Quick Dad!" Once inside, I told him how he could have ruined my chance at finding Santa! I mean what if he had come by and saw Dad creeping around and thought it was me? He have been scared off. Dad had assured me that it was okay, see he had been watching the news upstairs and they reported that Santa was just spotted up in Winston, and that was just an hour away! He had wanted to tip me off to be ready. He slipped me a mug of hot coco to keep me sharp, and told me that he wouldn't bother me anymore. he knew what I was doing was important!
I drank my coco and watched my Dad head back upstairs. I stayed at the crack of the door for what felt like hours, my eyes getting heavier every minute. I drank more of the coco, tasting the warm milk and chocolate powder, saving one marshmallow for the last drink. After I finished it, I slid the mug deeper into the closet, and snuggled up in the blanket. The last thing I remember was sitting at the door, peering out the crack.
Imagine my surprise when I felt my Dad shaking my shoulder. I had tried to tell him that he had promised not to check on me 'till morning, but he had opened the door wide and the sunlight was streaming in. IT WAS MORNING! I HAD FALLEN ASLEEP! I bolted from the tangle of blankets and sped to the living room. There the tree was, still alight. You could see a fresh blanket of snow outside through the big window, it had fallen pretty heavy last night. More importantly, you could see the pile of gifts under the tree. I had missed him.
I sat down on the couch, staring at the empty plate of cookies and the looking at the small ring of soy milk around the bottom of the cup. I can't believe I had missed him. Me, Eight an a Half years old, in the prime of my life, and I had fallen asleep on the job. Dad didn't have to ask me why I looked so sad. It was Christmas and Santa Claus had brought me tons of presents. My stocking was stuffed and I even saw that new bike I had wanted (with pegs for doing tricks!) with a big bow on it beside the tree. He already understood I think. I had wanted to catch him and get my wish. See, if I had caught Santa then I could have wished Mom back. That the accident had never happened and that we could be a whole family again. I missed Mom.
Dad put his arm around me on the couch and and handed me a a red envelope. It was tied with green ribbon and and great green bow. I looked at the name on it, my name, and it was written in gold lettering, sparkling with little golden flecks.
"This was left for you beside the cookies Son."
I tore open the letter, ripping the ribbon off with my fingers. I opened it an inside was a plain red card with gold and green foiled words on it. I cracked it open, looking at the fancy script (Cursive!) and read it. It said,
I see you have not given up on your dreams of catching dear old Santa Claus in the act. Don't give up on those dreams my boy. I have never met a boy full of such wonder and promise, who offers me such challenge year after year. You were very close this year my young friend, very close. Perhaps next year you will get you wish. Don't give up hope young man. Christmas is time for dreams, don't give up on yours. Merry Christmas!
It was signed by Santa Claus! I had almost got him! Me, Eight and a Half year old Jimmy Prachett! I showed the letter to Dad who smiled, his eyes lighting up when he looked at me. He pulled me into a great hug, laughing and rustling my hair. The Dad congratulated me and swept me up, setting me down by my presents. You know what I thought, there IS always next year. Santa knew what I was capable of and I was gonna catch him. Why should I be sad, I had my Dad, a sweet new bike, and a load of other good stuff, though there probably WAS some clothes in there. Santa can't keep avoiding me forever you know. After all, imagine how smart I am gonna be next Christmas, I'll be Nine and a Half by then!
End of Line.