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Friday, October 17, 2014

Chapter 1 of Real Santa (A Chapter a day until Christmas)


                                                 The Question
    “So, IF ALL the icecaps are melting, where will Santa Claus go

to build his toys?”

    Barbara Worthington frowned at the boy in the back row. Leave

it to Josh Pataki to throw the class into a tailspin. The fourth graders

had been sedate, even bored; now their little hands were shooting

up all over the classroom.

 "Well, Josh, think about it. How cold do you think it is in the

North Pole? Those are incredibly hostile conditions. How long do

you think a man with a beard and a red suit could survive up there?”

Mrs. Worthington looked at her class, and Josh Pataki in particular.

She was at the long end of her tether. Next year she would retire

after forty years of teaching. Forty years. And for forty years she had

been fielding questions about Santa Claus.

“I don’t understand what you mean,” Josh said through his

coke-bottle glasses and stoppered nose. He had been a walking

plague all year, and now he was doing the wrist roll with his nose.

Mrs. Worthington handed him a Kleenex, walking in front of the

twenty-five sets of eyes of Ridgeland Elementary.

“Well, Josh, Santa Claus supposedly lives in the North Pole in

brutal subzero temperatures with an ice pack surrounding the pole

and unbelievable snowstorms. Not much lives up in the North Pole

even with global warming, which by the way has not been proven.

So my question is simply, how would Santa Claus survive up there?”

Josh rolled his shoulders.
“He would live in his complex built by elves like in Santa Clause 2."
“Hmm … and how do these elves build this complex up there?

Where do they get their funding? Where do they get their skill set

to create this mythical complex? Where would they get building

materials, electricity?”

More hands shot up.

“Children, we are not going to stop our science hour to talk about

Santa Claus.”

The hands started to fall until there was only one arm still up in

the back. Mrs. Worthington motioned her hand down, but the kid’s

hand stayed up there anyway. This was all Megan Kronenfeldt. The

girl was bright, independent, and as literal as an accountant. She had

a habit of calling out points that contradicted what Mrs. Worthington

had mentioned a week before. She was almost a savant.

“Yes, Megan,” Mrs. Worthington said wearily.

“Then what I understand you to be saying, Mrs. Worthington,

is there is no Santa Claus in the North Pole because no one could

survive without a facility and you don’t believe there are the elves or

anybody else to build that facility.”

Mrs. Worthington stood with a faint blush coming to her cheeks.

She saw the e-mails raining down from above. Parents would crash

the school server with their onslaught of indignation that she dared

to destroy the myth of Santa Claus. Deloris Ketchum had been forced

into early retirement for saying that Santa Claus was a myth. The

parents had e-mailed the district, the superintendent, even the mayor.

Deloris retired five years early with just half of her pension.

And now Mrs. Worthington was standing in the same crosshairs.

“Well, Megan, I’m just saying that weather conditions are harsh

in the North Pole and that people must be prepared to meet those

conditions … including Santa Claus.”

Megan stared at her, and Mrs. Worthington had a sudden image
of Natalie Wood in Miracle on 34th Street staring down her mother

and saying, “He’s just a nice old man with whiskers, but he’s not really

Santa Claus.” Megan’s eyes stared at her in the same disbelief as that

young child star.

“That is not what you said, Mrs. Worthington,” she countered,
shaking her head. “You told us to think about it and inferred it was

too cold for Santa Claus to survive and that elves could not really

build a facility for him to build his toys, therefore, ergo, there is no

Santa Claus.”
Ergo! Ergo! Where do these children get their words? Maybe it

was better she was retiring. These were not the same children she

started with in 1975. These children surfed, texted, tweeted, Skyped,
downloaded, and used words like ergo.

“Now, Megan, I did not say that,” she replied, smiling icily. ”Let’s

not put words in my mouth.”

“Yes you did. You said that, Mrs. Worthington,” Josh chimed in.

She glared at Josh Pataki, and he slumped down in his chair. She

turned to Megan sitting at her desk with her hands clasped and her
two pigtails sprouting like antenna. “Now, Megan, of course there is a

Santa Claus. I was just pointing out that there are certain conditions

we must be cognizant of and with global warming—”

“You didn’t say that, Mrs. Worthington. You said that elves

couldn’t build the type of facility that Santa Claus required. I think

what you are really saying is that you believe there is no Santa Claus.”

Mrs. Worthington stared at the child. This was the same one who

corrected her explanation of the Internet, saying the Department of

Defense had this capability much longer than people knew and the

network had been in place for a long time except they didn’t want

to release the technology to the general public. This walking science

book was now boring down with her hard twenty-first century logic.

“Megan, that is not what I said.”
“Mrs. Worthington, you said, think about it, there are very hostile

conditions in the North Pole and that a man in a red suit and a beard

really couldn’t survive—”
“Megan, that is not what I said! There is a Santa Claus! He lives in

the North Pole with his elves in a facility built by elves! I am retiring
at the end of this year! There is a Santa Claus, and he will give me

my pension and I WILL RETIRE! The fourth grade of Ridgeland Elementary stared at her. Megan

tilted her head and squinted.

“I didn’t think Santa Claus gave financial products, Mrs. Worthington.”

Mrs. Worthington stared at Megan as the bell rang. She sat down

behind her desk while the children put on their hats and gloves. She

closed her eyes and felt the stare. Megan Kronenfeldt stood by her


“Yes, Megan.”

“Mrs. Worthington, I thought pensions were regulated by the

state. I’m not sure Santa Claus could provide you with one of those.”

“Believe me, Megan,” she said wearily, “he’s bringing me a pension.”

Megan rolled her small shoulders fitted to her purple backpack.

“Oh, well. He must have filed an exception then to state laws.”

Real Santa "If someone doesn't make movie out of this book there is something wrong witht the world." Booklist Starred Review



Books by William Hazelgrove