It was the night before Christmas and all over the world little boys and girls were hanging up their stockings and arranging mince pies prettily on doilied platters. Snow was falling from the big, black, clear, starry sky and church bells rang out for all the world to hear. There was a certain kind of magic in the air and everyone was happy.
No laughter filled the air at the Grimnozzle Orphanage in Sickiton, a little town in a particularly nice and wholesome part of the U.S.A. The children there had no stockings to hang on the jagged remains of the empty coalless fireplace, they sang no joyous Yuletide songs nor did they nibble mince pies. The children slept on smelly, mouldy, torn mattresses on the draughty stone floor and some of them didn't know what Christmas meant.
But Bob did. He lay on his stained and smelly mattress with tears in his eyes as he remembered last Christmas. His ma and pa had saved all year to buy him a Sega Megadrive and his ample stocking had been brimming with goodies. But on Boxing Day his parents went to the shop to buy some sprouts and didn't come home. And now he lived here. Every day Bob would put his little hands together and pray to the baby Jesus to bring back his mother and father so that he could go home.
The owner of the Grimnozzle Orphanage was a tall, thin, scary woman called Hildegog Wentlesplice-Nipnip. She had thin watery lips which curled downwards, framed by a curvaceous moustache which hung down to her pointy chin. Her face was an explosion of hair and warts, and her grotesque body sagged and flopped despite its unnatural thinness. Her eyes were grey and menacing and her long twisted fingers were scabby and wrinkled. All in all, she was a pretty unattractive woman. I think you get the message. Anyway, Hildegog wasn't very nice. She hated children and used the money from the council that she was given for their care to finance her award winning Beatles memorabilia collection.
So, Christmas was an unhappy time for the children of Grimnozzle, a time of longing and memories and yesterday's re-heated gruel. Bob tossed and turned on his little mattress trying desperately to sleep but he was far too miserable. He got out of bed and went to the window (I say window - it was actually more like a hole in the wall with a bit of yellowed newspaper losing its fight to keep out the bitter cold) to look out at the glittery snow which was still falling silently from the big, black, clear, starry sky. Father Christmas would never find him here. There would be no tastefully wrapped mysterious presents beneath the no tree that they didn't have at Grimnozzle. Bob looked out at all the families playing in the snow and thought again of his own beloved parents. And then Bob saw something in the sky. At first he thought it was a helicopter. Then he thought it might be a bird or a plane. Then he thought maybe it was Superman. But it wasn't.
"My!" he gasped, "It's Father Christmas!"
And it was as well.
Santa's sledge came to a halt on the roof of the Grimnozzle Orphanage and Santa got out and scratched his beard. Bob darted up the fire escape and onto the roof top.
"Santa!" he cried, "I thought you wouldn't come!"
"Ho, ho, ho!" said Santa, predictably, "I always visit every little girl and boy, ho, ho, ho. Why did you think this year would be any different?"
"But the children here have never had any presents," explained Bob, "They told me."
Santa looked puzzled.
"But every year I get a little note from the children of Grimnozzle which clearly states the requirements of every child here," he said, "Ho, ho, ho."
He started to fumble in his pocket, "Mmm. I have it here somewhere." He pulled out a crumpled piece of paper and passed it to Bob. It read:
Dear Mr. Christmas,
This year we would like a signed picture of Ringo Starr, a limited
edition gatefold twelve inch of Hard Day's Night with free postcards on
coloured vinyl and a life-sized blow-up John Lennon doll. Please do not
come down the chimney as you might wake us up and we will be very tired
after all the excitement of our big Christmas Eve party and very full
after eating lots of nice imported chocolates and drinking freshly
squeezed orange juice. Instead, please leave our presents in our
beloved Aunt Hildegog's room for safe keeping.
"So, that's why we never get any presents. Hildegog is keeping them all for herself and hoarding them, just as she does with our food and clothes money. The evil old witch!" And Bob told Father Christmas all about it. Santa shook his head in disbelief.
"Ho, ho, ho," he said sadly, "Well, it is certainly a shame young Bob. But there is nothing I can do for you now. All my presents are accounted for. Of course, I shall make sure the children get to keep all this Beatles stuff, ho, ho, ho."
"Don't bother," said Bob sadly, "The children here don't like the Beatles. They're more into Take That and East 17."
"I know!" said Santa suddenly, "How would you like a Map-Of-The-London-Underground tea towel? I think I have a spare one of those!"
"No thanks," said Bob.
Santa got back into his sledge.
"God," he said, "It's been a bloody miserable Christmas. First of all I
discover I was all out of reindeer petrol, then I couldn't find my
regulation sodding fluffy red hat. I've spent all evening delivering
hefty computer equipment and bleeding Power Rangers( to a bunch of
spoilt ungrateful little snotty nosed brats. I've just had to put up
with a four hour long sob story from a couple who lost their little boy
last Boxing Day and now
"What did you say?" asked Bob excitedly.
"Oh yes," said Santa, "A right pair of whinging miseries, the pair of 'em. Apparently they were suffering from a severe case of temporary amnesia brought about by inhaling sprout fumes and by the time they had recovered their only son had vanished."
"Sprout fumes? Why, they sound like my parents!"
"Really?" asked Santa, "Well, hop into the sledge and I'll take you to them!" So Bob did have a nice Christmas afterall. He was reunited with his loving parents who had bought him another Sega Megadrive in the hope he would return. And later that night, the evil Hildegog dropped dead from horridness and her collection of Beatles memorabilia was sold off and the profits used to buy parents for all the other children. Bob hugged Santa as he said his goodbyes.
"Thank you, Santa! I can never fully repay you. Could I offer you a glass of warm milk and a home made mince pie?"
"God, no!" said Santa, "I hate mince pies. They taste like shit. I don't suppose you've got a bottle of Newky Brown and a couple of B&H I could pinch, have you?"