Authors: Jeff Brown
Tags: #Age 7 and Up
“Bah!” said the voice. “Go home!”
“What a terrible temper!” Stanley said. “He doesn’t want to meet us at all!”
met him once,” Arthur whispered. “In a department store.”
“That wasn’t the real one, dear,” Mrs. Lambchop said.
“Too bad,” said Arthur. “He was much nicer than this one.”
Sarah stepped forward. “Poppa? Can you hear me, Poppa?”
“I hear you, all right!” said the deep voice. “Took the Great Sleigh without permission, didn’t you? Rascal!”
“The letter on your wall, Poppa?” Sarah said. “The Lambchop letter? Well, they’re
, the whole family! It wasn’t easy, Poppa! I went down their chimney and scraped my knee, and then I banged it, the
knee, when I—”
“SARAH!” said the voice.
Sarah hushed, and so did everyone else.
“The flat boy, eh?” said the voice. “Hmmmm …”
Mrs. Lambchop took a comb from her bag and tidied Arthur’s hair. Mr. Lambchop straightened Stanley’s collar.
“Come in!” said the voice behind the door.
The room was very dark, but it was possible to make out a desk at the far side, and someone seated behind it.
The Lambchops held their breaths. This was perhaps the most famous person in the world!
“Guess what, Poppa?” said Sarah, sounding quite nervous. “The Lambchops know
for our reindeer!”
No answer came.
“Names, Poppa, not just
! There’s Dashes and Frances and—”
“Dasher,” said Stanley, “then Dancer, then—”
Frances!” cried Sarah. “Or is it
“Waste of time, this!” said the figure behind the desk. But then a switch clicked, and lights came on.
The Lambchops stared.
Except for a large TV in one corner and a speaker-box on the desk, the room was much like Mr. Lambchop’s study at home. There were bookshelves and comfortable chairs. Framed letters, one of them Stanley’s, hung behind the desk, along with photographs of Mrs. Christmas, Sarah, and elves and reindeer, singly and in groups.
Sarah’s father was large and stout, but otherwise not what they had expected.
He wore a blue zip jacket with “N. Pole Athletic Club” lettered across it, and sat with his feet, in fuzzy brown slippers, up on the desk. His long white hair and beard were in need of trimming, and the beard had crumbs in it. On the desk, along with his feet, were a plate of cookies, a bowl of potato chips, and a bottle of strawberry soda with a straw in it.
“George Lambchop, sir,” said Mr. Lambchop. “Good evening. May I present my wife, Harriet, and our sons, Stanley and Arthur?”
“How do you do.” Sarah’s father sipped his soda. “Whichever is Stanley, step forward, please, and turn about.”
Stanley stepped forward and turned about.
“I blew him up,” said Arthur. “With a bicycle pump.”
Sarah’s father raised his eyebrows. “Very funny. Very funny indeed.” He ate some potato chips. “Well? What brings you all here?”
Mr. Lambchop cleared his throat. “I understand, Mr.—No, that can’t be right. What
the proper form of address?”
“Depends where you’re from. ‘Santa’ is the American way. But I’m known also as Father Christmas,
Père Noel, Babbo Natale, Julenisse
… Little country, way off somewhere, they call me ‘The Great Hugga Wagoo.’”
“Hugga Wagoo?” Arthur laughed loudly, and Mrs. Lambchop shook her head at him.
Mr. Lambchop continued. “We understand, sir—
, if I may?—that you propose not to make your rounds this year. We are here to ask that you reconsider.”
“Reconsider?” said Sarah’s father. “The way things are these days? Hah! See for yourselves!”
The big TV in the corner clicked on, and he switched from channel to channel.
The first channel showed battleships firing flaming missiles; the second, airplanes dropping bombs; the third, cars crashing other cars. Then came buildings burning, people begging for food, people hitting each other, people firing pistols at policemen. The last channel showed a game show, men and women in chicken costumes grabbing for prizes in a pool of mud.
Sarah’s father switched off the TV. “Peace on Earth? Goodwill toward men? Been wasting my time, it seems!”
“You have been watching
too much television,” said Mrs. Lambchop. “No wonder you take a dim view of things.”
“Facts are facts, madam! Everywhere, violence and greed! Hah! Right here in my own office, a whole family come begging for Christmas treats!”
The Lambchops were deeply shocked.
“I’m greedy sometimes,” said Stanley. “But not always.”
“I’m quite nice, actually,” Arthur said. “And Stanley’s even nicer than me.”
, dear,” said Mrs. Lambchop. “Nicer than
Mr. Lambchop, finding it hard to believe that he was at the North Pole having a conversation like this, chose his words with care.
“You misjudge us, sir,” he said. “There is indeed much violence in the world, and selfishness. But not everyone—we Lambchops, for example—”
“Hah! Different, are you?” Sarah’s father spoke into the little box on his desk. “Yo! Elf Ewald?”
“Central Files,” said a voice from the box. “Ewald here.”
“Ewald,” said Sarah’s father. “Check this year’s letters, under ‘U.S.A.’ Bring me the ‘Lambchop’ file.”
Elf Ewald had come and gone, leaving behind a large brown folder.
“Not greedy, Lambchops? We shall see!” Sarah’s father drew a letter from the folder and read it aloud.
“ ‘Dear Santa, My parents say I can’t have a real car until I’m grown up. I want one now. A big red one. Make that two cars, both red.’ Hah! Hear that? Shameful!”
Mrs. Lambchop shook her head. “I should be interested,” she said, “to learn who wrote that letter?”
“It is signed—hmmmm … Frederic. Frederic Lampop.”
Stanley laughed. “Our name’s not ‘Lampop!’ And we don’t even know any Frederics!”
happen, you know! I get
of letters!” Sarah’s father drew from the folder again. “Ah! This one’s from
“‘Dear Santa,’ he read. ‘I hope you are fine. I need lots of gifts this year. Shoes and socks and shirts and pants and underwear. And big tents. At least a hundred of each would be nice—’ A hundred!
“It does seem a bit much, Stanley,” said Mr. Lambchop. “And why tents, for goodness sake?”
“You’ll see,” said Stanley.
Sarah’s father read on. “ ‘… of each would be nice. But not delivered to my house. It was on TV about a terrible earthquake in South America where all the houses fell down, and people lost all their clothes and don’t have anywhere to live. Please take everything to where the earthquake was. Thank you. Your friend, Stanley Lambchop. P.S. I would send my old clothes, but they are mostly from when I was flat and wouldn’t fit anybody else.’ ”
“Good for you, Stanley!” said Mrs. Lambchop. “A fine idea, the tents.”
“Hmmph! One letter, that’s all.” Sarah’s father chose another letter. “This one’s got jam on it.”
“Excuse me,” said Arthur. “I was eating a sandwich.”
“ ‘Dear Santa,’ Sarah’s father read, ‘I have hung up a pillowcase instead of a stocking—’ Hah! The old pillowcase trick!”
“Wait!” cried Arthur. “Read the rest!”
“ ‘… instead of a stocking. Please fill this up with chocolate bars, my favorite kind with nuts. My brother, Stanley, is writing to you about an earthquake, and how people there need clothes and tents and things. Well, I think they need food too, and little stoves to cook on.
So please give them the chocolate bars, and food and stoves. The bars should be the big kind. It doesn’t matter about the nuts. Sincerely, Arthur Lambchop.’