Saved By the Jingle Bells

“You can’t spank me, I’m Santa!”

Yes, okay, that sounded ridiculous. But the whole situation was ridiculous. We were only having fun! Isn’t that what Christmas is all about?

Most ridiculous of all was how serious Quint managed to look in an elf costume. “One,” he said, raising an eyebrow beneath the brim of his floppy felt hat.

How he’d even level up the punishment here, without the paddle, I had no idea, yet I wasn’t willing to risk it. I went and stood in front of the chair he’d moved back from his desk into the center of his hospital office, and he tipped me over his lap. The fuzzy, white-trimmed red jacket still covered my butt — did I mention I was Santa? — though not for long. Pushing it up, he rested a hand on the seat of my pants. I wiggled.

“Young man, what did I specifically tell you about having wheelchair races?”

“…Not to, but the kids wanted to see one!”

“Which is why I left them with adult supervision. Or I thought I had. Do you want to be banned from volunteering here?”

My eyes prickled. I didn’t think about how seriously the hospital might take my bit of clowning around. What if the nurse I’d roped into racing against me got in trouble with his supervisors, too? Hanging my head down lower, I said, “No, sir. I’m sorry.”

“I’m glad to hear that,” he said, before landing the first swat.

I was caught off guard by how much it still hurt, even with the thick costume pants muffling it into a thud. My arms flailed a bit, and one hand happened to brush the toe of his shoe.

It jingled.

A picture popped into my mind of what we must look like. A skinny Santa Claus with his white beard pulled down around his neck, being spanked by an overgrown elf complete with pointy ears. Quickly, I bit down on the inside my cheek, but it was too late.

“Theodore, are you laughing?”

“I c-can’t help it!” I said. “I’m Santa! That means I’m j-j-jolly.”

He tapped his toe against the floor twice, and the bell rang again, sending me into a fresh round of giggles.

“Well,” he said, “we aren’t going to get very far with this, are we?”

“Ssssorry, I really can’t– ”

“I know.” Suddenly, he was helping me upright again, and standing himself. Once we were face-to-face, he waited patiently for me to stop laughing, and then said, “Promise me you won’t race wheelchairs again.”

“I promise, sir,” I said, with perhaps a fifth of the appropriate solemnity. It satisfied him, though.

“Thank you. Let’s get back to the North Pole, hmm?”

Nodding, I readjusted my beard and followed him out into the empty, dimly-lit hallway of the administrative section, listening to his feet jingle with every step. I was glad they had interrupted, but not because it saved me from a sore rear end, believe it or not. Because there were children still waiting for their visit from Santa.

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