Pink Santa is a Christmas novelette of twelve chapters, posted serially by me, your snow-starved host, Cheeseburger Brown.
I hope everyone out there has a merry Christmas, or the nearest faith- or culturally-appropriate equivalent. Thanks for your readership this year. It means a lot to me to know there's people out there.
Announcements: with this, the concluding chapter of our Christmas story, this weblog is going on hiatus until New Year's Day when we'll kick off 2007 with The Bikes of New York, a grim tale of hardship and courage set in the near future. Please do remember to stop by to check it out.
And now, let's wrap up our yuletide adventure:
It was the day before Christmas.
Brother Dominick, Mike and Chloe strolled up Yonge Street surrounded by busy shoppers and honking cars throwing sleet up onto the sidewalk. They sipped their cups of soup and smiled, kicking up flurries from the snowbanks and whistling along to carols playing from the speakers of clothing stores.
They walked into the Hudson Bay Company's department store and wandered to the penny fountain. "Well, children," said Brother Dominick solemnly, "it's about time I got moving."
"Are you going back to the North Pole now, Santa?" asked Mike.
Brother Dominick nodded, scratching his stubbly face where his beard was growing back in. "That's right, Mike. But I think I have to make a couple more Christmas wishes come true before I go."
"Like what?" asked Mike.
"Well," said Brother Dominick, putting his hands behind his back, "do you remember Brother Walenty?"
The children nodded.
"Brother Walenty was just a little boy when he helped out the Order, and now he's a novice monk on his way to becoming a full-blown agent." Brother Dominick looked at Mike significantly. "The Order is always in need of boys who truly understand the true meaning of Christmas."
"Yes," said Brother Dominick. "Mike, how would you like to come back with me to the North Pole? How would you like to be Brother Michael?"
Mike gasped. "Me? A Santa?"
"That's right. It isn't always an easy life, but it is a good life, and a meaningful life. You're just the kind of boy we know will keep the promises he makes, who will work hard to make children happy."
"Really?" asked Mike.
"Really," said Brother Dominick, nodding. "All I have to do is make the call," he added, gesturing toward the payphones along the wall. "What do you say, Mike?"
Mike bit his lip and cuddled his fuzzy sock friend. He looked around the mall at all of the people rushing to and fro, his eyes lingering on kids being carried by their parents, begging to be let go so they could run over to throw a penny in the fountain. Mike watched as the parents gave their kids pennies and smiled to themsleves while they watched their kids run.
"Santa," said Mike, "I want a fambly."
"The Order is very much like a family," said Brother Dominick.
Mike shook his head. "I want a fambly with a mommy and a daddy. That's what I wish for on Christmas, Santa. A real fambly who would let me live at their house, and be nice to me, and play with me."
Brother Dominick looked chagrined for a second but he smiled quickly to cover it. He reached out and ruffled Mike's black hair. "That is a fine, fine Christmas wish. And I'll do everything I can to make it come true for you."
Mike smiled. Chloe tugged on Brother Dominick's sleeve. "What about me, Santa?"
"Do you want a family too, Chloe?" asked Brother Dominick.
"No," said Chloe. "I want to become a Santa."
Brother Dominick blinked. "Um...but, my dear --" he stammered.
"What?" asked Chloe.
"Er..." mumbled Brother Dominick. "It's just that -- well, you're a girl. All of the monks in the Order are boys."
Chloe put her hands on her hips and stuck out her lip. "So?" she challenged, fire in her eyes. "Who says there can't be a girl Santa Claus just because there hasn't been one yet? I could be the first one!"
"Well..." said Brother Dominick, rubbing his chin.
"Come on!" pressed Chloe. "I saved Christmas, Santa! You know I did! We all did it together!"
Brother Dominick wore a thoughtful expression. He began to nod, and then he smiled. "My dear Chloe, you're absolutely right. You've shown a generosity of spirit and a dedication to action as good or better as most of the brothers I've ever known, and that deserves to be rewarded." He put his hand on her shoulder and looked into her eyes. "Chloe, the Order of Saint Nicholas would be honoured to have you."
Chloe grinned, then paused to ask, "Would it be okay if I don't want to wear a red suit?"
"Of course! What colour would you prefer?" asked Brother Dominick.
"Pink," said Chloe.
"So it shall be, Pink Santa," said Brother Dominick warmly.
He made his telephone call back to headquarters and a few more calls to arrange the journey, then all three got into a taxicab. Brother Dominick explained the itinerary to Chloe. "We'll pick up documents from an agent in Montreal, then take the train to New York City. From there we'll catch an airplane to Miami, then change planes and head to Bogota. From there we'll get on a train to Ushuaia in Argentina and onto the ship."
Chloe scratched her head. "But Santa, why are we going south? Isn't the North Pole up north?"
"No, my dear," explained Brother Dominick. "Remember the rules of magnetism: like polarity repels, and unlike polarity attracts."
"I don't understand," admitted Chloe.
"The north end of a magnet points to the Earth's southern magnetic pole. That means..."
Mike gasped. "That means the North Pole is in Antarctica!"
"Exactly," smiled Brother Dominick. "The last place people tend to look for it."
The taxicab pulled up the curb beside St. Anne Mother of our Lady Orphange South with its familiar stained concrete steps and murky, yellowish windows. Brother Dominick told the driver to wait for a moment while Chloe and Brother Dominick got out to see Mike off. Brother Dominick said, "Don't worry, Mike. I have a feeling you won't be staying here for very long."
"Do you really think I'll get a fambly?" asked Mike.
"Our best agents are making arrangements as we speak," said Brother Dominick with a broad smile. "In just a few days you're going to be introduced to the Cuthbertsons. I'm assured they're the nicest kind of people, and I know they want very badly to adopt a little boy just like you. That's their Christmas wish."
"I'm somebody's Christmas wish?" echoed Mike.
"You certainly are," confirmed Brother Dominick. "So as you receive, you'll be giving, too."
Santa gave Mike a tight hug, then climbed back inside the taxi. Chloe shuffled up next and gave Mike a kiss on his forehead. She said, "When I ran away I thought I was going to have to be all alone. I never thought I'd be lucky enough to have a friend like you. Thanks, Mike."
"Awww," said Mike sheepishly. "I'm going to miss you, Chloe."
"I'll visit," she said. "I promise."
"Okay," agreed Mike.
Chloe stood back, and then pulled out of her pocket the pink paper crown that had come from her dinner cracker at Mr. Baron's house. She fixed it on her head with special dignity, and then waved broadly to Mike. "Ho ho ho!" she pronounced in a deep voice.
Mike giggled. "Goodbye, Santas," he said.
The taxicab pulled away, mixing with the downtown traffic and disappearing in seconds. Mike watched after it and then climbed the steps to the orphanage. He reached up on his tip-toes to open the front door, revealing Sister Bethany standing right there.
Mike cringed because he thought she would yell at him, but instead Sister Bethany scooped him up and embraced him, covering his chilly cheeks in kisses. "Mike! Oh, Mike! We were so worried about you! Thank God you're back, thank God!"
"Better thank Saint Nicholas, too," said Mike. "He helped."
Sister Bethany paused. "But what about Chloe? Do you know anything about Chloe?"
"Yeah," said Mike. "She's happy."
"But where is she, Mike?"
"She's with Saint Nicholas."
Sister Bethany got a faraway look in her eyes. "Really?" she whispered. "So the Order takes girls now?"
Mike was startled. "Yeah," he replied. "Yeah, they do take girls now." Then he furrowed his brow. "How do you know about the Order, Sister?"
Sister Bethany smiled sheepishly. "Once, when I was young..." she trailed off, and hugged Mike closer. "Nevermind that right now. Let's get you inside. We're having baked apples and singing carols. How does that sound to you?"
Mike grinned. "It sounds really good."
Sister Bethany put him down, and together they went inside, hand in hand.