S.L.E.I.G.H. • by Autumn Ives

Alfred and Eldrid crept down the chimney, their tiny bodies moving easily in the cramped space. Hanging upside down, the elves scanned the living room for traps. As members of Santa’s Legendary Elite Investigative Getaway Helpers, or S.L.E.I.G.H. for short, they entered houses ahead of the big guy, searching for booby traps set by curious children or anything that might cause trouble for their boss.

“There’s a trip wire three feet ahead,” Alfred said.

“I see it,” replied Eldrid. “And there’s a net hanging from the ceiling fan.”

“Roger that. The stockings look clear.”

“Wow, that’s a big cat!” cried Eldrid.

Alfred turned and found an enormous white cat sleeping on the back of the sofa, a festive red and green ribbon tied around its neck.

“Good thing we’re quiet. Move out.”

The elves worked quickly, dismantling the traps and clearing the way for Santa.

“All clear,” Alfred said, radioing the sleigh.

The static reply that Santa was on his way came through, and they turned for the chimney.

Spying the treats left for Santa on the mantle, they stopped short. And Alfred knew exactly what Eldrid was thinking.

Double chocolate cream cheese brownies.

Sprinting toward the fireplace, Alfred scaled the bricks, skidding to a halt by the plate at exactly the same time as Eldrid. Since Santa only ate cookies, the two elves faced off over the three brownies, each grabbing one and stuffing his mouth full.

Chewing as fast as he could, Alfred choked on partially chewed chocolate and laid his hands on the third at the same time as Eldrid. A tug of war ensued, each struggling for control, inching closer and closer to the middle of the treat. Just before the brownie tore in two, they both stepped on the lip of the plate, sending it careening off the mantle to crash on the brick hearth below.

The two elves froze, staring at the broken plate on the floor beneath them, the resounding crash echoing like a cannon blast in the silent night. Alfred looked over his shoulder and caught the disapproving frown of a reindeer staring upside down at him and Eldrid through the picture window.

Noises sounded from upstairs. So much for the best laid plans of mice and elves.

“Did you hear something break?” said a woman’s voice.

“Burglars!” a man exclaimed. “They always hit on Christmas Eve!”

The elves sprang into action. Leaving the plate, Alfred jumped from the mantle and raced to the couch. Thankful elves could bench press ten times their body weight, he grabbed the oversized cat and launched it at Eldrid, who caught it in mid-meow. Plopping it next to the glass of milk, Eldrid leaped to the hearth, meeting Alfred.

Ascending the chimney together, they encountered another problem.

A large red problem with black boots.

“Boss!” they called, while trying to stop his descent. “It’s not safe!”

Alfred tried really hard not to the think of the big red bottom pressing into his back.

“Now is not the time to tell me this, boys,” Santa said, huffing and puffing. “I’ve got a sack full of heavy toys squishing my face.”

Knowing the heavy breathing would give them away, Alfred reached into his pocket and sprinkled some elven dust to mute any sounds. The lights clicked on, and he heard the owners approach the chimney.

“That silly cat must have knocked over the plate,” the husband said, crouching down by the fireplace to sweep the ceramic fragments into a dustpan.

Alfred heard the cat jump down from the mantle. As sweat began to bead across his brow, he looked down and found himself staring at a pair of blue eyes in a white furry face. The cat sniffed and pawed at the chimney. As Alfred tried to readjust his footing, his boot slipped off and fell, a sprinkling of soot falling gently atop it and the cat’s face.

In horror, he watched the feline grab his shoe, but before it could run, it was scooped up off the ground.

“Look at your face!” the wife said. “You’re not a dalmatian. And did you steal this bootie from the elf on the tree?”

When the faucet sounded from the kitchen, a low, feline growl reverberated into the living room. Perspiration dripped from Alfred’s nose as his body shook under the exertion of holding Santa in place.

Finally, the lights clicked off, and the elves released their hold on Santa, the three of them landing with a boom! As the elven dust floated around the room, Santa stepped from the chimney and brushed himself off. Alfred wiped his face with his sleeve — and found the freshly scrubbed cat glaring at him and chewing on his boot. After retrieving his footwear, he slouched back over to Santa.

“Would you two like to tell me why you gave me the all clear?”

As he and Eldrid stammered, the big guy sniffed the air.

“Double chocolate cream cheese brownies?” he asked. When they hung their heads, Santa nodded.

“Since it’s Christmas, I’ll overlook it. But next time, you boys will be on reindeer clean-up duty. Understand?”

When they nodded, Santa sent them on their way.

“And Alfred?” Santa asked. “When you get to the sleigh, bring me back something for the cat.”

“Yes, sir.”

Alfred returned a moment later with a stuffed mouse. After handing it to the traumatized cat, he disappeared up the chimney, leaving Santa to set out the presents. While he and Eldrid headed to the next house, he hoped there would only be cookies.

Autumn Ives started writing at the age of 10 and has published stories in Splickety Love and Splickety Prime. When she’s not busy arguing with the voices in her head, you can find her playing mom, hiking in the woods, or curling up with a good book. She lives in Ohio with her family and pets.

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