His little digits blindly searched for the snooze button of his alarm clock. The Beatles, "Yellow Submarine" was quickly cut off as Marty flicked the button down. His arm wriggled back under the covers like a worm running from the sun. He was hoping to go another round of nine minutes of sleep. It was his third failed effort to shake off the cobwebs, and he was not eager to rise out of bed just yet. Now he laid there half in and half out of dreams. It was inevitable that he had to get up and prepare for his first day of work. It was that time of year again. The time of the year where Marty made most of his big cash jobs. Everyone wanted the little people they called midgets, dwarfs, half-pints, or some of the other colorful bigoted names they had for people of Marty's size. Marty didn't really care too much, he preferred the name midgets. Actually, the larger midget contingents were prejudice against the smaller variety. It was as if they were better because they had a few inches on them. Marty was above it all, and didn't care to discriminate against any of them no matter how tall or small they were.
Marty fell into the average to larger-sized midget class. He didn't really have any friends who were similar to him in this regard, but he did work with them at various jobs. He had appeared on a wrestling show, a variety comedy show, and a handful of movie and minor TV appearances. Throughout the year, Marty's agent booked him on just about anything to make a buck. Times were tough, so Marty couldn't afford to be picky. His college degree in accounting was nothing he ever planned to fall back on, since throughout life he felt he was never taken seriously. Who wants to have a little person in their life other than for comic relief? This was probably why most midgets were depressed and alcoholics. Marty had his share of liquor moments too, but they weren't as bad as they could be if he actually liked getting drunk.
Today was the beginning of the Holiday Season. As soon as Thanksgiving was over, the weekend at the Mall was a happening. The kids wanted to speak to Santa and tell him what they would like from the fat jolly man in red and white. Unbeknownst to the kiddies, they had no clue that most of the time Santa was an out of work actor or some temporary employee or a man trying to get a little extra for the holidays. Sometimes he was a grumpy old man, who got a kick out of having kids on his lap. Marty rather despised working with some of these Santas. He had to be the happy little elf assistant to Santa, and the conversations he would have with some of these creeps was disturbing.
There wasn't a calling for a four-foot, Santa, so Marty couldn't demonstrate what Santa should be portrayed as. Although Marty was Jewish, he would have loved to play Santa just one year. He wasn't religious and really enjoyed the holiday spirit that people had this time of the year. He extremely loved kids, but most of them saw him in the little green outfit with curled shoes and large pointy ears and laughed. Any dialogue he would have with them would be short and sweet. Sometimes their eyes filled with tears from the fear they had from the tiny man getting too close. This always made Marty feel sad. The older tikes would smile, but hardly say much to him. He was there to guide the kids to Santa and to hand the parents a coupon for 10% off anything in the Mall. His hands were tied, but he did receive nice wages. There were plenty of opportunities out there this time of year, so he just took the best offer presented to his agent.
When the music blared again from his alarm clock, Marty groaned and shut it off. Noticing it was a little before 8am, he had to get going. He was scheduled to be at the 24th Street Mall at 9am for prep work and costume fitting. The Mall opened up at 10am and the line of kids and their parents would be wrapped around the Christmas Display for Santa. The first day was always the worst, because parents now wanted to get pictures of their kids with Santa on their holiday cards. It was the new trend of cards and all parents wanted their kids to be the center of attention in their family and friends living room displays. Why anyone thought that was a good idea was beyond Marty. Since his circle of friends was small, Marty never had the pleasure of receiving such a card. Any such mailing he received was usually business-related including his agent. It was a lonely life and Marty kept a good attitude about it. He was always friendly with his co-workers, his various bosses and from time to time the girl he might pick up at a bar.
Sexual relations wasn't a hard thing for Marty because most women were curious to what it would be like to do it with a small person. He thought of himself as a very good lover. He knew he had to work harder because of his height disadvantage, but he was very strong and quite versatile in his approach towards women. He never had a complaint. On the contraire, they left him with the notion that he had been one of there best of lovers. His apparatus was not proportionate in relation to the rest of his body. He was well blessed with 7-inches, and his women were usually shocked at first glance. Marty figures they expect to see some tiny hanging flesh that would be more cute than accommodating. He might have shorter stubbier body parts, but at least God found it within his heart to make some things equal.
Now while sex wasn't a problem, love was. As soon as the curiosity was over, reality of sex with a midget hit home. Simply, no one wanted to be seen with a vertically challenged person. No normal sized girl wanted to have a midget as a boyfriend. If they did, Marty had not found her yet. He always left his number and never got one good one back. It was the nature of things. No return calls, no second dates, and no recognition. Marty enjoyed the sex, but hated the empty feeling he received afterwards. The last few times he said thanks and left. They didn't pursue him, so he felt it was easier on both of them.
At 33, Marty pretty much accepted his fate. He did his best to cheer himself up, but the holidays were tough since both his parents recently passed away. His Mom died two years ago, and his father last summer. They both were normal-sized, and Marty was their only child. He loved them both very much, and the holidays would not be the same without them. He just wanted to keep himself busy, and before he knew it the season would be over. He would be in great spirits as always and try to make the kids smile. If he was lucky he might get one to laugh in every 100 kids.
Marty arrived at the Mall on time and met immediately with the management board. They greeted him pleasantly and gave him the elf costume. It had the standard green cotton material with red-patched shoulders and knees. There was a black belt with big buckle in the middle that went over his shoulder and around his waist diagonally. The hat was also green with red trim and feather. He looked like a cross between Robin Hood and a girl scout. It was better than the stocking version where he had to basically wear a dress and had pantyhose. It was too cold in the Mall for his delicates to be encased in the nylon for 6 hours. He didn't understand women who wore them on cold wintry days.
"Where is Santa?" Garland Bastaw asked to his assistant Blair Doyle. Apparently, Santa, AKA Timothy Rutherford had not shown up yet. Marty didn't know this particular Santa, since most of them do not repeat appearances one year to the next at the same location. Marty had a great reputation, and that is why he was sought after for these types of appearances. This was his third appearance in four years here. The only year he missed, Marty's agent negotiated a better deal at a flea market in Long Island for the month. The following year, the Mall paid to make sure Marty came back and he did.
"We are calling him now Mr. Bastaw," Blair answered nervously. Blair Doyle was wearing a flowing dark green velvet dress, appropriate for the holiday season. Her legs were finely curved and wrapped in the sheerest of stockings, finished off sexily with a pair of high-heeled black boots that went halfway up her calves. She was a brunette with the bluest of eyes. Her pert nose and dimples were only accentuated by her smile. She looked to be in her mid-twenties, and a very appealing twenty it was. Her hair is shoulder length, a little longer than it was the previous years. It suited her quite nice.
"You know we only have a half an hour, and we need him here now," Garland demanded.
"Yes sir," Blair responded, "I am well aware of it. We told Mr. Rutherford to be here promptly at 9am." She glanced at her watch and shrugged her shoulders. Garland grimaced and looked at my general direction and back to Blair. She looked away at him, feeling the intimidating glare, and biting her nails nervously in response.
"Is he your contingency plan?" Garland inquired pointing at Marty. Blair caught this and looked quickly at Marty then back to her boss. What Garland was referring to was a backup plan just in case something went wrong. If Marty failed to show, they would just shove someone else out there to handout the coupons and make the most out of it. If Santa didn't show, then a store manager would be selected to be a temporary replacement until they called the temp agency and someone came over. They did not fall back on that until 15 minutes past the hour, just in case the actor showed up. For 15 minutes Marty would have to entertain the crowd, it was in his contract. He knew it, but in the 10 years or so that he was doing this, a Santa never failed to show up. He would also be paid more than was in his contract.
"Yes sir," Blair repeated. "We always go over the contingencies with our employees." Indeed she had in her first meeting with Marty, but that was two weeks ago when he met her to fill out the employment and tax forms. He smiled at Garland, trying to look confident in his little elf attire. Marty must have looked like he was a Keebler elf hawking cookies, because Garland just put a hand over his head and brushed back his greasy black hair. He looked disgusted.
"Come here elf," Garland ordered.
"His name is Marty," Blair corrected. Garland glared at her and looked down at his little green employee. Marty caught her eye and was grateful for the correction. He gave her a nod and she smiled back. Marty then turned to Garland and gave his best inquisitive look.
"Marty," Garland smiled, "we are in a bind as you can see. We need you to stall the crowd for a few minutes if this Santa doesn't show up. Can you do this?"
"I will work my magic," Marty replied happily. He was trying to figure out what exactly he would do, but right now he was hoping for the Santa to show up. He wanted to show his smooth exterior to this guy. He had a good reputation for a reason, and for any extra work he would do, he wanted to be rewarded for it. So he would look ready. Garland looked away then back.
"Nothing fancy, just let the crowd know Santa is in the back getting the presents ready and will be out shortly to make all the kids happy. You can do that can't you?"
"But of course, Mr. Bastaw," Marty agreed. Garland moved back to Blair and they muttered for a while before leaving Marty alone in his thoughts. A few minutes before 10am, Tim Rutherford came hustling into the office followed by a bustling Blair and an angry Garland. Marty took a deep breath and exhaled. Thank God he thought. Then Garland came out and walked briskly towards him.
"Well," Garland began, "the moron at least showed. Now I don't have to worry about getting dressed up all day in that itchy costume. Okay, Marty now just get out there and delay the crowd for a little while and we will play the music as soon as Santa is ready." Marty thought he was out of the woods, but he thought wrong. Marty was a little disappointed in hearing that Garland would have been the new Santa. It would have amused Marty to see him in that white beard and having kids pounce on his lap all day.
"Sure Mr. Bastaw," Marty responded with bravado. He would make the most of it. He had spoken in front of crowds before, maybe none this big, but he could do this. He poked his head out of the door to Santa's Workshop, which was the centerpiece of the Mall's Christmas display for Santa. He looked out at the crowd of parents and children lined snake-like around the exhibit. It looked like it was a rock concert ticket line. There were hundreds of people, maybe a thousand all waiting to meet Santa. Marty stepped out and the children screamed and the parents clapped their hands at what they thought was the start of the Santa pictures. Some cameras flashed around and Marty smiled with his best holiday spirit. He held up his hands to quiet the crowd and waved a little at the kids at the same time. As the parents stopped clapping Marty took the opportunity to drown out some of the kids with a loud finger whistle. He stuck a few fingers in his mouth and a hi-pictured whistle echoed within the Malls interior. The startled kids drew quiet at the surprising sound from the little green man.
"Hear Ye, hear Ye," Marty announced to the throne of people, "I am Marty the Elf, Santa's little helper and I am here to welcome you all to Santa's Workshop!" The kids all cheered and the parents once again clapped their hands. Marty held up his hands again, and this time the audience quickly quieted down. "I am glad to see all of Santa's favorite boys and girls here to greet him. He is in the back getting ready to see all your smiles. Santa loves smiles, so when you come up to tell him what you would like for Christmas make sure you give him the biggest, most spectacular, the grandest, and extremely widest smile you have ever given anyone in your entire lives. Can you kids do that?" Marty held his hand over his pointy right ear and listened as the kids screamed a resounding affirmation to his question. Marty smiled and did a little elf roll on the stage and the crowd approved with laughter and applause.
"Now let me see a show of hands," Marty paused for dramatic effect and to waste some time. Some kids raised their hands before Marty could ask his question. Then a flurry of little hands followed and the parents laughed at their silliness. "Ok, you guys got me. Now let me see a show of hands for those of you who are here for the first time?" A slew of hands, big and small flew high into the air. Marty could see some parents correcting some kids who didn't remember last year's Santa event. He continued, "That is real good. Now let me see a show of hands... for anyone who was never here before?" The parents laughed. Some kids looked confused but a lot of the same hands went up halfway, then all the way or back down.
"I see it's about the same number of people that is special," Marty amused. "Anyway, let me tell you a little about Santa's Workshop. I am not only Santa's helper, but chief elf in charge of making toys here at the workshop." Kids cheered enthusiastically. Marty bowed slowly, tipping his hat in front of him. "Santa might be in charge of the kids and who gets the toys, but I am the genius behind the big man. So if you want a toy, you see Santa and tell him with a great big smile, but just give me a wink, and I will make sure it gets my special attention." More cheers erupted followed by some blinking eyes. From the loud speakers above and around the winter display full of trees and giant fake gifts and tinsel, arose a song.
"Here comes Santa Claus, here comes Santa Claus, right down Santa Claus Lane. Vixen and Blitzen and all his reindeer are pulling on the reins. Bells are ringing, children singing..." Marty turned back to the Workshop door and waved his hands in dramatic fashion and got on one knee announced.
"Ladies, Gentlemen, and especially all you good little boys and girls, here's... Santa!" On cue, the red and white pudgy man threw open the door and waved to the crowd. Marty's job was done. He grabbed at the basket of coupons and put them close by him and led the first of the kids up to Santa.
Much to his surprise, Marty received many winks and smiles from the children and reassuring glances from the parents. Some of the parents engaged him in a little Christmas chat and wished him a delightful holiday season. Then when one of the kids wanted a picture with him, he smiled happily and agreed. This set a bit of a reaction from some of the other kids and a new trend had started. Some of the older boys even gave him high or low fives. He never had such a pleasant elf day as this one. Before he left for lunch, Blair took him to the side.
"Mr. Barstaw wanted me to thank you," she began. "We both think you did a really great job and want to reward you will a gift card of $100 for any store in the Mall. I hope that meets with your satisfaction?"
"Definitely," Marty answered. He was stunned by their generosity for his 5 or 10 minutes of work. He shook his head yes and accepted the gift graciously.
"It is our pleasure Marty, but we would also like another favor if you wouldn't mind?"
"Go on," Marty asked suspiciously.
"We were so enamored the way you worked that crowd earlier that we would love for you to do it everyday. Of course you will be handsomely compensated for your work in your paycheck. I believe we have had a great working relationship over the years with you, haven't we?"
"I would agree," Marty answered quickly. Thinking what handsomely amounted to in dollars. It was only 10 minutes at most, so it couldn't be much.
"We have contacted your agent and sent him the revised contract offer and he said as long if it is okay with you, then it is okay with him. We will let you discuss the numbers with him later and you can tell us tomorrow when you come here. He will fax the contract over with his signature attached and we will have you sign it when you arrive, or not. No problem either way. We just enjoyed your holiday cheer very much and think the crowd did too."
"What exactly is the offer?" Marty inquired.
"In a nutshell," Blair responded, "we want to make a profit if you take pictures with the kids. In exchange we will give you an increase of $500 for the season and $1 on every picture taken..."
"Let's say," Marty interrupted, "that every picture we take $1 goes to the Clairbourne Homeless Shelter. The $500 is more than sufficient, but if you wish to give me an incentive to do this then I want to make it worthwhile. Now if you wish to make it $2, then we both can feel like we are truly making a profit. My heart is rich this holiday season, how is yours Mrs. Doyle?"
"It's Ms. Doyle, but you can call me Blair," she smiled and looked warmly at Marty.
"Blair it is," Marty accented. He stared at her blue eyes, and she looked away shyly for a brief moment. Marty didn't recall a woman ever feeling shy towards him, but Blair seemed it. This made her even more attractive to him. He remembered from his talks with her in the past she had a darling daughter and a wonderful husband. Now she was telling him she was single. Something didn't add up, but he didn't want to pry.
"Let me discuss this Mr. Barstaw," Blair concluded, "and I will get back to you before the day is over. Hope you enjoy your lunch." Before Marty could answer, she turned and hurriedly skipped away. Sweet lady Marty thought, and she gets prettier every year.
After Lunch, Marty and Santa Timothy returned to their posts. They continued for a few more hours and then at 5pm to 6pm they ate dinner. No sign of Blair or Barstaw. The day finished with a few unhappy parents whose line was cutoff due to time. Nothing they could do about that, it was the nature of the holiday season. Marty and Timothy exchanged exhausted looks from their first long day. Timothy had informed him earlier that due to traffic and a bad sense of direction he was late. Marty didn't really care, since it gave him an opportunity to shine and he really enjoyed himself more than any other year. Blair met them by the exit and had a few words with Timothy about showing up on time in the future. He grinned at her stupidly and shook his head in ascension. She quickly turned to Marty as Timothy walked out.
"Thanks again for everything earlier you are a Godsend," Blair praised.
"I was just doing my job Blair," Marty returned. Her smile was infectious and Marty couldn't help to return it as well.
"Well," Blair said, "either way you are appreciated by the management staff. Mr. Barstaw thought it was a splendid idea and agreed to give a part of the proceeds to the Clairbourne Homeless Shelter as per your request. We have drawn up the papers and have faxed them to your agent. He is checking on some things and said he should have the contract back by tomorrow afternoon at the latest. So we will put everything off until Monday. Which gives us time to make some design changes to Santa's Workshop, so we have a place for pictures for you. Unless you have a change of heart we start on that immediately as well?"
"Feel free," Marty acknowledged. "I will talk everything over with my agent and make sure the contract has everything I asked for, then we have a deal. I will also be glad to make a speech tomorrow if you desire."
"It is not necessary, since we are not paying you yet to," Blair stated.
"It will be my pleasure to," Marty smiled at her again. He looked at her eyes and again she looked away shyly. He almost felt she was flirting with him in a small way, but he was probably misreading the signs.
"Thank you Marty, you seem to be a special man," She praised. Blair put her hand on his then suddenly turned away without making eye contact again. "Have a good night," she added waving her left hand to him.
"Good night," Marty responded and exited the Mall. Thinking about her warm touch the whole way home.
Over the next few weeks leading up to Christmas, Marty had the most fun of his life. The kids pounced on his lap, smiled, and laughed. Only 2 kids out of the nearly thousand whose pictures he had with them cried. The management staff made up a sign for him, "Marty the Elf: Special Assistant to Santa, and Chief Toy maker." Not bad for a 4-foot kosher midget. He wondered if they even knew he was Jewish, and if they did, were they laughing as he was? The Clairbourne Homeless Shelter personally called up the local media and had them come down to take pictures of Marty and interviewed him and Mr. Barstaw. It was good publicity, because the next day the line was double the size, and it was only Thursday, a week and a half before Christmas.
When he came to work on Christmas Eve, Marty was almost sorry to see it end. He was tired, but he loved the attention. He would have loved to have kids of his our, but he was cognizant of his fate in life. Sometimes you had to accept things for the way they were, and Marty had. He had seen too many of his kind wither away in depression. He felt it sometimes himself, but he was going to enjoy life, and not let those things he couldn't control get to him. Today the few kids who had not had opportunity to see Santa would be his main focus. That was all that occupied his thoughts when he went through the door to make his speech.
He looked out at the crowd and the first thing he noticed was Blair on line with what appeared to be a miniature version of herself. A little girl dressed up in a little red dress, ribbons of green and red in her black hair and the perfect smile. Just like her Mother. They both stood there looking at Marty with delight clapping their hands with the others in line. Marty smiled back and made his speech.
"Hear Ye, Hear Ye... boys, girls, and their beloved parents I greet you on behave of Santa and his Workshop." Applause filled the Mall on his announcement. Kids screamed with happiness and the parents held their kids up to see Marty the elf. The crowd wasn't as huge as past days, but there were still a sizable number of people in line. Marty continued, "As you all know, today Santa is a very busy man. It is Christmas Eve, and he has to get his sleigh ready, feed all his reindeer, make sure all you good boys and girls are taken care of. You are all good boys and girls right?"
A loud scream of "yes" echoed through Santa's Workshop and drifted up and around the Mall. On the upper floor, people stopped, and watched the show unfold from above. Marty raised his hands for the applause to become silent and it immediately did, save a few children laughing.
"Wonderful," Marty praised. "That is soooo... very important to Santa, and it is just as important to me. For those of you who don't know me, I am Marty the elf, special assistant to Santa, and chief toy maker." Some of the kids applauded Marty and the other children's eyes opened in awe. "That is right, chief toy maker! It is my job to make sure Santa gets his orders filled. I have been very busy this year making so many toys for all those good boys and girls. I haven't even had time to shop myself yet." There were scattered laughs, mostly from the parents. Blair giggled and Marty noticed how much she was enjoying the show from this vantage point. It was good to see her happy, she was working very hard to make sure the mall was being run smoothly during this busy time of year.
Last night Blair told Marty about how they caught some teen boys stealing from one of the Coffee Stores in the middle of the Mall. In today's marketplace, coffee stands expanded their sales to include freeze-dried coffee bags, mugs, tea collection set, newspapers, pastries, and even cappuccino makers. Two boys tried to help themselves to a five-finger discount of $50 gift cards. They were worthless without activation, but the point was moot. It was still theft. Blair told the boys, who were 13 and 14 that they would be getting their picture taken. The picture would be sent to all the police stations in the country and the next time they got caught, the computer would inform them of their crime committed that evening. They would then spend the night in jail and they would be given to the court for prosecution. Normally, she informed them, that they would be on their way to jail now, but it was Christmas and she would rather see the boys have a good Christmas than a bad one. She told the boys, their parents would not be called, but instead they had to help clean up a little trash in the back. She asked if they had a deal, and in their tear-filled eyes they said yes.
Blair knew the laws, and she couldn't force the kids to clean anything. It was just a ploy to confuse them. She took them to Marty after he was briefed of their wrongdoing. Marty told her that he had an idea, and that she should bring them to him. She was curious so she agreed. Since Marty was on his lunch break he had a little time to talk with the boys. When the boys arrived, Marty sat them down in front of him.
"Hi," Marty greeted, "my name is Marty and as you can see by my costume, I am an elf." The boys giggled. Marty snapped, "This isn't a time to laugh is it?"
"No," the two boys said in unison. They immediately ceased their laughter and stared at Marty as he continued.
"You boys did something wrong, and I am not sure you realize how wrong it was. You are very lucky it is the holidays, or Ms. Doyle here would have the police and your parents here right now. Would you guys rather have that or hear a midget in an elf costume lecture, you?" Blair held her hand over her mouth to hide her smile at Marty's remark.
"Lecture," the boys muttered.
"Good, you are in luck, because I happen to be a midget in an elf costume." The boys couldn't help but giggle a little at Marty's joke, but Marty stared at them fiercely and the smiles vanished. "I want to tell you that when you commit a crime, you don't just hurt the people you steal from, but you hurt the people who care about you the most, your family. You also hurt your future, because as you get older, people will always know what you did. It stays in your record as long as you live. Well, you might say, "if I didn't get caught then no one would know." True, but God knows, and even if you believe in him or not, Santa knows." The boys rolled their eyes at the remark about Santa. Marty smiled and looked at Blair and winked.
"You don't have to believe it is okay, it doesn't work that way. If you are good, there is payback for your deeds. You do something nice for someone, then somewhere along the way the favor is returned to you. When you do something bad, then it comes back to haunt you later on unless you correct it. Perhaps, you feel like you can't afford a gift so you stole to make someone happy. It doesn't matter the reason, you did something you know in your hearts was wrong. Am I right?"
"Yes," the boys answered quietly.
"Well, now you two have done something bad, and have been given a second chance. You could leave here and go somewhere else and try to steal again. Maybe you feel like everything I said to you isn't worth a plumb nickel. Maybe, just maybe, you will try and learn from your mistake and do right next time. It is not often we get a second chance in life to fix what we did wrong. You guys stole 2 gift cards worth $50 each. I got lucky this year and have a $100 gift card because I did something nice." Marty looked over at Blair and winked again. Blair just smiled back. "I am going to do something that might be a big mistake, but I believe in you guys. I want you guys to take this $100 gift card and give it to the sales clerk at the coffee stand and tell them how sorry you are for stealing from them. Blair here is going to give you the $50 coffee gift cards back and you can have them as a gift from me for the holidays. Show the sales clerk the $50 cards so she can scan them for you."
Both kids looked at each other, at Blair who was staring blankly at Marty with her mouth agape, and then back to Marty. They were dumbstruck at Marty's benevolence. One moment, they thought they would be in so much trouble, now they were getting a reward. It shocked them speechless.
"You see I have been given a good life," Marty continued, "and have always treated people just like I want to be treated. I want you boys to remember what I did for you, and when someone needs you, I want you to do what is right. In your heart, there is a voice that sings a tune only you can hear. Listen for that voice, and when you hear it, you will know what to do. I heard the voice today, and now I wish you boys a very happy holiday and may your new year bring joy to all around you." Marty held the gift card to the elder of the two boys, and he just looked at him in wonder. Not sure whether to pinch himself or take the card. Finally he took it and smiled at Marty.
"Thank you," he said, and the other boy followed suit. Blair escorted the boys out and looked back to Marty with fascination and wonder. She mouthed a thank you as well, and was gone.
Marty looked over the throng of people in front of him and a thought occurred to him. How many of these kids would grow up to bring their own kids here for pictures? This tradition was such a nice one sometimes he thought how fun it would be to celebrate it just once with a family. He looked back at Blair and her child, so happy being here, and wondered what their Christmas was like. What happened to her husband, to have her tell Marty she was now Ms. Doyle rather than Mrs. Doyle? The thought disappeared quickly under the spectacle of his stage.
"Now," Marty reengaged the audience, "all you good little children must prepare your biggest smiles for Santa. Santa loves to see great big, humongous smiles from pointed ear to pointed ear." The kids yelled out with laughter at their lack of pointed ears. "Oh, I see you children are not as lucky as me to have great big pointed ears. Well, that is too bad. Nevertheless, I want you to show Santa you're the biggest smiles of your lives. And..." He paused for dramatic effect and continued, "if you give me a wink after you are done with Santa, I will make sure your present gets the special attention it deserves. Okay?"
The kids screamed their acknowledgement to Marty, and he took a few steps backwards at their loud little voices. It was as if the sheer volume blew him back a few inches like a windy day. The music and lights came on and Marty introduced Santa and the cheers and applause erupted once again. The last day of Santa's Workshop was underway. When Blair had her daughter Sunny come up, Blair went to Marty and thanked him for everything.
"No need to thank me Blair," Marty reported, "I had the most fun I have ever had in any holiday season."
"Well, I am off for the rest of the day and I want you to know how much I enjoyed working with you. I must admit it's been tough since my husband left me 2 years ago, but this has been a surprisingly wonderful season for me as well." The news startled Marty.
"I am sorry I wasn't aware..."
"It's okay," Blair interjected, "he wasn't a real man anyway. He left Sunny and I without anything but a note saying he wanted to be single again. I hated men for so long. I am trying to move on, and after yesterday, and how you treated those boys, I saw how special some men could be. It gave me hope."
"Wow," Marty exclaimed shocked at her compliment. "That is the nicest thing anyone has ever said to me. Thank you so very much."
"No really, it is the truth. You are a very special person and I am sure your family is very proud of you."
Before Marty could respond, Sunny came over happily and winked at Marty. Marty smiled and picked her up and sat her on his lap.
"So Sunny," Marty greeted, surprising the young girl who didn't realize Marty knew her name. She looked at her mother with an open mouth and giggled. "What did you ask Santa for this year?"
"I asked him for a new doll, Maddy and a new bathrobe and a chair for Maddy, so we can sit together, and a... a... Lincoln the Boat and his friends Scutter and Bobbles and that's it." Sunny gave hand gestures for each item trying to convey the nature of her gifts. It was very cute and adorable. Her resemblance to Blair was unmistakable, especially her bright blue eyes which sparkled.
"That sure sounds like you know what you want," Marty stated smiling at Blair who returned the gaze.
"Oh yeah," Sunny mentioned, "I also asked for new Daddy for me and Mommy." Marty's heart sunk, and felt empathy for the two of them. They were good people, and Marty wanted the best for them.
"I am sure Santa will do his very best," Marty said pointing to the photographer in front of them. "Sunny smile for the camera and say, Cheese."
"Cheese," Sunny shrieked happily and the flash of the camera captured their picture.
"Well," Marty announced, "I hope you two have a wonderful Christmas and are very happy." Marty hated for them to go, but the line dictated his actions and Blair recognized the child waiting behind them.
"Thanks again, and we hope your Christmas is wonderful too. I left my address in your coat pocket in the office, if you have any free time and would like to share some eggnog and watch some cartoons with us, we would be more than willing to have you."
"Can Marty really come over Mom?" Sunny asked. She was jumping up and down. Marty was surprised at the invitation and was loss for words. He was expecting to grill some chicken and have a quiet time at home.
"I don't know honey," Blair remarked, "Marty is a very busy elf." She smiled sweetly to Marty. He was right all along, she was sending signals to him and he was not acknowledging them. No one ever invited Marty over with a child present, so this was a new venture for him. How could he refuse this invite?
"I would love to," Marty responded. "What time is a good time?" Sunny clapped her hands and hugged Marty. Marty returned the hug awkwardly, looking up at Blair with a silly smirk on his face.
"Anytime past 6pm," Blair happily said, grabbing Sunny and rubbing her hair as she hugged her leg, "Make sure you bring an empty stomach."
"Will do, thanks," Marty agreed.
Carrying a bottle of wine and taking his chances on Blair buying a Maddy Doll, Marty picked up a miniature toy chair for the doll. At the very least, if she had it all ready, then she could return it the next day. It was all wrapped up and she would let Blair know what it was before he left and leave the receipt if necessary. He arrived promptly at 6pm. Sunny was surprised at Marty not being an elf, but it was explained away that after his work was done for Christmas he got time off for good behavior. He couldn't be recognized, so he had to lose his special ears. Sunny accepted it and Blair thought it was clever.
They ate ham, chicken, stuffing, and mixed vegetables. Marty didn't keep kosher so he ate to his hearts content. The apple pie for dessert was topped off with Sunny's favorite ice cream, chocolate butter pecan. Marty praised her excellent cooking and held his full stomach to show his body thanked her too. They watched some videos that Sunny had picked out and played some floor games. It was fun for Marty to have a child to play with, and have a stunning beauty like Blair make him feel wanted in her home. When it was time for Sunny to go to sleep, she begged for Marty to read a story to her. He did one better and made up one for her.
"Once upon a time," Marty started, "There was this ugly troll under a bridge. It was his home, and didn't like when people went over it. Dust would fall from the ceiling and he would hear the loud ricka-racka ricka-racka of the wooden planks of the bridge above him."
"What was the troll's name?" Sunny interrupted.
"His name was Rugrug," Marty added. "He would run out of his little cave from under the bridge and yell at the people who disturbed him. They would always run away and Rugrug would return to his cave a happier troll. One day Rugrug was eating some soup and dust felt from the ceiling and the ricka-racka ricka-racka of the wooden planks was heard from above. He threw his soupspoon down and exited his cave to yell at his trespasser. To his astonishment, a gray-haired old lady was pushing a wheel barrel over his bridge. In the wheel barrel was a big black box."
Marty continued the story uninterrupted:
Rugrug jumped out and screamed at the old lady, "How dare you disturbed my lunch, old woman!"
The old woman turned slowly around and smiled at the troll. "Please forgive my intrusion, I am just on my way to the next town to rest my weary bones."
"Why aren't you scared of me? I bring the fear of the trolls upon you hag! I don't care your reasons for coming over my bridge, you must flee now before I bring harm to you."
She smiled again at Rugrug, "I am not scared of you Troll you mean me no harm."
Astonished, Rugrug spun around on one foot and pounded the bridge with the other. "How dare you smile at me? You should be quivering in my wake. You shouldn't question my mean heart it is not beyond me to eat your old dried up carcass."