“I’m going to bed, Ma. I promise,” Virgil called down the hall after his fifth warning.
Only he didn’t. He stayed outside his door until things quieted down and he was sure the den was empty. His mother banged away on empty dishes and pans in the kitchen while Virgil snuck back into the den among the Christmas decorations and wrapped presents. The smallish room was so cramped with furniture and pine branches that one could hardly navigate its few open spaces. But the boy had long scoped out its nuances to formulate his plan. This was the year he was going to catch Santa in the act! To do it, he had to stay out of sight and more importantly, stay awake until the first reindeer hoof hit the roof.
Virgil slid carefully past the couch and end table, dropped to his belly, and slithered between presents. His head grazed branches while he deftly avoided low hanging ornaments until he reached the corner of the room where he sat up, wedged between tree and wall with a good view of the hearth. Perfect! He congratulated himself on the effort and steeled his nerves for his stakeout. Then the boy waited….and waited…and waited some more.
After fifteen minutes he was sure he’d been there for two hours and after thirty, he looked to the window thinking the sun must be ready to rise and Santa had passed them by. Never a patient soul, Virgil nearly gave up in just under an hour until he heard music coming from next door where their daffy neighbor, Ms. Jerlene must have switched on her porch radio. Virgil grumbled to himself at the misfortune that distracted him. He tried to shut out the slow-paced lull of the orchestra and focus all his mental might on the fireplace, but it gradually sucked him in.
Virgil shook his head violently and pushed the cellos and violas away for a few seconds. He slapped himself (a little harder than he would have liked) to regain his concentration. He had to do this! His eight older brothers ridiculed him for his belief in Santa, but he didn’t care. Virgil didn’t care one bit. When Santa emerged from the chimney and went for the cookies, Virgil planned on knocking the tree down to seal off his escape! The commotion alone would rouse the family and prove the fat man was real.
“I’ll show them!” he said quietly with determination.
Another five minutes of boredom and the gentle sway of Percy McIntyre and his Band of Renown softened the sleepy boy’s resolve. His heavy eyelids closed and his head slouched against the wall. The next thing Virgil saw was ten sets of eyes looking down on him with gestures of dismay and surprise.
“You gotta bow on your head,” laughed Lomas, the eldest brother.
Soft light from the window told Virgil morning had come and his hope of catching Santa had gone. He found himself snuggling a long present with his back against the wall. He reached up and snatched the bow from his head to the delight of all his brothers. Webster handed him a piece of paper that he took and read:
You’ve walked a fine line between the nice and naughty list all year, and this stunt nearly finished you off. I think I know what you were up to, my friend. You need to mind your mama better this year if you want me to come back.
“He left this for you, too,” said his mother as she handed him his very own ball glove with another red bow, which he quickly ripped off.
He looked around at the disbelievers, wondering how they could possibly doubt the man who left him this wonderful hunk of rawhide leather. But their focus rested on Virgil no longer. They had moved on to their own things. Oh how he wished he could have just stayed awake to prove it to them.
“Oh well,” he thought as he pounded his glove. “There’s always next year.”
Merry Christmas from Virgil and the rest of us in Portsong!