Twas the night before Christmas and all through the house, not a creature was stirring — mostly because no one was allowed over.
Suddenly, down the chimney, Santa came with a bound, only to see, waiting for him, a little boy sitting on the floor. The boy looked up at Santa with the widest of eyes, and said …
“Where’s your mask?”
“Ho, ho, ho,” Santa said.
“I’m not joking,” the boy said. “Nobody comes in without a mask. House rules.”
Santa patted his pockets, but alas, no mask was found. The little boy opened a box, pulled out a mask, and a grateful Santa approached to take it, when…
“Don’t move,” the boy said. “Six feet. Social distance. Here. I’ll throw it to you.”
Santa caught the mask and pulled it around his beard. It was uncomfortable and made him sound like he was underwater. But it was Christmas Eve, and Santa must do what it takes.
“Do you mphszo anzo cokphrm?” Santa said.
“I don’t speak elf,” the boy replied.
“Do you have any cookies?” Santa asked, adjusting the mask. “On a little plate, perhaps?”
“Eww!” the boy said. “Where everybody could touch them and spread their germs?
“I hadn’t thought of that,” Santa said.
“I can give you a box.”
“Yeah, but you can’t open them here. No eating allowed for non-household members.”
“Well … all right,” Santa said.
The boy ran to the kitchen and came back with an unopened box of gluten-free, dairy-free, sugar-free vegan ginger snaps.
“Gee, thanks,” Santa mumbled.
“Wipe it down,” the boy said. “There’s Clorox by the fireplace.”
His cheeks were like roses …
Santa’s eyes, how they twinkled, his dimples, how merry! His cheeks were like roses and —
“Do you have a fever?” the boy asked.
“A what?” Santa said.
“A fever? Your cheeks are like roses.”
“I…I don’t think so.”
“There’s an Exergen Temporal Scanner thermometer on the mantle. You can try it.”
“Ah, thank you,” Santa said, turning to the device. “How does it work?”
“You swipe your forehead.”
“Whoa! Put on some gloves first!”
“But I’m wearing white gloves — ”
“And who knows where they’ve been! Get a blue plastic pair. On the table behind you.”
Santa put on the gloves. He swiped his forehead. The thermometer read minus-20 degrees.
“I live at the North Pole,” Santa said, sheepishly.
“Did you attend any political rallies recently?”
“At the North Pole?”
“Any weddings or bar mitzvahs?”
“At the North Pole?”
“Any super spreader events?”
“I live with Mrs. Claus.”
“Has she been tested?”
“Well,” Santa said, chuckling, “she would tell you I test her every day.”
The boy scrunched his face, as if thinking.
“I guess it’s OK,” he said.
“Good,” Santa replied, reaching for his big sack. “Now, finally, we can get to why I’m here.”
“The vaccine?” the boy said.
A nose like a cherry …
Santa’s broad face, and his little round belly, shook as he laughed, like a bowl full of jelly.
“Dude, I’m serious,’’ the boy said.
“A vaccine?” Santa said.
“Mom says you have to be over 80. You look like you’re over 80. And Mom says you have to have underlying health conditions. And, well, you’re pretty fat. You probably have artery blockage.”
“I beg your pardon —”
“Also, if you’re eating all those cookies, diabetes is likely. You should definitely get the vaccine right now.”
“Yes, but,” Santa said, “I’m rather busy tonight.”
“You’re not an anti-vaxer, are you?’
“I don’t know what that is.”
“Me, neither. But whatever it is, Mom and Dad don’t like it.”
Santa frowned. This was not going the way it usually did.
“How about we get to some presents?” he said. “You, uh, do like presents, don’t you?’’
“Sure!” the boy said.
“Ho, ho, ho!” Santa said. “Great! Let’s begin with this beautiful new bookbag for school!”
“I don’t go to school. COVID.”
“Ah. Well. How about some nice new snow boots?”
“I don’t go out. COVID.”
“Well, here’s a terrific board game: Monopoly! You can play it with your friends!”
“I don’t see any friends. COVID.”
One by one, Santa went through the presents. One by one, they didn’t work. A bicycle? Useless. Can’t go out. A football? Useless. No one to throw it to. A Star Wars light saber? Who would he fight with? Poor Santa was at his wit’s end.
“What DO you want?” he asked.
“Faster internet service?” the boy said.
Santa shook his head. “Call your cable company.”
With that, Santa closed his sack. Reluctantly, he turned to go.
“There is one thing I’d like,” the boy said, softly.
“What’s that?” Santa asked.
“Could I see your sleigh? And the reindeer?”
Santa smiled. “Of course.”
Then, laying a finger aside of his nose, and giving a nod, up the chimney they rose. Santa sprang to his sleigh, to his team gave a whistle, and away they flew like the down of a thistle.
But the boy heard him shout, ere he drove out of sight, “Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good night.”
“Your lead reindeer’s nose is red,” the boy yelled after him. “You better get that checked out!’
Contact Mitch Albom: email@example.com. Check out the latest updates with his charities, books and events at MitchAlbom.com. Download “The Sports Reporters” podcast each Monday and Thursday on-demand through Apple Podcasts, Google Play, Spotify and more. Follow him on Twitter @mitchalbom.