"A Right Jolly Old Elf!"
Sean Pearce Nelson stood in the empty cafeteria. The only adults present were his mother, Karen, Lee Crane and ‘Santa Claus’ The room showed the debris of a recently ended party, decorations torn and scattered. There was mistletoe on the floor, and piles and piles of discarded paper. After looking around the room twice, Sean marched up to Santa Claus and stood in front of him. Hands on hips, feet spread apart, the four year old was the image of his father, Admiral Harriman Nelson, when he was in a confrontational attitude.
Finally, Sean reached up and pulled at the beard on Santa’s face. It snapped down, and then back into place.
Santa shouted "Ouch! Sean, why did you that?!!"
"Poppa, why are you dressed like Santa? Where’s Santa if you’re wearing his clothes?’"
Harriman Nelson rubbed his chin, looking at his son with at mix of amusement and consternation… ‘What am I going to tell him about this?’
"Sean, sometimes Santa can’t be in all the places that he’s needed, so he asks us to take his place…"
"Poppa," Sean demanded…"Why you and not Uncle Lee?"
Lee Crane was lounging against a pillar in the cafeteria, a look of pure delight on his face, his hazel eyes twinkling…
"Yes, Admiral…Why you and not me?" Lee asked. Harriman Nelson shot his Captain a withering glare.
At that moment, Karen Nelson joined the Seaview’s Captain. Leaning forward, against a chair, Karen grinned at her husband and son. "Do tell, Harriman…I’d sorta like to know that myself!" she laughed.
Glaring again, this time at his wife… he harrumphed, looked at Sean, and sitting down, pulled the little boy into his lap. His stormy expression softened, and clearing his throat, he began.
"Well, first of all, Sean, Uncle Lee is way too tall to be Santa. Remember from the story, that they say he was, um… well, they say he was a bit shorter… and I’m a lot closer in height then Uncle Lee is."
He glanced at Crane, who was smiling at the Admiral’s explanation. Nelson continued,
"…and you know that Santa’s very busy at this time of year. So, he called me, and…"
Sean’s eyes lit with the wonderment of the idea, "Poppa…. He called you?" He was in awe of the fact that his father was called by Santa.
"Well… yes, he did….he, ah…needed help…he was supposed to be here, and when he couldn’t make it… since he and I have the same color eyes… he asked me to take his place."
Sean sat thoughtfully on Nelson’s lap, digesting the story… his father called by Santa Claus to take his place at the Institute party. His father must be a pretty important man!
He turned to Karen, "Momma! Did you hear?! Santa called Poppa!! He called him!!"
Karen smiled with love at her son. "Yes, Sean, I heard. And I think that your Poppa did a fine job for him, don’t you?"
"Oh yes, Momma! And I won’t tell anyone… will you?"
"No, I think that we have a special secret, just between the four of us here!!" She put her finger on her lips, and Sean nodded solemnly and shook his head back and forth…
"No, Momma…Poppa… I won’t tell anyone…anyone at all!!!" Harriman Nelson stood, and taking his son by the hand, linked his arm into his wife’s.
"C’mon, Sean… Santa told me that you have to be in bed on time tonight. He wants you to be a good boy!"
"Oh, yes, Poppa!! Oh Yes!!" Lee Crane joined the group as they left the Cafeteria. He turned, for a moment, and then stopped the Nelsons.
He reached for Sean’s hand, and bending down in front of the child, said quietly… "Sean, Listen…."
In the distance, soft bells could be heard, and was that a gentle "Ho, Ho, Ho…?"
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