Note: it was only after I drafted this that I learned about the rather horrific "elf on the shelf thing" (thanks again to Chuck!). I thought I was being original, but it just goes to show that the marketing types are always ahead of me.
The Elf in the ClosetI love Christmas. At least, I used to, until last year. That was when one of Santa’s elves moved into my bedroom closet and began taking notes. That’s right: for the last year, ever since last December 1, to be exact, there has been an elf in my bedroom closet making notes on a smart phone and reporting everything I do.
Even at first I found it awkward. I had to start changing clothes in the bathroom. Not even for Santa would I undress in front of a boy elf!
Now I know it's a lot worse. He raids the kitchen at night, and I get blamed. I’m sure he’s the one who took the last slice of my birthday cake, the one I was saving for an after-school snack the next day. And Dad got real mad at my sister because he thought she’d been in the liquor cabinet, but I know she didn’t, because she was out with her boyfriend that night.
When the elf moved in last December, he claimed it was only for a few days. Just a spot-check for Santa’s naughty-and-nice list, you know. I suggested that he check up on my big sister, the one who sneaks out at night to meet her boyfriend, but he said she’d aged out of the system, whatever that meant.
So I asked him his name.
“That’s it? A number?” I was horrified. “You should have a name! You need a nice, Christmassy name. Let’s see…may I call you, uh, Jingle?”
“NO!” His voice was like ice and his glare gave me the shivers. If it had been a month earlier, I would have thought he was really a gremlin left over from Halloween.
“That’s not very nice,” I pointed out.
“Look, kid,” Elf 37542 growled, “it ain’t very nice to go calling a respectable surveillance elf by a name like ‘Jingle,’ see. You just stick with 37542.”
I meant to look up “surveillance” but I was busy, and forgot. Along about January 7th, I opened the closet and saw he was still there.
“Hey, Christmas is over! Shouldn’t you go back to the North Pole?”
“I’m not done watching this place.” He belched, and I saw an empty beer can among the litter of chip packages and candy wrappers on the floor. That was before the cake incident, and the first I knew about his eating habits.
“I thought this was just a spot check,” I protested.
“Some spots need more checking than others,” he said, unwrapping the last of our holiday chocolates with a sly grin. “This isn’t a bad assignment.”
That was when I remembered to look up “surveillance.” When I did, I decided I’d better tell Mom. She had thought I was being good for Santa when I insisted on putting my clothes away myself, but I was just scared to have her open my closet. If she saw him, if he was real and I wasn’t crazy, I was pretty sure there’d be trouble.
So when I finally decided we had plenty of trouble anyway, I told Mom. She didn’t believe me, but came along to prove I was nuts. When she opened the closet door, there he sat. She gave a little gasp, then pinched her lips into a tight line. Elf 37542 lounged on what was now a large pile of trash. Mom folded her arms and demanded, “What is the meaning of this?”
When I heard that tone, I jumped. But old 37542 just sat there and grinned.
“Santa Surveillance, checking the list.”
“Santa Surveillance my,” Mom glanced and me and finished up, “my hindquarters. It’s nearly February. Sarah has had her presents, and she’s a good girl anyway. Your job here is more than done, and I want you OUT!”
I don’t know what we expected. That he would leave just like that, because Mom said so? We couldn’t have been more wrong.
All spring we tried everything we could think of to make him go, but 37542 stayed put and kept reporting on me—to someone.
It was June before I completely stopped believing he was Santa’s elf.
“I think maybe he’s NSA,” I told Dad. We’d finally had to bring him into the secret, when Mom and I couldn’t budge the elf, and Dad noticed that his beer disappeared in a hurry. He was all set to ground Elaine.
“Nonsense, Sarah. What would the NSA want with a 10-year-old girl?” He had a point. My life was so boring I was surprised the elf hadn’t died of it.
“Well, he’s something.”
“He’s a parasite. You should have told me about him at once, before he got so well established.”
“I thought it was cool!” I wailed. “Santa’s elf. Proof at last!”
“It’s proof of something,” Dad admitted. “Maybe that we’re all crazy.”
Dad spent the summer experimenting with ever-stronger forms of elf-repellant. Nothing did the job. We finally made our plan. It wasn’t very nice, but we were desperate. Mom made the reservations at Disneyland, and Dad arranged for the exterminators to come in while we were gone. They tented the house and fumigated, though of course we said that it was for cockroaches, not elves.
I loved Disneyland. Not only was it magical, and I only threw up on two rides, but for the first time in months I was free of the elf. He didn’t follow us there. I looked forward to returning home and finding him gone. I’d even have been happy to clean up his corpse.
But when I walked into my room, 37542 was sitting on my bed, and he was peeved.
“That wasn’t very nice, kid. I barely made it out alive.”
“Well, why didn’t you stay out?” I was a bit peeved myself.
“I have a job to do.”
“What? To drive me nuts? And don’t give me that Santa crap, because I don’t believe you.”
He tsked at me, and held up his phone. “Such language! All sent right to the boss.”
“Whoever that may be,” I muttered. “Dad! Mom! He’s still here!”
I heard Dad swear, and say something about twenty-five hundred bucks down the toilet, and Mom said that at least there were no more cockroaches in the kitchen. Dad stormed into my room, and he would have grabbed that elf and tossed him out the window, but old 37542 was too fast. He darted back into the closet and slammed the door. I tried nailing it shut, but he seemed to be able to slither under the door.
I finally wrote to Santa, even though I hadn’t really believed in him for several years.
One of your elves has been living in my closet all year. He says he is Elf 37542. Can you please come and get him? He is not at all well-behaved and is causing a lot of trouble.
I was shocked to get a letter back the next week:
I am sorry you are being so troubled, but I have no such elf. My elves have real names, nice ones like ‘Jingle’ and ‘Snowy,’ and are all very well-behaved. Perhaps this one works for my anagrammatic rival.
I had to look up “anagrammatic,” and when I did I stared at the signature in horror. Then I screamed.
We’ve been on the run ever since. We just all walked out of the house one day like we were going to school or work, and met up at the corner a block away, got in Dad’s car, and kept on going.
If we stop anywhere for more than a few days, he finds us, so we just keep moving. It could be worse. We can circle back around to the house now and then, to pick up supplies and do the laundry. We just can’t stay.
My sister blames me, though I don’t see what I could have done. I have no idea why 37542 picked me. Dad is considering trying the witness protection program, though how he will explain the elf to the FBI I don’t know.
And now it’s December again, and there are elves everywhere. It gives me the creeps.
©Rebecca M. Douglass
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