It was going to be hard for Santa. There was no snow. The street down below was all shiny. It looked like a mirror with the streetlights showing another version of themselves kind of bent down flat on the ice. Perhaps the road would be slippery enough for the reindeer to pull the sled along easily? No way could Prancer and Dancer possibly land on every roof! It would take far too long. They’d have to fly in, land and run along each street to take everyone’s presents to the doors – Logan knew for sure.
Gran said that going-down-the-chimney story was ‘old hat,’ like from olden times. Thank goodness for now they didn’t have a chimney, only a wee shiny tube for the gas fire. And Santa looked pretty fat, much too fat to squeeze down it. Unless he could do a genie in a bottle thing in reverse? But he probably didn’t know Aladdin and he was pretty sure China wasn’t anywhere near the North Pole. The panto had been great yesterday, made him so excited that he didn’t sleep last night. Tonight was no better. Christmas Eve. Gran said no worries about Santa getting in as he had a magic key.
Gran always knew best, though he wasn’t sure if she was right about it being Jack Frost who made the hedges and trees sparkly every morning. There were so many – how could he get round the whole scheme to paint on all that glitter in one night? Last week Mrs McKenzie at nursery said glitter should be banned: it choked fish. Maybe frost would become ‘old hat’ like Santa coming down the chimney? He wondered if Santa got a new hat every Christmas? His had looked pretty new when he saw him in Debenhams last week. ‘Old hat’ was a funny thing to say. Grown-ups said lots of daft things.
His mum wasn’t saying much at all. Logan knew she was sad about Dad. No one was talking about him. He knew he couldn’t mention him without her getting upset, so he didn’t anymore. Christmas wasn’t going to be the same without him. He was so good at making up Lego. It was great, he’d asked Santa for some again. And books, he loved books. Dad used to read one to him every night when he was on leave. That was another funny saying: why was he on leave when he was home? Then when he left leave to go back, he was leaving leave – made no sense. But this Christmas there was no being home and no leave. And there was no Dad.
He realised that the view from his upstairs bedroom window was getting foggy. Oh, dear, fog too – everything was against Santa this Christmas Eve! Stepping back, he realised it was only foggy where his face had been pressed on the glass. The rest was clear. He breathed on another bit. When it got foggy too, he drew a stick man on it like Dad used to and added a wee lead and a dog. Then he started getting upset. No Dad. And no Polly poodle either.
Dad hadn’t laughed when he called her Polly, though everyone else had. They kept making stupid jokes about her having to put the kettle on – as if she could! Polly was such a handful, always jumping up, lazing across your lap, which in Logan’s case was hopeless. His was much too wee for the dog to sit on properly and she’d dangle off the sofa edge. Then she’d yelp when you pushed her off, and run round your legs trying to trip you up as you moved away. Annoying. And she’d look at you begging with her big dark eyes when you were trying to eat your sandwich. Annoying. And she’d pull so hard when you took a turn of walking her that it made you fall over. He’d got skinned knees one day. Annoying. Logan felt sad. He’d do anything to be annoyed by her again. He still didn’t understand why he couldn’t wake her last week. Mum had rushed out of the house and came back from the vet crying. Dad had given Polly to him last year. Dogs lasted even less time than Dads, it seemed.
He crept back into bed and curled up in his Spiderman jammies under his Spiderman duvet, deciding he’d definitely be staying awake. But he had to get back into bed, it was too cold kneeling at the window. Would he be able to hear Santa’s magic key turning in the lock? Or would it be a kind of more magic Open Sesame thing, like Aladdin used to open up the treasure cave? If it was a shouty magic-spell kind of key he’d hear that! Sleep was near when he heard a car door, but he was so tired that he couldn’t get out of bed to look. It wouldn’t be Santa, anyway. Mr Claus would never get a car. He’d never let his sled go – what would happen to all those lovely reindeer? No, Santa’s sled would never become old hat. He drifted off to the North Pole, sledging with Dad and Polly, whizzing through the snow.
He was still dreaming. Dad was sitting on the edge of his bed, leaning over, gently shaking him awake. Something was leaping about the bed. He felt his face wet. Thank goodness it wasn’t wet underneath him – too embarrassing on Christmas morning for big boys. Was it morning?
‘Come on sleepy head- you been up all night on the town?
Opening his eyes, he saw a hand stretching out. He stretched out. The hand felt real.
‘Mum didn’t tell you I’d be getting home, did she? We wanted it to be a surprise. I hitched a lift with Santa!’
Logan sat up and focussed his eyes. Dad looked different. He had a purple jaggy line down his cheek and his left eye looked smaller. And this hand he was holding was bent and misshapen with puckered skin. He stared at it.
‘Don’t worry, my hands still work to cuddle you.’
Feeling himself whirled aloft, he giggled. He didn’t know any words for how happy he felt. And then as his father swooped him back down towards the bed and up again, he realised the cuddle had become crowded. There was a little white woolly bundle wriggling in Dad’s arms too.
‘He wandered into the base when I was back and waiting for transit. He’s a rescue doggy with no mummy so I brought him home. We had to get him a passport with his photo and a microchip so he’s like the Bionic Man! What’ll we call him? The boys called him ‘Doggy’ – but he needs a proper name.’
‘Jack Frost!’ Logan was emphatic. ‘That is, unless that’s going to become old hat like glitter?’
Dad ruffled his hair. ‘You turned into an old man in the last six months, buddie? Old hat -where have you heard that? And why is glitter ‘old hat?’ But Jack is good. Let’s take him down.’
Downstairs there were presents under the tree that Logan started opening furiously. Yes! He’d got the Lego spaceship. He was about to shout at Dad to come and help him put it together when he looked over at his mother kissing his father’s poor sore-looking hands. She wiped away a tear.
Sitting up straight he decided he could put it together himself. And Dad could tell him where the bits went if he couldn’t understand the how-to pictures. He was a big boy now. But he didn’t believe Luke at nursery saying that