Mrs. Claus smiled, as she tied a blue sash on the dress of a life-size doll. “Rifkin! Mifkin!” she called.
Two elves came running.
“I’ve just finished this one,” Mrs. Claus told them. “Her name is Tia Lynn, a special order for a little girl in Kansas. Could you pack her up and take her to the sleigh? Careful now!”
The doll’s eyes closed when Rifkin placed her in a satin-lined box. He fitted the clear plastic lid, and Mifkin pasted a label on top: “For Payton.”
They carried Tia Lynn to the loading dock, where more elves were buckling reindeer harnesses, with much jingling and jangling of silver bells.
Rifkin and Mifkin eased the box into the last empty spot, right up front by the driver’s seat. Dancer and Prancer stamped their hooves, eager to start their flight around the world.
“Ho, ho, ho! Time to go!” Santa boomed.
He kissed Mrs. Claus goodbye. He tested the lamp on Rudolph’s nose. Then he swung his jolly, red-suited self into the sleigh, and with a flick of the reins the journey began.
Tia Lynn felt snug and safe in her corner next to Santa’s boot. But she couldn’t help wondering how long this ride might last. And who was this little girl called Payton, in Kansas? What was she like?
Turning south, away from the North Pole toward Greenland, the sleigh soared high in the night sky. Every time they came to a town, and found a house where one or more children lived, Santa commanded the reindeer to dip down, down, until they landed on the roof.
Tia Lynn could not tell what countries they visited. No one had taught her any languages yet, apart from Elfish. But at one rooftop, she heard children’s voices from a bedroom below. They spoke a kind of English, so Polly Ann guessed they were in Britain. Here the sun would rise six hours earlier than in the Central Zone of the United Sates, where Payton lived.
Santa checked his list once, twice. As he slid down the chimney with his sack, Tia Lynn hoped the kids would stop talking, and pretend to be asleep—or they might end up with coal instead of presents.
Up, up, and away! The silver bells jingled, as the sleigh streaked over the Atlantic Ocean. Tia Lynn’s eyes stayed shut throughout the trip—until a sudden jolt flipped her box upright, and they sprang open.
Through the clear plastic lid, she saw a full moon, and millions of stars. What a spectacular sight! What a magical night!
Santa Claus chuckled. “Ho, ho, ho! We just missed a meteor!”
He steered the reindeer on a steady course, until the Rocky Mountains loomed alarmingly close. The sleigh wobbled, making the doll fall on her back. Again, she could see nothing.
She must have dozed off, because the next thing Tia Lynn knew, Santa was whistling, “Home, home on the Range, where the deer and the antelope play.”
By now, the British kids would be opening their presents, but out here on the prairie it was only midnight.
Tia Lynn felt the sleigh plummet down to the roof of a two-story farmhouse. Santa checked his list once more and filled his sack with toys, setting her at the very top. He dropped into the wide, brick chimney.
Inside the house, he stood Tia Lynn under a sparkling Christmas tree. He gobbled up two cookies, slurped a glass of milk, pocketed a carrot for Rudolph, and disappeared into the night.
All Tia Lynn could do now was stand wide-eyed in her plastic box, and wait. And wait.
A rooster crowed. Sunlight spilled between the curtains. Feet pattered down the stairs. Then a girl with polka-dot pajamas and curly hair appeared in the doorway. Was this Payton?
The girl stared at the doll through the plastic lid. A tear trickled down her cheek.
“Oh, Tia Lynn,” she whispered. “You’re just what I asked for!” She went on talking, as she removed the lid and hugged the doll. “I didn’t know if Santa would find my house. Besides, I didn’t think I’d been good enough this year.”
Payton smoothed the blue dress. Then she tried out all the moving parts—arms, legs, neck, and eyes. Tia Lynn could walk, or she could sit, whatever Payton wanted her to do. They were going to have so much fun together.
Readers, the rest of the story is up you. What adventures can you imagine for Tia Lynn and Payton?
[This story placed 2nd in the Kansas Authors Club Region 3 writing contest 2017.]