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"911, what's your emergency?"

"This is Santa, and I'm stuck in a chimney on South Main St in Bentonville. I need the folks at Fire Station 1 to bring a ladder over please."

"What?"

"You heard me right. I'm not crazy -- although for me to think I could navigate this chimney, maybe I am."

"Uh-huh ... one moment, sir," replies the dispatcher. On a closed line, she tells officers, "We got a nut claiming to be Santa stuck in a chimney on Main. Send a unit. And maybe give a heads up to the 72-hour hold ward at Mercy."

"I don't need the hold ward at Mercy," Santa interrupts. "Trust me, Bev. I just need a little boost. It's Christmas Eve, and time's a wastin'!"

"Wait, how did you hear -- and how do you know my name?" Bev asks.

"I told you. I'm Santa Claus. Kris Kringle. Jolly old St. Nick. Guess I've eaten a few too many snickerdoodles tonight and can't shimmy up this skinny chimney. Tell Lance to think of me when he inspects these buildings, will ya? While we wait, you might want to ring your son. Your grandkids ate all the green sugar cookies, and they're wired tighter than the lights on the Griswold house."

"Green sugar ...?" Bev questions. "Breaking into lots of places tonight, are you?"

"I prefer to think of it as conscientious encroachment," Santa explains. "I'm at Lisa Kelley's place right now. I'd rather her not find me with my feet dangling from her flue. Bless her heart, she put out her awful chocolate chip cookies again. I wish she'd buy some Oreos."

"Keep him on the line," an officer tells Bev.

"So Santa, what's on my Christmas list?" Bev prods.

"Well, at 8, you asked for a doll, and your brother ripped out all the hair. Wonder which list HE was on? At 16, you wanted a car, so I worked a deal with your grandfather to give you his. When you were 30, you wanted your husband to get off the couch and get a job. I reminded you I was Santa Claus, not God. As time passed, I stopped hearing from you, and haven't heard a peep for over 30 years. Bev?"

"Yes ..."

Santa smiles, "We're all kids inside -- yes, even you at 68 -- still filled with wishes, hopes and dreams. It's just that kids under 20 articulate them better than kids over 40, which means I have to get myself stuck in a chimney now and again to cross paths with those who've lost sight of the magic in this season -- of the year and of life.

"See here, I've managed to free myself after all. Glad I could solve your emergency, Bev, for there's no greater emergency than losing one's hope. And needing a bathroom while sleighing over the Atlantic. But mainly, it's hope."

Bev chuckles and wipes a tear. "Thank you ... Santa."

And Arkansans heard him exclaim ere he drove out of sight:

"I've seen you on Facebook!

You got clothes and a dictionary tonight!"

NAN Our Town on 12/14/2017

Print Headline: The night before Christmas

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