Handing me a plate with a baker’s dozen of cookies on it for my lunch. I was about to take a bite of my first cookie, when Ms. Claus shook my shoulder. “Wake up Santa. Nap time is over. Sledge just called and he needs to see you right away.”
Sitting up and wiping the sleep from my eyes, I drowsily asked, “Sledge, from over in the sleigh barn?”
“Is there another Sledge?” Ms. Claus responded with that loving impatient look she gives me when I ask a silly question. “Do you think he has the modifications to your sleigh ready?”
“I hope so!” I exclaimed. “With over 148 million homes to visit now, I need to pick up the pace or I may not get all the deliveries done on time.”
“Well you better hurry.”
Walking into the barn, I saw my sleigh off to the right with a pair of legs sticking out, just like in Wizard of Oz, when the house fell on the witch. “Sledge?”
Rolling out from under the sleigh, Sledge jumped to his feet and wiped his hands on his striped coveralls, covered with grease and grime.
“Ms. Claus said you wanted to see me. Are the modifications completed?”
“Not yet. I just started removing the truss and runners from the sleigh to prepare it for the new ones.”
“Then why did you need to see me?” I responded with curiosity.
“Come over here,” Sledge said as he picked up a piece of metal and handed it to me. “This is a sample of the material Quinten, in research and development, sent over. He created it to use on the sleigh.”
I was shocked when I took the sample from him. “Wow! I expected this to be heavy, but it is as light as a feather. What is this?”
“It’s a new titanium alloy, lightweight and about 20 times stronger than anything we have ever used. When I replace the truss and runners with this material, your sleigh will be more stable. More importantly, it will weigh about a third less than it does now.”
“That’s amazing! That should help me fly faster, right?”
“Considering that you have to travel about 75 million miles on Christmas morning, this should help you get done a bit sooner.”
Noticing some blueprints on the table behind Sledge, I pointed to them and asked, “What are those?”
“I’m glad you asked. This is another improvement I plan on making. While your sleigh will be lighter and therefore faster, it still will not be very aerodynamic.”
“What do you mean?”
“On the long trips over the oceans, forests, and desserts where there are no homes, I thought there should be a way to make your sleigh move through the air more smoothly, and make it move even faster.”
“How would you do that?” I asked a bit puzzled.
“I will add a lever for you in the sleigh. When you get over an area where there are no homes and you want to make up time, all you have to do is push the lever up and the truss and runners will fold in under the sleigh, much like the wheels of an airplane after taking off.”
“I see. That should allow me to move through the air easier. But how would I get them back down?” I asked trying to find the answer in the drawings.”
“Easy! You just pull the lever back down, and they will unfold. But it gets even better.”
“How could you possibly make it any better than this?” I asked wondering how that could be possible.
“I’ve added sensors to the sleigh that will analyze all the weather conditions like wind, temperature, and precipitation to help you identify the best route.”
“You’re the greatest Sledge!” I exclaimed. “So, with Quinten’s new material and your improvements how much time will I save?”
“Our figures indicate a growth of about 6-7% in the number of homes you will need to visit over the next few years. These improvements are expected to cut your delivery time by about 12%. So, you should be in good shape for a couple of years.” Then the bubble burst when Sledge said, “Of course there is a downside to all this. With the increased speed you will be exposed to stronger winds and more dirt in the air.”
“I didn’t think about that. I’m already . . . “
“Quinten, however, is working on a solution, Santa. He is in the final testing phase and should have a sample to show you by the end of the week.”
“What’s he working on?”
“He is making a windshield for the sleigh that will be almost invisible and indestructible.”
Not being able to figure out what Quinten could be working on, I asked, “How is that possible?”
“He is one of the smartest elves I know. He managed to find a way to make a windshield out of the hardest material known.”
“Are you telling me it will be made from diamonds?”
“You guessed it!” Rolling up the plans, Sledge continued, “Not sure how he did it, but if anyone could, it would be him!”
“I can’t wait to tell Ms. Claus the good news! This will make it possible to keep up with the growing number of children and homes I need to visit each year!” I shouted as I turned and headed out the barn door.
When I walked into our living room, I went right over to Anya and gave her the biggest hug. With look of surprise on her face, she asked, “And to what do I owe this pleasure?”
“I think Sledge and Quinten have solved the problem of the world’s growing population.”
“That’s great news Santa!”
“It’s the best news I could have gotten. I will be able to get my deliveries done faster than ever before.”
“And that will give you the time to add new children to your route!” Anya said. “I think you deserve a couple of cookies and hot cocoa for that,” she said as she took my hand and led me to the kitchen.
I hope you enjoyed today’s story. I will post another one next Monday. If you have any comments or if there is something you would like me to tell you about, please feel free to leave me a comment. Until next week . . .
Illustration by FireMane Studio