Chimichanga by Doug Schwartz


Santa Claus looked at the two gingerbread cookies on the plate resting on the fireplace hearth. He picked up the plate and tipped the cookies into the cookie bag. He carefully and quietly set the plate down again. As he pulled the presents out of the toy bag, an idea popped into his head. He didn't know if it would work, but it couldn't hurt to try. Santa set down the toy bag and picked up the empty plate again. He tiptoed through the house to the bedrooms. He pushed open the door covered in super hero stickers and slinked inside. 

Santa stood over little Oscar Wexler's bed with a plate in his gloved hand. He leaned closer to Oscar's sleeping head and whispered, "Chimichanga. Chimichanga…"

A second later, there was a crackle of static in Santa's ear followed by a squeaky voice that asked, "Santa? What are you doing?"

Santa was about to answer, but froze when Oscar stirred in his sleep. Oscar fell back into a deep sleep with a quiet snore. Santa looked at Oscar, and then the empty plate in his hand. His shoulders slumped and he quietly crept out of the room. He put the empty plate back on the hearth, picked up both bags, and double checked that the gift was placed nearby and that the stocking was filled. Satisfied with the job well done, but not with the empty plate, Santa moved on to the next house.

*  * *  * *

Later, back at the North Pole, everyone celebrated another successful toy run, including Santa. Santa hefted the stuffed cookie bag to team of elves, and the empty toy bag to another elf. The cookie bag was hauled off to the kitchens where the bag would be emptied and the cookies would be sorted. The empty toy bag was taken away to the workshop where it would be loaded again for next year's toy run.

Santa climbed out of the sleigh as another team of elves unharnessed the reindeer and led them back to the stables. Santa stretched his back and then raised his fists into the air triumphantly. The crowd of elves cheered.

Barnabus, the head elf, brought Santa a steaming cup of chamomile tea. He furrowed his brow at Santa and asked, "Chimichanga?"

"I thought it would work," Santa said, innocently.

"You thought what would—," Barnabus started to ask, then stopped himself. He changed his mind and said, "Can we talk about this in your office?"

Santa nodded and said, "Let me give my speech, then I'll explain."

Barnabus nodded, but stuck close to Santa as the festivities continued. With Barnabus at his side, Santa thanked each team and recognized them for their individual accomplishments and hard work. Santa said he could never have completed this toy run without them. After wishing everyone a merry Christmas, he and Barnabus headed to his office. Santa gave many hugs, high fives, and fist bumps along the way.

With the Christmas celebration muted behind Santa's closed office door, Barnabus went straight to the point and asked, "Why were you chanting 'chimichanga' to Oscar Wexler?"

"It's always cookies. Don't get me wrong. I love cookies, but I just wanted a change. I figured if I could make Oscar dream of chimichangas, I could mix things up for once," Santa explained.

Barnabus cocked his head in confusion. "i don't follow you."

"The children always give me cookies. They dream of sugar plums and cakes and other sweets, then cookies magically appear on the plate," Santa said.

"Wait. What?" Barnabus asked.

"Yes. Don't you know that's how the cookies appear. I figured, if I could change Oscar's dream, I might get a chimichanga for once."

Barnabus shook his head. How could Santa not know? "Santa, that's not how cookies are made! Or, chimichangas!"

Santa belly laughed and asked, "Alright, smart guy, where do you think cookies come from?"

Barnabus shuffled his feet. Even if he was the head elf, he didn't want to be the one to explain to Santa where cookies come from. "Well… you know… the mommies and daddies make them. Or, sometimes buy them from the store."

Santa belly laughed even harder. "Oh, Barnabus, we're talking about cookies, not children."

Barnabus's mind screeched to a halt.. Santa does know where babies come from—doesn't he? Santa couldn't possibly think that children were bought in stores. Nope. he wasn't going there. He was going to bring the conversation back into focus.

"I was talking about cookies, sir," Barnabus said. "People bake cookies. In their kitchen? Except for the ones who buy cookies at the store? You didn't know this? Santa? Are you alright?"

Santa's mouth hung open. He stared at nothing in particular, frozen in thought. "People bake cookies?"

"Yes, sir. They mix flour, sugar, eggs, and other stuff. Then they bake it in the oven."

Santa spluttered, "Baking cookies! Tosh! Children make cookies with magic! They believe in magic. They dream of sweets, and the cookies magically appear on the plate. That's how it's always happened. You're talking alchemy! Alchemy is for parents who wish they could still do magic."

"Well, the parents do help out, especially with the oven part," Barnabus said, wobbling his head from side to side.

"Okay, then. What about the carrots? Where do those come from? Carrots aren't baked!" Santa said. He looked smug and triumphant.

"Carrots are grown, sir," Barnabus said. "And, most likely also bought at the store."

"Uh huh. And how does someone grow carrots in the winter when the ground is so cold?" Santa asked.

Barnabus shrugged, "I don't know. Hydroponics?"

Santa belly laughed again, and chortled, "Hydroponics. Ho ho ho! Now, you're just making up words."

Barnabus sighed. There was no convincing Santa otherwise. If Santa wanted to believe children magicked cookies onto plates, why argue with his boss's beliefs?

"The cookies are magicked onto the plate from dreams, huh?"

"That's right," Santa said, smiling, "Just like that space show. What's it called? You know the one? It has that really tall elf in it. Space Trek, or something like that?"

"You mean, Star Trek?"

"That's the one. Except in the far future, people will have computers magic cookies onto the plate."

"Perhaps you're right," Barnabus sighed. "And, perhaps, one day, a child will dream you up a chimichanga."

"Wouldn't that be nice?" Santa said. He yawned and rubbed his eyes.

"Sorry for keeping you up, sir. I'll let you get some shut eye," Barnabus said.

They wished each other a merry Christmas. Barnabus opened the office door to the roar of the party, while Santa went through the other door at the back of the office to his bedroom beyond.

Barnabus wadded into the crowd of his co-workers. Gazelda brought him a mug of spiced egg nog. Barnabus loved Gazelda's egg nog. It helped calm his nerves, especially after the cookie conversation with Santa.

"Excuse me. Oh dear, oh dear. Pardon me. Oh dear. Coming through," squeaked an elf through the crowd.

Barnabus lowered his mug and cocked an eyebrow. Plimpton wound his way through the sea of other elves to find Barnabus.

Plimpton pulled his elf hat from his head and twirled it in his hands. He cleared his throat and said, "Uh, Mr. Barnabus, sir? I hate to pull you away from the celebration, but there's something you ought to see in the kitchens, sir."

Barnabus sighed, threw back the rest of his nog in one gulp, and said, "Lead the way." He handed the empty mug to one of the kitchen elves along the way.

"We were sorting the cookies when we found it, sir. It's not like any cookie we've ever seen. Jumbles thinks it might be dangerous. We don't know what it is or what to do with it," Plimpton squeaked.

The kitchen staff nervously shuffled their feet, twirled or wrung their elf hats, and avoided eye contact with Barnabus as he entered the room.

"Show me," Barnabus said.

Plimpton used tongs to pick up the non-cookie in the batch. He showed it to Barnabus—who belly laughed like Santa.

"What is it, sir?" Plimpton asked. "What do we do with it?"

"I'll handle this one," Barnabus said. He took the tongs from Plimpton, who carefully (and gratefully) passed the non-cookie to Barnabus as if it could explode at any moment.

*  * *  * *

After a peaceful, deep sleep, Santa woke up and joined the elves for breakfast. Even though he was their boss and was considerably taller than the elves, Santa never sat at the head of the table. He preferred sitting among his workers, so he could engage in a bit of conversation. Santa sat down in the middle of one of the benches at one of the long dining tables. He greeted them as he set down his usual breakfast: a plate with two oatmeal raisin cookies and a glass of 2% milk, chilled to perfection.

"Not today," Barnabus said, taking Santa's plate of cookies. He replaced it with a plate covered by a cloth napkin. "I've got something special for you."

Annoyed, but curious, Santa asked, "What is this? It's not my birthday. What's going on?"

"Voila!" Barnabus said, removing the cloth napkin from the plate with a flourish.

The elves around them gasped and stared, but Santa boomed with laughter. His jolly "Ho ho ho!" echoed in the rafters.

On the plate in front of Santa sat a warmed, golden-brown chimichanga. On the side, were three choices of sauces: queso, a meaty chili, and a verde salsa. Santa sniffed deeply, and emitted a satisfied, "Mmmmm."

Barnabus handed Santa a fork and knife and said, "Compliments of Oscar Wexler."

"Do I know kids, or what?" Santa said with a smile.

"Yes, you do, sir," Barnabus said, returning the smile, "And, dreams really do come true."