Mrs. Claus, a short story by R.D. Henry at Spillwords.com
R Henry

Mrs. Claus

Mrs. Claus

written by: R.D. Henry

 

On a starry winter night, Mrs. Claus arrives at Eliza’s Tea Room on Main Street. She breezes past me, her host, toward the room’s Eco Christmas Tree. A yin yang sight. The golden lights, red teacups, and tea balls fail to brighten the barren, dead branches. Only knowledge of the tree’s creation from beetle destroyed pines alters its image.

Mrs. Claus halts inches from the tree and sniffs it, as if to savor the scent. “Oh my,” she says, “such a lovely fragrance. I prefer to live Christmas trees myself… yet these days… saving our forests matters.” She fingers a branch. Within seconds, the dead wood turns green.

“Smell this, ladies. From deep inside the tree’s soul, it believes it’s alive.”

Scents of sweet pine fill the air.

I, Stella Hayes, the Mayfair Church Dames coordinator, invited Mrs. Claus to present her book, “Return Christmas Sanity.” But her theatrics flutter my heart. The group trusts me. So, I fret… what if Claus is a nutcase?

Mrs. Claus glances our way, then performs a graceful twirl. Her dress, a fire-engine-red cashmere fabric, floats as light as taffeta around her Mrs. Doubtfire frame. White marshmallow-fluff material outlines a tiny nightcap hat and her jacket’s neck, sleeves and hem.

All nine of us stare. I, perhaps, far too rudely. Secretly, I renamed the group The Gawking Club.

Mrs. Claus crosses the room to our table and sits front-and-center. Her dark eyes sparkle above her round, rosy cheeks. She sips tea and bites a pastry. “Perfection, Eliza… Earl Grey and a blueberry scone.”

The Lady-in-Red’s slight British accent enchants and soothes me. I lean back in my chair, then kick myself… Start the meeting, dingbat. “Hello, Mrs. Claus. I’m Stella. We spoke weeks ago. Thanks for joining our humble gathering ten days before Christmas. Please enlighten us on your book.” I prop up the thin volume. Mrs. Claus’s aproned red dress brightens the cover.

“Oh, my…” Mrs. Claus blushes. “You all are a Mrs. Claus. You make Christmas happen.” Her dimples deepen. “But don’t tell Mr. Claus.”

“Is his first name really ‘Santa’?” Martha asks. Her flyaway carrot-colored hair matches her feisty spirit.

Mrs. Claus offers a sly grin. “Sorry, marriage secrets.” She turns to Eliza. “Is your cafe’s décor always this festive? Or did the Chamber of Commerce send you a remember-the-holidays-memo around Halloween?”

“How’d you know?”

“The wisdom of time, dear… some fifty years of it. Long ago, holiday festivities started the night of Thanksgiving. Families, full-bellied, traveled downtown to the unveilings of the department store windows’ animated displays. In homes, decorated live trees appeared later. Their beauty saved for Mr. Claus.”

My gaze drops to the tabletop. Did I blink? Time just hiccup? One of Claus’s books lies in front of each of us. Open to faded-brown photos, they show people in vintage-looking coats huddled around glistening store windows. Silence carousels the table. My brow crinkles. I gape at Eliza. “Did you pass out these books?”

“No.”

I rock forward and back… my 170 billion brain cells try to grasp the illogical happenings in the room. Seconds tick away before I quit rocking.

In her hypnotic, mellow voice, Mrs. Claus says, “The holidays remind me of rainbows. The less they appear, the more magical they become.”

Nine heads bob up and down.

“Ladies,” she continues, “Marketing gurus—they have programmed you. For one, Halloween costumes mark the start of the holiday season instead of turkeys.” She sips the Earl Grey and nibbles the scone. “Today, you have nonstop blue-light offerings a click away. Flash sales pop up on screens. Bright-colored flyers stuff mailboxes. What’s next? AI instant shoppers and drone delivery?”

“Not yet,” Martha chuckles. “But, Mrs. Claus, life sprints today. Fifty years ago, it crawled.”

Mrs. Claus’ eyes shine. For a split-second, her gaze locks on us one by one. “Dears, you can change. Remember, gifts are messages.”

“Messages?” I ask.

“Indeed, Stella. Years ago, how many gifts did you give each person?”

“One. I cooked or crafted gifts; a pebble-covered jewelry box for Mom, an angler badge for Dad’s hat.”

“Did Gram enjoy her hug-tickets?”

I offer a shy nod. I’m five again in a one-size-too-big velveteen dress. Who is this lady?

“Quite simply, Stella, your gifts said you cared.” Mrs. Claus unbuttons her jacket. Inside, hanging on the silky-white lining, are various sized weights, red and heart-shaped. Plump fingers remove one, and exhibit it. “This larger weight represents a gift for Mr. Claus. Others are Christmas wishes, church meetings, gifts, cards, treats, and my yearly doctor visit. And so forth… The heavier the weight, the more value it holds. I rearrange, remove and replace the hearts often. Sometimes meetings get moved ‘til after Christmas.”

“Huh. Weighted jackets.” Martha giggles. “Instant weight loss plan.”

I roll my eyes.

“Metaphorical jacket, ladies,” Mrs. Claus says. “Balance your tasks and, voila, sanity revives itself. Remember, the Eco Tree over there thinks it’s real… Believe in yourself. You can return to those simpler, timeless holiday traditions. My book shall guide you.”

Mrs. Claus shuffles upright. Unexpected music diverts my attention. Of course, she’s gone. Right. She disappears to the sounds of Feliz Navidad. In her place lies a tiny heart-shaped weight and card. The card says, “My visit’s over. Keep this visit’s weight as a thank you for your invitation.

Nine books remain on the table. I open mine and read it out loud, “Stella, don’t forget your yummy fudge, Mrs. Claus.

Muffled rumbles erupt. Martha shares Mrs. Claus’s note. “Diets stifle the soul.

Laughter erupts.

“Eliza,” my voice falters, “did you buy all these books?”

“No, Sweetie. Nor am I a fudge tattler.”

My phone beeps. The screen’s Christmas List icon has transformed into a box of fudge.

 

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR:

I am a ridiculous type ‘A’ person. Naturally, my original art “Snow Globe View of Mrs. Claus’s Eco Tree” took me weeks of sketching, scanning, and painting in my digital art app to create.

Happy fact: The Eco-Friendly Tree in the story really exists. Artisans craft them (and other artistic wonders) from the thousands of beetle-infested dead pines in the Rocky Mountains. Which means (smiles) some dead trees no longer fuel forest fires. R Henry

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