Santa’s elves were down with the flu. There was no way Santa would meet the Christmas deadline. How would he bring gifts to all the children?

“Ah-choo!”

“Ah-choo!”

“Ah-choo!”

“Santa peered into the factory and found his elves busy at work. But their faces were red and their noses all shiny. Their eyes were watery and they seemed a bit unsteady on their feet. Santa looked around worriedly. All his elves were sneezing. What could have happened?

“Do you think it is an allergy?” he asked Mrs. Santa.

“No dear. It is the flu.”

“The flu? FLU? You said FLU?” shouted Santa. He was getting more and more agitated.

“How can they get the flu now? This is a crucial time for me. They know it so well. And then they get a flu?”

“Calm down. It’s not their fault they are sick. I think you should let them go home. They are too ill. They need rest, good food and medicine to recover. Shut the factory,” said Mrs. Santa.

“How long will they need to recover?” asked Santa.

“About two weeks!”

“Oh dear! Oh dear! What will I do?”

It was already the end of November and Santa had to get all the toys and treats ready for the children before Christmas. He had such a long wish list. They were not even half way through their orders.

“We cannot disappoint the children, you know. As it is they have enough trouble down there. What with the talk of wars, communal quarrels, cyclones, typhoons and oh…all the horrible things the children have to put up with.”

“Yes, dear,” said Mrs. Santa calmly. “We cannot disappoint them. But why don’t you tell the elves to go to bed. I will make them some hot broth and we will ask the doctor to come and take a look at them.”

Santa knew that there was nothing else he could do. So he went to his factory and said, “Okay my little helpers, I can see you are not well. Please put down your tools and go to bed.”

“But, Santa we have not completed the orders,” said the head elf. “How can we disappoint the children? They will be waiting for their Christmas gifts.”

“Yes, I know,” said Santa, sadly. “But you cannot work now. All of you are ill and need to rest. So off to bed. Mrs. Santa is bringing you some hot broth and soon the doctor will come and take a look at all of you.”

Gratefully the elves downed their tools and went off to their little beds. Wonderful smells were emanating from Mrs. Santa’s kitchen as she made her special broth. Santa sat disheartened at the kitchen counter.

“Cheer up. Let’s sleep on it. I am sure we will find a solution.”

Soon the soup was ready and she packed it up.

“Go on. Give this soup to your elves. Am sure they will be fine in a week or two!”

Disaster

“A week or two? I need the toys by the end of this week. And then we have to gift wrap it and pack it up…Oh dear. There is so much work to do! How will I meet my deadline?”

Mrs. Santa shook her head and went back into the house.

Santa took the hot, tasty soup around and gave a bowl each to the sick elves. When they had finished they did look better but they were so weak that they simply went back to sleep.

Santa sighed as he walked back home. “Oh well, I guess I have to do the work myself. I will deliver the Christmas gifts even if it means having to sit up day and night.”

He cleaned up the soup vessel and the kitchen and then walked off to the factory. Mrs. Santa watched him go. She wondered how she could help him.

Santa worked all night. Mrs. Santa went to bed thinking of their problem.

She awoke early with a smile on her lips. She made a hot cup of coffee and took it to the factory for Santa. He smiled when he saw her. His eyes were red with lack of sleep and his face was all tired and worn.

“Drink up,” she said.

“Let it cool. That way I won’t be wasting any time. I still have a lot left to do.”

Oh! Don’t worry so. I have a solution to our problem.”

Santa looked at her quizzically.

“You see dear there is something called a “book". In a book are many stories. You can travel many lands, play a lot of games, have adventures, solve mysteries, learn about other countries… the possibilities are endless. The best part is these books are already made. You would just need to pick them up and wrap it up according to your wish list. Your gifts will ready on time.”

But Santa was doubtful. “Do you think it will work?”

With a lot of convincing Santa finally agreed. The two of them got the books and wrapped them up and packed them into Santa’s sack. On Christmas eve Santa sailed the skies happily to deliver his gifts.

The next morning he watched as children opened their gifts.

He peeked into one house and saw the surprise on the children’s faces. They did not know what to do with it. It made no sound, it did not move nor prompt. Whatever could it be, they thought. One little boy threw it against the wall, in the hope that it would open and something miraculous would happen. It was then that the parents stepped in and told the children what the gift was. A book!

“Book?” said the children. “What do we do with it?”

“We read them.”

But I have my e-reader, said one. Another said, I have my Kindle. And the youngest said, I can read these stories on the net.

“No,” said the mother, “this is different. Come here, I will show you.”

The children huddled around the mother as she opened the book and began to read. They were so engrossed in the story she read that they even forgot to open the other gifts under the tree.