It all started innocently enough.
Me, being four and feeling tough.
Decided, if just to assert my best,.
To challenge old Santa to a little contest.

I’d heard he was “a right jolly old elf,”.
and chose to confirm this my own little self..
Please note that I am no slouch with a joke,.
‘Least I always am endlessly ‘musing my folks.

So I crept down the stairway when they’d gone to bed.
And hid between presents, saying nary a word..
I dozed intermittently, though I had not intended.
To miss the bright moment when Santa descended.

In the wee little hours, I’d drooled down my front.
but hadn’t been dreaming when I first heard a bump,.
Followed by a rustle, a shuffle, and a “dang!”.
As Santa untangled himself from the screen.

Mommy says to always close the fire up tight.
So sparks won’t jump out and commence to ignite.
The stockings we’d hung by the chimney, I care.
And don’t want to burn the place down unaware.

So Santa seemed sour as he set to his work,.
Severe concentration like some kind of jerk..
He would never, ever have seen me there.
If I hadn’t decided to give him a scare.

“Boo!”, I exclaimed as I hopped into sight.
“Good Lord!” he replied, “You just gave me a fright!.
What’s a small boy like you doing downstairs.
On this cold Christmas morning,” he sternly stared.

“I have to see just how jolly you are,”.
I said as I peeked into his bag standing there..
“I’m a little bit hassled, a little behind.
And I’d chat more with you if I felt I had time.”

“A-Ha!” I rebuked as I stood up quite tall,.
“You’re not a little bit jolly at all..
You look like a grown-up and sound like one, too..
I was pretty sure I was going to be jollier than you.”

“Jollier than me?” Santa considered..
He had to admit that his focus had frittered.
Most of his jollyness out of his soul.
and replaced it with nothing but responsible goals.

He rose to the challenge and stuck out his belly.
And began to distend it till it did shake like jelly!.
Never one to lie down in the face of a challenge.
I hopped up two stairs and took careful balance

Then pooched out my tummy as far as it went.
And wobbled mine back and forth, back bent..
Santa’s old face lit up like a spark.
And he started laughing at me in the dark.

“You’re jolly,” he praised, as he looked down at my gut.
“And you’ve reminded me I’d fallen into a rut..
My real job isn’t about meeting deadlines for toys..
It’s supposed to be focused on delivering joy!”

“You’ve helped me, my lad,” Santa said with a grin.
“And you’ve won this year, but next year I’ll win.”.
Then he quietly opened the fireplace screen.
And rose up the chimney, jollier it seemed.

By the following Christmas, I’d lost some of my joy.
And forgot to remember to challenge that boy.
But when I came down on that next Christmas morn,.
The living room seemed most uncommonly warm.

I never saw Santa again in my life.
Though I’m sure he’s appearing each Christmas Eve night.
There’s this warmth in the living room, fresh and clean
In spite of the fireplace’s not-quite-closed screen.


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