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Santa was correct. Reindeer didn’t make any noise. But they smelled. Still, we were becoming accustomed to the sounds of elfish industry, music, and the aromatic scent of reindeer. Standing in the middle of the barn with my eyes closed I could hear the sounds of elves banging their hammers while the reindeer munched on their hay. I could use the noises and smells to paint a vivid picture of Santa’s workshop in my mind, but when I opened my eyes—there was only the empty barn.
But when I walked home this evening the sounds were different. There was a terrible ruckus coming from inside the barn. There were shouts and thumps followed by the boxes thrown open and workbenches pulled across the floor. Dozens of objects bumped and clanked and crunched onto the ground. Reindeer hoofs clattered back and forth across the floor. I burst into the house in alarm. Santa was walking around and around in circles, wringing his hands and mumbling to himself.
“You!” he said, whirling to face me. “You said you didn’t own any wetlands!”
“We don’t,” I said.
“Well somebody does,” he said ominously. “That is why baffledoodles have stolen my suit.”
“But Santa,” I protested. “You’re wearing your suit.”
“Not this suit,” he said impatiently glancing down at his red suit. “My sleigh suit.”
I stared at him dumbly.
“My magic sleigh suit. The one I wear to deliver toys on Christmas Eve. The one I have to have or I can’t drive my sleigh!”
Uh oh. That Santa suit.
“I don’t understand. What are baffledoodles? What’s wrong with wetlands?”
Santa stared at a fireplace for a moment and then turned and dropped heavily into a chair motioning for me to join him. I sat down facing him. He gazed at the floor.
“You might think,” he said, “that all Santa suits are alike. Well, they’re not. I have very special Santa suits for different occasions. Some are for listening to little boys and girls tell me what they want for Christmas. Others are for working in the workshop or going up and down chimneys. But the most special suit of all is the sleigh suit because that’s the one I use for driving the sleigh on Christmas Eve.
“I have so many suits that I had a Santa suit factory up near the North Pole. Ho ho ho!” he chuckled remembering. Then he shook his head. “This summer it sank. The ice is thin up north these days.”
“So I only had one sleigh suit left. I knew the baffledoodles would be after it.”
“What’s a baffledoodle?” I asked.
“Very unusual creatures that live in wetlands,” he answered. “Very rare. Most folks have never heard of them. They’re quite beautiful really.” He sighed and went on. “Unfortunately they love to build their nests out of Santa suits. Especially Santa sleigh suits. I hid my last one in your barn—thought they’d never find it. But they have. It’s gone.” He sighed. “No Santa Sleigh Suit means no Christmas.”
“But they can’t have gone far,” I said. “Can’t we get it back? Couldn’t we go to the nearest wetlands and search for it?”
“How?” he asked. “How would we know where to go? I got out the National Wetland Inventory map of this area and there aren’t any wetlands nearby!”
“But there are,” I said. “I don’t know what a baffledoodle is or the difference between a Santa chimney suit and a Santa sleigh suit, but I know the location of every wetland in the area. There are lots of wetlands that aren’t on the maps. Why there’s a nice little marsh down there through the trees at the bottom of the hill. There are some vernal pools over on that ridge,” I said waving my hand off to the side. “There are even a bunch of seeps and springs at the edge of the river over in that direction.” I pointed in another direction.
“Really!’ Santa leaped to his feet. “You know where all those wetlands are? Maybe there is a chance to save Christmas after all. We’re going to need those children to help right away. We’ll never find the Santa sleigh suit without them.”
He paced around the room for a moment brows creased in thought.
“Even if we get the suit back it won’t be enough. We’re going to need more help. I’m way behind figuring out my flight path and without the Santa Suit I won’t be able to get it done in time. You’d better call up those outdoor folks you know.”
“You mean the Maine Chapter of the Appalachian Mountain Club?”
“Yup. But first get a hold of those children and get them over here. I’ll be back in a jiff!”
“Santa, this doesn’t make any sense.” I said. “Why do we need—”
But it was too late. Santa had disappeared up the chimney.