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“I’m telling you right now, Chairman, I will not allow anyone to interfere in the mischief making.”
Santa had never sounded so upset. His voice shook and not with merriment. Cherry cheeks beet-red, he glared hard at the short creature standing before him.
Nim, Lil, Glitter, Figgy and Pixie stood outside the door to Santa’s office. They were stopping by to report on the night and share how hilarious Joe’s parents thought it was. They also wanted to warn Santa that Jake was starting to have doubts. But now was definitely not the time.
They tiptoed slowly away from the door and flew off into the night, heading for the house.
“What do you think that was about?” Figgy flew faster to catch up with Nim and Lil.
“Who was that?” asked Pixie. “He didn’t look like an elf.”
Lil slowed her speed and glanced at Nim. “That’s because he wasn’t. He was a gnome from the DFFF…Department of Festive Fun and Frivolity.”
Nim nodded. “And not just any gnome. His name is Mr. Grimly, but they call him “The Grump”. He’s the head of the auditing team.”
Pixie and Figgy glanced nervously at each other, not sure what exactly that meant for the Mischief Makers, but it sounded ominous.
Lil answered their unspoken question. “I’m afraid the Mischief Maker program is being audited.”
The group landed hard on the kitchen counter, too shocked to speak. Why would they, the Mischief Makers, need to be audited? Pixie and Figgy were still not sure how an audit would affect them.
“So…what exactly does that mean?” Figgy asked.
“Well,” began Nim. “It means that the Birthday Beagle and Easter Bunny may just get their way. If the audit team finds that the Mischief Program is getting too much funding, we may have to make some cuts.”
Pixie gulped. “Cuts?”
Lil nodded. “Yes, and I worry that the first cut they will make will be to split up…the teams.”
Figgy’s eyes filled with dread. “You mean…”.
“Figgy and I might-might be…separated?”
Nim and Lil did not have to answer. The looks on their faces said it all.
“Hey guys,” Joe bounced to the counter. “Wait until you see the surprise I have for–hey, why so glum?”
False smiles burst onto the elves’ faces and forced laughter filled the room.
“Nothing!” squeaked Pixie.
“We’re fine!” said Figgy.
“No problems here!” chanted Nim and Lil.
Joe was not convinced. He looked at each of them in turn, wondering what could be putting that frown on their faces.
“Okaaay,” he said finally. “If you’re sure…”.
“Yep!” they chorused.
“So…what is it you wanted to tell us?” asked Pixie.
Joe shook his head and bounced on his toes, remembering the surprise he had planned. “Wait until you see what I’ve done in the bathroom!”
“Uh, I’m not sure we really need to see what you’ve done in the–”.
“Oh it’s not that!” Joe’s face turned red. “It’s a surprise in the bathtub!”
Joe turned and raced to the bathroom, the elves following close behind. When they saw the surprise Joe had worked so hard on, they smiled in delight. He had filled the bathtub and created a small swimming pool for them.
“I figured you guys have been working so hard, you could use a little break from the activity. So…pool party!”
“Joe, this is just so thoughtful!” Lil clapped.
Joe smiled. “Only thing is, you have to keep the splashing down. So you don’t wake my parents up. They’d be mad enough to write Santa and tell him to reassign you two.”
The elves looked uneasily at each other. He had no idea how right he was.