How the SNAKE Saved Christmas

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The winds whistled across the fields of the North Pole. The miles-thick ice pack had existed long before the advent of Man. Through the Arctic air currents could be heard bells, music, and the sawing and hammering of workmen.
In Santa’s Workshop, the work day was far from over, for this was Christmas Eve, and elves were putting the finishing touches on millions of toys.
At the back of the shop, in a dark corner, shelves of wheels were stacked waiting for bearing lube before placing the wheels on axles for bikes, trikes, wagons, and toy trucks.
In the midst of this mass of wheels, a high-pitched voice hummed Christmas carols, not carrying a tune, and not keeping rhythm. Sylvester Snake worked here. He was a common python nicknamed ‘Sly’ who slithered in and out of wheel hubs and lubricated them with his oily exterior.
Sylvester Snake adjusted his bifocals – they always slid down his slippery nose. Sly was dejected because of the way he was snubbed by Santa’s elves. He didn’t belong to the Elf’s Club, or the Icicle Society, or the Polar Bear Swim Team. He had his job because Santa could find no elves small enough to squirm through the holes in wheel hubs to apply lubrication.
Beyond the workshop in the large corral, Santa’s reindeer fed and discussed the upcoming trip. Rudolph shined his bright red nose, and Dancer and Cupid spoke excitedly about tonight’s ride. The other reindeer exercised and ate a hearty dinner in preparation for the long night ahead.
The elves danced to Santa’s Sleigh House singing carols, tugged and pulled the great Christmas Sleigh into the light, and began the final preparation for tonight’s ride by polishing the exterior and cleaning out the birds that had camped there through fall and winter. Rudy Robin and Ferdie Finch flew squawking to the rafters in outrage at being ousted from their winter home. The elves also shushed Screwy Squirrel and Chewy the Chipmunk from under the sleigh’s seat.
Two elves entered carrying sharpening stones, ready to hone the sled runners so that the heavily-laden sleigh could skim across the snows.
“Oh my goodness!” came a sudden cry from under the great sleigh. “A runner is missing,” cried a panicky elf, dropping his tools and running in circles.
Santa came as soon as he heard the news, and all of the elves were charged to find the missing sled runner. For how could Santa’s sleigh pull the great bags of toys all over the world without two trusty – and not rusty – sled runners?
But the runner was nowhere to be found. This meant that Santa couldn’t use his sleigh tonight, and millions of girls and boys would get no toys – even if they had been good.
Christmas was doomed, for even ordering a new sled runner from Sears would take four or five days. There was nothing to be done. Santa was devastated, and most of the elves simply sat down and cried.
Soft-speaking, bifocalled Sylvester Snake slithered slowly across the shop, staring at Santa in his sorrow over the misshapen sleigh.
“Excuse me, Santa, sir,” hissed Sly, coiling himself into a black helix as some pythons do. “Perhaps I can resolve your impasse, sir.”
Santa looked down at the snake, a snake with spectacles perched on the tip of his nose, and Santa laughed. “Sylvester, how could a weak-eyed snake solve a problem of this magnitude?”
“Ahhhh,” spit Sly with a dart of his forked tongue, happy to be able to say something without an ‘s’. He pushed his bifocals up his broad nose and continued. “Serpents are slippery, slick, and slithery, Santa. Our skins are glossy and slimy, the better to glide lubriciously across snow.”
Santa chuckled at his slick-skinned employee, but decided to listen.
“Besides,” hissed Sly, “us snakes are shifty serpents and readily form into coils, helixes, braids, or pigtails. We can be wound, curved, or involuted, tied in knots or bows.” He paused to make sure Santa listened. “Few people realize it, but we snakes are lovable guys, just looking for a hug or squeeze, always ready to cuddle up and provide a fond embrace.”
Sly’s sibilant tongue darted in and out as he hissed his words. “We serpents are greatly maligned. They call us sneaky, clammy, scary, weak-eyed, tongue-tied, viperous, meandrous, and venemous. No wonder we hide under the first available rock. In Jack London’s stories, men loved a dog named Fang, but what if Jack had written about a snake named Fang? Heaven forbid!
“And every mother loves the sound of a baby’s rattle, but in the tail of one poor snake?…ugh. Why at work, no matter what the working conditions, the elves expect me to strike.”
Sylvester slithered up Santa’s boot, curled around his leg, and gazed intently into Santa’s eyes.
“Snakes have a history that goes way back – all the way to the Garden of Eden, where we got our first bad press.”
Santa studied his mistrusted oiler of wheel bearings. Perhaps, he thought, I should give this Sly one a chance…
Sly moved his sinuous body of cord-like muscle across the floor, and stretched himself out full length.
“Look, Santa. I’m every bit as long as that missing Sleigh runner. I can straighten out — and be one of your runners, really I can. I’ll tow the line (not to mention the sled). Being the gentle python I am, I certainly won’t apply any presssure on you about this.” He looked at Santa with a hypnotic stare.
Time was running out. Santa had to make a decision. Either give Sylvester a chance, or call off Christmas this year.
“Very well, Sly, I’ll give you a try!”
Sly was so happy, he hissed in his trance, and slithered to the badly skewed sleigh. Fastening himself to the empty runner brackets, Sly stiffened his slinky body into a straight line and held up his head proudly, putting a beautiful arch in his back to simulate the missing runner, and the Christmas Sleigh suddenly sat upright.
“Why, you look just like my old sled runner, Sylvester!” Santa exclaimed. “Maybe this will work after all.” He called to the elves. “Quickly now, load the toys onto the sleigh. There’s not a minute to lose.”
He laughed his famous ‘Ho, ho, ho’, and climbed aboard as the elves harnessed the reindeer. The elves stared in awe at Sylvester who looked for all the world like a black sled runner.
And amid the tinkle of sleigh bells and the clop, clop, clop of reindeer hooves, Sylvester Snake stuck out his chest and straightened his spine in anticipation of a long night of back-sliding ahead.
“Let’s be off!” cried Santa as he cracked his light whip against the cold night air. The reindeer responded instantly and  ascended, pulling the toy-laden sleigh into the clear wintry night. Prancer looked back beyond his harness when he heard the sleigh runners snick-snick across the snow, and as the sleigh rose rapidly into the air, he smiled a reindeer smile, for he knew all was right with the world.
And he heard Sylvester hiss as the sleigh rose in the air,
“Merry Chrissstmas to all! Snakesss are sssleighing tonight.”
And that’s how Sylvester Snake became a front runner for Santa Claus and saved Christmas.