Well, it's that night again, Santa was thinking. He was studying his grooming in the bathroom mirror, little scissors in hand. Then he leaned close to the mirror to trim his eyebrows a little. He didn't like it when his eyebrows got too long. He wiped his hands on the towel and stepped out. "I guess I'm as ready as I'm going to get, Agnes. Can you help me with my coat?" Agnes Claus took the red coat off the hanger and stood holding it. Santa leaned left to push his arm through, then had his arm stretch back so she could guide it onto his arm. Then she walked around to secure the pearl buttons on the front and fluff up the fake white ermine trim down the front. She kind of automatically dusted his front to smooth out any wrinkles.
"There, Claus old man, I think you're ready to fly." She gave him kind of a sad smile, and stood on her toes to give him a little good luck kiss. "Don't forget to watch out for those power lines this year. Remember what almost happened on last year/s trip." Santa stood for a moment, staring off into space, and then pulled his heavy oaken door open. He looked up at the darkening sky, the stars starting to shine and was happy the north wind had died down.
"Close the door, Claus, it's cold in here!" Agnes scolded. He obeyed and sloshed through the snow, just over ankle deep to the barn. Bartholomeauw and his little assistants were getting the harnesses hooked up, and the tinkling bell sound gave him a chuckle. "Mr. Santa, we checked the weather a bit ago. From the east coast, say around Manhattan to North Dakota is a mix of light snow and heavy, really heavy fog. Oh, and don't forget about watching for drones this year. Every doggoned kid'll have 'em in the air. They got cameras on them. Darned kids want to try to get some videos of you flyin' by."
Santa absently pulled on his beard. Last year, he figured Rudolf got spooked by one o' those darned things. It was that or a really big hummingbird, from its sound. That was when they brushed those power lines sending a bunch of sparks gliding along the harnesses, making all those bells ring like crazy. He got a bad strain in his left bicep pulling those reins so danged hard. Donner and Blitzen almost went crazy on him, and the others too, but he got them back in gear.
"Hey, Bart, how old is Rudolf's kid this year, Ambrose?" Bartholomeauw scratched his goatee, and seemed to study the barn ceiling. "Golly, let me think. It was a year after that 9/11 thing, Bush was still the president. Let's see. I know he ain't a little fawn anymore, so he's got to be .. maybe seventeen?" Santa's forefinger sat on his lower lip, then he pointed. "Let's take a look at him. Get him out here." Bartholomeauw left and within a couple of minutes came back, followed by Ambrose. Santa gave him a big smile, "Hiya, Kid! How's that nose of yours doin'?" Ambrose immediately cheered up. He thought he'd been caught at something, and had to face the boss. He actually had developed a little conceit over his radiating amber nose. He often trotted out to his favorite iceberg to practice glowing. Someday, he'll be famous like his dad. He wondered how his song would catch on, if any body would write it. His nose was twice as bright, and lit up the snow twice as far as that dinky red thing of his fathers.
"Well, come on, boy, let's see it! turn it on." Santa said, laughing. Ambrose was ready, This was his moment, his longed for audition. He took a step over to Bartholomeauw and put his nuzzel up to his pointy ear. "Oh, Okay!" He held his finger up to Santa. "Just a second, he has a request." Bart ran over to the wall switch and turned off the barn lights. Santa looked puzzled for just a second, and then Ambrose turned it on. The whole barn lit up in a yellowish glow. The shadows of the reindeer seem to dance along the barn wall. Rudolf's eyes widened and he stared at his boy, mouth agape. He felt a mixture of pride in his oldest boy, but also a gloom at this new competition. He strained and made his red nose glow a little brighter, but it was no competition. "Ambrose, you're the nose, tonight. Bart, take him over to that globe and show him the route." He looked over at Rudolf, whose head was drooped as the elf helpers were undoing his lead harness. He felt bad and thought he saw the light twinkle on a tear dropping from Rudolf's eye. He walked over and put his arm around Rudolf's neck. "Hey, look. These things happen. Technology is the King, these days. We'll be safer with the greater fog lights of Ambrose's nasal configuration. But hey, you're not out. From now on, you'll set up next to me, only, looking backwards. On every rooftop we stop on, you hit the nose...as our brake light...