A Writer of Historical Romances
Joan Vincent

Santa's Gloved Hand

S Hand

I learned as an adult that my mother had played Santa for many families and groups.  Seeing the light in her bedroom that night Mom decided to teach her children a lesson.  “The Hand” worked better than any lecture or threat. I never hunted for Christmas presents again!

“I don’t want to play with blocks any more,” my four-year-old brother Stan complained and pushed over three-year-old Eric’s “castle.”

“You had better watch out,” I scolded trying to sound like my mother to bolster my nine years.

“Santa watching,” chimed Eric.

As one we looked to the pair of windows on the south end of the large farm kitchen. One of them was partially blocked by the crib in which our year old sister slept. The other glinted black against the darkness. It mirrored back our anxious faces. Eric edged closer to me.

“D-do you th-think h-he’ll come?”

Santa’s threatened appearance gave me leverage when I was left in charge of my younger brothers. “’Course,” I said though a bit uneasy. Throughout December we never knew when Santa might tap on that window and shake a finger to caution us to be “good little boys and girls.” It usually happened while our parents and two older brothers were across the road tending to the nightly chores of milking, feeding, and spreading straw bedding for cows, calves, pigs, and chickens.

“Upstairs Santa can’t see us,” Stan boasted.

“But it’s freezing up there,” I informed with the wisdom of the older and a shiver. I knew from experience that the coal furnace, which sat in the center of the basement with an open grate on the main floor, heated mainly the area close to it. When snow sifted through onto the window ledges inside our rooms, it never melted. I sniffed the tantalizing odor from the oven--a roast beef I had put in it earlier. “Do you mean to go to bed before supper?”

Stan stuck out his tongue at me as he walked to the foot of the stairs. I ignored him but Eric toddled over to join him. After checking the baby I stomped over to them with hands on my hips. “Now what?”

Devilment glinted in Stan’s eyes. “Let’s hunt for Christmas presents.”

“Better not,” Eric fretted.

Curiosity nudged my hands from my hips. Did I dare?

“We won’t break anything,” Stan cajoled.

This sounded like an adventure. Dangerous but tempting. I looked at the clock above the refrigerator. Six o’clock. A half-hour or better before chores would be finished. A rush of excitement coursed through me.

“Where’d we look?” Eric asked. Stan and I grinned.

“Mom and Dad’s closet,” we told him. With an abnormal disregard for caution I flipped up the light switch at the foot of the stairs. As soon as I lowered my hand Eric grabbed a hold of it. Stan pushed around us and scampered up the stairs. “Cheater,” I muttered as I helped Eric up the seemingly endless steps.

“Hurry,” Stan called with an impatient wave. As we approached, he stepped back from our parents’ bedroom door. “You open it.”

“It was your idea,” I countered. He shook his head. Uncertainty shimmied up my backbone. Before I could lose my nerve I turned the knob and pushed open the door.

Stan rushed past me and hopped up onto the bed. He caught hold of the length of cord dangling from the light fixture and tugged it. The room flooded with light. I looked to the window that faced the barn. The shade was only half way down. I didn’t dare pull it lower. Suddenly it seemed colder. “Let’s hurry,” I urged and opened the closet door. The screech of wood against wood halted me in my tracks. Stan was dragging dad’s desk chair toward the closet.

“To stand on,” he piped at my glare.

I stepped aside to let him slide it in place but then tugged him back. “I’m taller,” I chimed. I stepped up the chair with more bravado than I possessed and pulled the string to turn on the light. Shoeboxes, hatboxes--dad’s and mom’s, Dad’s Zane Greys, a chipped china bird, and some sweaters met my eager gaze. Shucks! Nothing resembling Christmas presents. I didn’t know whether or not to be relieved.

“What’s there?” Eric asked in a high tight voice as he flapped his arms across his thin chest for warmth.

“Nothing,” I said disgustedly and hopped down. “Let’s go.”

“I’m lookin’,” Stan blustered.

“Me too,” Eric echoed though worry filled his face.

As I helped Stan and then Eric up onto the chair my stomach churned. A stray sound from below made it flip flop. “Com’on,” I whispered. “Pull the string to turn off the light and get down Eric. Someone’s in the kitchen.” Together we lifted the chair and, almost noiselessly, carried it back by my father’s desk. “Are you sure this is just the way it was before you moved it?” I drilled Stan.

At his nod I went to the center of the room and tugged the cord to turn off the light. Eric must have sensed my unease. He grabbed a hold on my jeans as we scuttled out of the room. I tugged the door shut and then saw Stan reaching for the empty bedroom’s door. “What are you doing?” I choked out in an angry whisper.

“Won’t hurt to try the junk room,” he whispered gleefully.

“We’re supposed to be downstairs,” I huffed. I had had enough adventure for one day.

A slight metallic rattle stiffened us. Our eyes widened as the doorknob on the junk room door slowly began to turn. We stepped back, quivering with fright as the door opened a crack. What could it be? Monsters? Gremlins? Fear rooted us to the spot.

The door shook and the opening widened an inch, then two. My teeth began to chatter but still I couldn’t move. The next instant a white-gloved hand with a ruff of fur and then red jutted into view. Santa’s hand! We erupted into screams. Stan bolted for the stairs.

Eric had welded his hand to mine and refused to budge. Wrenching him off his feet, I scrambled for the stairs with him in tow. By the time my “leech” and I reached the kitchen, I saw that the closet door there was open. I dragged a crying Eric into the closet, around the built in dresser, and to back corner. Stan sat tight against the angled ceiling, sniffling and shivering. Gasping for breath I squatted down beside him and hugged Eric close.

“Hush, hush,” I urged them and tried to calm my thudding heart while I desperately prayed. For what I don’t exactly know. When my heart quieted enough for me to think I gave Eric to Stan and crept to the corner of the dresser. Swallowing a lump of fear I peered around it. I saw the rocker and scattered blocks. The clock ticked loudly above my brothers sniffling. Then I heard our parents and brothers, louder than usual, as they passed by the south windows on their way to the back door. As I tried to leave the closet Stan and Eric held me back.

Pulling free I turned to them. “It’s okay. Nothing happened. Understand?” I pleaded. “Understand.”

They nodded. I grabbed their hands and tugged them out of the closet. Stan pointed to the stairs--empty but lighted. We heaved a collective sigh of relief.

“To your blocks,” I urged them and ran to flip off the light.

As the back door opened I raced to the oven and hastily pulled down its door and grabbed a potholder.

“Everything all right?” Mom asked. I looked up too relieved to wonder at her grin or why she elbowed Dad when he chuckled.

“Fine,” I gulped and then blurted, “The boys were good.”