“I’m so glad you agreed to come!” Sincere gratitude warmed Nancy’s huge brown eyes. “I know this isn’t the most desirable place for an interview.” She glanced around the snow-covered surroundings, then lent me an apologetic smile. “But it’s the only place I could meet you.”
“On the contrary. It’s perfect,” I assured, my gaze following hers in a tour of the Central Park Zoo.
Snow, white and sparkling in the meager sun that struggled through thick gray clouds, turned every inch of the zoo into the proverbial winter wonderland. Gentle flurries swirled silent in the cold, damp wind.
Nancy blinked at delicate snowflakes dropping onto her long lashes. “Where would you like to start?”
“When did you first meet him?”
Far-away dreaminess softened her eyes, and she looked away, her mind obviously lighting on a wonderful memory. “I remember it like it was yesterday!”
“Tell me.” I flipped open my tablet to a blank page, uncapped my pen and stood ready to write. I’d wanted to meet her, to hear her story, for such a long time. This was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and I had to make the most of it. Excitement sent my pulse racing.
“Oh, my dear.” Pausing with a deep sigh. “When he came strutting into that room, you could have heard a pin drop! All eyes were on him!”
“So it is true. He was handsome!”
“Handsome! What an insignificant word to describe him! Beautiful! The most gorgeous creature any of us ever laid eyes on!”
“What did he look like?”
Again the brown gaze wandered. “Darker than the other men. Of course, being Italian and all. Deep, mysterious eyes. Lips that were invented for kissing! And, my dear. Dare I say it?”
“Yes! Please!” My writing stopped, pen poised above the tablet with anticipation.
“He had the narrowest hips and the nicest ass I’d ever seen! When he ambled into that room, that handsome head held high, those exotic eyes searching the area. My, my! To this day, the thought of it still makes me shiver!”
“How did you meet him? I mean, if he was drawing so much attention, I would imagine all the girls set their sights on him.”
“Of course they did!”
“What did you do to get his attention?”
“It took a few days for him to notice me. He was surrounded by girls on a regular basis.” Pausing, her eyes narrowed with what seemed to be a delicious thought. “One night, at one of the holiday get-togethers, he approached me to dance.”
“Of course, by then word had already spread through town what a marvelous dancer he was. And the gossip was true! Like a professional, smooth on his feet. Romantic! Attentive! Why, he put the rest of the men to shame! They couldn’t hold a candle to him! He simply swept us girls off our feet!”
“Is that why the trouble started? Did the other fellows get jealous?”
“It certainly didn’t help! But, to tell you the truth, he was a trouble maker anyway.”
“How is that?”
“The other fellows went to the nightly events at town hall, expecting all the gals to show up as we always did.”
“But the new guy had other plans!”
“He began to teach tango lessons while the activities went on in the town hall.”
“Yes! And what a teacher! The line was long with girls waiting for lessons! They simply forgot about the other guys and stopped going to the town hall altogether. They wanted to go to his bungalow to take lessons.”
“So that was how he got his bad reputation?”
“That wasn’t all. His secret…” her eyes danced with mystery. “Was the main reason!”
“The secret that ended up making him so famous?”
Shaking with excitement, I begged, “Tell me!”
“It was my turn to take tango lessons. Oh, what a romantic experience! Those muscles, those dreamy eyes, those luscious lips! He began to get pretty amorous. Although I enjoyed it, I didn’t want to succumb to the charms of this Romeo. I told him I really shouldn’t be there, that I should leave. He pulled me closer, and those luscious muscles of his sent shivers through me! He murmured that I didn’t need to go to those events at town hall. He could show me much more excitement in his little bungalow.”
“Well …” A rosy blush crept to her cheeks, her eyes closing with embarrassment. “Then we started making out.”
“And that’s when I saw it!” Her lashes fluttered. “And then I knew why all the girls were so anxious to be with him.”
“Oh! Was it ..?”
“As much as you’ve heard.” She blushed again. “Probably much more so.”
“Oh, my goodness!”
“I’d never seen anything like it in my life! And never have since!”
“Why did he let you … see it?”
“He couldn’t control it. He was embarrassed and apologized.” She kicked her toe in the snow. “But I liked it! I wanted to see more!”
“So you ..?”
“Kissed him even more. That excited him. And it just got...well...”
“So how did your boss find out? Did someone snitch?”
“That, dear, was why I wanted to tell you the story. For you to tell the truth to the world.”
“The ridiculous story that everyone knows is simply not true. It wasn’t at all how it happened.”
My excitement rose to unspeakable levels. The familiar story that had been accepted for years and years was about to come crashing to smithereens. The truth was going to be revealed.
And now I must share the true account with you, as it was told to me by Nancy. So pay attention. Are you listening?
You recall that famous Christmas Eve so very long ago? The Christmas Eve when Santa Clause was fog-bound and his yearly toy delivery was nearly cancelled? And do you remember how you’ve been told the trip was saved by a reindeer with a shiny red nose?
Well, what you don’t know is how Santa Clause came to discover that red nose. It wasn’t at all like you’ve been told. Oh, no.
Most of the story is true, mind you. But listen while I tell you the part of the story you DON’T know.
* * *
On that famous Christmas Eve, Santa turned from the window and, burying his face in his hands, slumped onto his gigantic velvet chair. He refused to cry in front of the elves or the reindeer. But crying was just what he wanted to do.
Never had he seen fog the likes of this night. The trip was impossible. Not even an experienced team of reindeer such as his could pull off such a feat. It was unthinkable.
“Santa?” With nervous, choppy steps, Nancy approached him.
Looking up, a brave smile touched Santa’s lips. “Yes, Nancy?” He wanted to be left alone, but smiled anyway.
“Santa, I think I have an idea that will save your trip.”
“Oh, thank you, Nancy, dear, but there is simply no way. This fog is monstrous. I can’t risk my team.”
“But I think it can be done. In fact, I’m sure of it.”
“Yes?” Heaving a huge sigh, he cast another patient smile.
Nancy leaned closer, whispered in his ear.
His eyes widened like giant lollipops. He beamed and said, “This I’ve got to see!”
* * *
Well, friends, this is what happened. Oh, yes, Rudolph, the famous red-nosed reindeer, did indeed have a bright red light for a nose, and it was indeed the very thing that saved that historic Christmas Eve.
But the fact historians have not told you, is that his nose would only shine so brightly when he was aroused. Then, oh then, it shone so bright it would put a lighthouse to shame. Needless to say, with a steady stream of love-struck does knocking on his bungalow door, the pretty red light glowed every night.
And the true reason all the other male reindeer laughed and called him names? Because they were jealous, plain and simple!
Oh, the girls called him names all right, too—Rudolph, the Valentino of reindeer! Which of course drove the other fellow reindeer even wilder with envy!
So. Imagine the main reindeer team’s embarrassment when, instead of Dasher and Prancer and the rest of the usual names, Santa had to yell out:
“On Nancy, on Suzie, now Donna and Mitzi ..!”
Because? Yes. This was the only way to keep our furry lothario Rudolph’s nose so bright all night. To be surrounded by the women, to keep his romantic fires burning. So, as long as a team of cute girl tails wriggles behind the red-nosed Sachem of Reindeer, toy deliveries will always be delivered on time, and the Christmas Eve sky will always be lit with that famous light.
And this, my friends, is the true story as told to me by Mrs. Rudolph.
So the next time you see that sleigh with the NINE tiny reindeer—think about what you’ve just heard.