Once upon a time there was a possum named Paula. Paula was special, because she could fly. Her mother sewed her a cape, since everyone thought Paula was a superhero, and flying superheroes all need to wear capes. They called her Superpossum, but her friends just called her Paula.
Paula loved flying around at night, especially at Christmas time. Paula also loved watching all the Christmas lights from high in the cold, crisp air. She often spent time with her friend Santa Claus, when she wasn’t visiting her animal friends.
This year, though, Paula noticed things were different. Many of the places where she enjoyed watching the lights were dark, because the houses had been flooded. The people living in those houses had moved, taking some of her animal friends with her. It made her a little sad, but they were all okay, and that was the most important thing.
Paula landed in the top of a big pine tree near the Elwell Ferry, and pulled a cookie from her pouch. Her mother always made sure she had snacks when she was out flying, and sometimes made her take a sweater, if it was cold.
“It’s sure a pretty night,” Paula said, munching her cookie. “I wonder who I shall go visit? After all, it’s Christmas Eve. I need to visit someone.”
“Hello, Paula!” a voice boomed from the tree beside her. Paula almost dropped her cookie, then she saw her friend Barney the Owl.
“Boy, you scared me! Merry Christmas, Barney!”
“And to you, Superpossum. Out saving the world again?” Paula laughed.
“I never saved the world, but I’m proud to help Santa,” she said. “Tonight I’m just enjoying myself. It’s a beautiful Christmas Eve.”
“It is,” Barney said. “Did you see those folks on the highway?” Paula perked up.
“Where? I just came down 53.” Barney pointed his wing to the west.
“They’re over on 74. Their car broke down, I think.” Paula quickly ate the last of her cookie.
“Thanks, Barney! Merry Christmas!”
Paula jumped from the tree and began flying as fast as she could. Not being able to be home for Christmas would be a terrible thing.
Paula flew past Zombie Cat’s house, then over the woods where the hounds at North State bayed to her. She shouted Merry Christmas back to them, and kept heading east by south. Pretty soon, she saw an old car parked beside the road, with the hood up. There was a man staring under the hood, shining a little light.
“Howdy!” Paula said. The man was startled, and bumped his head on the car hood as he turned around.
“Well, uh, howdy. Are you an angel, or maybe an alien?” Paula laughed.
“Hardly. I’m just a possum. My name is Paula.”
“I’m Bill,” the man said. He pointed at the car. “It just quit. My phone doesn’t work out here, and I’m worried – my little girl is in the backseat asleep. We were going to her grandma’s house for Christmas. I—well, I don’t have a job anymore, and her grandma is giving us a place to stay. We won’t have much of a Christmas this year, I don’t think. Especially if we have to sit here beside the road.”
Paula turned her head to one side.
“May I see if I can figure it out?” The man gave her a funny look.
“A possum who does mechanic work? Why not?”
“I’m better at diagnosing than fixing,” she said. Paula saw immediately that the car had a broken fan belt. “There’s your problem. The fan belt. And with that leak – you may have a busted water pump, too. I’m sorry.”
The man looked in the back of the car, then slid down to sit beside the fender. Paula looked for traffic on the road – it’s always smart to keep an eye out for traffic, especially if you’re a possum – and landed beside him. The man rested his head on his arms.
“I just can’t get a break,” he said. “We lost our house in the flood, then I lost my job and my wife got sick. I just wanted to get her to Grandma’s for Christmas, then go back to the hospital with her mom. We don’t really need anything – a lot of people helped us out after the storm – but I wanted everybody to have a little something.
“But I just can’t get a break. And here I am pouring my heart out to a possum on the side of the road on Christmas Eve. No offense intended.”
“None taken,” Paula said. “I’m a good listener, but a lot of people say it takes some getting used to.”
“I paid a guy the last of our money to fix the car,” Bill said, “but I didn’t think he did it right. I think he came back and stole my little girl’s dog. I haven’t had the heart to tell her. I’ve looked for Lucky everywhere. She thinks he’s down the road at a friend’s house.”
Paula growled, and switched her tail.
“You have any idea where this guy lives?” Paula asked. She sneaked a long, blonde hair from the man’s shoulder. His hair was dark and short. She figured it must have come from the little girl. She carefully rolled it up and put it in her pouch.
The man gave Paula some vague directions, and she nodded.
“Let me see what we can do.”
“Where does Grandma live? Would you mind writing her address and number down for me?”
“Sure,” the man said, taking the pen and paper Paula handed to him, “but I don’t know what good it’ll do. She can’t drive at night.”
Paula patted the man’s hand, and gave him the rest of her bag of cookies.
“You just look after your kids,” she said. “I’ll be back.”
“Thank you. Do you know you’re the first person – err, possum, uh, — well, people been driving by, but they didn’t stop or anything. Only thing I’ve seen was a big owl that sat in the tree over there. People are mean, even on Christmas.”
Paula rocketed into the air, and the man got back inside his car.
“Okay,” she said to herself. “Where do I start?”
Meanwhile, the Evil Weasels crept up from the ditch beside the road. A pair of coyotes sneaked up beside them.
“Man, I’m glad she’s gone,” one of the Weasels said. The coyotes nodded.
“You ain’t kidding,” one of them said. They heard the little girl in the car wake up, and her dad trying to reassure her. The head Weasel laughed.
“Are you ready to have some fun?”
“Oh, yeah!”, the coyotes howled.
Paula flew up the highway as fast as she could.
“They need transport, the car fixed, some food, and some toys,” she said to herself. “Where am I going to find those things on Christmas Eve?” Paula was surprised at how few vehicles were on the road. “Everybody else is home for Christmas, where they should be.”
Paula turned right and flew over White Marsh, heading for her friends at Meadowsweet. Walter the Wonder Dog came bounding up the driveway as he saw her coming. The rabbits scattered, then they realized that it was Paula.
“Hey, it’s Paula! Merry Christmas, Paula!”
The horses and donkeys ran to the fence, and the little dogs at the big house began barking as well. The goats began baahing a greeting as well, and Ellie the Pig snorted happily. Even Old Floyd the Squirrel woke up and ran out on a tree limb to see what was going on. Paula landed among the animals, trading hugs, handshakes and high fives with everyone.
“Hi, everybody! Merry Christmas! I need some help.”
“Is Santa okay? Is it the Weasels again? I hate Weasels!” Most of the animals had helped Paula fight the Evil Weasels on Christmas Eve through the years, and they were expecting trouble.
“Slow down, slow down,” Paula said. “We don’t hate anybody. That’s not nice. I haven’t seen any Weasels, anyway. I just have some folks who need help. A man and a couple little kids.”
“Bring them home,” Walter said. “Aunt Donna always has room! The Wildman and Mom have Uncle Mike here, but Aunt Donna probably wouldn’t care.”
“I don’t want to do that on Christmas Eve,” Paula said. “It’s a man and his little girl. Their car broke down, and they’ve had a rough time of it since the flood.”
“We know what that’s like,” Walter said.
“On top of that,” Paula said, “somebody stole the little girl’s dog. She got him for Christmas last year.” Several of the animals growled, while others gasped.
“I got stole once,” said Old Red the horse.
“I despise a thief,” said Susie the Dobermuffin.
“What can we do?” asked Melanie the Donkey. Paula flipped her tail.
“We need to get them to their grandma’s house, find them something to eat, and get them some help,” Paula said. “I have to find them a mechanic, too. We got to think in terms of immediate needs and then long term.” The animals stared at Paula. “What? I went to some of the classes after the hurricane.”
Walter cocked his head to one side, thinking.
“Okay. We can’t do anything about fixing the car, but we can sure get them to a safe place. Melanie, you and Mabel up for a pull?”
The donkeys nodded and brayed.
“Show me the way!” Mabel said. “Maybe the little girl will brush my hair.” The donkeys trotted off toward the barn, and Floyd jumped on Melanie’s back.
“I’ll get you hooked up,” he said. A three-legged possum scampered up a fence post and climbed aboard Mabel’s furry back.
“I’ll help – I have opposable thumbs, you know.”
“Thanks, Miguel!” Walter barked. “Okay. Where were we? Paula, do you know where they were when the dog got stolen?” She smoothed a patch of sand with her tail, and drew a map on the ground. Walter, Susie and the other animals studied it.
“I know that neighborhood,” said Gracie, flipping her mane and whinnying nervously. She outlined a place in the sand with her hoof. “Those are some bad folks down that way.”
“They have no idea who they’re messing with,” whickered June the Horse.
“We can’t get from here to there to there on foot,” Gracie said. Paula pulled her bag of Santa dust from her pouch.
“Got it covered.”
Mabel and Melanie wiggled in the traces as Floyd and Miguel tightened the last buckles.
“That okay?” Floyd asked. Mabel tossed her head. The Santa dust glittered on their backs.
“It’s hard to team two donkeys of different sizes,” Miguel said. Floyd stared at him, and he shrugged. He lifted the stump of his missing foot.
“When I was being rehabilitated, I had a lot of time on my hands. I read a lot.”
“You girls ready?” Paula said.
“Let’s rock!” the donkeys brayed. Floyd and Miguel tightened their grip on the reins, and the donkeys moved off, slowly at first, then faster and faster. Before they were halfway down the driveway, they were flying!
“Wooo-hoo! Just like reindeer!” Mabel hee-hawed.
Paula and Walter turned to the other animals. Walter had the little girl’s hair wrapped around his collar.
“Okay. It’s Christmas Eve,” Paula said, “so I can’t ask any of you to come with us. We really need some of you to stay home, since the Weasels will be somewhere, and Santa’s coming.”
“Somebody stole a little girl’s dog, somebody’s getting bitten,” growled Susie. “I’m coming.”
“You know I’m there,” Walter said.
“I’m game,” said Wesley the Jagd terrier.
“Mabel and Mellie might need some help,” said Kimmee the minidonk. Her son Fozzie nodded, and his tiny hooves clattered against the pavement.
“June, how about you and Red taking care of things here?” The old horses neighed.
“As long as we can do something to help,” Red said. “I love little girls.”
“We’ll stay behind,” the rabbits all said together. “We have babies.”
“I’m sorry, Paula, but that place scares me,” Gracie said. The possum rubbed Gracie’s forehead.
Paula dabbed some of the dust on all the animals that were going along to help. Walter, a veteran of many Christmas Eve adventures, immediately began flying. Wesley and Susie, who hadn’t flown before, took a few minutes to get used to the idea.
“This is a lot easier on the hips than running,” Wesley said.
“You ain’t kidding,” Susie said.
Paula pulled two small radios from her pouch, and clipped one to Wesley’s collar.
“I only have two, and they’re kinda short-range,” she said, “but call me if you need me.”
Paula gave each other animals a task, and when they were all in the air, she took off toward Hallsboro. She knew just who she could get to help.
Judge Doug and Miss Vickie were sitting in their family room, enjoying the fireplace, when the doorbell rang.
“Who in the world could that be?” Miss Vickie said. “It’s Christmas Eve!”
Judge Doug looked through the window, and Paula waved to him.
“Miss Vickie, it’s Superpossum!” He threw open the door and held out his hand. “Paula, how are you? Merry Christmas!”
“Merry Christmas, Judge Doug! I’m sorry to bother you, but I need some help, and that’s something you do really well.”
“I try,” he said. “Tell me what I can do.” Paula quickly explained about the man and the children on the highway, and gave Judge Doug the grandma’s address. He pulled on his coat and kissed Miss Vickie.
“I’ll be back,” he said. “It’s time for me to put on my volunteer hat again.”
Paula flew back up the road. The stars were bright and cold-looking in the night sky.
Checking her wristwatch, she figured the donkeys would be arriving at the broken-down car. She hoped Bill wouldn’t be too surprised.
“Things are going too well,” she told herself. “I wonder if those Weasels are planning something. They sure are sneaky.”
The coyotes surrounded the car, howling and yipping. Inside, the little girl cried, while the man yelled at the coyotes to go away.
The Evil Weasels laughed.
“I love it,” the lead weasel said. “scaring humans on Christmas Eve! And there’s nothing that Superpossum can do about it!”
One of the coyotes jumped on the trunk and barked at the rear window. Inside, the little girl screamed.
“I’m gonna eat you!” the coyote barked, trying not to laugh. “I’m gonna eeeeattt you! Bwahahahaha!”
Walter, Wesley and Susie were several miles down the road, flying as fast as they could. They found the neighborhood, just as Gracie had described it. It was a sad place with no Christmas lights. They began barking as they flew through the night sky.
“Lucky! Lucky! Has anyone seen Lucky?”
Behind an old barn, far off the road, a white bulldog lifted his dirty nose. He was cold and hungry, and hurt in several places. There was a heavy chain around his neck, and the chain was wrapped around a tree.
He thought he heard someone calling his name – but it sounded more like a dog than his little girl.
“I must be hearing things,” he said sadly. “I sure miss my little girl.”
Susie leaned toward Walter, and sniffed the hair.
“What’s that for?”
“If he’s been stolen,” Wesley explained, “this will prove we’re here to help. It’s from his little girl.”
“Oh. A bona fide.” The boy dogs stared at Susie.
“What? Possums aren’t the only ones who can read. Cover me.” Susie banked downward, heading toward a pen full of hunting dogs.
“Hey Good Looking!” one of the hounds bayed. “Merry Christmas!”
“Merry Christmas to you,” Susie barked back. “I’m trying to find a white bulldog.”
“Come on, honey,” the hound howled. “I’m more your type.”
“Hush, Seven,” barked an old black and tan. “I’m sorry, Miss. He has no manners. I’m Three. You’re looking for a bulldog, you say? By the way – how can you fly?”
“The bulldog was stolen from a little girl,” Susie said. “And the flying thing is a long story.” The black and tan looked at an ancient Walker in his pen, and the two nodded.
“Uh-huh. You tell her.”
The black and tan scratched a ragged old ear.
“Two miles down the road, there’s a dirt road going into the woods to the right. Go up there, and find the old barn. There’s a white bulldog up there, and there were some other dogs. We don’t know what goes on there, but the man what has him is a bad feller.”
“Much obliged,” Susie said, and flew back to where Wesley and Walter were hovering.
“Find out anything?” Wesley said. Susie nodded, and aimed her nose where Three told her they might find Lucky.
“That way. Let’s go.”
Lucky was lonely – the other dogs had disappeared several days ago, dragged away by the Mean Man who stole Lucky from his little girl. Lucky barked at the man when he came to work on the girl’s daddy’s car – the man didn’t smell right, and acted funny. Lucky tried to fight when the man came back, but Lucky didn’t like to bite anything, much less a person, and the man caught him on a pole with a rope on the end.
He didn’t know why he was the only dog left, but he knew it was Christmas Eve, and he whimpered as he thought about his little girl. He slept on the bed with her, and guarded her during the flood. She was scared of the dark until he came to live with the family. He hoped she wasn’t scared on Christmas Eve.
He heard his name being barked again, and sat straight up, the big chain rattling. Even though he knew he might get hit by the Mean Man again, he began barking.
Somebody knew his name.
“Seven o’clock low!” Wesley barked, pointing, and the dogs angled down and to the left. Sure enough, there was an old barn, and a white bulldog chained to a tree.
Susie landed in front of the bulldog, who stood up, shaking.
“Who are you? How can you fly?” Lucky said. He thought he could smell his little girl, but he knew that she wasn’t there.
“I’m Susie, that’s Walter, and that’s Wesley. Paula the Superpossum sent us.”
“I don’t know any Paula,” Lucky said. “Are you – are you good dogs?”
“Nothing but,” Walter said. “We gotta get you out of here. Where’s the man who stole you?’
“He drives a big van, but he left a couple hours ago. Please, can you get me some water?”
Susie looked around, and growled.
“You don’t even have a bucket! When’s the last time you ate?” The bulldog shrugged.
“A couple days ago, I guess.”
“My goodness.” Wesley and Walter grabbed the chain, trying to pull it from the tree. Walter stopped and shook his head.
“We are going to need some help,” Wesley said. “We can’t break that thing. The radio won’t reach very far, either. Line of sight ain’t good around here. We’re going to have to find somebody.”
“Where’s a beaver when you need one?” Walter said.
“Remember the man who cleaned our canal after the flood?” Wesley said. “Mr. Blake. Big Boy’s daddy. He has a cutting torch on the back of his truck.” Walter wagged his tail and nodded.
“Yep. I even know where they live! Look, you two stay with Lucky, and I’ll go get some help.”
“Please hurry,” Lucky said. “I miss my little girl. I honestly think I can smell her.”
Walter worked a paw into his collar, and carefully drew out the hair. He laid it on Lucky’s nose. The bulldog sniffed, and tears began filling his eyes.
Wesley turned away, and rubbed a paw across his own eyes.
“We have the guard, Walter,” he said. “Go get Mr. Blake and Big Boy. If you see her along the way, tell Paula we’ll be there soon.”
Melanie and Mabel found the highway, and turned southeast. Kimee and Fozzie were flying as hard as they could, but their little legs wouldn’t carry them as fast as the bigger donkeys. It didn’t take long before they found the broken-down car – and it was surrounded by coyotes!
“Not them again!” Miguel yelled. Floyd shouted to the donkeys.
“Coyotes! It’s hammer time! We’ll set down on the median, and unhook the traces. Then you girls can do what you do best!”
“I love a good fight!” Mabel brayed.
The coyotes were barking and howling, laughing at the people in the car. Nina was hiding her face in Bill’s jacket, crying, and her dad was trying to comfort her. Suddenly he heard a donkey going hee-haw, hee-haw.
“What is a donkey doing on the highway on Christmas Eve?” he said.
Suddenly the coyotes stopped barking and looked up at the sky. Then they began yipping in fear.
“Flying donkeys? Donkeys can’t fly!”
“Oh no – that means Superpossum’s around here somewhere! Run!”
“You want a piece of me?” Mabel bellowed.
“Move away from the car, Furball,” Melanie said “You’re my dog now!”
“Get’em!” the lead Weasel snarled. “What are you scared of?” Two tiny hooves suddenly slammed into the ground on either side of him, and the lead Weasel looked up to see Kimmee staring down at him. Fozzie was holding two other Weasels down by their tails.
“Guess who’s on Santa’s naughty list?” Kimmee said.
Paula followed Judge Doug’s truck for a few miles, then veered back across country. She saw Walter the Wonder Dog flying faster than he’d ever flown before, and she swung down beside him.
“What’s up? You find Lucky?”
“We did – but we need some help. Do you know Mr. Blake and Big Boy?”
“Oh yes. Everybody knows Blake and Big Boy.”
“Well, Lucky is chained to a tree in a horrible place. We need somebody to cut the chain.”
“That’s one thing my Swiss Army knife can’t do,” Paula said, “But I know Mr. Blake can!”
They spotted Mr. Blake’s house, and angled downward. Mr. Blake and Big Boy were eating McNuggets in the back yard. Big Boy began barking furiously, and Mr. Blake looked up, amazed.
“Dogs can’t fly!” Big Boy barked. “What are you doing here?” Mr. Blake rubbed his head.
“Calm down, Big Boy – that’s Paula the Superpossum. And you remember Walter, from Meadowsweet Farm.” Big Boy wagged his tail, and looked at Walter.
“Oh yeah. Sorry about the manners. Merry Christmas!”
“Merry Christmas,” Paula said. “Mr. Blake, we need some help.”
“On Christmas Eve?” he said. “It must be serious.”
Walter quickly told Mr. Blake and Big Boy about the dog thief, and Big Boy growled.
“I was stolen once, too, but my dad came and got me back.”
“That’s why we came to you,” Walter said. “We’re gonna get Lucky back to his little girl.”
“I know the road you’re talking about,” Mr. Blake said. “I even know a shortcut.” He opened the door of his truck, and Big Boy jumped in.
“I have plenty of Santa dust,” Paula said. “You can fly with us if you want to, Big Boy. It won’t work on humans and trucks, though.”
“Thanks,” Big Boy said, “but I’ll ride with my dad.”
“See you there!” Walter howled, and Paula and Walter rocketed off into the night.
Susie stood up when the lights pulled in the driveway. Lucky whimpered.
“It’s the Mean Man,” Lucky whispered.
“We’ll see how mean he is,” Wesley said. “Susie, you go over behind that shed.”
“Don’t let him hit me again, please,” Lucky said.
“Not gonna happen on my watch,” Susie growled.
They froze as not one, but two doors opened on the van. Three men began coming toward Lucky in the dark.
“The more the merrier,” Wesley growled.
Walter and Paula saw the lights as the van pulled up the dirt road. The men left the doors hanging open while they went to the back of the van.
“That can’t be good,” Walter said, and Paula’s radio buzzed.
“Paula, come in, Paula. This is Susie. We need some help! There’s three of them.”
“We got you,” Walter said. Paula spotted the pen where Susie had met the hounds earlier.
“I have an idea,” she said, and dove toward the hunting dog’s pen.
Walter heard Susie bark, then Wesley roared. The Wonder Dog stretched out and dove toward the man nearest Lucky.
“Don’t make me bite yoooooou!” Walter howled.
Paula flew as fast as she’d ever flown before, and didn’t even stop as she flew beside the run, opening the dog pen doors. As the hounds dashed outside, she powdered each one with the Santa dust. The dogs began jumping into the air and flying around, howling and smashing into each other.
“So YOU’RE the Superpossum!” the old black and tan said. “I thought you were an Internet story!”
“Glad to meet you. Follow me. We need some help.”
“You got it!” One of them howled. “Listen, can you introduce me to that Doberman?”
Wesley, Walter and Susie stood in a circle around Lucky, growling and barking.
“Feisty, ain’t they?” the Mean Man laughed. “That dog knocked you sideways, Mack.”
“No idea a dog could jump so high and so far,” Mack said, rattling the cable on his catch-stick. “We’ll need a special cage for him.”
“Come on,” the third man, Clyde, said. “We got to get the bulldog to that fellow who’s wanting him. We’ll throw these others in for free!”
Suddenly the men turned around. It sounded like all the dogs in the world were coming toward them – from the sky!
The hounds landed on the dog thieves, barking and howling. The men yelled and tried to fight them off, but the dogs kept flying around and attacking them. The Mean Man, Mack and Clyde into the barn, where they shut the door behind them.
“Now the truck!” Paula said, dropping a hook on the barn door with her tail. “Don’t let them get away!” The hounds jumped in the cab of the Mean Man’s truck and began tearing it apart. They bayed happily as the upholstery, seat covers and wiring flew everywhere.
The Mean Man grabbed a big stick inside the barn.
“We’ll show those dogs something – “and his voice trailed off as headlights broke through the woods behind the barn.
“It’s Mr. Blake!” Walter barked.
“I’m gone!” Mack said. “That man finds out we been selling dogs, jail will look good.”
“I’m with you!” Clyde said, and the two men shinnied out a window and ran into the woods.
Big Boy jumped up at the window and stared the Mean Man in the face, growling.
“I know you,” the dog said. The Mean Man gulped as Walter, Susie and Wesley surrounded the barn.
Blake fired up the machinery on the back of his truck. He patted Lucky’s head.
“Don’t you worry, little buddy. We’ll have you home for Christmas.”
Paula whipped her head around.
“Do you hear something?” Walter gave her a silly look.
“We’re dogs. We hear everything. That’s the sound of sleighbells!”
Paula looked up, and spotted a set of red lights in the sky. She jumped and flew toward the lights.
“Ho-Ho-HO, Paula! Merry Christmas!” Santa shouted. “You’re a ways from home!” The reindeer didn’t break stride, but called out to her, too.
“I hate to bother you, Santa, but we need some help.” Santa pulled back slightly on the reins, and the deer began hovering.
“Never a bother, as many times as you have helped me. What do we need to do?”
Paula came around the curve on the highway, and saw Melanie and Mabel standing with the man and his little girl. The girl was brushing Mabel’s long hair, and the donkey was licking her, face, making her giggle. Kimmee and Fozzie were holding several squirming weasels by the tails.
Judge Doug’s truck was parked behind the car, his hazard lights flashing, and the man and Judge Doug were putting a suitcase and a couple boxes in the bed of the truck.
Wesley, Walter and Susie were keeping pace with Mr. Blake – Paula couldn’t see his truck, since Mr. Blake took one of his shortcuts, but she knew where he was since the dogs were flying over it. The truck burst out of the woods and pulled onto the road, right across from the broken down car. Floyd jumped straight up in the air, startled, then went back to straightening the harness for the donkeys.
“Hi, Judge!” Mr. Blake called.
“Hi, Blake!” Judge Doug called back.
“I have somebody in back I want you to meet,” Mr. Blake said. The Mean Man was in the bed of the truck, wrapped up in the chain that had been around Lucky’s neck! “I took this paper from his van – it’s got an address where he’s been selling stolen dogs. You want to handle it, or you want me to?”
“I’ll call the district attorney when I get home,” Judge Doug said. “We’re not far from the Lake – would uyou drop him by the police station there?
Bill came over to Paula as the possum gently landed on the back of Mr. Blake’s truck.
“I don’t know how to shake hands with a flying possum,” he said.
“We shake hands like all possums,” Paula laughed.
“I just want to thank you. Mr. Doug, well, he’s going to get us to Grandma’s, and he said he thinks he can get me a job,” Bill said. “There’s a lot of work cleaning up from the floods, and I’m a pretty good carpenter. He’s a nice man. I didn’t know there were nice people left.”
“There are a lot more than you think,” Paula said. Bill looked around, then looked back toward Nina, who laughed as Mellie and Mabel licked her.
“Well, I appreciate you looking for my little girl’s dog,” Bill said. “I mean, all this was too much – I don’t expect Lucky will ever be seen again.”
“Don’t give up hope,” Paula said, and Santa’s laugh boomed through the night. The reindeer landed gently on the median, and began grazing.
“Santa! Santa Claus!” Nina yelled, staring at the sleigh.
“Hello, Nina! Merry Christmas! I have somebody here who wants to see you.”
Santa opened the door on the side of the sleigh, and Lucky jumped out! Nina began running toward her dog. Lucky barked happily, and ran toward her. They fell down in the soft grass, laughing.
Walter turned away, sniffing.
“Uh, yeah. Something in my eye.” Paula wiped the tip of her tail across her face.
“Must be pollen,” she said.
Santa shook hands with Bill, Judge Doug and Blake, and scratched the donkeys between the ears. He tossed a walnut to Floyd, and a piece of jerky to Miguel.
“Paula,” he said, “it wouldn’t be Christmas without an adventure – you think you could help me deliver the rest of the presents?”
“I’ll even guide your sleigh if you need me to,” she laughed.
“Hey!” Rudolph the reindeer said, his nose glowing. “That’s MY job!”
“Merry Christmas, everybody!” Big Boy barked.