99: A House Without a Chimney

99: A House Without a Chimney

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Home Sweet Home

A House Without a Chimney

Even as an adult I find it difficult to sleep on Christmas Eve. Yuletide excitement is a potent caffeine, no matter your age.

~Terri Guillemets

I couldn’t sleep. Wide-eyed, I stared up at the ceiling. “It’s not fair,” I whispered. “Uncle Ed’s house has a chimney. Uncle Marty’s house has a chimney. Grandpa’s house has a chimney. Why doesn’t ours?”

I clutched my blue blankie to my chest.

“Well, I’m not going to lie here and let Santa Claus skip my house just because we don’t have a chimney.”

I kicked off my covers and sat up. With my blue blankie draped around my neck, I leapt from my bed. In the pale glow of a cheap, drugstore nightlight, I tiptoed around the pieces to Mr. Potato Head. Then I slowly pushed the door open.

I stuck my head into the hallway and peeked left.

I could hear faint noises coming from the kitchen. Who was up this late on Christmas Eve?

I stepped into the hallway, and crept toward the noises. Meanwhile, the footies in my jammies made a funny sound “skish” on the hallway’s wooden floor.

At the end of the hallway, I halted and peeked around the corner.

“John?”

I froze.

Mom asked, “What are you doing up?”

I stepped into the kitchen, replying, “Mom, I can’t sleep.”

“Well, you better get your little butt to bed,” Mom countered, “or Santa won’t come.”

“I know, I know.”

Mom folded her arms across her chest and began tapping her right foot.

So I asked, “Um, Mom… can I… uh… take one more look at the tree?”

Mom sighed.

“Okay, I guess so,” she said. “But then you go straight to bed.”

“Yes, ma’am,” I replied. I scampered across the kitchen’s linoleum floor.

Then I hit the living room’s carpet and continued my trek to see the tree — just like I had told Mom I would. But I stopped in the middle of the living room and looked over my left shoulder.

Mom was puttering around in the kitchen.

The coast was clear!

I bolted to the front door, reached up, and grabbed the knob. I silently rotated it, barely cracking open the front door.

“There,” I whispered. “Our house not having a chimney won’t stop Santa now.”

Then I retreated from the scene of the crime and began my trek back into the kitchen. When I reached the linoleum, I actually did turn around and look at our Christmas tree. It was beautiful, but it would look even better tomorrow morning with all the presents under it.

I turned around to go back into the kitchen — only to run headlong into Mom.

“John, please watch where you’re going,” she commanded, balancing a glass of milk and a plate of cookies.

“I’m sorry.”

Mom traipsed to the living room’s coffee table, where she set those items down. Then she stood erect, and started back to the kitchen — but lurched to a halt.

Uh oh.

Mom furrowed her brow.

I bit my lip.

“I feel a draft,” Mom mumbled.

“Oh no,” I groaned.

Mom looked around and then asked, “Well, who left the front door cracked open?”

I hung my head. Then I watched Mom troop over to the front door, slam it shut, and lock it.

Dang it. Santa was never going to get in.

After Mom returned across the carpet, she placed her right hand upon my shoulder and steered me into the kitchen. There, she pointed down the hallway and said, “Go!”

With my blue blankie dragging on the floor, I returned to my bedroom.

Christmas morning, I awoke to find a million presents under our tree! But I wasn’t surprised. To this very day, Mom doesn’t know that — on the way to my bedroom — I unlocked the back door.

~John M. Scanlan

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