Someone had lost Christmas. One poor soul had to report it to everyone else, but, of course, no-one was taking responsibility. It wasn’t their department, they’d been on long-term leave, the files had been shredded. But there was no getting away from the fact, Christmas was lost,
There were the usual questions,-
When did you see it last?
Um, about a year ago, was it?
Have you checked your pockets?
The search turned up nothing more reminiscent of Christmas than an expenses receipt and an uneaten toffee.
A lot to rifle through, but nothing more festive than a packet of indigestion tablets.
So, a full search of the building, especially down the back of the sofas, and, although a number of unspeakable finds were made and unpaid bills were uncovered, nothing Christmassy emerged. One individual drew the short straw and had to check the rubbish bags in the bins, but a full half-hour of grubbing through tissues and half-eaten apples produced only a lost cufflink and a bad smell.
It was time to contact the police and the travel companies, but the problem was that when it came to filling in the forms and giving details no-one could remember exactly what Christmas was like. Exact dimensions? Colour? Identifying features? They were at a loss.
Photocopied posters were fixed to lamp-posts. Handbills were put through letter-boxes. “Have you seen Christmas? Much missed by loving owners. Please contact, etc, etc.” It turned out that there were a lot of stray cats around.
It was time to bring in the experts. Three men in the know were summoned, They arrived carrying a metal detector and a mobile device, and they were confident that they could find the lost item.
“It’s GPS – Geo-positioning, but to you, Godhead Pursuit System. Guaranteed to find anything – it’s all down to the satellites.” He gestured vaguely towards the sky.
They set off, but before they’d gone far some-one called them back. “I think this has happened before, and it’s probably best to take some kind of offering with you.”
There was a big discussion. Money? No, a bit obvious. A Voucher, ASDA, Boots? No, too impersonal. Wine? They may not drink. Perfume? No, you can never get perfume right. In the end it was agreed, you couldn’t go wrong with a tin of biscuits, so the experts were instructed to buy some expensive biscuits, and put it on their bill.
Everybody then sat back and waited. They weren’t very hopeful. “It’ll turn up , I guess. And if it doesn’t, does it really matter? If we’ve got food in the house, and some drink, and the television works and we have a subscription to Netflix, we’ll never notice the difference and we don’t need to worry.”
“But I really think we’ll be needing it soon.”
Someone had a bright idea. “Let’s use Google Search, – you can always find things that way.” Everybody reached for their phones and laptops, and there it was, courtesy of Wikipedia – Christmas, – etymology, history, economics – but there it wasn’t – nothing about whereabouts at all.
They posted on Facebook – Christmas is Lost. Has anyone seen it? And a few hours later they had over a thousand Likes. Everybody liked the idea that Christmas was lost because they couldn’t do anything else.
Twitter was the next idea, but as they were about to deploy the hash-tag “#christmas lost” someone suggested that Christmas had probably been swept away in the recent floods and was lost forever, and, well, the combination of Twitter and an act of God and #lostchristmas became a natural disaster, a national one, even, and top government had to be involved.
A meeting of responsible politicians was called to discuss responses.
“How about we produce a substitute? Black Friday, or Crazy Wednesday? Or we could call Easter early?”
But one of them called the others to the window. Out in front of the building was a huge crowd, all very still. Prominent at the front were the Christmas Tree growers, standing each very solemn with a tree grasped firmly in their hand. Alongside them were carol singers, silent under their red and white hats, and behind them, turkey-farmers, tinsel-sellers, and retailers and moody protestors and Home County heritage groups, as far as the eye could see. They were all waiting, just about patiently.
“Could we not just deny that Christmas exists? A rumour spread by unpatriotic extremists allied to a foreign religion?”
“What do you think that lot would say? Or do?”
“We could say that we abolished it – in the national interest? Health and safety, an unsupportable strain on already-stretched public services?”
There was an uncomfortable silence.
“I know,” said one bright spark, keen on promotion, “We could call a high state of alert and institute a full search. Then we can go drilling under National Parks and investigating people’s E-mails – all the things we want to do anyway.”
There was a rumble of approval. The Prime Minister cleared his throat. But before he could speak an Under-Secretary touched his arm. “Excuse me, sir, but there’s a boy at the back door.” “What’s that got to do with the situation?” “He says that he thinks he’s found Christmas.” “Oh, for Heaven’s sake, go and deal with that, will you? I’m about to declare a plan.”
So the Under-Secretary left the room with two of his Under-Under-Secretaries, and the Prime Minister said, “We can do all that, and we can say that Christmas has been stolen, kidnapped, even, by Them.” By who, Prime Minister?” “Oh, you know, that Islamic lot, Middle-eastern types.” Another rumble of approval.
When the Under-Secretary and his men got to the back door, there was a small boy with a sheep. The sheep was probably bigger than the boy.
“What do you want?”
“I’ve found Christmas for you.”
“Have you got it with you?”
“No, you’ve got to come with me.”
The three officials put on their coats, and the boy with his sheep led them off into the streets .
“Where are we going, sir?”
“God knows. Keep quiet, follow the boy and watch out for muggers.”
It was dark now and the boy led them along streets, across car-parks, down alleys and across waste-land, until they came to a supermarket. The trail led behind the store to the place where a number of big dumper-skips were standing under arc-lights. Under the central light a man and a woman sat on the tarmac either side of a skip with its lid open. The boy pointed at it. The officials approached gingerly and the Under-Secretary peered over the edge of the skip. There, nestling amidst loaves, packaging and cling-wrapped fish was a baby, entirely small, wrapped up against the mild night-air, and content.
The Under-Under-Secretaries also peered into the skip.
“This is meant to be Christmas?”
They looked at the boy. Neither he nor the sheep said anything.
“Sir, there was something about this before, wasn’t there? I’ve seen pictures somewhere. Only the baby had this thing round its head, a halo, was it? Or maybe there is one, you know?”
“Listen!” said the other.
“It’s all gone very quiet. And can you hear bells somewhere?”
“God knows what’s going on.” The Under-Secretary was about to turn and interrogate the boy when he felt something in his hand. He could swear it was…..the muzzle of a sheep. Sheep! A whole flock! and, standing at his shoulder, a man holding a tin of Marks and Spencers Luxury Assortment. Behind him a man with a mobile phone and another with a metal detector over his shoulder.
“Yes, this is it!” said the man with the mobile phone. “GPS has it exactly. This is Christmas.”
“What do you mean?” said the Under-Secretary.
“We were sent to find Christmas. This is it. The technology is pin-point accurate.”
They set off back the way they had come, the Under-Secretary holding the baby, gingerly, the man and the woman following close behind, flanked by the Under-Under-Secretaries, then the experts with their equipment, then the boy and the flock of sheep with some other shepherds who seemed to have tagged on along the way, – back across the waste-ground, down the alleys, across the car-parks, along the streets.
The Under-Secretary was thoughtful. “How on earth are we going to explain this to the Prime Minister?” he mused aloud.
“Rather you than me, sir.”
“Well, look at the baby.”
“What do you mean?”
The Under-Under-Secretary glanced back at the man and the woman.
“Don’t you think he looks rather, well, Middle-Eastern?”