'Tis the Season

AUTHOR'S NOTE: I have the movie "Jingle All the Way" to thank for this story idea. This is the typical story of waiting until the last minute to buy the most popular Christmas toy in America. I've been playing around with this idea for quite some time, but never really had a chance to have any fun with the idea until now.

It was December 23, two days before Christmas. Bob came up with the bright idea of sending the entire Screen Gems Guild (as he likes to call it) to New York City for the holidays. On one stipulation, however. The group had to perform a Christmas concert at Radio City Music Hall on Christmas Eve. But New York wasn't that bad a place to spend the holidays. Although Mike wasn't too thrilled with the prospect. That was only due to a new guy they had working at the studio, Eddie Mannheim, who was in charge of publicity, so this whole concert at been his idea. Mike didn't like Eddie. He was a preppie, and always seemed so perfect.

"I tell you, one of these days I'm gonna swat Eddie and Bob like a couple of roaches," Mike grumbled.

"Hey, what can we do about it?" Jerry asked with a shrug. "I don't like Eddie much, either, but New York's not such a bad place to be during Christmas."

"I guess you're right," Mike said with a shrug. "But what really kills me is the openin' act."

The opening act for the concert happened to be a kid's chorus. Drake's nine-year-old daughter, Gosalyn, was in it, and so was most of the softball team Jerry coached. But that's not what bothered Mike. What bothered Mike was that Eddie's ten-year-old daughter, Janie, was a featured soloist, and he felt that some of the other kids in the chorus could sing much better than she could. Janie was a huge brat, and usually got everything she wanted, mostly because Eddie was divorced.

"Good rehearsal, everyone," Eddie said, once the group was finished with that day's rehearsal. "Now don't forget, tomorrow, we have the dress rehearsal, and then we've got the show tomorrow night, the big show! It'll be big, big, big!"

Mike rolled his eyes. He had hoped, when Bob dropped the news about the concert on the group, that he wouldn't send Eddie along, but he did.

"I don't know who I hate more," Mike said. "Bob or Eddie!"

"Oh come on," Phyllis said, giving Mike a swat in the arm. "You don't hate Bob."

"You're right, I don't," Mike said. "But I sure hate Eddie!"

Phyllis rolled her eyes, laughed, and shook her head. Then the group headed for Rockefeller Center for some fun. The kids wanted to go ice skating, but Mike didn't feel that was such a great idea.

"I think I'll just sit this out," he said.

"Oh don't be such a Grinch, Mike!" Phyllis shouted. "You're only saying that because you can't ice skate!"

"I don't have the coordination," Mike shrugged.

"If he wants to sit it out, let him sit it out," Eddie replied. Immediately, Mike tensed. Apparently, Eddie didn't seem to notice.

"I'll be glad to go around the rink with you, Phyllis," he said.

"On second thought," Mike said, jamming himself in between Phyllis and Eddie. "Count me in!"

And with that, Mike snapped his fingers, and zapped on a pair of ice skates. He knew Eddie constantly flirted with Phyllis, something he positively couldn't stand. He was even willing to make a complete fool out of himself, if it would get Eddie away from Phyllis, which was what he was about to do here. The minute he got out on the ice, he nearly fell flat on his face.

"Mike, why are you even out here when you know you can't ice skate?" Reggie asked, pulling Mike to his feet.

"I gotta do somethin' to keep Mannheim's filthy paws off my wife!" Mike growled, struggling to stay up. He almost pulled Reggie down with him.

"Trust me, you'd be better off sitting this whole thing out," Reggie replied.

"You may be right," Mike said, and he staggered over to the edge of the rink. "Besides, I can keep Mannheim in line from here."

"How's that?"

"Watch and learn."

Reggie gave Mike a strange look. Mike smiled sneakily, as Eddie came skating along. Mike leaned against the wall, and stuck his left foot out. Eddie collided with it and crashed right onto the ice. KA-THUD!

"Been skatin' long, Eddie?" Mike asked, smugly.

Reggie cracked up, and skating off. Eddie grumbled, got up, and brushed frost off him.

"Very funny," he said. Then he skated off himself.

Elsewhere on the ice, the kids were skating around, having more fun than Mike just had, tripping Eddie. Gosalyn, Catchum, and Lilly were swatting around a hockey puck.

"This is great!" Lilly shouted. "Come on, Julie!"

"Nah," Julie Olsen replied. "Hockey's not really my thing."

"Suit yourself," Gosalyn said. "But you're missing some great fun!"

Julie nodded, and began skating in one direction. Janie Mannheim skated up to her, twirling like a figure skater.

"Betcha can't do that, Julie," she said.

"You're right, I can't," Julie replied. "I don't take lessons like you do."

"That's right."

"But you don't have to show off all the time, Janie."

"You're just jealous 'cause I'm better at everything than you are."

Mike happened to hear that leg of the conversation, and it got his blood boiling. He knew Julie. She was such a sweet kid. It burned him up the way Janie would put her down all the time. As a matter of fact, Mike felt Julie should have gotten the solo in the show, instead of Janie. Julie was ten times a much better singer than Janie was.

In any case, Janie skated off to join some of the other kids. Julie skated on by but Mike stopped her.

"Whoa, hold it there," he said. "Why do you let her do that to you?"

"I dunno," Julie said, shrugging. "'Cause her daddy's rich, I guess."

"Yeah, that whole family thinks they're so perfect. I'd like to show Mannheim a thing or two."

Mike took a swing, and ended up losing his balance completely. He landed on the ice with a loud THUD!

"Are you okay?" Julie asked.

"Yeah, fine," Mike said, trying to get up, but he only slipped again and crashed. Eddie came skating by just then with a couple of girls with him.

"It's a wonder he can walk," he said, and then he skated off.

Mike stifled the urge to zap an icicle in and hurl it at Eddie. Julie was standing right next to him, and he didn't want to set a bad example for the ten-year-old.

"How come you're standing here by yourself?" Julie asked.

"'Cause I can't skate," Mike said, managing to pull himself up. "I haven't had much practice at it."

"I could help you."

"No, that's okay, Julie. I don't think I want help. Skatin's not my bag."

"But it's easy. All you need is balance. Come on!"

"Well . . . ."

"Come on, Mike! It's fun!"

If there was one thing Mike couldn't resist, it was Julie's eyes. They were big, and blue, and you just wanted to give that little girl the world when she looked at you a certain way. Mike gave in, and took Julie's hand. She led him onto the ice, and began skating around with him. Eddie saw them come by and laughed.

"Isn't that cute?" he said. "Mike getting a skating lesson from a little girl. How sweet!"

Mike glared at Eddie. He began speeding up the skating slightly, just so he could do one thing and one thing only. When he came past Eddie, he skidded, and sprayed slush into his face. Eddie wiped it off his face, and glared at Mike.

"Hmm you're right, Julie," Mike said. "That was fun!"

Julie giggled, and she and Mike skated around a little more. Once the whole skating party was finished, the group left Rockefeller Center and began walking around town, taking in the sights. Reggie was going through a list he had.

"Waiting until the last minute to do your shopping again, huh?" Sarah teased.

"Ha, ha," Reggie said.

"When are you gonna learn to do your shoppin' early, Reg?" Mike asked. "You know what it's like durin' the Christmas countdown!"

"Especially tomorrow," Jerry said.

Reggie ignored both of them. He just gave them a Look, and began muttering things under his breath about his list. As they were walking, Gosalyn and her friends ran ahead and practically plastered themselves to a toy store window.

"Never fails," Drake said to Catchum's mother, Carolyn. "Kids pass a toy store, they gotta stop to look in."

"Don't I know it," Carolyn replied with a shake of her head. "Got anything interesting in here?"

"A lot of cool Christmas displays," Catchum said. "But that's about it."

"That's about it?!" Julie shouted. "How can you say that?! They've got the new Princess Rainbow Crystal doll!"

"Oooohhhh," Lilly and Katie breathed.

"They got the new what?" Mike asked.

"Princess Rainbow Crystal doll, silly!" Julie giggled.

"It's this cartoon show," Drake said. "Gosalyn doesn't watch it, but Michelle does."

"Oh," Mike said, nodding.

"Princess Rainbow Crystal fights against a witch named Gloria, who wants to turn the world dark and gray," Julie said. "She's got a horse named Jewelstar, a sidekick named Tinsel Star,  and a boyfriend named Ace Starlink. And she's the best heroine ever!"

"Even better than Wonder Woman?" Jerry asked.

"Much better!" Julie shouted.

Mike got a good look at the doll on display. She was about eighteen inches, and wore a long dress, with a rainbow striped bodice, and pink skirt. She had blonde hair, and wore a metallic pink tiara. She came with a magic wand in her hand.

"And she talks!" Julie shouted. "She says ten different phrases! Like 'Jewelstar away!' and a bunch of other things!"

"This I gotta see," Mike said. He walked into the toy store with the kids. They went in their own separate directions, while Mike checked out the doll in the window.

"Where's the pull string?" he asked.

"There's no pull string," Julie giggled. "She's got a button on the back that you push."

Mike shrugged, and pushed the button on the doll's back.

"You're my best friend!" the doll said. Mike sort of made a face.

"It's a reincarnation of Chatty Cathy," he said. "Some doll."

"Yeah," Julie said. "I have the smaller fashion doll version at home. But this one's better than the small one."

"I take it this is what you want for Christmas?"

"Yep. Janie Mannheim's getting one, and so is almost everyone I know at school. I wrote to Santa about it. Mom doesn't think it's practical that I have two versions of the same doll. But she knows I want it."

"And you don't think she'll give it to you."

"No. You think Santa will bring it to me, Mike?"

"You never know these things, Julie."

On that note, everyone left the toy store and started back to the hotel they were staying at. When Mike got to his room, he sat down on the bed, and began thinking about something.

"Hey baby?" he asked Phyllis.

"Yeah?" Phyllis replied.

"How would you feel if I bought a little somethin' for Julie Olsen for Christmas? I mean, would you think that would be weird?"

"No, not at all. In fact, I think it's pretty sweet. Julie's such a sweet little girl."

"Oh, don't I know it. I know just the thing, too. That Princess Rainbow Crystal talkin' doll thingy."

"Wow, that's some gift! I can only hope you got it in advance, and you were hiding it from me until now."

"Why do you say that?"

"Because it would be impossible to find now!"

Mike sort of got a sick look to his face. He was not expecting that whatsoever!

Early the next morning, Mike picked up the phone and dialed. After about two rings, he finally got an answer.

"Hello?" a very groggy Jerry asked.

"Jer, it's me," Mike said. "Call Reggie. I need you guys."

"What for?" Jerry asked. He glanced at the clock just then, "And why at five in the morning?!"

"Shhh!" Mike hissed. "I'll explain later. Just call Reggie and meet me in the lobby!"

"All right."

Jerry hung up, and got out of bed. He wondered what in the world Mike was up to. He called Reggie, who wasn't too happy about being woken up at five in the morning, especially since they didn't have a rehearsal until later in the day. The two of them met Mike in the lobby, and he explained what was going on.

"I need your help," he said. "I need to do a little last minute shoppin'."

"Oh for crying out loud, Mike!" Jerry yelled.

"Didn't you tell me yesterday about last minute shopping?" Reggie asked.

"I know, I know," Mike said. "But this is important! I figure with the three of us on the case, we can wrap this up quickly, so to speak."

"Do we have a choice?" Reggie asked.

"No," Mike said.

Reggie and Jerry groaned, but they gave in.

"So where are we off to this early?" Jerry asked.

"FAO Schwartz," Mike said.

"WHAT?!" both Reggie and Jerry screamed in perfect unison.

"A toy store on Christmas Eve?!" Jerry yelled. "You gotta be out of your mind!"

"Guys come on," Mike begged. "I'm desperate here. Please?"

"All right, all right," Jerry said.

"But don't blame us if you get clobbered," Reggie replied.

Mike nodded, and the three boys left the hotel and walked to FAO Schwartz.

"Explain to us why we had to leave the hotel at five in the morning to get to a toy store that doesn't open until eight?" Reggie asked.

"So we'll be the first ones there," Mike said. "I want to beat the crowds."

"Oh Mi-ike," Jerry said in a sing-song voice.

Mike looked, and saw that there was already a huge line outside the toy store.

"Oh no," he groaned.

"Now what?" Reggie asked.

"We wait," Mike said.

"For three hours?!" Jerry shouted.

Mike shrugged. Jerry and Reggie groaned and just staid where they were. For a little while at least. Reggie left the post to get some coffee and something to snack on while they waited for the store to open. At seven fifty-two, Mike was sitting on the sidewalk. So was Jerry. He was propped up against Mike, sleeping. Reggie was leaning against a mailbox, rubbing sleep out of his eyes.

"Maybe I shoulda gotten up at three," Mike said.

Reggie gave Mike a look, and a kick in the shoulder.

"Ow!" Mike shouted. "What was that for?!"

"If you had woken the two of us up at three," Reggie said. "I'd do worse than just kick you in the shoulder."

"Well, it doesn't matter," Mike said, checking his watch. "The store's gonna open in about five minutes. Wake up, Jer."

Mike shook Jerry's shoulder. The Geator yawned, and stretched. Then he stood up.

"Next time you decide to shop late," he said, stifling a yawn. "Leave me out of it."

"When they open those doors, I tell ya, it ain't gonna be pretty," Reggie said.

"What makes to say that?" Mike asked.

Suddenly, the doors to the store opened, and a mad dash of people ran in, trampling the guy who opened the door, and nearly each other!

"That's why!" Reggie, the voice of experience, shouted, as he ran into the store with Mike and Jerry, who were trying to avoid being trampled.

They finally made it in, and Mike practically dragged them to the doll section.

"Let's just find it, get it, and get out!" Mike shouted.

"Good thinking," Jerry said. "What are we looking for?"

"That Princess Rainbow Crystal doll," Mike said. "The talkin' version."

Reggie and Jerry nodded, and began ripping apart the shelves of the section. Mike started using his psyches to try to locate one. Soon, he began shoving things off the shelf.

"I don't see it, Mike," Jerry said.

"Yeah, all they got is the horse," Reggie shrugged.

"Well, there's gotta be at least one of those dolls around here somewhere," Mike said. He began looking around, and he flagged down a shelving clerk.

"Hey!" he shouted. "Hey, listen, you gotta help me. I'm lookin' for the talkin' Princess Rainbow Crystal Doll."

The clerk just stood there. He stared at Mike for a minute, and then began laughing. Laughing! Mike shot Reggie and Jerry a confused look. The two of them shrugged.

"What's so funny?" Mike asked.

"Where have you been, Mars?!" the clerk laughed. "The talking Princess Rainbow Crystal is the most popular Christmas toy since the Cabbage Patch Kids!"

"Oh no," Jerry moaned.

"I was afraid he was gonna say something like that," Reggie said with a sigh.

"Listen, buster," Mike said, grabbing the clerk by the shirt collar. "I really need this doll. Now I'm sure there's one around here somewhere, isn't there?"

"Well . . . ." the clerk said, nervously.

"ISN'T THERE?!" Mike shouted.

"A lady just left with the last one!" the clerk shouted, nervously. "She had it on layaway!"

"What'd she look like?" Mike shouted.

"Short, dark hair, and she was wearing a fur coat."

"Short, dark hair, fur coat. Got it! Let's go, guys!"

"Mike, you gotta be kidding me!" Jerry shouted.

"Do I look like I'm kiddin'?!" Mike shouted. "Come on!"

Reggie and Jerry didn't have much of a choice, so they followed Mike out onto the street. Mike put his hands to his temples, and began to search for his target. He found her standing on the corner, about ready to cross the street.

"Excuse me, ma'am, I'd like to make a proposition with you," he said, as he ran up to her.

"What kind of proposition?" the lady asked.

"I need that doll that you got in that bag."

"Well . . . . ."

"I'll give you fifty bucks for it."

"Sold!"

Mike shelled fifty dollars out of his wallet, and the woman handed him the doll. She then walked across the street, just as Reggie and Jerry caught up with Mike.

"Didja get it?" Reggie asked.

"I got it," Mike said. "Let's go back to the hotel."

The boys started walking off, and Mike got a good look at the doll. He stopped in his tracks, and groaned.

"Oh no!" he shouted.

"What's the matter?" Jerry asked, as he and Reggie turned around.

"This is the wrong doll!" Mike shouted.

"Let me see that," Jerry said, taking the box. He looked inside the plastic window, and saw that it wasn't the Princess Rainbow Crystal doll, but her sidekick, Tinsel Star. Jerry closed his eyes, and resisted the urge to slam the doll's box against his head.

"Now what?" Reggie asked.

"Now we find another toy store," Mike said, looking down the street. He stuck two fingers in his mouth, whistled shrilly, and raised his hand in the air.

"TAXI!" he screamed at the top of his lungs.

"Thanks," Jerry said, cleaning out his ear.

Mike shrugged, and he, Jerry, and Reggie climbed into the taxi and drove to the nearest toy store. Again, the place was a mob scene. The boys practically had to crawl on their stomachs to get to the Princess Rainbow Crystal display. Once they were there, they began throwing dolls and horses off the shelves trying to find the doll.

"There isn't one here, Mike!" Reggie shouted. "All they've got is the horse, that Tinsel Star doll, and that Ace Starlink doll."

"We can't give up yet!" Mike shouted, and he, Jerry, and Reggie made their way out the door.

Mike practically ran to the nearest payphone, and began looking up toy stores in the phone book. Each number he called, he got the same response. Either a laugh in his ear, or being put on a waiting list until July.

"Why don't you give it up?" Reggie asked.

"Yeah, we're never gonna find that doll," Jerry said. "Why do you want it so bad, anyway?"

"I want to get a Christmas present for Julie Olsen," Mike said, flipping through the phone book. "She said she wanted this doll, and her mother won't get it for her."

"Mike, listen to me," Reggie said. "No toy store in the city is gonna have the doll!"

"If you want to get her a present, get her a Barbie doll," Jerry said. "Or better yet, a My Little Pony. Julie loves My Little Pony."

"No!" Mike shouted, shoving some quarters into the phone. "It's gotta be the talkin' Princess Rainbow Crystal doll! If she don't get this doll, she'll never believe in Santa Claus again."

"Mike, you don't even believe in Santa," Jerry said, leaning against the phone.

Mike gave him a Look, and dialed the phone anyway.

"Hello, Bradley's Toy Haven," a bored sounding voice said. "How may I help you, and please don't ask if we have the talking Princess Rainbow Crystal Doll because we don't."

"Uhh," Mike said. "Never mind."

Mike quickly hung up the phone and sighed.

"No luck, huh?" Reggie asked.

"None whatsoever," Mike said.

"Just get her a Barbie doll or something like that," Jerry said. "It's no big deal."

"Look, I have to get her that doll," Mike said.

"Why don't you get her a Shetland pony while we're at it?" Reggie said, getting a little frustrated with the whole thing.

"Look!" Mike shouted, glaring at him. "I'm tryin' to do somethin' nice here for a little girl! You guys are always sayin' that I have no Christmas spirit, and when I finally go and try to prove you guys wrong . . . . . ."

Before Mike could go on, he, Jerry, and Reggie were nearly run over by a stampede of people.

"Whoa!" Reggie shouted.

"What's goin' on here?!" Mike shouted.

"Hey!" Jerry shouted. He reached out and grabbed someone by the shoulder. "What's the rush?"

"Toy City got a late shipment of talking Princess Rainbow Crystal dolls!" the man shouted.

Jerry let go of him, and glanced at Mike and Reggie. The three of them exchanged glances, and then dashed off with the crowd to a nearby shopping mall. People crowded to get inside. The manager of the store was addressing the crowd with a kid's tape recorder.

"Quiet, please!" he shouted. "Now then, to answer your first question, yes, the rumors are true. We have received a small quantity of the talking Princess Rainbow Crystal doll."

"Yyyyyeessss!" Mike shouted. He, Reggie, and Jerry slapped fives. The rest of the crowd cheered, too.

"However!" the manager shouted. "You will line up in an orderly fashion, a store employee will hand you a colored ball, with a number on it. Once everyone has a ball, numbers will be called out. And whoever has that number, will get a doll. If you're not one of the lucky few, we have plenty of Princess Rainbow Crystal's pet horse, her sidekick Tinsel Star, and her boyfriend, Ace Starlink in stock."

Voices exploded everywhere, expressing their disapprovement of the whole deal. The manager glared at all of them.

"In the laws dealing with supply and demand," he said. "The list price on each doll has just doubled!"

More shouting went on. There was only one choice now. The people began to practically smother the employees to get a little ball. Finally, the clerks threw the balls into the air, and people began jumping for them. Jerry was one of them. He jumped up with his hand outstretched, and managed to grab one. The minute he was on the ground, he was jabbed in the ribs hard. He fell to the ground, dropping the ball. Mike was trying to use his psyches to get one of the balls to him, and Reggie was crawling on the floor trying to get one. Mike finally found one, and bent down to grab it, but someone sprayed something in his eyes.

"ARGH!" he shouted.

"I got one!" the lady with the mace shouted. "I got one! I got one!"

"Not for long!" a man shouted. He tried to pry the ball out of the lady's hands.

Mike, Reggie, and Jerry kept trying to make grabs for the little balls, but they weren't having much luck, until one bounced out of the store, and into the mall. The boys exchanged a glance, and tore off after it.

"CHARGE!" they yelled.

They kept their eyes on the little yellow bouncing ball. They went down the up escalator chasing it, until they came across a ball pit in the little kid's area of the mall. The ball bounced in before any of the boys could grab it.

"Oh no!" Jerry groaned.

"We'll never find it now!" Reggie shouted.

"Never say never," Mike said. He took off his boots, and dove into the ball pit. Reggie and Jerry stared at him as if he were crazy.

"He's more dedicated to get this doll than Drake is when he's buying toys for his kids!" Reggie shouted.

After about few minutes, Mike came up for air, looked at Reggie and Jerry, and shrugged.

"We're never gonna find that thing," he said, dejectedly.

"Looky what I found!" a voice shouted. "A little yellow ball in all these big ones!"

Mike whirled around and saw a little girl with blond pigtails holding the little yellow ball. His little yellow ball. He reached over and grabbed it.

"Give me that!" he shouted.

"Mommy!" the little girl wailed.

"You beast!" the little girl's mother shouted, smacking Mike in the head with her purse. The other mothers had seen him take the ball from the little girl and began swatting him as well.

"Ow!" Mike shouted, trying to escape the ball pit. "Ow! Hey! Watch it!"

"Let's get him out of there!" Reggie shouted.

"Good thinking!" Jerry shouted.

Reggie and Jerry tried to pull Mike out of the pit. That only resulted in all three of them getting hit by the mothers' purses, and the kids throwing those brightly colored plastic balls at them. The boys beat a hasty retreat, and ran as far from the area as they could. Reggie gave Mike a swat in the arm as they caught their breaths.

"Mike, you're an idiot!" he shouted.

"Look, I've got to get that doll somehow!" Mike yelled.

"Yeah, but you shouldn't have grabbed the ball like that," Jerry said.

"Guys, I'm desperate here," Mike groaned. "I need the talkin' Princess Rainbow Crystal doll!"

"Psst! Hey fellas," the Santa sitting nearby said. "You say you're looking for a talking Princess Rainbow Crystal doll?"

"Yeah," Mike said, walking over. "You got one?"

"Not on me," the Santa said. "But I know where you can get one."

"Where?"

"My shift's almost over. I'll show you."

"I don't think this is such a good idea," Jerry said. "Something's not on the up and up here."

"I happen to agree," Mike said.

"Listen pal, you don't have any choice if you want to get this doll," the Santa said.

Mike sighed, and agreed on this. Jerry and Reggie weren't so sure about this, but nothing was going to change Mike's mind. The group took a subway downtown, and went to a warehouse on the outskirts of town. They walked in, and looked around. There were a bunch of toys hanging all over the place, and people dressed up as Santas and elves working there.

"I don't know," Reggie said. "Something just doesn't seem quite . . . . . Kosher about this."

"I'm with Reggie," Mike said.

"This coming from a guy who stole a lottery ball from a little kid," Santa said. "Listen, you want that doll or not?"

"Sure I want it," Mike said. "But things just don't seem like they're on the up and up here. I have a sixth sense about these things."

"I don't trust this guy, Mike," Jerry said.

"What's the matter, boy?" the Santa asked. "Don't you trust Santa Claus?"

"Correct me if I'm wrong," Jerry said. "But you're not the real Santa."

"Listen, buster, this is just for the kids you know," the Santa continued. "For every kid who left out cookies and milk for Santa, for every kid who opened a present and got clothes instead of toys!"

"Oh brother," Reggie mumbled under his breath. Jerry rolled his eyes and shook his head. An elf then came back with a box wrapped in white paper with a green Christmas tree print and a red and green ribbon.

"Here it is," the elf said.

"Finally," Mike said, reaching for it, but the Santa blocked him off.

"Whoa," he said. "That'll be three hundred."

"Dollars?!" Mike shouted, incredulously.

"No, chocolate chip cookies!" the Santa shouted, sarcastically. "Yes dollars!"

"Good gravy Marie."

Mike groaned, and took out his wallet. He began counting bills. Reggie turned to the Santa and gave him a Look.

"What happened to doing this for the kids?" he asked.

"Well, I don't see why we can't pick up a little loose change here and there," the Santa said.

Mike groaned, and gave the money to the Santa, and the elf gave him the box. Mike then started to unwrap it.

"Don't open that! Don't open that!" the Santa shouted.

Too late. Mike already opened it, and looked it over. Something didn't look right about this doll. He found the button in the doll's back to push to make it talk.

"Usted es mi mejor amigo!" the doll said.

"That's the multi lingual edition," the Santa said. "Fun and educational!"

Mike opened the box and pulled out the doll, but the minute he did, an arm, and the doll's hair came off.

"I knew this wasn't on the up and up," Jerry groaned.

"Give me my money back, you con man," Mike said.

"What did you call me?" the Santa asked.

"You heard me! A con man! A crook! A common criminal!"

"Them's fightin' words up at the North Pole, Tex!"

"Forget it, buster, I ain't about to slug a Santa."

"Chicken! Chicken! Chick-ken!"

That did it. Mike made a fist, and swung as hard as he could at the Santa. He fell back into other Santas.

"Get him!" the one Mike slugged shouted.

Soon, the Discophonics were surrounded by Santas. One came out in front of the crowd and twirled two candy canes attached to a chain at the boys. Mike shook his head and groaned.

"I don't have time for this," he said, snapping his fingers. The candy canes began to spin out of control and ended up smacking some of the other Santas.

Every time any of the Santas came close with an attack, Mike would snap his fingers and take them down.

"Don't know my own strength!" he said with a laugh.

"Yeah, great, Mike," Reggie said. "Let's just get out of here before your battery dies!"

"Good thinkin'," Mike said, and the three of them started off, until they heard giant footsteps behind them. They turned around and saw the biggest Santa Claus they had ever seen in their lives right in front of them.

"Whoa boy," Mike said.

"I'm gonna deck your halls, bub!" the Santa shouted.

"Let's split!" Reggie shouted.

The boys tried to head for the exit, and ended up surrounded by Santas. Mike cracked his knuckles, and snapped his fingers, causing a giant stuffed bear hanging on a chain to fall and land on the large Santa. Then they boys started running. But one of the elves grabbed Mike's foot, causing him to trip. He ran into Reggie, and in turn, Reggie ran into Jerry, and the three of them crashed to the floor.

"DOG PILE!" one of the Santas shouted, and they all jumped on the Discophonics.

It was complete and utter pandemonium in there. Finally, sirens began wailing and the police stormed in. They began arresting the Santas and the elves. Mike stood up, and shook his head out.

"Hey!" a cop shouted. "Who are you?!"

Mike had to think fast. He yanked a toy police badge out of a bin, stood up, and proceeded to act like a cop.

"Never in my entire life have I seen such a sloppy display!" he shouted. He shoved the badge in the cop's face quickly, and pulled it away. "Detective Mike Smith, undercover division. I was this close to bustin' this ring, and you just barge in here like a herd of mad elephants! Now get it together and arrest somebody!"

"Yes sir!" the cop shouted. Then he indicated Reggie and Jerry, who were just getting their wits back. "What about these two down here?"

"They're with me," Mike said. "Okay, guys, let's split."

Reggie and Jerry stood up, and started out the back way, but before they could get anywhere, Jerry stopped, and went down.

"Ow!" he shouted, clutching his ankle.

"What's wrong, Jer?" Reggie asked.

"I think I twisted my ankle in that pile up!" Jerry shouted. "I can't walk!"

"Oooohhh, Bob's not gonna be happy with this," Reggie said. "If he can't walk, how in the world is he gonna dance?"

"Let's head back to the hotel," Jerry said. "My ankle is killing me!"

"We can't go back yet," Mike said. "I haven't found that doll yet."

"Can't you just zap one in?" Reggie asked.

"No can do," Mike replied shaking his head. "Aunt Zelda told me it had somethin' to do with copyright infringements or somethin'. I don't understand all that legal goulash."

Reggie shook his head, and started towards the corner to hail a cab back to the hotel. Mike followed, dejectedly. Once they were at the hotel, Jerry, leaning on Reggie, limped into his hotel room, and nearly crashed right onto the bed.

"Ow, watch the ankle, watch the ankle!" he shouted.

"Sorry," Reggie said.

"What's going on?" Sarah asked, as she and Linda came into the room.

"We had a slight mishap with shopping," Reggie said, giving Mike a glare.

"Well," Mike said with a shrug.

"Jerry twisted his ankle, and now he can't walk on it," Reggie continued.

"Uh oh, I don't want to be around when Bob finds out," Sarah said.

"Well, Jerry's only in two numbers where he has to dance," Linda said. "Maybe we can cut those two out."

"No good," Reggie said. "One of those numbers is the Discophonics doing the Four Seasons 'Santa Claus is Coming to Town' bit, and if we cut that, the fans will kill us!"

"And I've worked hard on the Bobby Rydell/Chubby Checker 'Jingle Bell Rock' routine," Mike said. "All my relatives are poppin' in to see me do the darn dance, and I ain't about to cancel it!"

"Let me talk to Camille," Sarah said. "Maybe she can come up with some last minute choreography changes. You know she's choreographing the whole show."

"While you do that, I'll go get some ice for Jerry's ankle," Linda said.

"Yeah, and I'm goin' back out shoppin'," Mike said.

"Well, you're on your own," Jerry said. "I'm not going back out there!"

"Me neither," Reggie said.

"Fine and dandy," Mike said. "See ya."

"Wait a sec," Reggie said. "Who's gonna tell Bob about this?"

"There's a phone right there, Reg. I'm sure you already know Bob's cell phone number."

And with that, Mike was off. Reggie and Jerry looked at each other, nervously. They didn't want to tell Bob what happened, that was for sure. But he was probably going to find out anyway.

Mike, in the meantime, was about to head out the door when he ran into, of all people, Eddie Mannheim in the hotel lobby.

"Whoa, Mike, what's your hurry?" he asked.

"I don't have time to talk to you now, Mannheim," Mike said. "I've got some things to pick up."

"Oh, some last minute shopping, huh?"

"Yeah. I gotta go get a talkin' Princess Rainbow Crystal doll."

"Oh yeah, yeah. I got Janie one months ago. It's under the tree in our hotel suite. Hey, I saw Jerry come in earlier and he was leaning on Reggie and limping, what happened?"

"He twisted his ankle."

"Well, how'd he do that?"

"He asked me too many annoyin' questions!"

And with that, Mike stormed off. Eddie watched him go, and shook his head.

"Touchy!" he shouted, and headed for the elevator.

Mike hailed a cab, and went further downtown. He checked every department store and every toy store in the city. No place had the doll. He spent a lot of time on the phone, calling toy stores all around the city. Nobody had the doll. Then Mike had an idea. He caught a cab to the library, and was able to get to Ebay through the Internet. He surfed to Ebay, and typed in "talking Princess Rainbow Crystal doll." He got a bunch of results. He emailed a couple of  sellers about the doll, saying that if they ended the auction early, he'd pay whatever the seller wanted, and he could just zap the doll from point A to point B. The sellers all got back to him right away, but most of the messages were the same. They called Mike a complete mental case. So he gave up the Ebay idea, and continued to search the city.

After an hour of searching, Mike returned to the hotel. Bob happened to be waiting for him, and he didn't look too happy.

"MIKE, HOW COULD YOU DO THIS?!" he yelled.

"Do what?" Mike asked, confused.

"You know 'Santa Claus is Coming to Town' and 'Jingle Bell Rock' are the big show stoppers of this whole Christmas show, and one of the key players of both those numbers is out of commission!"

"So why are you yellin' at me?"

"I ran into Eddie and he told me something about you twisting Jerry's ankle after he asked you too many questions. Then I got a call from Reggie saying Jerry twisted his ankle during a dog pile at a warehouse full of Santa Clauses. He went on to explain that the three of you were out looking for some doll or another . . . . I'm mixed up. What happened?"

"I enlisted Reggie and Jerry to help me look for a stupid doll, and we ended up at a warehouse full of Santa Claus con men, and we got into a fight, which ended up in a dog  pile, and that's how Jerry twisted his ankle. I told Eddie I twisted it to get him out of my face."

"Well . . . . . just be at Radio City Music Hall at three this afternoon. Camille has to work with the Discophonics for the 'Santa Claus' number, and she needs to work with you and Jerry for the 'Jingle Bell Rock' thing."

"Right. Three o'clock. Check."

Bob walked off, mumbling under his breath. Mike rolled his eyes and grabbed the elevator to his room. He walked in, and saw Eddie in there, decorating a tree that was in the room with Phyllis.

"Hi, Mike," Phyllis said.

"What's he doin' here?!" Mike shouted, pointing at Eddie.

"Just spreading a little Christmas cheer, Mike-o," Eddie said.

"Mike-o?" Mike replied.

"I thought your room could use a little Christmas cheer," Eddie said. "So how's the last minute shopping going?"

"Nowhere," Mike said. "I'm gettin' out of here."

With that, Mike stormed off. Eddie shrugged, and continued decorating the tree he brought over. Mike walked down the hall and banged on the door to Jerry's room. Reggie opened it and let him in.

"How's it going?" Reggie asked.

"Nowhere," Mike said. "I even tried Ebay and askin' the sellers to end the auction early so I could zap in the doll and . . . . well, they all called me a mental case."

"Why don't you just give up and buy the kid a My Little Pony?" Jerry asked.

Mike glared at the Geator, and slammed his hand on his ankle. Jerry cringed, and gnashed his teeth.

"Aaahhhh," he groaned, painfully.

"I think that was uncalled for, Mike," Reggie said.

Mike groaned, and turned on the radio. He flopped down on the bed, and covered his face with his hands. Jerry shook his head, and pulled himself to a standing position with a pair of crutches Reggie had brought in for him.

"We're going to go grab a bite," Reggie said. "Want to come?"

"No," Mike said. "I think I'll just stay here."

"Okay," Jerry said. "By the way, Camille wants us at Radio City at three so we can work on re-doing some of the choreography to the numbers I'm obviously not able to work on."

"Yeah, Bob told me," Mike said. "I got it."

Jerry nodded, and he and Reggie left. Mike began massaging his head while the radio was playing some Christmas songs.

"I can't believe this," he groaned. "It's just a stupid doll! Somebody around here has got to have that doll!"

"You say you can't find a talking Princess Rainbow Crystal doll?" the DJ on the radio said. "Well, all is not lost. Be the tenth caller to identify all eight of Santa's reindeer and win a Princess Rainbow Crystal, courtesy of station WBBC. The number is five, five, five, six, two, six, eight."

Mike shot up, and began mentally thinking. Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen, Comet, Cupid, Donner, Blitzen. Immediately, Mike grabbed the phone and dialed the number as fast as he could. Unfortunately, all he got was the busy signal. Mike began pacing around the room, until he saw a sign out the window. WBBC. It wasn't too far from the hotel. Immediately, Mike slammed the phone down, and shot out of the room as fast as he could.

"I gotta get to that radio station!" he shouted.

Mike darted out of the hotel, and started running for the radio station. He stopped after awhile, thinking he'd never make it to the radio station in the next few minutes. Someone might have already won the doll. He glanced over and saw a man sweeping the front of his fruit stand with a broom. Immediately, Mike ran over to him.

"Look, isn't that Halley's Comet?!" he shouted.

"Where?" the man shouted.

Mike grabbed the broom, and straddled it. He sent his magic through it, and shot into the air, towards station WBBC.

"Hey!" the man shouted. "Hey, you! Come back here!"

"Can't stop now!" Mike shouted. "I've got a doll to win!"

Mike practically broke the sound barrier getting to station WBBC. He crashed through the window and jumped off the broom in mid flight. He dashed into the office, and into the studio, banging on the window.

"I've got the answer! I've got the answer!" he shouted, banging on the door.

The DJ grabbed the red emergency phone, and pushed the button on it.

"I've got a mad man in my studio!" he shouted, just as Mike zapped the door open and ran in.

"Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen, Comet, Cupid, Donner, Blitzen!" he shouted in a rush.

"What?" the DJ asked, confused.

"The answer . . . . . the radio contest," Mike said, catching his breath. "Weren't you offerin' a talkin' Princess Rainbow Crystal doll to whoever correctly identified Santa's reindeer? What, do I have to throw in Rudolph to get the doll?!"

"Let me get this straight. Are you under the impression that I have a Princess Rainbow Crystal doll here in the studio?"

"Yes!"

"Oh-ho no. What I have here is a gift certificate. Whoever wins will get a doll eventually!"

Something inside Mike snapped just then. He lunged at the DJ and wrapped his hands around his neck, ready to strangle him. As he was doing that, the police arrived at the station, and aimed their guns at Mike.

"Uh oh," Mike said.

"Okay, fella," one of the cops said. "Let go of the DJ slowly, and put your hands where I can see them."

Mike smiled, laughed sheepishly, and put his hands up. The cop slapped the handcuffs on him, and led him out to a squad car.

"Oooh boy, I really goofed this time," he said.

The minute they brought Mike into the station, he wanted to make a phone call, so he called Quackerjack's cell phone.

"Quacky-baby, I need you to come down to the thirteenth prescient," he said. "It's an emergency."

"Why, what happened?" Quackerjack asked.

"I was arrested for attackin' a DJ."

"You were what?!"

"I'll explain later! Just get down here to bail me out!"

Quackerjack turned off his phone, and immediately went down to the police station to bail out Mike. And, as promised, Mike explained the whole thing on the way back to the hotel.

"I'm tryin' to find a talkin' Princess Rainbow Crystal doll for Julie Olsen," he explained. "I heard on the radio that they were offerin' it to the tenth caller who could correctly identify Santa's reindeer, so I flew to the radio station. When I found out he didn't actually have the doll, I snapped."

"Mike, you've already snapped if you think you can find a Princess Rainbow Crystal doll on Christmas Eve. That's the biggest selling toy since Cabbage Patch Kid dolls."

"I know, I know!"

"Besides, if you want to get a present for Julie, buy her a My Little Pony."

Mike glared at Quackerjack, and then went into the hotel. He went up to his room to take a shower. He needed a break. But the minute he went into the hotel lobby, he saw something that just made him angrier. Eddie was on the other side of the room, standing with Phyllis in a doorway. And above them was mistletoe. Mike had just walked in and saw Eddie kissing Phyllis under the mistletoe! That just got his blood boiling. His face turned beet red, and steam was coming out of his ears, whistling like a tea kettle. He clenched his fists so hard, his knuckles turned white! He grinded his teeth so hard, Quackerjack thought he saw chips of them being grinded off.

"Uh oh, I'm out of here!" he shouted, before Mike could blow his cork.

Mike was about to go into orbit, when he remembered something. He remembered what Eddie had said to him earlier.

I got Janie one months ago. It's under the tree in our hotel suite.

"I'll show him," Mike said, calming down. He smiled sneakily, and went to the elevator, and rode it up to the tenth floor.

Once on the floor he wanted, Mike walked over to Eddie's suite, and used his magic to open the door. He walked inside, and saw that the room had been decorated immensely. There was a huge tree in the corner, with a model train set running around it. He snuck over to it, and grabbed a box that was wrapped in shiny gold paper, with a metallic green ribbon. He shook the box for a moment.

"You're my best friend!" the doll said.

"Yesss!" Mike shouted. "I got it! I got it! I actually got it!"

Mike jumped into the air, but he should have worked on a better landing. The minute he landed, he knocked into one of the three wise men statues Eddie had in his room. It knocked into the other two, and crashed to the ground. The head rolled off one of them, and rolled into the fireplace, causing a small explosion. Mike used his telepathy to move the head of the statue out of the fireplace, which only caused the carpet to catch on fire. And wouldn't you know that would cause the smoke alarm to go off? Mike began to panic. He had to get out of the room with the doll before anyone came up there. Especially Eddie, or one of his friends. In his haste for the door, Mike accidentally ran into the Christmas tree in the room, and it fell to the ground.

CRASH!

And as if this wasn't bad enough, the sprinkler system went off. Not only did Mike get drenched, but it also short circuited the model train set, which caused sparks to fly, and another small fire.

"I'm gettin' out of  here before anythin' else happen," he said, but the minute he got out of the hotel room, he was met face to face with Eddie and Phyllis.

"Mike!" Phyllis shouted. "What are you doing in Eddie's room? And what's that you're holding?"

"Well, uhh . . . ." Mike started to say. Eddie grabbed the box, and tried to pry it out of Mike's hands, but Mike held onto it. Finally, Eddie managed to get it loose.

"Jewelstar away!" the doll said. Mike wanted the floor to swallow him up just then.

"That's Janie's Princess Rainbow Crystal doll," Eddie said.

"I can explain," Mike said. "This isn't what it looks like."

"Oh really?" Phyllis asked. "Because this looks like you breaking into someone's hotel room, practically destroying it, and stealing presents from under the tree."

"Okay, yeah, it looks like that," Mike said. "But it really isn't."

"Then what is it?"

"Well . . . . . uhhh . . . . . I needed to take a look at the show program, and I knew Eddie had one. And, uhh, as I was lookin' for one, this . . . . ummm . . . . . see there was this . . . . . a hippopotamus escaped from the Bronx Zoo and ended up here."

"Hippopotamus."

"Yeah, and he climbed into the window, and began runnin' around the room, knockin' things over like the tree and stuff, and that caused a huge fire and the sprinkler system went off. I tried to get all the presents out of the room, but I only managed to get the Princess Rainbow Crystal doll."

"Let me get this straight. You're telling us that a hippopotamus escaped from the Bronx Zoo, and climbed into Eddie's hotel window?"

"Exactly!"

"Mike, we're on the tenth floor!"

"You wouldn't think those things were that nimble, wouldja?"

Phyllis folded her arms across her chest, and gave Mike a Look. Mike knew this look very well. Phyllis didn't buy a word he said.

"I find that hard to believe," she said.

"Would you believe a vulture escaped from the Bronx Zoo and flew in?" Mike tried.

"No."

"How about a pigeon with Mad Cow Disease?"

"How about the truth, Mike?"

"Well, you've got some explainin' to do yourself!"

Phyllis looked slightly taken aback at that. She looked at Mike, surprised.

"What do you mean?" she asked.

"I saw you lip lockin' with Mannheim over there!" Mike shouted. "Ya wanna explain that?!"

"We were standing under the mistletoe," Eddie explained. "It's an old Christmas tradition!"

"Tradition my foot, Mannheim," Mike growled. "I have a good mind to . . . ."

"Mike, hold it!" Phyllis shouted. "I know you get insanely jealous, but this is nothing to worry about. Now that we've explained that, you want to explain what happened here?"

"Like I told you," Mike said. "A pigeon with Mad Cow Disease . . . ."

"Mi-ike! I want the truth!"

"You know, I really would love to tell you the truth, but I've got to go now. See ya!"

And with that, Mike dashed down the stairs, and out of the hotel as fast as he could. Phyllis sighed.

"Eddie, I'm really sorry," she said. "I don't know what's with him. He's been like this towards you ever since you came to work at the studio."

"Oh, no need to apologize. Mike's just under the stress of the holiday season, what with a big concert tonight, and Christmas shopping. It's just probably ready to drive him off the deep end."

Phyllis sighed, and walked off. She wanted to find Mike and talk to him about all this.

Mike, in the meantime, was sitting in the hotel's laundry room, trying to think of what to do. As he was sitting there, a bright light flashed, bringing him out of his thoughts. Standing there in the laundry room was his uncle, Will Westerman.

"I thought I'd find you here, Michael," he said.

"I thought you weren't due to come in until later," Mike said, standing up. "Aunt Kate said you probably wouldn't pop in until showtime."

"I know, but I had a feeling that I was needed. You know me, Michael. Every time my favorite nephew is in distress, I know about it. I have a bit of a sixth sense myself. Now sit down and tell old Uncle Will all about it."

"I don't know, Uncle Will. It's really nothin' I can talk about."

"Since when do you feel you can keep secrets from me?"

"I really don't want to talk about it. I think I'm gonna take a walk downtown."

Will nodded, and let Mike go. He wasn't going to push him into talking about something he didn't want to talk about. Will walked up to the lobby, and was met by a very angry looking Bob.

"Will, where's Mike?!" he shouted.

"He went for a walk downtown," Will said. "Why, what's the matter?"

"DOES HE EVEN KNOW WHAT TIME IT IS?!" Bob shrieked. "It's quarter to four! Camille wanted him at Radio City at three! Oooh, I could just kill him!"

"Settle down there, Bob. What's going on?"

"Due to Mike's last minute shopping spree, Jerry twisted his ankle and can't walk on it, much less dance! And if we cut the Discophonics 'Santa Claus is Coming to Town' number, and Mike and Jerry's 'Jingle Bell Rock' dance routine, the fans are most likely are going to lynch us, so Camille had to change the choreography, and I NEED MIKE FOR IT!"

"All I know is that Michael went downtown, and I don't know when he'll be back."

"What has he been doing?!"

"I'm not sure. He won't tell me."

Bob groaned, and stormed off. Will followed him. The two of them went to Radio City Music Hall to work some more on the show. Camille already had some things figured out to avoid anything messy with the fans.

"Will, I think I might be able to use you in the Discophonics number," she said. "Do you think you could play Santa for that? I want to keep Jerry off his feet as much as possible."

"Hmm, I suppose I could," Will said, stroking his beard. "What exactly do you have in mind?"

"I need sort of a sleigh conjured up," Camille said. "The Discophonics, if Mike ever shows up for this rehearsal, will hang off it while singing, and all you have to do is sit in it, and make like you're driving the reindeer."

"I think that will work. I'll conjure up the sleigh."

"Thanks."

"What if Mike doesn't show?" Jerry asked. "What then? We can not cut this number."

"I know we can't cut it," Camille sighed. "Micky, would you come here for a minute?"

"Sure," Micky said. "What do you need?"

"We need you to be Designated Discophonic," Camille said. "Just in case Mike doesn't show up for the concert."

"What about the 'Jingle Bell Rock' thing?" Jerry asked.

"Micky will have to do that, too," Camille said, looking at the program. "Reggie's already doing the Bobby Helms version of it at the beginning of the show, and I'm not sure he'll be up to doing another version with heavier dance moves than the one he's doing."

"Why are we even doing two versions of the song, anyway?" Reggie asked.

"Don't ask me, ask Bob and Eddie," Camille said. "Come on, guys. Let's run through the new routine with Micky in Mike's place. Hopefully, Mike will show up for this."

"I doubt he will," Eddie said. "After all the trouble he caused this morning."

As Camille worked with Reggie, Jerry, and Micky, Bob and Eddie went over the rest of the program. They had to rethink about the Monkees "Riu Chiu," the Mallards "White Christmas" routine (a la Drifters), and Reggie's "Snoopy's Christmas" routine.

"I think we can get around those easily," Bob said. "We can put Reggie in 'Riu Chiu' and 'White Christmas' is fine without Mike, since all he does is backups for that one anyway. Drake and Reggie do the main vocals for that one. As for 'Snoopy's Christmas,' all Mike is doing is standing behind Reggie and ringing bells. We can get one of the others to do that."

"Right," Eddie nodded. "And for anything else he's in, we can get around that, since it's all big group numbers."

Bob nodded. After making some notes in the program, he went to find Will. He was just finishing up the "Santa Claus is Coming to Town" routine.

"Some day, huh?" Eddie asked.

"No kidding," Bob said. "Christmas Eve is always a pain in the neck when it comes to shows. I wonder why I even do them."

"Well, don't worry about it. At least the kids will be ready, and Janie's been ready with her solo."

"Right. Oh, by the way, about Janie . . . . who's class is she in?"

"What do you mean?"

"You know. Gosalyn, Lilly, Catchum, Julie, and most of the chorus is in Mrs. Lee's class. The only other fifth grade teacher at Carson Elementary is Mrs. Fields, and I don't have any of her kids in this chorus, and Gosalyn says Janie isn't in her class."

"Oh, that's because my Janie doesn't go to Carson Elementary School. She goes to Maple Leaf Academy. A private school."

"Janie goes to private school?"

"Of course."

Bob looked ready to blow a gasket. He threw his clipboard down to the ground and gave Eddie the hardest glare he could muster.

"EDDIE!" he screamed at the top of his voice. "The chorus is for kids who go to Carson Elementary School only! Janie can't be in the chorus if she goes to a different school!"

"But I promised Janie she could sing a solo in this show," Eddie said. "Do you want me to break a promise, Bob?"

"Do you want me to break your neck, Eddie?" Bob asked, still highly perturbed. "Eddie, you can't let your daughter perform in a chorus designed for kids in one school if she goes to a different school! Besides which, it isn't fair to the other kids! I've heard Janie sing, and she . . . . well, she's pretty good, but if I were running the show, which I am, I wouldn't have given her the solo!"

"But without the solo, there's no show," Eddie said. "At least with the kids. What are you gonna do about that? Give it to Drake's kid? That's sort of like what I did with Janie."

Bob glared at Eddie, and turned towards the kids, who were working on their routine.

"JULIE!" he screeched.

"Yeah, Bob?" Julie asked, walking over.

"Congratulations, you get to do the solo," Bob said. "Janie is dropping out of this chorus. NOW! Eddie, you are lucky I don't fire you for this! But if you pull another stunt like this again, you're outta here!"

"Got it," Eddie said, nervously. Then he walked off.

Bob sighed. He still had a lot to do. He had to work with Julie for the show that night, and then there was still the deal with Mike. Will was hanging around, practicing the choreography, when Bob walked up to him, looking like a nervous wreck.

"Will, can you please try and find Mike?" he asked. "We really need him for this show. I'd hate for him to miss this. Considering how hard he worked on the 'Jingle Bell Rock' routine."

"I'll see what I can do," Will said. He waved his hand and disappeared.

"I hope Mike shows up," Jerry said. "It took him forever to get the 'Jingle Bell Rock' routine perfect."

"He was looking forward to showing everyone he really can dance," Reggie said.

"Well, it's up to him, really," Bob said, with a shrug. "I can't make him perform. I wish he would show up and perform, but at least we've got a back up plan in case he doesn't show."

The others nodded. Camille sighed, and started to organize everyone into dressing rooms to get the final dress rehearsal started. Drake was tuning his guitar, when Julie came up to him.

"Mr. Mallard?" she asked.

"Yeah, Julie?" Drake asked.

"Is Mike going to go on? Mr. Mannheim's saying he isn't going to show up."

"I don't know if he is or not."

"What happens if he doesn't come?"

"If he doesn't come, then Micky's going to take his place for the numbers he's doing with Jerry and the Discophonics. We'll just have to make an announcement to the people in the audience about the change."

"I hope Mike comes."

"I hope he does, too. You'd better go get ready, Julie. We're doing a dress rehearsal, and our opening act needs a dress rehearsal, too."

Julie nodded, and went to catch up with her friends. Drake sighed, and continued to tune his guitar.

"I wonder where Mike is, anyway?" Valerie asked. "This is probably one of the biggest shows we've ever played."

"Bob's not going to be happy if he doesn't show," Drake said. "I can't think of a good reason why Mike wouldn't show up."

Valerie nodded, and walked off.

Mike, in the meantime, was standing across the big Christmas tree at Rockefeller Center. He checked his watch, and smacked his hand against his head.

"Oh no!" he groaned. "Four fifteen! And Camille wanted me there at three to change the choreography! I've gotten so worked up about that stupid doll I lost track of time!"

"What doll would that be, Michael?" Will asked, walking over.

"Uncle Will, I told you, I don't want to talk about it!" Mike shouted. "I screwed up everythin' this time! Phyllis won't be speakin' to me anytime soon, Jerry's twisted ankle is all my fault, the concert is at five tonight, and there ain't enough time for me to learn a new dance routine, and a little girl's gonna lose faith in Santa . . . . . and it's all because I had to go out and try to find the most popular Christmas toy since Cabbage Patch Kids!"

"Michael, Michael, settle down a little," Will said. "Before you hyperventilate! Sit down here, and tell me what's the matter. You can tell me, Michael. You've always confided in me."

Mike took a deep breath, and calmed down. He sat down next to his uncle, and explained everything that was going on, from the skating rink the day before to that very moment.

"I can't find that doll anywhere, and it's gotten me into some serious trouble," he said. "I even tried breakin' into Eddie's hotel room and stealin' the doll from his stuck up daughter. I told Phyllis a hippo escaped from the Bronx Zoo and trashed the room."

"I hope she didn't believe you," Will said.

"She didn't. Not that I blame her. That was a dumb excuse. I don't think I'll show up at the concert tonight. I've already messed things up. I don't think I can face Bob, and I really don't want to see the look on Julie's face tomorrow mornin' when she opens her presents and realizes she didn't get the one thing she wanted for Christmas."

"Well, I can't tell you to perform. Bob wishes you would though. Everyone else does, too. I have to admit, I was looking forward to seeing your 'Jingle Bell Rock' dance, and so were your mother, Hilda, Zelda, Sabrina, and Kate. We all know how hard you worked on it."

"Yeah, but I already messed things up. I don't think I can face the group."

"Well, whatever you want, Michael. I have to get going. Camille enlisted me to perform during the Discophonics number. And I'd hate to miss Julie's solo."

"Julie's solo?"

"Yes, of course. Bob found out that Eddie's daughter doesn't go to Carson Elementary, kicked her out of the chorus, and gave the solo to Julie. Well, I must be off."

Will snapped his fingers, and disappeared. Mike sighed. Then he started back to his hotel. There was no way he was going to perform at that concert now. It was too late to learn a new routine. He wasn't too coordinated when it came to dancing. He didn't care if his mother was going to be in the audience. Even though he didn't see Bette too often, since she always had pressing engagements in the Other Realm. If he knew Bob, he already had the changes made to the program. Micky would probably end up taking his place during the dance numbers.

At five o'clock, things were about ready to take place. Mike was sitting in his hotel room. He looked at the clock. The kids were probably getting ready to warm up the crowd right about then. That would take a good thirty to forty-five minutes. Then the entire Screen Gems Guild would get out on stage and perform the show's opening number. Mike was supposed to be playing guitar in that one. Mike sat on the bed, thinking. He started to think about the Christmas show. Was it really fair to the others for him to just sit there in the hotel and quit the show? Especially since he had worked so hard on the dance numbers he had to do?

"I can't just sit here," he said, standing up. "I'm not in every single number. Maybe I still have time to learn two routines!"

Mike jumped up, and ran out of the hotel as fast as he could. He hailed a cab right away, and told the driver to take him to the Radio City Music Hall as fast as he could.

The kids were about to go on. Julie kept watching the stage door.

"Isn't Mike coming at all?" she asked.

"I don't know," Bob said.

"Does he know Julie's got the solo now?" Gosalyn asked. "Mike said that Julie should have gotten the solo, because she's ten times better than Janie!"

"I told him," Will said. "But I don't know if he'll arrive."

"I hope he does," Julie said.

"Believe me, I hope so, too," Bob sighed.

Mike arrived at five thirty-five. The kids were just starting their last song. Bob was checking his watch every two seconds.

"If he isn't here by the time the kids are finished," Eddie said. "We'll have to make the announcement that he's not performing."

"He'll be here," Jerry insisted. "I know Mike."

"Darn right, Geat," Mike said, running backstage. "I'm here. What'd I miss?"

"Not much, thank goodness," Camille said. "You're just in time for Julie's solo!"

"Mike, where have you been?!" Bob shouted.

"It's an extremely long story," Mike said. "I'll tell you guys about it later. I've got a solo to listen to."

"We'll have to work on the choreography to your dance numbers between songs," Camille said. "Reggie, you work with him anytime I'm on stage, and I'll work with him whenever you're on stage."

"Check!" Reggie shouted.

Mike stood right on the edge of the stage. He wanted to make sure Julie would see him. It was almost time for her to perform the solo. She glanced back at the wings, and saw Mike standing there. She smiled, and began her solo. She sang it with a lot more feeling than she had when she was rehearsing with Bob. When the kids were done, the curtains closed so the stage could be set up for the Screen Gems Guild. Julie raced to Mike, and practically threw herself at him.

"I knew you'd come! I knew you'd come, Mike!" she shouted, happily.

"Where were you?" Gosalyn asked.

"It's a very long story," Mike said. "And I'll tell you about it later. I've got to go on!"

Everyone was glad Mike arrived when he did. After he finished tuning his guitar, it was time for the Screen Gems Guild to go on. In between the songs, Camille, Jerry, Micky, and Reggie worked with Mike for the choreography changes.

"I hope I can pull this off," Mike said.

"You hope you can pull it off!" Jerry shouted. "I'm gonna be doing a revised dance that isn't going to be easy with a twisted ankle."

"Yeah, he's been sitting down for most of the show whenever he's on stage," Reggie said.

"Worry about it later," Mike said, adjusted his wool hat. "The Discophonics are up next."

Reggie and Jerry nodded, and they went out on stage for their "Santa Claus is Coming to Town" number, which turned out to be a big hit with the audience. Once they were done with that, the curtain closed, and Bob came out on stage to talk about Christmas to the audience while Mike snapped his fingers and made a quick costume change for him and Jerry so they could do their "Jingle Bell Rock" bit.

"Ready?" Jerry asked.

"As ready as I'll ever be," Mike said.

The curtain opened, and the music started. Mike and Jerry began their routine. It looked like something straight out of Broadway. Mike and Jerry were wearing tuxedos as they performed the song. Jerry was thankful they were incorporating canes into the act. Otherwise, he wouldn't have been able to stay on his feet. But it didn't matter. The audience weren't able to tell that Jerry had a twisted ankle during the dance. Once the song was over, they got a thunderous applause. They took three bows, and left the stage so Quackerjack could get on stage and sing.

"Well, you did it," Eddie said to Mike. "I didn't think you would, but you did."

"Not bad for an uncoordinated goof, huh, Eddie?" Mike asked.

"Okay, guys," Bob said. "We've got one final number when Quackerjack's finished singing."

The others nodded, and began to get ready for it. The curtain closed, and Quackerjack came out, holding the microphone. He was going to give the final speech, since he was the last solo singer before the whole group got together again.

"We hope you enjoyed our program," he said. "We'd like to leave you with one final song. All of our performers are participating in this final song, as well as our opening act, the Maple Leaf Elementary School Chorus."

The audience applauded, as the curtains opened, and the music started. The Maple Leaf Elementary's conductor, Mrs. Ikuko Lee, gave the group their cues, and they began singing.

Keep Christmas with you
All through the year,
When Christmas is over,
You can keep it near.
Think of this Christmas day
When Christmas is far away.

Keep Christmas with you
All through the year,
When Christmas is over,
Save some Christmas cheer.
These precious moments,
Hold them very dear
And keep Christmas with you
All through the year.

Kids: Christmas means the spirit of giving
Peace and joy to you

All: The goodness of loving,
The gladness of living;
These are Christmas too.

So, keep Christmas with you
All through the year,
When Christmas is over,
Save some Christmas cheer.
These precious moments,
Hold them very dear
And keep Christmas with you
All through the year.

The audience exploded in applause for the group. Everyone took a couple of bows, and the audience began to stand up, and continued applauding. A standing ovation! Once the audience began leaving, everyone gathered backstage and had a little celebration.

"To Camp Monkee Mallard!" Micky shouted, holding up a glass of sparkling apple cider.

"Or the Screen Gems Guild," Bob said. "Whatever you want to call us."

"Yeah, we managed to pull it off," Reggie said. "I didn't think we were for a minute!"

Micky laughed, and gave Mike a playful shove in the shoulder. As the group was celebrating, Mike's cousin, Sabrina, ran backstage.

"Hey Mike!" she shouted.

"Hey, Sab, how'd you like the show?" Mike asked.

"It was great!" Sabrina shouted. "I didn't think you could dance."

"You were wonderful out there, Mike," Sabrina's aunt, Zelda, said, giving him a hug. "We're all so proud of you!"

"Yeah, believe it or not, I almost didn't come out here," Mike said.

"I'm wondering why that is," Bob said. "You said you'd tell us."

"I'll wait 'til the kids leave," Mike said. "I don't really want to explain it in front of them."

Mike did explain everything on the way back to the hotel. Of course, everyone thought he was crazy for trying to do what he did.

"Mike, you've got to be crackahs to do something like that!" Davy shouted.

"Yeah, I know," Mike said. "But I did. I'm just afraid of what Julie's gonna do when she finds out she didn't get the doll she wanted."

No one said anything to that. They just all went to bed the minute they got to the hotel. It had been a long night.

The next morning, the entire group got together in the hotel lobby to open presents. Everyone had to bring down presents in shopping bags, since they didn't want to leave them under the tree in the hotel. Someone might steal them. While in the middle of opening presents, some of the kids came down to the lobby.

"Mike! Mike!" Julie called, happily.

"What's up, Julie?" Mike asked.

"Look what Santa left in my room!" Julie shouted, holding up, of all things, a talking Princess Rainbow Crystal doll.

"How in the world . . . ." Mike started to say.

"I told you, Santa did it, silly!" Julie shouted.

"Yeah," Mike nodded. "That's great, Jules. That's really great."

Julie giggled, and went to catch up with her friends. Mike just stood there, dumbfounded.

"I can't imagine how she could have gotten the doll," Mike said.

"Me neither," Jerry said. "We couldn't find one in this city!"

"It's a mystery all right," Will said, sneakily.

Mike looked over at his uncle, and laughed. Will gave Mike a wink, and continued going about his business. Mike shook his head and laughed.

"Good ol' Uncle Will," he said. "Hey guys, how 'bout some Christmas carols?"

Everybody thought that was a great idea, and began singing "We Wish You a Merry Christmas."

 

The End