. Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer---A Sonnet Poor Rudolph was a reindeer with a nose resembling a bulb of bright red hue. The other reindeer laughed and said, “It glows like Santa’s after knocking back a few.” They called him ‘Scarlet Schnozz’ and wouldn’t play or socialise with Rudolph till a mist descended on the eve of Christmas Day and threatened every young child’s Yuletide list. Then Santa noticed Rudolph’s nasal light, and said to him, “There’s naught for us to fear; with your proboscis shining through the night, you’ll lead my sleigh’s traditional team of deer.” Thus Rudolph’s gleaming nose brought Christmas joy and gifts to every girl and every boy. . . A Christmas Visitor, Revisited ’Twas the night before Christmas; ’twas quiet as heck; I’d been down the boozer and felt like a wreck. The lights on the front of our semi looked brill, though I dreaded next month’s electricity bill. The fir tree we’d placed by the living-room door, had needles cascading like rain on the floor. But festive it looked, with its tinsel and balls; as did the three cards we’d strung up on the walls. From upstairs I heard my two young daughters jawing into their iPhones, whilst their Mama was snoring. Dear Wife! With her shower cap over her hair, and cucumber face pack to keep her skin fair. Then out by the patio came a rum sound, of swearing, glass breaking, and guess what I found? A fellow, be-masked, with a sack on his back, had entered the kitchen attired all in black. “Who goes there?” I asked. “I’m expecting St. Nick; if you’re an intruder, I’ll go fetch a stick.” “No! Wait!” cried the young man, an overgrown boy. “I’m Santa’s apprentice. I’m here to bring joy. “These gifts are for you,” and he passed me the sack. So I said, “Come on in and partake of a snack.” We placed all the presents safe under the tree, then sat on the couch watching Christmas TV. My new friend was eager to tell me his tale, lest I get the wrong notion and send him to jail. “St. Nick’s overworked,” he explained, “for the Earth has too many kids, and of Santas a dearth. “He hires, for this reason, an army of folk like me to assist him---I swear it’s no joke. “But red’s not my colour, and chimneys are blocked, so I climb through the windows since doors are kept locked.” I may be a cynic, but felt without doubt he was Santa’s trainee, not a low, thieving lout. So I fetched him some cookies and milk in a glass; but he said: “If you don’t mind I’ll give them a pass. “It’s cold out! My toes, I can feel them no longer, I think I’d prefer a libation that’s stronger.” I knew what he meant, so together we downed two bottles of schnapps---then next day I was found asleep by my wife and my girls on the couch, beside Santa’s trainee, for whom I did vouch. Alas, ’twas too late, the police had been phoned about an intruder exceedingly stoned. The lads and the lasses in blue came at once, heard my story and promptly proclaimed me a dunce. “This bloke,” said their sergeant, “is a thief much renowned, who’s stolen from lots of the folks here around. “Your neighbours, for instance, those presents are theirs; the parents had hidden them under the stairs.” And surely enough, they were not girlish toys; it turned out the gifts were all purchased for boys. In handcuffs the Christmas imposter was led away to the station and a cell’s cheerless bed. And me? I was left feeling heavy of heart, till my neighbours pronounced me both cunning and smart. I’d saved their sons’ presents whilst detaining a thief, I’d captured a felon causing much yuletide grief. I’m now deemed a hero, I’ve brought festive cheer; Merry Christmas to all and a Happy New Year. . . Paul A. Freeman is the author of Rumours of Ophir, a crime novel which was taught in Zimbabwean high schools and has been translated into German. In addition to having two novels, a children’s book and an 18,000-word narrative poem (Robin Hood and Friar Tuck: Zombie Killers!) commercially published, Paul is the author of hundreds of published short stories, poems and articles.