Don't Curse the Nurse!

Sharing support with stories & humor

Wrong Elf

on December 14, 2014

A  blogging friend forwarded a prompt. ( For any non-writers reading this, it’s a creative way to stretch your brain when it comes to writing)

Here is my finished piece: _______________________________________________________________________________

“Wrong Elf,” they whispered amongst themselves.

A weary looking nurse handed her five year old over to a waiting husband, kissed both on the cheek, and could be heard saying Maybe they’ll pick you next year before she headed back to work.

Thirty-two mom/nurses had shown up, child in hand, hoping theirs would be the one to get the job of being Santa’s helper. The one picked (and his or her mother) had celebrity status for weeks after at Wilmot’s Children’s Hospital. Photos went in the hospital paper, the local paper, and the mother of the “helper”, if she was a nurse, got some ever so subtle deferential treatment on her unit. The event had classic appeal — sick kids stuck in a hospital at Christmas — big party — gifts and food for the kids — everyone wanted to be a part of it.

Four managers from different divisions sat at a long table at the back of the room.  The “contestants” came in one at time. If the child was too shy, too young, or appeared to not really want to be there, they were turned down. Some sang, gave their Christmas list to the judges, and tried their best to describe what they thought their job as helper would entail.  Naming the reindeers was the test for picking the winner. Everyone kept missing Blitzen.

The next child that came through the door hid behind his mom and wouldn’t speak up despite her coaxing. His was a look of relief when the judges gave his mom a sad shake of the head and wished her a happy holiday. The process was slow and fatigue was beginning to show on the faces of the managers. This task was set up at the end of their work day.

When the door opened again, the three at the table looked at each other first, then back at the figure in front of them. Almost in unison, they spoke.

“How old are you?”

Shawn Haggarty, like his father told him to, pulled his shoulders back before answering. “My name is Shawn. I’m sixteen and I’m a sophomore at Bidwell High.”

The manager for Oncology spoke first. “You know what this audition is for?”

Shawn replied. “Yes sir, I do.”

They couldn’t help but stare for a minute. Shawn was wearing a long sleeved green turtleneck, black tight biking pants, and red high tops. The effect was similar to that of someone doing their own Will Ferrell imitation from the movie ELF. Shawn looked plain silly. The lone female among the managers looked sideways at the other managers before speaking.

“Shawn, all the applicants ahead of you were under the age of twelve. They’re you know, elf size.”

There was no change in expression on Shawn’s face.

“Shawn, you’re the wrong size for the job.” She said it with mock seriousness.

Shawn replied with genuine distress. “I’m perfect for the job. I…You should…”

She cut him short with a hand up in the air. “Shawn, we appreciate the gesture, but you’d look a little silly standing next to Santa for the pictures. Have a good day.”

Applicant number twenty-eight, a precocious seven year old that wouldn’t stop talking, got the job.

Shawn, he comforted himself with a milkshake from a Wendy’s drive thru before arriving home.  He then went to the bathroom, yanked off the long green turtleneck and stared into the mirror. A thick white scar from the neck down the sternum stared back at him and he fingered the shiny keloid that had developed at the top. Even though the transplant was over a year ago, it felt like just yesterday that he’d woken up with crushing post-surgical chest pain.  Shawn credited nurses, therapists, and tons of friends for helping him get over the rough spots of his recovery. His gratitude had blossomed into a desire to help kids going similar trials.

Lacking any discouragement from his failed attempt to “Give back” to the hospital, Shawn changed into work-out gear and went back out the door to meet his trainer. He had a goal of running a mile without stopping by his two year surgery anniversary date.


Three weeks later, all the pediatric patients gathered in the large conference hall to meet Santa and his helper for cookies, games, and gifts. Jeremy, the seven year old picked to help, showed up late. It was obvious his congenial nature had been temporary. He held his elf cap in one fisted hand, and had on not tights, but jeans and untied sneakers. The scowl on his face pickled his appearance. He managed to “help” Santa a little, and then undid his good work by grabbing gifts back from the young patients. He also yanked Santa’s beard so hard it was hanging off at the edge of the poor gentleman’s face.

The four managers, after receiving multiple complaints from Santa and other parents, gathered in the corner to talk. All anyone walking by could hear was “We picked the wrong elf. We picked the wrong elf.”

In the three weeks since his audition, Shawn increased his endurance by a quarter of a mile and would probably reach his goal of running a mile before his two year anniversary.

5 responses to “Wrong Elf

  1. This is an awesome story. Our children’s hospital uses inpatients (so it’s not uncommon to have elfs in crutches and wheelchairs), they have ‘shifts’. And Santa is actually one of my melanoma patients who comes for check ups before his stint each year and asks if I can clear Santa for duty! I love your story.

  2. says:

    Very well done my dear! I enjoyed it thoroughly. Jim GOGO

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