Ruth had an assignment in art class, to write a children's story so that she could then illustrate it as a children's book.
She was not amused.
As an expression of her frustration, she wanted to kill Santa off in her story, but that was not very original, since she knows a fellow who actually did that, and got sent to the school counsellor for it.
(Now she's telling me she actually wanted to kill the Easter Bunny.)
In the end, she wrote something about a pink penguin, which wasn't all that original either, considering the song I used to sing to the kids when they were younger (Boom, boom...). "But," she says, "my penguin was a loner, because he was actually pink."
Anyway, back when we were still discussing the assignment, we did cook up a bit of a yarn about Santa. I asked Ruth if I could post it here, and she said "Sure - you're the one who made it up." Ummm - before you call the folks in the white coats, I insist, it wasn't all my idea.
Once upon a time, in a village far away, a great pot was set over a hot fire. The pot was filled with water, and a strange, quiet, happy man carefully lowered into the simmering water a single, plain-looking stone.
Curious villagers began to gather. First the youngsters came, their first timid steps giving way to bold rushes, and then to questions. Each time the man answered that he was making stone soup, and it would be very good. But each time he added that it would be even better if he had a little bit of this or that.
And the villagers came with their little bits of this and that, and each bit was solemnly added to the simmering water with the same strange look of quiet joy.
The joy spread, and grew noisy, and the pot bubbled, and the smell of the stone soup grew stronger and richer and spicier and sweeter and stronger still, and mounted to the sky.
And across that sky came the strangest thing yet: a sleigh borne aloft by some great magic, and pulled along by eight reindeer. Or was it nine? After the peculiar events of that evening, no-one could clearly remember. But they all remembered the jolly face of the rotund man in the sleigh, his white beard trailing in the breeze of his flight, his tall red cap tilted sideways too, and a look of pure pleasure on his features as he leaned far out to catch the smell of the stone soup. Farther and farther he leaned, straining his great bulk against the side panel of the sleigh, until all at once he tumbled over.
Down he fell, down, down towards the centre of the village. And it seemed that the soup pot had grown wondrously large, and the steam had grown fiercely thick and hot, and on its updraft the rotund fellow settled softly into the simmering water with hardly a plop, his face still suffused with rapture at the scent.
And all who tasted it agreed: it was a very good soup.