As Neal walked in the room seemed to explode with excitement as gifts were handed out and all that could be heard for a few minutes was the tearing of paper and the opening of gifts. Then the room was filled with a multitude of 'thank you's" and then the process started over again until the presents had been opened.
Neal's presents to the adults were drawings and paintings of his own…no copies of famous paintings but some his own…many of them were outside scenes but a few included portraits of their children that he had done with the help of photographs. The children's gifts were from a list of what they wanted supplied by El or Peter. He wasn't expecting anything from Peter's brother and sister and was floored when they came through with thoughtful gifts of their own. He received tasteful ties and even another fedora that caused him to smile and offer his thanks for their great taste.
Carolyn gave Neal a cookbook; the type where you add your favorites to the blank pages and the first recipe in the book were her cookie recipe. "Now Peter and El tell me that you are an accomplished chef and now you have a book to put your recipes in," she told him as he gave her a hug of thanks.
Peter and El gave him art supplies of all types and something in the watercolor line. "You've never done anything in this medium Neal," El murmured and I thought you might want to give it a try."
"Cookie?" It was Susie, Sally's youngest.
"There's another package behind the tree," the little girl informed her grandmother.
"Can you get it for me dear?" Carolyn asked the small child who scurried to do just that. When she returned she was pulling a long package behind her.
"It's kind of heavy Cookie," she said as Peter took it from her and handed it to his mother.
Carolyn looked at the tag and then turned to Neal and said as she handed to him, "It's addressed to you Neal," and then added in a whisper, "It's from Santa."
Neal's eyes widened at the announcement and looked thoughtfully at the package and then at everyone is the room. He was afraid to open it where everyone would see. Carolyn picked up on it at once and said,
"Kids why don't you put your presents down and go into the kitchen and get your breakfast…we will be in momentarily," she added as she looked pointedly at their parents who took the hint and ushered their children out so that the four could have some privacy.
"Go ahead dear and open your present," Carolyn said gently.
With nervous hands Neal opened the box to reveal a paddle that stated that it belonged to Neal. "Neal's Paddle" was painted on the front in a flowing script; and under that were the words "to be applied liberally to the backside whenever needed."
Neal blushed as he read the words and handed it to Peter stating angrily, "Very funny Peter!"
"I didn't do this Neal," Peter said at once as he handed the paddle to his wife who handed it to Carolyn. "We didn't do this Neal, "they all stated in turn.
"Well, if you didn't do it...who did?"
"I can only think of one," remarked Carolyn as she looked at Neal. "You told me this morning that he doesn't do switches any longer and has switched to paddles."
"But that was a dream…it wasn't r-real," stammered Neal.
"Are you sure Neal?" asked El who took a note out of the box and read out loud.
"Neal there is an identical paddle waiting at Cookie's house to be used instead of her hairbrush. These paddles cannot be destroyed by hammers or hidden that they won't be found and when used will leave a mighty sting that will leave the applicant squirming for days. On the back of each paddle is the number of licks to be given for each offense;
be careful not to do the same offense twice…you won't like the consequence," and it was signed Santa Claus.
Carolyn turned the paddle over to discover the list of offenses and the
licks listed for each offense. The first offense was lying to family and the number of licks listed for that offense was twelve but if the offense was repeated the licks were given on a bare bottom; in fact that was the same sentence for each repeat offense…the paddling was to be delivered on the bare backside.
"Neal you had better watch yourself from now on for the licks range from twelve licks to four but for every repeat offense the sentence will be applied to your bare backside…and judging that the highest number of licks is for lying to your family Santa considers it the worse offense," explained Carolyn seriously.
Neal paled at that and asked, "Are you going to use that on me?"
"I think we can show you some Christmas mercy this time but if you ever get it in your head to lie to us for any reason I will consider it a
repeat offense and give you a bare bottom paddling that will have you squirming for days," Carolyn said sternly, "now let's get in there before the children eat everything."
"I'll join you as soon as I put this out of the way," Neal said as he grabbed the paddle and note and headed down to his room.
Neal was about to put the paddle on the bed when his eye caught sight of a hammer that had been left out earlier in the day. "I can't believe that they still believe in Santa Claus or that this paddle can't be destroyed by a hammer…I'll show them. When I destroy the paddle it will show them that Santa is just a myth too," Neal thought as he grabbed the hammer and swung it down on the paddle only to have it bounce off with no apparent damage to the paddle.
Neal looked dumbfounded at the paddle while in the corner of his eye a familiar figure appeared and he suddenly found himself bottomless and bent over his bed having his backside paddled. "NOOOOOO! I'm sorryyyyyy…I believeeeeee," he howled as he found himself being paddled by Santa himself…