Thirteen-year-old Jendrik is annoyed – by his parents, his younger sister, and the stupid, never-ending, and irritating chores he has to do around the house. One day, while taking out the rubbish, he comes across another person who wants to make his life even more difficult. He finds a grandpa – not Jendrik’s own – sitting in their shed, claiming to be Father Christmas. Great – that was the only thing missing in Jendrik’s life!
But it’s no good – if he wants to get rid of the strange old man, he’ll have to help him …
A Christmas story to read to oneself or aloud to grumpy brothers, feisty sisters, and parents who should take out the rubbish themselves once in a while – it could just be worth it!
Charming, caring, and cheeky – presenting Gary Christmas!
‘Yeah, yeah, I'm doing it.’
Annoyed, Jendrik tugged straight his blue down
jacket and slammed the door of the wardrobe shut. He
pulled his red beanie over his brown hair, which
looked scruffy even before putting on the woolly
Christmas present from Grandma Christa. He
stomped into the kitchen and, huffing, tore at the bin
liner to lift the stupid and overfull sack out of the
‘For goodness sake, Jendrik. Why don’t you take
the rubbish bag out of the bin before putting your
boots on?’ His father shook his head in dis
belief. ‘Look at the kitchen floor. Now your mother will
have to mop it again.’
Joachim Oltmann yawned, scratched the thick hair
on the back of his head and – as he did each morning
on the weekend – disappeared with a mug of coffee
and the newspaper into the living room.
Jendrik stepped outside into the cold and let the
door slam shut behind him. He pulled the rubbish
bag, which threatened to rip with every step, past the
kitchen windows and laundry door to the back of the
house. In disgust, he lifted the grey lid of the rubbish
bin with the number ‘28’ on it and balanced the plas-
tic bag, through which he could see rinds of cheese,
tea bags, and scrunched up tissues, on top of all the
other rubbish bags. He pushed the lid down,
attempting at least to reduce the gap between it and
the bin, which would not close completely. He hated
touching the wet handle. It was gross when his finger-
tips came in contact with the liquid. Was that really
just rainwater? Disgusting! It was probably fetid water.
In summer, it was even worse. You never knew what
was waiting in the grey pit of the bin. From furry
mould to maggots of different colours and sizes
– everything was possible. Why was he the one who
always had to do the dirty chores? He was sick of it.
As soon as his sister got through her first day of school,
he would see to it that she did her part in the house.
Just because she was a few years younger than him,
she could wrap her parents around her little finger and
get away with anything. And she liked using this
abundance of free time to grate Jendrik’s already taut
nerves. She left her stupid ponies and dolls lying all
over the house, meaning you could be poked in the
behind by a doll’s foot or horse’s hoof if you sat down
to relax on the sofa with the console. All those
Spotties, Brownies, and Black Beauties – he would
have liked to throw them in the bin! They all looked
the same anyway. He just had to wait until summer
and the start of school – then he’d make some changes
as the older brother in the Oltmann family.
A quiet bump snapped him out of his thoughts.
Had that sound come from the shed? Jendrik looked
over at the red wooden door. It was locked. He glanced
at the window to the living room. His father was now
reading an edition of ‘National Geographic’ about
active volcanoes. It couldn’t have been his mother
either, as she was up in the attic, from where she had
threatened him with a football ban if the stinking bag
of rubbish didn’t immediately disappear. And Clara?
She was sitting in the bath with her herd of Schleich
toy horses. There it was again! That bumping noise. Probably
just a cat ... or probably not? How would a cat have
got into the shed? They really only used the shed in
summer. During winter, all the garden furniture and
the lawn mower were stored in there. And an old re-
frigerator. Cautiously, Jendrik approached the little window
on the side of the shed, next to which the bicycles
were stored under a roof. All was dark in the shed. He
could hardly make anything out. He moved even
closer and peered further inside. Bump! Again, the
noise! But there was nothing to see. It was most
certainly an animal that had trapped itself inside.
Maybe a hedgehog wanting to hibernate for the
winter. Or a confused owl searching for an escape.
Well, he would help free the poor creature. Jendrik
turned around, moved towards the door and
– ready to assist –
opened it and came face to face with an old man.
‘Whoops,’ said the man and ducked his head
quickly between his shoulders. ‘I probably was a little
too loud there. Good morning!’ He settled himself
back in to his deckchair slowly.
Jendrik stared wordlessly at the man in the green
‘Could you close the door, please? There’s a
draught.’ The man with the grey - white beard and blue
eyes gave Jendrik a friendly smile.
‘What?’ Jendrik held his gaze on what he had ex-
pected to be an owl and wasn’t sure whether he should
be afraid or annoyed.
‘The door, Jendrik. Please close the door so that it
doesn’t get even colder in here.’
Without taking his eyes off the strange fellow,
Jendrik closed the door. ‘How do you know my name?’
‘I’m Father Christmas. I know all children by
name.’ The old man smiled and motioned to the
garden chair next to him. ‘Take a seat. It’s your chair,
Jendrik took one step closer and stretched his arm
out so he could grab the chair by its back and pull it
to him. He sat down on the very edge of the seat.
‘What are you doing here?’ he heard himself ask.
‘I’m waiting for my people. Well, for my reindeer.
But first, one of my angels has to find me. Or one of
my elves. I know I can’t count on the gnomes. They
don’t like leaving the North Pole.’
‘Gnomes? Angels? Elves? Aha.’ Jendrik stood up
slowly. ‘So, my parents probably wouldn’t be thrilled
with you making yourself at home in here. Why don’t
you shove off somewhere else?’ He made for the door,
without taking his eyes off the old man. Even though
the old man was polite, you could never know if
someone like this was going to flip out and knock you
down from behind. ‘I’ll be going then.’ Jendrik stood
with his back to the door, his hand resting on the
handle. ‘Alright, well, as I said, see you.’
‘I can’t leave. I’m sorry.’ The unwanted guest
shrugged his shoulders. ‘Oh, and unfortunately
neither can he.’ He motioned to the shelf on the wall
behind him. Jendrik couldn’t quite make out what
was lying on the checked cushion, but it looked like a
fluffy, brown pillow and was round like an advent
‘What the heck is that? Did you bring a giant rat
along with you?’
‘No, those things never travel alone. That’s my cat.
Before I left, he sneaked into my luggage without my
knowledge. He had no idea we’d be stranded here and
unable to get back to the North Pole.’
Annoyed, Jendrik rolled his eyes. Today was
turning out to be just great.
He sighed. ‘Okay, if you really think you’re the
funniest joke at the craziest
time of the year, then surely you realise today is the
eighteenth of December. So, you should get cracking
on handing out the presents, okay? As I said, see you
later. And take your lice - ball up there with you.’
‘That’s just my problem. Time is slowly running
out.’ The old man drew in a breath through clenched
teeth, so that it made a hissing noise. Jendrik’s father
did the same when things got awkward at the car
mechanic because the amount on the bill was not to
his liking. ‘But maybe you can help me, Jendrik. Then
you’ll be rid of me faster.’
When he spoke, the man didn’t sound as old as he
looked. But he was obviously not right in the head.
‘The good thing about helping me is that then I’ll
have time to put your new bike under the tree.’ He
glanced at Jendrik over the rim of his glasses. ‘By the
way, a nice sort of tree you’ve picked out for your-
selves. I like it. Especially the colour. Pure green. No
blue tones. This year it definitely won’t clash with the
green carpet you always lay underneath.’
Jendrik considered a moment. They really had put
a green mat under the tree every year to catch the fir
needles and candle wax. And last year they really did
have a tree that looked more blue than green. Dad had
chosen it himself, and Mum could barely contain her
anger about the blue tone of the tree. She said the
colours clashed – green and blue definitely shouldn’t
go together, and the red baubles looked tacky in its
blue branches when they were supposed to look
traditional. Clara had added fuel to the fire by singing,
‘Green and blue, looks like poo–’
‘Clara!’ Their father had chided her.
But, as always, Clara had to push it too far.
‘–Redbaubles on it, make me vomi–’
‘I mean it–that’s enough!’ Dad rounded on her, not
so much because of the naughty words, but more be-
cause he was afraid of Mum’s bad mood.
‘Then we’ll just use the gold stuff and that’ll be the
end of it,’ Dad said in an annoyed voice, probably
hoping the discussion would end with that.
But the gold baubles wouldn’t work either, in
Mum’s opinion. Because of the blue, instead of
looking warm and festive, they would look pee
-yellow. At this, Dad threatened to hack the tree to
pieces there and then, if Mum didn’t stop over
-reacting. Then Clara started to cry and didn’t stop for
ages. No one wanted to go through that again. For that
reason, this year, Mum and Dad decided to get the tree
together, with Clara, from the local Christmas market.
Of course, no one asked Jendrik, as usual. Not that he
cared. It wouldn’t have been any fun anyway, waiting
– most likely in the rain–for Mum and Dad to agree
on which dead tree should be shoved into a net. After-
wards, he would probably be the one who would have
to drag it home on his own, while Clara, as always,
would be carried home, holding both her parents’
hands and running up and jumping on the count of
three. They would return to a dark house because, as
soon as Mum had won the battle against the knotted
fairy lights and laid them like looted bounty on hooks
in the windows, no one was allowed to turn on any
other lights. Not even while they were eating. This was
so everyone could see the pretty lighting. As it was,
the teeny tiny lamps lit up little more than the fact
that, on each string of lights, at least a handful of light
bulbs were blown. It was dark in the Oltmann house,
pitch black. You could hardly even tell what was on
your own plate.
Jendrik eyed the old man sceptically. ‘Tell me. Are
you one of those crazy people who spyon others in
the dark through their windows?’
‘Looking through windows: yes. Crazy: no. After
all, I have to check when people are busy and won’t
see me, so I can lay the presents under the Christmas
tree. Because you all go to church each year, that
makes my job a great deal easier. These days, a lot of
people stay home, unfortunately. In that case, it is
often a real balancing act not to be discovered. Well, I
guess in all jobs, nothing gets easier, even in mine.’
Jendrik thought for a moment. That comment
about going to church was also true. The old man
should be starting to creep him out by now.
‘If you really are Father Christmas, then why don’t
you want to be discovered? Father Christmas gives
presents to children who recite poems about nuts and
punishes those who have been bad. So most children
like him. And for those who don’t like him, the par-
ents are happy that their snotty little kids get a smack
on the bum for being naughty.’
‘That’s a load of nonsense. But that’s okay. The peo-
ple who say such things about me have never seen me.
I would never hurt a child and I never heap Christmas
presents on anyone. I give presents to those children
whose parents really need my help.’
‘Hmm ...and what’s with all the secrecy?
Why are you hiding yourself?’
‘Again, wouldn’t you rather just take a seat?’
‘No, I have football practice soon. You know what?
Whatever it was that made you end up here, please
just move yourself on. My father has a heart attack
when the neighbours’ dogs stray into our garden and
leave dog poo behind. If he finds you here–’
‘I’m not going to poo in your garden.’
‘Jeeendriiiik!’ his mother’s voice rang from near the
front door. ‘Tom’s here. Get a move on!’
‘Sorry, I really have to go now.’ Jendrik stepped
backwards out of the shed, and the bearded man with
the clear eyes nodded in understanding.
Tom, Jendrik’s friend and neighbour, hopped
nervously from one leg to the other. ‘Hurry up! Didn’t
you hear the honking? Old Mum’s getting annoyed.’
‘Sorry, I had to slave away here at home!’ Jendrik
excused himself, sounding more exasperated than he actually felt.
His mother raised her eyebrows in disbelief. ‘Oh, is
that so?’ Without waiting for an answer, she held his
packed black sports bag out to him on his way to the
front door. ‘A pleasure, my son. And next time, you
can pack it yourself, okay?’
Two hours later, Jendrik opened the gate to his house,
and raised his hand once more to say goodbye. He’d
had at least three chances to score a goal during
training and he’d stuffed them all up because the
strange fellow in the shed kept playing about in his
head. Hopefully he had disappeared now.
Just as Jendrik was about to press the doorbell, he
stopped. Should he go and take a look? He pulled his
hand back and sneaked past the kitchen window to
the garden around the back. As he stood in front of
the shed door, he hesitated. He could just tell his father
– he would certainly bundle the guy out!
But his curiosity was stronger than his doubts
about the truthfulness of the Father Christmas story.
He pushed the door handle down carefully. His heart
pounded ... He opened the door a crack ... Nothing.
The chair was empty. He opened the door the whole
way. No one there. Phew! Everything looked as it
always did: the deckchairs in the middle, the old re-
frigerator to the left, the mower to the right, the
shelves on the back wall, the outdoor table folded up
against them. There was no sign of the cat either.
Everything was okay. He could go ... But wait! His
blue thermos bottle was on one of the shelves. How
did it get there? What had his Mum ranted? That he
needed to look after his possessions better, that she
couldn’t be constantly buying things again, just be-
cause he was careless and always losing them. He pro-
tested multiple times that he hadn’t lost the bottle,
but of course she hadn’t believed him.
Jendrik grabbed the bottle from the shelf. But there
was something still in there. It was probably some old
Gatorade. Urgh! It would be best if he placed the bottle
somewhere so his mother would find it.
Then thechance of her finding it and getting rid of the floating
bits of mould would definitely be higher ...
Suddenly, the door opened. Clara was about to slip
inside when she spied him. She gave such a start that
it sent the tin cups in her red picnic basket rattling.
‘What are you doing here?’ he asked harshly.
‘Nothing. And you?’ For a six-year-old, Clara was
very quick. You had to keep an eye on her. With her
small basket on her arm, she glared at him like a
vicious Little Red Riding Hood, who could take on
‘I only came to get my bottle.’ He tossed his newly
found object casually into the air. He was about to
catch the bottle again, when he suddenly cried out.
‘Ouch! Oh, man!’ Steaming liquid flowed over his
right hand, which he clasped with his left, while the
open bottle fell and rolled across the floor. The back of
his hand was bright red. ‘What the heck! Why on earth
is there hot water in there?’ he hissed.
Clara didn’t say a word. She opened the fridge,
grabbed something from inside the door and slapped
a blue ice pack on her brother’s burning hand.
‘Oww!’ he snarled at her, but continued to hold the
ice pack on the scalding spot. As Jendrik looked up, he
couldn’t believe his eyes:
the refrigerator was packed full of food. Perfectly
stacked, like in a supermarket, were Petit Miam
yoghurts, teddy-bear-shaped salamis, cream cheese,
jam, grape juice, milk, and a cucumber. Clara pushed
the door shut quickly.
‘Hang on–are you crazy? What’s all that about?’
Jendrik stared at his sister.
‘What?’ Clara held his accusing stare.
‘Why are you stocking up a private store here?’
‘It’s not my stuff. It belongs to Daddy.’ She looked
at him defiantly.
‘Oh sure. Petit Miam and milk! I’m not stupid, you
little thief! And what’s in there?’ He nodded in the di-
rection of the picnic basket. ‘Pinched something else,
He grabbed the basket by the handle, but Clara’s
hands gripped it tight.
‘Let go, you trickster!’ he growled.
‘No, you dumb-bum!’ She pulled the basket to-
wards herself. Just as she was about to bite him on the
hand, a thunderous noise bellowed through the shed.
The fighting pair jumped. Puffing, Jendrik let go of
which Clara was still holding in a tight em-brace.
Jendrik couldn’t believe what he was seeing: it
was the self-proclaimed Father Christmas from that
morning, suddenly standing beside the two of them.
‘Clara, let it go,’ said the old man gently and laid a
hand on the little hothead’s shoulder. ‘It’s very nice
that you’re going into battle for me, but I don’t want
any fighting. And certainly not on my account.’
Jendrik couldn’t believe his eyes or his ears. ‘You