The man in the sleigh pointed at Jack and then turned his finger aggressively downward. Heave to, that was the message. And the blinking red light from the nose of the lead reindeer sent a second message, one known to criminals everywhere: you’re nicked.
Jack called to the creature harnessed to the bowsprit. “AHOY, MISTER DASHER, BRACE ABOX!”
Every able-bodied sailor aboard grabbed something sturdy as the reindeer came to a complete and sudden halt. Smilin’ Pete flew off his position on the wheel mount and rolled forward until he was stopped by the mainmast.
The sleigh touched down amidships and the jolly old man climbed off. He picked up Smilin’ Pete, giving the skull a quick buff as he approached the captain. The captain nervously shifted from foot to peg and back as the old fellow approached.
“Jack, what did I say?”
“Ahrr, Mister Santa, it’s like this…”
“Did I not specifically tell you when I let Dasher serve an internship here that he was not to be used to pull the boat?”
“Well, Sur, it was like’n this. Mister Dancer was boastin’ to the boys that he could haul just about anythin’ and then Tortuga Zeke and Gutbuster Gavin started makin’ fun of ‘im. Finally Busty Bob dared him, and said he’d dress up like a girl if’n he did it. Even Smilin’ Pete wanted ta see if ol' Dash could do it!”
“That excuse would have worked the first time and maybe the second, but this is more like the tenth! I should have you keel-hauled for this!”
Jack Bastord glowered, his face slowly turning redder than Saint Nick’s suit. Even the warning look from Smilin’ Pete wasn’t calming him down. “Nobody threatens to keel-haul me on me own ship! That’s mutiny! That’s lunacy! That’s…”
“Piracy, Jack?” The old man’s wry smile would have disarmed the Spanish Armada. Or made them open fire.
“Right!” Jack thought for a second (about three-quarters of a second longer than usual) and then burst out laughing. “Arr, that it is, Old Man. Yer always was one o’the best.”
As if waiting for the moment, one of the crew approached. “Uh, Santa?”
“Yes, Jennif… er, Busty Bob?”
The pirate handed him a small book. “Could you give this to Mrs. Claus, sir? I know she likes my stories of adventure on the high seas.”
"Thank you dear. I'm sure it will be fascinating reading."
“Mrs. Claus? Arr, Nick, I didn’t know the Church let ye keep a bit on the side!”
“She’s my housekeeper, Jack. There’s no hanky-panky; I am a bishop, you know.” But Santa knew from the gleam in Jack’s eye that this wouldn’t be the end of it.
Santa turned and looked down at the elf standing behind him.
“What is it, Edwin?”
“Well sir, Dasher’s been talking with the other reindeer about what a chore it was to pull the ship, sir.”
Santa smiled. ‘Good,’ he thought, ‘a lesson hard-learned is more often shared.’
“Now they all want a try.”