ANNE McCAFFREY “A Proper Santa Claus.” Short story. First published in Demon Kind, edited by Roger Elwood (Avon, paperback, 1973). Collected in Get Off the Unicorn (Del Rey, paperback, 1977). Reprinted in Christmas Stars, edited by David G. Hartwell (Tor, paperback, 1992) and Treasures of Fantasy, edited by Margaret Weis & Tracy Hickman (Harper, softcover, 1997), among others.

   Anne McCaffrey is best known for her many books of SF and fantasy in several long-running series, especially her Pern novels. But she was no slow hand at writing short fiction as well, as this small tale demonstrates full well. Please note that in what follows, I will need to tell you more than you may like to know!

   It begins when a young boy named Jeremy is about three years old. It seems that he has a special talent. Whenever he draws something or creates something out of clay, and if he does in a proper way, it becomes real. If he draws a cookie on a piece of paper and cuts it out, it is dry but very tasty, but when he paints a glass of Coke, it’s flat, because he forgot to draw in the bubbles.

   This remarkable ability stays with him until kindergarten, when at Christmas time he draws Santa Claus bringing him lots of presents. A conflict arises when he can’t do it in a proper way, after his teacher tries to tell him what a proper Christmas is all about, and his special talent is gone forever.

   An obvious fantasy, but I’d like to think that it’s also a sort of a “growing up” tale that applies to everyone. Short but extremely well done.