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Hooves hesitated, then replied in a shaky voice, "Um, my dad has gone to the dry-cleaners to have his coat cleaned for tomorrow night, so you won't be able to see him at this moment."

Santa Claus was not fooled. If by any chance you have heard the song, "Santa Claus is Coming to Town," you would know that Santa sees you when you are sleeping, he knows when you are awake, he knows if you have been bad or good, so he certainly isn't going to believe a tall tale told by a minor reindeer.

"Hooves," he said, "take me to your father--what has he done this time?"

"Santa Claus," replied Hooves, "my father has done no wrong; he is only trying to keep his job. He has a wretched cold and is afraid of what you will do if he cannot go tomorrow. He asked me to cover for him, that's all."

Santa walked into Rudolph's bedroom and sat down on the bed. "Rudolph," he said slowly, "you have been a very foolish reindeer. Illness is not something that you can control. Yes, I wish that you had kept your earmuffs on and stayed warm, but nobody is perfect. I am not quite so upset about the cold as I am that you tried to hide it from me and that you taught your son to lie to Santa Claus. Now what do you have to say for yourself?"

"Sorry, Santa," Rudolph said. "You are right--I have been foolish. But just one thing. Who will guide the sleigh?"

"Rudolph, you silly reindeer! It is Christmas! Anything is possible. No reindeer is going to be sick on Christmas Eve, you'll see."

"Oh! Now I understand, Santa! Anything can happen on Christmas. For instance, reindeers flying, magic, friendship, love, and you fitting down a chimney!"

"Hey, watch it!"


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