Christmas Eve and all was still and calm. Striped stockings hung along the mantlepiece and the tree stood in the corner, dressed in red and gold. Nothing stirred, except for a tiny mouse perched on a side table, where she chewed delicately at the edge of a gingerbread cookie.
Then with a FHUMP and a WUMP something feathery and green dropped down the chimney. It tumbled and rolled from the fireplace. Then stood and shook out his rumpled feathers, casting dust all over the rug. He was a sleek green parrot with large hooked beak and bright, curious eyes: a kea.
The tiny mouse gave a terrified squeak and tumbled from the table. She scurried under the couch and back into her hole.
The kea laughed his trilling laugh and puffed out his chest. “Kia ora,” he cried. “Tiriki is here! Time for the party to begin.” Then he paused, and cocked his head, casting his beady eyes about the silent room. “Perhaps I have the wrong address,” he muttered to himself, then shrugged. “Well lookee there – they've laid out some snacks.”
With those words, he hopped over and flapped up onto the side table, his claws catching in the tablecloth. First he stuck his head into the glass and lapped up all the milk. It was creamy and good, but sticky on his head feathers. He gave himself a jolly good shake, sending pearly white droplets all over the room. Then he clasped his claw about a carrot, crunched down on one end, spitting goblets of orange all over the floor. Finally, the cookies. They crumbled in his beak, crumbs raining down on the hopeful mouse below. She had crept from her hole, eager to share in this feast.
Feeling satisfied and full, Tiriki the Christmas bandit wiped his beak clean on the tablecloth and flapped over to the mantlepiece. Here he turned his attention to the decorations.
Down came the joyful fat santa with his big round belly, in his pearly white sleigh.
Then down, one by one, came the reindeers Dasher and Dancer, Prancer and Vixen, Comet and Cupid, Donner and Blitzen. Last but not least, Tiriki came to Rudolph. He picked up the red-nosed reindeer by its long neck and with a flick of his head and his long strong beak, sent the reindeer flying across the room. Rudolph hit the far wall with a horrible CRACK and one antler broke off.
But Tiriki's random acts of destruction were not done yet. Oh no, they had only just begun!
With a snip here and a snap there, the row of christmas stockings drifted one by one to the floor.
Then it was over to the tree in a single gliding swoop.
Tiriki caught his reflection in a big silver bauble. “Who's a pretty boy then?” he cooed before hooking it with his beak and flinging it at the mouse.
With a startled squeak she dropped her cookie crumb and scampered back to her hole.
“Missed,” Tiriki mumbled, turning back to the tree. With a tug and a flap, the tinsel fell free, great loops cascading to the floor. Off came the decorations, one by one: the white dove, the christmas cottage, a gingerbread man, all tumbling to the carpet.
Finally, there was but one decoration left at the very top: the pretty white angel with golden hair and feathered wings. Beak-over-claw and claw-over-beak, Tiriki clambered up the tree, grabbed the angel about her waist.
Then with a CLUMP and a THUMP something landed on the roof.
Tiriki froze, claw raised, beak poised; ready to wrought his final act of wanton destruction.
Another thump, another whump and something very large landed in the hearth. It was a big brown sack. This was followed by another thump, as a plump old man with a bushy white beard landed on the sack and stepped out of the fireplace.
Tiriki cocked his head at this strange, big man. He looked like the ornament on the mantlepiece, except that instead of a white-trimmed red coat he wore a red t-shirt and shorts, more suitable clothing for the warm summer night.
“HO-HO... oh,” Santa said. “What has happened here?” He stared straight at Tiriki.
The kea froze beneath that piercing blue gaze, his skinny knees knocking together with guilt. He slowly released the angel.
“Have you been a bad, bad boy?” Santa asked, his voice low and scary. “Do you know what we do with bad, bad boys?”
Tiriki shook his head. He fluffed out his feathers in fear and opened his beak in a nervous grin. “No,” his voice came out as a whispered croak, “what do you do with bad boys?”
“We turn them into good boys,” Santa replied cheerfully, clapping his hands together. “My, what a mess you've made. Can you imagine how upset the little girl and boy will be, when they rush down here in the morning? And they've been such good children too.”
Tiriki backed away, head hanging in shame. “Sorry,” he croaked.
“You admit you're sorry,” said Santa, “that's a good start. But now you must show them that you're sorry. Now you must clean up this mess you've made.”
Tiriki looked up, his eyes shining with sadness. “But I don't know how,” he said. “We kea, we break – we don't mend.”
“Well, my lad, then let Santa show you.” And with those words, Santa set down his bulging burlap sack and strode across to Rudolph. His hands were big, but gentle, as he scooped up the broken deer and cradled it in his palm. With delicate fingers, he plucked the broken antler from the carpet and pressed it back where it belonged. There came a small sparkle of silver light, the sweet scent of milk-and-honey, and the antler glued itself back in place. There was not even a single crack to show it had ever been broken.
Santa held out his arm and gestured to Tiriki. The kea took flight, gliding across to land on Santa's wrist.
“Now,” said Santa, “you must put Rudolph back where you found it. Be gentle, mind.”
Tiriki scooped up the deer as gently as he could, and flew back to the mantlepiece, setting it back where it belonged. Under Santa's gentle coaching he then returned Blitzen and Donner, Cupid and Comet, Vixen and Prancer, Dancer and Dasher to their proper place. Santa placed the final piece, laughing as he did so.
“A jolly good rendition,” he remarked, “although I do think it makes me look rather fat.”
The stockings were pegged back in place, the tinsel returned to the tree. Each and every decoration re-hung: some a little crooked, and some not in their right place, for Tiriki's memory was not that good. But in the end, the room looked much as it had before his unruly visit.
Santa patted him on the back. “You've done a fine job, my lad,” he said. “Now, it's time for me to do what I'm here for. You can help me, if you like.”
He reached into the sack and pulled out parcel after parcel. He passed each one to Tiriki, who hopped along the mantlepiece, slipping them into the stockings one-by-one.
“For Johnny and Sarah,” Santa said, “and their mum and dad too.” He paused, grinning a great big smile at the kea. “And, oh look, there's one left.” He held up a small parcel, with shiny silver paper and a big red bow.
Tiriki cocked his head to one side. The stockings were bulging and full, they could fit no more, so who could this one be for?
“This one,” said Santa, “is for you.”