Note—thank you to everyone who asked if there would be a Paula story this year. You can find previous Paula stories on my Facebook page. Merry Christmas!
Once upon a time, there was a possum named Paula. She was an unusual possum, because she could fly. Her friends all called her the Superpossum, so her mother made Paula a cape. After all, ever superhero needs a cape.
Paula loved flying around on Christmas Eve, looking at all the pretty lights. She got to be good friends with Santa Claus, and they had many adventures together fighting the Evil Weasels and the Mean Coyotes.
This is the story of how she became friends with Tucker the deer.
Tucker was just a little newborn fawn when his mom disappeared one day. He didn’t know what happened to her. She had made a nice nest for him to hide in way out in a big green field, but when she didn’t come back, he became scared. He spent a whole day and a whole night by himself, shivering, before he became desperately scared.
He was very hungry, and began crying.
A shadow fell over him, and Tucker stopped crying. He stayed very still. Was it something that was going to eat him?
“Well, hello, little deer,” the girl said. “Are you lost?”
Tucker didn’t know what to do – he had never seen a human, and this one seemed nice. He didn’t struggle when she picked him up. She was warm and smelled good.
The little girl carried him to a house where there were goats, dogs, and chickens. She called toward the house, and another human – Tucker guessed it was her mother – came outside. She fussed at the little girl for a moment, then shook her head.
“I guess we have to raise him now,” the woman said. “Your daddy is not going to be happy with you.”
The woman warmed up a bottle of milk, and Tucker was so hungry he didn’t even care that it didn’t taste just like his mama’s. He was safe and warm, and wasn’t hungry anymore.
The little girl was called Lily. She named him Tucker. Tucker lived in the house until he got too big, and Lily’s daddy made him stay outside. His spots began to fade as he grew, and he became big and strong. Then one day, a nice man in a truck came by and had a long talk with the humans. The man scratched Tucker’s head, but Tucker could tell there was something wrong. His little girl was crying and hugging his neck.
“Look,” the nice man said. “I understand, but they’re wild animals. They aren’t pets.”
“Officer, I know,” Lily’s daddy said. “We were just trying to help. Is there any way he can go to a zoo or something?”
“I’m going to try,” the officer said. “He’s a nice little fellow, but the law is the law. Would you help me get him in the crate, please?”
The man reached for Tucker – and like a flash, Tucker was gone.
Lily yelled for him to run, and Tucker ran as he had never run before. He jumped the fence to the goat pen, then crossed the creek in one leap. He dodged through the pine trees and across a field. He ran faster than he had ever run before in his whole life.
Tucker ran all day, and didn’t stop until the sun was setting.
That was when he realized he was lost.
“I want to go home,” he said, “but I don’t know where home is.”
“You’re a deer,” said a deep voice coming from a tree limb above him. “The woods are your home.”
“Who-who-who’s there?” Tucker said, shivering. A big owl seemed to float down from the tree. He stood in front of Tucker and sighed.
“Everybody always makes the jokes,” he grumbled. “I’m Hooty.”
“I didn’t mean to make a joke, sir,” Tucker said. “I’m Tucker.”
“I have been watching you for an hour,” Hooty said. “You’ve been running in circles. Are the coyotes chasing you?”
“No sir,” Tucker said. “A man was coming to take me away from my humans, and I ran away.”
“Your humans?!?! Deer don’t have humans, son. They have dogs and cats and horses and pig and cows and goats, but they don’t have humans.”
“Well, I have humans,” Tucker said. “They raised me from a baby.”
“I see,” Hooty said. “Well, good luck finding them. Humans don’t usually raise baby deer.”
“My humans are special,” Tucker said.
“Well, good luck,” Hooty said, and flew off into the night.
Tucker never found his humans. He learned what to eat, and how to run from the coyotes, but he was lonely. Once he found a goat farm, but the goats didn’t like him either, and they made him go away.
The other deer in the woods thought he was strange, and wouldn’t spend time with him. Whenever they saw a human, they ran away, but Tucker always held back, hoping maybe it was one of his humans looking for him.
One freezing evening during the Month of the Longest Night, Tucker sat by the edge of a field and began crying.
He occasionally saw Hooty, but even though the owl felt sorry for Tucker, they really never became friends.
“I don’t know how to be a deer,” he said. “I don’t have any friends. I just don’t know what to do!” Tears streamed from his big brown eyes.
Paula the Superpossum was flying past the field when she saw Tucker sitting at the edge of the field – and there were coyotes sneaking across the field toward him!
Paula was heading to visit Mr. Doug and Miss Vickie. She had missed Miss Vickie’s birthday, and wanted to at least drop by and say hello. But when she saw the crying deer, she knew Miss Vickie would understand.
Paula slowed down and began hovering in front of him.
“Howdy,” Paula said. “I’m Paula. They call me the Superpossum.” Tucker jumped up, sniffling, ready to run, but not sure where to go.
“I didn’t know possums could fly,” Tucker said.
“Well, they tell me I am special,” Paula said. “Are you okay? What are you doing out here in the middle of nowhere, crying on Christmas Eve?”
“What’s Christmas Eve?” Tucker said. Paula’s eyes got big.
“Christmas Eve—it’s the night before Christmas. Santa Claus brings gifts to children, and humans celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ. Animals and humans can talk to each other, if we listen very carefully. And the animals of the forest –“
“They don’t like me,” Tucker said. “I was raised by humans. I don’t know how to be a deer, but I can’t be a pet like the dogs and cats. And I don’t really like the goats. They smell bad.”
“Goats can stink,” Paula agreed, “but I know some pretty cool goats.”
“This Santa – do you think he knows my little girl? Her name is Lily.”
“Santa knows every little boy and girl in the world,” Paula said. “He also knows a lot of the animals. He even drives a sleigh that’s pulled by deer!”
“You mean deer like me? And what’s a sleigh?”
“It’s complicated,” Paula said. “Look, I think I can help you out a little bit, if you want.”
“I would appreciate that,” Tucker said.
“I want to introduce you to some friends of mine, and then we’ll see if we can find your Lily.” Paula looked at her wristwatch, then up at the moon. She squinted, and drew a line between two stars. She pointed toward a trail through the woods.
“Follow me!” She said, and flew down the path.
A coyote slinked back into the woods and began to run. He had been hunting Tucker for dinner, but he also knew about Paula. He trotted back to where the other coyotes were waiting, and told them how Paula had flowed down just as he was about to jump on the deer.
“How did that deer turn out to be a friend of Paula’s?” the boss coyote snapped. The other coyotes shrugged.
“She knows everybody, Boss. What’s that smell?”
“It’s ME!” came a high-pitched voice from the bushes.
Boss shook his head. Them again. The Weasels.
“What’s up, Weasels? Shouldn’t you be harassing Santa Claus?”
“If we could find him, we would,” one of the weasels hissed. “And we have a foolproof plan this time! We just have to follow Paula. She’ll lead us right to him!”
“And what will you do after that?” one of the coyotes asked.
“We’ll figure that part out later,” the lead weasel said. “If you’ll let us ride on your backs, we’ll handle Paula, and you can have your supper!”
“Boss,” one of the coyotes said, “I’m not feeling good about this. Paula’s friends with Santa Claus and everything, you know.”
Boss stood up and nodded to the weasels.
“Climb aboard,” he growled. “I’m hungry.”
Like most owls, Hooty liked being by himself and thinking. Sometimes he would talk to the other owls, and sometimes their conversations lasted into the night. Still, he didn’t really have any friends, although he considered Tucker to be a friend of sorts.
Hooty made it a point to watch the young confused deer as often as possible. He felt sorry for him. He didn’t always let Tucker know he was around, since he wanted Tucker to learn how to be a deer.
“A wild animal is supposed to be a wild animal,” Hooty said to himself. “We’re not the same. God made us different than the other animals.”
Hooty was in his favorite tree, counting the stars, when out of the corner of his eye he saw Tucker and Paula the Superpossum on the trail. He had never met Paula, but he knew her to be pretty good, for a possum. She helped a lot of the forest folk.
Suddenly Hooty’s great big eyes caught something on the trail behind Tucker – it was a pack of coyotes, and on their backs were weasels!
“Not on my watch,” Hooty said, and fluffed his feathers.
“Almost there,” Paula said.
“I hope so,” Tucker said. “I don’t mean to complain, but I am very hungry.”
“I have some cookies,” Paula said. She slowed down a little, and turned to pull a cookie out of her pouch – and she saw the coyotes running toward them!
“We have you now!” one of the weasels snarled.
The coyotes yipped and howled. They knew they were going to have deer for Christmas Eve supper.
Out of nowhere, a shadow flew silently down the path and smacked into the chasing animals. Weasels and coyotes flew everywhere, and Paula saw feathers floating in the night.
“Run, Tucker! Run, Paula!” Hooty shouted. The big owl stood in the middle of the path, clicking his beak and hissing.
“We’ll eat you too!” the lead weasel snarled.
“Not today you won’t!” came a voice from behind Paula.
Paula looked around, and there was Bucky the Goat, Walter the Wonder Dog, Melanie the Mammoth Donkey, and the geese everyone called the Cobrachickens. Pippin the mother goose stretched her long neck out and nipped Boss Coyote right on the nose. He yipped in pain, just as Bucky reared up on his hind legs, horns flashing in the moonlight.
“You’re my dog now!” Bucky bleated, but before he could ram one of the coyotes, they turned and ran away.
The weasels dashed after them. The lead weasel stopped long enough to shake a fist at Paula, then the smelly little weasels disappeared down the trail.
“We heard the commotion and figured somebody needed some help,” Walter told Paula.
“I appreciate it,” Paula said. “I’m sorry to barge in like this on a holiday and all.”
Hooty stood up and shook his head. One wing trailed the ground. Tucker raced over to him.
“Mr. Hooty! Are you okay?”
“My wing is hurt,” he said. “This isn’t good, but I wasn’t going to let you get hurt if I could help it.”
“Cobrachickens, take the flanks,” Melanie said. The geese spread out on both sides of the trail, hissing and honking, looking for the weasels and the coyotes. “Walter, check the trail. Mr. Owl, if I lay down, do you think you can get up on my back? Our humans can help you.”
Hooty hopped, then shook his head.
“No can do. Oh, this hurts!”
“I got you covered,” Paula said, and gently picked Hooty up. She placed him on Melanie’s back, and Hooty held on to the thick winter blanket over Melanie’s shoulders.
“Let’s go,” Walter said. “That looks like a bad break.”
Paula flew ahead to the Wildman’s house. The family was hanging lights on the crabapple tree in the front yard when she zoomed in for a landing.
“Merry Christmas, everybody!” she shouted.
“Merry Christmas, Paula!” The Wildman said. “Miss Rhonda, get Paula some of those cookies she likes.”
“No time,” Paula said, and explained about Tucker, Hooty and the coyotes.
Miss Rhonda grabbed her telephone.
“I’ll call Miss Mary Ellen,” she said.
“Paula, I just got a call from Santa Claus,” The Wildman said. “He’s going to be here in a bit, and he needs our help.”
“I hope it’s not more weasels,” Paula said.
“Bring’em on!” Pippin hissed.
An hour later, Tucker stared as a sleigh with nine reindeer silently flew down and landed on the road in front of the Wildman’s house. A friendly looking man in a red suit and a huge white beard jumped down, and all the animals began laughing and shouting.
The Wildman shook Santa’s hand and Miss Rhonda gave him a hug. She had Hooty wrapped warm and snug in a big thick towel. He would be on his way to Miss Mary Ellen at the Sea Biscuit Bird Hospital in the morning.
Tucker slowly, bashfully walked over to the deer. They were different than he was, but they were friendly. One of them had a hurt foot.
“Hey, kid,” one of the deer said. “What’s your name?”
“Tucker,” he said. The big deer turned his head sideways and looked him over.
“Tucker, I’m Blitzen – well, that’s what they call me now. It’s more of a title.”
“You have titles? What does that mean?” Blitzen stretched, and took a cookie from a little short man Paula said was an “elf”.
“Well, being one of Santa’s reindeer is a lot of work. We ain’t getting any younger. When one of us retires, the new guy –“
“Or GIRL,” said one reindeer, whose harness had the word “Vixen” in big brass letters.
“Or girl,” Blitzen said, “anyway, the new reindeer gets the title of the one that’s retiring. My full name is Bernard Blitzen the Sixteenth.”
“I’m Harry Dasher the Fourteenth,” another deer said.
“I’m just Rudolph,” the deer in front said. Tucker’s eyes grew big and he backed up when Rudolph’s nose suddenly lit up bright red! He laughed, and the nose dimmed. “It’s a long story,” Rudolph said. The other deer laughed along with him.
Santa and the Wildman were looking closely at one of the reindeer’s hooves.
“Santa, I’m sorry, sir,” the reindeer said. “I should have seen that nail sticking up when we landed near that old house.”
“Not your fault, Prancer,” Santa said, rubbing the reindeer’s neck. “At least it isn’t hurt very badly. You’ll be all right – but you’re off duty tonight. I don’t know what we’re going to do.”
“Hey Top,” Blitzen said. “I have an idea.” He pointed his nose at Tucker.
Tucker found himself staring into the face of the man in the red suit. The man’s eyes looked happy, and Tucker wasn’t scared at all.
“Hello, son,” he said.
“Do you know how to fly?”
“No sir.” Santa chuckled.
“Well, we can take care of that. I hear tell you don’t exactly fit in with the other deer.”
“I know how that feels,” Rudolph said. “I was there once, too.”
Santa rubbed Tucker’s tiny antlers.
“You have some growing to do – normally, I wouldn’t ask someone as young as you to do this, but this is an emergency. How would you like to join my team? Just on a probationary basis, of course. To see if you like it.”
“A team?” Tucker said. “You don’t mind that I don’t know how to be a deer?” Santa laughed, deep and booming.
“We’ll teach you how to be a REINdeer, son. Never mind those other deer.”
“You’ll always have a family,” Dancer said.
“It’s a great job,” Cupid said.
“And when we aren’t working, we have great reindeer games,” Rudolph said.
“It has to be your choice, son,” Santa said.
Tucker looked up and down the line, and tears came to his eyes – but this time, they were happy tears.
“Yes, sir, please. And, Sir? May I ask one favor?” Santa listened as Tuicker whispered in his ear, then nodded his head.
“Well, that address is no more than four, five stops out! Of course!”
Not very much later, Santa knocked on the door of the house deep in the woods. There was a pretty Christmas tree inside, and a little girl was placing a glass of milk and some cookies on a table.
A man opened the door, a surprised look on his face.
“Santa Claus? What an honor, sir! Please come in – Merry Christmas!”
“And Merry Christmas to you, Bill,” Santa said. “You got a train set in 1983, right?”
“Yessir! This is my wife, Mary.”
“Gracious, sir. Forgive the mess. We weren’t expecting company tonight.”
“Not at all, Mary. Forgive my intrusion. I hope you enjoyed that dollhouse from Christmas of ’85,” Santa said. “Is Lily in bed yet?”
“No sir,” the little girl said. “I’m sorry I’m still awake. I was just thinking of my friend Tucker.” Santa laughed.
“It’s okay. I have someone with me who wants to say hello.”
Tucker stepped through the door, a collar of bells on his neck. Lily threw her arms around him.
“Merry Christmas, everybody!” all the reindeer called.
Paula hovered over the sleigh, red cape fluttering in the wind, and smiled.
“Merry Christmas, indeed.”