One day my four-year-old brother, Benjamin, wished for an elf to come and rescue us. It all happened on a spring holiday from school when Mom came rushing back from her Relief Society presidency meeting and gasped, “Boys, this place looks terrible! What happened?”
Nothing had happened. We’d just been awake and playing for a couple of hours and hadn’t bothered to clean up after ourselves. When five boys live in a house for two hours, things get kind of messy. We weren’t always sloppy at home. Sometimes we’d clean things up if Mom or Dad asked us to. And we usually grumbled and groaned a bit because keeping things tidy and clean wasn’t our favorite thing to do.
“I didn’t think you were supposed to be back for a long time,” Aaron said.
“I forgot some things,” Mom answered. “I have to go right back. Can’t you boys do something about this house? It looks like a tornado blew through it.”
“But, Mom,” Jared groaned, “it’s a holiday. Nobody wants to work on a holiday.”
She didn’t say anything more. She just found what she was looking for and rushed out the door again.
I looked around. Things did look pretty messy: There were clothes and toys scattered about. Ammaron had emptied all the books from the two bottom shelves, and no one had cleared the breakfast dishes from the table or swept the kitchen floor. Our bedrooms were even worse—clothes everywhere, beds unmade, toys piled on the dressers.
“Do you know what I wish?” Benjamin asked. “I wish we owned an elf.”
“An elf? What would we do with an elf?” I asked.
Benjamin’s grin grew wider, and his dark brown eyes sparkled. “I’d make him work. Then Mom wouldn’t have to.”
“If you find one, Benjy,” Aaron said with a grin, “Alma and I could sure use him in our room. Maybe we could even get him to rake the lawn and plant the garden.”
Benjamin frowned at Aaron’s teasing and stamped his foot. “I am going to find an elf. I don’t want Mom to be sad any more.” He stood up and left the room.
I forgot about the messy house and Benjamin’s elf until he bounced back into the family room a while later and announced loudly, “An elf came!”
The rest of us turned away from the TV and stared at Benjamin, who stood grinning and beaming.
“What are you talking about?” Aaron asked.
Benjamin stuffed his hands into his pockets and rocked back and forth. “A secret elf came to Jared and my room. It’s clean. Mom will sure be happy when she sees what my elf did.”
Well, we’d never had an elf at our house. We didn’t really believe that Benjamin had found one now, but he had raised our curiosity enough that we left the TV and followed him down the hall.
The place was clean. At least there were no toys, blankets, or clothes scattered about. The bedspreads were a little lumpy, but the beds were made. The room looked a lot better than I had remembered it looking that morning.
“How do you know an elf did it?” Jared questioned Benjamin.
Benjamin shrugged his shoulders and smiled. “I just know. Don’t you wish an elf had visited your room, Alma?”
I stepped to the closet and pulled open the door. Three stuffed animals and a bundle of wadded-up clothes tumbled out.
Aaron snickered, bent over, and threw back the bedspread to look under the bed. More toys, shoes, and clothes had been stuffed out of sight. “Some elf,” he laughed. “Your lazy elf stuffs things away as well as you do, Benjy.”
Benjamin’s smiled drooped into a sad frown as everyone turned and left the room, laughing and joking about his lazy elf. I stayed behind.
“It really was an elf, Alma,” he said with teary eyes. “The room was clean until you opened the closet.”
I put my arm around his shoulders. “Do you know what I think, Benjamin?” He looked up at me. “I think your elf needs a little help.”
“I don’t think there’s another elf who can help him,” Benjamin said sadly, ducking his head.
I stepped over to the closet and dropped to my knees. “Oh, I don’t know about that. Sometimes I’m an elf in my spare time.”
“You?” he gasped.
I grinned, nodding.
“Will you help me, Alma? I don’t want Mom to be sad when she sees my room.”
It didn’t take us long to whip that room into shape. And it was funny how good it made me feel to be doing something good in secret.
We were just straightening the sheets on the top bunk when Jared pushed open the door and stepped in. “Hey, what are you guys doing?”
Benjamin and I looked at each other. “It’s a secret,” I said.
Jared opened the closet door. Everything was in order. He peeked under the bunk bed. Nothing was stuffed there. He pulled out the drawers. All the clothes were folded and straight. “What happened?” he asked.
“It’s a secret,” Benjamin said. “There really is an elf.”
“It’s just you two,” he said, shaking his head.
“If you don’t tell, you can join us.”
“Why would I want to join you? I hate cleaning up.”
“But if you’re an elf, it’s fun!” Benjamin burst out.
Jared looked at me. I grinned and nodded my head. He thought a moment, then said, “All right, I’ll try it.”
“Aaron and my room’s next,” I whispered.
With three elves working full speed, we had the room finished in no time.
“What are you guys up to?” Aaron demanded, walking into our room. “Are you cleaning?” He peered about. Nothing was out of place. He checked under the bed, in the closet, and through the drawers. “Did you guys really do all this?” he demanded.
“Benjy’s elf came back,” Jared said.
“And he brought two buddies,” Benjamin added.
“This place is crawling with elves,” I told him. “There’s a regular elf patrol running around.”
“Mom won’t believe it!” Benjamin crowed. “She’ll think she’s in a different house. And she won’t be sad any more.”
“Join us,” Benjamin invited.
Aaron stepped into Benjamin and Jared’s room and looked around. Then he came back to our room. “Mom won’t know what to think,” he said smiling. Suddenly he frowned. “What about the kitchen? Ammaron just poured a box of cereal all over the floor.”
“It’ll take a whole bunch of elves for that,” Benjamin said.
I turned to Aaron. “Are you in the mood to be an elf?”
“It’s fun,” Benjamin chimed in.
Aaron shrugged. “I’ve been a lot of things but never an elf. Let’s do it!”
I don’t ever remember a time when all five of us worked so hard and so fast. And it took all of us to clean up the kitchen. Jared cleared and cleaned the table, Aaron dried the dishes, helping Ammaron wash them along the way, I grabbed a broom, and Benjamin got the mop.
We were worn out when we heard the car pull into the driveway, but the place was clean.
“Quick,” Aaron ordered. “Everybody get into the family room. We’ll be watching TV, pretending we don’t know anything about the house.”
We pulled a few books from the shelf, scattered some magazines about the floor, and kicked our shoes around the room so that Mom would think we were still just lying in our old mess.
Mom trudged into the house with her arms full of Relief Society things. She staggered into the kitchen and set her things on the table.
“Goodness!” we heard her exclaim. “What happened in here?”
No one answered.
She wandered throughout the house, peering into each room. “What has happened to this house!”
I stretched and yawned. “Oh, don’t worry, Mom. This movie is about over. We’ll help you pick up the house in a few minutes.”
“Have you seen this house?” Mom asked, surprised as she walked into the family room.
“Yeah, it’s a little junky,” Aaron came back, “but we can take care of that after the movie.”
“I don’t believe this is the same house!” Mom exclaimed again. Benjamin covered his face with one of the couch cushions so that Mom wouldn’t see him laughing. Jared and I were trying to hide our giggles too.
When she actually sputtered, “This place is spotless!” we all jumped up and rushed about the house, acting surprised.
“What happened?” we called out. “This place was such a dump!”
Then Mom spotted a note that Aaron had taped to the hall wall. She opened the note and read, “A special surprise from the elf patrol.” Mom looked up. “So we’ve had an elf invasion,” she said happily.
“They must have come in while we were watching TV,” Jared cried. “Imagine that—being invaded by elves!”
Now if the house ever gets really messy or if there is a stack of dirty dishes in the sink, Mom drops down in a chair and sighs, “Oh, I wonder where the elf patrol is today.”
And before too long, without Mom ever knowing, the house gets cleaned. We still haven’t told her who belongs to the elf patrol. That would spoil the magic. And when you are working as a secret elf, all the work you do is just plain fun.