This exchange went on a little longer than it should have but that’s what happens when you’re in the fifth grade.
And you know in your gut that you are right.
Absolutely and without a doubt right.
Just because Tommy Stephens had a hand-knit green and yellow scarf from a great-great-grand-second-cousin who lived in Yellowknife, that didn't mean that he knew everything about Christmas. (Even though Yellowknife was supposed to be some place very cold and close to the North Pole.)
Carl couldn't remember where he had heard about the Third List but he knew it was real. He thought it all started with the song “Santa Claus is Coming to Town”. One day when he was at the mall with his mom he'd heard it playing over the speakers and there, plain as day, were the lyrics “he's gonna find out who’s snotty and nice.” He and Tommy had been arguing about it every day since Halloween. He'd thought it through and it just made sense, especially considering all those reindeer.
Everyone knows about the Good List and the Naughty List. The Big Man makes them each year, and as the song reminds us, he checks them twice. What the song doesn't mention is there are actually three lists. And it's the Third List that frightened Carl the most: The Snotty List. That's the list of kids so bad that they skip right past the Naughty List.
It goes like this: Kids on the Good List get nice Christmasy things. Candy canes, balls, and whatever pink or purple thing is on his sister's wishlist this year. Kids on the Naughty List get nothing but lumps of coal in their stockings. That's kind of a bummer. You don't get any sweet yum yums and maybe you get your hands a little dirty when you pull it out. But all-in-all a lump of coal is not too bad...if it gets really cold and your furnace quits working, you can at least burn your Christmas presents in the fireplace to bring a bit of warmth to the day. But the Snotty List? Ewwww. Carl imagined kids on that list get a stocking full of...well...snot. What color he wasn’t too sure but it had to be reindeer snot if it was coming from the North Pole, and a stocking full of it would be enough to gag a maggot.
Now Carl had never actually seen a stocking full of reindeer snot. But his mom and dad had taken him to the outside mall one year to get his picture taken with Santa and right there beside Santa's Shack there was an honest to goodness live reindeer. Not a Bambi deer dressed up with a carpet on its back to look like a reindeer, like they had at the Elfland Display of Wonderful Enchantment at the indoor mall. No, this reindeer was the real deal for sure. It was so real that they had to put Christmas ornaments on the points of its horns to keep the magic in so it wouldn't fly away and drag the Santa Shack into Barnes and Noble.
Other than the safety ornaments and the fact that Donner looked a little sad to not be soaring around the night sky, the thing Carl noticed the most was its nostrils. Man, did that thing have some huge nose holes. When Carl had a cold and blew his nose sometimes it looked like his whole brain was sitting there in the tissue when he checked it out (and he always checked it out). And he just had really tiny nostrils and a smallish head. There were nine reindeer (including Rudolph, of course, who maybe counted for more than one with that special nose of his) and they lived somewhere where they probably always got the sniffles. Plus they had to fly really fast to get to all those houses on time. Carl had ridden in his uncle's convertible, which, now that he thought about it, was kind of like a sleigh when the top was down. (And the top was down more often than not. "Never met a raindrop that could outrun these horses,” Uncle Al would say.) He remembered his watery eyes and runny nose after one such ride in late October (Carl's mother had a strict "no rides with Uncle Al after Thanksgiving” rule). Carl wasn't sure how fast they went but thought Santa's reindeer could take his uncle's horses any day.
Carl shivered but he wasn't particularly cold. He just couldn't stop thinking about all that snot.