The Last Christmas Part IX: Facing Doubt

“Grandpa!” Joe yelled as he saw the old man sitting on the couch. “You’re home!” He ran to him, wrapping him in a hug.

“You have a talent for stating the obvious, Joe.” The old man smiled.


“Never mind. I am here. Tell me about this problem your mother said you wanted to talk to me about.”

Joe explained the battle with the trees, and his trick with the glow stick. He told him about the progress they made with building the sleigh. Then he told him about the book’s disappearance.

“It’s my fault. Chrissy told me not to take it home, but I didn’t listen to her.”

“I see. Well, Joe, just a little advice. Unrelated to our immediate problem, but a little secret to remember as you grow up. When someone who cares for you, especially a nice little girl like Chrissy, gives you advice it would make your life much happier if you listened. But you’ll figure that out later.

“Now, we have to get the book back. I know where it is, and who has it, but getting it from them will not be easy.”

“I don’t care what it takes, I lost it and I will get it back.” Joe stood in front of his grandfather waiting to hear what he had to do.


“Are you sure your grandfather knows what he’s talking about?” Chrissy asked.

“He said we had to walk to the north side of field. One we got there we’d know what to do.”

“But how, Joe, how?”

“I don’t know yet, but he told me to pay attention to the things you say and listen more to your advice.”

“Well, it would seem your grandfather is a smart man. Let’s do this.” Chrissy moved past Joe, striding through the snow to the edge of the woods.

A light, dim but visible, flickered from within the woods. Shadows moved between the trees. Then the voice of the specter called out to them. Raspy and cold, the chilling words carried on the wind.

“Soooo, yoooou’ve coooome foooor thaaaa booook haaaave yooou? IIIII doooon’t thiiink yooou haaaave thaaa couuuurage tooooo taaaaaake iiiiiiit.”

“Chrissy, you stay here. I’ll go get it.” Joe started into the woods, but Chrissy grabbed his arm.

“And what did your grandfather say about listening? We will both go. I know the power behind this thing is fear. If we are not afraid, it will be afraid of us.”

She took his hand and the two slipped behind the trees and walked toward the light.

The flickering shadow of the specter fluttered back and forth. The book lay on a fallen tree stump. It was the magic within the book lighting the woods.  As the specter passed by, the book would fade then reappear, a little dimmer each time. Chrissy understood what was happening. The specter was drawing away the magic.

“Joe, you go one way, I’ll go the other. We have to act fast before all the magic is gone.”

“I don’t know about this, Chrissy. That thing looks strong.”

Chrissy pulled him closer. “Remember what your grandfather told you, listen to me and don’t let doubt control us. I’m telling you what we should do and that’s doubt right there in front of us. We can do this, Joe.”

The light dimmed once again.  

“Now, Joe, now.”

Chrissy dashed to one side, Joe to the other. The specter, surprised by the sudden movement, pulled back.  Joe grabbed for the book, but the specter recovered and blocked his way. It enveloped the boy in the swirling darkness.

Chrissy saw her chance. Grabbing the book, she ran toward the field, then stopped. Looking back at Joe she knew she couldn’t leave him.

“Run, Chrissy, run. I can take care of myself.”

But she was already on her way back. Running straight at the specter, holding the book out in front of her, she screamed, “Let my friend go. You can’t stop us.”

The light from the book grew ten times brighter. The specter fled from the light back into the shadows. Joe collapsed to the ground. Chrissy ran to him.

“You okay?”

“I am now, thanks.”

“C’mon, Joe. We need to get the book back where it will be safe. I’m glad we’re done with that specter. ” She helped Joe to his feet, and the two headed out of the woods.

“Not that we’re keeping score. But that it the second time I’ve saved you. See, your grandfather is right. Listen to me and we’ll be fine.”

As the two made their way back to the barn, the specter trailed behind them, hiding in the shadows. Thiiiiiisss isssss faaaaar froooom ovvverrr, we’eeerrr juussst geettttttting staaarrrted.

Part X Flight School

P.S. If you’re interested in the previous one from Christmas Past here’s a link. Please share this and this new story with all your family and friends.

The Last Christmas Part VIII: Doubt Comes to Visit

“Do you want to tell me how we’re gonna get past an army of pine trees?” Chrissy asked as they walked along the bike path. “In case you forgot I had to save you from them last time.”

“I know, and I appreciate it. But my grandfather said we can’t let doubt stop us. Doubt is the problem, not the trees.”

“Doubt? He’s apparently never seen trees like this then.”

As they approached the old path into the woods, several of the trees shook snow off their branches and moved right to the edge of the paved path. The wind picked up, shaking the branches even more.

“They don’t look happy, Joe. How we gonna get by them?”

“Remember what I said, doubt is our real enemy. Do you trust me, Chrissy?”

“I do. Do you think I’d be wandering around these woods in the freezing cold facing an army of trees if I didn’t?” She paused for a moment. “I either trust you or I’m just crazy, but either way here I am and there they are,” pointing at the angry trees. “Now, what?”

Joe reached into his pocket and pulled out two glow sticks. “I had these left over from Halloween, take one and break the seal when I tell you to.” He handed one to her and kept the other.

“What are we gonna do with these? Light the way? I’m not the crazy one here, you are.”

“Listen to me, what is the one thing every tree fears?”

“Beavers?” Chrissy said, “or termites?”

“No,” Joe raised the glow stick in front of him. “Fire. These glow sticks look like they’re burning. All we have to do is act like they are fire and the trees will get out of our way.”

Chrissy looked at the glow stick, then at the giant trees rocking back and forth in the wind. “Really, you think it will fool them?”

“Have no doubt, Chrissy, have no doubt.” Joe broke the seal, shook the stick until it glowed brightly, then ran at the trees waving the stick back and forth.

And it worked. The trees backed away, shrinking back into the forest.

“C’mon, Chrissy, it’s working.”

Breaking the seal on her own stick, she followed behind Joe. Taking delight in scaring giant trees just by believing she could, she’d never doubted it for a moment.


Five minutes later, they arrived at the barn. Sliding open the door, they found the elves busy with the reindeer and polishing the parts of the sleigh.

They got right to work, Chrissy read the instructions while Joe and the elves hammered, tightened, stretched, and snapped together the various parts. It took several hours, but it was looking like a sleigh.

“The next few steps are critical to the safe operation of the navigation and flight control systems,” Chrissy read aloud. “Use extreme caution in assembling each part, following each step precisely.” She looked up from the book. “Maybe we should take a break, we’ve been at this awhile and it will be dark soon.”

“Good idea,” Joe said. “We’ll come back tomorrow

Crissy placed the book on the bench and came over to admire their work. “Can you believe we’re building Santa’s sleigh?”

“I know, it’s amazing. I wonder when Santa shows up to check things out?” Joe saw the elves exchange glances as he spoke. “They’re not telling us something,” he whispered to Chrissy.

“Let’s head home.” Joe walked over to the bench. “I’ll take the manual with us so I can read it when I get home. Might make things go faster if I have time to study it.”

“Do you think that’s a good idea, Joe? Shouldn’t we leave it here?”

“Nah, it will be fine. C’mon let’s go.”

Grabbing their coats, they headed out the door. After a few feet, Joe stopped.

“Oh, wait a minute. I forgot the other glow sticks in case the trees come back.” He handed her the book. “Hold this, I’ll be right back.”

He ran back inside the barn. As he started back, a scream shattered the air. “Chrissy,” he yelled and ran outside, followed by several elves. Chrissy was lying on the ground rubbing her head.

“What happened?”

“I don’t know. A sudden wind came up and I turned away from it. Next thing I knew something hit me in the head and I fell down.” She rubbed her head, checking her hand for any blood.

Joe helped her up. “You sure you’re okay?”

“I’m okay, I’m okay. Must have been a branch blown out of a tree or something. Let’s go.” She looked around on the ground. “Where’s the book? I had it in my hands when I fell.”

The book was gone!

Part IX Facing Doubt

P.S. If you’re interested in the previous one from Christmas Past here’s a link. Please share this and this new story with all your family and friends.

The Last Christmas Part VII: Defeating the Piney Army

“So, let me get this straight. You hate visiting the hospital but now you want to go right after school?” Joe’s mother said as they sat eating dinner. “Why the sudden change?”

“I just want to go see him.  I can’t wait until he comes home, I need to talk to him privately.”

Joe caught the look between his parents. Something wasn’t right and they weren’t telling him everything.

“Joe,” his father said, “there’s a good chance your grandfather may come home in a few days. He will be under hospice care. Do you know what that is?”

Joe shook his head.

“How about we go see grandpa tomorrow after school and we can all talk about it together.”

“Great, I can’t wait to tell him what happened—.” As the words came out, he knew he’d said too much.

“What do you mean happened?” Joe’s mother studied him. “Is there something we need to know?”

Joe glanced between his parents and knew what to say. “Well, Grandpa gave me some secret instructions to follow.  Chrissy and I brought the small box to the abandoned barn. When I read the words, the box turned into a disassembled sleigh that we have to put together before Christmas.

“Meanwhile, we used the deer feed to gather all eight reindeer into the barn so the elves could take care of them and get them ready for Christmas Eve.  Oh yeah, the barn looks abandoned on the outside, but inside it’s a magical place full of elves.

“When we left there the other day, after the engine test fire went crazy, an army of pine trees attacked us. Chrissy was able to save me from one of them. I need to see Grandpa so he can tell us how to defeat them and get back to the barn.”

Joe waited a moment to let it sink in. “Other than that, not much.”

Joe’s father sipped his water and his mother just stared at him.

“Where in the world does that imagination of yours come up with this stuff?” she said after a moment of silence. “You should write a book, Joe.”

“I will, Ma. After this adventure is over, I will.” Joe brought his dish to the sink then ran upstairs. He had lots of questions for his grandfather. Even if his parents thought he’d made it all up, the piney army was still out there and the voice, whatever was behind that, was another problem.


Standing at the edge of his grandfather’s bed, he waited for his mother to leave.

“Are you sure about this, Dad?” his mother said.

“Go, Peggy. Let me explain things to Joe and it will be fine.” He waved his hand towards the door. “Now go get those nurses some coffee and pastry. They deserve it for putting up with me.”

“I am sure about that,” Joe’s Mom said, and headed out the door.

As the door closed, Joe’s grandfather motioned for him to come closer. “Sit on the edge of the bed, Joe. We have a few things to take care of.”

There was always one thing about his grandfather that Joe loved most. He always talked to Joe as if he were just like him.  He told him the truth—good, bad, or indifferent—no matter what.

This truth hurt the most, but he knew in his heart his grandfather wanted him to be ready and he was glad he thought him old enough to handle it.

“There are a few things I want you to remember, Joe. First, never be afraid to do the right thing no matter how others might try to talk you out of it. Second, the pine trees can only stop you if you’re afraid. Trees can’t think. They are controlled by Doubt. Doubt is a specter. Do you know what that is?”

Joe shook his head.

“A specter is a ghost. While it lives as a being, it can enter any creature. Doubt is the one thing that can cause you to fail. Never let doubt tell you what you cannot do.”

His grandfather pointed to the drawer next to the bed. “Open it up and hand me the small back case in there.”

Joe pulled the drawer open and pulled out the case, handing it to his Grandfather.

Opening the case, Joe’s Grandfather pulled out a medal on a gold chain. A Good Conduct medal he’d gotten when he was in the Marines.

“Take this, Joe. Keep it with you to remind you about the things I said. Everything you need to know, and do, is in your heart.”

Joe took the medal, turning it over in his hand, then placed it around his neck. “You’ll be coming home soon, won’t you grandpa? Then we can talk more.”

His grandfather smiled. “Like I explained, Joe. I’ll be coming home, but I won’t be with you long. This is the end of my time here, but it’s not the end of you and I being partners in this.

“Go back and build the sleigh. Don’t let a pine tree army or Doubt get in your way. There is a great adventure ahead. One that has lasted a thousand years. Soon, you’ll understand.”

The door opened and Joe’s mother returned. “Ready Joe?”

“Yup,” Joe said, jumping from the bed. He tucked the medal into his shirt.

One nurse came in. “Are you comfortable there, NM?”

“NM?” Joe’s mom said. “Who’s NM?”

“He is,” the nurse said, pointing at Joe’s grandfather. “Nicholas’s Magic. It’s what we all call him because he makes us smile all the time, no matter what. We’re gonna miss him when he leaves.” She went to his side, checking the various machines.

Joe’s mom kissed his grandfather. “By, Dad. We’ll be ready for you tomorrow.”

As they walked out, the light went on in Joe’s head. NM. NM like on the blanket. I wonder…

“Mom, can I use your phone for a minute?”

“Of course.”

Joe called Chrissy. Whispering into the phone, he said. “I just talked to my grandfather. I know how to get past the piney army. Meet me at the same place after school.” Joe turned his head so his mother couldn’t hear what he said next.

“Remember the initials NM on the blanket the elf put over me? I think NM is my grandpa.”

Part VIII Doubt Comes to Visit

P.S. If you’re interested in the previous one from Christmas Past here’s a link. Please share this and this new story with all your family and friends.

The Last Christmas Part VI: Building a Sleigh (Deluxe Model)

Joe and Chrissy spent several hours organizing and assembling parts. Slowly, the sleigh began to take shape.

Turning the page in the manual, Joe read the next step. Engine testing, part 1. He handed the book to Chrissy, found the controller test button, and gave that to her.

“Just follow the instructions while I get things ready.”

“Are you sure about this, Joe?” Chrissy said, studying the manual. “It doesn’t look right.”

“Look, I know what I’m doing. When I say so just push the button so I can test it.” Joe stood at the back of the sleigh near a huge exhaust pipe.

“Why does Santa’s sleigh even need a booster engine?” Chrissy asked. “I mean isn’t that the job of the reindeer?”

Joe looked around the sleigh. “Grandpa said they added the booster when the number of kids got huge. Even flying reindeer have limits. He ducked back behind the sleigh. “Now push the button.”

“Okay, here it goes.”  All the elves came over to stand next to her. Although she noticed some hiding behind the reindeer stalls. Hmm, she wondered, maybe they know something I don’t know. She shrugged, grabbed the controller, and pushed the button.


She pushed it again.

“Did you push it?” Joe yelled.


“Okay, whatever you do don’t push it twice.”

“Uh-oh,” she said as the rest of the elves began to scatter. It started as a low rumble, then grew to an enormous roar. A huge flame shot out the back of the nozzle, igniting a pile of hay. The engine went silent. Elves poured water to douse the flames.

Then one more explosion erupted from the engine followed by a huge black cloud.

Joe stumbled from behind the sleigh. All she could see of his face was his eyes. Black soot covered everything else. He brushed himself off as he leaned against the sleigh rail.

“You pushed it twice, didn’t you?”

“Perhaps you should have told me that before we started the test.” Chrissy handed him the controller. “Stupid boys, never tell you the whole story.” Then she started to laugh. “You look ridiculous. You better clean up or your mother will kill you if you drag all that soot into your house.”

Joe tried to look angry, but then joined in the laughter.  Several elves ran over and poured buckets of water on him. “Hey, how am I gonna explain being soaked to my mom?”

With that, one elf opened a compartment in the sleigh’s side. Pulling an enormous red blanket with initials NM from inside, he wrapped it around Joe. Within seconds he was dry and warm.

“What is this?”

“That,” said the elf, “is Santa’s warming blanket. He hits all kinds of weather in his travels; ice, snow, wind, and rain. The blanket keeps him warm and dries him if he gets wet.”

Joe handed the blanket back to the elves. Spotting the initials again, he said, “Who is NM?”

The elves looked at each other and scurried away, all except for one. He put his hand on Joe’s shoulder. “When the time comes, you’ll learn the whole story. You’re not ready, yet. I think you’ve done enough for today.” He placed the blanket back in the compartment and moved off.

“Well, I guess that’s it for the day. Let’s go.” Grabbing their jackets, they headed back out into the cold. As they got to the edge of the woods, Joe stopped.

“Did you hear something?” he said.

“I did, and I think it’s over there.” She pointed to a huge pine tree.  At least she thought it was a tree until it moved. Another one moved. Then a whole army of trees began moving toward them.

A voice—raspy and hissing—came to them on the wind. “I warned you to stay away. Now, you’ll learn to listen.”

“Run, Chrissy, run.”

They took off with Chrissy in the lead and Joe right behind her. The trees tried to cut off their escape. Joe dodged one of the swinging branches, but another caught him from behind, knocking him to the ground. He could feel the roots of the tree wrapping around his feet.

Chrissy, realizing Joe was not with her, ran back.  Grabbing a large stick, she wacked at the roots until Joe was free. Helping him to his feet, they dodged their way back to the bike path.

“Thanks,” Joe said, “I thought I was a goner.”

“No worries, that’s what friends are for.” She pointed to the wall of pines, stopped at the edge of the path, blocking the way. “How we gonna get back there?”

Joe didn’t hesitate a moment. “Let’s get back to my house. My grandfather will know what to do.”

Part VII Defeating the Piney Army

P.S. If you’re interested in the previous one from Christmas Past here’s a link. Please share this and this new story with all your family and friends.

The Last Christmas Part V: Care and Feeding of Reindeer

Joe looked out the window as the snow swirled in the wind. Please, please, please, call it off. Please. He listened to the muffled sounds of his mother and father talking as they listened to the radio.

The familiar voice, bringing joy to kids throughout Rhode island, wafted up the stairs as he lay in bed.

“No school Foster-Glocester. No school Barrington. No school Bristol.”

Please, oh please, call it off.

“No school East Providence.”

What? What? They skipped us!

“Sorry there, folks. I missed one. No school Cumberland.”

Joe stopped listening; the rest didn’t matter. In seconds he was dressed and down the stairs. Running to the table, he wolfed down his breakfast.

“Be nice if you would move that fast when you have school,” his mother said.

“Ah, the simple pleasures of youth,” his father sighed then headed off to work. “No rest for the cops though, we go no matter what. See you all later. Oh, almost forgot. That bag of deer feed is in the garage. Do I want to know why your grandfather had me pick that up?”

Joe swallowed the last of his milk and smiled. “Nah, Chrissy and I want to put some feed out for the deer since it’s been so cold. That’s all.”

His father stared for a moment. “Yeah, right. Okay, we’ll assume the best. Have fun.”

Joe brought his dish to the sink and ran for his boots. “I’ll be back later, Mom. Did you need anything before I go?”

“Now I am worried. Up, dressed, put the dishes away with me asking, and you want to know if I need anything. Something’s up here and I see the hand of your grandfather mixed up in this.”

Joe stood still, not sure what to say.

“But, no, I don’t need you for anything. Just be home before dark and whatever it is he’s got you doing, please be careful.”

“I will.” And he was out the door.

Ten minutes later, dragging a sled with the deer feed on it, he met up with Chrissy.

“Where are we gonna find these reindeer?” she asked.

“We don’t. The find us. Now help me pull this thing, it’s heavy.”

Dragging the sled behind them, they struggled up a small hill in the woods. Joe kept stopping to look around.

“What are you looking for?”

“Dunno, my grandfather said look for the reindeer signs but I don’t know the difference between reindeer hoofprints and other animals.”

Chrissy joined in the search, looking on the ground for something helpful. She stopped and turned, looking up at the treetops.

“You ain’t gonna find reindeer hoofprints in the trees. They fly, they don’t climb.”

“Listen, smarty pants, there’s a reason your grandfather asked me to help,” she pointed up and behind Joe. “It’s because I’m smarter than you.”

Joe spun around and hanging from the trees was a big sign.

“Hi, Joe. Start the trail here.”

“What the…” Joe starred at the words.

“Not animal signs, real signs. Obvious once you think about it. I bet we walked right past others. I should have known better than to listen to you. So now what?”

Joe pulled out a small knife and cut a hole in the bag.  Grabbing a handful of feed, he tossed it on the ground then headed back to the barn.

“I’ll pull the sled, you scatter the feed so it leads them to the barn.”

“Okay, but they’ll just eat the feed and run off when it’s gone,” Chrissy said, grabbing a handful of feed.

“We’ll see,” Joe said. “We’ll see.”

An hour later, they stood outside the barn, the trail of feed winding its way back into the woods.

“Now what?” Chrissy said, huddling against the wall of the barn trying to block the wind.

“Now, we wait.” Joe said. “But let’s go inside. At least it will be better than out here.”

“Not much, there are—” Chrissy stopped pointed over Joe’s shoulder. “Joe, look.”

Converging through the woods, following the trail of feed, came eight reindeer. They walked to the door of the barn, all lined up, and waited.

“You think they want to go inside?” Chrissy asked.

“I guess so. My grandfather said to just follow their lead, they know what to do.” He walked between the reindeer, petting their heads, then stood at the door. “Ready?”

“I suppose,” Chrissy said, making her way to his side. “But I don’t understand why they want to go inside this place. It’s so full of holes and….” Once again, she stopped mid-sentence.

As the door swung open, the inside was lit by a roaring fire. Elves stood by waiting to lead the reindeer into their warm stalls. The parts of the sleigh were all organized on the floor.

Chrissy blinked twice, not believing what her eyes were seeing.

One elf came over to Joe

“So, you’re the lucky one I see. You’ve much to learn Joe.” He turned to Chrissy. “And you, young lady, you’re the most important part of this. You have much to learn as well. But that can wait.  Now we need to get the reindeer ready for training. You’ve done well, so far. But take care on your travels from now on.” He glanced around the room. “The spirit of doubt will soon learn of your presence. Be on guard.”

He let them back to the door and hustled them back out into the weather. “Take care now and come back as soon as you can.”

Closing the door behind them, the barn once again took on the appearance of an abandoned shell.

Part VI Building a Sleigh (Deluxe Model)

P.S. If you’re interested in the previous one from Christmas Past here’s a link. Please share this and this new story with all your family and friends.

The Last Christmas Part IV: Gathering the Herd

Did you bring them?”  Joe called out as he stood on the bike path

“Yes,” Chrissy answered, running over to him. “Seems a little crazy since you don’t have a dog.” A smile crossed her face. “Unless they’re for you, boys can be weird like that.”

“NO! they’re not for me, but my grandfather said we would need them.”

“Need them for what?”

“The wolves.” Joe turned and headed down the path. “Now c’mon, we have to be quick about this and back before dark.”

“Wolves? Did you say wolves? We’re gonna give dog biscuits to wolves?”

Joe didn’t answer, and she ran to catch up with him.

“There are no wolves around here anyway,” Chrissy said, falling into step with him as he headed down the old dirt path. She looked around the dark, grey woods.  “This is another one of your tricks.”

“Shh,” Joe said. “Listen.”

Chrissy stopped and looked around. The cold wind swirled the snow from the evergreens and shook the branches. She heard nothing but the sounds of the wood.

“Joe, this is crazy. There haven’t been wolves in New England since—.”

The plaintive cry of the wolf, echoing off the valley wall of the Blackstone River, sent a chill up her spine.

“What was that?” she said, moving to stand next to Joe.

“A wolf. C’mon, let’s go. And put a dog biscuit in your hands so they can see them.”

Joe left the path and headed down the slope toward the river. Chrissy, holding onto a handful of biscuits, clung close behind.

“Was that a real wolf?” she asked.

“Sort of,” Joe said. “My grandfather said they’re special wolves. They guard the reindeer during the year until Christmas comes around. We need to let the wolves know we are friendly and that my grandpa sent us.”

“What happens if they don’t believe us?”

“Then they eat us, and someone else will have to do this.” Joe smiled. “But don’t worry, my grandpa is very smart. He knows if something happened to me, my mom would kill him.  He’s brilliant like that.”

“Somehow, that does not make me feel better.”

The wolf’s call echoed one more, closer this time. The trees began to thin out, and a field appeared through the branches.

Chrissy ran in front of Joe, backpedaling along as she faced him. “What do we do after we find the wolves?”

“We feed them, and they lead us to the reindeer,” Joe said, stopping dead in his tracks.

A soft crunching of snow and the crack of several branches caused Chrissy to turn around. Emerging from the shadows, a lone wolf stood staring at them. A low growl reverberated from deep within his throat.

“Give him a biscuit,” Joe said.

“You give him a biscuit,” Chrissy answered, frozen with fear.

“O, o, okay, I will.”

Joe held out the biscuit, and the wolf raised his snout sniffing the air. In one leap, he was next to Joe, towering over him. Joe barely held onto the biscuit because of his hand shaking. The wolf leaned down, gently took the biscuit, and swallowed it whole.

Chrissy stood transfixed at the sight of this giant animal just feet away. The wolf turned to her.

“Here, here you go, boy, or girl, or whatever you are.” Holding out several biscuits.

Once again, the wolf gently took the biscuits. After finishing them off, he rolled onto his back right in front of Chrissy.

“I think he wants his belly scratched,” Joe said, kneeling next to the wolf.

Chrissy bent down, hand still trembling, and ran her hand down the warm fur. The wolf wiggled with delight.

“Why he’s just a big baby,” Chrissy said, rubbing the wolf’s belly as the giant creature nuzzled against her. “So now what do we do?”

“Now, we let the wolf decide.”

“Decide what?”

“To help us or eat us.” Joe laughed. “Just kidding, Grandpa said we had to pass this test first, meaning not get eaten, and then the wolf will lead us to the reindeer when we’re ready.”

“Ready? How do we get ready?”

“We build the sleigh and prepare the barn to hold the reindeer until Christmas.”

Chrissy shook her head, still rubbing the wolf’s belly. “I wonder about all this, Joe. I still think it’s one of your—.”

The snap of a twig brought the wolf to his feet. He sniffed the air and moved between the two kids. His head swung back and forth, searching the woods for the source of the sound.

A dark shadow emerged from the wood. A swirling mass of nothing and something all at the same moment. The wolf’s growl grew deeper and louder.

A voice, raspy and chilling, rose from the apparition.

“I see this year’s assistants are very young. Nicholas must be desperate for his last time. It will make it all the easier to end this Christmas nonsense.”

The wolf leaped at the apparition, which dissolved away.  Off in the distance, fading in the rising wind, the voice reached them once more.

“Mark my words, Joe and Chrissy, you’ll regret helping that old man. If I were you, I’d run as fast as I could and leave this place.”

The voice faded, and the wolf nudged Joe toward the path.

“Time to go, Chrissy, We’ll come back tomorrow and start gathering the herd.”

“Come back? Come back? Are you crazy? Did you hear that thing? I’m not coming back.” At the sound of her words, the wolf snuggled against her. The warmth and strength calmed her.

“You have to come back, Chrissy. We’re in this together. Come on. Look, with that wolf next to you and me, no one’s gonna do anything to us.”

Chrissy leaned into the wolf, whispering in his ear. “You’ll take care of us?” To her surprise, the wolf turned to look in her eyes. She could swear his head nodded, and he smiled. Her mind raced with both fear and wonder.

“I’ll think about it.”

The wolf licked her face and then bounded away into the woods. The wolf call now different, almost like a song, echoing in the forest as if spreading the good news.

Part V Care and Feeding of Reindeer

Please follow along with the adventure.

P.S. If you’re interested in the previous one from Christmas Past, here’s a link. Please share this and this new story with all your family and friends.

The Last Christmas Part III (Some Assembly Required)

Joe ran in the house, dropped his backpack on the floor, and dashed up the stairs. As he jiggled the mouse to wake the computer, he paused. Running back down the stairs, he went into the living room where his mother was working at her desk.

“Hi, Mom.”

“That’s better,” she smiled, “I thought you’d forgotten about me.”

“Nope, never. Can I use the computer for a bit?  I have to do some research.”

“What about your homework?”

“I did it on the bus.  Just math, a piece of cake.”

His mother put out her hand. Joe ran to his backpack, grabbed his homework, and ran back, handing her the paper.

She ran down the list, checking his work. “Hmm, not bad. You have the mind of a mathematician like your grandfather. Maybe you will grow up and be a pilot like him.”

“I might. I haven’t figured it out yet. I’ll let you know.”

She handed back the paper. “Not to worry, lots of time before you have to pick a career.”

“So, I am good?”

“You are.  What’s this research, anyway? Is it a school project?”

“Nope,” Joe yelled over his shoulder as he ran to the stairs. “Just something Grandpa and I are working on.”

Ten minutes later, armed with the information he needed, he dressed in warm clothes and headed back downstairs. The package he got from Kringle’s safe in his pocket.

“Where are you off to?”

“I’m, ah, going to meet Chrissy. Just hang out for a while before supper. You know.”

His mother smiled. “I do Joe, I do. Okay, be home before your father gets here.”

Joe turned to leave.

“And Joe…”

“Yeah, Ma?”

“If this little meeting involves something your grandfather put you up to, please be careful. Your grandfather is a wonderful man, but a little, ah, a little—”

“Crazy, insane, off-his-rocker, whack-a-ding-hoy?” Joe interrupted.

Laughing, his mother nodded. “I see he’s been filling in your vocabulary. But, yes, he can be unusual. Just be careful.”

Joe ran outside and down the street. Chrissy Snow waited in front of the bike path entrance.

“So, what is this big mystery?” she said.

“I’m not sure, but my grandfather said I needed to get you to help me.”

Chrissy’s eyes narrowed. “This isn’t one of your practical jokes, is it? Because if it is, I will pound you into the ground.” She made a fist and shook it in his face.

“C’mon, Chrissy. You have to admit that the fake snake was funny. I didn’t think your mother could climb a tree that quickly.”

Chrissy chuckled. “Yeah, that part was funny. Still, this better not be one.”

“Oh, it’s not.” Joe led the way down the bike path, then veered off onto the old trail leading to the abandoned barn.

“What are we doing here?” Chrissy said.

“Not sure yet.” Joe took out his mother’s cellphone, pushing a few buttons.

“Does your mother know you took that?”

“Not exactly, but she is always losing it. She won’t notice—.” He held up his hand for her to be quiet. “Yes, could you connect me to room 1225, please? Thanks.”  He tilted the phone away. “I have to talk to my grandfather. He said to call when we got here.” Turning his attention back to the phone as a voice came on the line.

“Hi, Grandpa. Yup, we’re here. Me and Chrissy. Un-huh, un-huh, okay got it.  See ya.” He ended the call and put the phone away.

Joe reached into his pocket and pulled out the small box.

“What’s that?” Chrissy asked.

“Something we have to build?”

“Build? That small? And it takes two of us?”

Joe shrugged and led the way into the old barn.

“You sure this is safe?”

“Grandpa said we needed to open this inside here, so I think it is.”

“You think so?”

Joe smiled. “Here we go.” He placed the package on the ground and stepped back, pulling Chrissy with him.

“What are you doing?”

“Following instructions. Now please be quiet for a minute, I need to focus.” Reaching into his pocket, he pulled out the crumpled note.

“What once was hidden, let it now be shown, and share the magic we have known.”

Nothing happened.

“Is this some kind of joke, Joe, cuz I will not be happy if it—.”

The blinding light and sound knocked them back. Smoke filled the room, then swirled out the roof.

Joe stood, staring at the scene. Chrissy held his hand. “Wha, wha, what is that?”

Piled before them were parts of a colossal machine. Red velvet covered some pieces; others were shiny metal. Gold tinsel peeked from its wrapping, and leather straps with bells hung from the rafters.

A book, thick with pages, floated to the ground in front of them. Joe bent down to pick it up.

“What’s that?” Chrissy said, leaning over his shoulder.

Joe held the book up for her to read the cover.

“Operating Santa’s Sleigh: Some Assembly Required.”

“You’re gonna build this thing?” Chrissy asked.

“Nope,” Joe shook his head. “We are both gonna build this.”

(Part IV: Gathering the Herd)

P.S. If you’re interested in the previous one from Christmas Past, here’s a link. Please share this and this new story with all your family and friends.

The Last Christmas Part II: A Christmas Secret

“So, what was this big secret your grandfather shared with you?”

“Moooom, I can’t tell you. It’s a secret.” Joe looked at his mother as she started the car. “I promised.”

“That grandfather of yours is up to something, isn’t he?”

“I do not understand what you are suggesting, Mother. Grandpa and I have no nefarious plans, no secret missions, nothing to cause any alarm.”

Joe’s mother gave him a sideways glance, shaking her head.

“However, I shall require a brief stop at Kringle’s Hardware store where I will need to borrow your credit card.”

“My credit card? I don’t think so. Not without more of an explanation.” She put her hand up before Joe could argue. “And stop with the pre-arranged speech your grandfather gave you. I see the note hidden in your hand. Where is this Kringle’s place, anyway? I never heard of it.”

Joe stuck his hand under his leg. “Whoa, grandpa is right. You can see without looking.”

His mom let out a short laugh. “He has himself to blame for that. He’s the one who taught me.” She steered the car onto Rt 146 and headed north. “This doesn’t involve anything that will explode, does it?”

“I hope not,” Joe mumbled.

“What did you say?”

“Ah, I said no mother. Of course not.” He smiled at her, sensing he needed to tread lightly here. “Kringle’s is on the Woonsocket-Lincoln line. Right near the plaza.”

“Never heard of it, but I suppose we have time to go there. Although why I would consider helping that grandfather in his latest harebrained scheme is beyond me. ”

“There is one other thing, because this is a Christmas surprise, you have to do something.”

“Hmm, and what’s that?”

“Promise to close your eyes when I come back.”

“Joe, they will not let an eight-year-old use a credit card by themselves. I have to go with you.”

Joe grinned, enjoying the moment when he had a secret to tell that no one else knew, and couldn’t wait to blurt it out. “No, you don’t. Grandpa already called and placed the order. He explained everything and I just have to ask for Mr. Kringle.”

“Ah, of course, another one of your grandfather’s mysterious friends.” Joe’s mother sighed and focused on the road. As they passed Interstate 295, she spotted a sign. Kringle’s Emporium and Hardware Store If We Don’t Have It, You Don’t Need It. She turned off into the parking lot of Kringle’s. “Never saw this place before.” She pulled into a spot and parked.

 Joe threw open the door, stepped out, then leaned back in, hand out. “The card, Madam, if you please.”

Reaching for her purse, she pulled out the card, and handed it to him, pulling back at the last moment. “How much are you going to spend?”

Joe smiled, “No worries, Grandpa already transferred the money to your account. We got it covered.” He snatched the card from her hand, shut the door, and ran inside. Mr. Kringle was waiting for him.

“So, you’re this year’s co-conspirator, eh?”

Joe scrunched up his face. “A what?”

“You’re helping Nicholas, your grandfather, this year with his annual Christmas, ah, project?” Kringle’s face, red with fat cheeks, twinkled with amusement. He winked, then steered Joe toward the back room. In the storage area sat a huge box. It towered over Joe and was twice as wide. Joe’s eyes bulged, trying to take it all in.

“How my gonna fit that in my mom’s car? How my even gonna carry it out?”

Kringle chuckled. “I assume Nick gave you a note for me?”

Joe nodded and reached into his pocket, still staring at the package. He handed the note to Mr. Kringle.

Kringle read it, chuckled, then handed it back. “Read it.”

“What? Read what?”

“The note, Joe, the note. I gotta give it to the man, your grandfather. He always finds a way.”

Joe looked at the note and read it to himself. Kringle tapped him on the shoulder.

“Out loud, Joe. Out loud. It works better that way.”

Joe looked up. The box was still there, still huge, but it seemed somewhat smaller. Joe glanced at Kringle, then read the note.

“Big things fit in big packages

Small things fit in small

Believe in things you cannot see

And you can see them all.”

Joe looked up from the note and Mr. Kringle handed him a tiny box. Joe looked around. The big box had vanished.

Looking over the small package, Joe said, “What’s this?”

Kringle smiled. “The beginning of a Christmas adventure. All you have to do is believe.” He put his hand on Joe’s shoulders. “You’re a lucky little boy, Joe. You are about to create a magical memory of a lifetime. Now get out there before your mother comes looking for us.”

Joe took out the credit card and handed it to Kringle. He handed it back. “No need. It was just so I could be sure of who you are.” He glanced around. “Can’t be too careful about you know who.”

“Who?” Joe asked.

“Ah, Nick hasn’t told you yet. Probably better that way. You’ll learn soon enough.”

Joe shrugged, stuffed the box in his jacket pocket, and ran to the car.

“Did you get it?”

“I think so.” He handed her the card back.

“You think so?”

Joe smiled. “Well, I believe I did. I believe it.” He turned to look out the window. Kringle waved from the front of the store as snow fell.

“Who are you waving at?”

“Mr. Kringle.”

Joe’s mother looked out the window. “Who? I don’t see anyone.”

As the car left the lot, Joe turned back one more time. Kringle and the entire building faded away as the snow swirled in the wind.

Part III (Some Assembly Required)

P.S. If you’re interested in the previous one from Christmas Past here’s a link. Please share this and this new story with all your family and friends.

The Last Christmas

In keeping with an old tradition, I bring you Part 1 of the serialized story of The Last Christmas.

Millions of years ago, when dinosaurs roamed the earth, the Pawtucket Times would publish a story over the two weeks leading up to Christmas.

I, along with many others, anxiously awaited the arrival of each new chapter culminating in the ending on Christmas Eve. So, over the past few years, I have started my own version beginning with today’s opening segment. We will read this story together as I have no idea where it will go or how it will end. My only advantage is I will read it as it is born, while you my dear friends will see it just moments after its arrival.

I will just tell the story, like Charlie Brown and Linus, of something worth holding onto. Let it take us where it will…Merry Christmas!

The Last Christmas (Part 1)

Joe followed his mother down the hallway, lagging, slowing his steps as he tried to avoid reaching the room.

The incessant beeping of the machines, the determined movements of the doctors and nurses, the sounds of laughter, and crying, all crowded his mind.

He hated this place.

“C’mon, Joe.” His mother, waiting for him, motioned with her hands. “We have to get in to see grandpa before visiting hours are over.”

Joe sped up a bit as his mother continued down the hall, then slowed once again. The dread of seeing his grandpa in the hospital bed frightened him.

“Joe!” his mother called, standing at the doorway to the room, “let’s go, c’mon.”

Joe stopped at the door and peered inside. Sitting up in his bed, wearing a Santa hat with flashing lights and jingling bells, his grandfather smiled at him. “Get in here, Joe. The batteries in this thing might die before I do.” He let out a laugh.

“Dad! Please…”

“What? They are old batteries. I’ve had this thing since before you were born. Got it for that first Christmas, just before you interrupted our Christmas Eve dinner by being born.”

Joe’s mom shook her head and plopped down on the edge of the bed. “So, how are you feeling?”

“Dying, I’m dying. But other than that, just fine.” He let out a laugh. “The poison they call food here doesn’t help.” He turned to Joe. “Did you bring it?”

Joe glanced at his mother, then reached into his pocket.

“Bring what?”

“Never you mind, Peggy. This is between Joe and me.  Why don’t you go see if the nurses have an updated betting pool on when I will check out? I’ve got ten bucks on Saturday.”

Joe’s mom rolled her eyes and watched the two of them. Joe turned his back to his mom, then handed the candy bar to his grandfather.

“Yes! That’s my boy. Nothing like a Mounds bar or an Almond Joy.” With a twinkle in his eye, Joe’s Grandfather ripped off the wrapping and admired the two chocolate bars.

“Dad, you know you’re not supposed to eat junk. Give me that.” Joe’s mom tried to grab the candy.

“I,ffdo’t fink so,” the old man said, shoving a piece in his mouth, handing the other to Joe.

“He doesn’t need it either. He’s got a dentist appointment tomorrow.”

Joe’s grandfather winked. “No worries, we’ll wash it down with the hot chocolate you’re going to get us, and it will remove the evidence. Hot chocolate is magic.”

“Fine, I’ll go get the hot chocolate.” She stood up from the bed. “Please do nothing crazy while I’m gone.”

“Have I ever?”

“A better question is when have you ever been normal?”

Joe’s Grandfather stuck his tongue out at his mother. She rolled her eyes once more and headed out. As she got to the door, the old man stuck his tongue out and waggled his hands, thumbs in his ears.

“I saw that,” Joe’s mom said, without turning around.


Joe laughed. “She couldn’t see, Grandpa, she wasn’t looking.”

“Oh, she could see, Joe, she could see. There’s more to seeing than just looking. Sometimes you just have to believe.”

“Believe in what, Grandpa? Seeing is not believing it’s, well, it’s seeing.”

“Come here, Joe. I want to tell you a story for my last Christmas.”

Joe felt the tears in his eyes. He stood still, unable to move.

“Joe, there is nothing to be sad about. The last Christmas is just as important as the first Christmas. More so in fact. Come here, now, no tears. They ruin the taste of the candy.”

“But I don’t want this to be your last Christmas, Grandpa. I want to have a hundred more with you.” He hugged the old man, resting his head on his chest.

Joe’s Grandfather laughed, the lighted hat jingling on his head. “And so you will, Joe, so you will. All you have to do is believe…”

Part II A Christmas Secret

P.S. If you’re interested in the previous one from Christmas Past here’s a link. Please share this and this new story with all your family and friends.

In the Spirit of the Season: A Christmas Truce

In 1914, in the midst of the worst fighting during World War I, a strange phenomenon occurred. Unofficial, yet well documented, a truce broke out during Christmas. The Pope, Benedict XV, had proposed the truce but the warring nations refused to declare an official action, so ordinary soldiers took it upon themselves.

On Christmas Eve, German soldiers emerged from the trenches and engaged in celebrations with the opposing Allied forces.  (

It would be the last example of the old notion of chivalry among enemies.

The event was even celebrated in a heartwarming song about the exploits of Snoopy and his Sopwith Camel.

The news had come out in the First World War
The bloody Red Baron was flying once more
The Allied command ignored all of its men
And called on Snoopy to do it again.

Was the night before Christmas, 40 below
When Snoopy went up in search of his foe
He spied the Red Baron, fiercely they fought
With ice on his wings Snoopy knew he was caught.

Christmas bells those Christmas bells
Ring out from the land
Asking peace of all the world
And good will to man

The Baron had Snoopy dead in his sights
He reached for the trigger to pull it up tight
Why he didn’t shoot, well, we’ll never know
Or was it the bells from the village below.

Christmas bells those Christmas bells
Ringing through the land
Bringing peace to all the world
And good will to man

The Baron made Snoopy fly to the Rhine
And forced him to land behind the enemy lines
Snoopy was certain that this was the end
When the Baron cried out, “Merry Christmas, my friend!”

The Baron then offered a holiday toast
And Snoopy, our hero, saluted his host
And then with a roar they were both on their way
Each knowing they’d meet on some other day.

Christmas bells those Christmas bells
Ringing through the land
Bringing peace to all the world
And good will to man

And so in the spirit of Christmas I propose a truce. Join if you will, ignore it if you must, but at least consider it.  From now until January 1, I propose a cessation of all political posts and arguments. Let Congress and those addicted to sustaining divisiveness do whatever they like, I for one will ignore it all and not contribute to the cacophony of anger and agitation.

Join me and spread the word. Restore the concept of chivalry among those of us who disagree on issues yet still love this country. There is nothing more hopeful in the Spirit of Christmas than a cessation of hostilities and a celebration of our common humanity.


“Merry Christmas mine friend(s)”