I’m Warning You…Charlie Brown!

If there was any doubt that the world is headed into oblivion, this should erase it. If there was any doubt the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse were on their way, or at least saddling up their horses for the ride to Armageddon, this should eliminate all doubt.

This was so troubling I couldn’t even bring myself to write about it when I saw it. I didn’t want to extinguish the few remaining embers of the Christmas spirit left in the world.

In a year that saw the rise of a Pandemic we knew how to control but refused to adhere to even a vestige of scientific rationality.

In a year that saw what many hoped was the last of a debacle begun in January 2017.

In a year where a significant number of Americans drank the Kool-Aid of a deranged delusion plunging us back into acting like Dark Age peasants quaking at the sight of an eclipse out of ignorance and maniacal fallacies.

We now must face the reality of just how much we have regressed into the anarchy of idiocy.

What, pray tell, drove me to this despair and hopelessness of our situation you ask?

It was this.

As I am wont to do each year, I watch Charlie Brown’s Christmas. I have watched it every year since it first premiered all those years ago in the days of three channels, on a broadcast schedule that required you to plan and, at least for the first few years, in black & white.

This year technology, of which I am a big fan, forced me to download the video. As I sat down to watch it, looking forward to the music of Vince Guaraldi, Linus’s speech about the meaning of Christmas, Snoopy embracing the commercialism of the season, and all the other elements I’ve come to hold dear, I was shocked by something that appeared on the screen during the initial scene of snow falling.

A Warning on Charlie Brown’s Christmas

In the upper left-hand corner there appeared a warning. A viewer discretion warning telling me this show, this icon of 1960’s television, this sacred reminder of a simpler, less complicated world, contained VIOLENCE AND FOUL LANGUAGE.

I was stunned. I was shocked. I was astounded. VIOLENCE AND FOUL LANGUAGE in Charlie Brown’s Christmas and I needed to be warned.

All these years I never knew I was being pummeled by VIOLENCE AND FOUL LANGUAGE every time I watched Charlie Brown. For fifty-five years everything wrong I have ever done is likely because I never knew I was being exposed to VIOLENCE AND FOUL LANGUAGE in Charlie Brown’s Christmas.

It explains much.

I will now go wait outside for the Four Horsemen for surely the end is nigh upon us. Don’t say I didn’t warn you!

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JEBWizard Publishing (www.jebwizardpublishing.com) is a hybrid publishing company focusing on new and emerging authors. We offer a full range of customized publishing services.

Everyone has a story to tell, let us help you share it with the world. We turn publishing dreams into a reality. For more information and manuscript submission guidelines contact us at info@jebwizardpublishing.com or 401-533-3988.

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Do Dogs Remember Christmas Past?

Each Christmas for the past few years, our daughter’s dogs have been our surrogate children allowing us to indulge in buying toys. What I have always wondered, seeing the way one of them, Seamus—a rescue mutt of complicated genetic heritage—reacts to our placing their Christmas Stocking is, does he remember?

Of course the dogs have their own stocking, otherwise this wouldn’t be much of a story.

What I find intriguing is the way Seamus will exhibit such excitement over the stocking, sniffing at it, tail wagging enough to create a mild breeze, and taking up a position to keep a sharp eye for the moment he gets to see the contents.

Does he remember past Christmases? I know dogs react to routine and the familiar. I know he recognizes those of us who are around all the time, offering him food, water, snacks, and playtime, but does he have memories within of past moments such as Christmas?

Could it be those jerky, uncontrolled movements when he sleeps are not dreams of chasing rabbits or squirrels but memories of soft cuddly toys that squeak (or perhaps in Seamus’s mind, scream) whenever he plays with them? I don’t think he’s ever seen a Sugarplum, but could he have visions in his head?

As I watched him this Christmas, it was clear he knew something inside that stocking was for him; he knew it would be something he would love, and he fairly burst with anticipation as he waited for the slightest signal that the time had arrived to reveal the contents.

Seamus with (one of) his new toys on his new bed

Was it the memory of past Christmases replaying through his canine brain? Was it the glory of those past moments when toys upon toys and snacks upon snacks emerged for his snorting and sniffing approval? Was the almost childlike anticipation on his face because he remembered the wonders of Christmas Past?

I don’t know if I will ever understand what he thinks, but, until next year when our grandson arrives and new memories are created, the dogs have served as a reminder of a simple appreciation of the spirit of giving for Christmas.

I know full well I could put old toys inside that stocking and the dog would still quiver in anticipation. I know this because, I believe, he remembers the thrill of Christmas mornings and all those moments of being loved. And most importantly, he reminds us that it’s not what you get that matters but that someone cared enough to give you a present that’s important.

It creates memories.

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JEBWizard Publishing (www.jebwizardpublishing.com) is a hybrid publishing company focusing on new and emerging authors. We offer a full range of customized publishing services.

Everyone has a story to tell, let us help you share it with the world. We turn publishing dreams into a reality. For more information and manuscript submission guidelines contact us at info@jebwizardpublishing.com or 401-533-3988.

Signup here for our mailing list for information on all upcoming releases, book signings, and media appearances.

‘Twas: A Christmas Mystery from Beginning to End

And here is the complete Christmas Saga of 2020. Like the days of yore when newspapers published anxiously anticipated serialized stories, here is my annual version, Hidden within the words is a secret message. Find the secret and send an email to me at joe.broadmeadow@hotmail.com with the subject line, MAGIC. First five to discover the secret wins a copy of every book I publish this year.

Two of the brightest among you, Christine LaPalme and Jane Auger, exhibiting the best of what CHS Grads are capable of, have already figured it out. For those of you still trying to figure it out, I’ve left some helpful hints.

This story is as old as the legend of St. Nicholas, handed down over years and years. Told to Christmas Elves as they rested from their work, there is magic within if you’ve the heart and eyes to see it.

But don’t look for it, feel it in your heart. Speak the words to learn the secret

A Christmas Long Ago

Part I

‘Twas just an idea,” I said, trying to stare down the Elf.

The problem with that is he is two feet tall, and I am five feet tall, looking down makes me dizzy, but I wasn’t gonna give in. Night fell over the paddock as the reindeer shuffled into the barn for the night.

Before long, they’d be fast asleep, exhausted from the training program. Christmas was just six weeks away, and it was time to ramp up their workouts.

When the reindeer teams sense the change, the real leaders emerge. All sixty reindeer were eligible to make the team, yet it seemed for centuries the same names, the same legendary reindeer rose to the occasion.

Through countless Christmas Eves, the gang of eight, supplemented by Rudy whenever necessary, made the team. The year Dasher didn’t fly turned into a disaster.

House Mouse, our resident rodent, sauntered over to watch our contest.

“Not this again,” he sighed, “with you two it’s always a contest.”

“A contest I always win,” I said. Creature comforts meant nothing; I could stand here all night. Was there anything more satisfying than beating Jedidiah at his own game?

Stirring the last of the embers to kick up some heat, House Mouse watched us as he shivered in the wind. Not even the bone-chilling cold could get me to give up. Even House Mouse knew that and curled up in a ball near the fire.

A soft tingling of bells drifted in the wind. Mouse lifted his head, nose twitching back and forth, sniffing the air.

“The Christmas Pies are ready!”

Stockings—scattered on the ground or hanging from the branches—hid Mouse as he dashed toward Santa’s workshop. Were I not in this contest, I’d be right behind him; nothing in the world better than pies made in Christmastown.

Hung by the fire, some stockings bore the names of the children, the ones who would receive them on Christmas Eve.

By hanging them here, they absorbed the Christmas magic floating in the air. The magic would stay with many of these children all their lives.

Chimney smoke full of the sugar-sweet smell of apple and cherry and blueberry pies fresh from the ovens wafted through the air—enough to feed all the worker elves—baked by Mrs. Claus and her helpers.

With the elves in full production, the next most important thing to finishing before Christmas was to keep them well fed.

“Care to call this a draw?”

“In your dreams, Jedidiah,” I answered

Hopes dashed, Jedidiah looked away, smothered the last of the embers, then took off for the house.

That he forgot to make sure the reindeer paddock was locked said lots about how much he, and all the elves, loved those pies.

Part II

St. Nicholas—I knew since he was my boss—would not be happy if the reindeer wandered away in the night, so I locked the paddock and ran to catch up with Jedidiah.

Soon, I’d be full of pie and tucked away in my cozy, warm, if undersized, bed. Would anyone believe the story how I came to be here? Be the only person besides Mrs. Claus to live here with Santa and the Elves.

There was no better life for someone like me.

The idea I had, the one that started the staring contest, was to find out where I’d come from.

Children usually grow up with their families. Were there people out there, in the real world, who might be my family?

Nestled and snug in my bed, I dreamed of meeting my family, if I had one, before Santa found me all those years ago.

All those years ago, but I digress.

Snug might have been an understatement. In my bed, made for Elves, I slept more like a pretzel, but I was warm, dry, and, I knew, loved.

Their house, their home—Santa and Mrs. Claus—was my home for as long as I could remember.

Beds upon beds filled with all manner of elves surrounded me. While most slept in blissful silence, Jedidiah snored like a water buffalo.

Visions of having a room for my own filled my head. Of a place all to myself was a frequent dream. Sugar-plums—they were everywhere here as a favorite of the elves—adorned the walls where I wished for pictures of others like me.

Danced to exhaustion, some of the Elves who celebrated the end of each working day with a festival of Elvish dancing, trickled in and fell to sleep.

In a moment, the only sound was the nnnnark, hmmpph, grrpppoh, ahhhh of Jedidiah.

Their time asleep, in case you’ve never spent much time around elves, is not quiet all night. Heads will nod, then soft humming of Christmas songs begins. And within moments, every elf head is nodding in rhythm and they hum the entire list of their favorite songs.

Mamma Elf, Jedidiah’s great, great, great, times 100 grandmother (elves live a long, long, long time) leads the chorus and once she is satisfied the soothing (to them) tunes are well hummed, she guides them back to silence.

In spite of everything she’d tried, Jedidiah still snores.

Her efforts to teach him to hum the songs never took root with the hardworking Senior Reindeer Flight Instructor. Kerchief in hand, Mamma Elf would tut her way over the Jedidiah, gently tie it around his mouth to muffle the sounds so everyone could sleep.

And we all loved her for it. I often wondered why Mamma Elf tolerated the snoring Elf. In her own way, no matter how she might try to hide it, she loved him as her favorite though he differed from all the others, despite being undoubtedly an Elf.

My arrival seemed to give him someone also a little different, making him more comfortable around the others.

Cap that with our friendly, but non-stop rivalry over everything, and he and I were the best of friends

Had Jedidiah not been the odd ball he is, my life here would be so much different.

Just knowing he understood made things easier.

Part III

Settled in for the night, I had just drifted off to sleep when I felt a tap on my leg.

Down at the bottom of my bed stood Jedidiah, finger to his lips, telling me to be quiet. For a moment I thought I was dreaming, then I realized he wanted me to follow him.

A bit of the sleep fog still rattled my brain, but I dressed quickly, and Jedidiah led the way. Long, narrow hallways where I had to duck down, created a maze of pathways in the Elf quarters.

Winter’s howling winds, drifting the snow and shaking the trees, raged past the windows with some drifts covering them completely.

“Nap,” I said through a yawn, “sleep, tired, why are we doing this?”

When we made it to the main operations area, I stopped in disbelief. Out in the main launch area sat Santa’s training sled, used to practice take-offs and landings

On one side stood Santa, on the other stood Mrs. Claus and Mamma Elf.

“The time has come, my boy,” said Santa. Lawn and green forests await you.”

There was confusion in my mind, and I shook my head in disbelief. Arose? Such was my confusion even the right words eluded me.

A moment later, Santa stepped close. Clatter, for that’s what it was whenever he walked with the bells jingling on his belt, brought me out of my confusion.

“I know this sounds confusing,” Santa said, “I know you want to understand where you came from but be careful my boy of things who might seek to do you harm.”  

Sprang from slumber, now faced with a confusion of thoughts, my mind tried to understand.

From behind me I felt Jedidiah’s hand on my back. “The time is now my friend, you want to find out where you came from, I want to help you. Bed and sleep can wait. To the sky we shall go and find what you seek.”

See, I didn’t think I would ever actually go. What I said to Jedidiah was more wishful thinking. Was this happening?

The sled was readied, four of the strongest reindeer all harnessed in place, and we had only to climb aboard.

Matter of fact, I was terrified to fly but knew I had to go since my friend had made this happen and something inside me, I had no idea what it was, told me I had to do this.

Away we flew. To what, I would soon discover…

Part IV

The first town we came to looked oddly familiar, then I realized we had just flown over Elf town, the main Elf village.

Window and door adorned with bright colored banners proclaiming the soon to arrive Christmas Eve sendoff, the biggest celebration of the year, passed below.

I glanced over at Jedidiah, lost in thought.

“Flew and Feathers,” he mumbled, “this sled is so slow. Like to take us a week to get anywhere.”

A moment later, I looked down at the dash, spotted a red button that read ‘Increase Speed,’ and pushed it.

Flash of light blinded us, and the wind became a jet stream as the sled leapt to high-speed. Tore from my hands, my hat flew off into the wind.

“Open the air brake, open the air brake,” Jedidiah yelled.

The air brake panel was right below my foot, I reached for the handle and pulled up.

“Shutters and deer droppings,” Jedidiah yelled. And our speed slowed.

“Threw me with that maneuver, genius,” Jedidiah said, catching his breath. “Up here, we live by the rule the pilot, that’s me, is the only one to touch the controls. The red buttons in particular.”

 “Sash,” Jedidiah continued, calling me by an old nickname. “The air’s getting warmer. Moon is making it easier to follow the ridge. On the next opportunity, if we see a town, I want to get something to eat.”

The terrain was leveling out, and food was welcome. Breast of chicken would make my day, although Jedidiah would want his usual pancakes and maple syrup with a double scoop of vanilla ice cream and sugarplums.

Of that I was certain. The mountain gave way to valleys as Jedidiah brought us closer to the ground.

“New-fallen snow ahead is not as deep. Snow this shallow this time of the year means we are getting closer to where you came from.”

Gave me an idea to ask about why they used to call me Sash. The name didn’t bother me, I just never knew where it came from.

“Lustre of Snowtown, the head scout for finding any new kids in the world gave it to you,” Jedidiah said. “Of course, there was more to the story,” he smiled, but said no more.

Mid-day found us south of Montreal just before the border to the United States. To someone who had no memory of anywhere but Christmas Town, this was a wonderfully exciting moment.

Objects I didn’t recognize came zipping by us, Jedidiah said they were called airplanes. Below us, towns turned into cities, crowded with people.

When we found a place to land, Jedidiah left the sled in invisible mode so no one would find it.

What would we do now? To my surprise, Jedidiah had transformed himself into a person. My heart skipped a beat when he said my name and I had no idea who it was standing next to me.

“Wondering how I did that?” he said.

Eyes always give away my feelings, he could see the shock on my face. Should I ever need to hide my feelings, I was in trouble.

“Appear to be like everyone else and hide in plain sight,” Jedidiah said, leading me down a path and out to a road.

“But why here?” I asked. “There doesn’t seem to be much around here like the cities we flew over.”

“A brilliant question, my friend,” Jedidiah said. “Miniature brains produce miniature thoughts. Sleigh is on the ground. And we are looking for where you came from. Eight hours we’ve flown and now we are here to find the answers to all your questions.”

Part V

Tiny noises from a several small animals drew my attention. Reindeer are always so loud I hardly recognized the sounds.

With a couple of quick hops, a furry gray rabbit bounced through the snow to stand in front of us. A rabbit that spoke!

“Little Sash, it’s great to see you again, Seamus Angus at your service.. Old age fits you well.”

“Driver of the sled, I presume,” the rabbit said, nodding at Jedidiah the turning back to face me. “So, what took you so long to come back and see your family?”

Lively little creatures gathered around, chattering and squeaking in a host of languages. And I could make little sense of it.

Quick as he could, the rabbit would translate.

I was apparently well known here, a legend it would seem.

“Knew you’d come back,” Rabbit said, smiling.

In the meantime, Jedidiah headed down the road.A last look around, and I followed

“Moment, Jedidiah?” I asked. “It would be nice if I knew where we were going.”

“Must trust me, Sash,” he answered. “Be aware of things. St. Nick warned me not everyone would be happy to see you no more than…”

More and more I wanted to know where I was from. Rapid changes were not my favorite things

“Than what?” I asked.

“Eagles,” Jedidiah pointed skyward. “His eyes in the skies have found us. Coursers and carrot sticks, we better run.”

They—Jedidiah, Rabbit, and the others—broke into a run.  

Came diving the eagles, chasing us into the woods, forcing us to hide among the trees.

“And where is this lovely place you’ve brought me to, Jedidiah? I asked.

He scanned the treetops looking for the birds, glancing from branch to branch, tree to tree. Whistled a quick note, then led us down a dark path.

“And are you going to answer me?” I said.

Shouted warnings rang in my ears as the eagles dove on us.

And we ran for our lives….

“Called Harpy eagles, the largest in the world, they are,” said Jedidiah. “Them birds could pick up an elf like nothing, he sent them to stop us.”

By this time, the overgrown trees made it impossible for the Harpies to find us.

“Name this place, and who sent these harpies,” I said, refusing to go any further until I knew where we were.

“Now Dasher!, Now, Dancer! Now Prancer and Vixen. On Comet! On Cupid! On Donder. On Blitzen”

To what purpose I did not know, but Jedidiah began naming the main reindeer squad. The echo of his voice reverberated through the woods.

Part VI

The trees seemed to part, as if by magic, and the sleigh we had hidden appeared out of thin air.

“Top of the day to you, Sash,” said an old man sitting in the sleigh. “Of all the ways I’d imagine I’d finally see you again, this was not one of them. The Harpies have gone for now, they’re afraid of reindeer, but back they’ll be and reinforcements they’ll bring.”

“Porch!” the man yelled and motioned for us to climb aboard. “To the porch of my house where hide we can from the harpies.”

The sled, loaded with Jedidiah, me, a collection of rabbits, and one rather confused looking squirrel, flew low, underneath the branches until an opening appeared.

Top of the trees gave way to an open field and we landed on the porch of an old cabin on the edge of a lake.

Of one thing I was certain, something here was familiar, but I couldn’t put my finger on it.

The lake was divided by a berm with a waterfall. Wall made of fieldstone defined the edge. Now it was coming back to me.

“Dash away! Dash away! Dash away! All of you,” the old man said, shooing away the rabbits, but they just circled the house and came back.

As we all got out of the sleigh, the old man smiled at me. “Dry as bone, I bet you are, needing something the drink,” he said, leading us inside the house.

Leaves, branches, and trees rushed by the window, tossed by violent winds, and I wondered if we had been followed.

“That,” the man said, “is nothing to worry about. Before the story I tell you, hot chocolate have now.”

The words were barely out of the man’s mouth when Jedidiah scrambled to the table, grabbing one of the mugs.

Wild thoughts ran though my head. Hurricane winds raged outside, harpies screamed, something roared, but no one seemed to care except me.

“Fly to your home,” Santa said. When he said that, I didn’t know it would involve Harpies and Hurricanes and roaring beasts. They didn’t worry me too much; it was what I might find out about myself that really worried me.

“Meet you, again, glad I am,” the man said, reaching out to take my hand. With a strong grip he pulled me into a hug.

An odd feeling came over me, like I knew this odd old man.

“Obstacle to story is getting there, you finding out is no problem,” he smiled. “Mount Moriah, just a short journey is it from here.  To there, tomorrow we will go. The story will come to us.”

Part VII

“Sky, watch the sky, Jedidiah said, “that is where they might come from.”

So, I watched the sky as our band of three—a boy, an elf who looked like a boy, and a strange, but kindly old man—flew toward Mount Moriah.

“Up there?” I said when Jedidiah landed the sleigh. “To the top of that mountain you expect me to climb?”

The mountain towered over us, but the old man was already scampering up the trail. House-top high, he disappeared into the woods.

The trail grew steeper at first, then leveled off a bit before rising steeply as we neared the top.

“Coursers,” yelled Jedidiah, “why didn’t we fly up here?”

“They couldn’t make it, spotted they would be,” the old man said, his voice trailing off as he climbed

“Flew with all their speed they wouldn’t,” argued Jedidiah, taking on the man’s curious manner of speaking.

The old man ignored him and continued up.

“Sleigh,” I yelled, “there’s a sleigh up ahead.”

Full before our eyes, hidden in the dense underbrush, was a sleigh laden with toys.

“Of all the things I thought we’d see in the middle of nowhere…” Jedidiah said. “Toys in a hidden sleigh would be last on the list.”

“And why are they here? I asked.

“St. Nicholas, aka Santa, once told me about a time—just before you arrived— when someone stole his main sleigh on Christmas Eve just as he was finishing up his deliveries. Too much of a coincidence, Santa much have suspected we’d find this.”

“And how would he suspect that?” I asked.

Then, before Jedidiah could answer, the Harpies found us.

In a flash they were on us again, trying to smash through the think evergreens to get at us. A large one made it close enough the just snaggle my collar, before Jedidiah pulled me away.

Twinkling with satisfaction, he stuck his tongue out at the giant bird, causing the bird to screech in anger.

“I appreciate your help, but I don’t see how making fun of the angry giant bird that wants to capture us helps,” I said.

“Heard all the fuss,” the old man said, sliding just under the sharp talons of the Harpy. “On go we to the sleigh and hide we will, you know what to do, Sash.”

The words caught me by surprise, I had no idea what do to. “Roof,” I yelled, but I didn’t know why. The sleigh began to move and slid up in front of us.

Prancing around the screaming bird’s claws, we all dove aboard. And just like that, the sleigh flew off with a trail of sparks.   

Pawing their way out of the brambles and branches, the Harpies tried to give chase, but the sleigh was like a rocket and off we flew out of reach.

Of all the things I’ve done since coming to the North Pole, this was one of the craziest. Each moment on this trip gets stranger and stranger. Little time to worry about it, though, there were birds trying to catch us.

“Hoof it, boys, we walk from here,” the old man said as the sleigh settled into a clearing.

As the climbed out, the sleigh seemed to vanish before or eyes

“I can’t believe this,” I said.

“Drew a picture, opened your eyes, the mystery about you has more to surprise,” the old man said. In a flash, he started toward a light flickering in the woods.

My mind was roiled in questions and wonder.

“Head that way,” Jedidiah said, “keep up with him.”

“And where are we going?” I asked. “Was he trying to get us killed by the harpies?”

Turning toward where the old man disappeared into the woods, Jedidiah dragged me along the rocky, leaf covered path.

Around ten minutes into our hike, the light grew brighter and a cottage materialized out of the wood, next to the door was a sign, The Cozy Home of C. Clark and Missus Moore.

Part VIII

Down the hill, off to the side of the cottage, stood a lone wolf, eyes locked onto us.

“The wolf is friendly, right?” I asked, glancing between Seamus and the salivating wolf.

“Chimney stones and fiddlesticks, you’re not to be a wolf snack, my boy. St. Nicholas wouldn’t have sent you all this way to feed a wolf. Came all this way to feed a wolf, ha!” he muttered.

With a wave of his hand, the wolf bounded over and lay at his feet.

“A friend is he, young man. Bound to your protection not digestion,” Seamus said, scratching the wolf’s ears. He nodded to me, and I knelt to pet the wolf.

Was this happening, I wondered, as another surprise unveiled itself.

Dressed like an elf, a man appeared at the door of the cabin. All covered in green and red, a huge smile crossed the man’s face. In a flash, a woman appeared next to him. Fur clad, taller, she appeared more like me than an elf.

From the door to hugging me in the blink of an eye, the two new people embraced me.

“His time has come,” the woman said. “Head inside, Clarke, we’ve much to tell the boy.”

To my surprise, these two smiling elves seemed familiar. His face more so than hers, her voice more so than his.

“Foot and feathers,” Clark exclaimed, “he’s taller than I imagined, Sonja. And he looks just like…”

His words were stopped mid-sentence by the woman’s, who I now knew was named Sonja, hand. “Clothes are waiting in your… I mean, the back room,” Sonja said. “Were you wanting to eat now, or later?”

“All of us, starved we are, said Seamus, and pointed me and Jedidiah toward the back.  

Tarnished old bells lay scattered throughout the house, lining the halls all the way to the back. With Jedidiah walking behind me, I knew he would be tempted to ring the bell, Elves loved the sound of bells.

Ashes suddenly enveloped the room, blown in from the fireplace. And we ran back to see what caused it. Soot covered everything, including Clark, Sonja, and Seamus.

“A Harpy is on the tree over the house,” whispered Clark, holding his finger over his mouth for us to be quiet. “Bundle yourselves up and be quiet as they can’t see the house, but they know we are nearby.”

Of all the crazy notions I had of what I might find on this trip, huddling with three strangers, a terrifying looking wolf, and Jedidiah in an invisible cabin being chased by Harpy eagles wasn’t one of them.

Toys and all that went with building them in Christmas Town was all I could think of, I just wanted to go back there.

“He looks a little scared, Jedidiah,” Clark said, “had he thought coming here would be easy?”

Flung suddenly about by a force from behind, we all tumbled toward the back of the house, unsure of what had happened.

On the mantle above the fireplace, now stood a gray, swirling, and changing shape with fiery eyes glaring at us.

“His ssssself hasssss returned,” hissed a sinister voice.

“Back away, Sash,” Jedidiah said, as he as and Seamus moved to stand before me.

And in that moment, as the terror enveloped me, I knew what would happen. He was the one who Santa warned us about, the one who hates Christmas and all the joy of the season.

“Looked like you were trying to sssslip passsst me, SsssSash, weren’t you,” the spirit hissed,

Like it or not, I knew this was what I had to face, what I came to find out. A moment later, I was blinded by a flash of light, then surrounded by darkness and silence

A small spark of a flame suddenly appeared before me, just barely visible in the pitch blackness.

“Peddler of joy in the making I see,” hissed the demon, appearing as the flame grew into a full flame in a cavern-like fireplace.

Just as I started to look around for the others, I knew I was no longer in the cabin. Opening my eyes wider, I saw damp, spider-web covered walls and heard the sounds of moaning and wailing.

His movement brought a chill as the demon passed by, the cold breeze chilling me to the bone.

“Pack for a long visit, did you, Sash?” he demon asked. “His letting you come here didn’t include telling you you’d never return, did it?”

His eyes seemed to at once to be both burning through me and showing a bit of fear. Eyes never lie, he was powerful and strong, but he was also afraid of something.

How could something this powerful fear me? They don’t make any more goofy an elf by adoption than me.

“Twinkled,” I said, because I could think of nothing else. His reaction—stepping back a bit—told me all I needed to know.

“Dimples dashing round the tree,” I yelled, and the demon backed away. How I knew this I had no idea, but this creature thought I was magic.

“Merry Christmas to you, sir, now take me back to my friends.”

His reaction this time was different, he moved closed. Cheeks, if that what they were, came close to my face

“Were you so foolisssssh to think I wassss really afraid?” he said. “Like a half-elf, half-human could ever frighten me,” he snarled, roaring with an evil laughter

Part IX

Roses for some odd reason, came to mind. His telling me he wasn’t afraid were like the thorns on a rose, if you look past them you see just the beauty. Like a barking dog who really just wants to pet them, not bite.

“A better way to think of what I did is I was just trying to be nice,” I said. “Cherry soda makes me happy, how about you?”

His eyes grew more fiery and the cold air swirled the room. “Droll ssssspeeches ssseldom sssucceed with me. Little man, sssoon you will join me in my misssery and held me sssrpead it everywhere.”

Mouth lost communication with my brain, and I was speechless. Was this my fate? Drawn by a yearning to know where I came from, now might lead to my never returning to Christmas Town.

Up rough-hewed stairs I went, drawn along behind the demon. Like a child’s toy he dragged me, and I could do nothing to resist him

A moment later, we stood high in a turret, like those I’d seen in books about castles.

“Bow to my power, boy, or face my wrath,” hissed the demon. And with those words I knew what I must do.

“The thing is,” I said, pulling myself up to my full if unimpressive height and smiling. “Beard is no reason for me to fear you.”

Of the look he gave me, I could tell the nonsense confused him. His eyes narrowed, trying to scare me, but still showed a bit of fear.

“Chin is still beneath the nose,” I smiled as his confusion grew. Was there something here for me to learn?

As the demon continued to stare at me, a strange feeling overcame me. White swirling mists closed in and the cold bit right through me.  

As the demon faded in the mist, I heard a soft whisper, a child’s voice, calling my name. The voice seemed to come from where the demon once stood.

Snow swirled in to tower and a small boy emerged from the shimmering cold snowflakes

The little boy smiled and reached out for my hand.

“Stump the demon, very clever,” he said, leading me back down the stairs.

Part X

Of the way we took back to the cabin, I have no memory, yet somehow I remembered this little boy. A prisoner no more, we walked in the Moore’s home.

Pipe in hand, holding a cup of hot chocolate, Jedidiah looked not the least surprised by my return. “He is back, as I knew he would be,” Jedidiah yelled over his shoulder. Held high his cup and splashed chocolate all over the floor.

Tight in her arms, Sonja squeezed me to her. In this welcome I was much confused.

“His help was how I did it,” pointing behind me.  

Teeth from confused smiles shone back at me from all the others.

“And who is he?”  Jedidiah asked, looking past me.

“The little boy, right here,” I said, spinning around and pointing to an empty space behind me.

Smoke from the fire gave the room a cozy aroma, I knew I was safe, but the boy was nowhere to be seen.

“It…it…can’t be,” I said. Encircled by my friends in a group embrace, I couldn’t understand where the boy had gone.

His voice still rang in my ears, familiar and comforting.

“Head over here, Sash, tell me what happened,” Jedidiah said.

“Like I’ve been trying to tell you, the demon dragged me to a castle, threatened me, then vanished when a small boy appeared and led me back here,” I said, still looking around. “A moment ago, he was right next to me.”

“Wreath is ready,” Clark said, walking into the room. He acted as if my disappearance and reappearance were quite expected. Had I missed something?

A moment passed, and I waited as Clark hung the wreath. Broad smiles lit Clark and Sonja’s faces as the wreath began to shimmer.

“Face the wreath my boy,” Clark said. “And all this will start to make sense.”

A slight, almost imperceptible sound came from around the wreath. Little by little the center took on the shimmer of a mirror catching the sun. Round and round the light spun until an image appeared.

Belly covered with Red and White was all I saw in the glass, then moving back to show Santa smiling back at me

“That has been quite the adventure you’re on so far, hasn’t it Sash?” he said.

Shook from my surprise, I looked around at everyone watching this scene. When Santa looked at me, I could tell he had something else to say.

He paused a moment then nodded. “Laughed, when I said it would be an adventure didn’t you,” Santa said. “Like it our not, this is your destiny. A small boy—the one you met—is the key to solving the mystery of your birth. Bowlful of good food Clark will now give you and you and Jedidiah will be on your own from here.

“Of Seamus and the others, they will wait for your return, but they can no longer help. Jelly legs you may feel and scared you may be, but there is a chance you will succeed.”

He stopped at the last sentence and I could see the concern on his face. Was this how it would end? Chubby and smiling as he was, there was no doubt he was worried about how this would end.  

“And what is it we’re supposed to do?”

Plump images of sugar plums and pies now filled the screen and faded away. A moment later, the screen went blank.

“Right,” I said, “now what do I do?”

“Jolly Ole St. Nick didn’t want to say,” Jedidiah said, “but we have to rescued that little boy. Old scary demons or attack harpies won’t stop us.

“Elf courage is renowned throughout the world?

“And who exactly holds Elf courage in renown?” I asked.

Laughed at my own question because I knew Jedidiah was putting on a brave face but terrified in reality. When he’d finished acting tough, he leaned against the fireplace trying to stop his hands from shaking.

I walked over to him and leaned down.

“Saw what I saw when that demon here was,” said Seamus. “Him and his friends will easy no be to challenge.”

In a moment, Clark came over to me.

“Spite and anger drive the demon. Of this I am certain. Myself, I would love to go with you, but you heard Santa’s words. A task for you and Jedidiah alone.”

Wink he did with one eye and put his arm around me.

“Of this moment, we knew it might come, but I hoped it would never be. His power is strong, his forces many, but I know you can find a way. Eye to eye you must face this demon, not just his shadow. And when you do, it will take all of your courage, and that of your friend, Jedidiah, to overcome the evil.”

A silence descended over the room. Twist of fate had sent me here and now I must face it.

“Of the reason I face this task,” I said, “I am in the dark.”

His wife, Sonja, stepped in front of him. Head and shoulders taller, she gently took his hand.

“Soon you’ll face your life’s challenge. Gave us a scare when disappeared,” she said, “but I knew you’d return

“Me and Clark are, well, your parents, Sash. To fid this out I know is a shock, but there was a reason for us sending you north all those years ago.

“Know this. I only wanted to protect you. Had I known you’d find your way back on your own, I never would have let you go.”

Part XI

“Nothing is more important to me than you and your…,” her voice trailed off

To say I was shocked would be an understatement. Dread for the words to follow now enveloped me.

He, I mean Santa, never hinted at what I would find, nor why he chose to let me go.

Spoke Sonja once again, wiping tear from her eye.

“Not since you left have I ever had hope for happy end to this story. A dream it seemed but now possible. Word of caution to you, my boy, about what you must do.”

But before she could say any more, the entire house shook.

Went us all ducking for cover as pieces of the ceiling crumbled all around us.

“Straight to the cellar,” Clark yelled, leading the way. “To the cellar.”

His words caused all to follow but Jedidiah and me.

“Work to do, my friend,” I said, pushing Jedidiah out the front door.

And I knew what I had to do.

Filled with the certainty of my insight, I ran for the sleigh. All sorts of Harpies and Demons circled above, certain we were there but still unable to see us in the protection of the shaking but still standing cottage.

The sleigh came alive, the reindeer ready to go, and I waited for an opening in the tumult above.

Stockings scattered behind us, confusing the beasts, and we took the sky putting miles behind us before they could follow.

Then, feeling a tap on my shoulder, I looked at Jedidiah. Turned to face me, arms folded, he glared at me.

“With who’s authority have you taken my place as pilot?” he asked. “A momentary blip I hope. Jerk the lines back and hand them to me if you want to survive this flight.”

And with those words, I did as he asked. Laying my hands on my lap, I nodded my head toward the dark mountain. Mount Moriah, ahead.

His skill as a pilot was clear as we flew among the trees to keep the Harpies at bay. Finger poised on the Red Button should the need arise, Jedidiah steered us toward the peak.

Aside the precipice at the top of the mountain, a small cave entrance appeared. Of this being the way we must go, I was certain. His landing again perfect, we hid the sleigh and moved slowly toward the entrance.

“Nose knows,” Jedidiah said, pointing at his rather impressive nose. “And my nose can smell danger.”

Giving me a do we really have to do this look, he shrugged when he saw me enter the cave.

A moment or two in the darkness and our eyes adjusted. “Nod when your ready,” I whispered. Up ahead I could see flickering lights like flames from a fire. 

The lure of an adventure overcame his fear, and Jedidiah nodded for me to lead on.

Chimney smoke soon revealed itself as we drew farther down the tunnel.

“He must be in here somewhere,” I said, as we took cautious steps forward.

“Rose my curiosity you did, Sash,” Jedidiah said, “but I wish you hadn’t.” He smiled and pushed me on.

Sprang for all sides, now ghosts surrounded us. To run was useless as they pushed us along. His army’s work done; the demon rose in front of us holding a small boy by the back of his neck.

“Sleigh ride over, I see. To the real matters at hand we go.” His hand waved over the boy a fog enveloped him, unable to move.

“Team Sssssanta sssseemssss to be lossssing today,” he hissed. “Gave me a moment when I thought you might not be up to the challenge.”

A long look at the boy I took, and there was something familiar.

“Whistle for they sleigh and reindeer to come here, and you can take your brother.”

And as his words hit me, it all came bubbling up. Away in the past, this demon had stolen my twin brother and tried to take me. They, the Moores, managed to save me hoping I would come back to save my brother.

“All I’m going to do is take my brother back, and there is nothing you can do to stop me,” I said.

Flew in a flash, the demon was on me. Like a madman he dragged my deeper into the cave. The fear I’d seen before was till there. Down and down, deeper we went until I pulled away.

“Of this purpose you will succeed. A memory of what once was I know recall. Thistle down and hope once you loved and once will love again.”

But the demon resisted, fighting against my words. I knew there was something else here to do but I couldn’t remember.

Heard behind me, Jedidiah and the small boy now both were covered in the fog.

“Him and the boy for the sssleigh, or they both will become demonssss with me,” said the demon.

“Exclaim the truth from your past, you were once good until the darkness took you,” I said. Ere all these moments that have passed since this moment so long ago, I still recall the change in the demon’s eyes

He hesitated a moment, then the darkness fled from him. Drove by my words of hope, not anger or hate, the curse of the darkness left him.  

Part XII

Out of where a demon once stood, now an elf much like me stood. Of how I knew to say those words and bring him forth, to this day I do not know. Sight of my two brothers, one older and one my long missing twin, now lit the cave with joy and light.

Happy to have saved the two, we headed out to the sleigh, led by Jedidiah.

Christmas is but a few weeks away,” Jedidiah said, “and we need get back.”

To the cottage we flew, reuniting the family. All the Moore family now back as it should be, plus I now knew my name and while evil had once stolen my brothers, we were once again reunited as a family.

And I and Jedidiah flew back to Christmas town.

To say they were happy on our return is an understatement. All gathered round to welcome us, listening as I told our tale of finding my family, how they protected me by sending me to Christmas Town until I was old enough to return,and how I saved my two brothers from the darkness.

A wonderful Christmas we had that year because the wolf who’d guarded my family all those years came back with me, and I took the next few days after the holidays to write this all down. Good as it gets. Night to remember, one I will never forget!

Merry Christmas,

The Elvish son of C. Clark Moore

This story was passed on to me and I pass it on to you. Within these lines are hidden the original words of those who first told this tale. A tale of Christmases that were, the Christmas of today, and all the Christmases yet to be…

********************************************************************************************************

Merry Christmas to you all, and to all a good night!

Joe B.

‘Twas: A Christmas Mystery Part XII

And here continues the Christmas Saga of 2020. Like the days of yore when newspapers published anxiously anticipated serialized stories, here is my annual version, Hidden within the words is a secret message. Find the secret and send an email to me at joe.broadmeadow@hotmail.com with the subject line, MAGIC. First five to discover the secret wins a copy of every book I publish this year.

This story is as old as the legend of St. Nicholas, handed down over years and years. Told to Christmas Elves as they rested from their work, there is magic within if you’ve the heart and eyes to see it.

But don’t look for it, feel it in your heart. Speak the words to learn the secret

Part XII

Out of where a demon once stood, now an elf much like me stood. Of how I knew to say those words and bring him forth, to this day I do not know. Sight of my two brothers, one older and one my long missing twin, now lit the cave with joy and light.

Happy to have saved the two, we headed out to the sleigh, led by Jedidiah.

Christmas is but a few weeks away,” Jedidiah said, “and we need get back.”

To the cottage we flew, reuniting the family. All the Moore family now back as it should be, plus I now knew my name and while evil had once stolen my brothers, we were once again reunited as a family.

And I and Jedidiah flew back to Christmas town.

And to all a good night!

To say they were happy on our return is an understatement. All gathered round to welcome us, listening as I told our tale of finding my family, how they protected me by sending me to Christmas Town until I could return, and how I saved my two brothers from the darkness.

A wonderful Christmas we had that year because the wolf who’d guarded my family all those years came back with me, and I took the next few days after the holidays to write this all down. Good as it gets. Night to remember, one I will never forget!

__________________________________________

This story was passed on to me and I pass it on to you. Within these lines are hidden the original words of those who first told this tale. A tale of Christmases that were, the Christmas of today, and all the Christmases yet to be…

Merry Christmas,

The elvish son of C. Clark Moore.

Reread the whole story on Christmas Eve!

‘Twas: A Christmas Mystery Part XI

And here continues the Christmas Saga of 2020. Like the days of yore when newspapers published anxiously anticipated serialized stories, here is my annual version, Hidden within the words is a secret message. Find the secret and send an email to me at joe.broadmeadow@hotmail.com with the subject line, MAGIC. First five to discover the secret wins a copy of every book I publish this year.

This story is as old as the legend of St. Nicholas, handed down over years and years. Told to Christmas Elves as they rested from their work, there is magic within if you’ve the heart and eyes to see it.

But don’t look for it, feel it in your heart. Speak the words to learn the secret

Part XI

“Nothing is more important to me than you and your…,” her voice trailed off

To say I was shocked would be an understatement. Dread for the words to follow now enveloped me.

He, I mean Santa, never hinted at what I would find, nor why he chose to let me go.

Spoke Sonja once again, wiping tear from her eye.

“Not since you left have I ever had hope for happy end to this story. A dream it seemed but now possible. Word of caution to you, my boy, about what you must do.”

But before she could say any more, the entire house shook.

Went us all ducking for cover as pieces of the ceiling crumbled all around us.

“Straight to the cellar,” Clark yelled, leading the way. “To the cellar.”

His words caused all to follow but Jedidiah and me.

“Work to do, my friend,” I said, pushing Jedidiah out the front door.

And I knew what I had to do.

Filled with the certainty of my insight, I ran for the sleigh. All sorts of Harpies and Demons circled above, certain we were there but still unable to see us in the protection of the shaking but still standing cottage.

The sleigh came alive, the reindeer ready to go, and I waited for an opening in the tumult above.

Stockings scattered behind us, confusing the beasts, and we took the sky putting miles behind us before they could follow.

Then, feeling a tap on my shoulder, I looked at Jedidiah. Turned to face me, arms folded, he glared at me.

“With who’s authority have you taken my place as pilot?” he asked. “A momentary blip I hope. Jerk the lines back and hand them to me if you want to survive this flight.”

And with those words, I did as he asked. Laying my hands on my lap, I nodded my head toward the dark mountain. Mount Moriah, ahead.

His skill as a pilot was clear as we flew among the trees to keep the Harpies at bay. Finger poised on the Red Button should the need arise, Jedidiah steered us toward the peak.

Aside the precipice at the top of the mountain, a small cave entrance appeared. Of this being the way we must go, I was certain. His landing again perfect, we hid the sleigh and moved slowly toward the entrance.

“Nose knows,” Jedidiah said, pointing at his rather impressive nose. “And my nose can smell danger.”

Giving me a do we really have to do this look, he shrugged when he saw me enter the cave.

A moment or two in the darkness and our eyes adjusted. “Nod when your ready,” I whispered. Up ahead I could see flickering lights like flames from a fire. 

The lure of an adventure overcame his fear, and Jedidiah nodded for me to lead on.

Chimney smoke soon revealed itself as we drew farther down the tunnel.

“He must be in here somewhere,” I said, as we took cautious steps forward.

“Rose my curiosity you did, Sash,” Jedidiah said, “but I wish you hadn’t.” He smiled and pushed me on.

Sprang for all sides, now ghosts surrounded us. To run was useless as they pushed us along. His army’s work done; the demon rose in front of us holding a small boy by the back of his neck.

“Sleigh ride over, I see. To the real matters at hand we go.” His hand waved over the boy a fog enveloped him, unable to move.

“Team Sssssanta sssseemssss to be lossssing today,” he hissed. “Gave me a moment when I thought you might not be up to the challenge.”

A long look at the boy I took, and there was something familiar.

“Whistle for they sleigh and reindeer to come here, and you can take your brother.”

And as his words hit me, it all came bubbling up. Away in the past, this demon had stolen my twin brother and tried to take me. They, the Moores, managed to save me hoping I would come back to save my brother.

“All I’m going to do is take my brother back, and there is nothing you can do to stop me,” I said.

Flew in a flash, the demon was on me. Like a madman he dragged my deeper into the cave. The fear I’d seen before was till there. Down and down, deeper we went until I pulled away.

“Of this purpose you will succeed. A memory of what once was I know recall. Thistle down and hope once you loved and once will love again.”

But the demon resisted, fighting against my words. I knew there was something else here to do but I couldn’t remember.

Heard behind me, Jedidiah and the small boy now both were covered in the fog.

“Him and the boy for the sssleigh, or they both will become demonssss with me,” said the demon.

“Exclaim the truth from your past, you were once good until the darkness took you,” I said. Ere all these moments that have passed since this moment so long ago, I still recall the change in the demon’s eyes

He hesitated a moment, then the darkness fled from him. Drove by my words of hope, not anger or hate, the curse of the darkness left him.  

Part XII The Final Chapter Tomorrow!

‘Twas: A Christmas Mystery Part X

Tonight is a special night. The Winter Solstice and the longest night of the year. But tonight something truly special happens, something that hasn’t happened for 800 years. Look to the southwestern sky, just above the horizon, and see the planets Saturn and Jupiter appear as one. Perhaps this was the Christmas Star of legend.

And here continues the Christmas Saga of 2020. Like the days of yore when newspapers published anxiously anticipated serialized stories, here is my annual version, Hidden within the words is a secret message. Find the secret and send an email to me at joe.broadmeadow@hotmail.com with the subject line, MAGIC. First five to discover the secret wins a copy of every book I publish this year.

This story is as old as the legend of St. Nicholas, handed down over years and years. Told to Christmas Elves as they rested from their work, there is magic within if you’ve the heart and eyes to see it.

But don’t look for it, feel it in your heart. Speak the words to learn the secret

Part X

Of the way we took back to the cabin, I have no memory, yet somehow I remembered this little boy. A prisoner no more, we walked in the Moore’s home.

Pipe in hand, holding a cup of hot chocolate, Jedidiah looked not the least surprised by my return.

“He is back, as I knew he would be,” Jedidiah yelled over his shoulder. Held high his cup and splashed chocolate all over the floor.

Tight in her arms, Sonja squeezed me to her. In this welcome I was much confused.

“His help was how I did it,” pointing behind me.  

Teeth from confused smiles shone back at me from all the others.

“And who is he?”  Jedidiah asked, looking past me.

“The little boy, right here,” I said, spinning around and pointing to an empty space behind me.

Smoke from the fire gave the room a cozy aroma, I knew I was safe, but the boy was nowhere to be seen.

“It…it…can’t be,” I said. Encircled by my friends in a group embrace, I couldn’t understand where the boy had gone.

His voice still rang in my ears, familiar and comforting.

“Head over here, Sash, tell me what happened,” Jedidiah said.

“Like I’ve been trying to tell you, the demon dragged me to a castle, threatened me, then vanished when a small boy appeared and led me back here,” I said, still looking around. “A moment ago, he was right next to me.”

“Wreath is ready,” Clark said, walking into the room. He acted as if my disappearance and reappearance were quite expected. Had I missed something?

A moment passed, and I waited as Clark hung the wreath. Broad smiles lit Clark and Sonja’s faces as the wreath began to shimmer.

“Face the wreath my boy,” Clark said. “And all this will start to make sense.”

A slight, almost imperceptible sound came from around the wreath. Little by little the center took on the shimmer of a mirror catching the sun. Round and round the light spun until an image appeared.

Belly covered with Red and White was all I saw in the glass, then moving back to show Santa smiling back at me

“That has been quite the adventure you’re on so far, hasn’t it Sash?” he said.

Shook from my surprise, I looked around at everyone watching this scene. When Santa looked at me, I could tell he had something else to say.

He paused a moment then nodded. “Laughed, when I said it would be an adventure didn’t you,” Santa said. “Like it our not, this is your destiny. A small boy—the one you met—is the key to solving the mystery of your birth. Bowlful of good food Clark will now give you and you and Jedidiah will be on your own from here.

“Of Seamus and the others, they will wait for your return, but they can no longer help. Jelly legs you may feel and scared you may be, but there is a chance you will succeed.”

He stopped at the last sentence and I could see the concern on his face. Was this how it would end? Chubby and smiling as he was, there was no doubt he was worried about how this would end.  

“And what is it we’re supposed to do?”

Plump images of sugar plums and pies now filled the screen and faded away. A moment later, the screen went blank.

“Right,” I said, “now what do I do?”

“Jolly Ole St. Nick didn’t want to say,” Jedidiah said, “but we have to rescued that little boy. Old scary demons or attack harpies won’t stop us.

“Elf courage is renowned throughout the world?

“And who exactly holds Elf courage in renown?” I asked.

Laughed at my own question because I knew Jedidiah was putting on a brave face but terrified in reality. When he’d finished acting tough, he leaned against the fireplace trying to stop his hands from shaking.

I walked over to him and leaned down.

“Saw what I saw when that demon here was,” said Seamus. “Him and his friends will easy no be to challenge.”

In a moment, Clark came over to me.

“Spite and anger drive the demon. Of this I am certain. Myself, I would love to go with you, but you heard Santa’s words. A task for you and Jedidiah alone.”

Wink he did with one eye and put his arm around me.

“Of this moment, we knew it might come, but I hoped it would never be. His power is strong, his forces many, but I know you can find a way. Eye to eye you must face this demon, not just his shadow. And when you do, it will take all of your courage, and that of your friend, Jedidiah, to overcome the evil.”

A silence descended over the room. Twist of fate had sent me here and now I must face it.

“Of the reason I face this task,” I said, “I am in the dark.”

His wife, Sonja, stepped in front of him. Head and shoulders taller, she gently took his hand.

“Soon you’ll face your life’s challenge. Gave us a scare when disappeared,” she said, “but I knew you’d return

“Me and Clark are, well, your parents, Sash. To fid this out I know is a shock, but there was a reason for us sending you north all those years ago.

“Know this. I only wanted to protect you. Had I known you’d find your way back on your own, I never would have let you go.”

Part XI Tomorrow!

‘Twas: A Christmas Mystery Part IX

And here continues the Christmas Saga of 2020. Like the days of yore when newspapers published anxiously anticipated serialized stories, here is my annual version, Hidden within the words is a secret message. Find the secret and send an email to me at joe.broadmeadow@hotmail.com with the subject line, MAGIC. First five to discover the secret wins a copy of every book I publish this year.

This story is as old as the legend of St. Nicholas, handed down over years and years. Told to Christmas Elves as they rested from their work, there is magic within if you’ve the heart and eyes to see it.

But don’t look for it, feel it in your heart. Speak the words to learn the secret

Part IX

Roses for some odd reason, came to mind. His telling me he wasn’t afraid were like the thorns on a rose, if you look past them you see just the beauty. Like a barking dog who really just wants to pet them, not bite.

“A better way to think of what I did is I was just trying to be nice,” I said. “Cherry soda makes me happy, how about you?”

His eyes grew more fiery and the cold air swirled the room. “Droll ssssspeeches ssseldom sssucceed with me. Little man, sssoon you will join me in my misssery and held me sssrpead it everywhere.”

Mouth lost communication with my brain, and I was speechless. Was this my fate? Drawn by a yearning to know where I came from, now might lead to my never returning to Christmas Town.

Up rough-hewed stairs I went, drawn along behind the demon. Like a child’s toy he dragged me, and I could do nothing to resist him

A moment later, we stood high in a turret, like those I’d seen in books about castles.

“Bow to my power, boy, or face my wrath,” hissed the demon. And with those words I knew what I must do.

“The thing is,” I said, pulling myself up to my full if unimpressive height and smiling. “Beard is no reason for me to fear you.”

Of the look he gave me, I could tell the nonsense confused him. His eyes narrowed, trying to scare me, but still showed a bit of fear.

“Chin is still beneath the nose,” I smiled as his confusion grew. Was there something here for me to learn?

As the demon continued to stare at me, a strange feeling overcame me. White swirling mists closed in and the cold bit right through me.  

As the demon faded in the mist, I heard a soft whisper, a child’s voice, calling my name. The voice seemed to come from where the demon once stood.

Snow swirled in to tower and a small boy emerged from the shimmering cold snowflakes

The little boy smiled and reached out for my hand.

“Stump the demon, very clever,” he said, leading me back down the stairs.

Part X Tomorrow!

‘Twas: A Christmas Mystery Part VIII

And here continues the Christmas Saga of 2020. Like the days of yore when newspapers published anxiously anticipated serialized stories, here is my annual version, Hidden within the words is a secret message. Find the secret and send an email to me at joe.broadmeadow@hotmail.com with the subject line, MAGIC. First five to discover the secret wins a copy of every book I publish this year.

From Watson and the Terrific Ten by John Johnson

This story is as old as the legend of St. Nicholas, handed down over years and years. Told to Christmas Elves as they rested from their work, there is magic within if you’ve the heart and eyes to see it.

But don’t look for it, feel it in your heart. Speak the words to learn the secret

Part VIII

Down the hill, off to the side of the cottage, stood a lone wolf, eyes locked onto us.

“The wolf is friendly, right?” I asked, glancing between Seamus and the salivating wolf.

“Chimney stones and fiddlesticks, you’re not to be a wolf snack, my boy. St. Nicholas wouldn’t have sent you all this way to feed a wolf. Came all this way to feed a wolf, ha!” he muttered.

With a wave of his hand, the wolf bounded over and lay at his feet.

“A friend is he, young man. Bound to your protection not digestion,” Seamus said, scratching the wolf’s ears. He nodded to me, and I knelt to pet the wolf.

Was this happening, I wondered, as another surprise unveiled itself.

Dressed like an elf, a man appeared at the door of the cabin. All covered in green and red, a huge smile crossed the man’s face. In a flash, a woman appeared next to him. Fur clad, taller, she appeared more like me than an elf.

From the door to hugging me in the blink of an eye, the two new people embraced me.

“His time has come,” the woman said. “Head inside, Clarke, we’ve much to tell the boy.”

To my surprise, these two smiling elves seemed familiar. His face more so than hers, her voice more so than his.

“Foot and feathers,” Clark exclaimed, “he’s taller than I imagined, Sonja. And he looks just like…”

His words were stopped mid-sentence by the woman’s, who I now knew was named Sonja, hand. “Clothes are waiting in your… I mean, the back room,” Sonja said. “Were you wanting to eat now, or later?”

“All of us, starved we are, said Seamus, and pointed me and Jedidiah toward the back.  

Tarnished old bells lay scattered throughout the house, lining the halls all the way to the back. With Jedidiah walking behind me, I knew he would be tempted to ring the bell, Elves loved the sound of bells.

Ashes suddenly enveloped the room, blown in from the fireplace. And we ran back to see what caused it. Soot covered everything, including Clark, Sonja, and Seamus.

“A Harpy is on the tree over the house,” whispered Clark, holding his finger over his mouth for us to be quiet. “Bundle yourselves up and be quiet as they can’t see the house, but they know we are nearby.”

Of all the crazy notions I had of what I might find on this trip, huddling with three strangers, a terrifying looking wolf, and Jedidiah in an invisible cabin being chased by Harpy eagles wasn’t one of them.

Toys and all that went with building them in Christmas Town was all I could think of, I just wanted to go back there.

“He looks a little scared, Jedidiah,” Clark said, “had he thought coming here would be easy?”

Flung suddenly about by a force from behind, we all tumbled toward the back of the house, unsure of what had happened.

On the mantle above the fireplace, now stood a gray, swirling, and changing shape with fiery eyes glaring at us.

“His ssssself hasssss returned,” hissed a sinister voice.

“Back away, Sash,” Jedidiah said, as he as and Seamus moved to stand before me.

And in that moment, as the terror enveloped me, I knew what would happen. He was the one who Santa warned us about, the one who hates Christmas and all the joy of the season.

“Looked like you were trying to sssslip passsst me, SsssSash, weren’t you,” the spirit hissed,

Like it or not, I knew this was what I had to face, what I came to find out. A moment later, I was blinded by a flash of light, then surrounded by darkness and silence

A small spark of a flame suddenly appeared before me, just barely visible in the pitch blackness.

“Peddler of joy in the making I see,” hissed the demon, appearing as the flame grew into a full flame in a cavern-like fireplace.

Just as I started to look around for the others, I knew I was no longer in the cabin. Opening my eyes wider, I saw damp, spider-web covered walls and heard the sounds of moaning and wailing.

His movement brought a chill as the demon passed by, the cold breeze chilling me to the bone.

“Pack for a long visit, did you, Sash?” he demon asked. “His letting you come here didn’t include telling you you’d never return, did it?”

His eyes seemed to at once to be both burning through me and showing a bit of fear. Eyes never lie, he was powerful and strong, but he was also afraid of something.

How could something this powerful fear me? They don’t make any more goofy an elf by adoption than me.

“Twinkled,” I said, because I could think of nothing else. His reaction—stepping back a bit—told me all I needed to know.

“Dimples dashing round the tree,” I yelled, and the demon backed away. How I knew this I had no idea, but this creature thought I was magic.

“Merry Christmas to you, sir, now take me back to my friends.”

His reaction this time was different, he moved closed. Cheeks, if that what they were, came close to my face

“Were you so foolisssssh to think I wassss really afraid?” he said. “Like a half-elf, half-human could ever frighten me,” he snarled, roaring with an evil laughter

Part IX Tomorrow!

An Inconvenient Truth of Inconvenience

On 9/11/2001 America was attacked. 2,977 innocent American died as a result of this attack on American soil. The country rallied around the President, who rightfully called for an overwhelming response, and we went to war.

In February of this year, the first inkling of what would be the worst pandemic since the 1918 outbreak of the Spanish Flu began to take American lives. The President told us it would all go away in two weeks, or in a month, or by the summer, or soon.

Since that moment 311,000+ Americans have died.

On December 16, 2020, 3,611 Americans died of Covid, far exceeding the death toll of 9/11. And yet the country continues swirling in delusion over what to do. The President has moved on to a new delusion–ignoring the results of the election and claiming he single handedly developed the vaccine for a virus that was gonna fade away in the summer sun–and seething over his own inconvenient truth.

But the response, or lack thereof, to the pandemic is not all Mr. Trump’s fault. The sad fact of the matter is when it comes to reacting to problems whose solution lies in military action, blowing things up and killing people in other parts of the world, we are good at it. We’re good at it because the inconvenience of this action falls on just the shoulders of the military and their families.

But when it comes to tolerating inconvenience a little closer to home, we become a nation of whiners and criers. As a good friend of mine, Dr. Jane Auger, so aptly said,

“After 9/11 we started a war. Covid? Can’t even be bothered to wear a mask”

Dr. Jane Auger

311,000 Americans have died. Of that number, had we been willing to accept our obligation to protect ourselves and others, how many would be alive today?

Instead of our willingness to spend trillions of dollars on military capabilities, why is it we cannot be as quick to fund the means to support our economy while we practice the simple act of wearing a mask and avoiding public gatherings?

A nation that once bore the brunt of production of the materiel in a world war, that saw its people planting victory gardens and saving metal for the war effort, that saw the entire country rally behind a global cause, now is unwilling to forego happy hour or shopping at the mall because it is inconvenient.

There’s a line in the movie Patton, where George C. Scott portraying the general, exhorts his troops before battle. He says something to the effect,

“Thirty years from now when you’re sitting around your fireside with your grandson on your knee, and he asks you, “What did you do in the great World War II?” — you won’t have to say, “Well, I shoveled shit in Louisiana.”

George C. Scott as General George S. Patton

Years from now, when thinking of the Great Pandemic of 2020, many Americans may face the fact they shoveled shit in Louisiana…

The inconvenient truth is the death of many of these Americans falls on us. I hope, years from now, when you think back on those trinkets you had to have, those happy hours you couldn’t miss, those demands you made to exercise your “rights” to go to football games, you find it all worth it.

The families of who knows how many dead Americans the virus will ultimately claim won’t have that luxury.

************************************************************************

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‘Twas: A Christmas Mystery Part VII

And here continues the Christmas Saga of 2020. Like the days of yore when newspapers published anxiously anticipated serialized stories, here is my annual version, Hidden within the words is a secret message. Find the secret and send an email to me at joe.broadmeadow@hotmail.com with the subject line, MAGIC. First five to discover the secret wins a copy of every book I publish this year.

This story is as old as the legend of St. Nicholas, handed down over years and years. Told to Christmas Elves as they rested from their work, there is magic within if you’ve the heart and eyes to see it.
But don’t look for it, feel it in your heart. Speak the words to learn the secret

Part VII

“Sky, watch the sky, Jedidiah said, “that is where they might come from.”

So, I watched the sky as our band of three—a boy, an elf who looked like a boy, and a strange, but kindly old man—flew toward Mount Moriah.

“Up there?” I said when Jedidiah landed the sleigh. “To the top of that mountain you expect me to climb?”

The mountain towered over us, but the old man was already scampering up the trail. House-top high, he disappeared into the woods.

The trail grew steeper at first, then leveled off a bit before rising steeply as we neared the top.

“Coursers,” yelled Jedidiah, “why didn’t we fly up here?”

“They couldn’t make it, spotted they would be,” the old man said, his voice trailing off as he climbed

“Flew with all their speed they wouldn’t,” argued Jedidiah, taking on the man’s curious manner of speaking.

The old man ignored him and continued up.

“Sleigh,” I yelled, “there’s a sleigh up ahead.”

Full before our eyes, hidden in the dense underbrush, was a sleigh laden with toys.

“Of all the things I thought we’d see in the middle of nowhere…” Jedidiah said. “Toys in a hidden sleigh would be last on the list.”

“And why are they here? I asked.

“St. Nicholas, aka Santa, once told me about a time—just before you arrived— when someone stole his main sleigh on Christmas Eve just as he was finishing up his deliveries. Too much of a coincidence, Santa much have suspected we’d find this.”

“And how would he suspect that?” I asked.

Then, before Jedidiah could answer, the Harpies found us.

In a flash they were on us again, trying to smash through the think evergreens to get at us. A large one made it close enough the just snaggle my collar, before Jedidiah pulled me away.

Twinkling with satisfaction, he stuck his tongue out at the giant bird, causing the bird to screech in anger.

“I appreciate your help, but I don’t see how making fun of the angry giant bird that wants to capture us helps,” I said.

“Heard all the fuss,” the old man said, sliding just under the sharp talons of the Harpy. “On go we to the sleigh and hide we will, you know what to do, Sash.”

The words caught me by surprise, I had no idea what do to. “Roof,” I yelled, but I didn’t know why. The sleigh began to move and slid up in front of us.

Prancing around the screaming bird’s claws, we all dove aboard. And just like that, the sleigh flew off with a trail of sparks.   

Pawing their way out of the brambles and branches, the Harpies tried to give chase, but the sleigh was like a rocket and off we flew out of reach.

Of all the things I’ve done since coming to the North Pole, this was one of the craziest. Each moment on this trip gets stranger and stranger. Little time to worry about it, though, there were birds trying to catch us.

“Hoof it, boys, we walk from here,” the old man said as the sleigh settled into a clearing.

As the climbed out, the sleigh seemed to vanish before or eyes

“I can’t believe this,” I said.

“Drew a picture, opened your eyes, the mystery about you has more to surprise,” the old man said. In a flash, he started toward a light flickering in the woods.

My mind was roiled in questions and wonder.

“Head that way,” Jedidiah said, “keep up with him.”

“And where are we going?” I asked. “Was he trying to get us killed by the harpies?”

Turning toward where the old man disappeared into the woods, Jedidiah dragged me along the rocky, leaf covered path.

Around ten minutes into our hike, the light grew brighter and a cottage materialized out of the wood, next to the door was a sign, The Cozy Home of C. Clark and Missus Moore.

Part VIII Tomorrow!